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Church of St. Cosmo and Damien. 323.

salem a relic of the chain by which she adjudged St. Peter had been fastened, and therefore determined to offer it to the Pope, who possessed another fragment. As might be expected, their sanctity was miraculously confirmed. The pontiff received the relic with all possible religious pomp, when, behold, no sooner did the two chains see each other, than they immediately sprung into a mutual em brace, and of themselves united!

Another miracle! On the high altar of the church of St. Cosmo, and St. Damien is a very rude painting on stone of the Virgin, still more disfigured by the offerings of crowns, necklaces, bracelets, &c. St. Gregory, on passing the church once forgot, or omitted, to pay his usual reverences to the Virgin. Upon which the picture exclaimed "Why, O Gregory, do you not salute me as usual!" The saint begged pardon, promised amendment, and took that opportunity of intreating indulgences and remission of sins to the devout of that sanctuary, which was accordingly granted. The church does however, contain something worthy of notice. It is built on the site of a Temple of Remus. We descended into the venerated subterranean, whose dome is now on a level with the ground on which the church stands. Its marble pavement was invaluable by being cut with those maps, and plans, of ancient Rome which, for their curiosity, have been taken out,

324

Church of St. John Lateran

and are now exhibited on the staircase of the

Capitol.

Church of Saint John Lateran. One of the seven great churches, or Patriarchal Basilica, of Rome, and one of the cathedrals reserved for the Pope himself, who on grand festivals, officiates at the high altar. In the great Piazza is erected the largest obelisk that Rome possesses, being ninetynine feet high, exclusive of the base, and pedestal.

This Egyptian wonder is of red granite, and covered with hieroglyphics :-supposed dedicated to the Sun by Rhamses, son of Sesostris, and erected at Thebes above 3000 years ago. Transported with incredible labour by Constantine to Alexandria, thence to Rome by his son, Constans, who placed it on the grand Circus; ages afterwards, it was dug out of the ground, at a depth of sixteen feet, and though broken in three pieces erected in this square during the pontificate of Sixtus V.

The sentiments excited by this, and by the many other Obelisks of Rome are peculiar. They are the most ancient vestiges of art in the world; probably of the most ancient people; and they are now, as though by the decree of fate, to be seen scarcely anywhere but in Rome, the city, like themselves, Eternal.

They were erected by monarchs to perpetuate their glories; those monarchs have sunk to the

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dust, and all their empires with them: How forcibly do these monuments tell us how perishable we are, and yet how perpetually enduring are our works! Still do they preserve their hieroglyphic tongue, though we cannot develope it; and these Obelisks which have witnessed so many revolving suns, and empires, and dynasties, may yet be perpetuated, and endure through as many ages more, to witness further changes of dominion, and further glory, or desolation, of which mankind at present dream not.

The façade of this renowned church exhibits four columns, and six pilasters, of the Composite order, with balustrade, and statues. The grandeur of this front, as a whole, is spoilt by the introduction of five galleries, or balconies, between the range of columns, though a necessary appendage, as from the central balcony the Pope, on certain solemn occasions, gives his benediction to the assembled multitudes. Of the five doors that conduct into the church, the middle one is walled up, being the Porta Santa, and only opened in the Jubilee year.

This church is magnificently rich in gildings, marbles, bronzes, &c. some said to be from the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus; more particularly I would point out that altar which is decorated with four columns of gilt bronze; since these very ancient relics are asserted to have been deposited in

326

Church of St. John Lateran.

the Capitol, and to have been compounded by Augustus out of the rostra of the Egyptian, and other ships captured by him on the defeat of Anthony and Cleopatra at Actium. The high altar has Gothic decorations, and boasts of possessing the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul.

The Corsini Chapel is confessedly one of the most magnificent of Rome. In the form of a Greek Cross, its walls are encrusted with the rarest marbles; its altar is surmounted, between two columns of verde antique, with a matchless copy in mosaic of Guido's Saint Andrew Corsini; its dome is golden, and besides some beautiful sculptures of Innocence, Penitence, &c. there is the mausoleum of Clement XII who was of the house of Corsini, and whose remains repose in a superb porphyry sarcophagus, taken from the portico of the Pantheon, and presumed once to have contained the ashes of Agrippa. In the Baptistery, the font of which is nearly three feet deep, and where, according to ancient ecclesiastical custom, the convert was immersed, it is said that Constantine himself was baptized.

This church further boasts of numberless sacred relics. Besides the heads of St. Peter, and St. Paul, there is to be seen up in a dark corner, covered with some broken glass, the Table, formed of cedar of Lebanon; upon which the Saviour partook of his last supper:-and which, by the bye,

The Holy Staircase.

827

is hardly big enough for three, though it must have accommodated thirteen. Here, also, are Pillars from the Temple of Jerusalem :-The red marble Slab upon which the soldiers cast lots for the Garment: The very Well at which Jesus sat when he converted the Samaritan:-Further pillars from the Temple of Jerusalem, rent by earthquake; and Columns from the House of Pilate. Four Columns asserted to prove the exact height of Christ, being purposely cut to that standard just before his death; and the remains of the Pillar upon which the Cock crowed! *

Close to the church is preserved a yet greater curiosity the Scala Santa, or Staircase which Christ trod when he ascended to the Hall of Judgment. These holy stairs, brought from the palace of Pilate at Jerusalem, consist of twenty-eight steps of white marble. Devotees are here perpetually, and for ever ascending them:-But how? On their knees! It were sacrilege to place a foot; it is considered a meritorious act to endure the penance of grinding up that way, and is equivalent to, at least, a couple of thousand years' indulgence.

The stairs having been much worn by the knees of the pious, they are now partly covered with

* Besides these, there is an exhibition on certain days of some of Christ's blood, and of the water which flowed from his wound; some of the sponge also:-a lock of the Virgin's hair, and a remnant of her petticoat!

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