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SANTA CROCE-DANTE; HIS TOMB AT RAVENNA-LIFE, AND WRITINGS MICHAEL ANGELO'S TOMB, AND ALFIERI'S REFLECTIONS UPON IT-ALFIERI'S TOMB, AND PASQUINADE -MACHIAVELLI AND GALILEO-DISCOVERY OF THE TRUE CROSS-CATHEDRAL, AND SACRED SYNODS-CAMPANILEBAPTISTERY AND BRONZE DOORS-CÀNOVA'S VENUS-THE COCOMERO THEATRE-TACCHINARDI, AND BONINI-ROSSINI -REFLECTIONS ON MUSIC-VALLOMBROSA-ROMANTIC SECLUSION, AND POETICAL SKETCH-ORIGIN, AND ANCIENT LEGEND-VISITED BY MILTON-EXTRACT FROM HIM.
FLORENCE has given birth to many illustrious names. Among those whose bones, and sculptured tombs, repose in the church of Santa Croce are Michael Angelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo.
To recover the relics of Dante, the Florentines have made many efforts, but it was his ungrateful countrymen who banished him; it was at Ravenna that he found an asylum, and a grave; and by a decree of the Pope and a just one, they who sheltered him have the right to keep his hallowed coffin. I admire his epitaph at Ravenna
Exulem a Florentia excepit Ravenna; vivo fruens, mortuum colens.
Tumulum pretiosum musis S. P. Q. Rav. jure ac ære suo tanquam thesaurum suum munivit, instauravit, ornavit.
Ravenna received him when an exile from Florence ;-enjoying him while living; honouring him when dead.
This tomb, dear to the Muses, the Senate and people of Ravenna, of their own authority, from their own funds, and as their public treasure, have erected, consecrated, and adorned.
The Florentines are now proud even of an old portrait of him in the Duomo, and religiously preserve a stone on which he is known to have sat in the Piazza :—it is also in contemplation to erect a cenotaph to his memory in this church of Santa Croce.
Dante was born at Florence about the middle of the thirteenth century, and held distinguished rank, having been many times invested with the appointment of ambassador. In the various feuds that distracted the city, his party were completely overpowered about the year 1300; first he was banished, and his property forfeited; in 1302 he was condemned to be burnt alive, under base accusation of fraud; and in 1321 he died at Ravenna. Some few years afterwards, honours, almost divine, were paid to his memory; for Dante is the idol of Italy, as Shakspeare is of England.
Each flourishing at a period when letters were but in their dawn, each has created a language, imagery, and idioms peculiarly their own; new fashions, new tastes, and customs have rendered obsolete, and almost unintelligible, some of their allusions, and expressions; yet through centuries, and ages, their fame, and veneration still blooms; while other bards are forgotten; and the greatest that have survived in either country acknowledge the supremacy of the genius of these two.
In front of the Sarcophagus of Michael Angelo are three weeping figures of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. On it is his bust, and by his own desire, the monument is so placed that he seems to regard the dome of the cathedral erected by Brunellesco, and from which he conceived and executed, the still grander cupola of St. Peter's. This is altogether a superb monument, and is further very memorable as having first kindled the embers of reflection and genius in the soul of one whom Italy greatly vaunts Alfieri; whose young mind, only seventeen, was then at war within itself from consciousness of, but inability to combat with, idleness and dissipation, and which had not yet encountered any adequate excitement to arouse his slumbering energies, and urge him to be a Man. It is recorded in his life, written by himself, and these are his words:
"La tomba di Michelangelo in Sa Croce fu una delle poche cose che mi fermassero; e su la memoria di quell' uomo di tanta fama feci una qualche riflessione, e fin da quel punto sentii fortemente che non riuscivano veramente grandi fra gli uomini che quei pochissimi che aveano lasciata alcuna cosa stabile fatta da loro."
The tomb of Michael Angelo in Sa Croce was one of the few things that arrested me. I began to reflect on the memory of one so renowned, and finally I felt vehemently that even of the great among mankind none had lived to a good end but those very few who had left something permanent and stable of their own creation.
How deeply, eternally, important; and yet how slight, how imperceptible to all around, are those first impulses that strike in early years upon the soul, and, breeding there, lead on to fame, or infamy! How vital then, how affecting, the care of those by whom the infant mind is moulded for ever to weal or to woe!
Further on is the tomb of Alfieri, erected by his wife the Countess of Albany, the last remnant of the royal blood of the Stuarts. It represents Italy, crowned, mourning at the Sarcophagus of her poet, it is enriched by a basso-rilievo head of Alfieri, and is adorned with appropriate laurel wreaths, lyres, and masks:-the work of Canova.*
Alfieri has left behind him the fame of a poet, and the character of a patriot. But pride, aristocratical pride, unbounded, filled his entire soul, and the lustre of his public career is dimmed by the recollection of some of his private conduct.
Machiavelli is recorded in this very pithy epitaph.
* This monument having been erected about the time that the French were despoiling Italy of its treasures, the following pasquinade was affixed at Rome upon that now mutilated, but once witty, effigy.
Questa volta Canova l'ha sbagliata,
Sure ;-Canova this time has made a mistake:
He shows Italy rob'd when she's bare as a stake.
The True Cross.
Tanto nomini nullum par eulogium.
Ob. A. D. 1527.*
And Galileo's bones are also here whose long panegyric now declares him who when living was so persecuted and despised, as
"Nulli ætatis suæ comparandus."+
Behind the high altar are some very curious, and antique, paintings by Agnolo Gaddi in allusion to the discovery of the true Cross. In the year 356, St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, being at Jerusalem, and shocked at the profanation of a temple of Venus occupying the site where perhaps the Holy Sepulchre had been, ordered it to be rased to the ground. Remains confirmatory of her predictions were found, but, above all, the three Crosses were there. Now, the difficulty was to ascertain the holy one; and alas! no clue, no conjecture, or effort, appeared feasible, till finally a reverend bishop ordered them all to be carried to the house of a sick woman. Here he tried the virtue of the two first without effect, but no sooner was the patient lifted from her bed, and placed upon the right Cross, than she immediately became whole!
* To such a name no eulogium is adequate. Niccolo Machiavelli died A. D. 1527.