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Forth issuing on a summer's morn, to breathe
Or dairy; each rural sight, each rural sound.
I confess, for my own part, I never felt the beauty of those lines of Milton with greater sensibility, than when I passed through the charming country which is watered by the Brenta, after having been pent up in the terraqueous town of Venice. As one reason which induced his Grace to visit Padua at this time was, that he might pay his duty to his royal highness the duke of Gloucester, we waited on that prince as soon as we had his permission. His royal highness has been here for some time with his duchess. He was very ill at Venice, and has been advised to remove to this place for the benefit of the air. It is with much satisfaction I add, that he is now out of danger, a piece of intelligence with which you will have it in your power to give pleasure to many people in England.
No city in the world has less affinity with the country than Venice, and few can have more than Padua ; for great part of the circuit within the walls is unbuilt, and the town in general so thinly inhabited, that grass is seen in many places in the interstices of the stones with which the streets are paved. The houses are built on porticoes, which, when the town was well inhabited, and in a flourishing condition, may have had a magnificent appearance; but, in its present state, they rather give it a greater air of melancholy and of gloom.
The Franciscan church, dedicated to St. Antonio, the great patron of this city, was the place we were first led to by the cicerone of our inn. The body of this holy person is inclosed in a sarcophagus, under an altar in the middle of the chapel, and is said to emit a very agreeable and refreshing flavour. Pious Catholics believe this to be the natural effluvia of the saint's body; while, heretics assert, that the perfume (for a perfume there certainly is) proceeds from certain balsams rubbed on the marble every
morning, before the votaries come to pay their devotions. I never presume to give an opinion on contested points of this kind; but I may be allowed to say, that if this sweet odour really proceeds from the holy Franciscan, he emits a very different smell from any of the brethren of that order whom I ever had an opportunity of approaching.
The walls of this church are covered with votive offerings of ears, eyes, arms, legs, noses, and every part almost of the human body, in token of cures performed by this saint; for whatever part has been the seat of the disease, a representation of it is hung up in silver or gold, according to the gratitude and wealth of the patient.
At a small distance from this church is a place called the School of Antonio. Here many of the actions of the saint are painted in fresco; some of them by Titian. Many miracles of a very extraordinary nature are here recorded. I observed one in particular, which, if often repeated, might endanger the peace of families. The saint thought proper to loosen the tongue of a new-born child, and endue it with the faculty of speech; on which the infant, with an imprudence natural to its age, declared, in an audible voice, before a large company, who was its real father. The miracles attributed to this celebrated saint greatly exceed in number those recorded by the Evange lists of our Saviour; and although it is not asserted, that St. Antonio has as yet raised himself from the dead, yet his admirers here record things of him which are almost equivalent. When an impious Turk had secretly placed fireworks under the chapel, with an intention to blow it up, they affirm, that St. Antonio hallooed three times from his marble coffin, which terrified the infidel, and discovered the plot. This miracle is the more miraculous, as the saint's tongue was cut out, and is actually preserv ed in a crystal vessel, and shewn as a precious relic to all who have a curiosity to see it. I started this as a difficulty which seemed to bear a little against the authenticity of the miracle; and the ingenious person to whom the objection was made, seemed at first somewhat nonplussed;
but, after recollecting himself, he observed, that this, which at first seemed an objection, was really a confirmation of the fact; for the saint was not said to have spoken, but only to have hallooed, which a man can do without a tongue; but if his tongue had not been cut out, added he, there is no reason to doubt that the saint would have revealed the Turkish plot in plain articulate language.
From the tower of the Franciscan church we had a very distinct view of the beautiful country which surrounds Padua. All the objects, at a little distance, seemed delightful and flourishing; but every thing under our eyes indicated wretchedness and decay.
HE next church, in point of rank, but far superior in point of architecture, is that of St. Justina, built from a design of Palladio, and reckoned, by some people, one of the most elegant he ever gave. St. Justina is said to have suffered martyrdom where the church is built, which was the reason of erecting it on that particular spot. It would have been fortunate for the pictures in this church if the saint had suffered on a piece of drier ground, for they seem considerably injured by the damps which surround the place where it now stands. There is a wide area in front of the church, called the Prato della Valle, where booths and shops are erected for all kinds of merchandise during the fairs. Part of this, which is never allowed to be profaned by the buyers and sellers, is called Campo Santo, because there a great number of Christian martyrs are said to have been put to death.
St. Justina's church is adorned with many altars, embellished with sculpture. The pavement is remarkably rich, being a kind of Mosaic work, of marble of various colours. Many other precious materials are wrought as ornaments to this church, but there is one species of jewels
in which it abounds, more than, perhaps, any church in Christendom; which is, the bones of martyrs. They have here a whole well full, belonging to those who were executed in the Prato della Valle; and what is of still greater value, the Benedictines, to whom this church belongs, assert, that they are also in possession of the bodies of the two evangelists St. Matthew and St. Luke. The m Franciscans belonging to a convent at Venice dispute the second of those two great prizes, and declare, that they are possessed of the true body of St. Luke, this in St. Justina's church being only an imposture. The matter was referred to the pope, who gave a decision in favour of one of the bodies; but this does not prevent the proprietors of the other from still persisting in their original claim, so that there is no likelihood of the dispute being finally determined till the day of judgment.
The hall of the town-house of Padua is one of the largest I ever saw. From the best guess I could make, after stepping it, I should think it about three hundred English feet long, by one hundred in breadth: the emblematic and astrological paintings, by Giotto, are much decayed. This immense hall is on the second floor, and is ornamented with the busts and statues of some eminent persons. The cenotaph of Livy, the historian, who was a native of Padua, is erected here. The university, formerly so celebrated, is now, like every thing else in this city, on the decline; the theatre for anatomy could contain five or six hundred students, but the voice of the professor is like that of him who crieth in the wilderness. The licentious spirit of the students, which formerly was carried such unwarrantable lengths, and made it dangerous to walk in the streets of this city at night, is now entirely extinct it has gradually declined with the numbers of the students. Whether the ardour for literature, for which the students of this university were distinguished, has abated in the same proportion, I cannot determine; but I am informed, that by far the greater number of the young men who now attend the university, are designed
for the priesthood, and apply to the study of divinity as a science, for comprehending and preaching the mysterious parts of which, a very small portion of learning has been observed to succeed better, than a great deal.
There is a cloth manufactory in this city; and I was told, that the inhabitants of Venice, not excepting the nobles, wear no other cloth than what is made here. This particular manufactory, it may therefore be suppos ed, succeeds very well; but the excessive number of beggars with which this place swarms, is a strong proof that trade and manufactures in general are by no means in a flourishing condition. In the course of my life I never saw such a number of beggars at one time, as attacked us at the church of St. Antonio. The duke of Hamilton fell into a mistake, analogous to that of Sable in the Funeral, who complains, that the more money he gave his mourners to look sad, the merrier they looked. His Grace gave all he had in his pocket to the clamorous multitude which surrounded him, on condition that they would hold their tongues, and leave us; on which they became more numerous, and more vociferous than before. Strangers who visit Padua will do well, therefore, to observe the gospel injunction, and perform their charities in secret.
In my letter from Padua I neglected to mention her IN high pretensions to antiquity; she claims Antenor, the Trojan, as her founder; and this claim is supported by classical authority. In the first book of the Eneid, Venus complains to Jupiter, that her son Eneas is still a vagabond on the seas, while Antenor has been permitted to establish himself, and build a city in Italy.
Hic tamen ille urbem Patavi sedesque locavit.
Lucan also, in his Pharsalia, describing the augur who read in the skies the events of that decisive day, alludes to the same story of Antenor.