« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
He directly applied to an ecclesiastic of his own country, of whose obliging temper he had previously heard, and whom he considered as a proper person to procure him an interview necessary for the accomplishment of his project. He informed that gentleman, that he earnestly wished to have a conference with the pope, on a business of infinite importance, and which admitted of n delay. It was not difficult to perceive the state of this poor man's mind; the good-natured ecclesiastic endeavoured to sooth and amuse him, putting off the conference till a distant day ; in hopes that means might be fallen on, during the interval, to prevail on him to return to his own country, A few days after this, however, he happened to go to St, Peter's church, at the very time when his holiness was performing some religious ceremony. At this sight our impatient missionary felt all his passions inflamed with ir, resistible ardour; he could no longer wait for the expect ed conference, but bursting out with zealous indignation, he exclaimed, thou beast of nature, with seven heads and ten horns! thou mother of harlots, arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls ! throw away the golden cup of abominations, and the filthiness of thy fornication !
You may easily imagine the astonishment and hubbub that such an apostrophe, from such a person, in such a place, would occasion; he was immediately carried to prison by the Swiss halberdiers.
When it was known that he was a British subject, some who understood English were ordered to attend his examination. The first question asked of him was, What had brought him to Rome?' He answered, . To anoint the eyes of the scarlet whore with eye-salve, that she might see her wickedness. They asked, Who he meant by the scarlet whore ?' He answered, "Who else could he mean, but her who sitteth upon seven mountains, who hath seduced the kings of the earth to commit fornication, and who hath gotten drunk with the blood of the saints, and the blood of the martyrs ?' Many
other questions were asked, and such provoking answers returned, that some suspected the man affected madness, that he might give vent to his rancour and petulance with impunity; and they were for condemning him to the galleys, that he might be taught more sense, and better manners. But when they communicated their sentiments to Clement XIV, he said, with great goodhumour, " That he never had heard of any body whose understanding, or politeness, had been much improved at that school; that although the poor man's first address had been a little rough and abrupt, yet he could not help considering himself as obliged to him for his good intentions, and for his undertaking such a long journey with a view to do good.' He afterwards gave orders to treat the man with gentleness while he remained in confinement, and to put him on board the first ship bound from Civita Vecchia to England, defraying the expense of his passage. However humane and reasonable this conduct may be thought by many, there were people who condemned it as an injudicious piece of lenity, which might have a tendency to sink the dignity of the sacred office, and expose it to future insults. If such behaviour as this did not pass without blame, it may be easily supposed, that few of the late pope's actions escaped uncensured ; and many who loved the easy amiable dispositions of the man, were of opinion, that the spirit of the times required a different character on the papal throne. This idea prevailed among the cardinals at the late election, and the conclave is supposed to have fixed on Cardinal Braschi to be pope, from the same motive that the Roman senate sometimes chose a dictator to restore and enforce the ancient discipline.
Pius VI performs all the religious functions of his office in the most solemn manner; not only on public and estraordinary occasions, but also in the most common acts of
devotion. I happened lately to be at St. Peter's church, when there was scarcely any other body there ; while I lounged from chapel to chapel, looking at the sculpture and paintings, the pope entered with a very few attendants; when he came to the statue of St. Peter, he was not satisfied with bowing, which is the usual mark of respect shewn to that image; or with kneeling, which is performed by more zealous persons; or with kissing the foot; which I formerly imagined concluded the climax of devotion; he bowed, he knelt, he kissed the foot, and then he rubbed his brow and his whole head with every mark of humility, fervour, and adoration, upon the sacred stump-It is no more, one-half of the foot having been long since worn away by the lips of the pious; and if the example of his holiness is universally imitated, nothing but a miracle can prevent the leg, thigh, and other parts from meeting with the same fate.
This uncommon appearance of zeal in the pope, is not imputed to hypocrisy or to policy, but is supposed to proceed entirely from a conviction of the efficacy of those holy frictions ; an opi. nion which has given people a much higher idea of the strength of his faith, than of his understanding. This being jubilee year, he may possibly think a greater appearance of devotion necessary now, than at any other time. The first jubilee was instituted by Boniface VIII, in the year 1300. Many ceremonies and institutions of the Roman Catholic church are founded on those of the old heathens. This is evidently an imitation of the Roman secular games, which were exhibited every hundredth year in honour of the gods ; * they lasted three days and three nights; they were attended with great pomp, and drew vast numbers of people to Rome, from all parts of Italy, and the most distant provinces. Boniface, recollecting this, determined to institute something analogous, which would immortalize his own name, and promote the interest of the Roman Catholic religion in general, and that of the city of Rome in particular. He embraced the favourable opportunity which the beginning of a century presented; he invented a few extraordinary ceremonies, and declared the year 1300 the first jubilee year, during which he assured mankind, that heaven would be in a particular manner propitious, in granting indulgences, and remission of sins, to all who should come to Rome, and attend the functions there to be performed, at this fortunate period, which was not to occur again for a hundred
* The Carmen Seculare of Horace was composed on occasion of those celebrated by Augustus in the year of Rome 736.
years.' This drew a great concourse of wealthy sinners to Rome; and the extraordinary circulation of money it occasioned, was strongly felt all over the pope's don minions. Clement VI, regretting that these advantages should occur so seldom, abridged the period, and declared there would be a jubilee every fifty years; the second was accordingly celebrated in the year 1350. Sixtus V, imagining that the interval was still too long, once more retrenched the half; and ever since there has been a jubilee every twenty-fifth year. * It is not likely that any future pope will think of shortening this period ; if any alteration were again to take place, it most probably would be, to restore the ancient period of fifty or a hundred years ; for, instead of the wealthy pilgrims who flocked to Rome from every quarter of Christendom, ninety-nine in a hundred of those who come now, are supported by alms during their journey, or are barely able to defray their own expenses by the strictest economy; and his holiness is supposed at present to derive no other advantage from the uncommon fatigue he is obliged to go through on the jubilee year, except the satisfaction he feels, in reflecting on the benefit his labours confer on the souls of the beggars, and other travellers, who resort from all corners of Italy to Rome, on this blessed occasion. The states which border on the pope's dominions, suffer many temporal inconveniences from the zeal of the peasants and manufacturers, the greater part of whom still make a point of visiting St. Peter's on the jubilee year ; the loss sustained by the countries which such emi. grants abandon, is not balanced by any advantage transferred to that to which they resort; the good arising on the whole, being entirely of a spiritual nature. By far the greater number of pilgrims come from the kingdom of Naples, whose inhabitants are said to be of a very devout and very amorous disposition. The first prompts them to go to Rome in search of that absolution which the second renders necessary; and on the year of jubilee, when indulgences are to be had at an easier rate than at any other time, those who can afford it generally carry away such a stock, as not only is sufficient to clear old scores, but will also serve as an indemnifying fund for future transgressions.
* To this last abridgement I am indebted for having seen the ceremo. nies and processions on the termination of this sacred year.
There is one door into the church of St. Peter's, which is called the Holy Door. This is always walled up, except on this distinguished year; and even then no person is permitted to enter by it, but in the humblest posture. The pilgrims, and many others, prefer crawling into the church upon their knees, by this door, to walking in, the usual way, by any other. I was present at the shutting up of this holy door. The pope, being seated on a raised seat, or kind of throne, surrounded by cardinals, and other ecclesiastics, an anthem was sung, accompanied by all sorts of musical instruments. During the performance, his holiness descended from the throne, with a golden trowel in his hand, placed the first brick, and applied some mortar: he then returned to his seat, and the door was instantly built up by more expert, though less hallowed, workmen; and will remain as it is now, till the beginning of the nineteenth century, when it will be again opened, by the pope then in being, with the same solemnity that it has been now shut. Though his holiness places but a single brick, yet it is very remarkable that this never fails to com. municate its influence, in such a rapid and powerful manner, that, within about an hour, or at most an hour and a half, all the other bricks, which form the wall of the holy door,