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idea that the evolutions they were performing, would be the more beneficial to their souls, the nearer they were to the sacred house. This exercise is continued in proportion to the zeal and strength of the patient.
Above the door there is an inscription; by which it appears, that any person who enters with arms is, ipso facto, excommunicated.
INGREDIENTES CUM ARMIS SUNT
There are also the severest denunciations against those who carry away the smallest particle of the stone and mortar belonging to this chapel. The adventure of the burnt breeches, and others of a similar nature, which are industriously circulated, have contributed as much as any denunciation, to prevent such attempts. Had it not been for the impressions they make, so great was the eagerness of the multitude to be possessed of any portion of this little edifice, that the whole was in danger of being carried away; not by angels, but piecemeal in the pockets of the pilgrims.
The holy house is divided, within, into two unequal portions, by a kind of gratework of silver. The division towards the west is about three-fourths of the whole; that to the east is called the Sanctuary. In the larger division, which may be considered as the main body of the house, the walls are left bare, to shew the true original fabric of Nazareth stone. These stones, which bear such a strong resemblance to bricks, are loose in many places. I took notice of this to a pilgrim, who entered with us: he smiled, saying, Che la non habbia paura, Padron mio, questi muri sono piu solidi degli Appenini.' At the lower, or western wall, there is a window, the same through which the angel Gabriel entered at the Annunciation. The architraves of this window are covered with silver. There are a great number of golden and silver lamps in this chapel; I did not count them, but I was told there were above sixty; one of them is a present from the repub
lic of Venice: it is of gold, and weighs thirty-seven pounds : some of the silver lamps weigh from one hundred and twenty, to one hundred and thirty pounds. At the upper end of the largest room is an altar, but so low, that from it you may see the famous image which stands over the chimney, in the small room, or sanctuary. Golden and silver angels, of considerable size, kneel around her, some offering hearts of gold, enriched with diamonds, and one an infant of pure gold. The wall of the sanctuary is plated with silver, and adorned with crucifixes, precious stones, and votive gifts of various kinds. The figure of the Virgin herself by no means corresponds with the fine furniture of her house: she is a little woman, about four feet in height, with the features and complexion of a negro. Of all the sculptors that ever existed, assuredly St. Luke, by whom this figure is said to have been made, is the least of a flatterer; and nothing can be a stronger proof of the blessed Virgin's contempt for external beauty, than her being satisfied with this representation of her; especially if, as I am inclined to believe, her face and person really resembled those beautiful ideas of her, conveyed by the pencils of Raphael, Corregio, and Guido. The figure of the infant Jesus, by St. Luke, is of a piece with that of the Virgin: he holds a large golden globe in one hand, and the other is extended in the act of blessing. Both figures have crowns on their heads, enriched with diamonds: these were presents from Ann of Austria, queen of France. Both arms of the Virgin are inclosed within her robes, and no part but her face is to be seen; her dress is most magnificent, but in a wretched bad taste this is not surprising, for she has no female attendant. She has particular clothes for the different feasts held in honour of her, and, which is not quite so decent, is always dressed and undressed by the priests belonging to the chapel; her robes are ornamented with all kinds of precious stones, down to the hem of her garment.
There is a small place behind the sanctuary, into which we were also admitted. This is a favour seldom refused
to strangers of a decent appearance. In this they shew the chimney, and some other furniture, which, they pretend, belonged to the Virgin when she lived at Nazareth ; particularly a little earthen porringer, out of which the infant used to eat. The pilgrims bring rosaries, little crucifixes, and Agnus Dei's, which the obliging priest shakes for half a minute in this dish; after which, it is believed, they acquire the virtue of curing various diseases, and prove an excellent preventative of all temptations of Satan. The gown which the image had on when the chapel arrived from Nazareth, is of red camblet, and carefully kept in a glass shrine.
Above a hundred masses are daily said in this chapel, and in the church in which it stands. The music we heard in the chapel was remarkably fine. A certain number of the chaplains are eunuchs, who perform the double duty of singing the offices in the choir, and saying masses at the altar. The canonical law, which excludes persons in their situation from the priesthood, is eluded by a very extraordinary expedient, which I shall leave you to guess.
The jewels and riches to be seen at any one time in the holy chapel, are of small value in comparison of those in the treasury, which is a large room adjoining to the vestry of the great church. In the presses of this room are kept those presents which royal, noble, and rich bigots of all ranks have, by oppressing their subjects, and injuring their families, sent to this place. To enumerate every particular would fill volumes. They consist of various utensils, and other things in silver and gold; as lamps, candlesticks, goblets, crowns, and crucifixes; lambs, eagles, saints, apostles, angels, virgins, and infants; then there are cameos, pearls, gems, and precious stones of all kinds, and in great numbers. What is valued above all the other jewels is, the miraculous pearl, wherein they assert, that nature has given a faithful delineation of the Virgin, sitting on a cloud, with the infant Jesus in her arms. I freely acknowledge, that I did see something like a woman with a child in her arms; but whether na
ture intended this as a portrait of the Virgin Mary, or not, I will not take upon me to say; yet I will candidly confess (though, perhaps, some of my friends in the north, may think it is saying too much in support of the popish opinion) that the figure in this pearl bore as great a likeness to some pictures I have seen of the Virgin, as to any female of my acquaintance.
There was not room in the presses of the treasury, to hold all the silver pieces which have been presented to the Virgin. Several other presses in the vestry, they told us, were completely full, and they made offer to shew them; but our curiosity was already satiated.
It is said, that those pieces are occasionally melted down, by his holiness, for the use of the state; and also, that the most precious of the jewels are picked out, and sold for the same purpose, false stones being substituted in their room. This is an affair entirely between the Virgin and the pope: if she does not, I know no other person who has a right to complain.
PILGRIMAGES to Loretto are not so frequent with foreigners, or with Italians of fortune and distinction, as formerly; nineteen out of twenty of those, who make this journey now, are poor people, who depend for their maintenance on the charity they receive on the road. To those who are of such a rank in life as precludes them from availing themselves of the charitable institutions for the maintenance of pilgrims, such journeys are attended with expense and inconveniency; and I am informed, that fathers and husbands, in moderate or confined circumstances, are frequently brought to disagreeable dilemmas, by the rash vows of going to Loretto, which their wives or daughters are apt to make on any supposed deliverance from danger. To refuse, is considered, by the whole neighbourhood, as cruel, and even impious; and to grant, is often highly distressing, particularly to such
husbands as, from affection, or any other motive, do not choose that their wives should be long out of their sight. But the poor, who are maintained during their whole journey, and have nothing more than a bare maintenance to expect from their labour at home, to them a journey to Loretto is a party of pleasure, as well as devotion, and by much the most agreeable road they can take to heaven. This being a year of jubilee, there is a far greater concourse of pilgrims of all ranks here, at present, than is usual. We have seen a few in their carriages, a greater number on horseback, or on mules; or, what is still more common, on asses. Great numbers of females come in this manner, with a male friend walking by them, as their guide and protector; but the greatest number, of both sexes, are on foot. When we approached near Loretto, the road was crowded with them: they generally set out before sunrise; and, having reposed themselves during the heat of the day, continue their journey again in the evening. They sing their matins, and their evening hymns, aloud. As many have fine voices and delicate ears, those vocal concerts have a charming effect at a little distance. During the stillness of the morning and the evening, we were serenaded with this solemn religious music for a considerable part of the road. The pilgrims on foot, as soon as they enter the suburbs, begin a hymn in honour of the Virgin, which they continue till they reach the church. The poorer sort are received into an hospital, where they have bed and board for three days.
The only trade of Loretto consists of rosaries, crucifixes, little Madonnas, Agnus Dei's, and medals, which are manufactured here, and sold to pilgrims. There are great numbers of shops full of these commodities, some of them of a high price; but infinitely the greater part are adapted to the purses of the buyers, and sold for a mere trifle. The evident poverty of those manufacturers and traders, and of the inhabitants of this town in general, is a suffici-. ent proof that the reputation of our Lady of Loretto is greatly on the decline.