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Observing a number of people going in and out of the church of “ St. Peter in Prison,” as a little chapel situated at the foot of the Capitoline Hill is called; I was reminded of the Mamertine prisons over which the chapel is built, and on being joined by a friend, I rose to visit them. A little way up the eastern ascent of the capital from the Forum, there is a side door of the church, which leads down to the prisons. We were conducted, as usual, by the sacristano, who like the rest of his brethren, seemed to think the office of cicerone to foreigners the most agreeable part of his duties. The Mamertine prisons consist of two small dungeons, built one over the other, and communicating with each other by an aperture in the roof of the lower one. There was, I believe, no entrance originally, except by the roofs, the prisoners being let down by ropes. There is now, however, a modern staircase. As we descended, our cicerone called our attention to a small grating of iron fastened to the wall, which on examination we found to cover a profile impression of a man's face deeply cut in the solid stone. This we are informed was the effect of a miracle wrought by St. Peter, as he was conducted into the prison. The guards, it appears, knocked the apostle's head against the wall; when, as it has been facetiously remarked, instead of the usual consequence of St. Peter bruising his head, a deep profile impression of his face was left in the wall! I was a good deal amused at the story, and though not meaning to address myself to our credulous guide, I observed in Italian, “da vero, è molto curiosi."* “ Curious !” exclaimed the man, “it is the result of a miracle, and one does not apply the term curious to a miracle !” The upper dungeon was built by Ancus Martius, “ ad terrorem increscentis audaciæ.” It is one of the oldest monuments of ancient Rome, and affords a most surprising specimen of the advanced state of the masonic art, in the times of the Roman kings. The walls and vaulted roof are composed of immense blocks of volcanic stone, or tufo, most accurately fitted together, without any cement, and if the hand of time alone is to destroy the work, it will in all probability last for centuries vet to come. The lower dungeon is that which was added by Servius Tullius, and called Tullianum. I was thinking of the Cataline conspirators who were confined here, of Sallust's account of the conspiracy, and of Cicero's orations, when our guide again called our attention to another of St. Peter's miracles. We are told that Peter and Paul were confined here along with other prisoners, and many of these being converted by St. Peter's preaching, he wanted water to baptize them with, and there being none in the prison, he caused a fountain to spring up in the floor! This fountain still exists, and its miraculous origin is attested, by the fact that the water always remains at the same height, however much may be taken out, or put in!
On leaving the prisons, we ascended to the Capitol, to visit the Museum, but finding it closed, we entered the adjoining church of “ Santa Maria d'Ara Celi," where the monks were chaunting vespers. This church is supposed to be built on the spot where
* “ Really, it is very curious."
once stood the temple of Jupiter Feretrius, and the Ara Cæli. The present building being dedicated to the Virgin, her name stands in conjunction with that of the locality, Ara Celi being evidently a corruption of the Latin Æra Cæli. Circumstances of this kind constantly remind you here of the strange mixture of paganism and Christianity which popery has effected; and in this instance, it is only in perfect accordance with the idolatry practised within the walls of the edifice bearing this singular name. At Christmas, in most of the places dedicated to the Virgin, grand ceremonies in her honour take place, at which time there is paraded a wax doll, intended to represent the infant Saviour. Santa Maria d'Ara Celi, is celebrated as possessing one of these dolls, or “ Santi bambini” as they are called, which is said to be of miraculous origin, having descended from heaven! The display of this wonderful doll I witnessed a week or two ago. One of the side chapels was converted into a sort of theatre, on the stage of which was placed figures of an ox, the Virgin, Joseph, and the magi, of the size of life. The scene a stable, lighted at night. The figures were represented as gazing intently on the manger, in which was laid the miraculous i bambino," amidst hay said to have been brought from Bethlehem, The number of devotees kneeling before this exhibition, and the crowd thronging to get near, were so great, that it was some time before I could approach sufficiently close to obtain a full view of the whole scene. Small donations, generally halfpence, were fung on the stage, in imitation I presume of the gifts of the magi. Of this part of their duty the people were constantly reminded by the priests in attendance, who continually exhorted them to remember the poor, the Virgin, and various saints. The doors of the church were beset on this, as on all similar occasions, by crowds of beggars, intreating for alms in the name of the Virgin, and the “ santissimo bambino."* In what does all this differ from the idolatry of the worshippers of the pagan “ Æra Cæli ? Can we be satisfied with the usual apology for these scenes, that they are intended, by means of the sensual organ, to present more vividly before the mental eye, important realities, and thus produce a more lasting impression ? Was any thing more intended by the statue of Jupiter, which formerly stood near this spot, ard which it is said still exists with another head, as the statue of St. Peter in the famous cathedral bearing his name, than to remind the people of some of the attributes of a supreme being whose existence they acknowledged, and whom they worshipped under the name of Jupiter ? Did Cicero or Quintilian any more believe the statues of metal or stone, to which they sacrificed, to be endowed with divine power, than many of the Italians of the present day believe the wax doll of Santa Maria d'Ara Celi, or the bronze statue of St. Peter to be so endowed ? No! nor so much,
But whatever may be the effect of these representations in the present age, it must be admitted that their original institution had a different object in view. For many of these ceremonies are evi
dently relics of the dark ages, when they were introduced in order to afford the people just so much knowledge of sacred history, as the priests found it convenient to grant, without allowing them the privilege of reading for themselves, and thus acquiring more information than would have comported with the interests of priestcraft. The representation of the 5 præsepe” or manger, described above, can be distinctly traced back to the period when sacred dramatic performances, or mysteries, were common amusements in both Italy and Germany; and its present appropriation, as an idolatrous ceremony of the Romish church, is only the natural result of that constant aim to please the senses, rather than inform the mind, which characterizes the great apostacy.
Your's, most sincerely,
THE SHIELDS OF THE MIGHTY.
(Concluded from p. 92.) But let us now glance at the panoply of some of the more illustrious warriors of the heroic age, in which the shield occupied a very conspicuous place. In this rapid survey Homer will of course be our principal guide. We are aware that gold and brass were not the only materials employed in the shields of these mighty men of antiquity. Sometimes they were made of willow branches, closely woven together, as is attested in the following passage of Virgil,
Tegmina tuta cavant capitum, flectuntque sulignus
Aut leves ocreas lento ducunt argento. Then again they were manufactured from wood, the lightest that could be obtained ; and still more commonly from hides, which were doubled into numerous folds, and rendered firmer and more secure by plates of metal. One or two quotations will amply verify these statements, and at the same time display the striking resemblance between the defensive armour of which we read in the Scriptures, and that of the valorous heroes among the old heathen nations. In the seventh Book of the Iliad there is a very interesting description of the shield of Ajax. After mentioning the maker's name and place of residence, the poet thus proceeds,
ός οι εποίησε σάκος αιολον, έπταβόειον
ταύρων ζατρεφέων, επί δ' όγδοον, ήλασε χαλκόν. In English as follows, “ Who made for him a variously ornamented shield, having seven folds of the skins of noble oxen, and who laid upon these, for the eighth fold, a plate of brass.” The opening of the eleventh Book furnishes a grand and striking representation of Agamemnon arming himself for battle. Having made some progress in this work, he at length comes to the shield, of which the following picture is drawn :
αν δ' έλετ' αμφιβρότην, πολυδαίδαλον, ασπίδα Θουρίν,
λευκοί, εν δε μέσοισιν έην μέλανος κυάνοιο. This passage may be literally translated thus, " And then he grasped his all-protecting shield, wrought with much art, quick-moving, beautiful, around which were ten circles of brass, and upon it, were twenty fair bosses of white lead, and in the middle of these, one of black lead.” In the twentieth Book the shield of Achilles is thus spoken of:
--έπει πέντε πτύχας ήλασε Κυλλοποδίων, τας δύο χαλκείας, δύο δ' ένδοθι κασσιτεροιο,
την δε μίαν χρυσέην Of which the following may be taken as a literal expression in English, “For lame-footed Vulcan had spread upon it five folds, two of brass, and under these two of white lead, and one of gold.” We shall venture upon one illustration from Æschylus, that nobly majestic and fervid poet. In his enta eri Oußais, presenting to the reader's imagination the seven chiefs in their military array, of which the delineation of their shields is by far the most impressive part, he gives this account of the sixth,
Tolave' ó pávrıç, donio &U KUklov vépwv
Náyxałkov, nu'oa. * Thus spoke the warrior-prophet, firmly holding his well-orbed shield, made entirely of brass." The last and most remarkable exemplification we shall introduce under this division of our article may be found in the eighth Book of the Iliad, where Hector, pouring forth words “ winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,” thus proceeds,
αλλ' εφομαρτέιτον και σπεύδετον, όφρα λάβωμεν
πάσαν χρυσείην έμεναι, κανόνας τε και αυτήν. “ Follow me, press forward that we may seize the shield of Nestor, the fame of which reaches heaven, being all of gold, both the shield itself and handles too.” In respect to the materials of which the shields of these combatants were made, the above quotations will be amply sufficient.
We proceed to view the shield with reference to its size and shape. In dwelling upon these two features of the ancient shields, we must ascertain how much of the body they were intended to cover, and how far their form was adapted to accomplish this intention. We are not about to direct the attention of our readers to the shields which belonged to the heathen deities, such for instance as the ægis of Minerva, of imperishable splendour, with its hundred tasselled borders all of gold, or the magnificent golden ægis which Apollo threw around the mangled body of Hector. Neither must our thoughts be detained by contemplating those of the angelic warriors which rushed upon the view of Milton's vivid and sublime imagination. There will be nothing found perhaps in the progress of our investigation equally grand in conception or superb in description with the following pictures, V. S. VOL. I.
-- bis ponderous shield,
- two broad suns their shields
In horror: The shields of men are what claim our regard, but of men around whose history and achievements there hangs the most powerful interest. In endeavouring to obtain a correct idea of the form and dimension of those employed among the Jews, it may be desirable to refer to the original words by which they are expressed, although the words themselves do not contain any precise delineation of the features under our consideration. From the narrative of the story of Solomon, we learn, that he made two kinds of shields, of which the former is denominated in Hebrew 1788, rendered in our version target, and the latter 190, translated shield. Both these designations are derived from verbs which signify, to cover with a view to protection or safety. The greater quantity of gold used in making the y, clearly proves that it must have been considerably larger than the 7, though there is strong reason to conclude that the words were sometimes indiscriminately employed. As therefore, the terms of themselves cannot supply any exact conception, as to their size and determinate shape, it hence becomes important to observe the figurative use made of them in the inspired volume, as this may facilitate our apprehension of the extent of defence they were meant to afford, and consequently shed some light over the enquiry. We are quite aware, that this is not the ordinary way of proceeding. The common practice is, to ascertain the amount of meaning in a figure, from the primary signification of the terms used ; and no one would for a moment question, the philosophical accuracy of this mode of investigation. But this rule, like every other, may admit of exceptions, and the subject upon which we are dwelling appears to involve one of these exceptions. Many passages occur of great force and elegance in which they are so introduced, of which one or two may be quoted. In the 10th verse of the 47th Psalm, we meet with the following expression PIN- O, “ the shields of the land,” undoubtedly denoting the protectors or princes of the land. A similar mode of expression is found in Hosea iv. 18, in our translation, “ her rulers," in the original “ her shields.” Gen. xv. 2, contains one of the most animating of the numerous declarations made by Jehovah to Abraham, a declaration too which derives its chief energy from this figure, “ Fear not, Abraham, I am thy shield.” One more example may be taken from Psalm v. 12, where David, dwelling on the conduct of God towards the righteous, thus speaks, “ with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.” Now be it remembered, that princes or rulers are expected to afford security and defence to those countries over which they are placed. They stand pledged to cover their people with a' widely extended and guardian wing. In a still more glorious sense the eternal God in the case of Abraham and David, as