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other than the primitive Church of St. Clement, half buried and half destroyed. On the ruins of this a comparatively modern church had been constructed, in (we believe) the twelfth century. On the walls of this buried church, frescoes were found, one of which is now presented to our readers. The subject is the “Assumption," as we have already observed; and though Roman antiquaries, such as De Rossi, have at once recognized the true date of the fresco, which is actually inscribed upon it, as we shall see; yet proselytising ecclesiastics at Rome have remained in ignorance (so we are bound in charity to suppose) of this date, and have displayed this fresco again and again to English visitors as giving proof that the Roman doctrine concerning the Virgin Mary, and especially concerning her Assumption, had been recognized in the primi. tive Church from all but Apostolic times. « The Church of St. Clement, even as known hitherto," (so it was5 argued,) “was one of the oldest Christian Churches at Rome. Here is a Church more ancient still,—so ancient as to have been buried beneath the ground, and altogether lost to sight and knowledge for hundreds of years. The very construction of the walls gives proof of an all but Apostolic antiquity; and here, upon those walls, providentially preserved for the conviction of Protestants, and for the establishment of the faith of Catholics,-here are proofs of what was the belief of the Church while, it may be, the voices of the two princes of the Apostles were still sound. ing in the ears of their surviving disciples."
This ingenious statement, like many another similar argument that has been set in currency of late years among ourselves, can only be acquitted of far graver fault on the ground of a scarcely excusable ignorance. For what are the facts of the case-facts which at Rome, the very centre of archæologi, cal study, might have been ascertained at once from persons competent to give an opinion ? Our readers have before them the opportunity of judging these facts for themselves, and that upon evidence furnished by the very persons whose opinions we are now combating. And first, let it be noted, that the figure on the left-hand (spectator's left) occupies the place which, in pictures of this kind, was conventionally assigned to the giver of the mosaic, or of the fresco, as the case might be. Observe, further, the contrast between the “nimbus” about the head of this figure (it is shaped like a square piece of board)," and the ordinary circular nimbus of the figure on the spectator's right. This “square nimbus," as it is sometimes called, was, in the middle ages, a conventional mode of marking out a distinguished personage while still living, whereas the circular nimbus was reserved as a mark of honour after death.
5 It is perhaps right to add, that the chanically, and with mechanical accupresent writer is not a personal witness racy, from a photograph published by as to this. He is only retailing at the custodians of the Church. second-hand the general purport of 7 John the Deacon, writing in the what he has heard stated by others. ninth century, at the very time from
6 Our illustration is reproduced me which this picture dates, is the first
Now let us note, before going further, how many clear indi. cations of date there are before us, even independently of the inscriptions which we have yet to consider. The shaven crowns of “ St. Vitus,” and of the corresponding figure on the left, would have been regarded, even as late as St. Jerome's time (close of fourth century), as a mark proper to the priesthood of some heathen superstition. The earliest known examples in art of the bare crown, by way of tonsure, are of the sixth century. Again, the use of the circular nimbus in representing a personage such as St. Vitus, and the square nimbus seen in the same picture, point to the sixth century as the very earliest to which the picture could with any probability be referred. And on all these grounds, any one even moderately acquainted with the data of Christian archæology would at once say, that the first glance of the picture, independently of its inscriptions and of its subject, marked it as being at any rate later than the year 500 A.D.
But this is not all. There are two inscriptions on the picture before us, which, if this picture is to be trusted, fix the date, beyond all possibility of mistake, to the middle of the ninth century. The first of the two inscriptions is thus worded :
QVOD HÆC PRÆ CUNCTIS SPLENDET PICTVRA DECORE
COMOPNERE HANC STVDVIT PRESBITER ECCE LEO. It is not as a specimen of mediæval Latinity that we quote these lines, but as an introduction to a second and somewhat later inscription, about the head of this same “Presbiter Leo.” Represented here as the giver of the fresco, at a time when he was “Presbyter Urbis” (a “ Cardinal,” he would now be styled), this second inscription speaks of him by his later title as Sanctissimus Dominus& Leo Quartus Papa Romanus. And we are thus able to fix the date of this picture to the middle of the ninth century, to a period shortly preceding the Pontificate of Leo IV. (845—855). writer who notices this custom. De- & This title of “Dominus," as an scribing a picture of St. Gregory the official designation for the occupant of Great which was extant in his time, he the Roman See, was first assumed, we says:-"Circa verticem tabula simili- believe, by Leo III., at the beginning tudinem, quod viventis insigne est, præ- of the ninth century. It appears in ferens, non coronam.” The earliest art monuments for the first time in existing monument, known to the the mosaics of the famous “ Triclinium writer, in which it occurs, is on a head Lateranum.” (See Vestiarium Chris(mosaic) of John VII., dating from the tianum, p. lii., and plates xxxii., xxxii.) beginning of the eighth century (Ciampini De Sacr. Ædif. Tab. xxiii.)
We give this date upon the evidence (professedly photographic) furnished by Roman authorities. But we have reason to believe that this photographic picture (reproduced in these pages) was taken, not from the actual fresco, but from a drawing intended to represent as exactly as possible its actual state. And we observe that Mr. J. H. Parker of Oxford, who has devoted himself of late more especially to Roman archæology, both Christian and Classical, has photographed the fresco itself by means of lime light, and he believes the inscription to refer to Leo IX. (1048—1054). He gives the inscription about the head of Leo, as follows,
DOM. LEO P.M. ROMANVS and the inscription below, which, he says, is only partly legible, thus:
PARCVS (? PARIES) IS SPLENDET PICTA DECORE LEO PONTI
FEX HANC STVDVIT PRESBYTER ECCLESIAM FIERI. In the photograph (published at Rome) which we ourselves have reproduced, the abbreviated inscription is ss. DOM. LEO QRS. PP. ROM. (i.e., Sanctissimus Dominus Leo Quartus Papa Romanus). If Mr. Parker's date be the correct one, our own case is even stronger than before. But here, as throughout, we have preferred taking the Roman controversialists on their own ground, for the saving of unnecessary argument.
And thus we find that this picture of the “ Assumption," appealed to with such confidence, by Roman controversialists, as an evidence of all but Apostolic antiquity for the doctrine in question, proves nothing more than that (at the earliest) after a lapse of 800 years, and 300 years or more after the utter decay of primitive learning in Italy, this doctrine had at length obtained public recognition upon the walls of a Roman church.
Twelfth Century. If anything were wanting to complete the contrast between the Christian Rome that once was, and the Marian Rome of mediæval and of modern times, the want might be supplied by mosaics of the twelfth century, such as those of which a specimen' is here given. Let our readers contrast this with earlier pictures, such as those figured in our last Number, pp. 830, 831, and again above, at p. 907.
The mosaic picture here reproduced" (see opposite) was commenced by Pope Calixtus II., and completed by Anastasius IV. (1153–1154). And these two Popes are represented kneel
9 For other examples from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries, see Seroux d'Agincourt, Peinture (Vol. V.) Pl. xviii.; and Mr. Marriott's Vestiarium Christianum, Pl. xlv.
1 From an original drawing formerly in a Collection belonging to Pope Clement XI. (See description in Vestiarium Christianum, p. 242.]