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Page added in January 2022.
In 1775, Dr. Moore (1729-1802) passed some months in Italy, as medical attendant and travelling companion to the 8th Duke of Hamilton (1756-1799), and published an account of the country upon his return home, with the title of "A View of Society and Manners in Italy". The work was favorably received by the public, and indeed has a considerable degree of merit. The author, who had lived much upon the continent, was a man of candid and liberal spirit, and, though born a Scotchman and reared a Presbyterian, was free from national prejudice and religious intolerance. (..) His position as companion to the Duke of Hamilton gave him access to a higher class of society than he could have reached as a man of letters, or a physician; and his tour is chiefly occupied with observations upon society and manners, as its title indicates. He is a shrewd and intelligent observer of men and manners, with an uncommonly quick perception of the ludicrous, and a turn for satire, which, though always under the control of good sense and good nature, yet serves to give a spicy flavor to many a paragraph.
George Stillman Hillard - Six months in Italy in 1846
Our mornings are generally spent in visiting the antiquities, and the paintings in the palaces. On those occasions we are accompanied by Mr. Byres, a gentleman of probity, knowledge, and real taste. (..) Rome. Those who have a real pleasure in contemplating the remains of antique, and the noblest specimens of modern architecture, who are struck with the inimitable delicacy and expression of Greek sculpture, and wish to compare it with the most successful efforts of the moderns, and who have an unwearied admiration of the charms of painting, may, provided they have not more important avocations elsewhere, employ a full year with satisfaction in this city. What is called a regular course with an Antiquarian, generally takes up about six weeks; employing three hours a-day, you may, in that time, visit all the churches, palaces, villas, and ruins, worth seeing, in or near Rome. But after having made this course, however distinctly every thing may have been explained by the Antiquarian, if you do not visit the most interesting again, and again, and reflect on them at more leisure, your labour will be of little use; for the objects are so various, and those you see on one day, so apt to be effaced by, or confounded with, those you behold on another, that you must carry away a very faint and indistinct recollection of any. Many travellers have experienced the truth of this observation. Moore
James Byres was a Scottish dealer in paintings and antiquities who settled in Rome in 1758 and acted as guide to many British Grand Tour travellers. The book was written as letters to a fictitious gentleman in England and it was published in 1781.
There are no lamps lighted in the streets at night; and all Rome would be in utter darkness, were it not for the candles, which the devotion of individuals sometimes place before certain statues of the Virgin. Those appear faintly glimmering at vast intervals, like stars in a cloudy night.
Population and walls of Rome
Authors differ very much in opinion with respect to the number of inhabitants which Rome contained at the period when it was most populous. Some accounts make them seven millions, and others a still greater number. These seem all to be incredible exaggerations. It is not probable, that what is properly called the city of Rome, ever extended beyond the wall built by Belisarius (Aurelian). This wall has been frequently repaired since, and is still standing; it is about thirteen or fourteen miles in circuit, which is nearly the size that Rome was of, according to Pliny, in the days of Vespasian. Those who assert, that the number of inhabitants in ancient Rome, when it was most populous, could not exceed a million, exclusive of slaves, are thought moderate in their calculation; but when we consider that the (..) Campus Martius, which is the best built part of modern Rome, was a field, without a house upon it, anciently; and that the rising ground, where St. Peter's church and the Vatican stand, was no part of old Rome; it will be difficult to conceive that ever Rome could boast a million of inhabitants.
Landscape of the Seven Hills
Some of the seven hills on which Rome was built, appear now but gentle swellings, owing to the intervals between them being greatly raised by the rubbish of ruined houses. Some have hardly houses of any kind upon them, being entirely laid out in gardens and vineyards. It is generally thought, that two-thirds of the surface within the walls are in this situation, or covered with ruins; and, by the information I have the greatest reliance on, the number of the inhabitants at present is about one hundred and seventy thousand, which, though greatly inferior to what Rome contained in the days of its ancient power, is more than it has been, for the most part, able to boast since the fall of the Empire. There is good authority for believing that this city, at particular periods since that time, some of them not very remote, has been reduced to between thirty and forty thousand inhabitants. The numbers have gradually increased during the whole of this century. (..) Great part of the modern city is built on what was the ancient Campus Martius.
All who have seen St. Paul's in London
may, by an enlargement of its dimensions,
form some idea of the external appearance
of St. Peter's. But the resemblance fails entirely on comparing them within; St. Peter's
being lined, in many parts, with the most
precious and beautiful marble, adorned with
valuable pictures, and all the powers of
The approach to St. Peter's church excells that to St. Paul's in a still greater proportion, than the former surpasses the latter either in size, or in the richness and
beauty of the internal ornaments. A magnificent
portico advances on each side from
the front, by which means a square court is
formed immediately before the steps which
lead into the church. The two porticoes
form two sides of the square, the third is
closed by the front of the church, and the
fourth is open. A colonnade, four columns
deep, commences at the extremities of the
porticoes; and embracing, in an oval direction, a space far wider than the square forms the most magnificent area that perhaps ever was seen before any building.
This oval colonnade is crowned with a
balustrade, ornamented by a great number
of statues; and consists of above three
hundred large pillars, forming three separate walks, which lead to the advanced
portico, and from that into the church. In
the middle of the immense area, stands an
Egyptian obelisk of granite; and to the
right and left of this, two very beautiful
fountains refresh the atmosphere with
streams of clear water. The delighted eye
glancing over these splendid objects, would
rest with complete satisfaction on the stupendous fabric to which they serve as embellishments, if the facade of this celebrated
church had been equal in beauty and elegance to the rest of the building. But this
is by no means the case, and every impartial judge must acknowledge, that the
front of St. Peter's is, in those particulars,
inferior to that of our St. Paul's. (..)
The grand procession of the Possesso took place a few days ago. This is a ceremony performed by every Pope, as soon as conveniency will permit, after the Conclave has declared in his favour. It is equivalent to the coronation in England, or the consecration at Rheims. On this occasion, the Pope goes to the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and, as the phrase is takes possesssion of it. This church, they tell you, is the most ancient of all the churches in Rome, and the mother of all the churches in christendom. When he has got possession of this, therefore, he must be the real head of the Christian church, and Christ's vicegerent upon earth. From St. John Lateran's, he proceeds to the Capitol, and receives the keys of that fortress; after which, it is equally clear, that as an earthly prince, he ought, like the ancient possessors of the Capitol, to have a supremacy over all kings. The Prince Giustiniani procured a place for us, at the Senator's house in the Capitol, from whence we might see the procession to the greatest advantage. On arriving, we were surprised to find the main body of the Palace, as well as the Palazzo de Conservatori, and the Museum, which form the two wings, all hung with crimson silk, laced with gold. The bases and capitals of the pillars and pilasters, where the silk could not be accurately applied, were gilt. Only imagine, what a figure the Farnesian Hercules would make, dressed in a silk suit, like a French petit-maitre. To cover the noble simplicity of Michael Angelo's architecture with such frippery by way of ornament, is, in my mind, a piece of refinement equally laudable. (..) We were led to a balcony, where a number of ladies of the first distinction in Rome were assembled. There were no men excepting a very few strangers; most part of the Roman noblemen have some function in the procession. The instant of his Holiness's departure from the Vatican, was announced by a discharge of cannon from the castle of St. Angelo; on the top of which, the standard of the church had been flying ever since morning. We had a full view of the cavalcade, on its return from the church, as it ascended to the Capitol. The officers of the Pope's horse guards were dressed in a style equally rich and becoming. It was something between the Hungarian and Spanish dress. (..) The Swiss guards were, on this occasion, dressed with less propriety; their uniforms were real coats of mail, with iron helmets on their heads, as if they had been to take the Capitol by storm, and expected a vigorous resistance. Their appearance was strongly contrasted with that of the Roman Barons, who were on horseback, without boots, and in full dress; each of them was preceded by four pages, their hair hanging in regular ringlets to the middle of their backs: they were followed by a number of servants in rich liveries. Bishops and other ecclesiastics succeeded the Barons; and then came the Cardinals on horseback, in their purple robes, which covered every part of the horses, except the head. You may be sure that the horses employed at such ceremonies are the gentlest that can be found; for if they were at all unruly, they might not only injure the surrounding crowd, but throw their Eminencies, who are not celebrated for their skill in horsemanship. Last of all comes the Pope himself, mounted on a milk white mule, distributing blessings with an unsparing hand among the multitude, who follow him with acclamations of Viva il Santo Padre, and, prostrating themselves on the ground before his mule, Benedizione Santo Padre. The Holy Father took particular care to wave his hand in the form of the cross, that the blessings he pronounced at the same instant might have the greater efficacy. As his Holiness is employed in this manner during the whole procession, he cannot be supposed to give the least attention to his mule, the bridle of which is held by two persons who walk by his side, with some others, to catch the infallible Father of the Church, and prevent his being thrown to the ground, in case the mule should stumble. At the entrance of the Capitol he was met by the Senator of Rome, who, falling on his knees, delivered the keys into the hands of his Holiness, who pronounced a blessing over him, and restored him the keys. (..) This procession, I am told, is one of the most showy and magnificent which takes place, on any occasion, in this city; where there are certainly more solemn exhibitions of the same kind than in any other country.
Combats of Gladiators
The combats of Gladiators were at first used in Rome at funerals only, where prisoners were obliged to assume that profession, and fight before the tombs of deceased Generals or Magistrates, in imitation of the barbarous custom of the Greeks, of Sacrificing captives at the tombs of their heroes. (..) As the people's fondness for these combats increased every day, they were no longer confined to funeral Solemnities, but became customary on days of public rejoicing, and were exhibited, at amazing expence, by Some Generals after victories. In the progress of riches, luxury, and vice, it became a profession in Rome to deal in gladiators. Men called Lanistae made it their business to purchase prisoners and slaves, to have them instructed in the use of the various weapons; and when any Roman chose to amuse the people with their favourite show, or to entertain a select company of his own friends upon any particular occasion, he applied to the Lanistae; who, for a fixed price, furnished him with as many pairs of those unhappy combatants as he required. They had various names given to them, according to the different manner in which they were armed.
Here you behold the Forum
Romanum, now exhibiting a melancholy
but interesting view of the devastation
wrought by the united force of time,
avarice, and bigotry. The first objects
which meet your eye, on looking from
this side of the hill, are three fine pillars,
two-thirds of them buried in the ruins of
the old Capitol. (..) Near these are the remains
of Jupiter Stator, consisting of three very
elegant small Corinthian pillars, with their
entablature; the Temple of Concord, where Cicero assembled the Senate, on the
discovery of Catiline's conspiracy; the
Temple of Romulus and Remus, and that
of Antoninus and Faustina, just by it, both
converted into modern churches; the ruins
of the magnificent Temple of Peace. (..)
The inhabitants of Rome or their Governors, ought to show
more solicitude for preserving the antiquities than they do; and they might, without
inconveniency, find some place for a Cow
Market, of less importance than the ancient
Forum. It is not in their power to restore it
to its former splendor, but they might, at
least, have prevented its falling back to the
state in which Aeneas found it, when he came
to visit the poor Evander.
Arch of Constantine
Of many triumphal arches which stood formerly in Rome, there are only three now remaining, all of them near the Capitol, and forming entries to the Forum; those of Titus, Septimius Severus, and Constantine. The last is by much the finest of the three; but its chief beauties are not genuine, nor, properly speaking, its own; they consist of some admirable basso relievos, stolen from the Forum of Trajan, and representing that Emperor's victories over the Dacians. This theft might, perhaps, not have been so notorious to posterity, if the artists of Constantine's time had not added some figures, which make the fraud apparent, and, by their great inferiority, evince the degeneracy of the arts in the interval between the reigns of these two Emperors.
The noble column placed in the middle, still preserves all its original beauty. It consists of twenty-three circular pieces of white marble, horizontally placed one above the other. (..) A staircase, consisting of one hundred and eighty-three steps, and sufficiently wide to admit a man to ascend, is cut out of the solid marble, leaving a small pillar in the middle, round which the stair winds from the bottom to the top. (..) The stairs are lighted by forty-one windows, exceedingly narrow on the outside, that they might not interrupt the connection of the basso relievos but which gradually widen within, and by that means give sufficient light.
Some, whose circumstances do not permit them to bestow much, confine all the expence they can afford in charity, to the single article of purchasing masses to be said in behalf of those who have died without leaving a farthing to save their souls. (..) What is the relieving a few poor families from the frivolous distresses of cold and hunger, in comparison of freeing them from many years burning in fire and brimstone? People are reminded of this essential kind of charity, not only by the preachers, but also by inscriptions upon the walls of particular churches and convents.
Bernini's mattress and other works
The Hermaphrodite of which you have seen so many prints and models, is accounted by many one of the finest pieces of sculpture in the world. The mattress, upon which this fine figure reclines, is the work of the Cavalier Bernini, and nothing can be more admirably executed. Some critics say, he has performed his task too well, because the admiration of the spectator is divided between the statue and the mattress. (..) In this Villa, there are also some highly esteemed pieces by Bernini. Aeneas carrying his father; David slinging the stone at Goliah; and Apollo pursuing Daphne: the last is generally reckoned Bernini's masterpiece; for my part, I have so bad a taste as to prefer the second. The figure of David is nervous, with great anatomical justness, and a strong expression of keenness and exertion to hit his mark, and kill his enemy.
Statue of Antinous (Hermes)
The admired statue of Antinous is in the same Court. Nothing can be more light, elegant, and easy; the proportions are exact, and the execution perfect. It is an exquisite representation of the most beautiful youth that ever lived.
Pope Pius VI
The present Pope, who has assumed the name of Pius the Sixth, is a tall, well-made man, about sixty years of age, but retaining in his look all the freshness of a much earlier period of life. He lays a greater stress on the ceremonious part of religion than his predecessor Ganganelli. (..) Pius the Sixth performs all the religious functions of his office in the most solemn manner; not only on public and extraordinary 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. (..) On Christmas-day I returned again to St. Peter's church, and saw the Pope perform mass on that solemn occasion. His Holiness went through all the evolutions of the ceremony with an address and flexibility of body, which are rarely to be found in those who wear the tiara; who are, generally speaking, men bowing under the load of years and infirmities. His present Holiness has hitherto suffered from neither. His features are regular, and he has a fine countenance; his person is straight, and his movements graceful. His leg and foot are remarkably well made, and always ornamented with silk stockings, and red slippers, of the most delicate construction. Notwithstanding that the papal uniforms are by no means calculated to set off the person to the greatest advantage, yet the peculiar neatness with which they are put on, and the nice adjustment of their most minute parts, sufficiently prove that his present Holiness is not insensible of the charms of his person, or unsolicitous about his external ornaments. Though verging towards the winter of life, his cheeks still glow with autumnal roses, which, at a little distance, appear as blooming as those of the spring. If he himself were less clearsighted than he seems to be, to the beauties of his face and person, he could not also be deaf to the voices of the women, who break out into exclamations, in praise of both, as often as he appears in public.
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 communicate 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, acquire an equal degree of sanctity with that placed by the Pope's own hands. The common people and pilgrims are well acquainted with this wonderful effect. At the beginning of this Jubilee-year, when the late wall was thrown down, men, women, and children scrambled and fought for the fragments of the bricks and mortar, with the same eagerness which less enlightened mobs display, on days of public rejoicing, when handfuls of money are thrown among them. I have been often assured that those pieces of brick, besides their sanctity, have also the virtue of curing many of the most obstinate diseases.
Kissing the Pope's Toe
I trust, that it will not be looked on as a mortal sin in Protestants to have kissed the Pope's toe. If it should, some of your friends are in a deplorable way, as you shall hear. It is usual for strangers to be presented to his Holiness, before they leave Rome. The D- of H, Mr. K, and myself, have all been at the Vatican together, upon that important business. (..) We went under the auspices of a certain ecclesiastic, who usually attends the English on such occasions. He very naturally concluded, that it would be most agreeable to us to have the circumstance of kissing the slipper dispensed with. Having had some conversation, therefore, with his Holiness, in his own apartment, while we remained in another room, previous to our introduction; he afterwards returned, and informed us, that the Pontiff, indulgent to the prejudices of the British nation, did not insist on that part of the ceremonial; and therefore a very low bow, on our being presented, was all that would be required of us. A bow! cried the D - of H - ; I should not have given myself any trouble about the matter, had I suspected that all was to end in a bow. I look on kissing the toe as the only amusing circumstance of the whole; if that is to be omitted, I will not be introduced at all. For if the most ludicrous part is left out, who would wait for the rest of a farce? This was a thunderstroke to our negociator, who expected thanks, at least, for the honourable terms he had obtained; but who, on the contrary, found himself in the same disagreeable predicament with other negociators, who have met with abuse and reproach from their countrymen, on account of treaties for which they expected universal applause. The D - of H - knew nothing of the treaty which our introducer had just concluded; otherwise he would certainly have prevented the negociation. As I perceived, however, that our ambassador was mortified with the thoughts that all his labour should prove abortive, I said, that, although he had prevailed with his Holiness to wave that part of the ceremonial, which his Grace thought so entertaining, yet it would unquestionably be still more agreeable to him that the whole should be performed to its utmost extent: this new arrangement, therefore, needed not be an obstruction to our being presented. The countenance of our Conductor brightened up at this proposal. He immediately ushered us into the presence of the Supreme Pontiff. We all bowed to the ground; the supplest of the company had the happiness to touch the sacred slipper with their lips, and the least agile were within a few inches of that honour. As this was more than had been bargained for, his Holiness seemed agreeably surprised; raised the D - with a smiling countenance, and conversed with him in an obliging manner, asking the common questions, How long he had been in Italy? Whether he found Rome agreeable? When he intended to set out for Naples? - He said something of the same kind to each of the company; and, after about a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes, we took our leave. Next day, his Holiness sent his compliments to the D - , with a present of two medals, one of gold, and the other of silver on both of which the head of of the Pontiff is very accurately engraved.
Pompeo Batoni is the best Italian painter now at Rome. His taste and genius led him to history painting, and his reputation was originally acquired in that line; but by far the greater part of his fortune, whatever that may be, has flowed through a different channel. His chief employment, for many years past, has been painting the portraits of the young English, and other strangers of fortune, who visit Rome. (..) Gracious heaven! why should every periwig-pated fellow, without countenance or character, insist on seeing his chubby cheeks on canvas?
Horse race along Via Del Corso
Towards the dusk of the evening, the horse-race takes place. As soon as this is announced, the coaches, cabriolets, triumphal cars, and carriages of every kind, are drawn up, and line the street; leaving a space in the middle for the racers to pass. These are five or six horses, trained on purpose for this diversion; they are drawn up a-breast in the Piazza del Popolo, exactly where the Corso begins. Certain balls, with little sharp spikes, are hung along their sides, which serve to spur them on. As soon as they begin to run, those animals, by their impatience to be gone, shew that they understand what is required of them, and that they take as much pleasure as the spettators in the sport. A broad piece of canvas, spread across the entrance of the street, prevents them from starting too soon: the dropping that canvas is the signal for the race to begin. The horses fly off together, and, without riders, exert themselves to the utmost; impelled by emulation, the shouts of the populace, and the spurs above mentioned. They run the whole length of the Corso; and the proprietor of the victor is rewarded by a certain quantity of fine scarlet or purple cloth, which is always furnished by the Jews.
It is a popular opinion, that the Virgin Mary is very fond, and an excellent judge, of music. I received this information on Christmas morning, when I was looking at two poor Calabrian pipers doing their utmost to please her, and the Infant in her arms. They played for a full hour to one of her images which stands at the corner of a street. All the other statues of the Virgin, which are placed in the streets, are serenaded in the same manner every Christmas morning. (..) My informer told me (..) that the performance of those poor Calabrians was chiefly intended for the Infant; and he desired me to remark, that the tunes were plain, simple, and such as might naturally be supposed agreeable to the ear of a child of his time of life.
Near the bottom of the eminence on which Tivoli stands, are the ruins of the vast and magnificent villa built by the emperor Adrian. In this were comprehended an amphitheatre, several temples, a library, a circus, a naumachia. The emperor also gave to the buildings and gardens of this famous villa the names of the most celebrated places; as the Academia, the Lycaeum, the Prytaneum of Athens, the Tempe of Thessaly, and the Elysian fields and infernal regions of the poets. There were also commodious apartments for a vast number of guests, all admirably distributed with baths, and every conveniency. Every quarter of the world contributed to ornament this famous villa, whose spoils have since formed the principal ornaments of the Campidoglio, the Vatican, and the palaces of the Roman Princes. It is said to have been three miles in length, and above a mile in breadth. Some antiquarians make it much larger; but the ruins, now remaining, do not mark a surface of a quarter of that extent.
Frascati is an agreeable village on the declivity of a hill, about twelve miles from Rome. It is a bishop's see, and always possessed by one of the six eldest Cardinals. At present it belongs to the Cardinal Duke of York, who, whether in the country or at Rome, passes the greatest part of his time in the duties and ceremonies of a religion, of whose truth he seems to have the fullest conviction; and who, living himfelf in great simplicity, and not in the usual style of Cardinals, spends a large proportion of his revenue in acts of charity and benevolence.
There is a charming walk, about a mile in length, along the side of the lake from Castel Gondolfo to the town of Albano. The lake of Albano is an oval piece of water whose margin is finely adorned with groves and trees of various verdure, beautifully reflected from the transparent bosom of the lake; and which, with the surrounding hills, and the Castel Gondolfo which crowns one of them, has a fine picturesque effect.
Read What Dante Saw.
Read What Goethe Saw.
Read What Lord Byron Saw.
Read What Charles Dickens Saw.
Read What Henry James Saw.
Read What Mark Twain Saw.
Read What William Dean Howells Saw.
Read Dan Brown's Spaghetti Bolognaise (excerpts from Angels and Demons)