A Fountain In The Square.
The porticos on either side of St. Peter's Square are gigantic. No temple in the world can boast of corridors of approach to equal them. Each has four rows of columns, forty-eight feet high; the space beneath their curving roofs is fifty-five feet wide; through either of them, were the central shafts removed, could be driven a car of victory drawn by six horses harnessed abreast; and, as if this were not enough, along their parapets are two hundred and thirty-six statues, each ten feet in height. So well adapted are these curving colonnades to the grand edifice to which they lead, that they suggest a mother's outstretched arms.
Among The Columns.
Ascending the long flight of broad low steps, I pushed aside the quilted leathern curtain at the entrance and stood within St. Peter's. No illustration or description can do justice to the vast interior, yet I can never forget my first bewildering glimpse of that unrivaled edifice. One hundred and fifty feet above me curved a glorious arch of sunken coffers dazzling with inlaid gold. Beneath this I looked on and on through a dusky splendor, hazy with incense, till I with difficulty saw the gilded shrines a tenth of a mile away. It made me think of a vast mountain cavern lined with precious stones. To right and left rose huge rectangular columns, coated with precious marbles; while through the lofty arches, spanning the broad space between them, I could discern a number of imposing chapels, lavishly adorned.
The First View Of The Interior.
It requires time to comprehend the immensity of St. Peter's, and it is usually only after several visits that one is able to appreciate its enormous size. It is so vast that we inevitably lose at first our sense of true proportion, and our bewildered minds must readapt themselves, and grow to their new and strange environment. Thus, people in the distance, who appear to us like pygmies, are really men and women of the usual height. The bases of the columns which seem low to us, we find to be on a level with our heads. The spaces in the huge pilasters look like slender flirtings, but are in reality niches deep enough to hold colossal statues. Perhaps we think that the font of holy water in St. Peter's is no larger than those in ordinary churches; but when we examine it more closely, we discover that the marble cherubs supporting it, which at a distance look like children, are fully equal in dimensions to adults.
The Baptismal Font.
The Old Ceremony Of Papal Benediction.
A Mosaic Picture.
There are many similar illusions in St. Peter's. Thus, its mosaic copies of famous paintings look exactly as if painted upon canvas, but are in truth composed of thousands of pieces of variously tinted stone, which reproduce to perfection every shade of color and even every expression of the original. The delicacy of this work and the length of time required for one picture (sometimes twenty years) render these copies of enormous value; yet there are nearly one hundred of them here, preserving, as it were, im-perishably, the masterpieces of Raphael, Guido Reni, Domeni-chino, and many others whose genius has enriched Christianity.
On entering the side aisles of St. Peter's, their height, the grand Corinthian columns which adorn each altar, and the sculptured monuments at every turn astonished and bewildered me. Each of these corridors is a kind of Papal Appian Way, since they are lined with splendid tombs commemorating those who have been privileged to occupy St. Peter's chair, one hundred and thirty-two of whom have been buried here. One of the finest of these mausoleums is that of Pope Clement XIII. by Canova. Over the lion-guarded entrance to the crypt is a statue of the Pontiff kneeling in prayer; while on one side of the portal stands the figure of Religion, holding the Cross, and on the other reclines the Genius of Death with inverted torch. The latter is by far the most beautiful statue in St. Peter's, and ranks as one of the finest productions of Canova's genius. By many it is thought to be his masterpiece. At all events, it was the work which gave him greatest fame, and placed him in the foremost rank of European sculptors. When it was first exposed to the view of the public, Canova, disguised as an abbe, mingled with the spectators and listened to their comments. In doing so he must have been convinced how much easier it is to criticise than to create. They could pass judgment on it in a moment; but he had labored upon it for eight years.