A Side Aisle.
The Tomb Of Clement XIII.
The Genius Of Death.
Above the grand High Altar, just beneath the centre of the dome, is a magnificent canopy of gilded bronze. In any other sanctuary in the world it would appear colossal, but amid these surroundings its actual magnitude escapes us. It is, however, nearly one hundred feet in height, and the cost of gilding it is said to have been a hundred thousand dollars. Before it is a curving balustrade of marble, on which are burning eighty-nine golden lamps, the light of which is never suffered to expire. It is evident, then, that this is an altar of unusual sanctity; and, in fact, none but the Pope may here officiate, or, possibly, a Cardinal especially appointed for that honor. What, therefore, is the treasure guarded here so jealously? What is the precious relic which these walls enclose, and over which the huge dome rises like a miniature sky? It is the grave of the Galilean fisherman whose name the temple bears. Advancing to the balustrade, I looked down into the crypt, and perceived the entrance to the tomb. The air was heavy with incense, a row of golden lamps cast a faint lustre on the shimmering marble and the sacred shrine; hundreds of feet above, the dome of Michelangelo seemed the gigantic shell, of which this sepulchre of St. Peter was the pearl; and, over us - so far away that the unaided vision could scarcely read them - there glittered in mosaic letters, six feet long, the words addressed so many years ago to a poor peasant of Judea: "Thou art Peter; and on this rock I will build my church".
The High Altar.
Never shall I forget the moment, when, turning my gaze heavenward, I gained a view of the interior of the stupendous dome, all radiant with golden mosaics. To look up into this from below affected me as it does to gaze into a profound abyss; and when, having climbed a winding staircase, I stepped out upon a balcony within the dome, I clutched the railing for a moment, feeling as if the earth had suddenly dropped away and left me up among the clouds. Here, more than anywhere else, one thinks with admiration of the genius which could raise a dome like this toward heaven. For, between the worshiper on the pavement and the summit is a space of four hundred and forty feet; and three ordinary churches, spires and all, could be placed side by side beneath this mighty canopy without encroaching on the body of the church, with two hundred feet to spare between the tops of the spires and the keystone of the arch.
The Tomb Of St. Peter.
Statue Of ST. Peter.
St. Peter's may be appropriately likened to a city, rather than to a sanctuary, whose streets are marble and whose sky is gold; for, beneath its ceilings, covered with gilded ornamentation in relief, are no less than forty-four altars, seven hundred and forty-eight columns, and a population of three hundred and ninety statues. Aside from its ecclesiastics there is, also, a colony of workmen called San Pie-trini, who live in houses on its roof and, to a certain extent, are governed by laws and customs of their own. It is a cosmopolitan city, at all events, for in these aisles are placed confessionals for every prominent language of Christendom, so that a Roman Catholic from any land may here confess his sins and receive absolution.
A Section Of The Dome.
A Bit Of The Ceiling.
Emerging, finally, from St. Peter's we stood once more within its spacious square, and looked no longer toward the church, but toward the lofty building towering far above the colonnades. I gazed upon it with the keenest interest; for to whatever faith the traveler belongs, he cannot fail to recollect that this is deemed by millions of his race the central structure of Christianity, since it is the residence of the Pope, - the Vatican. Through the kindness of the American Catholic College in Rome, many visitors from this country, whether they are Protestants or Catholics, may be presented to the Pope. I cannot speak too highly of the courtesy extended by this institution, not only thus but in a multitude of ways, to travelers of every creed.