A visit to the mediaeval Cathedral of Messina would not especially repay a traveler who has seen the numberless splendid churches on the Italian mainland, were it not for the fact of its possessing some peculiar features of very diverse character.

Thus, though the present edifice was co m p leted only in the Norman period of the thirteenth century, its aisles are separated by twentysix columns of Egyptian granite, which once formed part of a temple of Neptune, built upon the border of the strait; and under the cathedral's present receptacle for holy water still stands a pagan pedestal, whose Greek inscription states that it supported formerly a votive offering to AEsculapius and his daughter Hygieia, the patron deities of the ancient town. The pulpit of this sanctuary is also worth examining, if only to observe the singular fact that, carved in its white marble, are the heads of Mohammed, Calvin, Zwingli, and Luther, - one Moslem and three Protestants, - compelled thus, nclens volens, to listen to the sermons preached above them. But the most famous and remarkable treasure of this cathedral is the sacred "Letter from the Virgin Mary," which is regarded by the people with unutternble reverence, and is said to have effected countless cures. It is believed to date from the time when St. Paul came to Sicily, and preached to the inhabitants of Messinaasermon on the character of the Madonna. So deep an impression was made by this discourse on the Messinians, that they resolved to send to the Virgin (who was then still living) a deputation to solicit her protection. Touched by their piety, she replied to them in writing. Her letter, being in Hebrew, had to be translated by St. Paul into Greek, which was then the language of Messina; and, later still, in 1467, the celebrated scholar, Constantine Lescaris, rendered this Pauline version into the Latin text, which is the one the tourist now sees, richly framed and inscribed in golden letters, at the back of the high altar. Unfortunately, in the course of the city's numerous conflagrations, the precious original and the Pauline copy have both been destroyed. But the translation of the translation still exists, and every year, on the third of June (the day on which the letter is dated), as well as on the fifteenth of August, the festival of the Virgin's Assumption, the sacred document is carried through Messina's streets, to the strains of martial music, in a long procession of nobles, city officials, companies of infantry and cavalry, orders of monks and nuns, and an enormous multitude of people. The following is an English version of the text of the letter:

Cicero. Vatican.

Cicero. Vatican.

The Messina Cathedral.

The Messina Cathedral.

Pulpit Of The Messina Cathedral.

Pulpit Of The Messina Cathedral.

"The Virgin Mary, daughter of Joachim, most humble mother of the crucified God Jesus Christ, of the tribe of Judah, of the race of David, - (sendeth) greetings and the blessing of God the Father Almighty to all Messinians.

It is certain that a great faith hath led you, for the sake of setting a public example, to send legates and messengers to us. Called through the preaching of the Apostle Paul, and recognizing the way of truth, you confess our Son to be the Son of God, to be both God and Man, and to have ascended into heaven after his resurrection.

A Portion Of The Cathedral Door.

A Portion Of The Cathedral Door.

Mural Altars In The Cathedral.

Mural Altars In The Cathedral.

Wherefore we bless you and your city, whose Protectress we will always be.

Given at Jerusalem in the year 42 of our Son.

Mary, the Virgin.

Who moreover confirms this writing with her own hand".

But nothing in the city itself so well repays the tourist for halting at Messina as the enchanting drive, eight miles in length, along the coast, as far as the northeastern tip of the Sicilian triangle, once called Cape Pelorus. To-day the point is known as Faro, because of the lighthouse (Pharos), which there warns all who traverse the Tyrrhenian Sea of their proximity to the northern entrance of the strait. It is not strange that the Messinians call this drive "II Paradiso," and that on summer evenings it is thronged with carriages. For I have seen nothing in the world more exquisite in tender coloring than the amethystine hues of the Calabrian mountains opposite. These mountains form the last of the long chain of Apennines, which, born behind the Riviera, traverse in majesty the whole of Italy, and finally, as if affrighted by the threatening form of Etna, halt on the brink of the Sicilian Bosphorus, and stand, resplendent in the sunset glow, long after the Trinacrian coast is dark with twilight.