Images de page
PDF
ePub

miracle, attest that heaven is there pleased to hear and bless and save as elsewhere it doth not bless. A grotto, a shrine, a church, which the Madonna or some saint has willed to consecrate as most holy ground. The sanctuary is the cathedral of the marvellous, the high altar of superstition. Those who would study the religious life of Italy in the living present, would do well to move amongst the multitudes that flock to these holy places, and gauge their thought and watch their ways, and listen to their words. Here may be seen the practical outgrowth of superstition and the fatal issues of a false faith. Would we know the religion of the people as it really is, we must not try it alone by book, or bull or encyclical, but judge it by its natural and necessary effects on the life of the people.

MONTE VERGINE.

'There are several of these most holy places scattered here and there through the length and breadth of Italy. One of the inost celebrated in the south is Monte Vergine. This is a celebrated monastery built on the heights of a mountain overlooking the city of Avellino. Pilgrims flock there by thousands, and tens and hundreds of thousands, from all the central and southern provinces, just as pilgrims travel to the sacred shrines of India. So popular was Monte Vergine at one time that it was customary amongst the middle classes for the husband to insert in the marriage contract a legal undertaking to take his wife to the altar of the Madonna of Monte Vergine once a year. To the present day the people still vie with each other, on the occasion of the pilgrimage, in making the most splendid show of the Neapolitan carriage, the horses, gaudily harnessed and tinkling with bells, being gaily decked with ribbons and flowers. The flags that stream over the carriages, as the cnsign floats over the stern of a man-o'-war, may have been once the banner of saint or angel, or once the red, white and green of Italy. The great festa is at Whitsuntide; and when Naples turns out to see the "return" on Whit-Monday and Whit-Tuesday, the public traffic is stayed in some of the principal thoroughfares.

Now Monte Vergine boasts several wonderful relics which give a special sacredness to the place, the principal one being a picture of the Virgin, depicted as a black woman, and said to have been painted by St. Luke. The building of the monastery is attributed to miracle. St. William, the holy founder, had been grieved to see the workmen engaged in carrying up the stones attacked and killed by wolves that then infested the forests clothing the mountain sides. One day he saw a wolf leap out from amidst the trees and pounce upon a labourer. The holy William not only stopped the wolf from hurting him, but forced it to help in carrying up the remainder of the stones required. Half way up the mountain is the rock where still is shown the Virgin's chair. Legend says that she was going up to her own church to see her own portrait ; wearied, she sat upon the wayside rock to rest :

it yielded to her person and left her form impressed. So holy are the sacred grounds that it is reputed a sin to enter with anything even upon the person which, if eaten, would break a rigid fast.

The journey to Monte Vergine is to the real pilgrim no mere pleasure trip, accomplished by railway, though the view from the summit when reached is full of wonder and beauty. The poor creatures toil up the long and rugged mountain steeps, some on bare and bleeding knee that they may cast themselves exhausted before the black picture of Mamma Schiavona, the Black Mother, and plead their cause, asking some miraculous intervention of the Heavenly Queen. Thousands are attracted to this holy place by the treasures it possesses. The priests show the devotees, amongst other things, the ashes (ceneri) of the three Hebrew children who the Bible tells us were not burnt in the fiery furnace. The attendant who showed us these evidently did not know the story we loved so well to hear in infancy; all we could get out of him was that they were "good catholics," who lived before or after Jesus Christ, he could not tell which.

OUR LADY OF LORETO.

Another most famous sanctuary, much better known in England, is that of Our Lady of Loreto. Who has not heard of the Santa Casa? If we may believe the legend, this little house was the birthplace and home of the Blessed Virgin at Nazareth. Within those walls they say the "Annunciation was made to the maiden Mary. Indeed, there is still kept there the "sacred porringer" in which they say Mary made "pap" for the infant Jesus, and which still imparts an indescribable sanctity to everything put into it. The marvels said to glorify this sacred place still bring numerous pilgrims to worship at the shrine. According to the popular tradition, the Santa Casa was transported from Nazareth, where it was visited by pilgrims, by the hands of angels to the coast of Dalmatia in 1291, and was afterwards, in 1294, conveyed in the night, in the same manner, to a laurel grove near Loreto. Many are the fables that have gathered round it since. Gorgeously decorated, and sparkling with precious stones, it has its traditions of miracles without end. No wonder then that it has been sustained at an enormous expense, and that it should continue to be one of the most popular sanctuaries of Italy.

OUR LADY OF SALETTE.

France, as every one knows, has her celebrated sanctuaries as well as Italy. The shrine of our Lady of Salette is one of them. Its fame has grown out of the foolish story of the appearance of the Virgin to the shepherd-girl Melania and the shepherd-boy Massimino, announcing to them her wish and will that a church should be erected on the spot where they stood. The absurd story, which even the curé and the priests denounced as the imposition of a Madame de Lamertiere,

THE SANCTUARY OF NEW POMPEII.

who, they discovered, had presented herself to the poor children, personating the Virgin, is still believed. Not even the decision of the Tribunal of Grenoble, which sanctioned the charge of imposition made by the curé, has availed to stay the infatuation of the credulous. Not merely in little Salette, but in many parts of France, in Italy, and distant lands, altars are erected, shrines are consecrated, churches are dedicated to our Lady of Salette, and worship is offered before the pictures of the Madonna and the peasant-girl and boy.

LOURDES.

The

So great is the fame of Lourdes that one of the most popular writers of France is making it the subject of a novel. The little town rises within sight of the Pyrenees, on the confines of the old provinces of Béarn and Gascony. Behind the castle, the base of which is washed by the rapid torrent Gave, are some wide-spread rocks, hollowed into caves, which are known as the Grotto of Massabielle. It has been often told how a poor illiterate country-girl, Bernardette Soubiron, a shepherdess, and her sister and friend, were gathering wood to serve as fuel for their humble home, when they were startled by hearing a sound as though the wind went soughing through the foliage of the trees. Turning, Bernardette saw at the opening of the cave a female form, amidst a shining light and, overawed, she could only kneel and pray. apparition was attired in white, a blue sash encircling her waist. In her hand the visionary figure held the rosary. The figure vanished. Only Bernardette had seen the vision. Again and again the gracious Lady, we are told, appeared to the shepherd girl, who sought and prayed for some special sign to assure her that she was not deluded in believing that she saw the Virgin. She asked that a tree should flower with roses; this was not granted. The Lady appeared once more, and declared herself to be the Immaculate Conception." In evidence, a stream rose, and began to flow; and the waters of that stream were found to be gifted with healing virtue. All the world knows the resthow the sanctuary of Lourdes became famous, how the Madonna of Lourdes has her altars, and her cures, and is visited by crowds of pilgrims.

NEW POMPEII.

There is a certain resemblance in the legends of these various sanctuaries, and for that reason we quote them here. New Pompeii boasts a like origin, and yet an origin distinctively its own. Were we to gather from the self-told story of Don Bartolo, the founder, the day-dream he has tried so wonderfully to charm into reality, we should see him as he stood amidst his fields. The shadows of Vesuvius fell round him. A sudden sense of mystery came over him. The ancient Pompeii seemed instinct with a new life, the waters of the blue bay spread inland with a gentle flow towards the water gate of the dead city. The mountain heights of St. Angelo ap

29

peared to bend in reverence towards the lowly valley where he stood. The vesper bell thrilled soft and clear. A lowly maiden, with fair child, appeared before him. It was the Virgin Mother. The bare soil broke into flower and fruit. A little garden of roses bloomed around. In the midst a temple seemed to ise, and presently a city to gather round it. Such was the prophetic vision which heralded and inspired the building of New Pompeii. Here, where once stood only a few scattered cottages, rose in time a church, a sanctuary, a little townlet, and to this spot come pilgrims from far and near to adore the Madonna of the Rosary of Pompeii.

THE PILGRIM ROUTE.

The modern pilgrimage knows nothing of the warrior, horsed, armed, and with the red cross on the breast-plate of his coat of mail; it has no staff and scrip, no scallop shell or sandalled shoon; there is not much of any kind of romance to distinguish it. In Naples to-day it means the gathering of groups of travellers from North, Central, Southern Italy, from France, from Germany, from England, from near, from far. We may join them as they crowd the railway station at Naples on their way to the Valley of Pompeii with its new sanctuary.

It is the usual railway ride from Naples to Pompeii, and by return ticket if you will. But what a railway ride! around the Bay of Naples -skirting the slopes of Vesuvius, rushing over streams of lava and buried cities still unearthed.

Leaving the station, we cross first the site of the battle between Cardinal Rufo and the French troops, a battle-field where still are found relics of the dead, that bear witness to the bloody fray.

We pass beneath the bridge, on which there stands the statue of Saint Januarius, with lifted hand stretched towards the great Volcano, as if to stay the fiery wave. The view of the bay now opens out. Behind is Naples, its streets and buildings terracing the slopes which rise from the blue waters to the height crowned with the white monastery of S. Martino, and the gray castle of S. Elmo. To the right, as one looks away over the bay, is the Sorrentine promontory curving in and out to sea-to the very point where it seems to overlap or touch the outline of Capri, and where once the temple of Minerva overlooked the straits between. To the left of the crater of Vesuvius, opens out the Valle dell' Atrio del Cavallo, lined to the left again by jagged heights brown as the rocks of Sinai, curving and completing the olden crater of the one mountain Somma, from which were thrown the molten streams and ashes that buried all those cities at its feet.

Few are the pilgrims who do not feel the enchantment of the scene. Who would not enjoy a holiday like this?-one sees the Holy Father, Rome, Naples, Capri, Sorrento, the Valley of Pompeii, sure of "indulgence" at the end, and hopeful of some miracle of mercy from the Madonna of Pompeii, as the crown of all.

"Just to think," says one of the pilgrims, "they say this Torre del Greco has been destroyed

some seven or eight times-and again and again has been rebuilt." "What madness," exclaims one whose eye rests on the high, broad streams of lava, through which the railway cutting has been carved. "And yet it is a thriving town of more than 20,000 souls," adds another, "and a health resort." "Madness still it seems-but the saints, and the Holy Mother have them in their keeping!"

Could these travellers but understand the dialect of the Neapolitans they might hear them tell of a little chapel on the mountain, and of how in one eruption the images of saint and Madonna were placed in a row facing the slowly approaching lava, whilst priest, cottagers, and contadini watched and knelt and prayed; but only to see the lava steadily roll on unmoved, and sweep away saint after saint, until it reached and bore away the church itself.

And so the train moves on past Torre Annunziata, and Torre Centrale, and Pompeii at last is

reached.

Pompeii! what a name! What a history it tells, as called out by the guard! Even seated in the train we feel that all the past is there behind the mounds that circle the ruin. Temples, baths, the forum, theatres, amphitheatres, houses, gardens, barracks, streets, all. Pompeii, the "splendid" amidst the Etruscan cities, of which Capua was the metropolis; the Pompeii of which Seneca, Tacitus, and Livy told as beautiful as prosperous. Pompeii-the city of the dead-a revelation of the past, traced but in ruin.

But the train is once again in motion. "Valle" is the next station to Pompeii, only two-thirds of a mile beyond. To the right is Monte Gauro, and the still loftier heights of the Great S. Angelo. Beyond-before-the Valley of Nocera, one of the loveliest and most fruitful valleys of the sunny south; and looking northward, what a view, stretching up beyond the Campania Felix till closed in by the Apennines!

"Valle di Pompei! Valle di Pompei!" At the call the pilgrims leave the train. They are in sight of the dome of the sanctuary of the Madonna of Pompeii, the end of their wanderings, the sacred spot where the Madonna has elected to show the wonders of her grace and power for the salvation of modern society. The domed church, by the side of a building; the orphanage a cluster of houses-this is "Valle di Pompei!" On festas, such as those of May and October, train after train comes full of pilgrims. From the station to the church is a road, and to have all in keeping this is called the "Via Sacra." This group of houses is all that can yet be seen of the ideal city which, according to the dream. of its founder, is to make manifest the perfection and blessedness of the new social order. There is an "Important Notice" in the "Calendar" published by the authorities, inviting people, and even "foreigners," to bring their capital, and employ it profitably in catering for the faithful who gather to the Sanctuary. The electric light sheds a modern glow upon the various buildings, and assists even in the worship of the Sanctuary. The city was announced to be "the home Art, and saint and Madonna are depicted with all

of

the effects of an ecstatic asceticism. Science is housed in a meteorological observatory; industry has at present its chief representative in the printing-office. Charity has its Orphanage which shelters more than a hundred girls. Centre of all is the Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Rosary of Pompeii. The moving spirit of the city is Bartolo Longo, an advocate; his biography has been published in full. He came from the neighbourhood of Brindisi to Naples, for the completion of his education at the university. There he lived a wild and irreligious life, and boasted his hatred of the Papacy. At a later period he was a fanatical student of spiritualism. Then follows the story of his conversion to Rome, and his penances. But we are not concerned so much with the man as with the Sanctuary of which he was chief founder. It was built under the influence of the day-dream which we have narrated, upon grounds adjoining those of the lady whom he had married-the widowed countess, Marianna de Fusco, née Farnararo. Not rich himself, we are told he was only guardian of the modest property he administered for wife and children when, standing amidst the fields and cottages they owned, the Virgin Mother made known her will to him that there she would be worshipped.

Things New and Old.

THE BROKEN TOMB.

Those who have visited the tomb of David Hume in the Old Calton burying-ground at Edinburgh, have heard from the custodian the gloomy legend connected with it. It is said that the Scottish sceptic and unbeliever gave directions for his tomb to be built so massive and solid, that he might not be disturbed on the Resurrection morning. Whether there is any truth in this impious story we know not, but the tomb is as strong and massive, though smaller, than that of Cecilia Metella, "at once a fortress and a tomb."

Various historical instances are on record about the tombs of infidels in other lands. During last century there was a German Countess who lived at Hamburgh, a woman of evil life and of infidel opinion. She believed in neither God nor a judgment to come, and especially ridiculed the idea of a resurrection of the dead. She was, in fact, a modern Sadducce. But death overtook her at the early age of thirty years, and she was buried, according to her own directions, in a way defiant of popular prejudices as she termed them, and in accordance with her own infidel opinions. She desired that her remains should be covered by a huge granite block, and surrounded with solid masonry. The inscription was "This burial-place, purchased for eternity, must never be opened." But in course of years a tree sprung up from inside the tomb, and by its silent, irresistible force opened and rent the solid masonry as effectually as if an angel from heaven had rolled away the granite block from the sepulchre.

Mentioning these cases to a friend, he said, "Have you not heard of one nearer home-the tomb of Lady Anne Grimston, at Tewin, Herts? This tomb is situated on the castern part of the churchyard, within sight of the old

THINGS NEW AND OLD.

church, and bears the following inscription carved on the top and one of the side stones:

31

without God and without Christiau hope in her death. The superstitious villagers add that she said to those around

[graphic]

HERE LIETH INTERRED THE BODY OF

THE RIGHT HON. LADY ANNE GRIMSTON,

WIFE TO SIR SAMUEL GRIMSTON, BART.,

OF GORHAMBURY IN HERTFORDSHIRE, DAUGHTER TO THE RIGHT HON. EARL OF THANET, WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE NOV. 22, 1713, IN THE 60TH YEAR OF HER AGE.

The tomb was constructed, apparently, with great care, and is surrounded with a strong wrought-iron rail. Trees, an ash with seven stems, and a sycamore with three stems, each springing from one common root, rise out of the broken grave. The seeds, however they may have been deposited, must have quickened and vegetated, until the trunk and branches have forced themselves towards the light and air, displacing and breaking up the masonry of the tomb. In their growth the trunks have bent and broken the iron rail also. The legend about this tomb is that Lady Anne was a woman of gaiety and pleasure, careless about her soul, and heedless of the truths revealed in sacred writ. In her last illness the clergyman of the parish saw her, but she resented his interference as impertinent, and died as she had lived,

her, "If there is any truth in the word of God, seven trees will grow from my grave!"

However this may be, the fact of the trees growing and breaking open the tomb, may be verified by any visitor to Tewin churchyard.

[graphic]

A BUNCH OF SEALS.

CHAPTER II.

NE sultry evening in August,

when the hazy still-
ness that
SO often
precedes a thunder-
storm made all exer-
tion a burden, and the
fashionable streets
were comparatively de-
serted, an old gentle-
man was walking
slowly up a quiet road
in Hampstead.

He looked, in spite of the rising ground, as if he rather enjoyed the baking heat; and so indeed he did, for he had spent many years in India and was inclined to grumble at England's colder atmosphere, and changeable skies. He carried a gold-headed cane, and this, with a gold watch-chain and massive bunch of seals he wore, made one imagine that he had plenty of this world's goods.

Very few people were in sight just then, and the sound of rapid wheels coming behind made quite a stir in the sleepy road.

A smart little dogcart, with two gentlemen in front, and one riding behind, went past him at a quick pace and then slackened speed a little, apparently to case the horse up the hill.

66

Suddenly pulling up, the man at the back slipped off, and hurrying to the old gentleman's side, said politely: Pardon me; will you be good enough to tell me the time? I unfortunately left my watch at home, and have an engagement I must keep punctually."

"With pleasure," said the old gentleman unsuspiciously, as he stood still and drew out his handsome gold repeater.

But before he could read what the hands said, other hands, belonging to the enquirer, made a dash for it, and violently wrested watch and chain from his grasp. Then, almost clearing the road at a bound, the man sprang up again to the back seat of the trap, which had been turned round with great quickness, and the whole party of rogues, driving down hill, were out of sight again in an instant.

The old gentleman stood for a moment in bewilderment, too astonished even to cry "Stop thief," and when he found his voice and began to shout for help, all help was of course in vain, the thieves had vanished. So he hurried to the nearest police station to give notice of his loss and describe the thief.

"The old gang," said the sergeant in charge. "That's the third robbery we're had information of to-day, sir, but our men are on their track, and we'll most likely get back your property. Let us have a full description."

So Mr. Fletcher gave a minute account of the articles. "A valuable chain," he said, "given me by a Rajah when I was abroad, but I value the seals more than watch and chain, they have been in my family so long."

Nothing more could be done then, and the old gentleman,

greatly upset by his loss, went home to a dinner from which all relish had departed.

The same evening, as Wilfred Lee was on his way home after his last errand, he saw, to his great delight, his mother in the distance.

She had been to a lady's house with some finished work -one of the rare private orders she was so thankful to get -and walking a little out of her way in the hope of meeting her boy, she was presently rewarded.

"Let us go round this way, mother dear," said Wilfred, pointing to the road in which the robbery had been committed some time before. "It's prettier this way, and the walk will do you good."

"But haven't you had tramping enough for one day, Wilfred, in this heat too?"

"I was tired till I saw you coming, mother," he answered cheerily, "but then I forgot all about it."

To Wilfred his mother was the best and dearest in the world, and he was not ashamed, as so many boys are, of letting her see how much he loved her.

"Has it been a good day?" she asked as they sauntered along with the rare feeling that for once they need not hurry.

"Pretty good for me, mother, but bad for Jem Wills. He's been drinking again, and I heard them talking about some ham that's missing, and anyhow he'll have to leave, I expect. I ought to be sorry for him, I suppose, but I can't help feeling glad for myself that he's going away. say, what's that?" he cried, breaking off suddenly, and darting from his mother's side to the middle of the road.

I

A wind had sprung up, and the dust was blowing along as if trying to get away from the coming storm.

Between the gusts Wilfred had seen something glittering in the roadway, and in another moment he was holding in his hand & bunch of heavy gold seals.

"Look, mother, only look here, what I've got!"

66

'Why, Wilfred, you are a boy for finding," she said, taking the seals from his hand in astonishment.

"Whose can they be, I wonder? Gold, aren't they, mother?"

"Yes, indeed, and worth a lot of money, I should say. We will take them to the police station, Wilfred, they may know of the owner there."

But a woman, who was passing, and had seen the seals, stopped and said, "I expect they belong to Mr. Fletcher who lives round in Merder Road, he was robbed here not long ago. Better take them round to his house and seenumber ten, I think it is."

Thanking her heartily, they were soon on their way, the seals being deposited for safety in Wilfred's inside pocket. The sky had become overcast, and thunder was rumbling in the distance as they knocked at the door of

No. 10.

A man in livery opened it, and looked down contemptuously at the widow in her shabby black as she asked to see Mr. Fletcher.

"That you can't," he said curtly. "He won't be disturbed now for anybody. Why didn't you go down the area way?"

“But I must see him," she persisted quietly, ignoring the man's rude tone. "My business is important."

"Can't help your business," he retorted scornfully, "he's at dinner, I tell you, and can't be seen by anybody.” "Then we will come back later," she said, not at all abashed by his rough manner.

But just then a little girl of nine danced down the wide staircase followed by an elderly servant, and hearing the harsh voice at the door paused on her way to the dining

room.

"What is it, Jones?" she asked, in a clear ringing voice.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Oh, let them come back, Jones, they must wait till after the storm, and you know dinner is over now. I know grandpa will see them directly dessert is finished."

And the imperious little maiden had her way at once, and Mrs. Lee and Wilfred were taken into the breakfastroom just as a blinding flash lit up the hall.

[ocr errors]

What is all this about?" said Mr. Fletcher, opening a baize door and coming on the scene.

Ida quickly told him, while the footman turned away looking as sulky as he dared at her interference. Together they went to the breakfast-room, and there Wilfred's story was soon told.

"Found my seals! why, dear me, boy, I would rather have them back than their weight in gold. Though they are gold too, and that of the best. How could Jones be so stupid?"

"He didn't know, sir," said Mrs. Lee. "We waited to tell you."

"Well, now, what can I do for you?" he asked, promptly, feeling for his purse, and producing quite a handful of loose gold and silver.

[ocr errors]

Oh, sir, we don't want money for doing right," said the widow, flushing. "Wilfred is delighted to bring them back, it was quite by accident he found them."

66

"Wilfred, is that your name?" said the old man, eagerly, come here, my boy, and let me look at you. I had a Wilfred once, and—yes, you are very like him too. But he has been dead for thirty years. I must do something for you, for his sake, as well as out of gratitude for these. What are you doing now? School-eh?"

"Oh, no, sir, I left school six months ago, and I've been errand boy at Mr. Shirley's the grocer's ever since." "And do you like it well enough to do that sort of work all your life?"

66

No, sir," said Wilfred decidedly, "I don't. I mean not always."

Mrs. Lee was trembling with eagerness as she listened to their talk, and now she said quickly: "If you could help him to a better situation, sir, I should be glad. I don't like the place he has now."

"Well, sit down and write me your name and address, my boy, and then add this column of figures for me, and I'll see what can be done."

Wilfred's hand shook a little as he took the pen, but the writing was a good specimen of his best school copper-plate and the sum correctly done in a very little time.

"Ah, the making of a very good hand there," said the old gentleman, approvingly. "When shall you be able to write like that now, Ida," he added, patting the golden head of the little girl leaning on his arm, who had been listening with intense interest to all that passed.

"I must go now," he said, "but will you both come, say, Thursday evening? I may have some good news for you. Stay, though, you must not go without some refreshment," and in a very short time a tray was brought in and put before them, containing a mcal such as Wilfred had scarcely even seen before.

And after doing full justice to it, and the storm being almost over, they went home feeling very tired but very happy and full of hope for the future.

« PrécédentContinuer »