Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

up all that would prove unpleasant to the eye or discordant to the ear.

It was in 1506 that Julius II. commanded Braniante to reconstruct the ancient basilica of St. Peter, the principal temple of the Christian religion, which was sinking into ruin. The history of this famous structure, exceeding in vastness any stone building in the world, is a long one. Bra. niante and the ambitious old Pope, his master, only lived to see the designs prepared and the foundation laid. Then followed a series of poets and painters and amateur architects, who were successively placed in charge, and carried forward the great work of construction. The first was . Raphael, " the divine youth," elsewhere referred to, who was appointed to succeed Bramante in , 1513. But the task did not seem suited to his | abilities. Discussions arose as to the most feasible plans, and, while popes and their advisers! were disputing, Raphael died. Peruzzi received j the appointment, and, abandoning the nave de- , signed by Bramante, returned to the Greek cross. | And here we might state that the controversy over the Greek as against the Latin cross, in the construction of St. Peter's, lasted through four centuries, and though settled long since as a matter of fact, is still fresh as a matter of argument to-day. But Peruzzi also died in 1536 without having accomplished much. Sangallo came next. He restudied the whole design, and made a model of his idea on a large scale. In front of the Greek cross he added an immense pronaos, four hundred and fifty feet in width, and was about going on with other absurdities, when in 1546 he also died.

Nearly half a century had elapsed, and not only was nothing finished, but nothing very definite seemed to have been decided upon. It was then that Michael Angelo, already more than seventy years of age, was induced by the Pope to undertake the task. He determined to restrict it to the Greek cross, and for seventeen years worked with a giant energy that everywhere left traces of his genius and skill. As the "Last Judgment" was his greatest effort in painting, and his "Moses" the masterpiece of modern sculpture, so the dome of St. Peter's will stand forever as his crowning work in architecture. When he died, in 1564, there remained unfinished the eastern portico, the double spherical vault, and the cupola of the dome. But in spite of the shades of Michael Angelo and Bramante, the building was finally turned into a

Latin cross early in the seventeenth century, by one Carlo Maderno, and the noble dome was nearly consigned to oblivion. In 1661 Bernini added the piazza, a circular order of columns, in-, closing the fountains and the open space in front. And such is the architectural history of St. Peter's, the "largest and most magnificent temple ever reared by Christians in honor of their religion; and only prevented from being the most beautiful by the inherent vices of the school in which it was designed." All that wealth could purchase, or authority command was, for a century and a half, laid under contribution in its erection. The cost of the building had long ago reached one hundred millions of dollars, raised throughout the whole Catholic world by all the arts known to popery.

The exterior length of St. Peter's is seven hundred and twelve feet; that of the transept, five hundred feet. The width of the great nave is eighty-eight feet. The vault begins to spring at one hundred and eleven feet above the soil, and from this to the highest point there is a distance of seventy-one feet. The length of the vestibule is two hundred and thirty-three feet. The Summit of the cupola is four hundred and thirty-one feet above the ground. The surface covered by the whole building is two hundred and sixteen thousand square feet. Mark Twain, whose veracity as an historian is well known, relates that ten thousand troops went to St. Peter's once to hear mass. Their commanding officer came afterward, and not finding them, supposed they had not yet arrived. But they were in the church nevertheless—they were in one of the arms of the transept!

Approaching St. Peter's from the east, a mere glimpse is caught of the summit of the great dome, which vainly tries to overcome the disadvantages of its position, in the centre of an immense flat roof, and appear majestic and imposing. Passing up the broad steps, and entering through a small section of the vast portal, the visitor has before him the nave of the basilica. He is struck not so much with the vastness of the church as with the insignificant size of the people, who appear to be walking about the altar far down in the perspective. It is difficult to realize that the Corinthian columns which separate the aisles are ninety feet high, and thirty feet in thickness; that the acanthus leaves which surmount them are seven feet in length; that the sculptured figures of apostles that fill the niches in the pier arches are twenty feet tall; that the pen which the apostle Matthew holds in his hand is actually six feet long; and that the baldachins .over the altar is nearly as high as Niagara! It is difficult to gain an impressive idea of the vast dimensions of this celebrated cathedral even when standing beneath its vaults. The chief claims which it has for attention lie in its immense size, its gorgeous details, and its historical and ecclesiastical importance.

Of course St. Peter's contains the usual amount of relics, among others the spear of the soldier, now canonized as a saint, who pierced the Saviour's side, the sudarium, or handkerchief containing an impression of the Saviour's features, and the identical chair in which St. Peter officiated as Pope. The sepulchral monuments are very numerous, and many of them well executed. Here not only the Popes from St. Peter to Gregory XVI. have been interred, but James III., Charles III,, and Henry IX., Kings of England, "names," says Lord Mahon, "which an Englishman can hardly read without a smile or a sigh." The stucco ornaments and statues of St. Peter's hardly seem worthy of such a shrine, however, and the bas-reliefs, especially . those of Ganymede, Leda and her Swan, upon the bronze doors of the central entrance, seem to be in bad taste; but there is one little cherub face in the Tribune, so radiantly beautiful, so ecstatic, that every one is the happier for having seen it. Near the last pier on the right side of the nave is the bronze statue of the Apostle Peter; and the great toe of the extended foot, though replaced several times, has been worn away by the osculations of pious pilgrims till it is nearly as thin as a wafer.

The second great Renaissance Cathedral which, in architectural importance, if not in point of size, is a rival to St. Peter's, is St. Paul's, in London. As the former is the main centre and source of the Catholic, so is the latter the chief temple of the Protestant, religion. The history of the three Christian churches dedicated to St. Paul in London, extends through more than a thousand years. It is a somewhat singular fact that the cathedral, which in some form or other, has existed on the same site since the seventh century, has had a constant struggle for escape from destruction by fire. Five times it has been either wholly or partially destroyed by this enemy, and

twice the fire came from heaven. The first cathedral, which was erected by Ethelbert, King of Kent, on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to Diana, lasted for five centuries, and was destroyed by the fire which devastated London in William the Conqueror's time. The next church, which was begun in 1007, remained standing until the great

[graphic]

)MB Of Sta. Maria Del Popolo, In The Church Of That Name In Rome.

fire in 1666. It was begun in the old Norman style, but by constant additions and modifications, grew at length into a magnificent Gothic structure, larger and more imposing than the beautiful Gothic models which still remain at Litchfield and Lincoln.

Following the Reformation, this cathedral seems to have undergone a period of extraordinary desecration. The ferment of men's minds caused by that great religious event overthrew the feeling of sanctity for a building which had so long been devoted to the Catholic form of worship. In the early part of the seventeenth century St. Paul's became the recognized resort of wits and gallants; a rendezvous for the transaction of business; a gossip-shop for men of fashion; a place for gathering and exchanging news; and, if Evelyn is to be believed, actually a horse-market. The chapels were used for stores and lumber; the vaults for carpenters' shops and wine-cellars; and baker's baked their bread and pies in ovens excavated in the buttresses. Houses were built against the outer walls. Rope-dancing feats were performed upon the battlements before King Edward VI. At one time, during the rule of Cromwell it was even in danger of being sold to the Jews and converted into a synagogue. It was about this time that "Bankes's horse," a remarkable animal, trained by his mister to perform various tricks, actually climbed, if diaries and books of the day are to be believed, St. Paul's steeple! How he performed this surprising feat is not clearly explained; but Middleton, in his "Blacke Booke," 1604, and Rowley, in his "Search for Money," 1600, and other contemporary writers, allude to it.

In 1444 this cathedral had another attack of its old enemy, fire, and the story is quaintly told by one of its historians. The next serious attack by fire was in 1666, when the whole edifice was destroyed, together with half of London. The work of rebuilding was begun almost immediately. It was entrusted to Sir Christopher Wren, then in the height of his fame as an architect. He was instructed to prepare a "plan handsome and noble," which he proceeded to do, and presented his model to the king, by whom it was approved. But the clergy made objections, and Wren drew another plan, of which King Charles also expressed his admiration. It was this second design, with some alterations, which was carried out in the cathedral as it now stands. Other complete designs were also made by Wren, the original models of which are to be seen in the Kensington and British Museums.

A commission of six solemn old fossils, lords, deans, and archbishops was appointed by the king to thwart and distract the architect; and so well did they succeed that the remainder of his life was a constant struggle with opposition. The first

quarrel was about the iron fence surrounding the churchyard. Wren wanted iron, and the commissioners declared for cast-iron. Another great dispute was over the matter of the balustrade. which crowns the upper cornices. Wren declared that it was contrary to his design and to the principles of architecture; but his objections were disregarded, and the balustrade added. After a few more quarrels, and in the year 1718, he »* dismissed, and a favorite of the king put in tin place. The favorite was William Benson, who has been immortalized by Pope's lines in the "Dunclad." The great architect died five years later, in retirement and disgrace. Benson vx> ignominiously expelled from his office after« • year's service. But the dismissal of Wren came too late to work any serious injury to the building. His plan was already embodied in imperishable stone. The cathedral was practically completed, and the century and a half that have elapsed «me have only demonstrated more clearly the wisdom and genius of its builder.

It is a difficult and well-nigh impossible task (u describe a great building like St. Paul's soasw bring it like a picture before the eye. Fortunately, most of those who have not looked upon the cathedral itself are familiar with its noble proportions by means of photographs and cutsIts form is that of a long, or Latin cross. Its extreme length is five hundred feet, and breadJ. across the transepts two hundred and fifty feet. The width of the nave is a hundred and eighteen feet. The distance from the street to the lopo! the cross which surmounts the dome is three hundred and sixty-five feet. The church is built, externally, in two stories, the lower order being Corinthian, and that of the upper Composite, Tht west front has a magnificent portico, consisting at two orders of fluted columns, and surmounted os each side by a steeple, or campanile tower. These towers are surrounded by Corinthian column*. In the pediment of the portico is sculptured !« bas-relief a scene representing the conversion of St. Paul. On the apex of the pediment a» colossal statue of St. Paul; and on the two corners figures of the apostles Peter and James- The transepts terminate on the south and north, 10 semicircular porticos, over which are slatnes ft angels and apostles.

The most magnificent feature of the church * the dome. From almost any quarter of Lands it may be seen, lifting its noble form far above the soot-begrimed buildings which surround it. Twenty feet above the roof of the church is a • circular range of thirty-two beautiful marble columns of the Corinthian order. Higher up is a gallery adorned with a balustrade. Then comes the lead roof of the dome, from the centre of which rises a lantern, also adorned with Corinthian columns, the whole being terminated by a gilt ball and cross. It is the proper thing for tourists to spend half a day climbing into this ball, where they can write their names with the thousands who have gone before, and obtain a commanding view of London and parts adjacent. The method adopted by Wren for supporting the dome is one of which no other example exists, except in India. The principle is the counteraction of the outward thrust by the suspension of an inward falling weight. In other words, the mass of masonry is so formed that its weight acts inward and keeps the whole in equilibrium. In this dome is the famous Whispering Gallery. It was the design of the architect that the interior of the dome should be adorned with mosaics, after the manner of the basilican churches at Rome; but, like the.other plans for the adornment of the interior, it was never carried out. The total cost of the edifice had reached ten millions of dollars five years ago.

[graphic]

Though St. Paul's is even smaller than the great Gothic cathedrals at Milan, Cologne and Florence, yet so well are its architectural points managed, and its unity of design is so apparent, that the impression left upon the mind of the visitor is that it is scarcely inferior to St. Peter's in size. St. Paul's is also a truer work of art than St. Peter's. It was designed and built by one man. St. Peter's had many architects, good, bad, and indifferent, and the work of construction lasted through five generations. In St. Paul's the beholder is at once impressed with the feeling that he is looking upon a religious structure adapted to the uses of Christian worship. In St. Peter's he Meeds the constant reminder of the gorgeous altar, the sculptured saints, and the priestly attendants, to avoid the impression that it is a great statehouse, a pantheon, or a temple.

St. Isaac's Cathedral, at St. Petersburg, has appropriately been called the St. Peter's of the North. Its situation is highly suitable, for, unlike St. Paul's in London, Notre Dame in Paris,

or St. Ouen in Rouen, it stands in the midst of one of the largest open spaces in the capital, surrounded by its finest buildings and monuments, and gives the tourist an idea of what Russian mines, quarries, and workmen can produce. Nothing can exceed the simplicity of the model or the grandeur of its proportions. Major Ramel tells us that it looks like the work of Titans, and not of men.

No ornament meets the eye; the architect, Monsieur Montferrand, has left all the impression to be produced by the stupendous proportions of the edifice and the costliness of the materials. On the spot where the St. Isaac's Cathedral stands the Russians had been at work upon a place of worship for the last century. The original one was in wood, and was erected by Peter the Great in 1710; but this was subsequently destroyed, and the great Catherine commenced another, which was completed in 1801. That also vanished in its turn, and the present magnificent structure has been erected in the course of three reigns, having been commenced in 1819 and consecrated in 1858. To make a firm and solid foundation for the gigantic edifice, a whole forest of piles had to be driven into the swampy soil, at the enormous cost of one million of dollars.

It is constructed, as usual, in the form of a Greek cross of four equal sides, and each of the four grand entrances is approached from the level of the Place by three broad flights of steps, each whole flight being composed of one entire piece of granite formed out of masses of rock brought from Finland. These steps lead from the four sides of the building to the four principal entrances, each of which has a superb peristyle. The pillars of these peristyles strike the beholder with admiration. They are sixty feet in height and seven in diameter, all of them magnificent, round, and highly polished monoliths from Finland. They are crowned with Corinthian capitals of bronze, and support the enormous beam or frieze formed of six fine polished blocks. Over the peristyles, and at twice their height, rises the grand central cupola, higher than its width in the Byzantine proportion. It is supported by thirty polished granite columns, which, although gigantic in themselves, look small compared with those below. The cupola is of cast-iron, the first of that size ever constructed, and is covered with copper overlaid with gold, and glitters like the sun over Mont Blanc. From its centre rises a small elegant rotunda, a miniature repetition of the whole, looking like a chateau on the mountain top. The whole is surmounted by a gigantic gilt bronze cross.

[ocr errors]

Major Ramel, ex-sub director of the Imperial Iron Mines, says that the signification of the Crescent so frequently seen in combination with the Cross on Russian cupolas is not emblematical of the triumph of the Greek Church over Mohammedanism, after the expulsion of the Tartars from Russia, for it was a device used in the earliest Russian churches long before the invasion, and was imported from Byzantium on the introduction of Christianity. \

Four smaller cupolas, similar to the central one, stand around and complete the harmony visible in every part. The ornamentations of the facade and windows, and the group of figures over the pediment of the grand portico, was designed and executed by Muno Le Maire, a French artist of rare merit. It represents the Angel at the Tomb, with the Magdalen and other females on one side, and the terrified soldiers in every attitude of consternation on the other. These bronze figures are twelve feet in height, and were cast at Munich. Entering the noble doorway, which is closed by a pair of magnificent bronze doors, thirty feet high and fourteen wide, and covered with basso-relievos representing the Ten Commandments, you find yourself in the most magnificent, sublime, and grand temple of the Most High. "In contemplating the dazzling splendor of the place," says a traveller, "one feels as if he had suddenly been translated to the Jerusalem above, of which the Beloved gives such a beautiful description in his last book."

Directly in front of you as you enter is the Ikonoflas, or Screen of the' Shrine, supported by magnificent columns of malachite thirty feet high and four in diameter; these columns are hollow cast-iron tubes covered with that beautiful stone, and they exceed anything of the kind in the world. The pillars on either side of the door of the Ikonostas are of lapis lazuli, said to have cost one hundred thousand rubles; but beautiful as they are, they have an incongruous appearance next the malachite. The royal doors of the Ikonostas are of gilt'bronze, some twenty-four feet high by fourteen wide. The inmost shrine is placed in a small Grecian temple with a dome

supported by eight Corinthian columns of mailcbite, ten feet high, with gilt bases and capitals. The exterior of the dome is covered with a profusesion of gilding on a ground of malachite, and tho. interior is of lapis lazuli, while the floor is of polished marbles of various colors, which have been found in the Russian Empire, and the whole is raised on steps of polished porphyry. It Ms presented to the Emperor by Prince Demidof, who procured the malachite from his mines in Siberia, and sent it to France to be worked; its value is estimated at one million rubles. All he pictures on the walls are of the first order of in, and were executed by Russian artists.

The singing is said to be the most effective por tion of the service. The choristers of this cache. dral rank in efficiency next after those of the imperial chapel at the Winter Palace. In all the ceremonies of the Russo-Greek Church, as in the cathedrals of England, and at Trinity Church, New York, the soprano parts are executed by boys Considerable expense is incurred for deep basses, the best voices being everywhere sought for sad remunerated very liberally. They are not exactly for the choir, but for certain recitative solos Most of the prayers are also intoned, and the effect is said to be grand and sublime, as they air repeated in the ancient Slavonic.

One of the most impressive portions of the service is towards the close. The doors of the Ikonostas are then shut, the chanting ceases, tis incense-bearers withdraw, and every one setna breathless with attention. At length the"rofil doors" are reopened and thrown back, and the metropolitan, carrying on his head an enormoir> volume which he steadies with both hands, come forward and commences a long recitative, dutm? which every one bends low in an attitude >J humble adoration. The large volume contain the Gospel, and the prayer is for the Czar. Tfe cathedral is all ablaze with innumerable •» tapers, as each person on entering a church purchases one or more and lights it. This handling of tapers and lamps in Russian churches « » pleasing custom—the little flame is so living I symbol of the continued life of the soul, and beyond all other material things flame is the to representative of the spiritual. . The Rusainhave so closely adopted this idea that there is »•' interment, no baptism, no betrothing, in short, "f sacred ceremony without taper or lamp. Fik *

« AnteriorContinuar »