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On the 15th inst. I attended at a High Mass celebrated, in the Basilica of S. John Lateran, in commemoration of the conversion of Henry IV. of France to the Catholic faith: an event well worthy of commemoration. The French Ambassador, placed on a sort of throne, represented the king of France; and some of the English Catholics present probably carried back their imaginations to the times commemo- . rated, and thought on the tameness of their ancestors, from the consequences of which they, and one third of the English nation, still suffer persecution and insult.
Of this Basilica—the episcopal seat of the Sovereign Pontiff--you need no description; the beauty of its arches and plaster pilasters make one almost forget and pardon the architect who has enclosed within them the ancient columns.
From hence I went to the church of S. Maria degli Angeli, formed out of one of the rooms of the baths of Dioclesian. The floor of this hall has been raised six feet, the same portion of the ancient pillars has been buried beneath, and sham pedestals have been placed round their actual base; yet the church has, nevertheless, so light and airy an appearance that I never enter it without feeling a sensation of giddiness, as if the building were floating through the sky.
Near the ruins of these baths is the fountain di Termini, which Eustace mentions with rapturous admiration, and gives his readers the most exalted notions of one of the most barbarous constructions to be found in Rome. The front of this piece of masonry is of travertine, partitioned up by four slender, shabby pillars, between which are some ugly bass-reliefs, representing Moses striking the rock with his miraculous rod; but the water, instead of issuing from the said rock, falls from a broad squirt, placed under the sculpture, into a marble horsetrough below: the mass of liquid here contained would be very inadequate to quench the thirst of the parched army of Israelites.
Much has been said in admiration of the fountains of Rome, and much praise they certainly deserve; the only question is as to the distribution of this praise. The first place should, I conceive, be assigned to the fountain of the Piazza Novona; though many incongruities are blended together in its composition, yet the design of it is grand and noble. The Fontana di Trevi ranks next: this would be finer, were the rocks and tritons placed in less symmetrical order, and covered with a more plentiful supply of water: that in the bason of the fountain is too agitated for it to have been possible for Corinne to recognise on its surface the reflected face of her lover.
I do not recollect what reason Madame de Staël gives for their excursion to this dirty market-place; but Corinne, being an Englishwoman, was probably a good walker, and her being in love must account for this extravagance, as well as for her mad race from Naples to Portici, a distance of four or five miles.
The Fontana Paolina is fine and rich in its mass of waters, which are, however, from their retired situation, of little ornament to the town.
I went yesterday with a' particular permesso order-to see a discovery lately made in the tomb of Hadrian-Castel S. Angelo. This discovery has not, I believe, been mentioned by tourists, nor is it noticed in my edition of Fea's Guide--although professing to be printed in 1824. I shall, therefore, endeavour to describe
it to you.
On arriving at the Corps de Garde, and requesting to see the Castle, a soldier was appointed to lead me over it. He conducted me round the fortifications, mounted with the bronze of the Pantheon, and to the site of the Angel, from whence is a fine view of the town. It is curious that this statue of the Archangel, beheld from below, appears, according to the position of the beholder, either as an eagle or a bull's head.
My conductor then asserted that he had shewn me every part of the Castle; I mentioned the newly-discovered passage, and was answered with a dull stare of perfect ignorance. At length I shewed my permesso, it was taken to the commandante, and my soldier returned with torches to conduct me.
A hole in the floor of one of the modern corridors of the fort had always been covered with planks. No one had ever thought of exploring whither this hole led, until about seven months ago an officer, who had lived six years in the castle, and who during that time had passed every day across the planks, suddenly determined to ascertain what was concealed under them. Having let himself down by cords, he found himself in a passage, about seven feet wide, and fifteen high; this passage was nearly choked up with earth and rubbish, and seventeen hundred cart-loads were afterwards cleared out of it: its floor and walls are covered with mosaic. The grand entrance into the tomb is now, therefore, discovered to have been directly opposite the bridge of S. Angelo: this entrance had been walled up in later times. On the interior side of this wall is a room formerly adorned with marbles, and with a large statue placed in a niche opposite the portal; but which are now broken, and piled together on the floor. From this room I followed the passage on the right. It mounts with a gentle ascent, preserving the