« AnteriorContinuar »
lhe mogth, is with act of higure of thia, And +
The Rise and Progress of Marian Worship, [Dec. St. Agnes, St. Sebastian, and St. Euphemia. And then describing another, in which was a figure of our Lord, he writes : “Christ is here seen as if in act of blessing, but the figure, which is but a half length, is without dignity, and is lost as it were in the crowd of images produced by emblematic representations of the Evangelists and of saintly personages who fill the principal space.” What a comment is here unconsciously given upon the tendencies of the age of which the writer speaks.
Numerous mosaics dating from this seventh century are figured by Ciampinus and others. The earliest in dateis of the year 623 A.D., in the church of St. Agnes, restored and decorated by the Roman Popes Symmachus and Honorius I. Here, for the first time, the arch of the tribune is found to be occupied, not by our Lord, but by saints (St. Agnes, and the two bishops to whom was due the restoration of the Church). And these figures take the place which in earlier times would have been occupied by the Saviour, with angels and apostles on either hand. The barbarism of the inscription forms an instructive comment upon the picture itself. Some twenty years before this, St. Gregory the Great had told us, that he himself knew nothing of Greek, and that at Constantinople there was no one who could make sense out of a Latin letter requiring translation into Greek. And by the inscription now before us we may judge what was now that “purity of Latin speech” boasted of, as this at least had been, at Rome in St. Gregory's time.6
With such evidence before us of the barbarism of the Roman Church at this time, we shall not be surprised at finding, even in the public monuments of this century, proof of a marked change in the feeling of the Church in reference to doctrinal questions, and of declension from the purity of primitive faith. In the Chapel of S. Venantius,7 the mosaic decorations of which date from 642 A.D., or thereabouts, the one figure which is so placed as at once to catch the eye of worshippers throughout the Church, is that of the Virgin Mary. She appears here as
5 Joannes Diaconus Vita D. Gre. gorii, lib. i. cap. 13.
Sursum versa nutu quod cunctis cer
6 We give the inscription exactly as
Et complexa simul clauditur ipsa dies.
ferat Irim Purpureusque pavo ipse colore nitens. Qui posuit (i potuit) noctis vel lucis
reddere finem Martyrum e bustis hinc reppulit ille
The Pontifical inscriptions of the fifth and sixth centuries are some of them bad enough, in all conscience. But what can be said, what thought, of Latin such as this, at the very centre, and in the Patriarchal See, of Latin Christendom! Archbishop Manning will no doubt tell us that it was not written “ ex cathedra."
7 See Ciampini V. M. tom. ii, cap. xv. Tab. xxxi.
the central figure, with six Apostles on either side of her. Both she and the Apostles have a nimbus exactly resembling that assigned to our Lord and the two angels who attend on Him. It is, however, with a view, probably, to mark the greater dignity of these celestial personages, that they have been drawn on a much larger scale than the Virgin Mary and the Apostles, who occupy the lower, and more generally visible, part of the composition.
Once more we quote D’Agincourt. It is thus that he describes the characteristics of Christian art in the period that immediately followed. “In the eighth century," so he writes, “the carelessness and ignorance of the times often mixed up in the same composition subjects utterly alien the one from the other. .. .. At this period the fervour of Christian people for the worship (culte') of the Mother of God was continually increasing. The homage paid to her was no longer distinguished from that rendered to the Lord of all.” So writes the Roman Catholic historian of Christian art. But we are bound to say that we do not ourselves know of any monuments of the eighth century, which bear out this very strong language, which, however, is strictly applicable, as we shall see, to the centuries that follow.
The Ninth and three following Centuries. The period at which we have now arrived is one which well deserves attentive study, as on other grounds, so especially upon this, that in the four centuries which elapsed between the age of Leo III. and Charlemagne (A.D. 800), and that of Pope Innocent III. (sed. 1198-1216), the doctrine and ritual of the Roman Church were gradually elaborated and stereotyped by a series of councils, to whose decrees the divines assembled at Trent in the sixteenth century appealed as being nothing less than the teaching of “the Church of God.”
The first of the monuments we have now to notice dates from an early period of the ninth century. It is a mosaic in the Church of St. Cecilia, restored and decorated by Pope Paschalis the First (817—824). Here we find a marked evidence of the advance made (if advance we can bear to call it) in the publicly recognized worship of the Virgin Mary. The arch of the tribune is occupied by a gigantic figure of the Virgin, seated on a gorgeous throne. She holds the Infant Saviour in her arms. But the Pope [Paschalis himself, as the “square nimbus" about his head indicates], who kneels before the two, directs his worship, not to the Infant Saviour, but to the Virgin Mary. He is embracing her feet, as he kneels in an attitude of adoration. The Pontifical Latin is here again significant-Virgo Maria tibi Paschalis Præsul honestus condidit hanc aulam lætus per sæcla manendam. Another church, that of St. Cecilia, also owed its mosaic decoration to the same Pope Paschal (circ. 820 A.D.)? And here we may note some significant changes made in the traditionary representations of the worship of Christ on the Arcus Triumphalis. The four-and-twenty elders, with their white robes and crowns in their hands, are still in their wonted place. But above, and in the very centre of the whole, instead of a figure of our Lord alone, personally or symbolically represented, the Virgin Mary, bearing a royal crown, is seated as a Queen, upon a throne, bearing the Holy Infant on her knees.
8 A point of transition towards the more pronounced representations of the ninth century will be found figured in Ciampini De Sacris Ædificis, Tab. xxiji. Pope John VII. is there represented approaching the Virgin Mary, 'venerabiliter curvus.' The Virgin herself has the nimbus, and has a royal diadem, but she is still standing, and in the attitude of prayer. These date from
Vol. 68.–No. 384.
the beginning of the eighth century.
9 Catechismus ad Parochos, pp. 139, 140. Romæ, fol. 1566.
Figured and described in Ciampini V. M. tom. ii. cap. xxij. Tab. xliv. By Seroux D'Agincourt, Pl. xvii., No. 15; and also in the Collection of original Drawings once belonging to
Pope Clement XI., already spoken of, 6 A
With this may be compared yet other mosaics of nearly the same date; one in the Cathedral Church of Capua, one in the Church of S. Maria Nova at Rome, in which the Virgin Mary, with all the insignia of a Queen, is set forth as the most conspicuous object for the worship of the faithful.
But we pass hastily over these, in order to dwell in more detail upon a picture, somewhat differing from these in character, which was only discovered a few years ago, and which since then has often been the subject of keen controversy.
There is a special interest attaching to this picture, because, like so many other monuments of both the art and the literature of antiquity, it has been grossly misrepresented, and is even now employed, we believe, to serve the purposes of Roman controversy.
This picture of “the Assumption” (for such it probably is) was discovered only a few years ago, on the buried walls of perhaps the oldest church in Rome, that of St. Clement. A church so named has long been shown, as many of our readers doubtless know, and has been reputed among the most ancient buildings of Christian Rome. But in the course of some repairs that were found necessary in the year 1858, a crypt was discovered below the floor of the church, this crypt being no
me, that the bur probably is)
• Ciampini V. M. Tom. i. cap. xxvii. Tab. 11; D'Agincourt, Peinture, Pl. xvii. No. 14; and a drawing in the collection above named.
3 Ciampini ubi sup. Tab, liv,
4 lbid. Tab. lvii. [Photographed, from an ancient drawing, in Marriott's Vestiarium Christianum, Pl. xxxvii.] Compare D'Agincourt, Peinture, Pl. xvii. No. 13.