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List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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soil on which I looked was saturated with history, would have excited
me.  The sun came out here and there as we went south, and we caught
some exquisite lights on the near and snowy hills; and there was
something almost homelike in the miles and miles of olive orchards,
that recalled the apple-trees, but for their shining silvered leaves.
And yet nothing could be more desolate than the brown marshy ground,
the brown hillocks, with now and then a shabby stone hut or a bit of
ruin, and the flocks of sheep shivering near their corrals, and their
shepherd, clad in sheepskin, as his ancestor was in the time of
Romulus, leaning on his staff, with his back to the wind.  Now and
then a white town perched on a hillside, its houses piled above each
other, relieved the eye; and I could imagine that it might be all the
poets have sung of it, in the spring, though the Latin poets, I am
convinced, have wonderfully imposed upon us.

To make my long story short, it happened to be colder next morning at
Naples than it was in Germany.  The sun shone; but the northeast
wind, which the natives poetically call the Tramontane, was blowing,
and the white smoke of Vesuvius rolled towards the sea.  It would
only last three days, it was very unusual, and all that.  The next
day it was colder, and the next colder yet.  Snow fell, and blew
about unmelted: I saw it in the streets of Pompeii.

The fountains were frozen, icicles hung from the locks of the marble
statues in the Chiaia.  And yet the oranges glowed like gold among
their green leaves; the roses, the heliotrope, the geraniums, bloomed
in all the gardens.  It is the most contradictory climate.  We
lunched one day, sitting in our open carriage in a lemon grove, and
near at hand the Lucrine Lake was half frozen over.  We feasted our
eyes on the brilliant light and color on the sea, and the lovely
outlined mountains round the shore, and waited for a change of wind.
The Neapolitans declare that they have not had such weather in twenty
years.  It is scarcely one's ideal of balmy Italy.

Before the weather changed, I began to feel in this great Naples,
with its roaring population of over half a million, very much like
the sailor I saw at the American consul's, who applied for help to be
sent home, claiming to be an American.  He was an oratorical bummer,
and told his story with all the dignity and elevated language of an
old Roman.  He had been cast away in London.  How cast away?  Oh!  it
was all along of a boarding-house. And then he found himself shipped
on an English vessel, and he had lost his discharge-papers; and
"Listen, your honor," said he, calmly extending his right hand, "here
I am cast away on this desolate island with nothing before me but
wind and weather."



Ravenna is so remote from the route of general travel in Italy, that
I am certain you can have no late news from there, nor can I bring
you anything much later than the sixth century.  Yet, if you were to
see Ravenna, you would say that that is late enough.  I am surprised
that a city which contains the most interesting early Christian
churches and mosaics, is the richest in undisturbed specimens of
early Christian art, and contains the only monuments of Roman
emperors still in their original positions, should be so seldom
visited.  Ravenna has been dead for some centuries; and because
nobody has cared to bury it, its ancient monuments are yet above
ground.  Grass grows in its wide streets, and its houses stand in a
sleepy, vacant contemplation of each other: the wind must like to
mourn about its silent squares.  The waves of the Adriatic once
brought the commerce of the East to its wharves; but the deposits of
the Po and the tides have, in process of time, made it an inland
town, and the sea is four miles away.

In the time of Augustus, Ravenna was a favorite Roman port and harbor
for fleets of war and merchandise.  There Theodoric, the great king
of the Goths, set up his palace, and there is his enormous mausoleum.
As early as A. D. 44 it became an episcopal see, with St.
Apollinaris, a disciple of St. Peter, for its bishop.  There some of
the later Roman emperors fixed their residences, and there they
repose.  In and about it revolved the adventurous life of Galla
Placidia, a woman of considerable talent and no principle, the
daughter of Theodosius (the great Theodosius, who subdued the Arian
heresy, the first emperor baptized in the true faith of the Trinity,
the last who had a spark of genius), the sister of one emperor, and
the mother of another,--twice a slave, once a queen, and once an
empress; and she, too, rests there in the great mausoleum builded for
her.  There, also, lies Dante, in his tomb "by the upbraiding shore;"
rejected once of ungrateful Florence, and forever after passionately
longed for.  There, in one of the earliest Christian churches in
existence, are the fine mosaics of the Emperor Justinian and
Theodora, the handsome courtesan whom he raised to the dignity and
luxury of an empress on his throne in Constantinople.  There is the
famous forest of pines, stretching--unbroken twenty miles down the
coast to Rimini, in whose cool and breezy glades Dante and Boccaccio
walked and meditated, which Dryden has commemorated, and Byron has
invested with the fascination of his genius; and under the whispering
boughs of which moved the glittering cavalcade which fetched the
bride to Rimini,--the fair Francesca, whose sinful confession Dante
heard in hell.

We went down to Ravenna from Bologna one afternoon, through a country
level and rich, riding along toward hazy evening, the land getting
flatter as we proceeded (you know, there is a difference between
level and flat), through interminable mulberry-trees and vines, and
fields with the tender green of spring, with church spires in the
rosy horizon; on till the meadows became marshes, in which millions
of frogs sang the overture of the opening year.  Our arrival, I have
reason to believe, was an event in the old town. We had a crowd of
moldy loafers to witness it at the station, not one of whom had
ambition enough to work to earn a sou by lifting our traveling-bags.
We had our hotel to ourselves, and wished that anybody else had it.
The rival house was quite aware of our advent, and watched us with
jealous eyes; and we, in turn, looked wistfully at it, for our own
food was so scarce that, as an old traveler says, we feared that we
shouldn't have enough, until we saw it on the table, when its quality
made it appear too much. The next morning, when I sallied out to hire
a conveyance, I was an object of interest to the entire population,
who seemed to think it very odd that any one should walk about and
explore the quiet streets.  If I were to describe Ravenna, I should
say that it is as flat as Holland and as lively as New London.  There
are broad streets, with high houses, that once were handsome, palaces
that were once the abode of luxury, gardens that still bloom, and
churches by the score.  It is an open gate through which one walks
unchallenged into the past, with little to break the association with
the early Christian ages, their monuments undimmed by time, untouched
by restoration and innovation, the whole struck with ecclesiastical
death.  With all that we saw that day,--churches, basilicas, mosaics,
statues, mausoleums,--I will not burden these pages; but I will set
down      is enough to give you the local color, and to recall some
of the most interesting passages in Christian history in this out-
of-the-way city on the Adriatic.

Our first pilgrimage was to the Church of St. Apollinare Nuova; but
why it is called new I do not know, as Theodoric built it for an
Arian cathedral in about the year 500.  It is a noble interior,
having twenty-four marble columns of gray Cippolino, brought from
Constantinople, with composite capitals, on each of which is an
impost with Latin crosses sculptured on it.  These columns support
round arches, which divide the nave from the aisles, and on the whole
length of the wall of the nave so supported are superb mosaics,
full-length figures, in colors as fresh as if done yesterday, though
they were executed thirteen hundred years ago.  The mosaic on the
left side--which is, perhaps, the finest one of the period in
existence--is interesting on another account.  It represents the city
of Classis, with sea and ships, and a long procession of twenty-two
virgins presenting offerings to the Virgin and Child, seated on a
throne.  The Virgin is surrounded by angels, and has a glory round
her head, which shows that homage is being paid to her.  It has been
supposed, from the early monuments of Christian art, that the worship
of the Virgin is of comparatively recent origin; but this mosaic
would go to show that Mariolatry was established before the end of
the sixth century.  Near this church is part of the front of the
palace of Theodoric, in which the Exarchs and Lombard kings
subsequently resided.  Its treasures and marbles Charlemagne carried
off to Germany.


We drove three miles beyond the city, to the Church of St. Apollinare
in Classe, a lonely edifice in a waste of marsh, a grand old
basilica, a purer specimen of Christian art than Rome or any other
Italian town can boast.  Just outside the city gate stands a Greek
cross on a small fluted column, which marks the site of the once
magnificent Basilica of St. Laurentius, which was demolished in the
sixteenth century, its stone built into a new church in town, and its
rich marbles carried to all-absorbing Rome.  It was the last relic of
the old port of Caesarea, famous since the time of Augustus.  A
marble column on a green meadow is all that remains of a once
prosperous city.  Our road lay through the marshy plain, across an
elevated bridge over the sluggish united stream of the Ronco and
Montone, from which there is a wide view, including the Pineta (or
Pine Forest), the Church of St. Apollinare in the midst of
rice-fields and marshes, and on a clear day the Alps and Apennines.

I can imagine nothing more desolate than this solitary church, or the

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