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was in the course of my journey here that a comparative trifle determined my choice. I had just left gay, thoughtless Paris, where the materiel of life is better understood, and the sentiment less, than in any other place; and on a bright December morning was toiling up on foot the mountains which form the southern extremity of the Jura Chain. At the top of the range I descried on the road-side a plain wooden cross, placed there for devotion, or else to record some deed of blood, —and on the other side, a Madonna, with the usual benevolence of her sex, addressing the traveller in accents of tender compassion, and promising I forget now how many years of indulgence for every act of devotion paid to her. I was touched, as who would not be? at meeting with these symbols of our holy religion in so solitary a spot; they seemed to tell me of the presence of the God and Father of us all in every portion of his universe, and that He, who bringeth men together and bindeth them in families, dwells also amidst the most secluded retirements of nature, and with equal care watches over the flower which blooms by the mountain side, and the bird which cleaves his pathless course through the desert air, as he does over the countless millions who swarm over the face of the earth. They told me not merely this truth, but one peculiar to the countries through which I was travelling. The Cross and a Madonna are new features in the aspect of the country,—one never sees them in England, -rarely, comparatively speaking, in France. They must be types of a new state of religious thought, in which Imagination is called in to the aid of Devotion; another people, other associations, are about me ;

and thus this simple cross led me on, from step to step, to the contemplation of that great system which at one time overshadowed so vast a portion of the civilized world, and which, directly or indirectly, still exercises so great an influence over mankind. As I went farther South, I had opportunities of examining its aspect more minutely, and to greater advantage. At Turin, I was struck with the severe and gloomy air it assumed, -at Genoa, with its rich and elegant decorations,-at Rome, with its gorgeous pomp and pageantry; but wherever and under whatever circumstances I have examined the Roman Catholic religion, it has appeared evident to me that between her rites and ceremonies, and those of the religion formerly professed and practised in these lands, the resemblance is most striking. Now, it is just this resemblance which I wish very briefly to trace in the letters that I shall send you every now and then, trusting that the interest which I fear the subject will fail to derive from my mode of treating it, will at least be supplied from the fact of there being so strong a disposition at present in England to revive what amongst us has long been considered as belonging to the past. I must, however, candidly confess, that I am less interested in it as a theological or party question, than as an historical and antiquarian inquiry ; for I have little sympathy, as you well know, with those whose time and energy are devoted to finding flaws in the religious systems of others, and who, like the author of a work I lately saw lying on your table, eagerly pounce on a blasphemous inscription or an overstrained resemblance, to use them as weapons of attack upon a system which is at least venerable from

its antiquity, and respectable from its being the embodying forth of the religious sentiment of so vast a number of our fellow-creatures. In this letter I shall speak of the secondary objects of religious worship in the Catholic Church, neither defending or impugning any doctrine or rite which distinguishes her from other Churches, premising merely, that whatever I advance, I do so on the authority of my own observation, or on that of authors whom I have consulted and whose names I give at the foot of this letter. On my

arrival in Rome a few days before Christmas-day, wearied out, as you may readily imagine, by a long and tedious journey from Florence, I was awakened the next morning at a most unseasonable hour by sounds which might have almost made me believe that I was in some village inn in Scotland. On inquiring, however, I found that they came from the bagpipes of the Pfifferi,—a wild-looking race of men from the mountains, wearing the Calabrian hat and sheep-skin under-garments,—who at this time of the year flock into Rome, and from sunrise to sunset salute every image of the Madonna they pass with their execrable music. Who, then, is the Madonna? you may ask. She is, to use the language of the Roman Catholic, the Blessed Virgin,—the Holy Mother of God,—the great object of love and veneration to every true believer. Comparatively speaking, one hears little but of “Santa Maria” in these countries,-one sees little but symbols and images which represent her. Almost every house. or shop at least has her likeness suspended in a conspicuous part, with two or three lights burning under it; at every corner of the street you meet her again, some

times decked with a wreath of flowers, the grateful, and oh! how rich an offering of some devout passenger, beautiful practice, regarding it merely as the general expression of the devotional sentiment,—thus mingling religion with the daily walks and occupations of men, and introducing her into the secluded retirement of families. Enter the churches, and there you will see her again always resplendent, sometimes with the richest stones and jewels, at others with the more humble offerings of her devotees. She has her altars erected to her, and a great portion of the services of religion are in her honour. Look at the group who are kneeling in yonder corner,-examine the rosaries in their hands, and you will find that every tenth bead marks the recital of a Pater Noster, and the intermediate ones of an Ave Maria. Linger till about dusk, that is, on certain days, and you will hear her Litany chanted in a measure so sweet, that, in spite of the most hostile prejudices, you will be sensible of a solemn religious feeling stealing over you, and persuading you that beneath all the various names and forms and modes of worship, there is one great sentiment common to us all, which leads us to Him who is the Author and Preserver of

every

human being. The service is now over, the last rays of the setting sun are falling on the different groups as they stand in front of the church,-a bell strikes out, and each one more devout lifts his hat as he whispers his secret prayer. What is this? It is the hour of Ave Maria, and her worshipers are repeating their last devotions in her honour. As the day' begins, so it ends then, you will

see, with some tribute of respect to the Madonna; and any one who paid

merely a cursory attention to the subject might be easily pardoned if he concluded that she was the great first object of religious veneration : but yet he would be wrong, very wrong, in so doing. To-morrow, perhaps, may be a fête-day of the Madonna, and, if you have patience we will just glance at its details. On this occasion her influence assumes a festive as well as a religious aspect. The aisles are covered with box or olive leaves, intermixed with flowers, and her image, as I have often seen it, is borne round the church, and on great occasions round the village, dressed in new and gaudy robes glittering with tinsel, and with a crown on her head. A long procession of priests follows after, accompanied by the great men of the church, and the more devout amongst the women, who are not sorry, I dare say, for such an occasion of displaying their pretty persons and pretty costumes, each bearing a lighted taper and chanting some hymn in honour of “Santa Maria.” Now, again, they return to the church, all seeking eagerly to kiss or to touch some portion of her robes, and then, dispersing to their homes, dwell with delight on the glories of the “bella Madonna.” As in the services, so in the decorations of the church, some of the most beautiful have a reference to her ; and throughout this land of Poetry and of the Arts, the efforts of Sculpture and Painting have never been so successful as when devoted to her service. Take, for instance, the Madonna della Seggiola and the Madonna del Gran Duca, both at Florence, and both by the “ divine Raphael.” The latter is in what is called his first style, and possesses so little of what is earthly in its expression, that it is easy to perceive that the im

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