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front of the church announce to the city the triumph of light over darkness. The Nativity is another of the festivals which they represent theatrically, having a kind of stage in all the churches, more or less effectively got up with a manger, surrounded by unnatural landscapes and groups of shepherds and shepherdesses, leaping and gambolling like their flocks. You cannot but laugh at the fantastic figures of men and animals that are mingled with them. In fact, the more absurd and grotesque the whole representation, the more successful is the exhibition. The figures are generally in wood, and do credit to the artists employed in the lowclass theatres of Naples. The Roman Catholics do not allow, as with us, every man who may wear a black cassock to preach; this privilege is restricted to those on whom nature may have bestowed peculiar gifts, and I was often warned by my Jesuit friends when they had a first-rate orator in their pulpit. Of course, their idea of what is appropriate does not agree exactly with ours, and yet the “dadding of the Bible,” the roaring and ranting, that sometimes take place in our own pulpits, ought to make us pause in ridiculing some of the scenes that I have witnessed. Remember that they are an excitable people, and require everything to be represented before their eyes; you will then understand that our cold forms would not suit them. Their pulpit is generally a kind of stage, where the clergyman can pace around with a Madonna or an image of Our Saviour at one side. It depends upon the subject which the preacher may have chosen what is the precise address he may make to the figure before him. The following scene was related to me by a friend who was present, though it is in no respect more strange than what I witnessed at the Festa del Womero. The preacher prayed, in most touching terms, the Madonna for the Magdalenes who might be present, and when she did not answer his appeals so readily as he expected, he rushed forward and redoubled his supplications. It was of no use; the Virgin was silent; when, turning to the audience, he exclaimed that she refused to intercede for such sinners. “No doubt,” he said, “she is ashamed to see so many before her, and wishes to veil her face.” And then, without more ceremony, he lifts a part of the dress of the Madonna and covers her face, and yet this is not more strange than stowing a number of canaries below her petticoats. It was then that the people in despair burst into loud cries; women threw themselves on the floor and tore their hair, when the preacher exclaimed, “This is all very well; howl and lament; that is right enough; but, above all, give to the church ‘Why so?' do you say. You have nothing to do with that; give—we have only two more evenings to address you, and poi più niente,” added the importunate preacher, with one of those negative Neapolitan gestures which are more expressive than elegant. There is no end of strange scenes in Naples, when you know where you may find them. There is a special day when they offer prayers for the dead, to relieve them from purgatory; and even the exhibitors of Punch and Judy give a day's earnings for masses for these souls... There is one of the churches where you are admitted to the vaults, which are dimly lighted, and where the dead, who have long passed from this busy scene, are laid out for your inspection, each in a vault, dressed out in gay attire, a strange contrast to the ghastly appearance of the countenances on which you gaze. Among other sights to which my Jesuit friends obtained me access was the funeral of the commander-in-chief, who had died suddenly on entering his carriage to attend a ball. The funeral services of men of rank in this country are performed with great ceremony, and attended with all the splendour suited to the theatrical feelings of the people. Troops of cavalry and infantry preceded him to the tomb, while the poor old man, with lank and shrivelled countenance, lay exposed to the public gaze at full length on a magnificent carriage. Arrived at the church, which was in a blaze of light from a thousand wax-tapers, his body was o on a splendid catafalque highly ornamented. He was dressed in is uniform, with all his insignia around him, and the funeral service was performed with everything that could add solemnity and dignity to the scene. At the close of the ceremony the body was left in the custody of the clergy, and those who had attended proceeded to their homes. There was a religious service which I was anxious to witness, and from which I knew the English were specially excluded, owing to the rude and offensive manner in which many of them behave. It was the adoration of the Holy Sacrament, the fête of the Quaranta Ore, as the Italians call it, at wo the king usually takes a part, as Prior of the Congregation. I heard by accident that it was to take place at the church of San Fernando, and I applied to my friends to procure me admission, which they had no difficulty in doing, knowing that I would take care to avoid every act that might be offensive to the religious feelings of the worshippers. It was truly a gala exhibition, and what few travellers are admitted to witness, being a meeting of all the noblest of the land, gentlemen-in-waiting, and the highest officers of the army. The congregazione, or royal society, was distinguished by a long white linen tunic, the effect of which, I confess, was somewhat burlesque, when contrasted with the brilliant and gorgeous uniforms that were mingled with them. Imagine to yourself the nobility of Naples exhibited before you in their shirts, and you have exactly the scene that met my eyes. Suddenly there was a bustle among these strange figures, and the roll of the drum announced the approach of his majesty. He was, of course, received with all the marks of respect which his rank required, and he bowed most graciously to all around. The religious ceremonies began, which are to an uninterested spectator apt to be tedious; but nothing could exceed the devoutness of his majesty, and the number of genuflexions must have been very tiring. I was not sorry when the whole came to an end, and the audience were allowed to depart. I had seen his majesty and the queen a short time before at a different scene—at a ball given by the nobility on the occasion when the kingdom was relieved of the presence of the Austrian troops. There is a club of the high nobility—Accademia Nobile—who hold festive meetings during the winter; and when the Austrians left, they begged the king and queen to honour them with their presence, which it was thought politic to grant. It was the first time for several years that the king had met his subjects face to face without the protection of foreign troops. I had never been presented at our own Court, and therefore had no right to be in the presence of royalty;
and if such a question were put, I should of course be excluded. It was, however, the business of the committee of management to attend to these matters, and my influence in that quarter was sufficient to secure such a breach of strict etiquette to be overlooked. How is it possible to describe such a scene !—magnificence, illumination, all Naples agog, gold-embroidered dresses, jewellery, all the finest flowers that a southern garden could produce, and, above all, an overflowing crowd of all the beauty that the land can furnish. The king and queen were all gracious, and seemed delighted to meet their subjects in this free manner; whether it were really so might be doubted, if we could have penetrated beneath the surface. A high dais was erected at one end of the room, where the royal personages rested when they had passed through the rooms, and the nobility had arranged various dances to be performed before them. I was much struck with the beauty of some of the fair ladies who had been thus honoured, and who were in fancy dresses, representing the fashions of bygone ages. Mademoiselle Dentici, Princess Gentola, and the Duchess San Teodoro, a most fascinating creature, threw all the others into the shade, though I do not think that England had any reason to hang her diminished head. She was well represented in Miss Talbot, and Miss Beresford,” niece of the Bishop of Ossory, who were fine specimens of our northern beauties. I ought to say this much in favour of my Jesuit friends, that, however they might desire to attract public attention, they did it in a legitimate way, and avoided all jugglery. ... I could see that they winced when I referred to the silly miracles which I brought under their notice as taking place at no great distance from their own church. The church of Sto. Agnello possesses a speaking crucifix, also an image of Sta. Maria d'Intercessione, who has carried on many pious conversations with the mother of Agnello and with Agnello himself. Indeed, it is difficult to name a church which does not possess a speaking Madonna, or a statue of Our Saviour with health-giving liquor exuding from its dry wood. In the church Del Carmine it bowed its head in time to avoid a cannon-ball, which would otherwise have decapitated it during the siege of Naples by Alphonso of Aragon, in 1439. At Saint Dominico-Majore you are shown the crucifix which said one day to Saint Thomas Aquinas, “Bene scripsisti de me, Thoma; quam ergo mercedem cupis P’”—“You have written well of me, Thomas; what reward, then, do you ask?" To which Thomas answered, “Non aliam nisi teipsum.”—“No other than yourself.” According to the legend, this holy man was at the moment in an ecstasy; and the fervour of his religious zeal was so great, that it supported him in the air three feet from the ground for several hours. Miracles in this country are so numerous that they almost cease to be miracles, and may be regarded as the natural production of the land. Besides the blood of St. Januarius, so well known, we have the blood of St. John, which bubbles up the precise moment that his gospel is read; and still more edifying is that of the church Del Carmine. Here the king and court proceed once a year, and in their presence a barber is employed to cut the hair from the head of Christ, in ivory of colossal size, which has grown miraculously since last visit. These precious hairs are distributed among the noble personages who are present, and are thought to avert a variety of calamities. There is also the miracle of St. Aspreno, whose special power is to cure people afflicted with neuralgic pains. The patient introduces his head into an opening of the wall in the chapel consecrated to the saint, and no doubt derives much benefit. Animals have also their protector, and it is an amusing sight to see the priest of St. Anthony blessing a vast collection of horses and mules, brought together from Naples and the neighbourhood, all gaily decked with flowers and ribbons of the most flashy colours. There must surely be something in the peculiar nature of this people that predisposes them to such superstitious notions. You no doubt recollect the various miracles mentioned by Livy of oxen speaking, spears starting from their place, eyes of statues moving, though none of them are more absurd than those that are believed by the people of Naples. The philosophic Plutarch thus speaks of these miraculous appearances: “Indeed we shall not deny that sweating statues and weeping images, and some even emitting drops of blood, may have existed; for wood and stone often contract a mouldiness and mildew that gives out moisture, not only exhibiting many different colours themselves, but receiving a variety of tints from the circumambient air. Yet, with all this, there is no reason why the Supreme Being should not avail himself of these signs to predict future events. It is also very possible that a sound resembling a sigh or a groan might come from a statue by the disruption or violent separation of some of the interior parts; but it is quite beyond the bounds of possibility to imagine that an inanimate thing can give forth an articulate voice, or a clear, full, and perfect expression. As for those persons who are possessed with such a strong sense of religion that they cannot reject anything of this kind, they found their faith on the wonderful and incomprehensible power of God; for there is no kind of resemblance between Him and a human being, either in His nature, His wisdom, His power, or His operations. If, therefore, He performs something which we cannot effect, or executes what with us is impossible, there is nothing in this contradictory to reason; since, though He far excels us in everything, yet the dissimilitude and distance between Him and us appears most of all in the works which He has wrought. But ‘much knowledge of things divine,’ as Heracleitus affirms, “escapes us through want of faith.” ” The Neapolitans are, indeed, a strange and unaccountable people; superstitious in some matters, and utterly devoid of it in others. Imagine the priests making of the bones of the dead, candelabra, handles of umbrellas, and carving most ingeniously the bones into flowers and all kinds of ornaments. It may be said, however, that this is not more sacrilegious than making skulls into drinking-cups, as used to be done by the Indians of America. It is difficult to understand what idea they have formed of the Virgin Mary; every Madonna seems to be different from all others, and each regards the one whom he addresses to possess powers to which others have no pretension. You see them burning wax-tapers before their Madonna, that they may, through her favour, draw a lucky number in the lottery, with a threat, however, that their offerings will be withdrawn should they prove unsuccessful. A common method to propitiate her is
* She is now Countess of Erne, residing at Crum Castle, in Ireland.
to employ the zampognatori—bagpipers—of whom I have already spoken, and who descend from the Abruzzi in the winter season to earn a precarious livelihood from the piety of the Neapolitans. This delicate attention is thought sure to secure the favour of the Madonna. You must know that these Madonnas are found at the corners of every street, and a few months ago the whole city was thrown into a state of excitement by these little Madonnas beginning everywhere to work miracles; every street had its crowd of suppliants, and you could not pass along without seeing a multitude of devout worshippers on their knees. I always gave these crowds a wide berth, as you were expected to take off your hat to the image as you passed; and if you were observed to refuse this salutation, you ran the risk of being torn to pieces by an infuriated mob. No carriage was allowed to pass without the party being compelled to descend and pay his respects to the Madonna. At last it became too serious—in fact, a perfect nuisance—so that the government found it necessary to interfere. It was whispered through the city that it was a plot of the Carbonari to rouse their followers; but, be this as it may, the Madonnas were nailed up with boards, and sentinels were stationed below them to prevent crowds from collecting. This took place in the month of April, 1826. No sooner had this cause of excitement passed away, when the minds of the whole people were fearfully agitated by a report which spread among them, that some ancient prophecy had predicted that Naples was to be swallowed up on the 23rd of September by an earthquake and volcanic eruption. Then you could see passing along the streets priests with crucifixes and two lamps on each side, chanting their melancholy hymn, “Ora pro nobis.” They would stop every now and then, exhorting their hearers to immediate repentance, as this might be the last time that God would deign to call on them. These processions of priests, chanting their melancholy ditties, were constantly going on during 1826, as it was what they called anno santo —“the holy year”—when absolution was to be obtained for all bygone crimes more easily, if proper means were taken to propitiate the priests. You may recollect the pithy saying of Du Lorens, that you must more particularly beware of your enemy after he has partaken of the holy sacrament, as he then commences a new score: “Gardez-vous bien de lui les jours qu’il communie.” This agrees with an observation which I heard the prefect of police here make, that after a general confession of sins and absolution the police are obliged to be more on the alert, as it is then that they expect a greater number of assassinations and atrocious crimes to be committed. It is difficult to penetrate to the depths of human nature, and to say how far these external ceremonies, of which they are so fond, stand in the place of what we consider to be religion. Is it individualised here, or an attempt made to make man “pure as He is pure? I cannot pretend to give an opinion on a subject which would have required a much greater intimacy with the inner life of this people than it was possible for me to obtain. I have picked out a number of the superstitious notions that are apt to strike a stranger as grotesque; this, however, may exist, and yet there may be much of real piety. Yet I am prepared to state, that I met men of as high moral principle, and as strong Christian feelings,