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Title: Visits To Monasteries in the Levant
Author: Curzon, Robert
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Book's cover, CURZON'S MONASTERIES]

[Illustration: From a Drawing made on the spot by Viscount Eastnor.

VIEW OF THE GREAT MONASTERY OF METEORA, FROM THE MONASTERY OF BARLAAM,
WITH THE RIVER PENEUS IN THE DISTANCE.]



VISITS TO MONASTERIES

IN

THE LEVANT.

BY THE

HONBLE. ROBERT CURZON, JUN.

[Illustration: From a Sketch by R. Curzon.

Interior of the Court of a Greek Monastery. A monk is calling the
congregation to prayer, by beating a board called the simandro
(σιμανδρο) which is generally used instead of bells.]

WITH NUMEROUS WOODCUTS.

LONDON:
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.

1849.



PREFACE.


In presenting to the public another book of travels in the East, when it
is already overwhelmed with little volumes about palm-trees and camels,
and reflections on the Pyramids, I am aware that I am committing an act
which requires some better excuse for so unwarrantable an intrusion on
the patience of the reader than any that I am able to offer.

The origin of these pages is as follows:--I was staying by myself in an
old country-house belonging to my family, but not often inhabited by
them, and, having nothing to do in the evening, I looked about for some
occupation to amuse the passing hours. In the room where I was sitting
there was a large book-case full of ancient manuscripts, many of which
had been collected by myself, in various out-of-the-way places, in
different parts of the world. Taking some of these ponderous volumes
from their shelves, I turned over their wide vellum leaves, and admired
the antiquity of one, and the gold and azure which gleamed upon the
pages of another. The sight of these books brought before my mind many
scenes and recollections of the countries from which they came, and I
said to myself, I know what I will do; I will write down some account of
the most curious of these manuscripts, and the places in which they were
found, as well as some of the adventures which I encountered in the
pursuit of my venerable game.

I sat down accordingly, and in a short time accumulated a heap of papers
connected more or less with the history of the ancient manuscripts; at
the desire of some of my friends I selected the following pages, and it
is with great diffidence that I present them to the public. If they have
any merits whatever, these must consist in their containing descriptions
of localities but seldom visited in modern times; or if they refer to
places better known to the general reader, I hope that the peculiar
circumstances which occurred during my stay there, or on my journeys
through the neighbouring countries, may be found sufficiently
interesting to afford some excuse for my presumption in sending them to
the press.

I have no further apology to offer. These slight sketches were written
for my own diversion when I had nothing better to do, and if they afford
any pleasure to the reader under the same circumstances, they will
answer as much purpose as was intended in their composition.



CONTENTS.


INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER                                            Page xix


PART I.

EGYPT IN 1833.

CHAPTER I.

Navarino--The Wrecks of the Turkish and Egyptian Fleets--Alexandria--An
Arab Pilot--Intense Heat--Scene from the Hotel
Windows--The Water-Carriers--A Procession--A Bridal Party--Violent
mode of clearing the Road--Submissive Behaviour of
the People--Astonishing Number of Donkeys--Bedouin Arabs;
their wild and savage appearance--Early Hours--Visit to the
Pasha's Prime Minister, Boghos Bey; hospitable reception--Kawasses
and Chaoushes; their functions and powers--The Yassakjis--The
Minister's Audience Chamber--Walmas; anecdote
of his saving the life of Boghos Bey                                   1

CHAPTER II.

Rapacity of the Dragomans--The Mahmoudieh Canal--The Nile
at Atfeh--The muddy Waters of the Nile--Richness of the Soil--Accident
to the Boatmen--Night Sailing--A Collision--A
Vessel run down--Escape of the Crew--Solemn Investigation--Final
Judgment--Curious Mode of Fishing--Tameness of the
Birds--Jewish Malefactors--Moving Pillar of Sand--Arrival
at Cairo--Hospitable Reception by the Consul-General                  14

CHAPTER III.

National Topics of Conversation--The Rising of the Nile; evil
effects of its rising too high; still worse consequences of a deficiency
of its waters--The Nilometer--Universal Alarm in August, 1833--The
Nile at length rises to the desired Height--Ceremony of
cutting the Embankment--The Canal of the Khalidj--Immense
Assemblage of People--The State Tent--Arrival of Habeeb
Effendi--Splendid Dresses of the Officers--Exertions of the Arab
Workmen--Their Scramble for Paras--Admission of the Water--Its
sudden Irruption--Excitement of the Ladies--Picturesque
Effect of large Assemblies in the East                                27

CHAPTER IV.

Early Hours in the Levant--Compulsory Use of Lanterns in Cairo--Separation
of the different Quarters of the City--Custom of sleeping
in the open air--The Mahomedan Times of Prayer--Impressive
Effect of the Morning Call to Prayer from the Minarets--The
last Prayer-time, Al Assr--Bedouin Mode of ascertaining this
Hour--Ancient Form of the Mosques--The Mosque of Sultan
Hassan--Egyptian Mode of "raising the Supplies"--Sultan
Hassan's Mosque the Scene of frequent Conflicts--The Slaughter
of the Mameluke Beys in the Place of Roumayli--Escape of one
Mameluke, and his subsequent Friendship with Mohammed Ali--The
Talisman of Cairo--Joseph's Well and Hall--Mohammed
Ali's Mosque--His Residence in the Citadel--The Harem--Degraded
State of the Women in the East                                        35

CHAPTER V.

Interview with Mohammed Ali Pasha--Mode of lighting a Room in
Egypt--Personal Appearance of the Pasha--His Diamond-mounted
Pipe--The lost Handkerchief--An unceremonious
Attendant--View of Cairo from the Citadel--Site of Memphis;
its immense extent--The Tombs of the Caliphs--The Pasha's
Mausoleum--Costume of Egyptian Ladies--The Cobcob, or
Wooden Clog--Mode of dressing the Hair--The Veil--Mistaken
Idea that the Egyptian Ladies are Prisoners in the Harem;
their power of doing as they like--The Veil a complete Disguise--Laws
of the Harem--A Levantine Beauty--Eastern Manners--The
Abyssinian Slaves--Arab Girls--Ugliness of the Arab
Women when old--Venerable Appearance of the old Men--An
Arab Sheick                                                           47

CHAPTER VI.

Mohammed Bey, Defterdar--His Expedition to Senaar--His Barbarity
and Rapacity--His Defiance of the Pasha--Stories of his
Cruelty and Tyranny--The Horse-shoe--The Fight of the
Mamelukes--His cruel Treachery--His Mode of administering
Justice--The stolen Milk--The Widow's Cow--Sale and Distribution
of the Thief--The Turkish Character--Pleasures of a
Journey on the Nile--The Copts--Their Patriarchs--The Patriarch
of Abyssinia--Basileos Bey--His Boat--An American's
choice of a Sleeping-place                                            64


NATRON LAKES.

CHAPTER VII.

Visit to the Coptic Monasteries near the Natron Lakes--The Desert
of Nitria--Early Christian Anchorites--St. Macarius of Alexandria--His
Abstinence and Penance--Order of Monks founded
by him--Great increase of the Number of ascetic Monks in the
Fourth Century--Their subsequent decrease, and the present
ruined state of the Monasteries--Legends of the Desert--Capture
of a Lizard--Its alarming escape--The Convent of Baramous--Night
attacks--Invasion of Sanctuary--Ancient Glass Lamps--Monastery
of Souriani--Its Library and Coptic MSS.--The Blind
Abbot and his Oil-cellar--The persuasive powers of Rosoglio--Discovery
of Syriac MSS.--The Abbot's supposed treasure                         75

CHAPTER VIII.

View from the Convent Wall--Appearance of the Desert--Its
grandeur and freedom--Its contrast to the Convent Garden--Beauty
and luxuriance of Eastern Vegetation--Picturesque Group
of the Monks and their Visitors--The Abyssinian Monks--Their
appearance--Their austere mode of Life--The Abyssinian
College--Description of the Library--The mode of Writing in
Abyssinia--Immense Labour required to write an Abyssinian
book--Paintings and Illuminations--Disappointment of the
Abbot at finding the supposed Treasure-box only an old Book--Purchase
of the MSS. and Books--The most precious left behind--Since
acquired for the British Museum                                       90


THE CONVENT OF THE PULLEY.

CHAPTER IX.


The Convent of the Pulley--Its inaccessible position--Difficult
landing on the bank of the Nile--Approach to the Convent
through the Rocks--Description of the Convent and its Inhabitants--Plan
of the Church--Books and MSS.--Ancient
excavations--Stone Quarries and ancient Tombs--Alarm of the
Copts--Their ideas of a Sketch-book                                  105


RUINED MONASTERY AT THEBES.

CHAPTER X.

Ruined Monastery in the Necropolis of Thebes--"Mr. Hay's Tomb"--The
Coptic Carpenter--His acquirements and troubles--He
agrees to show the MSS. belonging to the ruined Monastery, which
are under his charge--Night visit to the Tomb in which they are
concealed--Perils of the way--Description of the Tomb--Probably
in former times a Christian Church--Examination of the
Coptic MSS.--Alarming interruption--Hurried flight from the
Evil Spirits--Fortunate escape--Appearance of the Evil Spirit--Observations
on Ghost Stories--The Legend of the Old Woman
of Berkeley considered                                               117


THE WHITE MONASTERY.

CHAPTER XI.

The White Monastery--Abou Shenood--Devastations of the
Mamelukes--Description of the Monastery--Different styles of its
exterior and interior Architecture--Its ruinous condition--Description
of the Church--The Baptistery--Ancient Rites of Baptism--The
Library--Modern Architecture--The Church of San Francesco at Rimini--The
Red Monastery--Alarming rencontre with an armed party--Feuds between the
native Tribes--Faction fights--Eastern Story Tellers--Legends of the
Desert--Abraham and Sarah--Legendary Life of Moses--Arabian
Story-tellers--Attention of their Audience                           130


THE ISLAND OF PHILŒ, &c.

CHAPTER XII.

The Island of Philœ--The Cataract of Assouan--The Burial Place
of Osiris--The Great Temple of Philœ--The Bed of Pharaoh--Shooting
in Egypt--Turtle Doves--Story of the Prince Anas el
Ajoud--Egyptian Songs--Vow of the Turtle Dove--Curious
fact in Natural History--The Crocodile and its Guardian Bird--Arab
notions regarding Animals--Legend of King Solomon and
the Hoopoes--Natives of the country round the Cataracts of the
Nile--Their appearance and Costume--The beautiful Mouna--Solitary
Visit to the Island of Philœ--Quarrel between two native
Boys--Singular instance of retributive Justice                       141


PART II.


JERUSALEM AND THE MONASTERY OF
ST. SABBA.

CHAPTER XIII.

Journey to Jerusalem--First View of the Holy City--The Valley
of Gihon--Appearance of the City--The Latin Convent of St.
Salvador--Inhospitable Reception by the Monks--Visit to the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre--Description of the Interior--The
Chapel of the Sepulchre--The Chapel of the Cross on Mount
Calvary--The Tomb and Sword of Godfrey de Bouillon--Arguments
in favour of the Authenticity of the Holy Sepulchre--The
Invention of the Cross by the Empress Helena--Legend of the
Cross                                                                165

CHAPTER XIV.

The Via Dolorosa--The Houses of Dives and of Lazarus--The Prison of St
Peter--The Site of the Temple of Solomon--The Mosque of Omar--The Hadjr
el Sakhara--The Greek Monastery--Its Library--Valuable
Manuscripts--Splendid MS. of the Book of Job--Arabic spoken at
Jerusalem--Mussulman Theory regarding the Crucifixion--State of the
Jews--Richness of their Dress in their own Houses--Beauty of their
Women--Their literal Interpretation of Scripture--The Service in the
Synagogue--Description of the House of a Rabbi--The Samaritans--Their
Roll of the Pentateuch--Arrival of Ibrahim Pasha at Jerusalem        181

CHAPTER XV.

Expedition to the Monastery of St. Sabba--Reports of Arab Robbers--The
Valley of Jehoshaphat--The Bridge of Al Sirat--Rugged
Scenery--An Arab Ambuscade--A successful Parley--The
Monastery of St. Sabba--History of the Saint--The Greek
Hermits--The Church--The Iconostasis--The Library--Numerous
MSS.--The Dead Sea--The Scene of the Temptation--Discovery--The
Apple of the Dead Sea--The Statements of
Strabo and Pliny confirmed                                           192

CHAPTER XVI.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre--Processions of the Copts--The
Syrian Maronites and the Greeks--Riotous Behaviour of the Pilgrims--Their
immense numbers--The Chant of the Latin Monks--Ibrahim
Pasha--The Exhibition of the Sacred Fire--Excitement
of the Pilgrims--The Patriarch obtains the Sacred Fire from the
Holy Sepulchre--Contest for the Holy Light--Immense sum paid
for the privilege of receiving it first--Fatal Effects of the Heat
and Smoke--Departure of Ibrahim Pasha--Horrible Catastrophe--Dreadful
Loss of Life among the Pilgrims in their endeavours
to leave the Church--Battle with the Soldiers--Our Narrow
Escape--Shocking Scene in the Court of the Church--Humane
Conduct of Ibrahim Pasha--Superstition of the Pilgrims regarding
Shrouds--Scallop Shells and Palm Branches--The Dead
Muleteer--Moonlight View of the Dead Bodies--The Curse on
Jerusalem--Departure from the Holy City                              208


PART III.


THE MONASTERIES OF METEORA.

CHAPTER XVII.

Albania--Ignorance at Corfu concerning that Country--Its reported
abundance of Game and Robbers--The Disturbed State of the
Country--The Albanians--Richness of their Arms--Their free
use of them--Comparative Safety of Foreigners--Tragic Fate of
a German Botanist--Arrival at Gominitza--Ride to Paramathia--A
Night's Bivouac--Reception at Paramathia--Albanian Ladies--Yanina--Albanian
Mode of settling a Quarrel--Expected
Attack from Robbers--A Body-Guard mounted--Audience with
the Vizir--His Views of Criminal Jurisprudence--Retinue of the
Vizir--His Troops--Adoption of the European Exercises--Expedition
to Berat--Calmness and Self-possession of the Turks--Active
Preparations for Warfare--Scene at the Bazaar--Valiant
Promises of the Soldiers                                             235

CHAPTER XVIII.

Start for Meteora--Rencontre with a Wounded Traveller--Barbarity
of the Robbers--Albanian Innkeeper--Effect of the
Turkish Language upon the Greeks--Mezzovo--Interview with
the chief Person in the Village--Mount Pindus--Capture by
Robbers--Salutary effects of Swaggering--Arrival under Escort
at the Robbers' Head-Quarters--Affairs take a favourable turn--An
unexpected Friendship with the Robber Chief--The Khan of
Malacash--Beauty of the Scenery--Activity of our Guards--Loss
of Character--Arrival at Meteora                                     257

CHAPTER XIX.

Meteora--The extraordinary Character of its Scenery--Its Caves formerly
the Resort of Ascetics--Barbarous Persecution of the Hermits--Their
extraordinary Religious Observances--Singular Position of the
Monasteries--The Monastery of Barlaam--The difficulty of reaching
it--Ascent by a Windlass and Net, or by Ladders--Narrow
Escape--Hospitable Reception by the Monks--The Agoumenos, or Abbot--His
strict Fast--Description of the Monastery--The Church--Symbolism in the
Greek Church--Respect for Antiquity--The Library--Determination of the
Abbot not to sell any of the MSS.--The Refectory--Its
Decorations--Aërial Descent--The Monastery of Hagios Stephanos--Its
Carved Iconostasis--Beautiful View from the Monastery--Monastery of Agia
Triada--Summary Justice at Triada--Monastery of Agia Roserea--Its Lady
Occupants--Admission refused                                         279

CHAPTER XX.

The great Monastery of Meteora--The Church--Ugliness of the
Portraits of Greek Saints--Greek Mode of Washing the Hands--A
Monastic Supper--Morning View from the Monastery--The
Library--Beautiful MSS.--Their Purchase--The Kitchen--Discussion
among the Monks as to the Purchase Money for the
MSS.--The MSS. reclaimed--A last look at their Beauties--Proposed
Assault of the Monastery by the Robber Escort                        298

CHAPTER XXI.

Return Journey--Narrow Escape--Consequences of Singing--Arrival
at the Khan of Malacash--Agreeable Anecdote--Parting
from the Robbers at Messovo--A Pilau--Wet Ride to
Paramathia--Accident to the Baggage-Mule--Its wonderful
Escape--Novel Costume--A Deputation--Return to Corfu                 312


PART IV.


THE MONASTERIES OF MOUNT ATHOS.

CHAPTER XXII.

Constantinople--The Patriarch's Palace--The Plague, Anecdotes,
Superstitions--The Two Jews--Interview with the Patriarch--Ceremonies
of Reception--The Patriarch's Misconception as to
the Archbishop of Canterbury--He addresses a Firman to the
Monks of Mount Athos--Preparations for Departure--The Ugly
Greek Interpreter--Mode of securing his Fidelity                     327

CHAPTER XXIII.

Coom Calessi--Uncomfortable Quarters--A Turkish Boat and its
Crew--Grandeur of the Scenery--Legend of Jason and the
Golden Fleece--The Island of Imbros--Heavy Rain Storm--A
Rough Sea--Lemnos--Bad Accommodation--The Old
Woman's Mattress and its Contents--Striking View of Mount
Athos from the Sea--The Hermit of the Tower                          342

CHAPTER XXIV.

Monastery of St. Laura--Kind Reception by the Abbot--Astonishment
of the Monks--History of the Monastery--Rules of
the Order of St. Basil--Description of the Buildings--Curious
Pictures of the Last Judgment--Early Greek Paintings; Richness
of their Frames and Decorations--Ancient Church Plate--Beautiful
Reliquary--The Refectory--The Abbot's Savoury
Dish--The Library--The MSS.--Ride to the Monastery of
Caracalla--Magnificent Scenery                                       356

CHAPTER XXV.

The Monastery of Caracalla--Its beautiful Situation--Hospitable
Reception--Description of the Monastery--Legend of its Foundation--The
Church--Fine Specimens of Ancient Jewellery--The
Library--The Value attached to the Books by the Abbot--He
agrees to sell some of the MSS.--Monastery of Philotheo--The
Great Monastery of Iveron--History of its Foundation--Its
magnificent Library--Ignorance of the Monks--Superb MSS.--The
Monks refuse to part with any of the MSS.--Beauty of the
Scenery of Mount Athos                                               377

CHAPTER XXVI.

The Monastery of Stavroniketa--The Library--Splendid MS. of
St. Chrysostom--The Monastery of Pantocratoras--Ruinous Condition
of the Library--Complete Destruction of the Books--Disappointment--Oration
to the Monks--The Great Monastery
of Vatopede--Its History--Ancient Pictures in the Church--Legend
of the Girdle of the Blessed Virgin--The Library--Wealth
and Luxury of the Monks--The Monastery of Sphigmenou--Beautiful
Jewelled Cross--The Monastery of Kiliantari--Magnificent
MS. in Gold Letters on White Vellum--The Monasteries
of Zographou, Castamoneta, Docheirou, and Xenophou--The
Exiled Bishops--The Library--Very fine MSS.--Proposals
for their Purchase--Lengthened Negotiations--Their successful
Issue                                                                391

CHAPTER XXVII.

The Monastery of Russico--Its Courteous Abbot--The Monastery
of Xeropotamo--Its History--High Character of its Abbot--Excursion
to the Monasteries of St. Nicholas and St. Dionisius--Interesting
Relics--Magnificent Shrine--The Library--The
Monastery of St. Paul--Respect shown by the Monks--Beautiful
MS.--Extraordinary Liberality and Kindness of the Abbot and
Monks--A valuable Acquisition at little Cost--The Monastery
of Simopetra--Purchase of MS.--The Monk of Xeropotamo--His
Ideas about Women--Excursion to Cariez--The Monastery
of Coutloumoussi--The Russian Book-Stealer--History of the
Monastery--Its reputed Destruction by the Pope of Rome--The
Aga of Cariez--Interview in a Kiosk--The She Cat of Mount
Athos                                                                413

CHAPTER XXVIII.

Caracalla--The Agoumenos--Curious Cross--The Nuts of Caracalla--Singular
Mode of preparing a Dinner Table--Departure
from Mount Athos--Packing of the MSS.--Difficulties of the
Way--Voyage to the Dardanelles--Apprehended Attack from
Pirates--Return to Constantinople                                    436

FOOTNOTES



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

     The costumes are from drawings made at Constantinople by a Maltese
     artist. They are all portraits, and represent the costumes worn at
     the present day in different parts of the Turkish Empire. The
     others are from drawings and sketches by the Author, except one
     from a beautiful drawing by Lord Eastnor, for which the Author begs
     to express his thanks and obligations.


THE MONASTERY OF METEORA, FROM THE MONASTERY
OF BARLAAM. FROM A DRAWING BY
VISCOUNT EASTNOR                                            _FRONTISPIECE_

INTERIOR OF THE COURT OF A GREEK MONASTER                 _Title Vignette_

KOORD, OR NATIVE OF KOORDISTAN                        _To face page_ xxix.

NEGRESS WAITING TO BE SOLD               "                              5

BEDOUIN ARAB                             "                              7

EGYPTIAN IN THE NIZAM DRESS              "                             49

INTERIOR OF AN ABYSSINIAN LIBRARY        "                             97

MENDICANT DERVISH                        "                            139

PLAN OF THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE,
JERUSALEM                                "                            165

THE MONASTERY OF ST. BARLAAM             "                            235

TATAR, OR GOVERNMENT MESSENGER           "                            237

TURKISH COMMON SOLDIER                   "                            251

THE N.W. VIEW OF THE PROMONTORY OF MOUNT ATHOS _To face Part IV., p._ 327

GREEK SAILOR                          _To face p._ 351

THE MONASTERY OF SIMOPETRA               "                            426

CIRCASSIAN LADY                          "                            429

TURKISH LADY IN THE YASHMAK OR VEIL      "                            434



INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER.


A more enlarged account of the Monasteries of the Levant would, I think,
be interesting for many reasons if the task was undertaken by some one
much more competent than myself to do justice to so curious a subject.
In these monasteries resided the early fathers of the Church, and within
the precincts of their time-hallowed walls were composed those writings
which have since been looked up to as the rules of Christian life: from
thence also were promulgated the doctrines of the Heresiarchs, which, in
the early ages of the Church, were the causes of so much dissension and
confusion, rancour and persecution, in the disastrous days of the
decline and fall of the Roman empire.

The monasteries of the East are besides particularly interesting to the
lovers of the picturesque, from the beautiful situations in which they
are almost invariably placed. The monastery of Megaspelion, on the coast
of the Gulf of Corinth, is built in the mouth of an enormous cave. The
monasteries of Meteora, and some of those on Mount Athos, are remarkable
for their positions on the tops of inaccessible rocks; many of the
convents in Syria, the islands of Cyprus, Candia, the Archipelago, and
the Prince's Islands in the Sea of Marmora, are unrivalled for the
beauty of the positions in which they stand; many others in Bulgaria,
Asia Minor, Sinope, and other places on the shores of the Black Sea, are
most curious monuments of ancient and romantic times. There is one on
the road to Persia, about one day's journey inland from Trebizond, which
is built half way up the side of a perpendicular precipice; it is
ensconced in several fissures of the rock, and various little gardens
adjoining the buildings display the industry of the monks; these are
laid out on shelves or terraces wherever the nature of the spot affords
a ledge of sufficient width to support the soil; the different parts of
the monastery are approached by stairs and flights of steps cut in the
face of the precipice, leading from one cranny to another; the whole has
the appearance of a bas-relief stuck against a wall; this monastery
partakes of the nature of a large swallow's nest. But it is for their
architecture that the monasteries of the Levant are more particularly
deserving of study; for, after the remains of the private houses of the
Romans at Pompeii, they are the most ancient specimens extant of
domestic architecture. The refectories, kitchens, and the cells of the
monks exceed in point of antiquity anything of the kind in Europe. The
monastery of St. Katherine at Mount Sinai has hardly been altered since
the sixth century, and still contains ornaments presented to it by the
Emperor Justinian. The White Monastery and the monastery at Old Cairo,
both in Egypt, are still more ancient. The monastery of Kuzzul Vank,
near the sources of the Euphrates, is, I believe, as old as the fifth
century. The greater number in all the countries where the Greek faith
prevails, were built before the year 1000. Most monasteries possess
crosses, candlesticks, and reliquaries, many of splendid workmanship,
and of the era of the foundation of the buildings which contain them,
while their mosaics and fresco paintings display the state of the arts
from the most early periods.

It has struck me as remarkable that the architecture of the churches in
these most ancient monasteries is hardly ever fine; they are usually
small, being calculated only for the monks, and not for the reception of
any other congregation. The Greek churches, even those which are not
monastic, are far inferior both in size and interest to the Latin
basilicas of Rome. With the single exception of the church (now mosque)
of St. Sophia, there is no Byzantine church of any magnitude. The
student of ecclesiastical antiquities need not extend his architectural
researches beyond the shores of Italy: there is nothing in the East so
curious as the church of St. Clemente at Rome, which contains all the
original fittings of the choir. The churches of St. Ambrogio at Milan,
of Sta. Maria Trastevere at Rome, the first church dedicated to the
Blessed Virgin; the church of St. Agnese near Rome, the first in which
galleries were built over the side aisles for the accommodation of
women, who, neither in the Eastern nor Western churches, ever mixed with
the men for many centuries; all these and several others in Italy afford
more instruction than those of the East--they are larger, more
magnificent, and in every respect superior to the ecclesiastical
buildings of the Levant. But the poverty of the Eastern church, and its
early subjection to Mahometan rulers, while it has kept down the size
and splendour of the churches, has at the same time been the means of
preserving the monastic establishments in all the rude originality of
their ancient forms. In ordinary situations these buildings are of the
same character: they resemble small villages, built mostly without much
regard to any symmetrical plan, around a church which is constructed in
the form of a Greek cross; the roof is covered either with one or five
domes; all these buildings are surrounded by a high, strong wall, built
as a fortification to protect the brotherhood within, not without
reason, even in the present day. I have been quietly dining in a
monastery, when shouts have been heard, and shots have been fired
against the stout bulwarks of the outer walls, which, thanks to their
protection, had but little effect in delaying the transit of the morsel
between my fingers into the ready gulf provided by nature for its
reception. The monks of the Greek Church have diminished in number and
wealth of late years, their monasteries are no longer the schools of
learning which they used to be; few can read the Hellenic or ancient
Greek; and the following anecdote will suffice to show the estimation in
which a conventual library has not unusually been held. A Russian, or I
do not know whether he was not a French traveller, in the pursuit, as I
was, of ancient literary treasures, found himself in a great monastery
in Bulgaria to the north of the town of Cavalla; he had heard that the
books preserved in this remote building were remarkable for their
antiquity, and for the subjects on which they treated. His dismay and
disappointment may be imagined when he was assured by the agoumenos or
superior of the monastery, that it contained no library whatever, that
they had nothing but the liturgies and church books, and no palaia
pragmata or antiquities at all. The poor man had bumped upon a
pack-saddle over villainous roads for many days for no other object, and
the library of which he was in search had vanished as the visions of a
dream. The agoumenos begged his guest to enter with the monks into the
choir, where the almost continual church service was going on, and there
he saw the double row of long-bearded holy fathers, shouting away at the
chorus of κυριε ελεισον, χριστε ελεισον (pronounced Kyre eleizon,
Christe eleizon), which occurs almost every minute, in the ritual of
the Greek Church. Each of the monks was standing, to save his bare legs
from the damp of the marble floor, upon a great folio volume, which had
been removed from the conventual library and applied to purposes of
practical utility in the way which I have described. The traveller on
examining these ponderous tomes found them to be of the greatest value;
one was in uncial letters, and others were full of illuminations of the
earliest date; all these he was allowed to carry away in exchange for
some footstools or hassocks, which he presented in their stead to the
old monks; they were comfortably covered with ketché or felt, and were
in many respects more convenient to the inhabitants of the monastery
than the manuscripts had been, for many of their antique bindings were
ornamented with bosses and nail heads, which inconvenienced the toes of
the unsophisticated congregation who stood upon them without shoes for
so many hours in the day. I must add that the lower halves of the
manuscripts were imperfect, from the damp of the floor of the church
having corroded and eat away their vellum leaves, and also that, as the
story is not my own, I cannot vouch for the truth of it, though, whether
it is true or not, it elucidates the present state of the literary
attainments of the Oriental monks. Ignorance and superstition walk hand
in hand, and the monks of the Eastern churches seem to retain in these
days all the love for the marvellous which distinguished their Western
brethren in the middle ages. Miraculous pictures abound, as well as holy
springs and wells. Relics still perform wonderful cures. I will only as
an illustration to this statement mention one of the standing objects of
veneration which may be witnessed any day in the vicinity of the castle
of the Seven Towers, outside of the walls of Constantinople: there a
rich monastery stands in a lovely grove of trees, under whose shade
numerous parties of merry Greeks often pass the day, dividing their time
between drinking, dancing, and devotion.

The unfortunate Emperor Constantine Paleologus rode out of the city
alone to reconnoitre the outposts of the Turkish army, which was
encamped in the immediate vicinity. In passing through a wood he found
an old man seated by the side of a spring cooking some fish on a
gridiron for his dinner; the emperor dismounted from his white horse and
entered into conversation with the other; the old man looked up at the
stranger in silence, when the emperor inquired whether he had heard
anything of the movements of the Turkish forces--"Yes," said he, "they
have this moment entered the city of Constantinople." "I would believe
what you say," replied the emperor, "if the fish which you are broiling
would jump off the gridiron into the spring." This, to his amazement,
the fish immediately did, and, on his turning round, the figure of the
old man had disappeared. The emperor mounted his horse and rode towards
the gate of Silivria, where he was encountered by a band of the enemy
and slain, after a brave resistance, by the hand of an Arab or a Negro.

The broiled fishes still swim about in the water of the spring, the
sides of which have been lined with white marble, in which are certain
recesses where they can retire when they do not wish to receive company.
The only way of turning the attention of these holy fish to the
respectful presence of their adorers is accomplished by throwing
something glittering into the water, such as a handful of gold or silver
coin; gold is the best, copper produces no effect; he that sees one fish
is lucky, he that sees two or three goes home a happy man; but the
custom of throwing coins into the spring has become, from its constant
practice, very troublesome to the good monks, who kindly depute one of
their community to rake out the money six or seven times a day with a
scraper at the end of a long pole. The emperor of Russia has sent
presents to the shrine of Baloukli, so called from the Turkish word
Balouk, a fish. Some wicked heretics have said that these fishes are
common perch: either they or the monks must be mistaken, but of whatever
kind they are, they are looked upon with reverence by the Greeks, and
have been continually held in the highest honour from the time of the
siege of Constantinople to the present day.

I have hitherto noticed those monasteries only which are under the
spiritual jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, but those of
the Copts of Egypt and the Maronites of Syria resemble them in almost
every particular. As it has never been the custom of the Oriental
Christians to bury the dead within the precincts of the church, they
none of them contain sepulchral monuments. The bodies of the Byzantine
emperors were enclosed in sarcophagi of precious marbles, which were
usually deposited in chapels erected for the purpose--a custom which has
been imitated by the sultans of Turkey. Of all these magnificent
sarcophagi and chapels or mausoleums where the remains of the imperial
families were deposited, only one remains intact; every one but this has
been violated, destroyed, or carried away; the ashes of the Cæsars have
been scattered to the winds. This is now known by the name of the chapel
of St. Nazario e Celso, at Ravenna: it was built by Galla Placidia, the
daughter of Theodosius; she died at Rome in 440, but her body was
removed to Ravenna and deposited in a sarcophagus in this chapel; in the
same place are two other sarcophagi, one containing the remains of
Constantius, the second husband of Galla Placidia, and the other holding
the body of her son Valentinian III. These tombs have never been
disturbed, and are the only ones which remain intact of the entire line
of the Cæsars, either of the Eastern or Western empires.

The tombstones or monuments of the Armenians deserve to be mentioned on
account of their singularity. They are usually oblong pieces of marble
lying flat upon the ground; on these are sculptured representations of
the implements of the trade at which the deceased had worked during his
lifetime; some display the manner in which the Armenian met his death.
In the Petit Champ des Morts at Pera I counted, I think, five tombstones
with bas-reliefs of men whose heads had been cut off. In Armenia the
traveller is often startled by the appearance of a gigantic stone figure
of a ram, far away from any present habitation: this is the tomb of some
ancient possessor of flocks and herds whose house and village have
disappeared, and nothing but his tomb remains to mark the site which
once was the abode of men.

[Illustration: KOORD, OR NATIVE OF KOORDISTAUN.]

The Armenian monasteries, with the exception of that of Etchmiazin and
one or two others, are much smaller buildings than those of the Greeks;
they are constructed after the same model, however, being surrounded
with a high blank wall. Their churches are seldom surmounted by a dome,
but are usually in the form of a small barn, with a high pitched roof,
built like the walls of large squared stones. At one end of the church
is a small door, and at the other end a semicircular apsis; the windows
are small apertures like loop-holes. These buildings, though of
very small size, have an imposing appearance from their air of
massive strength. The cells of the Armenian monks look into the
courtyard, which is a remarkable fact in that country, where the rest of
the inhabitants dwell in burrows underground like rabbits, and keep
themselves alive during the long winters of their rigorous climate by
the warmth proceeding from the cattle with whom they live, for fire is
dear in a land too cold for trees to grow. The monasteries of the
various sects of Christians who inhabit the mountains of Koordistaun are
very numerous, and all more or less alike. Perched on the tops of crags,
in these wild regions are to be seen the monastic fastnesses of the
Chaldeans, who of late have been known by the name of Nestorians, the
seat of whose patriarchate is at Julamerk. They have now been almost
exterminated by Beder Khan Bey, a Koordish chief, in revenge for the
cattle which they were alleged to have stolen from the Koordish villages
in their vicinity. The Jacobites, the Sabæans, and the Christians of St.
John, who inhabit the banks of the Euphrates in the districts of the
ancient Susiana, all have fortified monasteries which are mostly of
great antiquity. From Mount Ararat to Bagdat, the different sects of
Christians still retain the faith of the Redeemer, whom they have
worshipped according to their various forms, some of them for more than
fifteen hundred years; the plague, the famine, and the sword have
passed over them and left them still unscathed, and there is little
doubt but that they will maintain the position which they have held so
long till the now not far distant period arrives when the conquered
empire of the Greeks will again be brought under the dominion of a
Christian emperor.



MONASTERIES OF THE LEVANT.

PART I.

EGYPT IN 1833.



CHAPTER I.

     Navarino--The Wrecks of the Turkish and Egyptian
     Fleets--Alexandria--An Arab Pilot--Intense Heat--Scene from the
     Hotel Windows--The Water-Carriers--A Procession--A Bridal
     Party--Violent mode of clearing the Road--Submissive Behaviour of
     the People--Astonishing Number of Donkeys--Bedouin Arabs; their
     wild and savage appearance--Early Hours--Visit to the Pasha's Prime
     Minister, Boghos Bey; hospitable reception--Kawasses and Chaoushes;
     their functions and powers--The Yassakjis--The Minister's Audience
     Chamber--Walmas; anecdote of his saving the life of Boghos Bey.


It was towards the end of July, 1833, that I took a passage from Malta
to Alexandria in a merchant-vessel called the _Fortuna_; for in those
days there were no steam-packets traversing every sea, with almost the
same rapidity and accuracy as railway carriages on shore. We touched on
our way at Navarino to sell some potatoes to the splendidly-dressed, and
half-starved population of the Morea, numbers of whom we found lounging
about in a temporary wooden bazaar, where there was nothing to sell. In
various parts of the harbour the wrecks of the Turkish and Egyptian
ships of war, stripped of their outer coverings, and looking like the
gigantic skeletons of antediluvian animals, gave awful evidence of the
destruction which had taken place not very long before in the battle
between the Christian and Mahomedan fleets in this calm, land-locked
harbour.

On the 31st we found ourselves approaching the castle of Alexandria, and
were soon hailed by some people in a curious-looking pilot-boat with a
lateen sail. The pilot was an old man with a turban and a long grey
beard, and sat cross-legged in the stern of his boat. We looked at him
with vast interest, as the first live specimen we had seen of an Arab
sailor. He was just the sort of man that I imagine Sindbad the Sailor
must have been.

Having by his directions been steered safely into the harbour, we cast
anchor not far from the shore, a naked, dusty plain, which the blazing
sun seemed to dare any one to cross, on pain of being shrivelled up
immediately. The intensity of the heat was tremendous: the tar melted in
the seams of the deck: we could scarcely bear it even when we were under
the awning. Malta was hot enough, but the temperature there was cool in
comparison to the fiery furnace in which we were at present grilling.
However, there was no help for it; so, having got our luggage on shore,
we sweltered through the streets to an inn called the Tre Anchore--the
only hotel in Africa, I believe, in those days. It was a dismal little
place, frequented by the captains of merchant-vessels, who, not being
hot enough already, raised the temperature of their blood by drinking
brandy-and-water, arrack, and other combustibles, in a dark, oven-like
room below stairs.

We took possession of all the rooms upstairs, of which the principal one
was long and narrow, with two windows at the end, opening on to a
covered balcony or verandah: this overlooked the principal street and
the bazaar. Here my companion and I soon stationed ourselves and watched
the novel and curious scene below; and strange indeed to the eye of an
European, when for the first time he enters an Oriental city, is all he
sees around him. The picturesque dresses, the buildings, the palm-trees,
the camels, the people of various nations, with their long beards, their
arms, and turbans, all unite to form a picture which is indelibly fixed
in the memory. Things which have since become perfectly familiar to us
were then utterly incomprehensible, and we had no one to explain them to
us, for the one waiter of the poor inn, who was darting about in his
shirt-sleeves after the manner of all waiters, never extended his
answers to our questions beyond "Si, Signore," so we got but little
information from him; however, we did not make use of our eyes the less
for that.

[Illustration: NEGRESS WAITING TO BE SOLD IN THE SLAVE BAZAAR, CAIRO]

Among the first things we noticed, was the number of half-naked men who
went running about, each with something like a dead pig under his arm,
shouting out "Mother! mother!"[1] with a doleful voice. These were the
sakis or water-carriers, with their goat-skins of the precious element,
a bright brass cupful of which they sell for a small coin to the thirsty
passengers. An old man with a fan in his hand made of a palm-branch, who
was crumpled up in the corner of a sort of booth among a heap of dried
figs, raisins, and dates, just opposite our window, was an object of
much speculation to us how he got in, and how he would ever manage to
get out of the niche into which he was so closely wedged. He was the
merchant, as the Arabian Nights would call him, or the shopkeeper as we
should say, who sat there cross-legged among his wares waiting patiently
for a customer, and keeping off the flies in the meanwhile, as in due
time we discovered that all merchants did in all countries of the East.
Soon there came slowly by, a long procession of men on horseback with
golden bridles and velvet trappings, and women muffled up in black silk
wrappers; how they could bear them, hot as it was, astonished us. These
ladies sat upon a pile of cushions placed so high above the backs of the
donkeys on which they rode that their feet rested on the animal's
shoulders. Each donkey was led by one man, while another walked by its
side with his hand upon the crupper. With the ladies were two little
boys covered with diamonds, mounted on huge fat horses, and
ensconced in high-backed Mameluke saddles made of silver gilt. These
boys we afterwards found out were being conducted in state to a house of
their relations, where the rite of circumcision was to be performed. Our
attention was next called to something like a four-post bed, with pink
gauze curtains, which advanced with dignified slowness, preceded by a
band of musicians, who raised a dire and fearful discord by the aid of
various windy engines. This was a canopy, the four poles of which were
supported by men, who held it over the heads of a bride and her two
bridesmaids or friends, who walked on each side of her. The bride was
not veiled in the usual way, as her friends were, but was muffled up in
Cashmere shawls from head to foot. Something there was on the top of her
head which gleamed like gold or jewels, but the rest of her person was
so effectually wrapped up and concealed that no one could tell whether
she was pretty or ugly, fat or thin, old or young; and although we gave
her credit for all the charms which should adorn a bride, we rejoiced
when the villainous band of music which accompanied her turned round a
corner and went out of hearing.

Some miserable-looking black slaves caught our attention, clothed each
in a piece of Isabel-coloured canvas and led by a well-dressed man, who
had probably just bought them. Then a great personage came by on
horseback with a number of mounted attendants and some men on foot, who
cleared the way before him, and struck everybody on the head with their
sticks who did not get out of the way fast enough. These blows were
dealt all round in the most unceremonious manner; but what appeared to
us extraordinary was, that all these beaten people did not seem to care
for being beat. They looked neither angry nor affronted, but only
grinned and rubbed their shoulders, and moved on one side to let the
train of the great man pass by. Now if this were done in London, what a
ferment would it create! what speeches would be made about tyranny and
oppression! what a capital thing some high-minded and independent
patriot would make of it! how he would call a meeting to defend the
rights of the subject! and how he would get his admirers to vote him a
piece of plate for his noble and glorious exertions! Here nobody minded
the thing; they took no heed of the indignity; and I verily believe my
friend and I, who were safe up at the window, were the only persons in
the place who felt any annoyance.

The prodigious multitude of donkeys formed another strange feature in
the scene. There were hundreds of them, carrying all sorts of things in
panniers; and some of the smallest were ridden by men so tall that they
were obliged to hold up their legs that their feet might not touch the
ground. Donkeys, in short, are the carts of Egypt and the
hackney-coaches of Alexandria.

[Illustration: BEDOUIN ARAB.]

In addition to the donkeys long strings of ungainly-looking camels were
continually passing, generally preceded by a donkey, and accompanied by
swarthy men clad in a short shirt with a red and yellow handkerchief
tied in a peculiar way over their heads, and wearing sandals; these
savage-looking people were Bedouins, or Arabs of the desert. A very
truculent set they seemed to be, and all of them were armed with a long
crooked knife and a pistol or two, stuck in a red leathern girdle. They
were thin, gaunt, and dirty, and strode along looking fierce and
independent. There was something very striking in the appearance of
these untamed Arabs: I had never pictured to myself that anything so
like a wild beast could exist in human form. The motions of their
half-naked bodies were singularly free and light, and they looked as if
they could climb, and run, and leap over anything. The appearance of
many of the older Arabs, with their long white beard and their ample
cloak of camel's hair, called an abba, is majestic and venerable. It was
the first time that I had seen these "Children of the Desert," and the
quickness of their eyes, their apparent freedom from all restraint, and
their disregard of any conventional manners, struck me forcibly. An
English gentleman in a round hat and a tight neck-handkerchief and
boots, with white gloves and a little cane in his hand, was a style of
man so utterly and entirely unlike a Bedouin Arab that I could hardly
conceive the possibility of their being only different species of the
same animal.

After we had dined, being tired with the heat and the trouble we had had
in getting our luggage out of the ship, I resolved to retire to bed at
an early hour, and on going to the window to have another look at the
crowd, I was surprised to find that there was scarcely anybody left in
the streets, for these primitive people all go to bed when it gets dark,
as the birds do; and except a few persons walking home with paper
lanterns in their hands, the place seemed almost entirely deserted.

The next morning, mounted on donkeys, we shambled across half the city
to the residence of Boghos Bey, the Armenian prime minister of Mohammed
Ali Pasha; we were received with great kindness and civility, and as at
this time there had been but very few European travellers in Egypt, we
were treated with distinguished hospitality. The Bey said that although
the Pasha was then in Upper Egypt, he would take care that we should
have every facility in seeing all the objects of interest, and that he
would write to Habeeb Effendi, the Governor of Cairo, to acquaint him of
our arrival, and direct him to let us have the use of the Pasha's
horses, that kawasses should attend us, and that the Pasha would give us
a firman, which would ensure our being well treated throughout the whole
of his dominions.

As a kawass is a person mentioned by all Oriental travellers, it may be
as well to state that he is a sort of armed servant or body-guard
belonging to the government; he bears as his badge of office a thick
cane about four feet long, with a large silver head, with which
instrument he occasionally enforces his commands and supports his
authority as well as his person. Ambassadors, consuls, and occasionally
travellers, are attended by kawasses. Their presence shows that the
person they accompany is protected by the State, and their number
indicates his dignity and rank. Formerly these kawasses were splendidly
attired in embroidered dresses, and their arms and the accoutrements of
their horses were of silver gilt: the ambassador at Constantinople has,
I think, six of these attendants. Of late years their picturesque
costume has been changed to a uniform frock-coat of European make, of a
whity-brown colour.

[Illustration: Silver head of staff.]

There is a higher grade of officer of the same description, who is only
to be met with at Court, and whose functions are nearly the same as
those of a chamberlain with us. He is called a chaoush. His official
staff is surmounted by a silver head, formed like a Greek bishop's
staff, from the two horns of which several little round bells are
suspended by a silver chain. The chaoush is a personage of great
authority in certain things; he is a kind of living firman, before whom
every one makes way. As I was desirous of seeing the shrine of the heads
of Hassan and Hussein in the mosque of Hassan En, a place of peculiar
sanctity at Cairo, into which no Christian had been admitted, the Pasha
sent a chaoush with me, who concealed the head of his staff in his
clothes, to be ready, in case it had been discovered that I was not a
Mahomedan, to protect me from the fury of the devotees, who would
probably have torn to pieces any unbeliever who intruded into the temple
of the sons of Ali.

Besides these two officers, the chaoush and kawass, there is another
attendant upon public men, who is of inferior rank, and is called a
yassakji, or forbidder; he looks like a dirty kawass, and has a stick,
but without the silver knob. He is generally employed to carry messages,
and push people out of the way, to make a passage for you through a
crowd; but this kind of functionary is more frequently seen at
Constantinople and the northern parts of Turkey than in Egypt.

We found Boghos Bey in a large upper room, seated on a divan with two or
three persons to whom he was speaking, while the lower end of the room
was occupied by a crowd of chaoushes, kawasses, and hangers-on of all
descriptions. We were served with coffee, pipes, and sherbet, and were
entertained during the pauses of the conversation by the ticking and
chiming of half a dozen clocks which stood about the room, some on the
floor, some on the side-tables, and some stuck on brackets against the
wall.

One of the persons seated near the prime minister was a shrewd-looking
man with one eye, of whom I was afterwards told the following anecdote.
His name was Walmas; he had been an Armenian merchant, and was an old
acquaintance of Mohammed Ali and of Boghos, before they had either of
them risen to their present importance. Soon after the massacre of the
Mamelukes, Mohammed Ali desired Boghos to procure him a large sum of
money by a certain day, which Boghos declared was impossible at so short
a notice. The Pasha, angry at being thwarted, swore that if he had not
the money by the day he had named, he would have Boghos drowned in the
Nile. The affrighted minister made every effort to collect the requisite
sum, but when the day arrived much was wanting to complete it. Boghos
stood before the Pasha, who immediately exclaimed, "Well! where is the
money?" "Sir," replied Boghos, "I have not been able to get it all! I
have procured all this, but, though I strained every nerve, and took
every measure in my power, it was impossible to obtain the remainder."
"What," exclaimed the Pasha, "you dog, have you not obeyed my commands?
What is the use of a minister who cannot produce all the money wanted by
his sovereign, at however short a notice? Here, put this unbeliever in
a sack, and fling him into the Nile." This scene occurred in the citadel
at Cairo; and an officer and some men immediately put him into a sack,
threw it across a donkey, and proceeded to the Nile. As they were
passing through the city, they were met by Walmas, who was attended by
several servants, and who, seeing something moving in the sack which was
laid across the donkey, asked the guards what they had got there. "Oh!"
said the officer, "we have got Boghos, the Armenian, and we are going to
throw him into the Nile, by his Highness the Pasha's order." "What has
he done?" asked Walmas. "What do we know?" replied the officer;
"something about money, I believe: no great thing, but his Highness has
been in a bad humour lately. He will be sorry for it afterwards.
However, we have our orders, and, therefore, please God, we are going to
pitch him into the Nile." Walmas determined to rescue his old friend,
and, assisted by his servants, immediately attacked the guard, who made
little more than a show of resistance. Boghos was carried off, and
concealed in a safe place, and the guards returned to the citadel and
reported that they had pitched Boghos into the Nile, where he had sunk,
as all should do who disobeyed the commands of his Highness. Some time
afterwards, the Pasha, overcome by financial difficulties, was heard to
say that he wished Boghos was still alive. Walmas, who was present,
after some preliminary conversation (for the ground was rather
dangerous), said that if his own pardon was insured, he could mention
something respecting Boghos which he was sure would be agreeable to his
Highness: and at last he owned that he had rescued him from the guards
and had kept him concealed in his house in hopes of being allowed to
restore so valuable a servant to his master. The Pasha was delighted at
the news, instantly reinstated Boghos in all his former honours, and
Walmas himself stood higher than ever in his favour; but the guards were
executed for disobedience. Ever since that time Boghos Bey has continued
to be the principal minister and most confidential adviser of Mohammed
Ali Pasha.



CHAPTER II.

     Rapacity of the Dragomans--The Mahmoudieh Canal--The Nile at
     Atfeh--The muddy Waters of the Nile--Richness of the Soil--Accident
     to the Boatmen--Night Sailing--A Collision--A Vessel run
     down--Escape of the Crew--Solemn Investigation--Final
     Judgment--Curious Mode of Fishing--Tameness of the Birds--Jewish
     Malefactors--Moving Pillar of Sand--Arrival at Cairo--Hospitable
     Reception by the Consul-General.


So long as there were no hotels in Egypt, the process of fleecing the
unwary traveller was conducted on different principles from those
followed in Europe. As he seldom understands the language, he requires
an interpreter, or dragoman, who, as a matter of course, manages all his
pecuniary affairs. The newly-arrived European eats and drinks whatever
his dragoman chooses to give him; sees through his dragoman's eyes;
hears through his ears; and, although he thinks himself master, is, in
fact, only a part of the property of this Eastern servant, to be used by
him as he thinks fit, and turned to the best account like any other real
or personal estate.

On our landing at Alexandria, my friend and I found ourselves in the
same predicament as our predecessors, and straightway fell into the
hands of these Philistines, two of whom we hired as interpreters. They
were also to act as ciceroni, and were warranted to know all about the
antiquities, and everything else in Egypt; they were to buy everything
we wanted, to spend our money, and to allow no one to cheat us except
themselves. One of these worthies was sent to engage a boat, to carry us
down the Mahmoudieh Canal to Atfeh, where the canal is separated from
the river by flood-gates, in consequence of which impediment we could
not proceed in the same boat, but had to hire a larger one to take us on
to Cairo.

The banks of the canal being high, we had no view of the country as we
passed along; but on various occasions when I ascended to the top of the
bank, while the men who towed the boat rested from their labours, I saw
nothing but great sandy flats interspersed with large pools of stagnant,
muddy water. This prospect not being very charming, we were glad to
arrive the next day on the shores of the Father of Rivers, whose swollen
stream, although at Atfeh not more than half a mile in width, rolled by
towards the north in eddies and whirlpools of smooth muddy water, in
colour closely resembling a sea of mutton-broth.

In my enthusiasm on arriving on the margin of this venerable river, I
knelt down to drink some of it, and was disappointed in finding it by no
means so good as I had always been told it was. On complaining of its
muddy taste, I found that no one drank the water of the Nile till it had
stood a day or two in a large earthen jar, the inside of which is
rubbed with a paste of bitter almonds. This causes all impurities to be
precipitated, and the water, thus treated, becomes the lightest,
clearest, and most excellent in the world. At Atfeh, after a prodigious
uproar between the men of our two boats, each set claiming to be paid
for transporting the luggage, we set sail upon the Nile, and after
proceeding a short distance, we stopped at a village, or small town, to
buy some fruit. Here the surrounding country, a flat alluvial plain, was
richly cultivated. Water-melons, corn, and all manner of green herbs
flourished luxuriantly; everything looked delightfully fresh and green;
flocks of pigeons were flying about; and multitudes of white spoonbills
and other strange birds were stalking among the herbage, and rising
around us in every direction. The fertility of the land appeared
prodigious, and exceeded anything I had seen before. Numberless boats
were passing on the river, and the general aspect of the scene betokened
the wealth and plenty which would reward the toils of the agriculturist
under any settled form of government. We returned to our boat loaded
with fruit, among which were the Egyptian fig, the prickly pear, dates,
limes, and melons of kinds that were new to us.

Whilst we were discussing the merits of these refreshing productions, a
board, which had been fastened on the outside of the vessel for four or
five men to stand on, as they pushed the boat with poles through the
shallow water, suddenly gave way, and the men fell into the river: they
could, however, all swim like water-rats, and were soon on board again;
when, putting out into the middle of the stream, we set two huge
triangular lateen sails on our low masts, which raked forwards instead
of backwards, and by the help of the wind made our way slowly towards
the south. We slept in a small cabin in the stern of our vessel; this
had a flat top, and formed the resting-place of the steersman, the
captain of the ship, and our servants, who all lay down together on some
carpets; the sailors slept upon the deck. We sailed on steadily all
night; the stars were wonderfully bright; and I looked out upon the
broad river and the flat silent shores, diversified here and there by a
black-looking village of mud huts, surrounded by a grove of palms,
whence the distant baying of the dogs was brought down upon the wind.
Sometimes there was the cry of a wild bird, but soon again the only
sound was the gentle ripple of the water against the sides of our boat.
If the steersman was not asleep, every one else was; but still we glided
on, and nothing occurred to disturb our repose, till the blazing light
of the morning sun recalled us to activity, and all the bustling
preparations for breakfast.

We had sailed on for some time after this important event, and I was
quietly reading in the shade of the cabin, when I was thrown backwards
by the sudden stopping of the vessel, which struck against something
with prodigious force, and screams of distress arose from the water all
around us. On rushing upon deck I found that we had run down another
boat, which had sunk so instantly that nothing was to be seen of it
except the top of the mast, whose red flag was fluttering just above
water, and to which two women were clinging. A few yards astern seven or
eight men were swimming towards the shore, and our steersman having in
his alarm left the rudder to its own devices, our great sails were
swinging and flapping over our heads. There was a cry that our bows were
stove in, and we were sinking; but, fortunately, before this could
happen, the stream had carried us ashore, where we stuck in the mud on a
shoal under a high bank, up which we all soon scrambled, glad to be on
terra firma. The country people came running down to satisfy their
curiosity, and we procured a small boat, which immediately rowed off to
rescue the women who were still clinging to the mast-head of the sunken
vessel, which was one of the kind called a djerm, and was laden with
thirty tons of corn, besides other goods. No one, luckily, was drowned,
though the loss was a serious one to the owners, for there was no chance
of recovering either the vessel or the cargo. Whilst we were looking,
the red flag to which the women had been clinging toppled over sideways,
which completed the entire disappearance of the unfortunate djerm.

Our reis, or captain, now returned to the roof of the cabin, where he
sat down upon a mat, and lighting his pipe, smoked away steadily without
saying a word, while the wet and dripping sailors, as well as the ladies
belonging to the shipwrecked vessel, surrounded him, screaming,
vociferating, and shouting all manner of invectives into his ears; in
which employment they were effectively joined by a number of half-naked
Arabs who had been cultivating the fields hard by. To all this they got
no answer, beyond an occasional ejaculation of "God is great, and
Mohammed is the prophet of God." His pipe was out before the clamour of
the crowd had abated, and then, all of a sudden, he got up and with two
or three others embarked in the little boat for a neighbouring village,
to report the accident to the sheick, who, we were told, would return
with him and inquire into the circumstances of the case.

In about three hours the boat returned with the local authorities, two
old villagers, in long blue shirts and dirty turbans, who took their
seat upon a mat on the bank and smoked away in a serious manner for some
time. Our captain made no more reply to the fresh accusations of the
reassembled multitude than he had done before; but lit another pipe, and
asserted that God was great. At last the two elders made signs that they
intended to speak; and silence being obtained, they, with all due
solemnity, declared that they agreed with the captain that God was
great, and that undoubtedly Mohammed was the prophet of God. All parties
having come to this conclusion, it appeared that there was nothing more
to be said, and we returned to our boat, which the sailors, with the
help of a rough carpenter, had patched up sufficiently to allow us to
sail for a village on the other side of the river.

During the time that we were remaining on the bank I was amused by
watching the manœuvres of some boys, who succeeded in catching a
quantity of small fish in a very original way. They rolled together a
great quantity of tangled weeds and long grass, with one end of which
they swam out into the Nile, and bringing it back towards the shore,
numerous unsuspecting fish were entangled in the mass of weeds, and were
picked out and thrown on the bank by the young fishermen before they had
time to get out of the scrape. In this way the boys secured a very
respectable heap of small fry.

We arrived safely at the village, where we stayed the night; but the
next morning it appeared that the bows of our vessel were so much
damaged that she could not be repaired under a delay of some days.
Indeed, it appeared that we had been fortunate in accomplishing our
passage across the river, for if we had foundered midway, not being able
to swim like the amphibious Egyptians, we should probably have been
drowned. It was, however, a relief to me to think that there were no
crocodiles in this part of the Nile.

The birds at this place appeared to be remarkably tame: some gulls, or
waterfowl, hardly troubled themselves to move out of the way when a boat
passed them; while those in the fields went on searching among the crops
for insects close to the labourers, and without any of the alarm shown
by birds in England.

While we were dawdling about in the neighbourhood of the village, one of
the servants, an old Maltese, discovered a boat with ten or twelve oars,
lying in the vicinity. It belonged to the government, and was conveying
two malefactors to Cairo under the guardianship of a kawass, who on
learning our mishap gave us a passage in his boat, and to our great joy
we bid adieu to our silent captain, and were soon rowing at a great
rate, in a fine new canjah, on the way to Cairo. The two prisoners on
board were Jews: one was taken up for cheating, and the other for using
false weights. They were fastened together by the neck, with a chain
about five feet long. One of the two was very restless; they said he had
a good chance of being hanged; and he was always pulling the other
unfortunate Hebrew about with him by the chain, in a manner which
excited the mirth of the sailors, though it must have been anything but
amusing to the person most concerned.

The next day there was a hot wind, and the thermometer stood at 98° in
the shade. The kawass called our attention to a pillar of sand moving
through the air in the desert to the south-east; it had an extraordinary
appearance, and its effect upon a party travelling over those burning
plains would have been terrific. It was evidently caused by a whirlwind,
and men and camels are sometimes suffocated and overwhelmed when they
are met by these columns of dry, heated sand, which stalk through the
deserts like the evil genii of the storm. I have seen them in other
countries, more particularly in Armenia; but this, which I saw on my
first journey up the Nile, was the only moving pillar which I met with
in Egypt or in any of the surrounding deserts. We passed two men fishing
from a small triangular raft, composed of palm-branches fastened on the
tops of a number of earthen vases. This raft had a remarkably light
appearance; it seemed only just to touch the surface of the water, but
was evidently badly calculated for such rude encounters as the one which
we had lately experienced. Soon afterwards the tops of the great
Pyramids of Giseh caught our admiring gaze, and in the morning of the
12th of August we landed at Boulac, from which a ride of half an hour on
donkeys brought our party to the hospitable mansion of the
Consul-General, who was good enough to receive us in his house until we
could procure quarters for ourselves.

Having arrived at Cairo, a short account of the history of the city may
be interesting to some readers. In the sixth and seventh centuries of
our era this part of Egypt was inhabited principally by Coptic
Christians, whose chief occupation consisted in quarrelling among
themselves on polemical points of divinity and ascetic rule. The deserts
of Nitria and the shores of the Red Sea were peopled with swarms of
monks, some living together in monasteries, some in lavras, or monastic
villages, and multitudes hiding their sanctity in dens and caves, where
they passed their lives in abstract meditation. In the year 638 the
Arabian general Amer ebn el As, with four hundred Arabs (see Wilkinson),
advanced to the confines of Egypt, and after thirty days' siege took
possession of Pelusium, which had been the barrier of the country on the
Syrian side from the earliest periods of the Egyptian monarchy: he
advanced without opposition to the city of Babylon, which occupied the
site of Masr el Ateekeh, or Old Cairo, on the Nile; but the Roman
station, which is now a Coptic monastery, containing a chamber said to
have been occupied by the blessed Virgin, was so strong a fortress that
the invaders were unable to effect an entrance in a siege of seven
months. After this, a reinforcement of four hundred men arriving at
their camp, their courage revived, and the castle of Babylon was taken
by escalade. On the site of the Arabian encampment at Fostat, Amer
founded the first mosque built on Egyptian soil. The town of Babylon
was connected with the island of Rhoda by a bridge of boats, by which a
communication was kept up with the city of Memphis, on the other side of
the Nile. The Copts, whose religious fanaticism occasioned them to hate
their masters, the Greeks of the Eastern Empire, more than the
Mahomedans, welcomed the moment which promised to free them from their
religious adversaries; and the traitor John Mecaukes, governor of
Memphis, persuaded them to conclude a treaty with the invaders, by which
it was stipulated that two dinars of gold should be paid for every
Christian above sixteen years of age, with the exception of old men,
women, and monks. From this time Fostat became the Arabian capital of
Egypt. In the year 879 Sultan Tayloon, or Tooloon, built himself a
palace, to which he added several residences or barracks for his guards,
and the great mosque, which still exists, with pointed arches, between
Fostat and the present citadel of Cairo. It was not, however, till the
year 969 that Goher, the general of El Moez, Sultan of Kairoan, near
Tunis, having invaded Egypt, and completely subdued the country, founded
a new city near the citadel of Qattaeea, which acquired the name of El
Kahira from the following circumstance. The architect having made his
arrangements for laying the first stone of the new wall, waited for the
fortunate moment, which was to be shown by the astrologers pulling a
cord, extending to a considerable distance from the spot. A certain
crow, however, who had not been taken into the council of the wise men,
perched upon the cord, which was shaken by his weight, and the architect
supposing that the appointed signal had been given, commenced his work
accordingly. From this unlucky omen, and the vexation felt by those
concerned, the epithet of Kahira ("the vexatious" or "unlucky") was
added to the name of the city, Masr el Kahira meaning "the unlucky (city
of) Egypt." Kahira in the Italian pronunciation has been softened into
Cairo, by which name this famous city has been known for many centuries
in Europe, though in the East it is usually called Masr only. From this
time the Fatemite caliphs of Africa, who brought the bones of their
ancestors with them from Kairoan, reigned for ten generations over the
land of Egypt. The third in this succession was the Caliph Hakem, who
built a mosque near the Bab el Nassr, and who was the founder of the
sect of the Druses, and, as some say, of the Assassins. In the year 1171
the famous Saladin usurped the throne from the last of the race of
Fatema. His descendant, Moosa el Ashref, was deposed in his turn, in
1250; from which time till the year 1543 Cairo was governed by the
curious succession of Mameluke kings, who were mostly Circassian slaves
brought up at the court of their predecessors, and arriving at the
supreme rule of Egypt by election or intrigue. Toman Bey, the last of
the Mameluke kings, was defeated by Selim, Emperor of the Turks, and
hanged at Cairo, at the Bab Zooaley. But the aristocracy of the
Mamelukes, as it may be called, still remained; and various beys became
governors of Egypt under the Turkish sway, till they were all destroyed
at one blow by Mohammed Ali Pasha, the now all but independent sovereign
of Egypt.



CHAPTER III.

     National Topics of Conversation--The Rising of the Nile; evil
     effects of its rising too high; still worse consequences of a
     deficiency of its waters--The Nilometer--Universal Alarm in August,
     1833--The Nile at length rises to the desired Height--Ceremony of
     cutting the Embankment--The Canal of the Khalidj--Immense
     Assemblage of People--The State Tent--Arrival of Habeeb
     Effendi--Splendid Dresses of the Officers--Exertions of the Arab
     Workmen--Their Scramble for Paras--Admission of the Water--Its
     sudden Irruption--Excitement of the Ladies--Picturesque Effect of
     large Assemblies in the East.


In England every one talks about the weather, and all conversation is
opened by exclamations against the heat or the cold, the rain or the
drought; but in Egypt, during one part of the year at least, the rise of
the Nile forms the general topic of conversation. Sometimes the ascent
of the water is unusually rapid, and then nothing is talked of but
inundations; for if the river overflows too much, whole villages are
washed away; and as they are for the most part built of sunburned bricks
and mud, they are completely annihilated; and when the waters subside,
all the boundary marks are obliterated, the course of canals is altered,
and mounds and embankments are washed away. On these occasions the
smaller landholders have great difficulty in recovering their property;
for few of them know how far their fields extend in one direction or
the other, unless a tree, a stone, or something else remains to mark
the separation of one man's flat piece of mud from that of his
neighbour.

But the more frequent and the far more dreaded calamity is the
deficiency of water. This was the case in 1833, and we heard nothing
else talked of. "Has it risen much to-day?" inquires one.--"Yes, it has
risen half a pic since the morning." "What! no more? In the name of the
Prophet! what will become of the cotton?"--"Yes; and the doura will be
burnt up to a certainty if we do not get four pics more." In short, the
Nile has it all its own way; everything depends on the manner in which
it chooses to behave, and El Bahar (the river) is in everybody's mouth
from morning till night. Criers go about the city several times a day
during the period of the rising, who proclaim the exact height to which
the water has arrived, and the precise number of pics which are
submerged on the Nilometer.

This Nilometer is an ancient octagon pillar of red stone in the island
of Rhoda, on the sides of which graduated scales are engraved. It stands
in the centre of a cistern, about twenty-five feet square, and more than
that in depth. A stone staircase leads down to the bottom, and the side
walls are ornamented with Cufic inscriptions beautifully cut. Of this
antique column I have seen more than most people; for on the 28th of
August, 1833, the water was so low that there was the greatest
apprehension of a total failure of the crops, and of the consequent
famine. At that time nine feet more water was wanted to ensure an
average crop; much of the Indian corn had already failed; and from the
Pasha in his palace to the poorest fellah in his mud hovel, all were in
consternation; for in this country, where it never rains, everything
depends on irrigation,--the revenues of the state, the food of the
country, and the life or death of the bulk of the population.

At length the Nile rose to the desired height; and the 6th of September
was fixed for the ceremony of cutting the embankment which keeps back
the water from entering into the canal of the Khalidj. This canal joins
the Nile near the great tower which forms the end of the aqueduct built
by Saladin, and through it the water is conveyed for the irrigation of
Cairo and its vicinity. One peculiarity of this city is, that several of
its principal squares or open spaces are flooded during the inundation;
and, in consequence of this, are called lakes, such as Birket el Fil
(the Lake of the Elephant), Birket el Esbekieh, &c. Many of the
principal houses are built upon the banks of the Khalidj canal, which
passes through the centre of the town, and which now had the appearance
of a dusty, sunken lane; and the annual admission of the water into its
thirsty bed is an event looked forward to as a public holiday by all
classes. Accordingly, early in the morning, men, women, and children
sallied forth to the borders of the Nile, and it seemed as if no one
would be left in the city. The worthy citizens of Cairo, on horses,
mules, donkeys, and on foot, were seen streaming out of the gates, and
making their way in the cool of the morning, all hoping to obtain places
from whence they might catch a glimpse of the cutting of the embankment.

We mounted the horses which the Pasha's grooms brought to our door. They
were splendidly caparisoned with red velvet and gold; horses were also
supplied for all our servants; and we wended our way through happy and
excited crowds to a magnificent tent which had been erected for the
accommodation of the grandees, on a sort of ancient stone quay
immediately over the embankment. We passed through the lines of soldiers
who kept the ground in the vicinity of the tent, around which was
standing a numerous party of officers in their gala uniforms of red and
gold.

On entering the tent we found the Cadi; the son of the sheriff of Mecca,
who I believe was kept as a sort of hostage for the good behaviour of
his father, the Defterdar, or treasurer, and several other high
personages, seated on two carpets, one on each side of a splendid velvet
divan, which extended along that side of the tent which was nearest to
the river, and which was open. Below the tent was the bank which was to
be cut through, with the water of the Nile almost overflowing its brink
on the one side, and the deep dry bed of the canal upon the other; a
number of half-naked Arabs were working with spades and pick-axes to
undermine this bank.

Coffee and sherbet were presented to us while we awaited the arrival of
Habeeb Effendi, who was to superintend the ceremony in the absence of
the Pasha. No one sat upon the divan which was reserved for the
accommodation of the great man, who was _vice_-viceroy on this occasion.
I sat on the carpet by the son of the sheriff of Mecca, who was dressed
in the green robes worn by the descendants of the Prophet. We looked at
each other with some curiosity, and he carefully gathered up the edge of
his sleeve, that it might not be polluted by the touch of such a heathen
dog as he considered me to be.

About 9 A.M. the firing of cannon and volleys of musketry, with the
discordant noise of several military bands, announced the approach of
Habeeb Effendi. He was preceded by an immense procession of beys,
colonels, and officers, all in red and gold, with the diamond insignia
of their rank displayed upon their breasts. This crowd of splendidly
dressed persons, dismounting from their horses, filled the space around
the tent; and, opening into two ranks, they made a lane along which
Habeeb Effendi rode into the middle of the tent; all bowing low and
touching their foreheads as he passed. A horseblock, covered with red
cloth, was brought forward for him to dismount upon. His fat grey horse
was covered with gold, the whole of the housings of the Wahabee saddle
being not embroidered, but so entirely covered with ornaments in
goldsmith's work, that the colour of the velvet beneath could scarcely
be discerned. The great man was held up under each arm by two officers,
who assisted him to the divan, upon which he took his seat, or rather
subsided, for the portly proportions of his person prevented his feet
appearing as he sat cross-legged upon the cushions, with his back to the
canal. Coffee was presented to him, and a diamond-mounted pipe stuck
into his mouth; and he puffed away steadily, looking neither right nor
left, while the uproar of the surrounding crowd increased every moment.
Quantities of rockets and other fireworks were now let off in the broad
daylight, cannons fired, and volleys of musketry filled the air with
smoke. The naked Arabs in the ditch worked like madmen, tearing away the
earth of the embankment, which was rapidly giving way; whilst an officer
of the Treasury threw handfuls of new pieces of five paras each (little
coins of base silver of the value of a farthing) among them. The immense
multitude shouted and swayed about, encouraging the men, who were
excited almost to frenzy.

At last there was a tremendous shout: the bank was beginning to give
way; and showers of coin were thrown down upon it, which the workmen
tried to catch. One man took off his wide Turkish trousers, and
stretching them out upon two sticks caught almost a handful at a time.
By degrees the earth of the embankment became wet, and large pieces of
mud fell over into the canal. Presently a little stream of water made
its way down the declivity, but the Arabs still worked up to their knees
in water. The muddy stream increased, and all of a sudden the whole bank
gave way. Some of the Arabs scrambled out and were helped up the sides
of the canal by the crowd; but several, and among others he of the
trousers, intent upon the shower of paras, were carried away by the
stream. The man struggled manfully in the water, and gallantly kept
possession of his trousers till he was washed ashore, and, with the
assistance of some of his friends, landed safely with his spoils. The
arches of the great aqueduct of Saladin were occupied by parties of
ladies; and long lines of women in their black veils sat like a huge
flock of crows upon the parapets above. They all waved their
handkerchiefs and lifted up their voices in a strange shrill scream as
the torrent increased in force; and soon, carrying everything before it,
it entirely washed away the embankment, and the water in the canal rose
to the level of the Nile.

The desired object having been accomplished, Habeeb Effendi, who had not
once looked round towards the canal, now rose to depart; he was helped
up the steps of the red horse-block, and fairly hoisted into his
saddle; and amidst the roar of cannon and musketry, the shouts of the
people, and the clang of innumerable musical instruments, he departed
with his splendid train of officers and attendants.

Nothing can be conceived more striking than a great assemblage of people
in the East: the various colours of the dresses and the number of white
turbans give it a totally different appearance from that of a black and
dingy European crowd; and it has been well compared by their poets to a
garden of tulips. The numbers collected together on this occasion were
immense; and the narrow streets were completely filled by the returning
multitude, all delighted with the happy termination of the event of the
day; but before noon the whole of the crowd was dispersed, all had
returned to their own houses, and the city was as quiet and orderly as
if nothing extraordinary had occurred.



CHAPTER IV.

     Early Hours in the Levant--Compulsory Use of Lanterns in
     Cairo--Separation of the different Quarters of the City--Custom of
     sleeping in the open air--The Mahomedan Times of Prayer--Impressive
     Effect of the Morning Call to Prayer from the Minarets--The last
     Prayer-time, Al Assr--Bedouin Mode of ascertaining this
     Hour--Ancient Form of the Mosques--The Mosque of Sultan
     Hassan--Egyptian Mode of "raising the Supplies"--Sultan Hassan's
     Mosque the Scene of frequent Conflicts--The Slaughter of the
     Mameluke Beys in the Place of Roumayli--Escape of one Mameluke, and
     his subsequent Friendship with Mohammed Ali--The Talisman of
     Cairo--Joseph's Well and Hall--Mohammed Ali's Mosque--His Residence
     in the Citadel--The Harem--Degraded State of the Women in the East.


The early hours kept in the Levant cannot fail to strike the European
stranger. At Cairo every one is up and about at sunrise; all business is
transacted in the morning, and some of the bezesteins and principal
bazaars are closed at twelve o'clock, at which hour many people retire
to their homes and only appear again in the cool of the evening, when
they take a ride or sit and smoke a pipe and listen to a storyteller in
a coffee-house or under a tree. Soon after sunset the whole city is at
rest. Every one who then has any business abroad is obliged to carry a
small paper lantern, on pain of being taken up by the guard if he is
found without it. Persons of middle rank have a glass lamp carried
before them by a servant, and people of consequence are preceded by men
who run before their train of horses with a fire of resinous wood,
carried aloft on the top of a pole, in an iron grating called a mashlak.
This has a picturesque effect, and throws a great light around.

Each different district of the city is separated from the adjoining one
by strong gates at the end of the streets: these are all closed at
night, and are guarded by a drowsy old man with a long beard, who acts
as porter, and who is roused with difficulty by the promise of a small
coin when any one wants to pass. These gates contribute greatly to the
peace and security of the town; for as the Turks, Arabs, Christians,
Jews, Copts, and other religious sects reside each in a different
quarter, any disturbance which may arise in one district is prevented
from extending to another; and the drunken Europeans cannot intrude
their civilization on their quiet and barbarous neighbours. There are
here no theatres, balls, parties, or other nocturnal assemblies; and
before the hour at which London is well lit up, the gentleman of Cairo
ascends to the top of his house and sleeps upon the terrace, and the
servants retire to the court-yard; for in the hot weather most people
sleep in the open air. Many of the poorer class sleep in the open places
and the courts of the mosques, all wrapping up their heads and faces
that the moon may not shine upon them.

The Mahomedan day begins at sunset, when the first time of prayer is
observed; the second is about two hours after sunset; the third is at
the dawn of day, when the musical chant of the muezzins from the
thousand minarets of Cairo sounds most impressively through the clear
and silent air. The voices of the criers thus raised above the city
always struck me as having a holy and beautiful effect. First one or two
are heard faintly in the distance, then one close to you, then the cry
is taken up from the minarets of other mosques, and at last, from one
end of the town to the other, the measured chant falls pleasingly on the
ear, inviting the faithful to prayer. For a time it seems as if there
was a chorus of voices in the air, like spirits, calling upon each other
to worship the Creator of all things. Soon the sound dies away, there is
a silence for a while, and then commence the hum and bustle of the
awakening city. This cry of man, to call his brother man to prayer,
seems to me more appropriate and more accordant to religious feeling
than the clang and jingle of our European bells.

The fourth and most important time of prayer is at noon, and it is at
this hour that the Sultan attends in state the mosque at Constantinople.
The fifth and last prayer is at about three o'clock. The Bedouins of the
desert, who, however, are not much given to praying, consider this hour
to have arrived when a stick, a spear, or a camel throws a shadow of its
own height upon the ground. This time of the day is called "Al Assr."
When wandering about in the deserts, I used always to eat my dinner or
luncheon at that time, and it is wonderful to what exactness I arrived
at last in my calculations respecting the time of the Assr. I knew to a
minute when my dromedary's shadow was of the right length.

The minarets of Cairo are the most beautiful of any in the Levant;
indeed no others are to be compared to them. Some are of a prodigious
height, built of alternate layers of red and white stone. A curious
anecdote is told of the most ancient of all the minarets, that attached
to the great mosque of Sultan Tayloon, an immense cloister or arcade
surrounding a great square. The arches are all pointed, and are the
earliest extant in that form, the mosque having been built in imitation
of that at Mecca, in the year of the Hegira 265, Anno Domini 879. The
minaret belonging to this magnificent building has a stone staircase
winding round it outside: the reason of its having been built in this
curious form is said to be, that the vizier of Sultan Tayloon found the
king one day lolling on his divan and twisting a piece of paper in a
spiral form; the vizier remarking upon the trivial nature of the
employment of so great a monarch, he replied, "I was thinking that a
minaret in this form would have a good effect: give orders, therefore,
that such a one be added to the mosque which I am building."[2] In
ancient times the mosques consisted merely of large open courts,
surrounded by arcades; and frequently, on that side of the court which
stood nearest to Mecca, this arcade was double. In later times covered
buildings with large domes were added to the court; a style of building
which has always been adopted in more northern climates.

The finest mosque of this description is that of Sultan Hassan, in the
place of the Roumayli, near the citadel. It is a magnificent structure,
of prodigious height; it was finished about the year A.D. 1362. The
money necessary for its construction is said to have been procured by
the following ingenious device. The good Sultan Hassan was determined to
build a mosque and a tomb for himself, but finding a paucity of means in
his treasury, he sent out invitations to all the principal people of the
country to repair to a grand feast at his court, when he said he would
present each of his loving subjects with a robe of honour. On the
appointed day they accordingly all made their appearance, dressed in
their richest robes of state. There was not one but had a Cashmere shawl
round his turban, and another round his waist, with a jewelled dagger
stuck in it; besides other ornaments, and caftans of brocade and cloth
of gold. They entered the place of the Roumayli each accompanied by a
magnificent train of guards and attendants, who, according to the
jealous custom of the times, remained below; while the chiefs, with one
or two of their personal followers only, ascended into the citadel, and
were ushered into the presence of the Sultan. They were received most
graciously: how they contrived to pass their time in the fourteenth
century, before the art of smoking was invented, I do not know, but
doubtless they sat in circles round great bowls of rice, piled over
sheep roasted whole, discussed the merits of lambs stuffed with
pistachio-nuts, and ate cucumbers for dessert. When the feast was
concluded the Sultan announced that each guest at his departure should
receive the promised robe of honour; and as these distinguished
personages, one by one, left the royal presence, they were conducted to
a small chamber near the gate, in which were several armed officers of
the household, who, with expressions of the most profound respect and
solicitude, divested them of their clothes, which they immediately
carried off. The astonished noble was then invested with a long white
shirt, and ceremoniously handed out of an opposite door, which led to
the exterior of the fortress, where he found his train in waiting. The
Sultan kept all that he found worth keeping of the personal effects of
his guests, who were afterwards glad to bargain with the chamberlain of
the court for the restoration of their robes of state, which were
ultimately returned to them--_for a consideration_. The mosque of Sultan
Hassan was built with the proceeds of this original scheme; and the tomb
of the founder is placed in a superb hall, seventy feet square, covered
with a magnificent dome, which is one of the great features of the city.
But he that soweth in the whirlwind shall reap in the storm. In
consequence of the great height and thickness of the walls of this
stately building, as well as from the circumstance of its having only
one great gate of entrance, it was frequently seized and made use of as
a fortress by the insurgents in the numerous rebellions and
insurrections which were always taking place under the rule of the
Mameluke kings. Great stains of blood are still to be seen on the marble
walls of the court-yard, and even in the very chamber of the tomb of the
Sultan there are the indelible marks of the various conflicts which have
taken place, when the guardians of the mosque have been stabbed and cut
down in its most sacred recesses. The two minarets of this mosque, one
of which is much larger than the other, are among the most beautiful
specimens of decorated Saracenic architecture. Of the largest of these
minarets the following story is related. There was a man endued with a
superabundance of curiosity, who, like Peeping Tom of Coventry, had a
fancy for spying at the ladies on the house-tops from the summit of this
minaret: at last he made some signals to one of the neighbouring ladies,
which were unluckily discovered by the master of the house, who happened
to be reposing in the harem. The two muezzins (as they often are) were
blind men, and complaint was made to the authorities that the muezzins
of Sultan Hassan permitted people to ascend the minarets to gaze into
the forbidden precincts of the harems below. The two old muezzins were
indignant when they were informed of this accusation, and were
determined to watch for the intruder and kill him on the spot, the first
time that they should find him ascending the winding staircase of the
minaret. In the course of a few days a good-natured person gave the
alarm, and told the two blind men that somebody had just entered the
doorway on the roof of the mosque by which the minaret is ascended; one
of the muezzins therefore ascended the minaret, armed with a sharp
dagger, and the other waited at the narrow door below to secure the game
whom his companion should drive out of the cover. The young man was
surprised by the muezzin while he was looking over the lower gallery of
the minaret, but escaping from him he ran up the stairs to the upper
gallery: here he was followed by his enemy, who cried to the old man at
the bottom to be ready, for he had found the rascal who had brought
such scandal on the mosque. The muezzin chased the intruder round the
upper gallery, and he slipped through the door and ran down again to the
lower one, where he waited till the muezzin passed him on the stairs,
then taking off his shoes he followed him lightly and silently till he
arrived near the bottom door, when he suddenly pushed the muezzin, who
had been up the minaret, against the one who stood guard below; the two
blind men, each thinking he had got hold of the villain for whom he was
in search, seized each other by the throat and engaged in mortal combat
with their daggers, taking advantage of which the other escaped before
the blind men had found out their mistake. At the next hour of prayer,
their well-known voices not being heard as usual, some of the attendants
at the mosque went up upon the roof to see what had happened, when they
found the muezzins, who were just able to relate the particulars of
their mistake before they died.

It was in the place of the Roumayli that the gallant band of the
Mameluke beys were assembled before they were entrapped and killed by
the present task-master of Egypt, Mohammed Ali Pasha. They ascended a
narrow passage between two high bastions, which led from the lower to
the upper gate. The lower gate was shut after they had passed, and they
were thus caught as in a trap. All of them were shot except one, who
leaped his horse over the battlements and escaped. This man became
afterwards a great ally of Mohammed Ali, and I have often seen him
riding about on a fine horse caparisoned with red velvet in the old
Mameluke style. On the wall in one part of this passage, towards the
inner gate, there is a square tablet containing a bas-relief of a spread
eagle: this is considered by the superstitious as the talisman of Cairo,
and is said to give a warning cry when any calamity is about to happen
to the city. Its origin, as well as most things of any antiquity in the
citadel, is ascribed to Saladin (Yousef Sala Eddin), who is called here
Yousef (Joseph); and Joseph's Well, and Joseph's Hall, are the two great
lions of the place.

The well, which is of great depth, is remarkable from its having a broad
winding staircase cut in the rock around the shaft: this extends only
half way down, where two oxen are employed to draw water by a wheel and
buckets from the bottom, which is here poured into a cistern, whence it
is raised to the top by another wheel. It is supposed, however, that
this well is an ancient work, and that it was only cleaned out by
Saladin when he rebuilt the walls of the town and fortified the citadel.

The hall, which was a very fine room, divided into aisles by magnificent
antique columns of red granite, has unfortunately been pulled down by
Mohammed Ali. He did this to make way for the mosque which he has built
of Egyptian alabaster, a splendid material, but its barbarous Armenian
architecture offers a sad contrast to the stately edifice which has been
so ruthlessly destroyed. It is indeed a sad thing for Cairo that the
flimsy architecture of Constantinople, so utterly unsuited to this
climate, has been introduced of late years in the public buildings and
the palaces of the ministers, which lift up their bald and miserable
whitewashed walls above the beautiful Arabian works of earlier days.

The residence of the Pasha is within the walls of the citadel. The long
range of the windows of the harem from their lofty position overlook
great part of the city, which must render it a more cheerful residence
for the ladies than harems usually are. When a number of Eastern women
are congregated together, as is frequently the case, without the society
of the other sex, it is surprising how helpless they become, and how
neglectful of everything excepting their own persons and their food.
Eating and dressing are their sole pursuits. If there be a garden
attached to the harem they take no trouble about it, and at
Constantinople the ladies of the Sultan tread on the flower-beds and
destroy the garden as a flock of sheep would do if let loose in it. A
Turkish lady is the wild variety of the species. Many of them are
beautiful and graceful, but they do not appear to abound in intellectual
charms. Until the minds of the women are enlarged by better education,
any chance of amelioration among the people of the Levant is hopeless:
for it is in the nursery that the seeds of superstition, prejudice, and
unreason are sown, the effects of which cling for life to the minds even
of superior men.



CHAPTER V.

     Interview with Mohammed Ali Pasha--Mode of lighting a Room in
     Egypt--Personal Appearance of the Pasha--His Diamond-mounted
     Pipe--The lost Handkerchief--An unceremonious Attendant--View of
     Cairo from the Citadel--Site of Memphis; its immense extent--The
     Tombs of the Caliphs--The Pasha's Mausoleum--Costume of Egyptian
     Ladies--The Coboob, or Wooden Clog--Mode of dressing the Hair--The
     Veil--Mistaken Idea that the Egyptian Ladies are Prisoners in the
     Harem; their power of doing as they like--The Veil a complete
     Disguise--Laws of the Harem--A Levantine Beauty--Eastern
     Manners--The Abyssinian Slaves--Arab Girls--Ugliness of the Arab
     Women when old--Venerable Appearance of the old Men--An Arab
     Sheick.


It was in the month of February, 1834, that I first had the honour of an
audience with Mohammed Ali Pasha. It was during the Mahomedan month of
Ramadan, when the day is kept a strict fast, and nothing passes the lips
of the faithful till after sunset. It was at night, therefore, that we
were received. My companion and myself were residing at that time under
the hospitable roof of the Consul-General, and we accompanied him to the
citadel. The effect of the crowds of people in the streets, all carrying
lanterns, or preceded by men bearing the mashlak, blazing like a beacon
on the top of its high pole, was very picturesque. The great hall of the
citadel was full of men, arranged in rows with their faces towards the
south, going through the forms and attitudes of evening prayer under
the guidance of a leader, and with the precision of a regiment on drill.

Passing these, a curtain was drawn aside, and we were ushered at once
into the presence of the Viceroy, whom we found walking up and down in
the middle of a large room, between two rows of gigantic silver
candlesticks, which stood upon the carpet. This is the usual way of
lighting a room in Egypt:--Six large silver dishes, about two feet in
diameter and turned upside down, are first placed upon the floor, three
on each side, near the centre of the room. On each of these stands a
silver candlestick, between four and five feet high, containing a wax
candle three feet long, and very thick. A seventh candlestick, of
smaller dimensions, stands on the floor, separate from these, for the
purpose of being moved about; it is carried to any one who wants to read
a letter, or to examine an object more closely while he is seated on the
divan. Almost every room in the palace has an European chandelier
hanging from the ceiling, but I do not remember having ever seen one
lit. These large candlesticks, standing in two rows, with the little one
before them, always put me in mind of a line of life guards of gigantic
stature, commanded by a little officer whom they could almost put in
their pockets.

[Illustration: EGYPTIAN, IN THE NIZAM DRESS.]

Mohammed Ali desired us to be seated. He was attended by Boghos Bey, who
remained standing and interpreted for us. The Pasha at that time
was a hale, broad-shouldered, broad-faced man: his short grey beard
stuck out on each side of his face; his nostrils were very much opened;
and, with his quick sharp eye, he looked like an old grey lion. The
expression of his countenance was remarkably intelligent, but excepting
this there was nothing particular in his appearance. He was attired in
the Nizam dress of blue cloth. This costume consists of a red cap, a
jacket with flying sleeves, a waistcoat with tight sleeves under it, a
red shawl round the waist, a pair of trousers very full, like trunk
hose, down to the knee, from whence to the ankle they were tight. The
whole costume is always made of the same coloured cloth, usually black
or blue. He had white stockings and yellow morocco shoes.

When we were seated on the divan we commenced the usual routine of
Oriental compliments; and coffee was handed to us in cups entirely
covered with large diamonds. A pipe was then brought to the Pasha, but
not to us. This pipe was about seven feet long: the mouthpiece, of light
green amber, was a foot long, and a foot more below the mouthpiece, as
well as another part of the pipe lower down, was richly set with
diamonds of great value, with a diamond tassel hanging to it.

We discoursed for three quarters of an hour about the possibility of
laying a railway across the Isthmus of Suez, which was the project then
uppermost in the Pasha's mind; but the circumstance which most strongly
recalls this audience to my memory, and which struck me as an instance
of manners differing entirely from our own, was, in itself, a very
trivial one. The Pasha wanted his pocket handkerchief, and looked about
and felt in his pocket for it, but could not find it, making various
exclamations during his search, which at last were answered by an
attendant from the lower end of the room--"Feel in the other pocket,"
said the servant. "Well, it is not there," said the Pasha. "Look in the
other, then." "I have not got a handkerchief," or words to that effect,
were replied to immediately,--"Yes, you have;"--"No, I have not;"--"Yes,
you have." Eventually this attendant, advancing up to the Pasha, felt in
the pocket of his jacket, but the handkerchief was not to be found; then
he poked all round the Pasha's waist, to see whether it was not tucked
into his shawl: that would not do. So he took hold of his Sovereign and
pushed him half over on the divan, and looked under him to see whether
he was sitting on the handkerchief; then he pushed him over on the other
side. During all which manœuvres the Pasha sat as quietly and passively
as possible. The servant then, thrusting his arm up to the elbow in one
of the pockets of his Highness's voluminous trousers, pulled out a
snuff-box, a rosary, and several other things, which he laid upon the
divan. That would not do, either; so he came over to the other pocket,
and diving to a prodigious depth he produced the missing handkerchief
from the recesses thereof; and with great respect and gravity, thrusting
it into the Pasha's hand, he retired again to his place at the lower end
of the hall.

After being presented with sherbet, in glass bowls with covers, we took
our leave, and rode home through the crowds of persons with paper
lanterns, who turn night into day during the month of Ramadan.

The view from that part of the bastions of the citadel which looks over
the place of the Roumayli and the great mosque of Sultan Hassan is one
of the most extraordinary that can be seen any where. The whole city is
displayed at your feet; the numerous domes and minarets, the towers of
the Saracenic walls, the flat roofs of the houses, and the narrowness of
the streets giving it an aspect very different from that of an European
town. You see the Nile and the gardens of Ibrahim Pasha in the island of
Rhoda to the left; and the avenue of Egyptian sycamores to the right,
leading to the Pasha's country palace of Shoubra. Beyond the Nile, the
bare mysterious-looking desert, and the Pyramids standing on their rocky
base, lead the mind to dwell upon the mighty deeds of ancient days. The
forest of waving palm-trees, around Saccara, stretches away to the
south-west, shading the mounds of earth which cover the remains of the
vast city of Memphis, in comparison to which London would appear but a
secondary town: for if we may judge from the line of pyramids from Giseh
to Dashour, which formed the necropolis of Memphis, and the various
mounds and dykes and ancient remains which extend along the margin of
the Nile for nearly six-and-thirty miles, the extreme length of London
being barely eight, and of Paris not much more than four, Memphis must
have been larger than London, Paris, and ancient Rome, all united; and
judging from the description which Herodotus has given us of the
enormous size of the temples and buildings, which are now entirely
washed away, in consequence of their having been built on the alluvial
plain, which is every year inundated by the waters of the Nile, Memphis
in its glory must have exceeded any modern city, as much as the Pyramids
exceed any mausoleum which has been erected since those days.

The tombs of the Caliphs, as they are called, although most of them are
the burial-place of the Mameluke Sultans of Egypt, are magnificent and
imposing buildings. Many of them consist of a mosque built round a
court, to which is attached a great hall with a dome, under which is
placed the Sultan's tomb. These beautiful specimens of Arabian
architecture form a considerable town or city of the dead, on the east
and south sides of Cairo, about a mile beyond the walls. I was
astonished at their exceeding beauty and magnificence. Most of them
were built during the two centuries preceding the conquest of Egypt, by
Sultan Selim, in 1517, who tortured the last of the Mameluke Sultans,
Toman Bey, and hung him with a rope, which is yet to be seen dangling
over the gate called Bab Zuweyleh, in front of which criminals are still
executed.

The mausoleum of Sultan Bergook is a triumph of Saracenic architecture.

The minarets of these tombs are most richly ornamented with tracery,
sculpture, and variegated marbles. The walls of many of them are built
in alternate layers of red and white or black and white marble. The dome
of the tomb of Kaitbay is of stone, sculptured all over with an
arabesque pattern; and there are several other domes in different
mosques at Cairo equally richly ornamented. I have met with none
comparable to them either in Europe or in the Levant. It is strange that
none of the Italian architects ever thought of domes covered with rich
ornamental work in stone or marble; the effect of those at Cairo is
indescribably fine. Unfortunately they are now much neglected; but in
the clear dry air of Egypt, time falls more lightly on the works of man
than in the damp and chilly climates of the north, and the tombs of the
Mameluke sovereigns will probably last for centuries to come if they are
not pulled down for the materials, or removed to make way for some
paltry lath and plaster edifice which will fall in the lifetime of its
builder.

Besides these larger structures, many of the smaller tombs, which are
scattered over the desert for miles under the hills of Mokattam, are
studies for the architect. There are numerous little domes of beautiful
design, richly ornamented doors and gateways, tombs and tomb-stones of
all sorts and sizes in infinite variety, most of them so well preserved
in this glorious climate that the inscriptions on them are as legible as
when they were first put up.

The Pasha has built himself a house in this city of the dead, to which
many members of his family have gone before him. This mausoleum consists
of several buildings covered with low heavy domes, whitewashed or
plastered on the outside. Within, if I remember right, are the tombs of
Toussoun and Ismael Pashas, and those of several of his wives,
grand-children, and relatives; they repose under marble monuments,
somewhat resembling altars in shape, with a tall post or column at the
head and feet, as is usual in Turkish graves; the column at the head
being carved into the form of the head-dress distinctive of the rank or
sex of the deceased. These sepulchral chambers are all carpeted, and
Cashmere shawls are thrown over many of the tombs, while in arched
recesses there are divans with cushions for the use of those who come to
mourn over their departed relatives.

We will now return to the living; but so perfect an account of the
Arabian population of Cairo is to be found in Mr. Lane's 'Modern
Egypt,' that there is little left to say upon that subject, except that
since that work was published the presence of numerous Europeans has
diminished the originality of the Oriental manners of this city, and
numerous vices and modes of cheating, besides a larger variety of
drunken scenes, are offered for the observation of the curious, than
existed in the more unsophisticated times, before steamers came to
Alexandria, and what is called the overland journey to India was
established. The population of Cairo consists of the ruling class, who
are all Turks, who speak Turkish, and affect to despise all who have
never been rowed in a caïque upon the Bosphorus. Then come the Arabs,
the former conquerors of the land; they form the bulk of the
population--all the petty tradesmen and cultivators of the soil are of
Arab origin. Besides these are the Copts, who are descended from the
original lords of the country, the ancient Egyptians, who have left such
wonderful monuments of their power. After these may be reckoned the
motley crew of Jews, Franks, Armenians, Arabs of Barbary and the Hejaz,
Syrians, negroes, and Barabra; but these are but sojourners in the land,
and, except the Jews, can hardly be counted among the regular subjects
of the Pasha. There are besides, the Levantine Christians, who are under
the protection of one or other of the European powers. Many of this
class are rich and influential merchants; some of them live in the
Oriental style, and others are ambitious to assume the tight clothing
and manner of life of the Franks. The older merchants among the
Levantines keep more to the Oriental ways of life, while the younger
gentlemen and ladies follow the ugly fashion of Europe, particularly the
men, who leave off the cool and convenient Eastern dress to swelter in
the tight bandages of the Franks; the ladies, on the contrary, are apt
to retain the Oriental costume, which in its turn is neither so becoming
nor so easy as the Paris fashions. It must be the spirit of
contradiction, so natural to the human race, which causes this
arrangement; for if the men kept to their old costume they would be more
comfortable than they can be with tight clothes, coat-collars, and
neckcloths, when the thermometer stands at 112° of Fahrenheit in the
coolest shade, besides the dignity of their appearance, which is cast
away with the folds of the Turkish or Arabian dress. The ladies would be
much improved by the artful devices of the Parisian modistes; for
although, when young and pretty, all women look well in almost any
dress, the elder ladies are sometimes but little to be admired in the
shapeless costumes of the Levant, where the richness of the material
does not make up for the want of fit and gracefulness which is the
character of their dress. This may easily be imagined when it is
understood that both men's and women's dresses may be bought ready made
in the bazaar, and that any dress will fit anybody unless they are
supernaturally fat or of dwarfish stature.

An Egyptian lady's dress consists of a pair of immensely full trousers
of satin or brocade, or often of a brilliant cherry-coloured silk: these
are tied under the knees, and descending to the ground, have the
appearance of a very full petticoat. The Arabic name of this garment is
Shintian. Over this is worn a shirt of transparent silk gauze (Kamis).
It has long full sleeves, which, as well as the border round the neck,
are richly embroidered with gold and bright-coloured silks. The edge of
the shirt is often seen like a tunic over the trousers, and has a pretty
effect. Over this again is worn a long silk gown, open in front and on
each side, called a yelek. The fashion is to have the yelek about a foot
longer than the lady who wears it; so that its three tails shall just
touch the ground when she is mounted on a pair of high wooden clogs,
called cobcobs, which are intended for use in the bath, but in which
they often clatter about in the house: the straps over the instep, by
which these cobcobs are attached to the feet, are always finely worked,
and are sometimes of diamonds. The husband gives his bride on their
marriage a pair of these odd-looking things, which are about six or
eight inches high, and are always carried on a tray on a man's head in
marriage processions. The yelek fits the shape in some degree down to
the waist; it comes up high upon the neck, and has tightish sleeves,
which are long enough to trail upon the ground. "Oh! thou with the
long-sleeved yelek" is a common chorus or ending to a stanza in an Arab
song. Not round the waist but round the hips a large and heavy Cashmere
shawl is worn over the yelek, and the whole gracefulness of an Egyptian
dress consists in the way in which this is put on. In the winter a long
gown, called Jubeh, is superadded to all this: it is of cloth or velvet,
or a sort of stuff made of the Angora goat's hair, and is sometimes
lined with fur.

Young girls do not often wear this nor the yelek, but have instead a
waistcoat of silk with long sleeves like those of the yelek. This is
called an anteri, and over it they wear a velvet jacket with short
sleeves, which is so much embroidered with gold and pearls that the
velvet is almost hid. Their hair hangs down in numerous long tails,
plaited with silk, to which sequins, or little gold coins, are attached.
The plaits must be of an uneven number: it would be unlucky if they were
even. Sometimes at the end of one of the plaits hangs the little golden
bottle of surmeh with which they black the edges of their eyelids; a
most becoming custom when it is well done, and not smeared, as it often
is, for then the effect is rather like that of a black eye, in the
pugilistic sense of the term. On the head is worn a very beautiful
ornament called a koors. It is in the shape of a saucer or shallow
basin, and is frequently covered with rose diamonds. I am surprised
that it has never been introduced into Europe, as it is a remarkably
pretty head-dress, with the long tresses of jet black hair hanging from
under it, plaited with the shining coins. Round the head a handkerchief
is wound, which spoils the effect of all the rest: but a woman in the
East is never seen with the head uncovered, even in the house; and when
she goes out, the veil, as we call it, though it has no resemblance to a
veil, is used to conceal the whole person. A lady enclosed in this
singular covering looks like a large bundle of black silk, diversified
only by a stripe of white linen extending down the front of her person,
from the middle of her nose to her ungainly yellow boots, into which her
stockingless feet are thrust for the occasion. The veils of Egypt, of
which the outer black silk covering is called a khabara, and the part
over the face a boorkoo, are entirely different from those worn in
Constantinople, Persia, or Armenia; these are all various in form and
colour, complicated and wonderful garments, which it would take too long
to describe, but they, as well as the Egyptian one, answer their
intended purpose excellently, for they effectually prevent the display
of any grace or peculiarity of form or feature.

There is no greater mistake than to suppose that Eastern ladies are
prisoners in the harem, and that they are to be pitied for the want of
liberty which the jealousy of their husbands condemns them to. The
Christian ladies live from choice and habit in the same way as the
Mahomedan women: and, indeed, the Egyptian fair ones have more
facilities to do as they choose, to go where they like, and to carry on
any intrigue than the Europeans; for their complete disguise carries
them safely everywhere. No one knows whether any lady he may meet in the
bazaar is his wife, his daughter, or his grandmother: and I have several
times been addressed by Turkish and Egyptian ladies in the open street,
and asked all sorts of questions in a way that could not be done in any
European country. The harem, it is true, is by law inviolable: no one
but the Sultan can enter it unannounced, and if a pair of strange
slippers are seen left at the outer door, the master of the house cannot
enter his own harem so long as this proof of the presence of a visitor
remains. If the husband is a bore, an extra pair of slippers will at all
times keep him out; and the ladies inside may enjoy themselves without
the slightest fear of interruption. It is asserted also that gentlemen,
who are not too tall, have gone into all sorts of places under the
protection of a lady's veil, so completely does it conceal the person.
But this is not the case with the Levantine or Christian ladies:
although they live in a harem, like the Mahomedans, it is not protected
in the same way: the slippers have not the same effect; for the men of
the family go in and out whenever they please; and relations and
visitors of the male sex are received in the apartments of the ladies.

On one occasion I accompanied an English traveller, who had many
acquaintances at Cairo, to the house of a Levantine in the vicinity of
the Coptic quarter. Whilst we were engaged in conversation with an old
lady the curtain over the doorway was drawn aside, and there entered the
most lovely apparition that can be conceived, in the person of a young
lady about sixteen years old, the daughter of the lady of the house. She
had a beautifully fair complexion, very uncommon in this country,
remarkably long hair, which hung down her back, and her dress, which was
all of the same rich material, rose-coloured silk, shot with gold,
became her so well, that I have rarely seen so graceful and striking a
figure. She was closely followed by two black girls, both dressed in
light-blue satin, embroidered with silver; they formed an excellent
contrast to their charming mistress, and were very good-looking in their
way, with their slight and graceful figures. The young Levantine came
and sat by me on the divan, and was much amused at my blundering
attempts at conversation in Arabic, of which I then knew scarcely a
dozen words. I must confess that I was rather vexed with her for smoking
a long jessamine pipe, which, however, most Eastern ladies do. She got
up to wait upon us, and handed us the coffee, pipes, and sherbet, which
are always presented to visitors in every house. This custom of being
waited upon by the ladies is rather distressing to our European notions
of devotion to the fair sex: and I remember being horrified shortly
after my arrival in Egypt at the manners of a rich old jeweller to whom
I was introduced. His wife, a beautiful woman, superbly dressed in
brocade, with gold and diamond ornaments, waited upon us during the
whole time that I remained in the house. She was the first Eastern lady
I had seen, and I remember being much edified at the way she pattered
about on a pair of lofty cobcobs, and the artful way in which she got
her feet out of them whenever she came up towards where we sat on the
divan, at the upper end of the apartment. She stood at the lower end of
the room; and whenever the old brute of a jeweller wanted to return
anything, some coins which he was showing me, or anything else, he threw
them on the floor; and his beautiful wife jumping out of her cobcobs
picked them up; and when she had handed them to some of the maids who
stood at the door, resumed her station below the step at the further end
of the room. She had magnificent eyes and luxuriant black hair, as they
all have, and would have been considered a beauty in any country; but
she was not to be compared to the bright little damsel in pink, who,
besides her beauty, was as cheerful and merry as a bird, and whose
lovely features were radiant with archness and intelligence. Many of the
Abyssinian slaves are exceedingly handsome: they have very expressive
countenances, and the finest eyes in the world, and, withal, so soft and
humble a look, that I do not wonder at their being great favourites in
Egyptian harems. Many of them, however, have a temper of their own,
which comes out occasionally, and in this respect the Arab women are not
much behind them. But the fiery passions of this burning climate pass
away like a thunderstorm, and leave the sky as clear and serene as it
was before.

The Arab girls of the lower orders are often very pretty from the age of
about twelve to twenty, but they soon go off; and the astounding
ugliness of some of the old women is too terrible to describe. In Europe
we have nothing half so hideous as these brown old women, and this is
the more remarkable, because the old men are peculiarly handsome and
venerable in their appearance, and often display a dignity of bearing
which is seldom to be met with in Europe. The stately gravity of an Arab
sheick, seated on the ground in the shade of a tree, with his sons and
grandsons standing before him, waiting for his commands, is singularly
imposing.



CHAPTER VI.

     Mohammed Bey, Defterdar--His Expedition to Senaar--His Barbarity
     and Rapacity--His Defiance of the Pasha--Stories of his Cruelty and
     Tyranny--The Horse-shoe--The Fight of the Mamelukes--His cruel
     Treachery--His Mode of administering Justice--The stolen Milk--The
     Widow's Cow--Sale and Distribution of the Thief--The Turkish
     Character--Pleasures of a Journey on the Nile--The Copts--Their
     Patriarchs--The Patriarch of Abyssinia--Basileos Bey--His Boat--An
     American's choice of a Sleeping-place.


Just before my arrival in Cairo a certain Mohammed Bey, Defterdar, had
died rather suddenly, after drinking a cup of coffee, a beverage which
occasionally disagrees with the great men in Turkey, although not so
much so now as in former days. This Defterdar, or accountant, had been
sent by the Sultan to receive the Imperial revenue from the Pasha of
Egypt, who had given him his daughter in marriage. As the presence of
the Defterdar was probably a check upon the projects of the Pasha, he
sent him to Senaar, at the head of an expedition, to revenge the death
of Toussoun Pasha, his second son, who had been burned alive in his
house by one of the exasperated chiefs of Nubia. This was a mission
after Mohammed Bey's own heart: he impaled the chief and several of his
family, and displayed a rapacity and cruelty unheard of before even in
those blood-stained countries. His talent for collecting spoil, and
valuables of every description, was first-rate; chests and bags of the
pure gold rings used in the traffic of Central Africa accumulated in his
tents; he did not stick at a trifle in his measures for procuring gold,
pearls, and diamonds, wherever they were to be heard of; streams of
blood accompanied his march, and the vultures followed in his track. He
was a sportsman too, and hunted slaves, killing the old ones, and
carrying off the children, whom he sent to Egypt to be sold. Many died
on the journey; but that did not much matter, as it increased the value
of the rest.

At last, alter a most successful campaign, the Defterdar returned to his
palace at Cairo, which was reported to be filled with treasure. The
habits he had acquired in the upper country stuck to him after he got
back to Egypt, and the Pasha was obliged to express his disapprobation
of the cruelties which were committed by him on the most trivial
occasions. The Defterdar, however, set the Pasha at defiance, told him
he was no subject of his, but that he was an envoy from his master the
Sultan, to whom alone he was responsible, and that he would do as he
pleased with those under his command. The Pasha, it is said, made no
further remonstrance, and continued to treat his son-in-law with
distinguished courtesy.

Numerous stories are told of the cruelty and tyranny of this man. One
day, on his way to the citadel, he found that his horse had cast a shoe.
He inquired of his groom, who in Egypt runs by the side of the horse,
how it was that his horse had lost his shoe. The groom said he did not
know, but that he supposed it had not been well nailed on. Presently
they came to a farrier's shop; the Defterdar stopped, and ordered two
horseshoes to be brought; one was put upon the horse, and the other he
made red hot, and commanded them to nail it firmly to the foot of the
groom, whom in that condition he compelled to run by his horse's side up
the steep hill which leads to the citadel.

In Turkey it was the custom in the houses of the great to have a number
of young men, who in Egypt were called Mamelukes, after that gallant
corps had been destroyed. A number of the Mamelukes of Mohammed Bey,
Defterdar, driven to desperation by the cruelties of their master, beat
or killed one of the superior agas of the household, took some money
which they found in his possession, and determined to escape from the
service of their tyrant. His guards and kawasses soon found them out,
and they retired to a strong tower, which they determined to defend,
preferring the remotest chance of successful resistance to the terrors
of service under the ferocious Defterdar. The Bey, however, managed to
cajole them with promises, and they returned to his palace, expecting to
be better treated. They found the Bey seated on his divan in the
Manderan or hall of audience, surrounded by the officers and kawasses
whom interest had attached to his service. The young Mamelukes had given
up the money which they had taken, and the Bey had it on the divan by
his side. He now told them that if they would divide themselves into two
parties and fight against each other, he would pardon the victorious
party, present them with the bag of gold, and permit them to depart; but
that if they did not agree to this proposal he would kill them all. The
Mamelukes, finding they were entrapped, consented to the conditions of
the Bey, and half their number were soon weltering in their blood on the
floor of the hall. When the conquerors claimed the promised reward, the
Defterdar, who had now far superior numbers on his side, again commanded
them to divide and fight against each other. Again they fought in
despair, preferring death by their own swords to the tortures which they
knew the merciless Defterdar would inflict upon them now that he had got
them completely in his power. At length only one Mameluke remained, whom
the Bey, with kind and encouraging words, ordered to approach,
commending his valour and holding out to him the promised bag of gold as
his reward. As he approached, stepping over the bodies of his
companions, who all lay dead or dying on the floor, and held out his
hands for the money, the Defterdar, with a grim smile, made a sign to
one of his kawasses, and the head of the young man rolled at the
tyrant's feet "Thus," said he, "shall perish all who dare to offend
Mohammed Bey."

The Defterdar was fond of justice, after a fashion, and his mode of
administering it was characteristic. A poor woman came before him and
complained that one of his kawasses had seized a cup of milk and drunk
it, refusing to pay her its value, which she estimated at five paras (a
para is the fortieth part of a piastre, which is worth about
twopence-halfpenny). The sensitive justice of the Defterdar was roused
by this complaint. He asked the woman if she should know the person who
had stolen her milk were she to see him again? The woman said she
should, upon which the whole household was drawn out before her, and
looking round she fixed upon a man as the thief. "Very well," said the
Defterdar, "I hope you are sure of your man, and that you have not made
a false accusation before me. He shall be ripped open, and if the milk
is found in his stomach, you shall receive your five paras; but if there
is no milk found, you shall be ripped up in turn for accusing one of my
household unjustly." The unfortunate kawass was cut open on the spot;
some milk was found in him, and the woman received her five paras.

Another of his judicial sentences was rather an original conception. A
man in Upper Egypt stole a cow from a widow, and having killed it, he
cut it into twenty pieces, which he sold for a piastre each in the
bazaar. The widow complained to the Defterdar, who seized the thief, and
having without further ceremony cut him into twenty pieces, forced
twenty people who came into the market on that day from the neighbouring
villages to buy a piece of thief each for a piastre; the joints of the
robber were thus distributed all over the country, and the story told by
the involuntary purchasers of these pounds of flesh had a wholesome
effect upon the minds of the cattle-stealers: the twenty piastres were
given to the woman, whose cows were not again meddled with during the
lifetime of the Defterdar. But the character of this man must not be
taken as a sample of the habits of the Turks in general. They are a
grave and haughty race, of dignified manners; rapacious they often are,
but they are generous and brave, and I do not think that, as a nation,
they can be accused of cruelty.

Nothing can be more secure and peaceable than a journey on the Nile, as
every one knows nowadays. Floating along in a boat like a house, which
stops and goes on whenever you like, you have no cares or troubles but
those which you bring with you--"cœlum non animum mutant qui trans mare
currunt." I can conceive nothing more delightful than a voyage up the
Nile with agreeable companions in the winter, when the climate is
perfection. There are the most wonderful antiquities for those who
interest themselves in the remains of bygone days; famous shooting on
the banks of the river, capital dinners, if you know how to make the
proper arrangements, comfortable quarters, and a constant change of
scene.

       *       *       *       *       *

The wonders of the land of Ham, its temples and its ruins, have been so
well and so often described that I shall not attempt to give any details
regarding them, but shall confine myself to some sketches of the Coptic
Monasteries which are to be seen on the rocks and deserts, either on the
banks of the river or in the neighbourhood of the valley of the Nile.

The ancient Egyptians are now represented by their descendants the
Copts, whose ancestors were converted to Christianity in the earliest
ages, and whose patriarchs claim their descent, in uninterrupted
succession, from St Mark, who was buried at Alexandria, but whose body
the Venetians in later ages boast of having transported to their island
city.[3]

The Copts look up to their patriarch as the chief of their nation: he is
elected from among the brethren of the great monastery of St. Anthony
on the borders of the Red Sea, a proceeding which ensures his entire
ignorance of all sublunary matters, and his consequent incapacity for
his high and responsible office, unless he chance to be a man of very
uncommon talents. Like the patriarch of Constantinople, he is usually a
puppet in the hands of a cabal who make use of him for their own
interested purposes, and when they have got him into a scrape leave him
to get out of it as he can. He is called the Patriarch of Alexandria,
but for many years his residence has been at Cairo, where he has a large
dreary palace. He is surrounded by priests and acolytes; but when I was
last at Cairo there was but one remaining Coptic scribe among them, whom
I engaged to copy out the Gospel of St Mark from an ancient MS. in the
patriarchal library: however, after a very long delay he copied out St.
Matthew's Gospel by mistake, and I was told that there was no other
person whose profession it was to copy Coptic writings.

The patriarch has twelve bishops under him, whose residences are at
Nagadé, Abou Girgé, Aboutig, Siout, Girgé, Manfalout, Maharaka, the
Fioum, Atfeh, Behenesé, and Jerusalem: he also consecrates the Abouna or
Patriarch of Abyssinia, who by a specific law must not be a native of
that country, and who has not the privilege of naming his successor or
consecrating archbishops or bishops, although in other respects his
authority in religious matters is supreme. The Patriarch of Abyssinia
usually ordains two or three thousand priests at once on his first
arrival in that country, and the unfitness of the individual appointed
to this high office has sometimes caused much scandal. This has arisen
from the difficulty there has often been in getting a respectable person
to accept the office, as it involves perpetual banishment from Egypt,
and a residence among a people whose partiality to raw meat and other
peculiar customs are held as abominations by the Egyptians.

The usual trade and occupation of the Copts is that of kateb, scribe, or
accountant; they seem to have a natural talent for arithmetic. They
appear to be more afflicted with ophthalmia than the Mohamedans, perhaps
because they drink wine and spirits, which the others do not.

The person of the greatest consequence among the Copts was Basileos Bey,
the Pasha's confidential secretary and minister of finance. This
gentleman was good enough to lend me a magnificent dahabieh or boat of
the largest size, which I used for many months. It was an old-fashioned
vessel, painted and gilt inside in a brilliant manner, which is not
usual in more modern boats; but being a person of a fanciful
disposition, I preferred the roomy proportions and the quaint arabesque
ornaments of this boat, although it was no very fast sailer, to the
natty vessels which were more Europeanised and quicker than mine. The
principal cabin was about ten feet by twelve, and was ornamented with
paintings of peacocks of a peculiar breed and nondescript flowers. The
divans, one on each side, were covered with fine carpets, and the
cushions were of cloth of gold, with a raised pattern of red velvet. The
ceilings were gilt, and we had two red silk flags of prodigious
dimensions in addition to streamers forty or fifty feet long at the end
of each of the yard-arms: in short, it was full of what is called
fantasia in the Levant, and as for its slowness, I consider that rather
an advantage in the East. I like to take my time and look about me, and
sit under a tree on a carpet when I get to an agreeable place, and I am
in no hurry to leave it; so the heavy qualities of the vessel suited me
exactly--we did nothing but stop everywhere. But although I confess that
I like deliberate travelling, I do not carry my system to the extent of
an American friend with whom I once journeyed from the shores of the
Black Sea to Hungary. We were taking a walk together in the mountains
near Mahadia, when seeing him looking about among the rocks I asked him
what he wanted. "Oh," said he, "I am looking out for a good place to go
to sleep in, for there is a beautiful view here, and I like to sleep
where there is a fine prospect, that I may enjoy it when I awake; so
good afternoon, and if you come back this way mind you call me."
Accordingly an hour or two afterwards I came back and aroused my
friend, who was still fast asleep. "I hope you enjoyed your nap," said
I; "we had a glorious walk among the hills." "Yes," said he, "I had a
famous nap." "And what did you think of the view when you awoke?" "The
view!" exclaimed he, "why, I forgot to look at it!"



NATRON LAKES.



CHAPTER VII.

     Visit to the Coptic Monasteries near the Natron Lakes--The Desert
     of Nitria--Early Christian Anchorites--St. Macarius of
     Alexandria--His Abstinence and Penance--Order of Monks founded by
     him--Great increase of the Number of ascetic Monks in the Fourth
     Century--Their subsequent decrease, and the present ruined state of
     the Monasteries--Legends of the Desert--Capture of a Lizard--Its
     _alarming_ escape--The Convent of Baramous--Night attacks--Invasion
     of Sanctuary--Ancient Glass Lamps--Monastery of Souriani--Its
     Library and Coptic MSS.--The Blind Abbot and his Oil-cellar--The
     persuasive powers of Rosoglio--Discovery of Syriac MSS.--The
     Abbot's supposed treasure.


In the month of March, 1837, I left Cairo for the purpose of visiting
the Coptic monasteries in the neighbourhood of the Natron lakes, which
are situated in the desert to the north-west of Cairo, on the western
side of the Nile. I had some difficulty in procuring a boat to take me
down the river--indeed there was not one to be obtained; but two English
gentlemen, on their way from China to England, were kind enough to give
me a passage in their boat to the village of Terrané, the nearest spot
upon the banks of the Nile to the monasteries which I proposed to visit.

The Desert of Nitria is famous in the annals of monastic history as the
first place to which the Anchorites, in the early ages of Christianity,
retired from the world in order to pass their lives in prayer and
contemplation, and in mortification of the flesh. It was in Egypt where
monasticism first took its rise, and the Coptic monasteries of St.
Anthony and St. Paul claim to be founded on the spots where the first
hermits established their cells on the shores of the Red Sea. Next in
point of antiquity are the monasteries of Nitria, of which we have
authentic accounts dated as far back as the middle of the second
century; for about the year 150 A.D. Fronto retired to the valleys of
the Natron lakes with seventy brethren in his company. The Abba Ammon
(whose life is detailed in the 'Vitæ Patrum' of Rosweyd, Antwerp, 1628,
a volume of great rarity and dulness, which I only obtained after a long
search among the mustiest of the London book-stalls) flourished, or
rather withered, in this desert in the beginning of the fourth century.
At this time also the Abba Bischoi founded the monastery still called
after his name, which, it seems, was Isaiah or Esa: the Coptic article
Pe or Be makes it Besa, under which name he wrote an ascetic work, a
manuscript of which, probably almost if not quite as old as his time, I
procured in Egypt. It is one of the most ancient manuscripts now extant.

But the chief and pattern of all the recluses of Nitria was the great
St. Macarius of Alexandria, whose feast-day--a day which he never
observed himself--is still kept by the Latins on the 2nd, and by the
Greeks on the 19th of January. This famous saint died A.D. 394, after
sixty years of austerities in various deserts: he first retired into the
Thebaid in the year 335, and about the year 373 established himself in a
solitary cell on the borders of the Natron lakes. Numerous anchorites
followed his example, all living separately, but meeting together on
Sundays for public prayer. Self-denial and abstinence were their great
occupations; and it is related that a traveller having given St.
Macarius a bunch of grapes, he sent it to another brother, who sent it
to a third, and at last, the grapes having passed through the hands of
some hundreds of hermits, came back to St. Macarius, who rejoiced at
such a proof of the abstinence of his brethren, but refused to eat of it
himself. This same saint having thoughtlessly killed a gnat which was
biting him, he was so unhappy at what he had done, that to make amends
for his inadvertency, and to increase his mortifications, he retired to
the marshes of Scete, where there were flies whose powerful stings were
sufficient to pierce the hide of a wild boar; here he remained six
months, till his body was so much disfigured that his brethren on his
return only knew him by the sound of his voice. He was the founder of
the monastic order which, as well as the monastery still existing on the
site of his cell, was called after his name. By their rigid rule the
monks are bound to fast the whole year, excepting on Sundays and during
the period between Easter and Whitsuntide: they were not to speak to a
stranger without leave. During Lent St. Macarius fasted all day, and
sometimes ate nothing for two or three days together; on Sundays,
however, he indulged in a raw cabbage-leaf, and in short set such an
example of abstinence and self-restraint to the numerous anchorites of
the desert, that the fame of his austerities gained him many admirers.
Throughout the middle ages his name is mentioned with veneration in all
the collections of the lives of the saints: he is represented pointing
out the vanities of life in the great fresco of the Triumph of Death, by
Andrea Orcagna, in the Campo Santo at Pisa. In his Life in Caxton's
'Golden Legende,' and in 'The Lives of the Fathers,' by Wynkyn de Worde,
a detailed account will be found of a most interesting conversation
which Macarius had with the devil, touching divers matters. Several of
his miracles are also put into modern English, in Lord Lindsay's book of
Christian Art. I have a MS. of the Gospels in Coptic, written by the
hand of one Zapita Leporos, under the rule of the great Macarius, in the
monastery of Laura, about the year 390, and which may have been used by
the Saint himself.

After the time of Macarius the number of ascetic monks increased to a
surprising amount. Rufinus, who visited them in the year 372, mentions
fifty of their convents; Palladius, who was there in the year 387,
reckons the devotees at five thousand. St Jerome also visited them, and
their number seems to have been kept up without much diminution for
several centuries.[4] After the conquest of Egypt by the Arabians, and
about the year 967, a Mahomedan author, Aboul Faraj of Hispahan, wrote a
book of poems, called the 'Book of Convents,' which is in praise of the
habits and religious devotion of the Christian monks. The dilapidated
monastery of St. Macarius was repaired and fortified by Sanutius,
Patriarch of Alexandria, at which good work he laboured with his own
bands: this must have been about the year 880, as he died in 881. In
more recent times the multitude of ascetics gradually decreased, and but
few travellers have extended their researches to their arid haunts. At
present only four monasteries remain entire, although the ruins of many
others may still be traced in the desert tracts on the west side of the
line of the Natron lakes, and the valley of the waterless river, which,
at some very remote period, is supposed to have formed the bed of one of
the branches of the Nile.

At the village of Terrané I was most hospitably received by an Italian
gentleman, who was superintending the export of the natron. Here I
procured camels; I had brought a tent with me; and the next day we set
off across the plain, with the Arabs to whom the camels belonged, and
who, having been employed in the transport of the natron, were able to
show us the way, which it would have been very difficult to trace
without their help. The memory of the devils and evil spirits who,
according to numerous legends, used formerly to haunt this desert,
seemed still to awaken the fears of these Arab guides. During the first
day's journey I talked to them on the subject, and found that their
minds were full of superstitious fancies.

It is said that tailors sometimes stand up to rest themselves, and on
that principle I had descended from my huge, ungainly camel, who had
never before been used for riding, and whose swinging paces were very
irksome, and was resting myself by walking in his shade, when seeing
something run up to a large stone which lay in the way, I moved it to
see what it was. I found a lizard, six or eight inches long, of a
species with which I was unacquainted. I caught the reptile by the nape
of the neck, which made him open his ugly mouth in a curious way, and he
wriggled about so much that I could hardly hold him. Judging that he
might be venomous, I looked about for some safe place to put him, and my
eye fell upon the large glass lantern which was used in the tent; that,
I thought, was just the thing for my lizard, so I put him into the
lantern, which hung at the side of the baggage camel, intending to
examine him at my leisure in the evening. When the sun was about to set,
the tent was pitched, and a famous fire lit for the cook. It was in a
bare, open place, without a hill, stock, or stone in sight in any
direction all around. The camels were tethered together, near the
baggage, which was piled in a heap to the windward of the fire; and, as
it was getting dark, one of the Arabs took the lantern to the fire to
light it. He got a blazing stick for this purpose, and held up the
lantern close to his face to undo the hasp, which he had no sooner
accomplished than out jumped the lizard upon his shoulder and
immediately made his escape. The Arab, at this unexpected attack, gave a
fearful yell, and dashing the lantern to pieces on the ground, screamed
out that the devil had jumped upon him and had disappeared in the
darkness, and that he was certain he was waiting to carry us all off.
The other Arabs were seriously alarmed, and for a long while paid no
attention to my explanation about the lizard, which was the cause of all
the disturbance. The worst of the affair was that the lantern being
broken to bits, we could have no light; for the wind blew the candles
out, notwithstanding our most ingenious efforts to shelter them. The
Arabs were restless all night, and before sunrise we were again under
way, and in the course of the day arrived at the convent of Baramous.
This monastery consisted of a high stone wall, surrounding a square
enclosure, of about an acre in extent. A large square tower commanded
the narrow entrance, which was closed by a low and narrow iron door.
Within there was a good-sized church in tolerable preservation, standing
nearly in the centre of the enclosure, which contained nothing else but
some ruined buildings and a few large fig-trees, growing out of the
disjointed walls. Two or three poor-looking monks still tenanted the
ruins of the abbey. They had hardly anything to offer us, and were glad
to partake of some of the rice and other eatables which we had brought
with us. I wandered about among the ruins with the half-starved monks
following me. We went into the square tower, where, in a large vaulted
room with open unglazed windows, were forty or fifty Coptic manuscripts
on cotton paper, lying on the floor, to which several of them adhered
firmly, not having been moved for many years. I only found one leaf on
vellum, which I brought away. The other manuscripts appeared to be all
liturgies; most of them smelling of incense when I opened them, and well
smeared with dirt and wax from the candles which had been held over them
during the reading of the service.

I took possession of a half-ruined cell, where my carpets were spread,
and where I went to sleep early in the evening; but I had hardly closed
my eyes before I was so briskly attacked by a multitude of ravenous
fleas, that I jumped up and ran out into the court to shake myself and
get rid if I could of my tormentors. The poor monks, hearing my
exclamations, crept out of their holes and recommended me to go into the
church, which they said would be safe from the attacks of the enemy. I
accordingly took a carpet which I had well shaken and beaten, and lay
down on the marble floor of the church, where I presently went to sleep.
Again I was awakened by the wicked fleas, who, undeterred by the
sanctity of my asylum, renewed their attack in countless legions. The
slaps I gave myself were all in vain; for, although I slew them by
dozens in my rage, others came on in their place. There was no
withstanding them, and, fairly vanquished, I was forced to abandon my
position, and walk about and look at the moon till the sun rose, when my
villainous tormentors slunk away and allowed me a short snatch of the
repose which they had prevented my enjoying all night.

There were several curious lamps in this church formed of ancient glass,
like those in the mosque of Sultan Hassan at Cairo, which are said to be
of the same date as the mosque, and to be of Syrian manufacture. These,
which were in the shape of large open vases, were ornamented with pious
sentences in Arabic characters, in blue on a white ground.[5] They were
very handsome, and, except one of the same kind, which is now in
England, in the possession of Mr. Magniac, I never saw any like them.
They are probably some of the most ancient specimens of ornamental glass
existing, excepting, of course, the vases and lachrymatories of the
classic times.

Quitting the monastery of Baramous, we went to that of Souriani, where
we left our baggage and tent, and proceeded to visit the monasteries of
Amba Bischoi and Abou Magar, or St. Macarius, both of which were in very
poor condition. These monasteries are so much alike in their plan and
appearance, that the description of one is the description of all. I saw
none but the church books in either of them, and at the time of my visit
they were apparently inhabited only by three or four monks, who
conducted the services of their respective churches.

On this journey we passed many ruins and heaps of stones nearly level
with the ground, the remains of some of the fifty monasteries which once
flourished in the wilderness of Scete.

In the evening I returned to Souriani, where I was hospitably received
by the abbot and fourteen or fifteen Coptic monks. They provided me with
an agreeable room looking into the garden within the walls. My servants
were lodged in some other small cells or rooms near mine, which happily
not being tenanted by fleas or any other wild beasts of prey, was
exceedingly comfortable when my bright-coloured carpets and cushions
were spread upon the floor; and, after the adventures of the two former
nights, I rested in great comfort and peace.

In the morning I went to see the church and all the other wonders of the
place, and on making inquiries about the library, was conducted by the
old abbot, who was blind, and was constantly accompanied by another
monk, into a small upper room in the great square tower, where we found
several Coptic manuscripts. Most of these were lying on the floor, but
some were placed in niches in the stone wall. They were all on paper,
except three or four. One of these was a superb manuscript of the
Gospels, with commentaries by the early fathers of the church; two
others were doing duty as coverings to a couple of large open pots or
jars, which had contained preserves, long since evaporated. I was
allowed to purchase these vellum manuscripts, as they were considered to
be useless by the monks, principally I believe because there were no
more preserves in the jars. On the floor I found a fine Coptic and
Arabic dictionary. I was aware of the existence of this volume, with
which they refused to part. I placed it in one of the niches in the
wall; and some years afterwards it was purchased for me by a friend, who
sent it to England after it had been copied at Cairo. They sold me two
imperfect dictionaries, which I discovered loaded with dust upon the
ground. Besides these, I did not see any other books but those of the
liturgies for various holy days. These were large folios on cotton
paper, most of them of considerable antiquity, and well begrimed with
dirt.

The old blind abbot had solemnly declared that there were no other books
in the monastery besides those which I had seen; but I had been told, by
a French gentleman at Cairo, that there were many ancient manuscripts in
the monks' oil cellar; and it was in pursuit of these and the Coptic
dictionary that I had undertaken the journey to the Natron lakes. The
abbot positively denied the existence of these books, and we retired
from the library to my room with the Coptic manuscripts which they had
ceded to me without difficulty; and which, according to the dates
contained in them, and from their general appearance, may claim to be
considered among the oldest manuscripts in existence, more ancient
certainly than many of the Syriac MSS. which I am about to describe.

The abbot, his companion, and myself sat down together. I produced a
bottle of rosoglio from my stores, to which I knew that all Oriental
monks were partial; for though they do not, I believe, drink wine
because an excess in its indulgence is forbidden by Scripture, yet
ardent spirits not having been invented in those times, there is nothing
said about them in the Bible; and at Mount Sinai and all the other spots
of sacred pilgrimage the monks comfort themselves with a little glass
or rather a small coffee cup of arrack or raw spirits when nothing
better of its kind is to be procured. Next to the golden key, which
masters so many locks, there is no better opener of the heart than a
sufficiency of strong drink,--not too much, but exactly the proper
quantity judiciously exhibited (to use a chemical term in the land of Al
Chémé, where alchemy and chemistry first had their origin). I have
always found it to be invincible; and now we sat sipping our cups of the
sweet pink rosoglio, and firing little compliments at each other, and
talking pleasantly over our bottle till some time passed away, and the
face of the blind abbot waxed bland and confiding; and he had that
expression on his countenance which men wear when they are pleased with
themselves and bear goodwill towards mankind in general. I had by the
bye a great advantage over the good abbot, as I could see the workings
of his features and he could not see mine, or note my eagerness about
the oil-cellar, on the subject of which I again gradually entered.
"There is no oil there," said he. "I am curious to see the architecture
of so ancient a room," said I; "for I have heard that yours is a famous
oil-cellar." "It is a famous cellar," said the other monk. "Take another
cup of rosoglio," said I. "Ah!" replied he, "I remember the days when it
overflowed with oil, and then there were I do not know how many brethren
here with us. But now we are few and poor; bad times are come over us:
we are not what we used to be." "I should like to see it very much,"
said I; "I have heard so much about it even at Cairo. Let us go and see
it; and when we come back we will have another bottle; and I will give
you a few more which I have brought with me for your private use."

This last argument prevailed. We returned to the great tower, and
ascended the steep flight of steps which led to its door of entrance. We
then descended a narrow staircase to the oil-cellar, a handsome vaulted
room, where we found a range of immense vases which formerly contained
the oil, but which now on being struck returned a mournful, hollow
sound. There was nothing else to be seen: there were no books here: but
taking the candle from the hands of one of the brethren (for they had
all wandered in after us, having nothing else to do), I discovered a
narrow low door, and, pushing it open, entered into a small closet
vaulted with stone which was filled to the depth of two feet or more
with the loose leaves of the Syriac manuscripts which now form one of
the chief treasures of the British Museum. Here I remained for some time
turning over the leaves and digging into the mass of loose vellum pages;
by which exertions I raised such a cloud of fine pungent dust that the
monks relieved each other in holding our only candle at the door, while
the dust made us sneeze incessantly as we turned over the scattered
leaves of vellum. I had extracted four books, the only ones I could
find which seemed to be tolerably perfect, when two monks who were
struggling in the corner pulled out a great big manuscript of a brown
and musty appearance and of prodigious weight, which was tied together
with a cord. "Here is a box!" exclaimed the two monks, who were nearly
choked with the dust; "we have found a box, and a heavy one too!" "A
box!" shouted the blind abbot, who was standing in the outer darkness of
the oil-cellar--"A box! Where is it? Bring it out! bring out the box!
Heaven be praised! We have found a treasure! Lift up the box! Pull out
the box! A box! A box! Sandouk! sandouk!" shouted all the monks in
various tones of voice. "Now then let us see the box! bring it out to
the light!" they cried. "What can there be in it?" and they all came to
help and carried it away up the stairs, the blind abbot following them
to the outer door, leaving me to retrace my steps as I could with the
volumes which I had dug out of their literary grave.



CHAPTER VIII.

     View from the Convent Wall--Appearance of the Desert--Its grandeur
     and freedom--Its contrast to the Convent Garden--Beauty and
     luxuriance of Eastern Vegetation--Picturesque Group of the Monks
     and their Visitors--The Abyssinian Monks--Their appearance--Their
     austere mode of Life--The Abyssinian College--Description of the
     Library--The mode of Writing in Abyssinia--Immense Labour required
     to write an Abyssinian book--Paintings and
     Illuminations--Disappointment of the Abbot at finding the supposed
     Treasure-box only an old Book--Purchase of the MSS. and Books--The
     most precious left behind--Since acquired for the British Museum.


On leaving the dark recesses of the tower I paused at the narrow door by
which we had entered, both to accustom my eyes to the glare of the
daylight, and to look at the scene below me. I stood on the top of a
steep flight of stone steps, by which the door of the tower was
approached from the court of the monastery: the steps ran up the inside
of the outer wall, which was of sufficient thickness to allow of a
narrow terrace within the parapet; from this point I could look over the
wall on the left hand upon the desert, whose dusty plains stretched out
as far as I could see, in hot and dreary loneliness to the horizon. To
those who are not familiar with the aspect of such a region as this, it
may be well to explain that a desert such as that which now surrounded
me resembles more than anything else a dusty turnpike-road in England
on a hot summer's day, extended interminably, both as to length and
breadth. A country of low rounded hills, the surface of which is
composed entirely of gravel, dust, and stones, will give a good idea of
the general aspect of a desert. Yet, although parched and dreary in the
extreme from their vastness and openness, there is something grand and
sublime in the silence and loneliness of these burning plains; and the
wandering tribes of Bedouins who inhabit them are seldom content to
remain long in the narrow inclosed confines of cultivated land. There is
always a fresh breeze in the desert, except when the terrible hot wind
blows; and the air is more elastic and pure than where vegetation
produces exhalations which in all hot climates are more or less heavy
and deleterious. The air of the desert is always healthy, and no race of
men enjoy a greater exemption from weakness, sickness, and disease than
the children of the desert, who pass their lives in wandering to and fro
in search of the scanty herbage on which their flocks are fed, far from
the cares and troubles of busy cities, and free from the oppression
which grinds down the half-starved cultivators of the fertile soil of
Egypt.

Whilst from my elevated position I looked out on my left upon the mighty
desert, on my right how different was the scene! There below my feet lay
the convent garden in all the fresh luxuriance of tropical vegetation.
Tufts upon tufts of waving palms overshadowed the immense succulent
leaves of the banana, which in their turn rose out of thickets of the
pomegranate rich with its bright green leaves and its blossoms of that
beautiful and vivid red which is excelled by few even of the most
brilliant flowers of the East. These were contrasted with the deep dark
green of the caroub or locust-tree; and the yellow apples of the lotus
vied with the clusters of green limes with their sweet white flowers
which luxuriated in a climate too hot and sultry for the golden fruit of
the orange, which is not to be met with in the valley of the Nile.
Flowers and fair branches exhaling rich perfume and bearing freshness in
their very aspect became more beautiful from their contrast to the
dreary arid plains outside the convent walls, and this great difference
was owing solely to there being a well of water in this spot from which
a horse or mule was constantly employed to draw the fertilizing streams
which nourished the teeming vegetation of this monastic garden.

I stood gazing and moralizing at these contrasted scenes for some time;
but at length when I turned my eyes upon my companions and myself, it
struck me that we also were somewhat remarkable in our way. First there
was the old blind grey-bearded abbot, leaning on his staff, surrounded
with three or four dark robed Coptic monks, holding in their hands the
lighted candles with which we had explored the secret recesses of the
oil-cellar; there was I dressed in the long robes of a merchant of the
East, with a small book in the breast of my gown and a big one under
each arm; and there were my servants armed to the teeth and laden with
old books; and one and all we were so covered with dirt and wax from top
to toe, that we looked more as if we had been up the chimney than like
quiet people engaged in literary researches. One of the monks was
leaning in a brown study upon the ponderous and gigantic volume in its
primæval binding, in the interior of which the blind abbot had hoped to
find a treasure. Perched upon the battlements of this remote monastery
we formed as picturesque a group as one might wish to see; though
perhaps the begrimed state of our flowing robes as well as of our hands
and faces would render a somewhat remote point of view more agreeable to
the artist than a closer inspection.

While we had been standing on the top of the steps, I had heard from
time to time some incomprehensible sounds which seemed to arise from
among the green branches of the palms and fig-trees in a corner of the
garden at our feet. "What," said I to a bearded Copt, who was seated on
the steps, "is that strange howling noise which I hear among the trees?
I have heard it several times when the rustling of the wind among the
branches has died away for a moment. It sounds something like a chant,
or a dismal moaning song: only it is different in its cadence from
anything that I have heard before." "That noise," replied the monk, "is
the sound of the service of the church which is being chanted by the
Abyssinian monks. Come down the steps and I will show you their chapel
and their library. The monastery which they frequented in this desert
has fallen to decay; and they now live here, their numbers being
recruited occasionally by pilgrims on their way from Abyssinia to
Jerusalem, some of whom pass by each year; not many now, to be sure; but
still fewer return to their own land."

Giving up my precious manuscripts to the guardianship of my servants and
desiring them to put them down carefully in my cell, I accompanied my
Coptic friend into the garden, and turning round some bushes, we
immediately encountered one of the Abyssinian monks walking with a book
in his hand under the shade of the trees. Presently we saw three or four
more; and very remarkable looking persons they were. These holy brethren
were as black as crows; tall, thin, ascetic looking men of a most
original aspect and costume. I have seen the natives of many strange
nations, both before and since, but I do not know that I ever met with
so singular a set of men, so completely the types of another age and of
a state of things the opposite to European, as these Abyssinian
Eremites. They were black, as I have already said, which is not the
usual complexion of the natives of Habesh; and they were all clothed in
tunics of wash leather made, they told me, of gazelle skins. This
garment came down to their knees, and was confined round their waist
with a leathern girdle. Over their shoulders they had a strap supporting
a case like a cartridge-box, of thick brown leather, containing a
manuscript book; and above this they wore a large shapeless cloak or
toga, of the same light yellow wash leather as the tunic; I do not think
that they wore anything on the head, but this I do not distinctly
remember. Their legs were bare, and they had no other clothing, if I may
except a profuse smearing of grease; for they had anointed themselves in
the most lavish manner, not with the oil of gladness, but with that of
castor, which however had by no means the effect of giving them a
cheerful countenance; for although they looked exceedingly slippery and
greasy, they seemed to be an austere and dismal set of fanatics: true
disciples of the great Macarius, the founder of these secluded
monasteries, and excellently calculated to figure in that grim chorus of
his invention, or at least which is called after his name, "La danse
Macabre," known to us by the appellation of the Dance of Death. They
seemed to be men who fasted much and feasted little; great observers
were they of vigils, of penance, of pilgrimages, and midnight masses;
eaters of bitter herbs for conscience' sake. It was such men as these
who lived on the tops of columns, and took up their abodes in tombs, and
thought it was a sign of holiness to look like a wild beast--that it was
wicked to be clean, and superfluous to be useful in this world; and who
did evil to themselves that good might come. Poor fellows! they meant
well, and knew no better; and what more can be said for the endeavours
of the best of men?

Accompanied by a still increasing number of these wild priests we
traversed the shady garden, and came to a building with a flat roof,
which stood in the south-east corner of the enclosure and close to the
outer wall. This was the college or consistory of the Abyssinian monks,
and the accompanying sketch made upon the spot will perhaps explain the
appearance of this room better than any written description. The round
thing upon the floor is a table upon which the dishes of their frugal
meal were set; by the side of this low table we sat upon the ground on
the skin of some great wild beast, which did duty as a carpet. This room
was also their library, and on my remarking the number of books which I
saw around me they seemed proud of their collection, and told me that
there were not many such libraries as this in their country. There were
perhaps nearly fifty volumes, and as the entire literature of Abyssinia
does not include more than double that number of works, I could easily
imagine that what I saw around me formed a very considerable
accumulation of manuscripts, considering the barbarous state of the
country from which they came.

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF THE ABYSSINIAN LIBRARY, IN THE MONASTERY OF
SOURIANI ON THE NATRON LAKES.

Abyssinian monk clothed in leather.

The dining table.

The blind abbot leaning over the Author.

Abyssinian monk.

Coptic monk.

The books hanging from wooden pegs let into the wall.

The Author's Egyptian servants.]

The disposition of the manuscripts in this library was very original. I
have had no means of ascertaining whether all the libraries of Abyssinia
are arranged in the same style. The room was about twenty-six feet long,
twenty wide, and twelve high; the roof was formed of the trunks of palm
trees, across which reeds were laid, which supported the mass of earth
and plaster, of which the terrace roof was composed; the interior of the
walls was plastered white with lime; the windows, at a good height from
the ground, were unglazed, but were defended with bars of iron-wood or
some other hard wood; the door opened into the garden, and its lock,
which was of wood also, was of that peculiar construction which has been
used in Egypt from time immemorial. A wooden shelf was carried in the
Egyptian style round the walls, at the height of the top of the door,
and on this shelf stood sundry platters, bottles, and dishes for the use
of the community. Underneath the shelf various long wooden pegs
projected from the wall; they were each about a foot and a half long,
and on them hung the Abyssinian manuscripts, of which this curious
library was entirely composed.

The books of Abyssinia are bound in the usual way, sometimes in red
leather and sometimes in wooden boards, which are occasionally
elaborately carved in rude and coarse devices: they are then enclosed
in a case, tied up with leather thongs; to this case is attached a strap
for the convenience of carrying the volume over the shoulders, and by
these straps the books were hung to the wooden pegs, three or four on a
peg, or more if the books were small: their usual size was that of a
small, very thick quarto. The appearance of the room, fitted up in this
style, together with the presence of various long staves, such as the
monks of all the Oriental churches lean upon at the time of prayer,
resembled less a library than a barrack or guard-room, where the
soldiers had hung their knapsacks and cartridge-boxes against the wall.

All the members of this church militant could read fluently out of their
own books, which is more than the Copts could do in whose monastery they
were sojourning. Two or three, with whom I spoke, were intelligent men,
although not much enlightened as to the affairs of this world: the
perfume of their leather garments and oily bodies was, however, rather
too powerful for my olfactory nerves, and after making a slight sketch
of their library I was glad to escape into the open air of the beautiful
garden, where I luxuriated in the shade of the palms and the
pomegranates. The strange costumes and wild appearance of these black
monks, and the curious arrangement of their library, the uncouth sounds
of their singing and howling, and the clash of their cymbals in the
ancient convent of the Natron lakes, formed a scene such as I believe
few Europeans have witnessed.

The labour required to write an Abyssinian book is immense, and
sometimes many years are consumed in the preparation of a single volume.
They are almost all written upon skins; the only one not written upon
vellum that I have met with is in my own possession; it is on charta
bombycina. The ink which they use is composed of gum, lampblack, and
water. It is jet black, and keeps its colour for ever: indeed in this
respect all Oriental inks are infinitely superior to ours, and they have
the additional advantage of not being corrosive or injurious either to
the pen or paper. Their pen is the reed commonly used in the East, only
the nib is made sharper than that which is required to write the Arabic
character. The ink-horn is usually the small end of a cow's horn, which
is stuck into the ground at the feet of the scribe. In the most ancient
Greek frescos and illuminations this kind of ink-horn is the one
generally represented, and it seems to have been usually inserted in a
hole in the writing-desk: no writing-desk, however, is in use among the
children of Habesh. Seated upon the ground, the square piece of thick
greasy vellum is held upon the knee or on the palm of the left hand.

The Abyssinian alphabet consists of 8 times 26 letters, 208 characters
in all, and these are each written distinctly and separately like the
letters of an European printed book. They have no cursive writing; each
letter is therefore painted, as it were, with the reed pen, and as the
scribe finishes each he usually makes a horrible face and gives a
triumphant flourish with his pen. Thus he goes on letter by letter, and
before he gets to the end of the first line he is probably in a
perspiration from his nervous apprehension of the importance of his
undertaking. One page is a good day's work, and when he has done it he
generally, if he is not too stiff, follows the custom of all little Arab
boys, and swings his head or his body from side to side, keeping time to
a sort of nasal recitative, without the help of which it would seem that
few can read even a chapter of the Koran, although they may know it by
heart.

Some of these manuscripts are adorned with the quaintest and grimmest
illuminations conceivable. The colours are composed of various ochres.
In general the outlines of the figures are drawn first with the pen. The
paint brush is made by chewing the end of a reed till it is reduced to
filaments and then nibbling it into a proper form: the paint brushes of
the ancient Egyptians were made in the same way, and excellent brooms
for common purposes are made at Cairo by beating the thick end of a
palm-branch till the fibres are separated from the pith, the part above,
which is not beaten, becoming the handle of the broom. The Abyssinian
having nibbled and chewed his reed till he thinks it will do, proceeds
to fill up the spaces between the inked outlines with his colours. The
Blessed Virgin is usually dressed in blue; the complexion of the figures
is a brownish red, and those in my possession have a curious cast of the
eyes, which gives them a very cunning look. St John, in a MS. which I
have now before me, is represented with woolly hair, and has two marks
or gashes on each side of his face, in accordance with the Abyssinian or
Galla custom of cutting through the skin of the face, breast, and arms,
so as to leave an indelible mark. This is done in youth, and is said to
preserve the patient from several diseases. The colours are mixed up
with the yolk of an egg, and the numerous mistakes and slips of the
brush are corrected by a wipe from a wet finger or thumb, which is
generally kept ready in the artist's mouth during the operation; and it
is lucky if he does not give it a bite in the agony of composition, when
with an unsteady hand the eye of some famous saint is smeared all over
the nose by an unfortunate swerve of the nibbled reed.

It is not often, however, that the arts of drawing and painting are thus
ruthlessly mangled on the pages of their books, and notwithstanding the
disadvantages under which the writers labour, some of these manuscripts
are beautifully written, and are worthy of being compared with the best
specimens of calligraphy in any language. I have a MS. containing the
book of Enoch, and several books of the Old Testament, which is
remarkable for the perfection of its writing, the straightness of the
lines, and the equal size and form of the characters throughout:
probably many years were required to finish it. The binding is of wooden
boards, not sawn or planed, but chopped apparently out of a tree or a
block of hard wood, a task of patience and difficulty which gives
evidence of the enthusiasm and goodwill which have been displayed in the
production of a work, in toiling upon which the pious man in the
simplicity of his heart doubtless considered that he was labouring for
the honour of the church, _ad majorem Dei gloriam_. It was this feeling
which in the middle ages produced all those glorious works of art which
are the admiration of modern times, and its total absence now is deeply
to be deplored in our own country.

Having satiated my curiosity as to the Abyssinian monks and their
curious library, I returned to my own room, where I was presently joined
by the abbot and his companion, who came for the promised bottle of
rosoglio, which they now required the more to keep up their spirits on
finding that the box of treasure was only a large old book. They
murmured and talked to themselves between the cups of rosoglio, and so
great was their disappointment that it was some time before they
recovered the equilibrium of their minds. "You found no treasure," I
remarked, "but I am a lover of old books; let me have the big one which
you thought was a box and the others which I have brought out with me,
and I will give you a certain number of piastres in exchange. By this
arrangement we shall be both of us contented, for the money will be
useful to you, and I should be glad to carry away the books as a
memorial of my visit to this interesting spot." "Ah!" said the abbot.
"Another cup of rosoglio," said I; "help yourself." "How much will you
give?" asked the abbot. "How much do you want?" said I; "all the money I
have with me is at your service." "How much is that?" he inquired. Out
came the bag of money, and the agreeable sound of the clinking of the
pieces of gold or dollars, I forget which they were, had a soothing
effect upon the nerves of the blind man, and in short the bottle and the
bargain were concluded at the same moment.

The Coptic and Syriac manuscripts were stowed away in one side of a
great pair of saddle-bags. "Now," said I, "we will put these in the
other side, and you shall take it out and see the Arabs place it on the
camel." We could not by any packing or shifting get all the books into
the bag, and the two monks would not let me make another parcel, lest,
as I understood, the rest of the brethren should discover what it was,
and claim their share of the spoil. In this dreadful dilemma I looked at
each of the books, not knowing which to leave behind, but seeing that
the quarto was the most imperfect, I abandoned it, and I have now reason
to believe, on seeing the manuscripts of the British Museum, that this
was the famous book with the date of A.D. 411, the most precious
acquisition to any library that has been made in modern times, with the
exception, as I conceive, of some in my own collection. It is, however,
a satisfaction to think that this book, which contains some lost
epistles of St. Ignatius, has not been thrown away, but has fallen into
better hands than mine.



THE CONVENT OF THE PULLEY.



CHAPTER IX.

     The Convent of the Pulley--Its inaccessible position--Difficult
     landing on the bank of the Nile--Approach to the Convent through
     the Rocks--Description of the Convent and its Inhabitants--Plan of
     the Church--Books and MSS.--Ancient excavations--Stone Quarries and
     ancient Tombs--Alarm of the Copts--Their ideas of a Sketch-book.


The Coptic monasteries were usually built in desert or inaccessible
places, with a view to their defence in troubled times, or in the hope
of their escaping the observation of marauding parties, who were not
likely to take the trouble of going much out of their way unless they
had assured hopes of finding something better worth sacking than a poor
convent. The access to Der el Adra, the Convent of the Virgin, more
commonly known by the name of the Convent of the Pulley, is very
singular. This monastery is situated on the top of the rocks of Gebel el
terr, where a precipice above 200 feet in height is washed at its base
by the waters of the Nile. When I visited this monastery on the 19th of
February, 1838, there was a high wind, which rendered the management of
my immense boat, above 80 feet long, somewhat difficult; and we were
afraid of being dashed against the rocks if we ventured too near them in
our attempt to land at the foot of the precipice. The monks, who were
watching our manœuvres from above, all at once disappeared, and
presently several of them made their appearance on the shore, issuing in
a complete state of nudity from a cave or cleft in the face of the rock.
These worthy brethren jumped one after another into the Nile, and
assisted the sailors to secure the boat with ropes and anchors from the
force of the wind. They swam like Newfoundland dogs, and, finding that
it was impossible for the boat to reach the land, two of the reverend
gentlemen took me on their shoulders and, wading through a shallow part
of the river, brought me safely to the foot of the rock. When we got
there I could not perceive any way to ascend to the monastery, but,
following the abbot, I scrambled over the broken rocks to the entrance
of the cave. This was a narrow fissure where the precipice had been
split by some convulsion of nature, the opening being about the size of
the inside of a capacious chimney. The abbot crept in at a hole at the
bottom: he was robed in a long dark blue shirt, the front of which he
took up and held in his teeth; and, telling me to observe where he
placed his feet, he began to climb up the cleft with considerable
agility. A few preliminary lessons from a chimney-sweep would now have
been of the greatest service to me; but in this branch of art my
education had been neglected, and it was with no small difficulty that
I climbed up after the abbot, whom I saw striding and sprawling in the
attitude of a spread eagle above my head. My slippers soon fell off upon
the head of a man under me, whom, on looking down, I found to be the
reis, or captain of my boat, whose immense turban formed the whole of
his costume. At least twenty men were scrambling and puffing underneath
him, most of them having their clothes tied in a bundle on their heads,
where they had secured them when they swam or waded to the shore. Arms
and legs were stretched out in all manner of attitudes, the forms of the
more distant climbers being lost in the gloom of the narrow cavern up
which we were advancing, the procession being led by the unrobed
ecclesiastics. Having climbed up about 120 feet, we emerged in a fine
perspiration upon a narrow ledge of the rock on the face of the
precipice, which had an unpleasant slope towards the Nile. It was as
slippery as glass; and I felt glad that I had lost my shoes, as I had a
firmer footing without them. We turned to the right, and climbing a
projection of the rock seven or eight feet high--rather a nervous
proceeding at such a height to those who were unaccustomed to it--we
gained a more level space, from which a short steep pathway brought us
to the top of the precipice, whence I looked down with much
self-complacency upon my companion who was standing on the deck of the
vessel.

The convent stands about two hundred paces to the north of the place
where we ascended. It had been originally built of small square stones
of Roman workmanship; but, having fallen into decay, it had been
repaired with mud and sunburnt bricks. Its ground plan was nearly a
square, and its general appearance outside was that of a large pound or
a small kitchen garden, the walls being about 20 feet high and each side
of the square extending about 200 feet, without any windows or
architectural decoration. I entered by a low doorway on the side towards
the cliff, and found myself in a yard of considerable size full of
cocks, hens, women, and children, who were all cackling and talking
together at the top of their shrill voices. A large yellow-coloured dog,
who was sleeping in the sunshine in the midst of all this din, was
awakened by its cessation as I entered. He greeted my arrival with a
growl, upon which he was assailed with a volley of stones and invectives
by the ladies whom he had intended to protect. Every man, woman, and
child came out to have a peep at the stranger, but when my numerous
followers, many in habiliments of the very slightest description,
crowded into the court, the ladies took fright, and there was a general
rush into the house, the old women hiding their faces without a moment's
delay, but the younger ones taking more time in the adjustment of their
veils. When peace was in some measure restored, and the poor dog had
been pelted into a hole, the abbot, who had now permitted his long shirt
to resume its usual folds, conducted me to the church, which was
speedily filled with the crowd. It was interesting from its great
antiquity, having been founded, as they told me, by a rich lady of the
name of Halané, who was the daughter of a certain Kostandi, king of
Roum. The church is partly subterranean, being built in the recesses of
an ancient stone-quarry; the other parts of it are of stone plastered
over. The roof is flat and is formed of horizontal beams of palm trees,
upon which a terrace of reeds and earth is laid. The height of the
interior is about 25 feet. On entering the door we had to descend a
flight of narrow steps, which led into a side aisle about ten feet wide,
and which is divided from the nave by octagon columns of great thickness
supporting the walls of a sort of clerestory. The columns were
surmounted by heavy square plinths almost in the Egyptian style.

As I consider this church to be interesting from its being half a
catacomb, or cave, and one of the earliest Christian buildings which has
preserved its originality, I subjoin a plan of it, by which it will be
seen that it is constructed on the principle of a Latin basilica, as the
buildings of the Empress Helena usually were; the Byzantine style of
architecture, the plan of which partook of the form of a Greek cross,
being a later invention; for the earliest Christian churches were not
cruciform, and seldom had transepts, nor were they built with any
reference to the points of the compass.[8]

[Illustration: Plan of the church, the convent of the Pulley.

1. Altar.

2. Apsis, apparently cut out of the rock.

3. Two Corinthian columns.

4. Wooden partitions of lattice-work, about 10 ft. high.

5. Steps leading up to the sanctuary.

6. Two three-quarter columns.

7. Eight columns.[6]

8. Dark room cut out of the rock (there is another corresponding to it
under the steps).[7]

9. Steps leading down into the church.

10. Screen before the Altar.]

The ancient divisions of the church are also more strictly preserved in
this edifice than in the churches of the West; the priests or monks
standing above the steps (marked No. 5), the celebrant of the sacrament
only going behind the screen (No. 10); the bulk of the congregation
stand, there are no seats below the steps (No. 5), and the place for the
women is behind the screen marked No. 4. The church is very dimly
lighted by small apertures in the walls of the clerestory, above the
columns, and the part about the apsis is nearly dark in the middle of
the day, candles being always necessary during the reading of the
service. The two Corinthian columns are of brick, plastered; they are
not fluted, but are of good proportions and appear to be original. The
apsis is of regular Grecian or Roman architecture, and is ornamented
with six pilasters, and three niches in which are kept the books,
cymbals, candlesticks, and other things which are used for the daily
service. Here I found twenty-three manuscript books, fifteen in Coptic
with Arabic translations, for the Coptic language is now understood by
few, and eight Arabic manuscripts. The Coptic books were all liturgies:
one of them, a folio, was ornamented with a large illumination, intended
to represent the Virgin and the infant Saviour; it is almost the only
specimen of Coptic art that I ever met with in a book, and its style and
execution are so poor, that, perhaps, it is fortunate that they should
be so rare. The Arabic books, which, as well as the Coptic, were all on
cotton-paper, consisted of extracts from the New Testament and lives of
the saints.

I had been told that there was a great chest bound with iron, which was
kept in a vault in this monastery, full of ancient books on vellum, and
which was not to be opened without the consent of the Patriarch; I
could, however, make out nothing of this story, but it does not follow
that this chest of ancient manuscripts does not exist; for, surrounded
as I was by crowds of gaping Copts and Arabs, I could not expect the
abbot to be very communicative; and they have from long oppression
acquired such a habit of denying the fact of their having anything in
their possession, that, perhaps, there may still be treasures here which
some future traveller may discover.

While I was turning over the books, the contents of which I was able to
decypher, from the similarity of the Coptic to the Greek alphabet, the
people were very much astonished at my erudition, which appeared to them
almost miraculous. They whispered to each other, and some said I must be
a foreign Copt, who had returned to the land of his fathers. They asked
my servant all manner of questions; but when he told them that he did
not believe I knew a word of Coptic, their astonishment was increased to
fear. I must be a magician, they said, and some kept a sharp look-out
for the door, to which there was an immediate rush when I turned round.
The whole assembly were puzzled, for in their simplicity they were not
aware that people sometimes pore over books, and read them too, without
understanding them, in other languages besides Coptic.

We emerged from the subterranean church, which, being half sunk in the
earth and surrounded by buildings, had nothing remarkable in its
exterior architecture, and ascended to the terrace on the roof of the
convent, whence we had a view of numerous ancient stone quarries in the
desert to the east. They appeared to be of immense extent; the convent
itself and two adjoining burial-grounds were all ensconced in the
ancient limestone excavations.

I am inclined to think, that although all travellers in Egypt pass along
the river below this convent, few have visited its interior. It is now
more a village than a monastery, properly speaking, as it is inhabited
by numerous Coptic families who are not connected with the monks. These
poor people were so surprised at my appearance, and watched all my
actions with such intense curiosity, that I imagine they had scarcely
ever seen a stranger before. They crowded every place where I was likely
to pass, staring and gaping, and chattering to each other. Being much
pressed with the throng in the court-yard, I made a sudden spring
towards one of the little girls who was foremost in the crowd, uttering
a shout at the same time as if I was going to seize her as she stood
gazing open-mouthed at me. She screamed and tumbled down with fright,
and the whole multitude of women and children scampered off as fast as
their legs could carry them. Some fell down, others tumbled over them,
making an indescribable confusion; but being reassured by the laughter
of my party, they soon stopped and began laughing and talking with
greater energy than before. At length I took refuge in the room of the
superior, who gave me some coffee, with spices in it; and soon
afterwards I took leave of this singular community.

We walked to some quarries about two miles off to the north-east, which
well repaid our visit The rocks were cut into the most extraordinary
forms. There were several grottos, and also an ancient tomb with
hieroglyphics sculptured on the rock. Among these I saw the names of
Rameses II. and some other kings. Near this tomb is a large tablet on
which is a bas-relief of a king making an offering to a deity with the
head of a crocodile, whose name, according to Wilkinson, was Savak: he
was worshipped at Ombos and Thebes, but was held in such small respect
at Dendera that the inhabitants of that place made war upon the men of
Ombos, and ate one of their prisoners, in emulation probably of the god
he worshipped. Indeed, they appear to have considered the inhabitants of
that city to have been a sort of vermin which it was incumbent upon all
sensible Egyptians to destroy whenever they had an opportunity.

In one place among the quarries a large rock has been left standing by
itself with two apertures, like doorways, cut through it, giving it the
resemblance of a propylon or the front of a house. It is not more than
ten feet thick, although it is eighty or ninety feet long, and fifty
high. Near it a huge slab projects horizontally from the precipice,
supported at its outer edge by a single column. Some of the Copts, whose
curiosity appeared to be insatiable, had followed us to these quarries,
for the mere pleasure of staring at us. One of them, observing me making
a sketch, came and peeped over my shoulder. "This Frank," said he to his
friends, "has got a book that eats all these stones, and our monastery
besides." "Ah!" said the other, "I suppose there are no stones in his
country, so he wants to take some of ours away to show his countrymen
what fine things we have here in Egypt; there is no place like Egypt,
after all. Mashallah!"



RUINED MONASTERY AT THEBES.



CHAPTER X.

     Ruined Monastery in the Necropolis of Thebes--"Mr. Hay's Tomb"--The
     Coptic Carpenter--His acquirements and troubles--He agrees to show
     the MSS. belonging to the ruined Monastery, which are under his
     charge--Night visit to the Tomb in which they are concealed--Perils
     of the way--Description of the Tomb--Probably in former times a
     Christian Church--Examination of the Coptic MSS.--Alarming
     interruption--Hurried flight from the Evil Spirits--Fortunate
     escape--Appearance of the Evil Spirit--Observations on Ghost
     Stories--The Legend of the Old Woman of Berkeley considered.


On a rocky hill, perforated on all sides by the violated sepulchres of
the ancient Egyptians, in the great Necropolis of Thebes, not far from
the ruins of the palace and temple of Medinet Habou, stand the crumbling
walls of an old Coptic monastery, which I was told had been inhabited,
almost within the memory of man, by a small community of Christian
monks. I was living at this period in a tomb, which was excavated in the
side of the precipice, above Sheick Abd el Gournoo. It had been rendered
habitable by some slight alterations, and a little garden was made on
the terrace in front of it, whence the view was very remarkable. The
whole of the vast ruins of Thebes were stretched out below it; whilst,
beyond the mighty Nile, the huge piles of Luxor and Carnac loomed dark
and mysterious in the distance, which was bounded by the arid chain of
the Arabian mountains, the outline of their wild tops showing clear and
hard against the cloudless sky. This habitation was known by the name of
"Mr. Hay's tomb." The memory of this gentleman is held in the highest
honour and reverence by the villagers of the surrounding districts, who
look back to the time of his residence among them as the only
satisfactory period of their miserable existence.

One of the numerous admirers of Mr. Hay, among the poorer inhabitants of
the neighbourhood, was a Coptic carpenter, a man of no small natural
genius and talent, who in any other country would have risen above the
sphere of his comrades if any opportunity of distinguishing himself had
offered. He could read and write Coptic and Arabic; he had some
knowledge of astronomy, and some said of magic also; and he was a very
tolerable carpenter, although the only tools which he was able to
procure were of the roughest sort. In all these accomplishments he was
entirely self-taught; while his poverty was such that his costume
consisted of nothing but a short shirt, or tunic, made of a homespun
fabric of goat's hair, or wool, and a common felt skull-cap, with some
rags twisted round it for a turban. With higher acquirements than the
governor of the district, the poor Copt was hardly able to obtain bread
to eat; and indeed it was only from the circumstance of his being a
Christian that he and the other males of his family were not swept away
in the conscription which has depopulated Egypt under the present
government more than all the pillage and massacres and internal feuds of
the followers of the Mameluke Beys.

On those numerous occasions when the carpenter had nothing else to do,
he used to come and talk to me; and endeavour to count up, upon his
fingers, how often he had "_eat stick_;" that is, had been beaten by one
Turkish officer or another for his inability to pay the tax to the
Pasha, the tooth-money to some kawass, the forced contribution to the
Nazir, or some other expected or unexpected call upon his empty
pocket,--an appendage to his dress, by the by, which he did not possess;
for having nothing in the world to put in it, a pocket was clearly of no
use to him. The carpenter related to me the history of the ruined Coptic
monastery; and I found that its library was still in existence. It was
carefully concealed from the Mahomedans, as a sacred treasure; and my
friend the carpenter was the guardian of the volumes belonging to his
fallen church. After some persuasion he agreed, in consideration of my
being a Christian, to let me see them; but he said I must go to the
place where they were concealed at night, in order that no one might
follow our steps; and he further stipulated that none of the Mahomedan
servants should accompany us, but that I should go alone with him. I
agreed to all this; and on the appointed night I sallied forth with the
carpenter after dark. There were not many stars visible; and we had only
just light enough to see our way across the plain of Thebes, or rather
among the low hills and narrow valleys above the plain, which are so
entirely honeycombed with ancient tombs and mummy pits that they
resemble a rabbit warren on a large scale. Skulls and bones were strewed
on our path; and often at the mouths of tombs the night wind would raise
up fragments of the bandages which the sacrilegious hand of the Frankish
spoilers of the dead had torn from the bodies of the Egyptian mummies in
search of the scarabæi, amulets, and ornaments which are found upon the
breast of the deceased subjects of the Pharaohs.

Away we went stumbling over ruins, and escaping narrowly the fate of
those who descend into the tomb before their time. Sometimes we heard a
howl, which the carpenter said came from a hyena, prowling like
ourselves among the graves, though on a very different errand. We kept
on our way, by many a dark ruin and yawning cave, breaking our shins
against the fallen stones until I was almost tired of the journey, which
in the darkness seemed interminable; nor had I any idea where the
carpenter was leading me. At last, after a fatiguing walk, we descended
suddenly into a place something like a gravel pit, one side of which was
closed by the perpendicular face of a low cliff, in which a doorway half
filled up with rubbish betokened the existence of an ancient tomb. By
the side of this doorway sat a little boy, whom I discovered by the
light of the moon, which had just risen, to be the carpenter's son, an
intelligent lad, who often came to pay me a visit in company with his
father. It was here that the Coptic manuscripts were concealed, and it
was a spot well chosen for the purpose; for although I thought I had
wandered about the Necropolis of Thebes in every direction, I had never
stumbled upon this place before, neither could I ever find it
afterwards, although I rode in that direction several times.

I now produced from my pocket three candles, which the carpenter had
desired me to bring, one for him, one for his son, and one for myself.
Having lit them, we entered into the doorway of the tomb, and passing
through a short passage, found ourselves in a great sepulchral hall. The
earth and sand which had been blown into the entrance formed an inclined
plane, sloping downwards to another door sculptured with hieroglyphics,
through which we passed into a second chamber, on the other side of
which was a third doorway, leading into a magnificent subterranean hall,
divided into three aisles by four square columns, two on each side.
There may have been six columns, but I think there were only four. The
walls and columns, or rather square piers which supported the roof,
retained the brilliant white which is so much to be admired in the tombs
of the kings and other stately sepulchres. On the walls were various
hieroglyphics, and on the square piers tall figures of the gods of the
infernal regions--Kneph, Khonso, and Osiris--were portrayed in brilliant
colours, with their immense caps or crowns, and the heads of the jackal
and other beasts. At the further end of this chamber was a stone altar,
standing upon one or two steps, in an apsis or semicircular recess. As
this is not usual in Egyptian tombs, I have since thought that this had
probably been altered by the Copts in early times, and that, like the
Christians of the West in the days of their persecution, they had met in
secret in the tombs for the celebration of their rites, and had made use
of this hall as a church, in the same way as we see the remains of
chapels and places of worship in the catacombs of Rome and Syracuse. The
inner court of the Temple of Medinet Habou has also been converted into
a Christian church; and the worthy Copts have daubed over the
beautifully executed pictures of Rameses II. with a coat of plaster,
upon which they have painted the grim figures of St. George, and various
old frightful saints and hermits, whose uncouth forms would almost give
one the idea of their having served for a system of idolatry much less
refined than the worship of the ancient gods of the heathen, whose
places they have usurped in these gigantic temples.

The Coptic manuscripts, of which I was in search, were lying upon the
steps of the altar, except one, larger than the rest, which was placed
upon the altar itself. They were about eight or nine in number, all
brown and musty looking books, written on cotton paper, or charta
bombycina, a material in use in very early times. An edict or charter,
on paper, exists, or at least did exist two years ago, in the museum of
the Jesuits' College, called the Colleggio Romano, at Rome: its date was
of the sixth century; and I have a Coptic manuscript written on paper of
this kind, which was finished, as appears by a note at the end, in the
year 1018: these are the oldest dates that I have met with in any
manuscripts on paper.

Having found these ancient books we proceeded to examine their contents,
and to accomplish this at our ease, we stuck the candles on the ground,
and the carpenter and I sat down before them, while his son brought us
the volumes from the steps of the altar, one by one.

The first which came to hand was a dusty quarto, smelling of incense,
and well spotted with yellow wax, with all its leaves dogs-eared or worn
round with constant use: this was a MS. of the lesser festivals. Another
appeared to be of the same kind; a third was also a book for the church
service. We puzzled over the next two or three, which seemed to be
martyrologies, or lives of the saints; but while we were poring over
them, we thought we heard a noise. "Oh! father of hammers," said I to
the carpenter, "I think I heard a noise: what could it be?--I thought I
heard something move." "Did you, hawaja?" (O merchant), said the
carpenter; "it must have been my son moving the books, for what else
could there be here?--No one knows of this tomb or of the holy
manuscripts which it contains. Surely there can be nothing here to make
a noise, for are we not here alone, a hundred feet under the earth, in a
place where no one comes?--It is nothing: certainly it is nothing;" and
so saying, he lifted up one of the candles and peered about in the
darkness; but as there was nothing to be seen, and all was silent as the
grave, he sat down again, and at our leisure we completed our
examination of all the books which lay upon the steps.

They proved to be all church books, liturgies for different seasons, or
homilies; and not historical, nor of any particular interest, either
from their age or subject. There now remained only the great book upon
the altar, a ponderous quarto, bound either in brown leather or wooden
boards; and this the carpenter's son with difficulty lifted from its
place, and laid it down before us on the ground; but, as he did so, we
heard the noise again. The carpenter and I looked at each other: he
turned pale--perhaps I did so too; and we looked over our shoulders in
a sort of anxious, nervous kind of way, expecting to see something--we
did not know what. However, we saw nothing; and, feeling a little
ashamed, I again settled myself before the three candle-ends, and opened
the book, which was written in large black characters of unusual size.
As I bent over the huge volume, to see what it was about, suddenly there
arose a sound somewhere in the cavern, but from whence it came I could
not comprehend; it seemed all round us at the same moment. There was no
room for doubt now: it was a fearful howling, like the roar of a hundred
wild beasts. The carpenter looked aghast: the tall and grisly figures of
the Egyptian gods seemed to stare at us from the walls. I thought of
Cornelius Agrippa, and felt a gentle perspiration coming on which would
have betokened a favourable crisis in a fever. Suddenly the dreadful
roar ceased, and as its echoes died away in the tomb, we felt
considerably relieved, and were beginning to try and put a good face
upon the matter, when, to our unutterable horror, it began again, and
waxed louder and louder, as if legions of infernal spirits were let
loose upon us. We could stand this no longer: the carpenter and I jumped
up from the ground, and his son in his terror stumbled over the great
Coptic manuscript, and fell upon the candles, which were all put out in
a moment; his screams were now added to the uproar which resounded in
the cave: seeing the twinkling of a star through the vista of the two
outer chambers, we all set off as hard as we could run, our feelings of
alarm being increased to desperation when we perceived that something
was chasing us in the darkness, while the roar seemed to increase every
moment. How we did tear along! The devil take the hindmost seemed about
to be literally fulfilled; and we raised stifling clouds of dust, as we
scrambled up the steep slope which led to the outer door. "So then,"
thought I, "the stories of gins, and ghouls, and goblins, that I have
read of and never believed, must be true after all, and in this city of
the dead it has been our evil lot to fall upon a haunted tomb!"

Breathless and bewildered, the carpenter and I bolted out of this
infernal palace into the open air, mightily relieved at our escape from
the darkness and the terrors of the subterranean vaults. We had not been
out a moment, and had by no means collected our ideas, before our alarm
was again excited to its utmost pitch.

The evil one came forth in bodily shape, and stood revealed to our eyes
distinctly in the pale light of the moon.

While we were gazing upon the appearance, the carpenter's son, whom we
had quite forgotten in our hurry, came creeping out of the doorway of
the tomb upon his hands and knees.

"Why, father!" said he, after a moment's silence, "if that is not old
Fatima's donkey, which has been lost these two days! It is lucky that we
have found it, for it must have wandered into this tomb, and it might
have been starved if we had not met with it to-night."

The carpenter looked rather ashamed of the adventure; and as for myself,
though I was glad that nothing worse had come of it, I took comfort in
the reflection that I was not the first person who had been alarmed by
the proceedings of an ass.

I have related the history of this adventure because I think that, on
some foundation like this, many well-accredited ghost stories may have
been founded. Numerous legends and traditions, which appear to be
supernatural or miraculous, and the truth of which has been attested and
sworn to by credible witnesses, have doubtless arisen out of facts which
actually did occur, but of which some essential particulars have been
either concealed, or had escaped notice; and thus many marvellous
histories have gone abroad, which are so well attested, that although
common sense forbids their being believed, they cannot be proved to be
false. In this case, if the donkey had not fortunately come out and
shown himself, I should certainly have returned to Europe half impressed
with the belief that something supernatural had occurred, which was in
some mysterious manner connected with the opening of the magic volume
which we had taken from the altar in the tomb. The echoes of the
subterranean cave so altered the sound of the donkey's bray, that I
never should have discovered that these fearful sounds had so
undignified an origin; a story never loses by telling, and with a little
gradual exaggeration it would soon have become one of the best
accredited supernatural histories in the country.

The well-known story of the old woman of Berkeley has been read with
wonder and dread for at least four hundred years: it is to be found in
early manuscripts; it is related by Olaus Magnus, and is to be seen
illustrated by a woodcut, both in the German and Latin editions of the
'Nuremberg Chronicle,' which was printed in the year 1493. There is no
variation in the legend, which is circumstantially the same in all these
books. Without doubt it was partly founded upon fact, or, as in the case
of the story of the Theban tomb, some circumstances have been omitted
which make all the difference; and a natural though perhaps
extraordinary occurrence has been handed down for centuries, as a
fearful instance of the power of the evil one in this world over those
who have given themselves up to the practice of tremendous crimes.

There are many supernatural stories, which we are certain cannot by any
possibility be true; but which nevertheless are as well attested, and
apparently as fully proved, as any facts in the most veracious history.
Under circumstances of alarm or temporary hallucination people
frequently believe that they have had supernatural visitations. Even the
tricks of conjurers, which have been witnessed by a hundred persons at a
time, are totally incomprehensible to the uninitiated; and in the middle
ages, when these practices were resorted to for religious or political
ends, it is more than probable that many occurrences which were supposed
to be supernatural might have been explained, if all the circumstances
connected with them had been fairly and openly detailed by an impartial
witness.



THE WHITE MONASTERY.



CHAPTER XI.

     The White Monastery--Abou Shenood--Devastations of the
     Mamelukes--Description of the Monastery--Different styles of its
     exterior and interior Architecture--Its ruinous
     condition--Description of the Church--The Baptistery--Ancient Rites
     of Baptism--The Library--Modern Architecture--The Church of San
     Francesco at Rimini--The Red Monastery--Alarming rencontre with an
     armed party--Feuds between the native Tribes--Faction
     fights--Eastern Story Tellers--Legends of the Desert--Abraham and
     Sarah--Legendary Life of Moses--Arabian Story-tellers--Attention of
     their Audience.


Mounting our noble Egyptian steeds, or in other words having engaged a
sufficient number of little braying donkeys, which the peasants brought
down to the river side, and put our saddles on them, we cantered in an
hour and a half from the village of Souhag to the White Monastery, which
is known to the Arabs by the name of Derr abou Shenood. Who the great
Abou Shenood had the honour to be, and what he had done to be canonized,
I could meet with no one to tell me. He was, I believe, a Mahomedan
saint, and this Coptic monastery had been in some sort placed under the
shadow of his protection, in the hopes of saving it from the
persecutions of the faithful. Abou Shenood, however, does not appear to
have done his duty, for the White Monastery has been ruined and sacked
over and over again. The last outrage upon the unfortunate monastery
occurred about 1812, when the Mamelukes who had encamped upon the plains
of Itfou, having no better occupation, amused themselves by burning all
the houses, and killing all the people in the neighbourhood. Since that
time the monks having returned one by one, and finding that no one took
the trouble to molest them, began to repair the convent, the interior of
which had been gutted by the Mamelukes; but the immense strength of the
outer walls had resisted all their efforts to destroy them.

The peculiarity of this monastery is, that the interior was once a
magnificent basilica, while the exterior was built by the Empress
Helena, in the ancient Egyptian style. The walls slope inwards towards
the summit, where they are crowned with a deep overhanging cornice. The
building is of an oblong shape, about two hundred feet in length by
ninety wide, very well built, of fine blocks of stone; it has no windows
outside larger than loopholes, and these are at a great height from the
ground. Of these there are twenty on the south side and nine at the east
end. The monastery stands at the foot of the hill, on the edge of the
Libyan desert, where the sand encroaches on the plain. It looks like the
sanctuary, or cella, of an ancient temple, and is not unlike the
bastion of an old-fashioned fortification; except one solitary doom
tree, it stands quite alone, and has a most desolate aspect, backed, as
it is, by the sandy desert, and without any appearance of a garden,
either within or outside its walls. The ancient doorway of red granite,
on the south side, has been partially closed up, leaving an opening just
large enough to admit one person at a time.

The door was closed, and we shouted in vain for admittance. We then
tried the effect of a double knock in the Grosvenor Square style with a
large stone, but that was of no use; so I got one still larger, and
banged away at the door with all my might, shouting at the same time
that we were friends and Christians. After some minutes a small voice
was heard inside, and several questions being satisfactorily answered,
we were let in by a monk; and passing through the narrow door, I found
myself surrounded by piles of ruined buildings of various ages, among
which the tall granite columns of the ancient church reared themselves
like an avenue on either side of the desecrated nave, which is now open
to the sky, and is used as a promenade for a host of chickens. Some
goats also were perched upon fragments of ruined walls, and looked
cunningly at us as we invaded their domain. I saw some Coptic women
peeping at me from the windows of some wretched hovels of mud and
brick, which they had built up in corners among the ancient ruins like
swallows' nests.

There were but three poor priests. The principal one led us to the upper
part of the church, which had lately been repaired and walled off from
the open nave; and enclosed the apsis and transepts, which had been
restored in some measure, and fitted for the performance of divine
service. The half domes of the apsis and two transepts, which were of
well-built masonry, were still entire, and the original frescos remain
upon them. Those in the transepts are stiff figures of saints; and in
the one over the altar is the great figure of the Redeemer, such as is
usually met with in the mosaics of the Italian basilicas. These apsides
are above fifty feet from the ground, which gives them a dignity of
appearance, and leaves greater cause to regret the destruction of the
nave, which, with its clerestory, must have been still higher. There
appear to have been fifteen columns on each side of the centre aisle,
and two at the end opposite the altar, which in this instance I believe
is at the west end. The roof over the part of the east end, which has
been fitted up as a church, is supported by four square modern piers of
plastered brick or rubble work. On the side walls, above the altar,
there are some circular compartments containing paintings of the saints;
and near these are two tablets with inscriptions in black on a white
ground. That on the left appeared to be in Abyssinian: the one on the
other side was either Coptic or uncial Greek; but it was too dark, and
the tablet was too high, to enable me to make it out There is also a
long Greek inscription in red letters on one of the modern square piers,
which looks as if it was of considerable antiquity; and the whole
interior of the building bears traces of having been repaired and
altered, more than once, in ancient times. The richly ornamented
recesses of the three apsides have been smeared over with plaster, on
which some tremendously grim saints have been portrayed, whose present
threadbare appearance shows that they have disfigured the walls for
several centuries. Some comparatively modern capitals, of bad design,
have been placed upon two or three of the granite columns of the nave;
and others, which were broken, have been patched with brick, plastered
and painted to look like granite. The principal entrance was formerly at
the west end; where there is a small vestibule, immediately within the
door of which, on the left hand, is a small chapel, perhaps the
baptistery, about twenty-five feet long, and still in tolerable
preservation. It is a splendid specimen of the richest Roman
architecture of the latter empire, and is truly an imperial little room.
The arched ceiling is of stone; and there are three beautifully
ornamented niches on each side. The upper end is semicircular, and has
been entirely covered with a profusion of sculpture in panels,
cornices, and every kind of architectural enrichment When it was entire,
and covered with gilding, painting, or mosaic, it must have been most
gorgeous. The altar on such a chapel as this was probably of gold, set
full of gems; or if it was the baptistery, as I suppose, it most likely
contained a bath, of the most precious jasper, or of some of the more
rare kinds of marble, for the immersion of the converted heathen, whose
entrance into the church was not permitted until they had been purified
with the waters of baptism in a building without the door of the house
of God; an appropriate custom, which was not broken in upon for ages;
and even then the infant was only brought just inside the door, where
the font was placed on the left hand of the entrance; a judicious
practice, which is completely set at nought in England, where the
squalling imp often distracts the attention of the congregation; and is
finally sprinkled, instead of being immersed, the whole ceremony having
been so much altered and pared down from its original symbolic form,
that were a Christian of the early ages to return upon the earth, he
would be unable to recognise its meaning.

The conventual library consisted of only half-a-dozen well-waxed and
well-thumbed liturgies; but one of the priests told me that they boasted
formerly of above a hundred volumes written on leather (gild razali),
gazelle skins, probably vellum, which were destroyed by the Mamelukes
during their last pillage of the convent.

The habitations of the monks, according to the original design of this
very curious building, were contained in a long slip on the south side
of the church, where their cells were lit by the small loopholes seen
from the outside. Of these cells none now remain: they must have been
famously hot, exposed as they were all day long to the rays of the
southern sun; but probably the massive thickness of the walls and arched
ceilings reduced the temperature. There was no court or open space
within the convent; the only place where its inhabitants could have
walked for exercise in the open air was upon the flat terrace of the
roof, the deck of this ship of St Peter; for the White Monastery in some
respects resembled a dismasted man-of-war, anchored in a sea of burning
sand.

In modern times we are not surprised on finding a building erected at an
immense expense, in which the architecture of the interior is totally
different from that of the exterior. A Brummagem Gothic house is
frequently furnished and ornamented within in what is called "_a chaste
Greek style_," and _vice versâ_. A Grecian house--that is to say, a
square white block, with square holes in it for windows, and a portico
in front--is sometimes inhabited by an antiquarian, who fits it up with
Gothic furniture, and a Gothic paper designed by a crafty paper-hanger
in the newest style. But in ancient days it was very rare to see such a
mixture. I am surprised that the architect of the enthusiastic empress
did not go on with the interior of this building as he had begun the
exterior. The great hall of Carnac would have afforded him a grand
example of an aisle with a clerestory, and side windows, with stone
mullions, which would have answered his purpose, in the Egyptian style.
The only other instance of this kind, where two distinct styles of
architecture were employed in the middle ages on the inside and outside
of the same building, is in the church of St. Francesco, at Rimini,
which was built by Sigismond Malatesta as a last resting-place for
himself and his friends. He lies in a Gothic shrine within; and the
bodies of the great men of his day repose in sarcophagi of classic forms
outside; each of which stands in the recess of a Roman arch, in which
style of architecture the exterior of the building is erected.

About two miles to the north of the White Monastery, in a small village
sheltered by a grove of palms, stands another ancient building called
the Red Monastery.

On our return to Souhag we met a party of men on foot, who were armed
with spears, shields, and daggers, and one or two with guns. They were
led by a man on horseback, who was completely armed with all sorts of
warlike implements. They stopped us, and began to talk to our followers,
who were exceedingly civil in their behaviour, for the appearance of the
party was of a doubtful character; and we felt relieved when we found
that we were not to be robbed, but that our friends were on an
expedition against the men of Tahta, who some time ago had killed a man
belonging to their village, and they were going to avenge his death.
This was only one detachment of many that had assembled in the
neighbouring villages, each headed by its sheick, or the sheick's son,
if the father was an old man. The numbers engaged in this feud amounted,
they told us, to between two and three hundred men on each side. Every
now and then, it seems, when they have got in their harvest, they
assemble to have a fight. Several are wounded, and sometimes a few are
killed; in which case, if the numbers of the slain are not equal, the
feud continues; and so it goes on from generation to generation, like a
faction fight in Ireland, or the feudal wars of the barons of the middle
ages,--a style of things which appears to belong to the nature of the
human race, and not to any particular country, age, or faith.

[Illustration: MENDICANT DERVISH.]

Parting from this warlike band with mutual compliments and good wishes,
and our guides each seizing the tail of one of our donkeys to increase
his onward speed, we trotted away back to the boat, which was waiting
for us at Souhag. There we found our boatmen and a crowd of villagers,
listening to one of those long stories with which the inhabitants of
Egypt are wont to enliven their hours of inactivity. This is an
amusement peculiar to the East, and it is one in which I took great
delight during many a long journey through the deserts on the way
to Mount Sinai, Syria, and other places. The Arabs are great tellers of
stories; and some of them have a peculiar knack in rendering them
interesting and exciting the curiosity of their audience. Many of these
stories were interesting from their reference to persons and occurrences
of Holy Writ, particularly of the Old Testament. There are many legends
of the patriarch Abraham and his beautiful wife Sarah, who, excepting
Eve, is said to have been the fairest of all the daughters of the earth.
King Solomon is the hero of numerous strange legends; and his adventures
with the gnomes and genii who were subjected to his sway are endless.
The poem of Yousef and Zuleica is well known in Europe. And the
traditions relating to the prophet Moses are so numerous, that, with the
help of a very curious manuscript of an apocryphal book ascribed to the
great leader of the Jews, I have been enabled to compile a connected
biography, in which many curious circumstances are detailed that are
said to have taken place during his eventful life, and which concludes
with a highly poetical legend of his death. Many of the stories told by
the Arabs resemble those of the _Arabian Nights_; and a large proportion
of these are not very refined.

I have often been greatly amused with watching the faces of an audience
who were listening to a well-told story, some eagerly leaning forward,
others smoking their pipes with quicker puffs, when something
extraordinary was related, or when the hero of the story had got into
some apparently inextricable dilemma. These story-telling parties are
usually to be seen seated in a circle on the ground in a shady place.
The donkey-boy will stop and gape open-mouthed on overhearing a few
words of the marvellous adventures of some enchanted prince, and will
look back at his four-footed companion, fearing lest he should resume
his original form of a merchant from the island of Serendib. The
greatest tact is required on the part of the narrator to prevent the
dispersion of his audience, who are sometimes apt to melt away on his
stopping at what he considers a peculiarly interesting point, and taking
that opportunity of sending round his boy with a little brass basin to
collect paras. I know of few subjects better suited for a painter than
one of these story-tellers and his group of listeners.



THE ISLAND OF PHILŒ, &c.



CHAPTER XII.


     The Island of Philœ--The Cataract of Assouan--The Burial Place of
     Osiris--The Great Temple of Philœ--The Bed of Pharaoh--Shooting in
     Egypt--Turtle Doves--Story of the Prince Anas el Ajoud--Egyptian
     Songs--Vow of the Turtle Dove--Curious fact in Natural History--The
     Crocodile and its Guardian Bird--Arab notions regarding
     Animals--Legend of King Solomon and the Hoopoes--Natives of the
     country round the Cataracts of the Nile--Their appearance and
     Costume--The beautiful Mouna--Solitary Visit to the Island of
     Philœ--Quarrel between two native Boys--Singular instance of
     retributive Justice.


Every part of Egypt is interesting and curious, but the only place to
which the epithet of beautiful can be correctly applied is the island of
Philœ, which is situated immediately to the south of the cataract of
Assouan. The scenery around consists of an infinity of steep granite
rocks, which stand, some in the water, others on the land, all of them
of the wildest and most picturesque forms. The cataract itself cannot be
seen from the island of Philœ, being shut out by an intervening rock,
whose shattered mass of red granite towers over the island, rising
straight out of the water. From the top of this rock are seen the
thousand islands, some of bare rock, some covered with palms and
bushes, which interrupt the course of the river and give rise to those
eddies, whirlpools, and streams of foaming water which are called the
cataracts of the Nile, but which may be more properly designated as
rapids, for there is no perpendicular fall of more than two or three
feet, and boats of the largest size are drawn with ropes against the
stream through certain channels, and are shot down continually with the
stream on their return without the occurrence of serious accidents.

Several of these rocks are sculptured with tablets and inscriptions,
recording the offerings of the Pharaohs to the gods; and the sacred
island of Philœ, the burial-place of Osiris, is covered with buildings,
temples, colonnades, gateways, and terrace walls, which are magnificent
even in their ruin, and must have been superb when still entire, and
filled with crowds of priests and devotees, accompanied by all the flags
and standards, gold and glitter, of the ceremonies of their emblematical
religion.

Excepting the Pyramids, nothing in Egypt struck me so much as when on a
bright moonlit night I first entered the court of the great temple of
Philœ. The colours of the paintings on the walls are as vivid in many
places as they were the day they were finished: the silence and the
solemn grandeur of the immense buildings around me were most imposing;
and on emerging from the lofty gateway between the two towers of the
propylon, as I wandered about the island, the tufts of palms, which are
here of great height, with their weeping branches, seemed to be mourning
over the desolation of the stately palaces and temples to which in
ancient times all the illustrious of Egypt were wont to resort, and into
whose inner recesses none might penetrate; for the secret and awful
mysteries of the worship of Osiris were not to be revealed, nor were
they even to be spoken of by those who were not initiated into the
highest orders of the priesthood. Now all may wander where they choose,
and speculate on the uses of the dark chambers hidden in the thickness
of the walls, and trace out the plans of the courts and temples with the
long lines of columns which formed the avenue of approach from the
principal landing-place to the front of the great temple.

The whole island is encumbered with piles of immense squared stones, the
remains of buildings which must have been thrown down by an earthquake,
as nothing else could shake such solid works from their foundations.[9]
The principal temple, and several smaller ones, are still almost entire.
One of these, called by the natives the Bed of Pharaoh, is a remarkably
light and airy-looking structure, differing, in this respect, from the
usual character of Egyptian architecture. On the terrace overhanging the
Nile, in front of this graceful temple, I had formed my habitation,
where there are some vaults of more recent construction, which are
usually taken possession of by travellers and fitted up with the
carpets, cushions, and the sides of the tents which they bring with
them.

Every one who travels in Egypt is more or less a sportsman, for the
infinity of birds must tempt the most idle or contemplative to go "_a
birding_," as the Americans term it. I had shot all sorts of birds and
beasts, from a crocodile to a snipe; and among other game I had shot
multitudes of turtle doves; these pretty little birds being exceedingly
tame, and never flying very far, I sometimes got three or four at a
shot, and a dozen or so of them made a famous pie or a pilau, with rice
and a tasty sauce; but a somewhat singular incident put an end to my
warfare against them. One day I was sitting on the terrace before the
Bed of Pharaoh, surrounded by a circle of Arabs and negroes, and we were
all listening to a story which an old gentleman with a grey beard was
telling us concerning the loves of the beautiful Ouardi, who was shut up
in an enchanted palace on this very island to secure her from the
approaches of her lover, Prince Anas el Ajoud, the son of the Sultan
Esshamieh, who had married seven wives before he had a son. The first
six wives, on the birth of Anas el Ajoud, placed a log in his cradle,
and exposed the infant in the desert, where he was nursed by a gazelle,
and whence he returned to punish the six cruel step-mothers, who fully
believed he was dead, and to rejoice the heart of his father, who had
been persuaded by these artful ladies that his sultana by magic art had
presented him with a log instead of a son, who was to be the heir of his
dominions, &c. Prince Anas, who was in despair at being separated from
his lady love, used to sing dismal songs as he passed in his gilded boat
under the walls of the island palace. These, at last, were responded to
from the lattice by the fair Ouardi, who was soon afterwards carried off
by the enamoured prince. The story, which was an interminable rigmarole,
as long as one of those spun on from night to night by the Princess
Sherezade, was diversified every now and then by the fearful squealing
of an Arab song. The old storyteller, shutting his eyes and throwing
back his head that his mind might not be distracted by any exterior
objects, uttered a succession of sounds which set one's teeth on
edge.[10]

[Illustration: (musical notation) AMAAN.

The snow, the snow is melt-ing on the hills of Is--fa--han. As fair, be
as re-lent-ing Am-aan, Am-aan, Am-aan.]

Whilst the old gentleman was shooting out one of these amatory ditties,
and I was sitting still listening to these heart-rending sounds, a
turtle-dove--who was probably awakened from her sleep by the fearful
discord, or might, perhaps, have been the beautiful Princess Ouardi
herself transformed into the likeness of a dove--flew out of one of the
palm-trees which grow on the edge of the bank, and perched at a little
distance from us. We none of us moved, and the turtle-dove, after
pausing for a moment, ran towards me and nestled under the full sleeve
of my benisch. It stayed there till the story and the songs were ended,
and when I was obliged to arise, in order to make my compliments to the
departing guests, the dove flew into the palm-tree again, and went to
roost among the branches, where several others were already perched with
their heads under their wings. Thereupon I made a vow never to shoot
another turtle-dove, however much pie or pilau might need them, and I
fairly kept my vow. Luckily turtle-doves are not so good as pigeons, so
it was no great loss. Although not to be compared to the Roman bird, the
Egyptian pigeon is very good eating when he is tender and well dressed.

As I am on the subject of birds I will relate a fact in natural history
which I was fortunate enough to witness, and which, although it is
mentioned so long ago as the times of Herodotus, has not, I believe,
been often observed since; indeed I have never met with any traveller
who has himself seen such an occurrence.

I had always a strong predilection for crocodile shooting, and had
destroyed several of these dragons of the waters. On one occasion I saw,
a long way off, a large one, twelve or fifteen feet long, lying asleep
under a perpendicular bank about ten feet high, on the margin of the
river. I stopped the boat at some distance; and noting the place as well
as I could, I took a circuit inland, and came down cautiously to the top
of the bank, whence with a heavy rifle I made sure of my ugly game. I
had already cut off his head in imagination, and was considering whether
it should be stuffed with its mouth open or shut. I peeped over the
bank. There he was, within ten feet of the sight of the rifle. I was on
the point of firing at his eye, when I observed that he was attended by
a bird called a ziczac. It is of the plover species, of a greyish
colour, and as large as a small pigeon.

The bird was walking up and down close to the crocodile's nose. I
suppose I moved, for suddenly it saw me, and instead of flying away, as
any respectable bird would have done, he jumped up about a foot from the
ground, screamed "Ziczac! ziczac!" with all the powers of his voice, and
dashed himself against the crocodile's face two or three times. The
great beast started up, and immediately spying his danger, made a jump
up into the air, and dashing into the water with a splash which covered
me with mud; he dived into the river and disappeared. The ziczac, to my
increased admiration, proud apparently of having saved his friend,
remained walking up and down, uttering his cry, as I thought, with an
exulting voice, and standing every now and then on the tips of his toes
in a conceited manner, which made me justly angry with his impertinence.
After having waited in vain for some time, to see whether the crocodile
would come out again, I got up from the bank where I was lying, threw a
clod of earth at the ziczac, and came back to the boat, feeling some
consolation for the loss of my game in having witnessed a circumstance,
the truth of which has been disputed by several writers on natural
history.

The Arabs say that every race of animals is governed by its chief, to
whom the others are bound to pay obeisance. The king of the crocodiles
holds his court at the bottom of the Nile near Siout. The king of the
fleas lives at Tiberias, in the Holy Land; and deputations of
illustrious fleas, from other countries, visit him on a certain day in
his palace, situated in the midst of beautiful gardens, under the Lake
of Genesareth. There is a bird which is common in Egypt called the
hoopoe (Abou hood-hood), of whose king the following legend is related.
This bird is of the size and shape as well as the colour of a woodcock;
but has a crown of feathers on its head, which it has the power of
raising and depressing at will. It is a tame, quiet bird; usually to be
found walking leisurely in search of its food on the margin of the
water. It seldom takes long flights; and is not harmed by the natives,
who are much more sparing of the life of animals than we Europeans
are:--

In the days of King Solomon, the son of David, who, by the virtue of his
cabalistic seal, reigned supreme over genii as well as men, and who
could speak the languages of animals of all kinds, all created beings
were subservient to his will. Now when the king wanted to travel, he
made use, for his conveyance, of a carpet of a square form. This carpet
had the property of extending itself to a sufficient size to carry a
whole army, with the tents and baggage; but at other times it could be
reduced so as to be only large enough for the support of the royal
throne, and of those ministers whose duty it was to attend upon the
person of the sovereign. Four genii of the air then took the four
corners of the carpet, and carried it with its contents wherever King
Solomon desired. Once the king was on a journey in the air, carried upon
his throne of ivory over the various nations of the earth. The rays of
the sun poured down upon his head, and he had nothing to protect him
from its heat. The fiery beams were beginning to scorch his neck and
shoulders, when he saw a flock of vultures flying past. "Oh, vultures!"
cried King Solomon, "come and fly between me and the sun, and make a
shadow with your wings to protect me, for its rays are scorching my neck
and face." But the vultures answered, and said, "We are flying to the
north, and your face is turned towards the south. We desire to continue
on our way; and be it known unto thee, O king! that we will not turn
back on our flight, neither will we fly above your throne to protect
you from the sun, although its rays may be scorching your neck and face.
"Then King Solomon lifted up his voice, and said, "Cursed be ye, O
vultures!--and because you will not obey the commands of your lord, who
rules over the whole world, the feathers of your necks shall fall off;
and the heat of the sun, and the cold of the winter, and the keenness of
the wind, and the beating of the rain, shall fall upon your rebellious
necks, which shall not be protected with feathers, like the necks of
other birds. And whereas you have hitherto fared delicately,
henceforward ye shall eat carrion and feed upon offal; and your race
shall be impure till the end of the world." And it was done unto the
vultures as King Solomon had said.

Now it fell out that there was a flock of hoopoes flying past; and the
king cried out to them, and said, "O hoopoes! come and fly between me
and the sun, that I may be protected from its rays by the shadow of your
wings." Whereupon the king of the hoopoes answered, and said, "O king,
we are but little fowls, and we are not able to afford much shade; but
we will gather our nation together, and by our numbers we will make up
for our small size." So the hoopoes gathered together, and, flying in a
cloud over the throne of the king, they sheltered him from the rays of
the sun.

When the journey was over, and King Solomon sat upon his golden throne,
in his palace of ivory, whereof the doors were emerald, and the windows
of diamonds, larger even than the diamond of Jemshid, he commanded that
the king of the hoopoes should stand before his feet. "Now," said King
Solomon, "for the service that thou and thy race have rendered, and the
obedience thou hast shown to the king, thy lord and master, what shall
be done unto thee, O hoopoe? and what shall be given to the hoopoes of
thy race, for a memorial and a reward?" Now the king of the hoopoes was
confused with the great honour of standing before the feet of the king;
and, making his obeisance, and laying his right claw upon his heart, he
said, "O king, live for ever! Let a day be given to thy servant, to
consider with his queen and his councillors what it shall be that the
king shall give unto us for a reward." And King Solomon said, "Be it
so." And it was so.

But the king of the hoopoes flew away; and he went to his queen, who was
a dainty hen, and he told her what had happened, and he desired her
advice as to what they should ask of the king for a reward; and he
called together his council, and they sat upon a tree, and they each of
them desired a different thing. Some wished for a long tail; some wished
for blue and green feathers; some wished to be as large as ostriches;
some wished for one thing, and some for another; and they debated till
the going down of the sun, but they could not agree together. Then the
queen took the king of the hoopoes apart and said to him, "My dear lord
and husband, listen to my words; and as we have preserved the head of
King Solomon, let us ask for crowns of gold on our heads, that we may be
superior to all other birds." And the words of the queen and the
princesses her daughters prevailed; and the king of the hoopoes
presented himself before the throne of Solomon, and desired of him that
all hoopoes should wear golden crowns upon their heads. Then Solomon
said, "Hast thou considered well what it is that thou desirest?" And the
hoopoe said, "I have considered well, and we desire to have golden
crowns upon our heads." So Solomon replied, "Crowns of gold shall ye
have: but, behold, thou art a foolish bird; and when the evil days shall
come upon thee, and thou seest the folly of thy heart, return here to
me, and I will give thee help." So the king of the hoopoes left the
presence of King Solomon, with a golden crown upon his head. And all the
hoopoes had golden crowns; and they were exceeding proud and haughty.
Moreover, they went down by the lakes and the pools, and walked by the
margin of the water, that they might admire themselves as it were in a
glass. And the queen of the hoopoes gave herself airs, and sat upon a
twig; and she refused to speak to the merops her cousin, and the other
birds who had been her friends, because they were but vulgar birds, and
she wore a crown of gold upon her head.

Now there was a certain fowler who set traps for birds; and he put a
piece of a broken mirror into his trap, and a hoopoe that went in to
admire itself was caught. And the fowler looked at it, and saw the
shining crown upon its head; so he wrung off its head, and took the
crown to Issachar, the son of Jacob, the worker in metal, and he asked
him what it was. So Issachar, the son of Jacob, said, "It is a crown of
brass." And he gave the fowler a quarter of a shekel for it, and desired
him, if he found any more, to bring them to him, and to tell no man
thereof. So the fowler caught some more hoopoes, and sold their crowns
to Issachar, the son of Jacob; until one day he met another man who was
a jeweller, and he showed him several of the hoopoes' crowns. Whereupon
the jeweller told him that they were of pure gold; and he gave the
fowler a talent of gold for four of them.

Now when the value of these crowns was known, the fame of them got
abroad, and in all the land of Israel was heard the twang of bows and
the whirling of slings; bird-lime was made in every town; and the price
of traps rose in the market, so that the fortunes of the trap-makers
increased. Not a hoopoe could show its head but it was slain or taken
captive, and the days of the hoopoes were numbered. Then their minds
were filled with sorrow and dismay, and before long few were left to
bewail their cruel destiny.

At last, flying by stealth through the most unfrequented places, the
unhappy king of the hoopoes went to the court of King Solomon, and stood
again before the steps of the golden throne, and with tears and groans
related the misfortunes which had happened to his race.

So King Solomon looked kindly upon the king of the hoopoes, and said
unto him, "Behold, did I not warn thee of thy folly, in desiring to have
crowns of gold? Vanity and pride have been thy ruin. But now, that a
memorial may remain of the service which thou didst render unto me, your
crowns of gold shall be changed into crowns of feathers, that ye may
walk unharmed upon the earth." Now when the fowlers saw that the hoopoes
no longer wore crowns of gold upon their heads, they ceased from the
persecution of their race; and from that time forth the family of the
hoopoes have flourished and increased, and have continued in peace even
to the present day.

And here endeth the veracious history of the king of the hoopoes.

But to return to the island of Philœ. The neighbourhood of the cataracts
is inhabited by a peculiar race of people, who are neither Arabs, nor
negroes, like the Nubians, whose land joins to theirs. They are of a
clear copper colour; and are slightly but elegantly formed. They have
woolly hair; and are not encumbered with much clothing. The men wear a
short tunic of white cotton; but often have only a petticoat round
their loins. The married women have a piece of stuff thrown over their
heads which envelopes the whole person. Under this they wear a curious
garment made of fine strips of black leather, about a foot long, like a
fringe. This hangs round the hips, and forms the only clothing of
unmarried girls, whose forms are as perfect as that of any ancient
statue. They dress their hair precisely in the same way as we see in the
pictures of the ancient Egyptians, plaited in numerous tresses, which
descend about half way down the neck, and are plentifully anointed with
castor-oil; that they may not spoil their head-dresses, they use,
instead of a pillow to rest their heads upon at night, a stool of hard
wood like those which are found in the ancient tombs, and which resemble
in shape the handle of a crutch more than anything else that I can think
of. The women are fond of necklaces and armlets of beads; and the men
wear a knife of a peculiar form, stuck into an armlet above the elbow of
the left arm. When they go from home they carry a spear, and a shield
made of the skin of the hippopotamus or crocodile, with which they are
very clever in warding off blows, and in defending themselves from
stones or other missiles.

Of this race was a girl called Mouna, whom I had known as a child when I
was first at Philœ. She grew up to be the most beautiful bronze statue
that can be conceived. She used to bring eggs from the island on which
she lived to Philœ: her means of conveyance across the water was a
piece of the trunk of a doom-tree, upon which she supported herself as
she swam across the Nile ten times a-day. I never saw so perfect a
figure as that of Mouna. She was of a lighter brown than most of the
other girls, and was exactly the colour of a new copper kettle. She had
magnificent large eyes; and her face had but a slight leaning towards
the Ethiopian contour. Her bands and feet were wonderfully small and
delicately formed. In short, she was a perfect beauty in her way; but
the perfume of the castor-oil with which she was anointed had so strong
a savour that, when she brought us the eggs and chickens, I always
admired her at a distance of ten yards to windward. She had an
ornamented calabash to hold her castor-oil, from which she made a fresh
toilette every time she swam across the Nile.

I have been three times at Philœ, and indeed I had so great an
admiration of the place that on my last visit, thinking it probable that
I should never again behold its wonderful ruins and extraordinary
scenery, I determined to spend the day there alone, that I might
meditate at my leisure and wander as I chose from one well-remembered
spot to another without the incumbrance of half a dozen people staring
at whatever I looked at, and following me about out of pure idleness.
Greatly did I enjoy my solitary day, and whilst leaning over the parapet
on the top of the great Propylon, or seated on one of the terraces which
overhung the Nile, I in imagination repeopled the scene, with the forms
of the priests and worshippers of other days, restored the fallen
temples to their former glory, and could almost think I saw the
processions winding round their walls, and heard the trumpets, and the
harps, and the sacred hymns in honour of the great Osiris. In the
evening a native came over with a little boat to take me off the island,
and I quitted with regret this strange and interesting region.

I landed at the village of rude huts on the shore of the river and sat
down on a stone, waiting for my donkey, which I purposed to ride through
the desert in the cool of the evening to Assouan, where my boat was
moored. While I was sitting there, two boys were playing and wrestling
together; they were naked and about nine or ten years old. They soon
began to quarrel, and one of them drew the dagger which he wore upon his
arm and stabbed the other in the throat. The poor boy fell to the ground
bleeding; the dagger had entered his throat on the left side under the
jawbone, and being directed upwards had cut his tongue and grazed the
roof of his mouth. Whilst he cried and writhed about upon the ground
with the blood pouring out of his mouth, the villagers came out from
their cabins and stood around talking and screaming, but affording no
help to the poor boy. Presently a young man, who was, I believe, a lover
of Mouna's, stood up and asked where the father of the boy was, and why
he did not come to help him. The villagers said he had no father.
"Where are his relations, then?" he asked. The boy had no relations,
there was no one to care for him in the village. On hearing this he
uttered some words which I did not understand, and started off after the
boy who had inflicted the wound. The young assassin ran away as fast as
he could, and a famous chase took place. They darted over the plain,
scrambled up the rocks, and jumped down some dangerous-looking places
among the masses of granite which formed the background of the village.
At length the boy was caught, and, screaming and struggling, was dragged
to the spot where his victim lay moaning and heaving upon the sand. The
young man now placed him between his legs, and in this way held him
tight whilst he examined the wound of the other, putting his finger into
it and opening his mouth to see exactly how far it extended. When he had
satisfied himself on the subject he called for a knife; the boy had
thrown his away in the race, and he had not one himself. The villagers
stood silent around, and one of them having handed him a dagger, the
young man held the boy's head sideways across his thigh and cut his
throat exactly in the same way as he had done to the other. He then
pitched him away upon the ground, and the two lay together bleeding and
writhing side by side. Their wounds were precisely the same; the second
operation had been most expertly performed, and the knife had passed
just where the boy had stabbed his playmate. The wounds, I believe, were
not dangerous, for presently both the boys got up and were led away to
their homes. It was a curious instance of retributive justice, following
out the old law of blood for blood, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a
tooth.



MONASTERIES OF THE LEVANT.

PART II.

JERUSALEM AND THE MONASTERY

OF ST. SABBA.

1834.

[Illustration: Plan of the Church

of

THE HOLY SEPULCHRE.

The Holy [symbol: cross] Sepulchre.

1. Entrance to the Church.

2. The Stone of Unction.

3. Where our Saviour was nailed to the Cross.

4. Mount Calvary [3 cross symbols]

5. Chapel of the Sacrifice of Isaac.

6. Chapel of the Altar of Melchisedec.

7. Stairs up to Mount Calvary.

8. Stairs down to the Chapel of St. Helena.

9. Stairs down to the Chapel of the Invention of the Cross.

10. Place where the three Crosses were discovered.

11. Chapel of the Division of the Garments.

12. Prison of our Lord.

13. Greek Choir, in it [symbol-omphalos], the center of the world; on
each side are the Stalls for the Monks.

14. Latin Choir.

15. Where Mary Magdalene stood.

16. Where our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene.

17. The Pillar of Flagellation.

18. Rooms of the Latin Convent.

19. Chapel of the Maronites.

20. Chapel of the Georgians.

21. Sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea.

22. Chapel of the Copts.

23. Chapel of the Jacobites.

24. Chapel of the Abyssinians, over which is the Chapel of the
Armenians.

25. The spot where the Blessed Virgin and St. John stood during the
Crucifixion.

26. Steps before the entrance of the Holy Sepulchre.

27. Ante-room to the Holy Sepulchre. In the center is the stone where
the Angel sat; on either side the two windows from whence the Holy Fire
is delivered to the multitude.

28. The Iconostasis, or Screen before the Greek Altar, which, as in
English Churches, is called the Holy Table--ικονοsτασις.]



CHAPTER XIII.


     Journey to Jerusalem--First View of the Holy City--The Valley of
     Gihon--Appearance of the City--The Latin Convent of St.
     Salvador--Inhospitable Reception by the Monks--Visit to the Church
     of the Holy Sepulchre--Description of the Interior--The Chapel of
     the Sepulchre--The Chapel of the Cross on Mount Calvary--The Tomb
     and Sword of Godfrey de Bouillon--Arguments in favour of the
     Authenticity of the Holy Sepulchre--The Invention of the Cross by
     the Empress Helena--Legend of the Cross.

    "Ecco apparir Gerusalem si vede,
    Ecco additar Gerusalem si scorge,
    Ecco da mile voce unitamente,
    Gerosalemme salutar si sente.

           *       *       *       *

    E l'uno all'altro il mostra e in tanto oblia,
    La noja e il mal della passata via.

           *       *       *       *

    Al gran placer che quella prima vista,
    Dolcemente spirò nell'altrui petto,
    Alta contrizion succese mista,
    Di timoroso e riverente affetto,
    Ossano appena d'inalzar la vista
    Ver la città, di Christo albergo eletto:
    Dove mori, dove sepolto fue;
    Dove poi riveste le membre sue."

    TASSO, _Gerusalemme Liberata_, Canto 3.


We left our camels and dromedaries, and wild Arabs of the desert, at
Gaza; and being now provided with horses, and a tamer sort of Yahoo to
attend upon them, we took our way across the hills towards Jerusalem.

The road passes over a succession of rounded rocky hills, almost every
step being rendered interesting by its connexion with the events of Holy
Writ. On our left we saw the village of Kobab, and on our right the
ruins of a castle said to have been built by the Maccabees, and not far
from it the remains of an ancient Christian church.

As our train of horses surmounted each succeeding eminence, every one
was eager to be the first who should catch a glimpse of the Holy City.
Again and again we were disappointed; another rocky valley yawned
beneath us, and another barren stony hill rose up beyond. There seemed
to be no end to the intervening hills and dales; they appeared to
multiply beneath our feet. At last, when we had almost given up the
point and had ceased to contend for the first view by galloping ahead;
as we ascended another rocky brow we saw the towers of what seemed to be
a Gothic castle; then, as we approached nearer, a long line of walls and
battlements appeared crowning a ridge of rock which rose from a narrow
valley to the right. This was the valley of the pools of Gihon, where
Solomon was crowned, and the battlements which rose above it were the
long looked-for walls of Jerusalem. With one accord our whole party
drew their bridles, and stood still to gaze for the first time upon
this renowned and sacred city.

It is not easy to describe the sensations which fill the breast of a
Christian when, after a long and toilsome journey, he first beholds
this, the most interesting and venerated spot upon the whole surface of
the globe. Every one was silent for a while, absorbed in the deepest
contemplation. The object of our pilgrimage was accomplished, and I do
not think that anything we saw afterwards during our stay in Jerusalem
made a more profound impression on our minds than this first distant
view.

It was curious to observe the different effect which our approach to
Jerusalem had upon the various persons who composed our party. A
Christian pilgrim, who had joined us on the road, fell down upon his
knees and kissed the holy ground; two others embraced each other, and
congratulated themselves that they had lived to see Jerusalem. As for us
Franks, we sat bolt upright upon our horses, and stared and said
nothing; whilst around us the more natural children of the East wept for
joy, and, as in the army of the Crusaders, the word Jerusalem!
Jerusalem! was repeated from mouth to mouth; but we, who consider
ourselves civilized and superior beings, repressed our emotions; we were
above showing that we participated in the feelings of our barbarous
companions. As for myself, I would have got off my horse and walked
bare-footed towards the gate, as some did, if I had dared: but I was in
fear of being laughed at for my absurdity, and therefore sat fast in my
saddle. At last I blew my nose, and, pressing the sharp edges of my Arab
stirrups on the lank sides of my poor weary jade, I rode on slowly
towards the Bethlehem gate.

On the sloping sides of the valley of Gihon numerous groups of people
were lying under the olive-trees in the cool of the evening, and parties
of grave Turks, seated on their carpets by the road-side, were smoking
their long pipes in dignified silence. But what struck me most were some
old white-bearded Jews, who were holding forth to groups of their
friends or disciples under the walls of the city of their fathers, and
dilating perhaps upon the glorious actions of their race in former days.

Jerusalem has been described as a deserted and melancholy ruin, filling
the mind with images of desolation and decay, but it did not strike me
as such. It is still a compact city, as it is described in Scripture;
the Saracenic walls have a stately, magnificent appearance; they are
built of large and massive stones. The square towers, which are seen at
intervals, are handsome and in good repair; and there is an imposing
dignity in the appearance of the grim old citadel, which rises in the
centre of the line of walls and towers, with its batteries and terraces
one above another, surmounted with the crimson flag of Turkey floating
heavily over the conquered city of the cross.

We entered by the Bethlehem gate: it is commanded by the citadel, which
was built by the people of Pisa, and is still called the castle of the
Pisans. There we had some parleying with the Egyptian guards, and,
crossing an open space famous in monastic tradition as the garden where
Bathsheba was bathing when she was seen by King David from the roof of
his palace, we threaded a labyrinth of narrow streets, which the horses
of our party completely blocked up; and as soon as we could, we sent a
man with our letters of introduction to the superior of the Latin
convent. I had letters from Cardinal Weld and Cardinal Pedicini, which
we presumed would ensure us a warm and hospitable reception; and as
travellers are usually lodged in the monastic establishments, we went on
at once to the Latin convent of St. Salvador, where we expected to enjoy
all the comforts and luxuries of European civilization after our weary
journey over the desert from Egypt. We, however, quickly discovered our
mistake; for, on dismounting at the gate of the convent, we were
received in a very cool way by the monks, who appeared to make the
reception of travellers a mere matter of interest, and treated us as if
we were dust under their feet. They put us into a wretched hole in the
Casa Nuova, a house belonging to them near the convent, where there was
scarcely room for our baggage; and we went to bed not a little mortified
at our inhospitable reception by our Christian brethren, so different
from what we had always experienced from the Mahometans. The convent of
St. Salvador belongs to a community of Franciscan friars; they were most
of them Spaniards, and, being so far away from the superior officers of
their order, they were not kept in very perfect discipline. It was
probably owing to our being heretics that we were not better received.
Fortunately we had our own beds, tents, cooking-utensils, carpets, &c.;
so that we soon made ourselves comfortable in the bare vaulted rooms
which were allotted to us, and for which, by-the-bye, we had to pay
pretty handsomely.

The next morning early we went to the church of the Holy Sepulchre,
descending the hill from the convent, and then down a flight of narrow
steps into a small paved court, one side of which is occupied by the
Gothic front of the church. The court was full of people selling beads
and crucifixes and other holy ware. We had to wait some time, till the
Turkish doorkeepers came to unlock the door, as they keep the keys of
the church, which is only open on certain days, except to votaries of
distinction. There is a hole in the door, through which the pilgrims
gave quantities of things to the monks inside to be laid upon the
sepulchre. At last the door was opened, and we went into the church.

On entering these sacred walls the attention is first directed to a
large slab of marble on the floor opposite the door, with several lamps
suspended over it, and three enormous waxen tapers about twenty feet in
height standing at each end. The pilgrims approach it on their knees,
touch and kiss it, and, prostrating themselves before it, offer up their
adoration. This, you are told, is the stone on which the body of our
Lord was washed and anointed, and prepared for the tomb.

Turning to the left, we came to a round stone let into the pavement,
with a canopy of ornamental iron-work over it Here the Virgin Mary is
said to have stood when the body of our Saviour was taken down from the
cross.

Leaving this, we entered the circular space immediately under the great
dome, which is about eighty feet in diameter, and is surrounded by
eighteen large square piers, which support the front of a broad gallery.
Formerly this circular gallery was supported by white marble pillars:
but the church was burnt down about twenty years ago, through the
negligence of a drunken Greek monk, who set a light to some parts of the
woodwork, and then endeavoured to put out the flames by throwing aqua
vitæ upon them, which he mistook for water.

The Chapel of the Sepulchre stands under the centre of the dome. It is a
small oblong house of stone, rounded at one end, where there is an altar
for the Coptic and Abyssinian Christians. At the other end it is
square, and has a platform of marble in front, which is ascended by a
flight of steps, and has a low parapet wall and a seat on each side. The
chapel contains two rooms. Taking off our shoes and turbans, we entered
a low narrow door, and went into a chamber, in the centre of which
stands a block of polished marble. On this stone sat the angel who
announced the blessed tidings of the resurrection.

From this room, which has a small round window on each side, we passed
through another low door into the inner chamber, which contains the Holy
Sepulchre itself, which, however, is not visible, being concealed by an
altar of white marble. It is said to be a long narrow excavation like a
grave or the interior of a sarcophagus hewed out of the rock just
beneath the level of the ground. Six rows of lamps of silver gilt,
twelve in each row, hang from the ceiling, and are kept perpetually
burning. The tomb occupies nearly one-half of the sepulchral chamber,
and extends from one end of it to the other on the right side of the
door as you enter; a space of three feet wide and rather more than six
feet long in front of it being all that remains for the accommodation of
the pilgrims, so that not more than three or four can be admitted at a
time.

Leaving this hallowed spot, we were conducted first to the place where
our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalen, and then to the Chapel of the
Latins, where a part of the pillar of flagellation is preserved.

The Greeks have possession of the choir of the church, which is opposite
the door of the Holy Sepulchre. This part of the building is of great
size, and is magnificently decorated with gold and carving and stiff
pictures of the saints. In the centre is a globe of black marble on a
pedestal, under which they say the head of Adam was found; and you are
told also that this is the exact centre of the globe; the Greeks having
thus transferred to Jerusalem, from the temple of Apollo at Delphi, the
absurd notions of the pagan priests of antiquity relative to the form of
the earth.

Returning towards the door of the church, and leaving it on our right
hand, we ascended a flight of about twenty steps, and found ourselves in
the Chapel of the Cross on Mount Calvary. At the upper end of this
chapel is an altar, on the spot where the crucifixion took place, and
under it is the hole into which the end of the cross was fixed: this is
surrounded with a glory of silver gilt, and on each side of it, at the
distance of about six feet, are the holes in which the crosses of the
two thieves stood. Near to these is a long rent in the rock, which was
opened by an earthquake at the time of the crucifixion. Although the
three crosses appear to have stood very near to each other, yet, from
the manner in which they are placed, there would have been room enough
for them, as the cross of our Saviour stands in front of the other two.

Leaving this chapel we entered a kind of vault under the stairs, in
which the rent of the rock is again seen: it extends from the ceiling to
the floor, and has every appearance of having been caused by some
convulsion of nature, and not formed by the hands of man. Here were
formerly the tombs of Godfrey de Bouillon and Baldwin his brother, who
were buried beneath the cross for which they fought so valiantly: but
these tombs have lately been destroyed by the Greeks, whose detestation
of everything connected with the Latin Church exceeds their aversion to
the Mahometan creed. In the sacristy of the Latin monks we were shown
the sword and spurs of Godfrey de Bouillon; the sword is apparently of
the age assigned to it: it is double-edged and straight, with a
cross-guard.[11]

In another part of the church is a small dismal chapel, in the floor of
which are several ancient tombs; one of them is said to be the sepulchre
of Joseph of Arimathea. Of the antiquity of these tombs there cannot be
the slightest doubt; and their being here forms the best argument for
the authenticity of the Holy Sepulchre itself, as it shows that this was
formerly a place of burial, notwithstanding its situation in the centre
of the ancient city, contrary to the almost universal practice of the
ancients, whose sepulchres are always found some short distance from
their cities; indeed, among the Egyptians, whose manners seem to have
been followed in many respects by the Jews, it was a law that no one
should be buried in the cultivated grounds, but their tombs were
excavated in the rocks of the desert, that the agricultural and other
daily pursuits of the living might not interfere with the repose of the
dead. It is mentioned in the Bible that Christ was led _out_ to be
crucified; but it is not quite clear from the passage whether he was led
out of the city of Jerusalem itself, or only from the city of David on
Mount Sion, which appears to have been the citadel and place of
residence of the Roman governor. If so, the site of the Holy Sepulchre
may be the true one; and, in common with all other pilgrims, I am
inclined to hope that the tomb now pointed out may really be the
sepulchre of Christ.

Descending a flight of steps from the body of the church, we entered the
subterranean chapel of St. Helena, below which is another vault, in
which the true cross is said to have been found. A very curious account
of the finding of the cross is to be seen in the black-letter pages of
Caxton's 'Golden Legend,' and it has formed the subject of many
singular traditions and romantic stories in former days. The history of
this famous relic would be tedious were I to narrate it in the obsolete
phraseology of the father of English printing, and I will therefore only
give a short summary of the legend; although, to those who take an
interest in monastic traditions, the accounts given in old books, which
were read by our ancestors before the Reformation with all the sober
seriousness of undoubting faith, afford a curious instance of the
proneness of the human intellect to mistake the shadow for the
substance, and to substitute an unbounded veneration for outward
observances for the more reasonable acts of spiritual devotion.

In the middle ages, while the worship of our Saviour was completely
neglected, the wooden cross upon which he was supposed to have suffered
was the object of universal adoration to all sects of Christians; armies
fought with religious enthusiasm, not for the faith, but for the relic
of the cross; and the traditions regarding it were received as undoubted
facts by the heroes of the crusades, the hierarchy of the Church, and
all who called themselves Christians, in those iron ages, when with rope
and fagot, fire and sword, the fierce piety even of good men sought to
enforce the precepts of Him whose advent was heralded with the angels'
hymn of "peace on earth and good will towards men."

It is related in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, that when Adam
fell sick he sent his son Seth to the gate of the terrestrial paradise
to ask the angel for some drops of the oil of mercy, which distilled
from the tree of life, to cure him of his disease; but the angel
answered that he could not receive this healing oil until 5500 years had
passed away. He gave him, however, a branch of this tree, and it was
planted upon Adam's grave. In after ages the tree flourished and waxed
exceeding fair, for Adam was buried in Mount Lebanon, not very far from
the place near Damascus whence the red earth of which his body was
formed by the Creator had been taken. When Balkia, Queen of Abyssinia,
came to visit Solomon the King, she worshipped this tree, for she said
that thereon should the Saviour of the world be hanged, and that from
that time the kingdom of the Jews should cease. Upon hearing this,
Solomon commanded that the tree should be cut down and buried in a
certain place in Jerusalem, where afterwards the pool of Bethesda was
dug, and the angel that had charge of the mysterious tree troubled the
water of the pool at certain seasons, and those who first dipped into it
were cured of their ailments. As the time of the passion of the Saviour
approached, the wood floated on the surface of the water, and of that
piece of timber, which was of cedar, the Jews made the upright part of
the cross, the cross beam was made of cypress, the piece on which his
feet rested was of palm, and the other, on which the superscription was
written, was of olive.

After the crucifixion the holy cross and the crosses of the two thieves
were thrown into the town ditch, or, according to some, into an old
vault which was near at hand, and they were covered with the refuse and
ruins of the city. In her extreme old age the Empress Helena, making a
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, threatened all the Jewish inhabitants with
torture and death if they did not produce the holy cross from the place
where their ancestors had concealed it: and at last an old Jew named
Judas, who had been put into prison and was nearly famished, consented
to reveal the secret; he accordingly petitioned Heaven, whereupon the
earth trembled, and from the fissures in the ground a delicious aromatic
odour issued forth, and on the soil being removed the three crosses were
discovered; and near the crosses the superscription was also found, but
it was not known to which of the three it belonged. However, Macarius,
Bishop of Jerusalem, repairing with the Empress to the house of a noble
lady who was afflicted with an incurable disease, she was immediately
restored to health by touching the true cross; and the body of a young
man which was being carried out to burial was brought to life on being
laid upon the holy wood. At the sight of these miracles Judas the Jew
became a Christian, and was baptized by the name of Quiriacus, to the
great indignation of the devil, for, said he, "by the first Judas I
gained much profit, but by this one's conversion I shall lose many
souls."

It would be endless were I to give the history of all the authenticated
relics of the holy cross since those days; but of the three principal
pieces one is now, or lately was, at Etchmiazin, in Armenia, the monks
of which Church are accused of having stolen it from the Latins of
Jerusalem when they were imprisoned by Sultan Suleiman. The second piece
is still at Jerusalem, in the hands of the Greeks; and the third, which
was sent by the Empress Helena herself to the church of Santa Croce di
Gerusalemme at Rome, is now preserved in St. Peter's. There is indeed
little reason to doubt that the piece of wood exhibited at Rome is the
same that the Empress sent there in the year 326. The feast of the
"Invention of the Cross" continues to be celebrated every year on the
3rd of May by an appropriate mass.

Besides the objects which I have mentioned, there is within the church
an altar on the spot where Christ is said to have appeared to the Virgin
after the resurrection. This completes the list of all the sacred places
contained under the roof of the great church of the Holy Sepulchre.

I may remark that all the very ancient specimens of the relics of the
true cross are of the same wood, which has a very peculiar
half-petrified appearance. I have a relic of this kind; the date of the
shrine in which it is preserved being of the date of 1280. I have also
a piece of the cross in a more modern setting, which is not of the same
wood.

Whether all the hallowed spots within these walls really are the places
which the guardians of the church declare them to be, or whether they
have been fixed on at random, and consecrated to serve the interested
views of a crafty priesthood, is a fact that I shall leave others to
determine; however this may be, it is a matter of little consequence to
the Christian. The great facts on which the history of the Gospel is
founded are not so closely connected with particular spots of earth or
sacred buildings as to be rendered doubtful by any mistake in the choice
of a locality. The main error on the part of the priests of modern times
at Jerusalem arises from an anxiety to prove the actual existence of
everything to which any allusion is made by the evangelical historians,
not remembering that the lapse of ages and the devastation of successive
wars must have destroyed much, and disguised more, which the early
disciples could most readily have identified. The mere circumstance that
the localities of almost all the events which attended the close of our
Saviour's ministry are crowded into one place, and covered by the roof
of a single church, might excite a very justifiable doubt as to the
exactness of the topography maintained by the friars of Mount Moriah.



CHAPTER XIV.


     The Via Dolorosa--The Houses of Dives and of Lazarus--The Prison of
     St. Peter--The Site of the Temple of Solomon--The Mosque of
     Omar--The Hadjr el Sakhara--The Greek Monastery--Its
     Library--Valuable Manuscripts--Splendid MS. of the Book of
     Job--Arabic spoken at Jerusalem--Mussulman Theory regarding the
     Crucifixion--State of the Jews--Richness of their Dress in their
     own Houses--Beauty of their Women--Their literal Interpretation of
     Scripture--The Service in the Synagogue--Description of the House
     of a Rabbi--The Samaritans--Their Roll of the Pentateuch--Arrival
     of Ibrahim Pasha at Jerusalem.


Except the Holy Sepulchre, none of the places which are pointed out as
sacred within the walls of Jerusalem merit a description, as they have
evidently been created by the monks to serve their own purposes. You are
shown, for instance, the whole of the Via Dolorosa, the way by which our
Saviour passed from the hall of Pilate to Mount Calvary, and the exact
seven places where he fell under the weight of the cross: you are shown
the house of the rich man and that of Lazarus, both of them Turkish
buildings, although, as that story is related in a parable, no real
localities ever can have been referred to. Near the house of Lazarus
there were several dogs when I passed by, and, on my asking the guide
whether they were the descendants of the original dogs in the parable,
he said he was not quite sure, but that as to the house there could be
no doubt. The prison of St. Peter is also to be seen, but the column on
which the cock stood who crowed on his denial of our Lord, as well as
the steps by which Christ ascended to the judgment-seat of Pilate, have
been carried away to Rome, where they are both to be seen on the hill of
St. John Lateran.

The mosque of Omar stands on the site of the ancient Temple of Solomon,
which covered the whole of the enclosure which is now the garden of the
mosque, a space of about 1500 feet long, and 1000 feet wide. In the
centre of this garden is a platform of stone about 600 feet square, on
which stands the octagonal building of the mosque itself, the upper part
being covered with green porcelain tiles which glitter in the sun:
below, the walls are paneled with marble richly worked and of different
colours: the dome in the centre has a wide cornice round it, ornamented
with sentences from the Koran: the whole has a brilliant and
extraordinary appearance, more like a Chinese temple than anything else.
This building is called the Acksa el Sakhara, from its containing a
piece of rock called the Hadjr el Sakhara, or the locked-up stone, which
is the principal object of veneration in the place: it occupies the
centre of the mosque, and on it are shown the prints of the angel
Gabriel's fingers, who brought it from heaven, and the mark of the
Prophet's foot and that of his camel, a singularly good leaper, two more
of whose footsteps I have seen in Egypt and Arabia, and I believe there
is another at Damascus, the whole journey from Jerusalem to Mecca having
been performed in four bounds only, for which remarkable service the
camel is to have a place in heaven, where he will enjoy the society of
Borak, the prophet's horse, Balaam's ass, Tobit's dog, and the dog of
the seven sleepers, whose name was Ketmir, and also the companionship of
a certain celebrated fly with whose merits I am unacquainted.

We are told that the stone of the Sakhara fell from heaven at the time
when prophecy commenced at Jerusalem. It was employed as a seat by the
venerable men to whom that gift was communicated, and, as long as the
spirit of vaticination continued to enlighten their minds, the slab
remained steady for their accommodation; but no sooner was the power of
prophecy withdrawn, and the persecuted seers compelled to flee for
safety to other lands, than the stone manifested the profoundest
sympathy in their fate, and evinced a determination to accompany them in
their flight: on which Gabriel the archangel interposed his authority,
and prevented the departure of the prophetical chair. He grasped it with
his mighty hand and nailed it to its rocky bed by seven brass or golden
nails. When any event of great importance to the world takes place the
head of one of these nails disappears, and when they are all gone the
day of judgment will come. As there are now only three left, the
Mahometans believe that the end of all things is not far distant. All
those who have faithfully performed their devotions at this celebrated
mosque are furnished by the priest with a certificate of their having
done so, which is to be buried with them that they may show it to the
door-keeper of Paradise as a ticket of admission. I was presented with
one of these at Jerusalem, and found another in the desert of Al Arisch,
a wondrous piece of good fortune in the estimation of my Mahometan
followers, as I was provided with a ticket for a friend, as well as a
pass for my own reception among the houris of their Prophet's celestial
garden.

The Greek monastery adjoins the church of the Holy Sepulchre. It
contains a good library, the iron door of which is opened by a key as
large as a horse-pistol. The books are kept in good order, and consist
of about two thousand printed volumes in various languages; and about
five hundred Greek and Arabic MSS. on paper, which are all theological
works. There are also about one hundred Greek manuscripts on vellum: the
whole collection is in excellent preservation. One of the eight
manuscripts of the Gospels which the library contains has the index and
the beginning of each Gospel written in gold letters on purple vellum,
and has also some curious illuminations. There is likewise a manuscript
of the whole Bible: it is a large folio, and is the only one I ever
heard of, excepting the one at the Vatican and that at the British
Museum. One of the most beautiful volumes in the library is a large
folio of the book of Job. It is a most glorious MS.: the text is written
in large letters, surrounded with scholia in a smaller hand, and almost
every page contains one or more miniatures representing the sufferings
of Job, with ghastly portraits of Bildad the Shuhite and his other
pitying friends: this manuscript is of the twelfth century. The rest of
the manuscripts consist of the works of the Fathers, copies of the
'Anthologia,' and books for the Church service.

The Arabic language is generally spoken at Jerusalem, though the Turkish
is much used among the better class. The inhabitants are composed of
people of different nations and different religions, who inwardly
despise one another on account of their varying opinions; but, as the
Christians are very numerous, there reigns among the whole no small
degree of complaisance, as well as an unrestrained intercourse in
matters of business, amusement, and even of religion. The Mussulmans,
for instance, pray in all the holy places consecrated to the memory of
Christ and the Virgin, except the tomb of the Holy Sepulchre, the
sanctity of which they do not acknowledge, for they believe that Jesus
Christ did not die, but that he ascended alive into heaven, leaving the
likeness of his face to Judas, who was condemned to die for him; and
that, as Judas was crucified, it was his body, and not that of Jesus,
which was placed in the sepulchre. It is for this reason that the
Mussulmans do not perform any act of devotion at the tomb of the Holy
Sepulchre, and that they ridicule the Christians who visit and revere
it.

The Jews--the "children of the kingdom"--have been cast out, and many
have come from the east and the west to occupy their place in the
desolate land promised to their fathers. Their quarter is in the narrow
valley between the Temple and the foot of Mount Zion. Many of the Jews
are rich, but they are careful to conceal their wealth from the jealous
eyes of their Mahometan rulers, lest they should be subjected to
extortion.

It is remarkable that the Jews who are born in Jerusalem are of a
totally different caste from those we see in Europe. Here they are a
fair race, very lightly made, and particularly effeminate in manner; the
young men wear a lock of long hair on each side of the face, which, with
their flowing silk robes, gives them the appearance of women. The Jews
of both sexes are exceedingly fond of dress; and, although they assume a
dirty and squalid appearance when they walk abroad, in their own houses
they are to be seen clothed in costly furs and the richest silks of
Damascus. The women are covered with gold, and dressed in brocades stiff
with embroidery. Some of them are beautiful; and a girl of about twelve
years old, who was betrothed to the son of a rich old rabbi, was the
prettiest little creature I ever saw; her skin was whiter than ivory,
and her hair, which was as black as jet, and was plaited with strings of
sequins, fell in tresses nearly to the ground. She was of a Spanish
family, and the language usually spoken by the Jews among themselves is
Spanish.

The Jewish religion is now so much encumbered with superstition and the
extraordinary explanations of the Bible in the Talmud, that little of
the original creed remains. They interpret all the words of Scripture
literally, and this leads them into most absurd mistakes. On the morning
of the day of the Passover I went into the synagogue under the walls of
the Temple, and found it crowded to the very door; all the congregation
were standing up, with large white shawls over their heads with the
fringes which they were commanded to wear by the Jewish law. They were
reading the Psalms, and after I had been there a short time all the
people began to hop about and to shake their heads and limbs in a most
extraordinary manner; the whole congregation was in motion, from the
priest, who was dancing in the reading-desk, to the porter, who capered
at the door. All this was in consequence of a verse in the 35th Psalm,
which says, "All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee;" and
this was their ludicrous manner of doing so. After the Psalm a crier
went round the room, who sold the honour of performing different parts
of the service to the highest bidder; the money so obtained is
appropriated to the relief of the poor. The sanctuary at the upper end
of the room was then opened, and a curtain withdrawn, in imitation of
that which separated the Holy of Holies from the body of the Temple.
From this place the book of the law was taken: it was contained in a
case of embossed silver, and two large silver ornaments were fixed on
the ends of the rollers, which stuck out from the top of the case. The
Jews, out of reverence, as I presume, touched it with a little bodkin of
gold, and, on its being carried to the reading-desk, a silver crown was
placed upon it, and a man, supported by two others, one on each side of
him, chanted the lesson of the day in a loud voice: the book was then
replaced in the sanctuary, and the service concluded. The women are not
admitted into the synagogue, but are permitted to view the ceremonies
from a grated gallery set apart for them. However, they seldom attend,
as it seems they are not accounted equal to the men either in body or
soul, and trouble themselves very little with matters of religion.

The house of Rabbi A----, with whom I was acquainted, answered exactly
to Sir Walter Scott's description of the dwelling of Isaac of York. The
outside of the house and the court-yard indicated nothing but poverty
and neglect; but on entering I was surprised at the magnificence of the
furniture. One room had a silver chandelier, and a great quantity of
embossed plate was displayed on the top of the polished cupboards. Some
of the windows were filled with painted glass; and the members of the
family, covered with gold and jewels, were seated on divans of Damascus
brocade. The Rabbi's little son was so covered with charms in gold cases
to keep off the evil eye, that he jingled like a chime of bells when he
walked along; and a still younger boy, whom I had never seen before, was
on this day exalted to the dignity of wearing trousers, which were of
red stuff, embroidered with gold, and were brought in by his nurse and a
number of other women in procession, and borne on high before him as he
was dragged round the room howling and crying without any nether garment
on at all. He was walked round again after his superb trousers were put
on, and very uncomfortable he seemed to be, but doubtless the honour of
the thing consoled him, and he waddled out into the court with an air of
conscious dignity.

The learning of the rabbis is now at a very low ebb, and few of them
thoroughly understand the ancient Hebrew tongue, although there are Jews
at Jerusalem who speak several languages, and are said to be well
acquainted with all the traditions of their fathers, and the mysterious
learning of the Cabala.

There is in the Holy Land another division of the children of Israel,
the Samaritans, who still keep up a separate form of religion. Their
synagogue at Nablous is a mean building, not unlike a poor Mahometan
mosque. Within it is a large, low, square chamber, the floor of which is
covered with matting. Round a part of the walls is a wooden shelf, on
which are laid above thirty manuscript _books_ of the Pentateuch written
in the Samaritan character: they possess also a very famous roll or
volume of the Pentateuch, which is said to have been written by Abishai
the grandson of Aaron. It is contained in a curiously ornamented octagon
case of brass about two feet high, on opening which the MS. appears
within rolled upon two pieces of wood. It is sixteen inches wide, and
must be of great length, as each of the two parts of the roll are four
or five inches in diameter. The writing is small and not very distinct,
and the MS. is in rather a dilapidated condition. The Samaritan Rabbi
Ibrahim Israel, true to his Jewish origin, would not open the case until
he had been well paid. He affirmed that in this MS. the blessings were
directed to be given from Mount Ebal and the curses from Mount Gherizim.
However this may be, in an Arabic translation of the Samaritan
Pentateuch, which is in my own collection, the 12th and 13th verses of
the 27th chapter of Deuteronomy are the same as the usually received
text in other Bibles.

Jerusalem was at this time (1834) under the dominion of the Egyptians,
and Ibrahim Pasha arrived shortly after we had established ourselves in
the vaulted dungeons of the Latin convent. He took up his abode in a
house in the town, and did not maintain any state or ceremony; indeed he
had scarcely any guards, and but few servants, so secure did he feel in
a country which he had so lately conquered. He received us with great
courtesy in his mean lodging, where we found an interpreter who spoke
English. I had been promised a letter from Mohammed Ali Pasha to Ibrahim
Pasha, but on inquiring I found it had not arrived, and Ibrahim Pasha
sent a courier to Jaffa to inquire whether it was lying there; however
it did not reach me, and I therefore was not permitted to see the
interior of the mosque of Omar, or the great church of the Purification,
which stands on the site of the Temple of Solomon, and into which at
that time no Christian had penetrated.



CHAPTER XV.


     Expedition to the Monastery of St. Sabba--Reports of Arab
     Robbers--The Valley of Jehoshaphat--The Bridge of Al Sirat--Rugged
     Scenery--An Arab Ambuscade--A successful Parley--The Monastery of
     St. Sabba--History of the Saint--The Greek Hermits--The Church--The
     Iconostasis--The Library--Numerous MSS.--The Dead Sea--The Scene of
     the Temptation--Discovery--The Apple of the Dead Sea--The
     Statements of Strabo and Pliny confirmed.


As we wished to be present at the celebration of Easter by the Greek
Church, we remained several weeks at Jerusalem, during which time we
made various excursions to the most celebrated localities in the
neighbourhood. In addition to the Bible, which almost sufficed us for a
guide-book in these sacred regions, we had several books of travels with
us, and I was struck with the superiority of old Maundrell's narrative
over all the others, for he tells us plainly and clearly what he saw,
whilst other travellers so encumber their narratives with opinions and
disquisitions, that, instead of describing the country, they describe
only what they think about it; and thus little real information as to
what there was to be seen or done could be gleaned from these works,
eloquent and well written as many of them are; and we continually
returned to Maundrell's homely pages for a good plain account of what
we wished to know. As, however, I had gathered from various incidental
remarks in these books that there was a famous library in the monastery
of St. Sabba, in which one might expect to find all the lost classics,
whole rows of uncial manuscripts, and perhaps the histories of the
Preadamite kings in the autograph of Jemshid, I determined to go and see
it.

It was of course necessary for every traveller at Jerusalem to "_do his
Dead Sea_;" and accordingly we made arrangements for an excursion in
that direction, which was to include a visit to St. Sabba; for my
companion kindly put up with my aberrations, and agreed to linger with
me for that purpose on our way to Jericho, although it was at the risk
of falling among thieves, for we heard all manner of reports of the
danger of the roads, and of a certain truculent Robin Hood sort of
person, called Abou Gash, who had just got out of some prison or other.

Abou Gash was vastly popular in this part of the country: everybody
spoke well of him, and declared that "he was the mildest-mannered man
that ever cut a throat or scuttled ship;" but they all hinted that it
might be as well to keep out of his way, and that, when we went
cantering about the country, poking our noses into caves, and ruins, and
other _uncanny_ places, it would be advisable to keep a "good" look-out.
For all this we cared little: so, getting together our merry men, we
sallied forth through St. Stephen's gate. A gallant band we were, some
five-and-twenty horsemen, well armed in the Egyptian style; with tents
and kettles, cocks and hens, and cooks and marmitons, stowed upon the
baggage-horses. Great store of good things had we--vino doro di Monte
Libano, and hams, to show that we were not Mahometans; and tea, to prove
that we were not Frenchmen; and guns to shoot partridges withal, and
many other European necessaries.

We tramped along upon the hard rocky ground one after the other, through
the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and looked up at the corner of the temple,
whence is to spring on the last day, as every sound follower of the
Prophet believes, the fearful bridge of Al Sirat, which is narrower than
the edge of the sharpest cimeter of Khorassaun, and from which those who
without due preparation attempt to pass on their way to the paradise of
Mahomet will fall into the unfathomable gulf below. Gradually as we
advanced into the valley, through which the brook Kedron, when there is
any water in it, flows into the Dead Sea, the scenery became more and
more savage, the rocks more precipitous, and the valley narrowed into a
deep gorge, the path being sometimes among the broken stones in the bed
of the stream, and sometimes rising high above it on narrow ledges of
rock.

We rode on for some hours, admiring the wild grandeur of the scenery,
for this is the hill country of Judea, and seems almost a chaos of rocks
and craggy mountains, broken into narrow defiles, or opening into dreary
valleys bare of vegetation, except a few shrubs whose tough roots pierce
through the crevices of the stony soil, and find a scanty subsistence in
the small portions of earth which the rains have washed from the surface
of the rocks above. In one place the pathway, which was not more than
two or three feet wide, wound round the corner of a precipitous crag in
such a manner that a horseman riding along the giddy way showed so
clearly against the sky, that it seemed as if a puff of wind would blow
horse and man into the ravine beneath. We were proceeding along this
ledge--Fathallah, one of our interpreters, first, I second, and the
others following--when we saw three or four Arabs with long
bright-barrelled guns slip out of a crevice just before us, and take up
their position on the path, pointing those unpleasant-looking implements
in our faces. From some inconceivable motive, not of the most heroic
nature I fear, my first move was to turn my head round to look behind
me; but when I did so, I perceived that some more Arabs had crept out of
another cleft behind us, which we had not observed as we passed; and on
looking up I saw that from the precipice above us a curious collection
of bright barrels and brown faces were taking an observation of our
party, while on the opposite side of the gorge, which was perhaps a
hundred and fifty yards across, every fragment of rock seemed to have
brought forth a man in a white tunic and bare legs, with a yellow
handkerchief round his head, and a long gun in his hand, which he
pointed towards us.

We had fallen into an ambuscade, and one so cleverly laid that all
attempt at resistance was hopeless. The path was so narrow that our
horses could not turn, and a precipice within a yard of us, of a hundred
feet sheer down, rendered our position singularly uncomfortable.
Fathallah's horse came to a stand-still: my horse ran his nose against
him and stood still too; and so did all the rest of us. "Well!" said I,
"Fathallah, what is this? who are these gentlemen?" "I knew it would be
so," quoth Fathallah, "I was sure of it! and in such a cursed place
too!--I see how it is, I shall never get home alive to Aleppo!"

After waiting a while, I imagine to enjoy our confusion, one of the
Arabs in front took up his parable and said, "Oh! oh! ye Egyptians!" (we
wore the Egyptian dress)" what are you doing here, in our country? You
are Ibrahim Pasha's men; are you? Say--speak; what reason have ye for
being here? for we are Arabs, and the sons of Arabs; and this is our
country, and our land?"

"Sir," said the interpreter with profound respect--for he rode first,
and four or five guns were pointed directly at his breast--"Sir, we are
no Egyptians; thy servants are men of peace; we are peaceable Franks,
pilgrims from the holy city, and we are only going to bathe in the
waters of the Jordan, as all pilgrims do who travel to the Holy Land."
"Franks!" quoth the Arab; "I know the Franks; pretty Franks are ye!
Franks are the fathers of hats, and do not wear guns or swords, or red
caps upon their heads, as you do. We shall soon see whether ye are
Franks or not. Ye are Egyptians, and servants of Ibrahim Pasha the
Egyptian: but now ye shall find that ye are our servants!"

"Oh Sir," exclaimed I in the best Arabic I could muster, "thy servants
are men of peace, travellers, antiquaries all of us. Oh Sir, we are
Englishmen, which is a sort of Frank--very harmless and excellent
people, desiring no evil. We beg you will be good enough to let us
pass." "Franks!" retorted the Arab sheick, "pretty Franks! Franks do not
speak Arabic, nor wear the Nizam dress! Ye are men of Ibrahim Pasha's;
Egyptians, arrant Cairoites (Misseri) are ye all, every one of ye;" and
he and all his followers laughed at us scornfully, for we certainly did
look very like Egyptians. "We are Franks, I tell you!" again exclaimed
Fathallah: "Ibrahim Pasha, indeed! who is he, I should like to know? we
are Franks; and Franks like to see everything. We are going to see the
monastery of St. Sabba; we are not Egyptians; what care we for
Egyptians? we are English, Franks, every one of us, and we only desire
to see the monastery of St. Sabba; that is what we are, O Arab, son of
an Arab (Arab beni Arab). We are no less than this, and no more; we are
Franks, as you are Arabs."

Upon this there ensued a consultation between this son of an Arab and
the other sons of Arabs, and in process of time the worthy gentlemen,
knowing that it was impossible for us to escape, agreed to take us to
the monastery of St. Sabba, which was not far off, and there to hear
what we had to say in our defence.

The sheick waved his arm aloft as a signal to his men to raise the
muzzle of their guns, and we were allowed to proceed; some of the Arabs
walking unconcernedly before us, and the others skipping like goats from
rock to rock above us, and on the other side of the valley. They were
ten times as numerous as we were, and we should have had no chance with
them even on fair ground; but here we were completely at their mercy. We
were escorted in this manner the rest of the way, and in half an hour's
time we found ourselves standing before the great square tower of the
monastery of St. Sabba. The battlements were lined with Arabs, who had
taken possession of this strong place, and after a short parley and a
clanging of arms within, a small iron door was opened in the wall: we
dismounted and passed in; our horses, one by one, were pushed through
after us. So there we were in the monastery of St Sabba sure enough; but
under different circumstances from what we expected when we set out that
morning from Jerusalem.

Fathallah had, however, convinced the sheick of the Arabs that we really
were Franks, and not followers of Ibrahim Pasha, and before long we not
only were relieved from all fear, but became great friends with the
noble and illustrious Abou Somebody, who had taken possession of St.
Sabba and the defiles leading to it.

This monastery, which is a very ancient foundation, is built upon the
edge of the precipice at the bottom of which flows the brook Kedron,
which in the rainy season becomes a torrent. The buildings, which are of
immense strength, are supported by buttresses so massive that the upper
part of each is large enough to contain a small arched chamber; the
whole of the rooms in the monastery are vaulted, and are gloomy and
imposing in the extreme. The pyramidical-shaped mass of buildings
extends half-way down the rocks, and is crowned above by a high and
stately square tower, which commands the small iron gate of the
principal entrance. Within there are several small irregular courts
connected by steep flights of steps and dark arched passages, some of
which are carried through the solid rock.

It was in one of the caves in these rocks that the renowned St. Sabba
passed his time in the society of a pet lion. He was a famous anchorite,
and was made chief of all the monks of Palestine by Sallustius,
Patriarch of Jerusalem, about the year 490. He was twice ambassador to
Constantinople to propitiate the Emperors Anastasius the Silent and
Justinian; moreover he made a vow never to eat apples as long as he
lived. He was born at Mutalasca, near Cæsarea of Cappadocia, in 439, and
died in 532, in the ninety-fifth year of his age: he is still held in
high veneration by both the Greek and Latin churches. He was the founder
of the Laura, which was formerly situated among the clefts and crevices
of these rocks, the present monastery having been enclosed and fortified
at I do not know what period, but long after the decease of the saint.

The word laura, which is often met with in the histories of the first
five centuries after Christ, signifies, when applied to monastic
institutions, a number of separate cells, each inhabited by a single
hermit or anchorite, in contradistinction to a convent or monastery,
which was called a cœnobium, where the monks lived together in one
building under the rule of a superior. This species of monasticism seems
always to have been a peculiar characteristic of the Greek Church, and
in the present day these ascetic observances are upheld only by the
Greek, Coptic, and Abyssinian Christians, among whom hermits and
quietists, such as waste the body for the improvement of the soul, are
still to be met with in the clefts of the rocks and in the desert places
of Asia and Africa. They are a sort of dissenters as regards their own
Church, for, by the mortifications to which they subject themselves,
they rebuke the regular priesthood, who do not go so far, although these
latter fast in the year above one hundred days, and always rise to
midnight prayer. In the dissent, if such it be, of these monks of the
desert there is a dignity and self-denying firmness much to be
respected. They follow the tenets of their faith and the ordinances of
their religion in a manner which is almost sublime. They are in this
respect the very opposite to European dissenters, who are as undignified
as they are generally snug and cosy in their mode of life. Here, among
the followers of St. Anthony, there are no mock heroics, no turning up
of the whites of the eyes and drawing down of the corners of the mouth:
they form their rule of life from the ascetic writings of the early
fathers of the Church: their self-denial is extreme, their devotion
heroic; but yet to our eyes it appears puerile and irrational that men
should give up their whole lives to a routine of observances which,
although they are hard and stern, are yet so trivial that they appear
almost ridiculous.

In one of the courts of the monastery there is a palm-tree, said to be
endowed with miraculous properties, which was planted by St. Sabba, and
is to be numbered among the few now existing in the Holy Land, for at
present they are very rarely to be met with, except in the vale of
Jericho and the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, in which
localities, in consequence of their being so much beneath the level of
the rest of the country, the temperature is many degrees higher than it
is elsewhere.

The church is rather large and is very solidly built. There are many
ancient frescos painted on the walls, and various early Greek pictures
are hung round about: many of these are representations of the most
famous saints, and on the feast of each his picture is exposed upon a
kind of desk before the iconostasis or wooden partition which divides
the church from the sanctuary and the altar, and there it receives the
kisses and oblations of all the worshippers who enter the sacred edifice
on that day.

The ικονοsτασις is dimly represented in our older
churches by the rood-loft and screen which divides the chancel from the
nave: it is retained also in Lombardy and in the sees under the
Ambrosian rule; but these screens and rood-lofts, which destroy the
beauty of a cathedral or any large church, are unknown in the Roman
churches. They date their origin from the very earliest ages, when the
"discipline of the secret" was observed, and when the ceremonies of the
communion were held to be of such a sacred and mysterious nature that it
was not permitted to the communicants to reveal what then took place--an
incomprehensible custom which led to the propagation of many false ideas
and strange rumours as to the Christian observances in the third and
fourth centuries, and was one of the causes which led to several of the
persecutions of the Church, as it was believed by the heathens that the
Christians sacrificed children and committed other abominations for
which they deserved extermination; and so prone are the vulgar to give
credence to such injurious reports, that the Christians in later ages
accused the Jews of the very same practices for which they themselves
had in former times been held up to execration.

In one part of the church I observed a rickety ladder leaning against
the wall, and leading up to a small door about ten feet from the ground.
Scrambling up this ladder, I found myself in the library of which I had
heard so much. It was a small square room, or rather a large closet, in
the upper part of one of the enormous buttresses which supported the
walls of the monastery. Here I found about a thousand books, almost all
manuscripts, but the whole of them were works of divinity. One volume in
the Bulgarian or Servian language was written in uncial letters; the
rest were in Greek, and were for the most part of the twelfth century.
There were a great many enormous folios of the works of the fathers,
and one MS. of the Octoteuch, or first eight hooks of the Old Testament.
It is remarkable how very rarely MSS. of any part of the Old Testament
are found in the libraries of Greek monasteries; this was the only MS.
of the Octoteuch that I ever met with either before or afterwards in any
part of the Levant. There were about a hundred other MSS. on a shelf in
the apsis of the church: I was not allowed to examine them, but was
assured that they were liturgies and church-books which were used on the
various high days during the year.

I was afterwards taken by some of the monks into the vaulted chambers of
the great square tower or keep, which stood near the iron door by which
we had been admitted. Here there were about a hundred MSS., but all
imperfect; I found the 'Iliad' of Homer among them, but it was on paper.
Some of these MSS. were beautifully written; they were, however, so
imperfect, that in the short time I was there, and pestered as I was by
a crowd of gaping Arabs, I was unable to discover what they were.

I was allowed to purchase three MSS., with which the next day I and my
companion departed on our way to the Dead Sea, our friend the sheick
having, from the moment that he was convinced we were nothing better or
worse than Englishmen and sight-seers, treated us with all manner of
civility.

On arriving at the Dead Sea I forthwith proceeded to bathe in it, in
order to prove the celebrated buoyancy of the water, and was nearly
drowned in the experiment, for, not being able to swim, my head got much
deeper below the water than I intended. Two ignorant pilgrims, who had
joined our party for protection, baptized each other in this filthy
water, and sang psalms so loudly and discordantly that we asked them
what in the name of wonder they were about, when we discovered that they
thought this was the Jordan, and were sorely grieved at their
disappointment. We found several shells upon the shore and a small dead
fish, but perhaps they had been washed down by the waters of the Jordan
or the Kedron: I do not know how this may be.

We wandered about for two or three days in this hot, volcanic, and
sunken region, and thence proceeded to Jericho. The mountain of
Quarantina, the scene of the forty days' temptation of our Saviour, is
pierced all over with the caves excavated by the ancient anchorites, and
which look like pigeons' nests. Some of them are in the most
extraordinary situations, high up on the face of tremendous precipices.
However, I will not attempt to detail the singularities of this wild
district; we visited the chief objects of interest, and a big book that
I brought from St. Sabba is endeared to my recollections by my having
constantly made use of it as a pillow in my tent during our wanderings.
It was somewhat hard, undoubtedly; but after a long day's ride it
served its purpose very well, and I slept as soundly as if it had been
read to me.

At two subsequent periods I visited this region, and purchased seven
other MSS. from St Sabba; among them was the Octoteuch of the tenth, if
not the ninth, century, which I esteem one of the most rare and precious
volumes of my library.

We made a somewhat singular discovery when travelling among the
mountains to the east of the Dead Sea, where the ruins of Ammon, Jerash,
and Adjeloun well repay the labour and fatigue encountered in visiting
them. It was a remarkably hot and sultry day: we were scrambling up the
mountain through a thick jungle of bushes and low trees, when I saw
before me a fine plum-tree, loaded with fresh blooming plums. I cried
out to my fellow-traveller, "Now, then, who will arrive first at the
plum-tree?" and as he caught a glimpse of so refreshing an object, we
both pressed our horses into a gallop to see which would get the first
plum from the branches. We both arrived at the same moment; and, each
snatching at a fine ripe plum, put it at once into our mouths; when, on
biting it, instead of the cool delicious juicy fruit which we expected,
our months were filled with a dry bitter dust, and we sat under the tree
upon our horses sputtering, and hemming, and doing all we could to be
relieved of the nauseous taste of this strange fruit. We then
perceived, and to my great delight, that we had discovered the famous
apple of the Dead Sea, the existence of which has been doubted and
canvassed since the days of Strabo and Pliny, who first described it.
Many travellers have given descriptions of other vegetable productions
which bear some analogy to the one described by Pliny; but up to this
time no one had met with the thing itself, either upon the spot
mentioned by the ancient authors, or elsewhere. I brought several of
them to England. They are a kind of gall-nut. I found others afterwards
upon the plains of Troy, but there can be no doubt whatever that this is
the apple of Sodom to which Strabo and Pliny referred. Some of those
which I brought to England were given to the Linnæan Society, who
published an engraving of them, and a description of their vegetable
peculiarities, in their 'Transactions;' but as they omitted to explain
the peculiar interest attached to them in consequence of their having
been sought for unsuccessfully for above 1500 years, they excited little
attention; though, as the evidence of the truth of what has so long been
considered as a vulgar fable, they are fairly to be classed among the
most curious productions which have been brought from the Holy Land.



CHAPTER XVI.


     Church of the Holy Sepulchre--Processions of the Copts--The Syrian
     Maronites and the Greeks--Riotous Behaviour of the Pilgrims--Their
     immense numbers--The Chant of the Latin Monks--Ibrahim Pasha--The
     Exhibition of the Sacred Fire--Excitement of the Pilgrims--The
     Patriarch obtains the Sacred Fire from the Holy Sepulchre--Contest
     for the Holy Light--Immense sum paid for the privilege of receiving
     it first--Fatal Effects of the Heat and Smoke--Departure of Ibrahim
     Pasha--Horrible Catastrophe--Dreadful Loss of Life among the
     Pilgrims in their endeavours to leave the Church--Battle with the
     Soldiers--Our Narrow Escape--Shocking Scene in the Court of the
     Church--Humane Conduct of Ibrahim Pasha--Superstition of the
     Pilgrims regarding Shrouds--Scallop Shells and Palm Branches--The
     Dead Muleteer--Moonlight View of the Dead Bodies--The Curse on
     Jerusalem--Departure from the Holy City.


It was on Friday, the 3rd of May, that my companions and myself went,
about five o'clock in the evening, to the church of the Holy Sepulchre,
where we had places assigned us in the gallery of the Latin monks, as
well as a good bed-room in their convent. The church was very full, and
the numbers kept increasing every moment. We first saw a small
procession of the Copts go round the sepulchre, and after them one of
the Syrian Maronites. I then went to bed, and at midnight was awakened
to see the procession of the Greeks, which was rather grand. By the
rules of their Church they are not permitted to carry any images, and
therefore to make up for this they bore aloft a piece of brocade, upon
which was embroidered a representation of the body of our Saviour. This
was placed in the tomb, and, after some short time, brought out again
and carried into the chapel of the Greeks, when the ceremonies of the
night ended; for there was no procession of the Armenians, as the
Armenian Patriarch had made an address to his congregation, and had, it
was said, explained the falsity of the miracle of the holy fire; to the
excessive astonishment of his hearers, who for centuries have considered
an unshakable belief in this yearly wonder as one of the leading
articles of their faith. After the Greek procession I went quietly to
bed again, and slept soundly till next morning.

The behaviour of the pilgrims was riotous in the extreme; the crowd was
so great that many persons actually crawled over the heads of others,
and some made pyramids of men by standing on each others' shoulders, as
I have seen them do at Astley's. At one time, before the church was so
full, they made a race-course round the sepulchre; and some, almost in a
state of nudity, danced about with frantic gestures, yelling and
screaming as if they were possessed.

Altogether it was a scene of disorder and profanation which it is
impossible to describe. In consequence of the multitude of people and
the quantities of lamps, the heat was excessive, and a steam arose
which prevented your seeing clearly across the church. But every window
and cornice, and every place where a man's foot could rest, excepting
the gallery--which was reserved for Ibrahim Pasha and
ourselves--appeared to be crammed with people; for 17,000 pilgrims were
said to be in Jerusalem, almost the whole of whom had come to the Holy
City for no other reason than to see the sacred fire.

After the noise, heat, and uproar which I had witnessed from the gallery
that overlooked the Holy Sepulchre, the contrast of the calmness and
quiet of my room in the Franciscan convent was very pleasing. The room
had a small window which opened upon the Latin choir, where, in the
evening, the monks chanted the litany of the Virgin: their fine voices
and the beautiful simplicity of the ancient chant made a strong
impression upon my mind; the orderly solemnity of the Roman Catholic
vespers showing to great advantage when compared with the screams and
tumult of the fanatic Greeks.

[Illustration: LITANY OF THE VIRGIN

Sung by the Friars of St. Salvador at Jerusalem.

    Sanc--ta Mat--er Do--mi--ni-- O--ra
    pro no--bis. Sanc--ta De--i
    Ge--ni--trix-- O--ra pro no--bis.

    Sancta Maria--Ora pro nobis.
    Sancta Virgo Virginum--Ora pro nobis.
    Impeatrix Reginarum--Ora pro nobis.
    Laus sanctarum animarum--Ora pro nobis
    Vera salutrix earum--Ora pro nobis.

The next morning a way was made through the crowd for Ibrahim Pasha, by
the soldiers with the butt-ends of their muskets, and by the Janissaries
with their kourbatches and whips made of a quantity of small rope. The
Pasha sat in the gallery, on a divan which the monks had made for him
between the two columns nearest to the Greek chapel. They had got up a
sort of procession to do him honour, the appearance of which did not add
to the solemnity of the scene: three monks playing crazy fiddles led the
way, then came the choristers with lighted candles, next two Nizam
soldiers with muskets and fixed bayonets; a number of doctors,
instructors, and officers tumbling over each other's heels, brought up
the rear: he was received by the women, of whom there were thousands in
the church, with a very peculiar shrill cry, which had a strange
unearthly effect. It was the monosyllable la, la, la, uttered in a
shrill trembling tone, which I thought much more like pain than
rejoicing. The Pasha was dressed in full trousers of dark cloth, a light
lilac-coloured jacket, and a red cap without a turban. When he was
seated, the monks brought us some sherbet, which was excellently made;
and as our seats were very near the great man, we saw everything in an
easy and luxurious way; and it being announced that the Mahomedan Pasha
was ready, the Christian miracle, which had been waiting for some time,
was now on the point of being displayed.

The people were by this time become furious; they were worn out with
standing in such a crowd all night, and as the time approached for the
exhibition of the holy fire they could not contain themselves for joy.
Their excitement increased as the time for the miracle in which all
believed drew near. At about one o'clock the Patriarch went into the
ante-chapel of the sepulchre, and soon after a magnificent procession
moved out of the Greek chapel. It conducted the Patriarch three times
round the tomb; after which he took off his outer robes of cloth of
silver, and went into the sepulchre, the door of which was then closed.
The agitation of the pilgrims was now extreme: they screamed aloud; and
the dense mass of people shook to and fro, like a field of corn in the
wind.

[Illustration: image of a bundle of thin wax-candles
enclosed in an iron frame.]

There is a round hole in one part of the chapel over the sepulchre, out
of which the holy fire is given, and up to this the man who had agreed
to pay the highest sum for this honour was conducted by a strong guard
of soldiers. There was silence for a minute; and then a light appeared
out of the tomb, and the happy pilgrim received the holy fire from the
Patriarch within. It consisted of a bundle of thin wax-candles, lit, and
enclosed in an iron frame to prevent their being torn asunder and put
out in the crowd: for a furious battle commenced immediately; every one
being so eager to obtain the holy light, that one man put out the candle
of his neighbour in trying to light his own. It is said that as much as
ten thousand piasters has been paid for the privilege of first receiving
the holy fire, which is believed to ensure eternal salvation. The Copts
got eight purses this year for the first candle they gave to a pilgrim
of their own persuasion.

This was the whole of the ceremony; there was no sermon or prayers,
except a little chanting during the processions, and nothing that could
tend to remind you of the awful event which this feast was designed to
commemorate.

Soon you saw the lights increasing in all directions, every one having
lit his candle from the holy flame: the chapels, the galleries, and
every corner where a candle could possibly be displayed, immediately
appeared to be in a blaze. The people, in their frenzy, put the bunches
of lighted tapers to their faces, hands, and breasts, to purify
themselves from their sins. The Patriarch was carried out of the
sepulchre in triumph, on the shoulders of the people he had deceived,
amid the cries and exclamations of joy which resounded from every nook
of the immense pile of buildings. As he appeared in a fainting state, I
supposed that he was ill; but I found that it is the uniform custom on
these occasions to feign insensibility, that the pilgrims may imagine he
is overcome with the glory of the Almighty, from whose immediate
presence they believe him to have returned.

In a short time the smoke of the candles obscured everything in the
place, and I could see it rolling in great volumes out at the aperture
at the top of the dome. The smell was terrible; and three unhappy
wretches, overcome by heat and bad air, fell from the upper range of
galleries, and were dashed to pieces on the heads of the people below.
One poor Armenian lady, seventeen years of age, died where she sat, of
heat, thirst, and fatigue.

After a while, when he had seen all that was to be seen, Ibrahim Pasha
got up and went away, his numerous guards making a line for him by main
force through the dense mass of people which filled the body of the
church. As the crowd was so immense, we waited for a little while, and
then set out all together to return to our convent. I went first and my
friends followed me, the soldiers making way for us across the church. I
got as far as the place where the Virgin is said to have stood during
the crucifixion, when I saw a number of people lying one on another all
about this part of the church, and as far as I could see towards the
door. I made my way between them as well as I could, till they were so
thick that there was actually a great heap of bodies on which I trod. It
then suddenly struck me they were all dead! I had not perceived this at
first, for I thought they were only very much fatigued with the
ceremonies and had lain down to rest themselves there; but when I came
to so great a heap of bodies I looked down at them, and saw that sharp,
hard appearance of the face which is never to be mistaken. Many of them
were quite black with suffocation, and farther on were others all bloody
and covered with the brains and entrails of those who had been trodden
to pieces by the crowd.

At this time there was no crowd in this part of the church; but a
little farther on, round the corner towards the great door, the people,
who were quite panic-struck, continued to press forward, and every one
was doing his utmost to escape. The guards outside, frightened at the
rush from within, thought that the Christians wished to attack them, and
the confusion soon grew into a battle. The soldiers with their bayonets
killed numbers of fainting wretches, and the walls were spattered with
blood and brains of men who had been felled, like oxen, with the
butt-ends of the soldiers' muskets. Every one struggled to defend
himself or to get away, and in the mêlée all who fell were immediately
trampled to death by the rest. So desperate and savage did the fight
become, that even the panic-struck and frightened pilgrims appear at
last to have been more intent upon the destruction of each other than
desirous to save themselves.

For my part, as soon as I perceived the danger I had cried out to my
companions to turn back, which they had done; but I myself was carried
on by the press till I came near the door, where all were fighting for
their lives. Here, seeing certain destruction before me, I made every
endeavour to get back. An officer of the Pasha's, who by his star was a
colonel or bin bashee, equally alarmed with myself, was also trying to
return: he caught hold of my cloak, or bournouse, and pulled me down on
the body of an old man who was breathing out his last sigh. As the
officer was pressing me to the ground we wrestled together among the
dying and the dead with the energy of despair. I struggled with this man
till I pulled him down, and happily got again upon my legs--(I
afterwards found that he never rose again)--and scrambling over a pile
of corpses, I made my way back into the body of the church, where I
found my friends, and we succeeded in reaching the sacristy of the
Catholics, and thence the room which had been assigned to us by the
monks. The dead were lying in heaps, even upon the stone of unction; and
I saw full four hundred wretched people, dead and living, heaped
promiscuously one upon another, in some places above five feet high.
Ibrahim Pasha had left the church only a few minutes before me, and very
narrowly escaped with his life; he was so pressed upon by the crowd on
all sides, and it was said attacked by several of them, that it was only
by the greatest exertions of his suite, several of whom were killed,
that he gained the outer court. He fainted more than once in the
struggle, and I was told that some of his attendants at last had to cut
a way for him with their swords through the dense ranks of the frantic
pilgrims. He remained outside, giving orders for the removal of the
corpses, and making his men drag out the bodies of those who appeared to
be still alive from the heaps of the dead. He sent word to us to remain
in the convent till all the dead bodies had been removed, and that when
we could come out in safety he would again send to us.

We stayed in our room two hours before we ventured to make another
attempt to escape from this scene of horror; and then walking close
together, with all our servants round us, we made a bold push and got
out of the door of the church. By this time most of the bodies were
removed; but twenty or thirty were still lying in distorted attitudes at
the foot of Mount Calvary; and fragments of clothes, turbans, shoes, and
handkerchiefs, clotted with blood and dirt, were strewed all over the
pavement.

In the court in the front of the church, the sight was pitiable: mothers
weeping over their children--the sons bending over the dead bodies of
their fathers--and one poor woman was clinging to the hand of her
husband, whose body was fearfully mangled. Most of the sufferers were
pilgrims and strangers. The Pasha was greatly moved by this scene of
woe; and he again and again commanded his officers to give the poor
people every assistance in their power, and very many by his humane
efforts were rescued from death.

I was much struck by the sight of two old men with white beards, who had
been seeking for each other among the dead; they met as I was passing
by, and it was affecting to see them kiss and shake hands, and
congratulate each other on having escaped from death.

When the bodies were removed many were discovered standing upright,
quite dead; and near the church door one of the soldiers was found thus
standing, with his musket shouldered, among the bodies which reached
nearly as high as his head; this was in a corner near the great door on
the right side as you come in. It seems that this door had been shut, so
that many who stood near it were suffocated in the crowd; and when it
was opened, the rush was so great that numbers were thrown down and
never rose again, being trampled to death by the press behind them. The
whole court before the entrance of the church was covered with bodies
laid in rows, by the Pasha's orders, so that their friends might find
them and carry them away. As we walked home we saw numbers of people
carried out, some dead, some horribly wounded and in a dying state, for
they had fought with their heavy silver inkstands and daggers.

In the evening I was not sorry to retire early to rest in the low
vaulted room in the strangers' house attached to the monastery of St.
Salvador. I was weary and depressed after the agitating scenes of the
morning, and my lodging was not rendered more cheerful by there being a
number of corpses laid out in their shrouds in the stone court beneath
its window. It is thought by these superstitious people that a shroud
washed in the fountain of Siloam and blessed at the tomb of our Saviour
forms a complete suit of armour for the body of a sinner deceased in
the faith, and that clad in this invulnerable panoply he may defy the
devil and all his angels. For this reason every pilgrim when journeying
has his shroud with him, with all its different parts and bandages
complete; and to many they became useful sooner than they expected. A
holy candle also forms part of a pilgrim's accoutrements. It has some
sovereign virtue, but I do not exactly know what; and they were all
provided with several long thin tapers, and a rosary or two, and sundry
rosaries and ornaments made of pearl oyster-shells--all which are
defences against the powers of darkness. These pearl oyster-shells are,
I imagine, the scallop-shell of romance, for there are no scallops to be
found here. My companion was very anxious to obtain some genuine
scallop-shells, as they form part of his arms; but they, as well as the
palm branches, carried home by all palmers on their return from the Holy
Land, are as rare here as they are in England. This is the more
remarkable, as the medal struck by Vespasian on the subjection of this
country represents a woman in an attitude of mourning seated under a
palm-tree with the legend "Judæa capta;" so there may have been palms in
those days. I was going to say there _must_ have been: but on second
thoughts it does not follow that there should have been palms in Judæa,
because the Romans put them on a medal, any more than that there should
be unicorns in England because we represent them on our coins. However,
all this is a digression: we must return to our dead men. There were
sixteen or seventeen of them, all stiff and stark, lying in the court,
nicely wrapped up in their shrouds, like parcels ready to be sent off to
the other world: but at the end of the row lay one man in a brown dress;
he was one of the lower class--a muleteer, perhaps, a strong, well-made
man; but he was not in a shroud. He had died fighting, and there he lay
with his knees drawn up, his right arm above his head, and in his hand
the jacket of another man, which could not now be released from his
grasp, so tightly had his strong hand been clenched in the
death-struggle. This figure took a strong hold on my imagination; there
was something wild and ghastly in its appearance, different from the
quiet attitude of the other victims of the fight in which I also had
been engaged. It put me in mind of all manner of horrible old stories of
ghosts and goblins with which my memory was well stored; and I went to
bed with my head so occupied by these traditions of gloom and ignorance
that I could not sleep, or if I did for awhile, I woke up again and
still went on thinking of the old woman of Berkeley, and the fire-king,
and the stories in Scott's 'Discovery of Witchcraft,' and the 'Hierarchy
of the Blessed Aungelles,' and Caxton's 'Golden Legende'--all books
wherein I delighted to pore, till I could not help getting out of bed
again to have another look at the ghastly regiment in the court below.

I leant against the heavy stone mullions of the window, which was
barred, but without glass, and gazed I know not how long. There they all
were, still and quiet; some in the full moonlight, and some half
obscured by the shadow of the buildings. In the morning I had walked
with them, living men, such as I was myself, and now how changed they
were! Some of them I had spoken to, as they lived in the same court with
me, and I had taken an interest in their occupations: now I would not
willingly have touched them, and even to look at them was terrible! What
little difference there is in appearance between the same men asleep and
dead! and yet what a fearful difference in fact, not to themselves only,
but to those who still remained alive to look upon them! Whilst I was
musing upon these things the wind suddenly arose, the doors and shutters
of the half-uninhabited monastery slammed and grated upon their hinges;
and as the moon, which had been obscured, again shone clearly on the
court below, I saw the dead muleteer with the jacket which he held
waving in the air, the grimmest figure I ever looked upon. His face was
black from the violence of his death, and he seemed like an evil spirit
waving on his ghastly crew; and as the wind increased, the shrouds of
some of the dead men fluttered in the night air as if they responded to
his call. The clouds, passing rapidly over the moon, east such shadows
on the corpses in their shrouds, that I could almost have fancied they
were alive again. I returned to bed, and thanked God that I was not also
laid out with them in the court below.

In the morning I awoke at a late hour and looked out into the court; the
muleteer and most of the other bodies were removed, and people were
going about their business as if nothing had occurred, excepting that
every now and then I heard the wail of women lamenting for the dead.
Three hundred was the number reported to have been carried out of the
gates to their burial-places that morning; two hundred more were badly
wounded, many of whom probably died, for there were no physicians or
surgeons to attend them, and it was supposed that others were buried in
the courts and gardens of the city by their surviving friends; so that
the precise number of those who perished was not known.

When we reflect in what place and to commemorate what event the great
multitude of Christian pilgrims had thus assembled from all parts of the
world, the fearful visitation which came upon them appears more dreadful
than if it had occurred under other circumstances. They had entered the
sacred walls to celebrate the most joyful event which is recorded in the
Scriptures. By the resurrection of our Saviour was proved not only his
triumph over the grave, but the truth of the religion which He taught;
and the anniversary of that event has been kept in all succeeding ages
as the great festival of the Church. On the morning of this hallowed day
throughout the Christian world the bells rang merrily, the altars were
decked with flowers, and all men gave way to feelings of exultation and
joy; in an hour everything was turned to mourning, lamentation, and woe!

There was a time when Jerusalem was the most prosperous and favoured
city of the world; then "all her ways were pleasantness, and all her
paths were peace;" "plenteousness was in her palaces;" and "Jerusalem
was the joy of the whole earth."

But since the awful crime which was committed there, the Lord has poured
out the vials of his wrath upon the once chosen city; dire and fearful
have been the calamities which have befallen her in terrible succession
for eighteen hundred years. Fury and desolation, hand in hand, have
stalked round the precincts of the guilty spot; and Jerusalem has been
given up to the spoiler and the oppressor.

The day following the occurrences which have been related, I had a long
interview with Ibrahim Pasha, and the conversation turned naturally on
the blasphemous impositions of the Greek and Armenian patriarchs, who,
for the purposes of worldly gain, had deluded their ignorant followers
with the performance of a trick in relighting the candles which had been
extinguished on Good Friday with fire which they affirmed to have been
sent down from heaven in answer to their prayers. The Pasha was quite
aware of the evident absurdity which I brought to his notice, of the
performance of a Christian miracle being put off for some time, and
being kept in waiting for the convenience of a Mahometan prince. It was
debated what punishment was to be awarded to the Greek patriarch for the
misfortunes which had been the consequence of his jugglery, and a number
of the purses which he had received from the unlucky pilgrims passed
into the coffers of the Pasha's treasury. I was sorry that the falsity
of this imposture was not publicly exposed, as it was a good opportunity
of so doing. It seems wonderful that so barefaced a trick should
continue to be practised every year in these enlightened times; but it
has its parallel in the blood of St. Januarius, which is still liquefied
whenever anything is to be gained by the exhibition of that astonishing
act of priestly impertinence. If Ibrahim Pasha had been a Christian,
probably this would have been the last Easter of the lighting of the
holy fire; but from the fact of his religion being opposed to that of
the monks, he could not follow the example of Louis XIV., who having put
a stop to some clumsy imposition which was at that time bringing scandal
on the Church, a paper was found nailed upon the door of the sacred
edifice the day afterwards, on which the words were read--

    "De part du roi, défense à Dieu
    De faire miracle en ce lieu."

The interference of a Mahometan in such a case as this would only have
been held as another persecution of the Christians; and the miracle of
the holy fire has continued to be exhibited every year with great
applause, and luckily without the unfortunate results which accompanied
it on this occasion.

Ibrahim Pasha, though by no means the equal of Mehemet Ali in talents or
attainments, was an enlightened man for a Turk. Though bold in battle,
he was kind to those who were about him; and the cruelties practised by
his troops in the Greek and Syrian wars are to be ascribed more to the
system of Eastern warfare than to the savage disposition of their
commander.

He was born at Cavalla, in Roumelia, in the year 1789, and died at
Alexandria on the 10th of November, 1848. He was the son, according to
some, of Mehemet Ali, but, according to others, of the wife of the great
Viceroy of Egypt by a former husband. At the age of seventeen he joined
his father's army, and in 1816 he commanded the expedition against the
Wahabees--a sect who maintained that nothing but the Koran was to be
held in any estimation by Mahometans, to the exclusion of all notes,
explanations, and commentaries, which have in many cases usurped the
authority of the text. They called themselves reformers, and, like King
Henry VIII., took possession of the golden water-spouts and other
ornaments of the Kaaba, burned the books and destroyed the colleges of
the Arabian theologians, and carried off everything they could lay hold
of, on religious principles. An eye-witness told me that some of the
followers of Abd el Wahab had found a good-sized looking-glass in a
house at Sanaa, which they were carrying away with great difficulty
through the desert, the porters being guarded by a multitude of
half-naked warriors, who had neglected all other plunder in the
supposition that they had got hold of the diamond of Jemshid, a
pre-Adamite monarch famous in the annals of Arabian history. Some more
of these wild people found several bags of doubloons at Mocha, which
they conceived to be dollars that had been spoiled somehow, and had
turned yellow, for they had never seen any before. A "smart" captain of
an American vessel at Jedda, who was consulted on the occasion, kindly
gave them one real white dollar for four yellow ones--an arrangement
which perfectly satisfied both parties. After three years' campaign,
Ibrahim Pasha retook the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; and in
December, 1819, he made his triumphant entry into Cairo, when he was
invested with the title of Vizir and made Pasha of the Hedjaz by the
Sultan--a dignity more exalted than that of the Pasha of Egypt.

In 1824 he commanded the armies of the Sultan, which were sent to put
down the rebellion of the Greeks: he sailed from Alexandria with a fleet
of 163 vessels, 16,000 infantry, 700 cavalry, and four regiments of
artillery. Numerous captives were made in the Morea, and the
slave-markets were stocked with Greek women and children who had been
captured by the soldiers of the Turkish army. The battle of Navarino, in
1827, ended in the destruction of the Mahometan fleets; and thousands of
slaves, who were forced to fight against their intended deliverers,
being chained to their guns, sunk with the ships which were destroyed by
the cannon of the allied forces of England, France, and Russia.

In 1831 Mehemet Ali undertook to wrest Syria from the Sultan his master.
Ibrahim Pasha commanded his army of about 30,000 men, under the tuition,
however, of a Frenchman, Colonel Sève, who had denied the Christian
faith on Christmas-day, and was afterwards known as Suleiman Pasha. The
Egyptian troops soon became masters of the Holy Land; Gaza, Jaffa,
Jerusalem, and Acre fell before their victorious arms; and on the 22nd
of December, 1832, Ibrahim Pasha, with an army of 30,000 men, defeated
60,000 Turks at Koniah, who had been sent against him by Sultan Mahmoud,
under the command of Reschid Pasha.

Ibrahim had advanced as far as Kutayeh, on his way to Constantinople,
when his march was stopped by the interference of European diplomacy.
The Sultan, having made another effort to recover his dominions in
Syria, sent an army against Ibrahim, which was utterly routed at the
battle of Negib, on the 24th of June, 1839.

This defeat was principally owing to the Seraskier (the Turkish general)
refusing to follow the counsels of Jochmus Pasha, a German officer, who,
in distinguished contrast to the unhappy Suleiman, retained the religion
of his fathers and the esteem of honest men.

His career was again checked by European policy, which, if it had any
right to interfere at all, would have benefited the cause of humanity
more by doing so before Egypt was drained of nearly all its able-bodied
men, and Syria given up to the horrors of a long and cruel war.

The great powers of England, Austria, Russia, and Prussia now combined
to restore the wasted provinces of Syria to the Porte; a fleet menaced
the shores of the Holy Land; Acre was attacked, and taken in four hours
by the accidental explosion of a powder-magazine, which almost destroyed
what remained from former sieges of the habitable portion of the town.
Ibrahim Pasha evacuated Syria, and retired to Egypt, where he amused
himself with agriculture, and planting trees, always his favourite
pursuit: the trees which he had planted near Cairo have already reduced
the temperature in their vicinity several degrees.

In 1846 he went to Europe for the benefit of his health, and extended
his tour to England, where he was much struck with the industry that
pervaded all classes, and its superiority in railways and works of
utility to the other countries of Europe. "Yes," said he to me at
Mivart's Hotel; "in France there is more fantasia; in England there is
more roast beef." I observed that he was surprised at the wealth
displayed at one or two parties in some great houses in London at which
he was present. Whether he had lost his memory in any degree at that
time, I do not know; but on my recalling to him the great danger he had
been in at Jerusalem, of which he entertained a very lively
recollection, he could not remember the name of the Bey who was killed
there, although he was the only person of any rank in his suite, with
the exception of Selim Bey Selicdar, his swordbearer, with whom I
afterwards became acquainted in Egypt.

In consequence of the infirmities of Mehemet Ali, whose great mind had
become unsettled in his old age, Ibrahim was promoted by the present
Sultan to the Vice-royalty of Egypt, on the 1st of September, 1848. His
constitution, which had long been undermined by hardship, excess, and
want of care, gave way at length, and on the 10th of November of the
same year his body was carried to the tomb which his father had prepared
for his family near Cairo, little thinking at the time that he should
live to survive his sons Toussoun, Ismail, and Ibrahim, who have all
descended before him to their last abode.

In personal appearance Ibrahim Pasha was a short, broad-shouldered man,
with a red face, small eyes, and a heavy though cunning expression of
countenance. He was as brave as a lion; his habits and ideas were rough
and coarse; he had but little refinement in his composition; but,
although I have often seen him abused for his cruelty in European
newspapers, I never heard any well-authenticated anecdote of his
cruelty, and do not believe that he was by any means of a savage
disposition, nor that his troops rivalled in any way the horrors
committed in Algeria by the civilized and fraternising French. He was a
bold, determined soldier. He had that reverence and respect for his
father which is so much to be admired in the patriarchal customs of the
East; and it is not every one who has lived for years in the enjoyment
of absolute power uncontrolled by the admonitions of a Christian's
conscience that could get out of the scrape so well, or leave a better
name upon the page of history than that of Ibrahim Pasha.

After the fearful catastrophe in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, the
whole host of pilgrims seem to have become panic struck, and every one
was anxious to escape from the city. There was a report, too, that the
plague had broken out, and we with the rest made instant preparation for
our departure. In consequence of the numbers who had perished, there
was no difficulty in hiring baggage-horses; and we immediately procured
as many as we wanted: tents were loaded on some; beds and packages of
all sorts and sizes were tied on others, with but slight regard to
balance and compactness; and on the afternoon of the 6th of May we
rejoiced to find ourselves once more out of the walls of Jerusalem, and
riding at our leisure along the pleasant fields fresh with the flowers
of spring, a season charming in all countries, but especially delightful
in the sultry climate of the Holy Land.



MONASTERIES OF THE LEVANT.

PART III.

THE MONASTERIES OF METEORA.

[Illustration: VIEW OF THE MONASTERY OF SAINT BARLAAM, AT METEORA].



CHAPTER XVII.


     Albania--Ignorance at Corfu concerning that Country--Its reported
     abundance of Game and Robbers--The Disturbed State of the
     Country--The Albanians--Richness of their Arms--Their free use of
     them--Comparative Safety of Foreigners--Tragic Fate of a German
     Botanist--Arrival at Gominitza--Ride to Paramathia--A Night's
     Bivouac--Reception at Paramathia--Albanian Ladies--Yanina--Albanian
     Mode of settling a Quarrel--Expected Attack from Robbers--A
     Body-Guard mounted--Audience with the Vizir--His Views of Criminal
     Jurisprudence--Retinue of the Vizir--His Troops--Adoption of the
     European Exercises--Expedition to Berat--Calmness and
     Self-possession of the Turks--Active Preparations for
     Warfare--Scene at the Bazaar--Valiant Promises of the Soldiers.


_Corfu, Friday, Oct. 31, 1834._--I found I could get no information
respecting Albania at Corfu, though the high mountains of Epirus seemed
almost to over-hang the island. No one knew anything about it, except
that it was a famous place for snipes! It appeared never to have struck
traveller or tourist that there was anything in Albania except snipes;
whereof one had shot fifteen brace, and another had shot many more, only
he did not bring them home, having lost the dead birds in the bushes.
There were some woodcocks also, it was generally believed, and some
spake of wild boars, but I had not the advantage of meeting with anybody
who could specifically assert that he had shot one: and besides these
there were robbers in multitudes. As to that point every one was agreed.
Of robbers there was no end: and just at this particular time there was
a revolution, or rebellion, or pronunciamiento, or a general election,
or something of that sort, going on in Albania; for all the people who
came over from thence said that the whole country was in a ferment. In
fact there seemed to be a general uproar taking place, during which each
party of the free and independent mountaineers deemed it expedient to
show their steady adherence to their own side of the question by
shooting at any one they saw, from behind a stone or a tree, for fear
that person might accidentally be a partizan of the opposite faction.

[Illustration: TATAR, OR GOVERNMENT MESSENGER]

The Albanians are great dandies about their arms: the scabbard of their
yataghan, and the stocks of their pistols, are almost always of silver,
as well as their three or four little cartridge boxes, which are
frequently gilt, and sometimes set with garnets and coral; an Albanian
is therefore worth shooting, even if he is not of another way of
thinking from the gentleman who shoots him. As I understood, however,
that they did not shoot so much at Franks because they usually have
little about them worth taking, and are not good to eat, I conceived
that I should not run any great risk; and I resolved, therefore,
not to be thwarted in my intention of exploring some of the monasteries
of that country. There is another reason also why Franks are seldom
molested in the East--every Arab or Albanian knows that if a Frank has a
gun in his hand, which he generally has, there are two probabilities,
amounting almost to certainties, with respect to that weapon. One is,
that it is loaded; and the other that, if the trigger is pulled, there
is a considerable chance of its going off. Now these are circumstances
which apply in a much slighter degree to the magazine of small arms
which he carries about his own person. But, beyond all this, when a
Frank is shot there is such a disturbance made about it! Consuls write
letters--pashas are stirred up--guards, kawasses, and tatars gallop like
mad about the country, and fire pistols in the air, and live at free
quarters in the villages; the murderer is sought for everywhere, and he,
or somebody else, is hanged to please the consul; in addition to which
the population are beaten with thick sticks ad libitum. All this is
extremely disagreeable, and therefore we are seldom shot at, the pastime
being too dearly paid for.

The last Frank whom I heard of as having been killed in Albania was a
German, who was studying botany. He rejoiced in a blue coat and brass
buttons, and wandered about alone, picking up herbs and flowers on the
mountains, which he put carefully into a tin box. He continued
unmolested for some time, the universal opinion being that he was a
powerful magician, and that the herbs he was always gathering would
enable him to wither up his enemies by some dreadful charm, and also to
detect every danger which menaced him. Two or three Albanians had
watched him for several days, hiding themselves carefully behind the
rocks whenever the philosopher turned towards them; and at last one of
the gang, commending himself to all his saints, rested his long gun upon
a stone and shot the German through the body. The poor man rolled over,
but the Albanian did not venture from his hiding-place until he had
loaded his gun again, and then, after sundry precautions, he came out,
keeping his eye upon the body, and with his friends behind him, to
defend him in case of need. The botanizer, however, was dead enough, and
the disappointment of the Albanians was extreme, when they found that
his buttons were brass and not gold, for it was the supposed value of
these precious ornaments that had incited them to the deed.

I procured some letters of introduction to different persons, sent my
English servant and most of my effects to England, and hired a youth to
act in the double capacity of servant and interpreter during the
journey. One of my friends at Corfu was good enough to procure me the
use of a great boat, with I do not know how many oars, belonging to
government; and in it I was rowed over the calm bright sea twenty-four
miles to Gominitza, where I arrived in five hours. Here I hired three
horses with pack-saddles, one for my baggage, one for my servant, and
one for myself; and away we went towards Paramathia, which place we were
told was four hours off. Paramathia is said to be built upon the site of
Dodona, although the exact situation of the oracle is not ascertained;
but some of the finest bronzes extant were found there thirty or forty
years ago, part of which went to Russia, and part came into the
possession of Mr. Hawkins, of Bignor, in Sussex, where they are still
preserved.

Our horses were not very good, and our roads were worse; and we
scrambled and stumbled over the rocks, up and down hill, all the
afternoon, without approaching, as it seemed to me, towards any
inhabited place. It was now becoming dark, and the muleteers said we had
six hours more to do; it was then seven o'clock, P.M.; we could see
nothing, and were upon the top of a hill, where there were plenty of
stones and some low bushes, through which we were making our way
vaguely, suiting ourselves as to a path, and turning our faces towards
any point of the compass which we thought most agreeable, for it did not
appear that any of the party knew the way. We now held a council as to
what was best to be done; and as we saw lights in some houses about a
mile off, I desired one of the muleteers to go there and see if we could
get a lodging for the night. "Go to a house?" said the muleteer, "you
don't suppose we could be such fools as to go to a house in Albania,
where we know nobody?" "No!" said I, "why not?" "Because we should be
murdered, of course," said he; "that is if they thought themselves
strong enough to venture to undo their doors and let us in; otherwise
they would pretend there was nobody in the house, or fire at us out of
the window and set the dogs at us; or----" "Oh!" I replied, "that is
quite sufficient; I have no desire to trouble your excellent countrymen,
only I don't precisely see what else we are to do just now on the top of
this hill. How are they off for wolves in this neighbourhood?" "Why,"
quoth my friend, "I hope you understand that if anything happens to my
horses you are bound to reimburse me: as for ourselves, we are armed,
and must take our chance; but I don't think there are many wolves here
yet; they don't come down from the mountains quite so soon: though
certainly it is getting cold already. But we had better sleep here at
all events, and at dawn we shall be able, perhaps, to make out a little
better where we have got to." There being nothing else for it, we tied
the horses' legs together, and I lay down on a travelling carpet by the
side of my servant, under the cover of a bush. Awfully cold it was: the
horses trembled and shook themselves every now and then, and held their
heads down, and I tried all sorts of postures in hopes of making myself
snug, but every change was from bad to worse; I could not get warm any
how, and a remarkable fact was, that the more sharp stones I picked out
from under the carpet the more numerous and sharper were those that
remained: my only comfort was to hear the muleteers rolling about too,
and anathematizing the stones most lustily. However, I went to sleep in
course of time, and was, as it appeared to me, instantaneously awakened
by some one shaking me, and telling me it was four o'clock and time to
start. It was still as dark as ever, except that a few stars were
visible, and we recommenced our journey, stumbling and scrambling about
as we had done before, till we came to a place where the horses stopped
of their own accord. This it seemed was a ledge of rock above a
precipice, about two hundred feet deep, as I judged by the reflection of
the stars in the stream which ran below. The dimness of the light made
the place look more dangerous and difficult than perhaps it really was.
It seems, however, that we were lucky in finding it, for there was no
other way off the hill except by this ledge, which was about twelve feet
broad. We got off our horses and led them down; they had probably often
been there before, for they made no difficulty about it, and in a few
hundred yards, the road becoming better, we mounted again, and after
five hours' travelling arrived at Paramathia. Just before entering the
place we met a party on foot, armed to the teeth, and all carrying
their long guns. One of these gentlemen politely asked me if I had a
spare purse about me, or any money which I could turn over to his
account; but as I looked very dirty and shabby, and as we were close to
the town, he did not press his demand, but only asked by which road I
intended to leave it. I told him I should remain there for the present,
and as we had now reached the houses, he took his departure, to my great
satisfaction.

On inquiring for the person to whom I had a letter of introduction, I
found he was a shopkeeper who sold cloth in the bazaar. We accordingly
went to his shop and found him sitting among his merchandise. When he
had read the letter he was very civil, and shutting up his shop, walked
on before us to show me the way to his house. It was a very good one,
and the best room was immediately given up to me, two old ladies and
three or four young ones being turned out in a most summary manner. One
or two of the girls were very pretty, and they all vied with each other
in their attentions to their guest, looking at me with great curiosity,
and perpetually peeping at me through the curtain which hung over the
door, and running away when they thought they were observed.

The prettiest of these damsels had only been married a short time: who
her husband was, or where he lived, I could not make out, but she amused
me by her anxiety to display her smart new clothes. She went and put on
a new capote, a sort of white frock coat, without sleeves, embroidered
in bright colours down the seams, which showed her figure to advantage;
and then she took it off again, and put on another garment, giving me
ample opportunity of admiring its effect. I expressed my surprise and
admiration in bad Greek, which, however, the fair Albanian appeared to
find no difficulty in understanding. She kindly corrected some of my
sentences, and I have no doubt I should have improved rapidly under her
care, if she had not always run away whenever she heard any one creaking
about on the rickety boards of the ante-room and staircase. The other
ladies, who were settling themselves in a large gaunt room close by,
kept up an interminable clatter, and displayed such unbounded powers of
conversation, that it seemed impossible that any one of them could hear
what all the others said; till at last the master of the house came up
again, and then there was a lull. He told me that I could not hire
horses till the afternoon, and as that would have been too late to
start, I determined to remain where I was till the next morning. I
passed the day in wandering about the place, and considering whether,
upon the whole, the dogs or the men of Paramathia were the most savage:
for the dogs looked like wolves, and the men like arrant cut-throats,
swaggering about, idle and restless, with their long hair, and guns, and
pistols, and yataghans; they have none of the composure of the Turks,
who delight to sit still in a coffee-house and smoke their pipes, or
listen to a story, which saves them the trouble of thinking or speaking.
The Albanians did not scream and chatter as the Arabs do, or as their
ladies were doing in the houses, but they lounged about the bazaars
listlessly, ready to pick a quarrel with any one, and unable to fix
themselves down to any occupation; in short they gave me the idea of
being a very poor and proud, and good-for-nothing set of scamps.

_November 2nd._--The next morning at five o'clock I was on horseback
again, and after riding over stones and rocks, and frequently in the bed
of a stream, for fourteen hours, I arrived in the evening at Yanina. I
was disappointed with the first view of the place. The town is built on
the side of a sloping hill above the lake; and as my route lay over the
top of this hill, I could see but little of the town until I was quite
among the houses, most of which were in a ruinous condition. The lake
itself, with an island in it on which are the ruins of a palace built by
the famous Ali Pasha, is a beautiful object; but the mountains by which
it is bounded on the opposite side are barren, yet not sufficiently
broken to be picturesque. The scene altogether put me in mind of the
Lake of Genesareth as seen from its western shore near Tiberias. There
is a plain to the north and north-west, which is partially cultivated,
but it is inferior in beauty to the plains of Jericho, and there is no
river like the Jordan to light up the scene with its quick and sparkling
waters as it glistens among the trees in its journey towards the lake.

I went to the house of an Italian gentleman who was the principal
physician of Yanina, and who I understood was in the habit of affording
accommodation to travellers in his house. He received me with great
kindness, and gave me an excellent set of rooms, consisting of a bed
room, sitting room, and ante-room, all of them much better than those
which I occupied in the hotel at Corfu: they were clean and nicely
furnished; and altogether the excellence of my quarters in the
dilapidated capital of Albania surprised me most agreeably.

The town appears never to have been repaired since the wars and
revolutions which occurred at the time of Ali Pasha's death. The houses
resemble those of Greece or southern Italy; they are built, some of
stone, and some of wood, with tiled roofs. On the walls of many of them
there were vines growing. The bazaars are poor, yet I saw very rich arms
displayed in some mean little shops, or stalls, as we should call them;
for they are all open, like the booths at a fair. The climate is rainy,
and there is no lack of mud in wet weather, and dust when it is dry. The
whole place had a miserable appearance, nothing seemed to be going on,
and the people have a savage, hang-dog look.

I had a good supper and a good bed, and was awakened the next morning by
hearing the servants loud in talk about the news of the day. The subject
was truly Albanian. A man who had a shop in the bazaar had quarrelled
yesterday with some of his fellow townsmen, and in the night they took
him out of his bed and cut him to pieces with their yataghans on the
hill above the town. Some people coming by early this morning saw
various joints of this unlucky man lying on the ground as they passed.

I occupied myself in looking about the place; and having sent to the
palace of the vizir to request an audience, it was fixed for the next
day. There was not much to see; but I afforded a subject of
uninterrupted discussion to all beholders, as it appeared I was the only
traveller who had been there for some time. I went to bed early because
I had no books to read, and it was a bore trying to talk Greek to my
host's family; but I had not been asleep long before I was awakened by
the intelligence that a party of robbers had concealed themselves in the
ruins round the house, and that we should probably be attacked. Up we
all got, and loaded our guns and pistols: the women kept flying about
everywhere, and, when they ran against each other in the dark, screamed
wofully, as they took everybody for a robber. We had no lights, that we
might not afford good marks for the enemy outside, who, however, kept
quiet, and did not shoot at us, although every now and then we saw a
man or two creeping about among the ruins. My host, who was armed with a
gun of prodigious length, was in a state of great alarm; and, having
sent for assistance, twenty soldiers arrived, who kept guard round the
house, but would not venture among the ruins. These valiant heroes
relieved each other during the night; but, as no robbers made their
appearance, I got tired of watching for them, and went quietly to bed
again.

_November 4th._--At nine o'clock in the morning I paid my respects to
the Vizir, Mahmoud Pasha, a man with a long nose, and who altogether
bore a great resemblance to Pope Benedict XV [XVI in the original (n. of
etext transcriber). I stayed some hours with him, talking over Turkish
matters; and we got into a brisk argument as to whether England was part
of London, or London part of England. He appeared to be a remarkably
good-natured man, and took great interest in the affairs of Egypt, from
which country I had lately arrived, and asked me numberless questions
about Mehemet Ali, comparing his character with that of Ali Pasha, who
had built this palace, which was in a very ruinous state, for nothing
had been expended to keep it in repair. The hall of audience was a
magnificent room, richly decorated with inlaid work of mother-of-pearl
and tortoiseshell: the ceiling was gilt, and the windows of Venetian
plate-glass, but some of them were broken: the floor was loose and
almost dangerous; and two holes in the side walls, which had been made
by a cannon-ball, were stopped up with pieces of deal board roughly
nailed upon the costly inlaid panels. The divan was of red cloth; and a
crowd of men, with their girdles stuck full of arms, stood leaning on
their long guns at the bottom of the room, listening to our
conversation, and laughing loudly whenever a joke was made, but never
coming forward beyond the edge of the carpet.

The Pasha offered to give me an escort, as he said that the country at
that moment was particularly unsafe; but at length it was settled that
he should give me a letter to the commander of the troops at Mezzovo,
who would supply me with soldiers to see me safely to the monasteries of
Meteora. When I arose to take my leave, he sent for more pipes and
coffee, as a signal for me to remain; in short, we became great friends.
Whilst I was with him a pasha of inferior rank came in, and sat on the
divan for half an hour without saying a single word or doing anything
except looking at me unceasingly. After he had taken his departure we
had some sherbet; and at last I got away, leaving the Pasha in great
wonderment at the English government paying large sums of money for the
transportation of criminals, when cutting off their heads would have
been so much more economical and expeditious. Incurring any expense to
keep rogues and vagabonds in prison, or to send them away from our own
country to be the plague of other lands, appeared to him to be an
extraordinary act of folly; and that thieves should be fed and clothed
and lodged, while poor and honest people were left to starve, he
considered to be contrary to common sense and justice. I laughed at the
time at what I thought the curious opinions of the Vizir of Yanina; I
have since come to the conclusion that there was some sense in his
notions of criminal jurisprudence.

In the afternoon, as I was looking out of the window of my lodging, I
saw the Vizir going by with a great number of armed people, and I was
told that in the present disturbed state of the country he never went
out to take a ride without all these attendants. First came a hundred
lancers on horseback, dressed in a kind of European uniform; then two
horsemen, each with a pair of small kettle-drums attached to the front
of his saddle. They kept up an unceasing pattering upon these drums as
they rode along. This is a Tartar or Persian custom; and in some parts
of Tartary the dignity of khan is conferred by strapping these two
little drums on the back of the person whom the king delighteth to
honour; and then the king beats the drums as the new khan walks slowly
round the court. Thus a thing is reckoned a great honour in one part of
the world which in another is accounted a disgrace; for when a soldier
is incorrigible, we drum him out of the regiment, whilst the Tartar khan
is drummed into his dignity. After the drummers came a brilliantly
dressed company of kawasses, with silver pistols and yataghans; then
several trumpeters; and after them the Vizir himself on a fine tall
horse; he was dressed in the new Turkish Frank style, with the usual red
cap on his head; but he had an immense red cloth cloak sumptuously
embroidered with gold, which quite covered him, so that no part of the
great man was visible, except his two eyes, his nose, and one of his
hands, upon which was a splendid diamond ring. Two grooms walked by the
sides of his horse, each with one hand on the back of the saddle. Every
one bowed as the Vizir went by; and I became a distinguished person from
the moment that he gave me a condescending nod. The procession was
closed by a crowd of officers and attendants on horseback in gorgeous
Albanian dresses, with silver bridles and embroidered housings. They
carried what I thought at first were spears, but I soon discovered that
they were long pipes; there was quite a forest of them, of all lengths
and sizes. When the Vizir was gone and the dust subsided, I strolled out
of the town on foot, when I came upon the troops, who were learning the
new European exercise. Seeing a man sitting on a carpet in the middle of
the plain, I went up to him and found that he was the colonel and
commander of this army; so I smoked a pipe with him, and discovered that
he knew about as much of tactics and military manœuvres as I did, only
he did not take so much interest in the subject. We therefore
continued to smoke the pipe of peace on the carpet of reflection, while
the soldiers entangled themselves in all sorts of incomprehensible
doublings and counter-marches, till at last the whole body was so much
puzzled, that they stood still all of a heap, like a cluster of bees.
The captains shouted, and the poor men turned round and round, trod on
each other's heels, kicked each other's shins, and did all they could to
get out of the scrape, but they only got more into confusion. At last a
bright thought struck the colonel, who took his pipe out of his mouth,
and gave orders, in the name of the Prophet, that every man should go
home in the best way he could. This they accomplished like a party of
schoolboys, running and jumping and walking off in small parties towards
the town. The officers wiped the perspiration from their foreheads, and
strolled off too, some to smoke a pipe under a tree, and some to repose
on their divans and swear at the Franks who had invented such
extraordinary evolutions.

[Illustration: TURKISH COMMON SOLDIER.]

In the evening, among the other news of the day, I was told that three
men had been walking together in the afternoon; one of them bought a
melon, and his two companions, who were very thirsty, but had no money,
asked him to give them some of it. He would not do so; and, as they
worried him about it, he ran into an empty house, and, bolting the door,
sat down inside to discuss his purchase in quiet. The other two were
determined not to be jockeyed in that manner, and, finding a hole in the
door, they peeped through, and were enraged at seeing him eating the
melon inside. He jeered them, and said that the melon was excellent;
until at last one of them swore he should not eat it all, and, putting
his pistol through the hole in the door, shot his friend dead; they then
walked away, laughing at their own cleverness in shooting him so neatly
through the hole.

_November 5th._--The next day I went again to the citadel to see the
Vizir, but he could not receive me, as news had arrived that the
insurgents or robbers--they had entitled themselves to either
denomination--had gathered together in force and laid siege to the town
of Berat. There had been a good deal of confusion in Yanina before this,
but now it appeared to have arrived at a climax. The courtyard of the
citadel was full of horses picketed by their head-and-heel ropes, in
long rows; parties of men were, according to their different habits,
talking over the events of the day,--the Albanians chattering and
putting themselves in attitudes; the Arnaouts or Mahometans of Greek
blood boasting of the chivalric feats which they intended to perform;
and the grave Turks sitting quietly on the ground, smoking their eternal
pipes, and taking it all as easily as if they had nothing to do with it.
Both before and since these days I have seen a great deal of the Turks;
and though, for many reasons, I do not respect them as a nation, still
I cannot help admiring their calmness and self-possession in moments of
difficulty and danger. There is something noble and dignified in their
quietness on these occasions: I have very rarely seen a Turk
discomposed; stately and collected, he sits down and bides his time; but
when the moment of action comes, he will rouse himself on a sudden, and
become full of fire, animation, and activity. It is then that you see
the descendant of those conquerors of the East, whose strong will and
fierce courage have given them the command over all the nations of
Islam.

Although I could not obtain an audience with the vizir, one of the
people who were with me managed to send a message to him that I should
be glad of the letter, or firman, which he had promised me, and by which
I might command the services of an escort, if I thought fit to do so.
This man had influence at court; for he had a friend who was chiboukji
to the vizir's secretary, or prime minister--a sly Greek, whose
acquaintance I had made two days before. The pipe-bearer, propitiated by
a trifling bribe, spoke to his master, and he spoke to the vizir, who
promised I should have the letter; and it came accordingly in the
evening, properly signed and sealed, and all in heathen Greek, of which
I could make out a word here and there; but what it was about was
entirely beyond my comprehension.

Whilst waiting the result of these negotiations I had leisure to notice
the warlike movements which were going on around me. I saw a train of
two or three hundred men on horseback issuing out from the citadel, and
riding slowly along the plain in the direction of Berat. They were sent
to raise the siege; and other troops were preparing to follow them. As I
watched these horsemen winding across the plain in a long line, with the
sun glancing upon their arms, they seemed like a great serpent, with its
glittering scales, gliding along to seek for its prey; and in some
respects the simile would hold good, for this detachment would be the
terror of the inhabitants of every district through which it passed.
Rapine, violence, and oppression would mark its course; friend and foe
would alike be plundered; and the villages which had not been burned by
the insurgent klephti would be sacked and ruined by the soldiers of the
government.

As I descended from the citadel I passed numerous parties of armed men,
all full of excitement about the plunder they would get, and the mighty
deeds they would perform; for the danger was a good way off, and they
were all brim-full of valour. In the bazaar all was business and bustle:
everybody was buying arms. Long guns and silver pistols, all ready
loaded, I believe, with fiery-looking flints as big as sandwiches,
wrapped up first in a bit of red cloth, and then in a sort of open work
of lead or tin, were being handed about; and the spirit of commerce was
in full activity. Great was the haggling among the dealers. One man
walked off with a mace; another, expecting to perform as mighty deeds as
Richard Cœur de Lion, bought an old battle-axe, and swung it about to
show how he would cut heads off with it before long. Another champion
had included among his warlike accoutrements a curious, ancient-looking
silver clock, which dangled by his side from a multitude of chains. It
was square in shape, and must have been provided with a strong
constitution inside if it could go while it was banged about at every
step the man took. This worthy, I imagine, intended to kill time, for
his purchase did not seem calculated to cope with any other enemy. He
had, however, two or three pistols and daggers in addition to his clock.
An oldish, hard-featured man was buying a quantity of that abominably
sour, white cheese which is the pride of Albania, and a quantity of
black olives, which he was cramming into a pair of old saddle-bags,
whilst his horse beside him was quietly munching his corn in a sack tied
over his nose. There was a look of calm efficiency about this man, which
contrasted strongly with the swaggering air of the crowd around him. He
was evidently an old hand; and I observed that he had laid in a stock of
ball-cartridges--an article in which but little money was spent by the
buyers of yataghans in silver sheaths and silver cartridge-boxes.

"Hallo! sir Frank," cried one or two of these gay warriors, "come out
with us to Berat: come and see us fight, and you will see something
worth travelling for."

"Ay," said I, "it's all up with the enemy: that's quite certain. They
will be in a pretty scrape, to be sure, when you arrive. I would not be
one of them for a good deal!"

"Sono molto feroce questi palicari," said my guide.

"Oh! yes, they are terrible fellows!" I replied.

"What does the Frank say?" they asked.

"He says you are terrible fellows."

"Ah! I think we are, indeed. But don't be afraid, Frank; don't be
afraid!"

"No," said I, "I won't; and I wish you good luck on your way to Berat
and back again."

This night the people had been so much occupied in purchasing the
implements of death that I heard no accounts of any new murders. In fact
it had been a dull day in that respect; but no doubt they would make up
for it before long.



CHAPTER XVIII.


     Start for Meteora--Rencontre with a Wounded Traveller--Barbarity of
     the Robbers--Albanian Innkeeper--Effect of the Turkish Language
     upon the Greeks--Mezzovo--Interview with the chief Person in the
     Village--Mount Pindus--Capture by Robbers--Salutary effects of
     Swaggering--Arrival under Escort at the Robbers'
     Head-Quarters--Affairs take a favourable turn--An unexpected
     Friendship with the Robber Chief--The Khan of Malacash--Beauty of
     the Scenery--Activity of our Guards--Loss of Character--Arrival at
     Meteora.


_November 6th._--I had engaged a tall, thin, dismal-looking man, well
provided with pistols, knives, and daggers, as an additional servant,
for he was said to know all the passes of the mountains, which I thought
might be a useful accomplishment in case I had to avoid the more public
roads--or paths, rather--for roads there were none. I purchased a stock
of provisions, and hired five horses--three for myself and my men, one
for the muleteer, and the other for the baggage, which was well strapped
on, that the beast might gallop with it, as it was not very heavy. They
were pretty good horses--rough and hardy. Mine looked very hard at me
out of the corner of his eye when I got upon his back in the cold grey
dawn, as if to find out what sort of a person I was. By means of a stout
kourbatch--a sort of whip of rhinoceros hide which they use in Egypt--I
immediately gave him all the information he desired; and off we galloped
round the back part of the town, and, unquestioned by any one, we soon
found ourselves trotting along the plain by the south end of the lake of
Yanina. Here the waters from the lake disappear in an extraordinary
manner in a great cavern, or pit full of rocks and stones, through which
the water runs away into some subterranean channel--a dark and
mysterious river, which the dismal-looking man, my new attendant, said
came out into the light again somewhere in the Gulph of Arta. Before
long we got upon the remains of a fine paved road, like a Roman way,
which had been made by Ali Pasha. It was, however, out of repair, having
in places been swept away by the torrents, and was an impediment rather
than an assistance to travellers. This road led up to the hills; and,
having dismounted from my horse, I began scrambling and puffing up the
steep side of the mountain, stopping every now and then to regain my
breath and to admire the beautiful view of the calm lake and picturesque
town of Yanina.

As I was walking in advance of my company, I saw a man above me leading
a loaded mule. He was coming down the mountain, carefully picking his
way among the stones, and in a loud voice exhorting the mule to be
steady and keep its feet, although the mule was much the more
sure-footed of the two. As they passed me I was struck with the odd
appearance of the mule's burden: it consisted of a bundle of large
stones on one side, which served as a counterpoise to a packing-case on
the other, covered with a cloth, out of which peeped the head of a man,
with his long black hair hanging about a face as pale as marble. The box
in which he travelled not being more than four feet and a half long, I
supposed he must be a dwarf, and was laughing at his peculiar mode of
conveyance. The muleteer, observing from my dress that I was a Frank,
stopped his mule, when he came up to me, and asked me if I was a
physician, begging me to give my assistance to the man in the box, if I
knew anything of surgery, for he had had both his legs cut off by some
robbers on the way from Salonica, and he was now taking him to Yanina,
in hopes of finding some doctor there to heal his wounds. My laughter
was now turned into pity for the poor man, for I knew there was no help
for him at Yanina. I could do nothing for him; and the only hope was, as
his strength had borne him up so far on his journey, that when he got
rest at Yanina the wounds might heal of themselves. After expressing my
commiseration for him, and my hopes of his recovery, we parted company;
and as I stood looking at the mule, staggering and slipping among the
loose stones and rocks in the steep descent, it quite made me wince to
think of the pain the unfortunate traveller must be enduring, with the
raw stumps of his two legs rubbing and bumping against the end of his
short box. I was sorry I had not asked why the robbers had cut off his
legs, because, if it was their usual system, it was certainly more than
I bargained for. I had pretty nearly made up my mind to be robbed, but
had no intention whatever to lose my legs; so I sat down upon a rock,
and began calculating probabilities, until my party came up, and I
mounted my horse, who gave me another look with his cunning eye. We
continued on Ali Pasha's broken road until we reached the summit of the
mountain, where we made a short halt, that our horses might regain their
wind; and then began our descent, stumbling, and sliding, and scrambling
down, until we arrived at the bottom, where there was a miserable khan.
In this royal hotel, which was a mere shed, there was nothing to be
found except mine host, who had it all to himself. At last he made us
some coffee; and while our horses were feeding on our own corn, we sat
under the shade of a walnut-tree by the road-side. Our host, having
nothing which could be eaten or drank except the coffee, did not know
how in the world he could manage to get up a satisfactory bill. I saw
this very plainly in his puzzled and thoughtful looks; but at last a
bright thought struck him, and he charged a good round sum for the shade
of the walnut-tree. Now although I admired his ingenuity, I demurred at
the charge, particularly as the walnut-tree did not belong to him. It
was a wild tree, which everybody threw stones at as he passed by, to
bring down the nuts:--

    "Nux ego juncta vise quae sum due crimine vitæ,
      Attamen a cunctis saxibus usque petor."--Ovid.

Little did the unoffending walnut-tree think that its shade would be
brought forward as a cause of war; for then arose a fierce contest
between Greek oaths and Albanian maledictions, to which Arabic and
English lent their aid. Though there were no stones thrown, ten times as
many hard words were hurled backwards and forwards as there were walnuts
on the tree, showing a facility of expression and a redundance of
epithets which would have given a lesson to the most practised ladies of
Billingsgate.

When the horses were ready the khangee came up to me in a towering
passion, swearing that I should pay for sitting under the tree.
"Englishman," said he, "get up and pay me what I demand, or you shall
not leave this place, by all that is holy." "Kiupek oglou," said I,
without moving from the ground, "Oh, son of a dog! go and get my horse,
you chattering magpie!" These few words in the language of the conqueror
had a marvellous effect on the khangee. "What does his worship say?" he
inquired of the dismal-faced man. "Why, he says you had better go and
get his excellency's worship's most respectable horse, if you have any
regard for your life: so go! be off! vanish! don't stay there staring at
the illustrious traveller. 'Tis lucky for you he doesn't order us to
cut you up into cabobs; go and get the horse; and perhaps you'll be paid
for your coffee, bad as it was. His excellency is the pasha's, his
highness's, most particular intimate friend; and if his highness knew
what you had been saying, why, where would you be, O man?" The khangee,
who had intended to have had it all his own way, was taken terribly
aback at the sound of the Turkish tongue: he speedily put on my horse's
bridle, gave his nosebag to the muleteer, tightened up his girths,
helped the servants, and was suddenly converted into a humble submissive
drudge. The way in which anything Turkish is respected among the
conquered races in Syria or in Egypt can scarcely be imagined by those
who have not witnessed it.

Leaving the khangee to count his paras and piastres, with which, after
all, he was evidently well satisfied, we rode on down the valley by the
side of a brawling stream, which we crossed no less than thirty-nine
times during our day's journey. Our road lay through a magnificent
series of picturesque and savage gorges, between high rocks. Sometimes
we rode along the bed of the stream, and sometimes upon a ledge so far
above it that it looked like a silver ribbon in the sun. Every now and
then we came to a cataract or rapid, where the stream boiled and foamed
among the rocks, tossing up its spray, and drowning our voices in its
noise. In the course of about eight hours of continual scrambling up
and down all sorts of rocks, we found ourselves at another wretched
shelty dignified with the name of khan. Here, after a tolerable supper,
we all rolled ourselves up in the different corners of a sort of loft,
with our arms under our heads, and slept soundly until the morning.

_November 7th._--This day we continued along the banks of a stream, in
the direction of its source, until it dwindled to a mere rivulet, when
we left it and took to the hills at the base of another mountain. We
rode some way along a rocky path until, turning round a corner to the
left, we found ourselves at the town or village of Mezzovo. As Mahmoud
Pasha had supplied me with a firman and letters to the principal persons
at the several towns on my route, I looked out my Mezzovo letter, with
the intention of asking for an escort of a few soldiers to accompany me
through the passes of Mount Pindus, which were reported to be full of
robbers and cattiva gente of every sort and kind, the great extent of
the underwood of box-trees forming an impenetrable cover for those
minions of the moon.

Most of the population of Mezzovo turned out to see the procession of
the Milordos Inglesis as it entered the precincts of their ancient city,
and defiled into the market-place, in the middle of which was a great
tree, under whose shade sat and smoked a circle of grave and reverend
seignors, the aristocracy of the place; whereupon, holding the pasha's
letter in my hand, I cantered up to them. On seeing me advance towards
them, a broad-shouldered good-natured looking man, gorgeously dressed in
red velvet, embroidered all over with gold, though something tarnished
with the rain and weather, arose and stepped forward to meet me. "Here
is a letter," said I, "from his highness Mahmoud Pasha, vizir of Yanina,
to the chief personage of Mezzovo, whoever he may be, for there is no
name mentioned; so tell me who is the chief person in this city; where
is he to be found, for I desire to speak with him?" "You want the chief
person of Mezzovo?" replied the broad-shouldered man; "well, I think I
am the chief person here, am I not?" he asked of the assembled crowd
which had gathered together by this time. "Certainly, malista, oh yes,
you are the chief person of Mezzovo undoubtedly," they all cried out.
"Very well," said he, "then give me the letter." On my giving it to him,
he opened it in a very unceremonious manner; and, before he had half
read it, burst into a fit of laughing. "What are you laughing at?" said
I: "Is not that the vizir's letter?" "Oh!" said he, "you want guards, do
you, to protect you against the robbers, the klephti?" "Yes, I do; but I
do not see what there is to laugh at in that. I want some men to go with
me to Meteora; if you are the captain or commander here, give me an
escort, as I wish to be off at once: it is early now, and I can cross
the mountains before dark."

After a pause, he said, "Well, I am the captain; and you shall have men
who will protect you wherever you go. You are an Englishman, are you
not?" "Yes," I said, "I am." "Well, I like the English; and you
particularly." "Thank you," said I: and, after some more conversation,
he tore off a slip from the vizir's letter (a very unceremonious
proceeding in Albania), and, writing a few lines on it, he said, "Now
give this paper to the first soldiers you meet at the foot of Mount
Pindus, and all will be right." He then instructed the muleteer which
way to go. I took the paper, which was not folded up; but the
badly-written Romaic was unintelligible to me, so I put it into my
pocket, and away we went, my new friend waving his hand to us as we
passed out of the market-place; and we were soon trotting along through
the open country towards the hills which shoot out from the base of the
great chain of Mount Pindus, a mountain famous for having had Mount Ossa
put on the top of it by some of the giants when they were fighting
against Jupiter. As that respected deity got the better of the giants, I
presume he put Ossa back again; for which I felt very much obliged to
him, as Pindus seemed quite high enough and steep enough without any
addition.

We rode along, getting nearer and nearer to the mountains; and at
length we began to climb a steep rocky path on the side of a lofty hill
covered with box-trees. This path continued for some distance until we
came to a place where there was a ledge so narrow that two horses could
not go abreast. Here, as I was riding quietly along, I heard an
exclamation in front of "Robbers! robbers!" and sure enough, out of one
of the thickets of box-trees, there advanced three or four bright
gun-barrels, which were speedily followed by some gentlemen in dirty
white jackets and fustanellas; who, in a short and abrupt style of
eloquence, commanded us to stand. This of course we were obliged to do;
and as I was getting out my pistol, one of the individuals in white
presented his gun at me, and upon my looking round to see whether my
tall Albanian servant was preparing to support me, I saw him quietly
half-cock his gun and sling it back over his shoulder, at the name time
shaking his head as much as to say, "It is no use resisting; we are
caught; there are too many of them." So I bolted the locks of the four
barrels of my pistol carefully, hoping that the bolts would form an
impediment to my being shot with my own weapon after I had been robbed
of it. The place was so narrow that there were no hopes of running away,
and there we sat on horseback, looking silly enough, I dare say. There
was a good deal of talking and chattering among the robbers, and they
asked the Albanian various questions to which I paid no attention, all
my faculties being engrossed in watching the proceedings of the party
in front, who were examining the effects in the panniers of the baggage
mule. First they pulled out my bag of clothes, and threw it upon the
ground; then out came the sugar and the coffee, and whatever else these
was. Some of the men had hold of the poor muleteer, and a loud argument
was going on between him and his captors. I did not like all this, but
my rage was excited to a violent pitch when I saw one man appropriating
to his own use the half of a certain fat tender cold fowl, whereof I had
eaten the other half with much appetite and satisfaction. "Let that fowl
alone, you scoundrel!" said I in good English; "put it down, will you?
if you don't, I'll----!" The man, surprised at this address in an
unknown tongue, put down the fowl, and looked up with wonder at the
explosion of ire which his actions had called forth. "That is right,"
said I, "my good fellow, it is too good for such a dirty brute as you."
"Let us see," said I to the Albanian, "if there is nothing to be done;
say I am the King of England's uncle, or grandson, or particular friend,
and that if we are hurt or robbed he will send all manner of ships and
armies, and hang everybody, and cut off the heads of all the rest. Talk
big, O man! and don't spare great words; they cost nothing, and let us
see what that will do."

Upon this the Albanian took up his parable and a long parleying ensued,
for the robbers were taken aback with the good English in which I had
addressed them, and stood still with open mouths to hear what it all
meant. In the middle of this row I thought of the paper which had been
given me at Mezzovo. "Here," said I, "here is a letter; read it, see
what it says." They took the paper and turned it round and round, for
they could not read it: first one looked at it and then another; then
they looked at the back, but they could make nothing of it. Nevertheless,
it produced a great effect upon them, for here, as in all other
countries of the East, any writing is looked upon by the uneducated
people as a mystery, and is held in high respect; and at last they said
they would take us to a place where we should find a person capable of
reading it. The thing which most provoked me was that the fellows seemed
not to have the slightest fear of us; they did not even take the trouble
to demand our arms: my much cherished "patent four-barrelled travelling
pistol" they evidently considered too small to be dangerous; and I felt
it as a kind of personal insult that they deputed only two of their
number to convoy us to the residence of the learned person who was to
read the letter. They managed matters, however, in a scientific way: the
bridles of our horses were turned over their heads and tied each to the
horse that went before; one of our captors walked in front and the other
behind; but just when I thought an opportunity had arrived to shake off
this yoke, I perceived that the whole pass was guarded, and wherever the
road was a little wider or turned a corner round a rock or a clump of
trees, there were other long guns peeping out from among the bushes,
with the bearers of which our two conquerors exchanged pass-words. Thus
we marched along, the robber who went first apparently caring nothing
about us, but the one in the rear having his gun cocked and ready to
shoot any one of us who should turn restive. The road, which ascended
rapidly, was rather too dangerous to be agreeable, being a narrow path
cut on the side of a very steep mountain; at one time the track lay
across a steep slope of blue marl, which afforded the most insecure
footing for our horses: all mountain-travellers are aware how much more
dangerous this kind of road is than a firm ledge of rock, however
narrow.

We had now got very high, and the ground was sprinkled with patches of
ice and snow, which rendered the footing insecure; and frequently large
masses of the road, disturbed by our passing over it, gave way beneath
our feet, and set off bounding and crashing among the box trees until it
was broken into powder on the rocks below.

In process of time we got into a cloud which hid everything from us, and
going still higher we got above the cloud into a region of broken crags
and rocks and pine-trees, among which there was a large wooden house or
shed. It seemed all roof, and was made of long spars of trees sloping
towards each other, and was very high, long, and narrow. As we
approached it several men made their appearance armed at all points, and
took our horses from us. At the end of the shed there was a door through
which we were conducted into the interior by our two guards, and placed
all of a row, with our backs against the wall, on the right side of the
entrance. Towards the other end of this sylvan guard-room there was a
large fire on the ground, and a number of men sitting round it drinking
aqua vitæ out of coffee cups, and talking load and laughing. In the
farthest corner I saw a pile of long bright-barrelled guns leaning
against the wall, while on the other side of the fire there were some
boards on the ground with a mat or carpet over them, whereon a worthy
better dressed than the rest was lounging, apart from every one else and
half asleep. To him the paper was given, and he leant forward to read it
by the light of the blazing fire, for though it was bright sunshine out
of doors, the room was quite dark. The captain was evidently a poor
scholar, and he spelt and puzzled over every word. At last a thought
struck him: shading his eyes with his hand from the glare of the fire he
leant forward and peered into the darkness, where we were awaiting his
commands. Not distinguishing us, however, he jumped up upon his feet and
shouted out "Hallo! where are the gentlemen who brought this letter?
What have you done with them?" At the sound of his voice the rest of the
party jumped up also, being then first aware that something out of the
common had taken place. Some of the palicari ran towards us and were
going to seize us, when the captain came forward and in a civil tone
said, "Oh, there you are! Welcome, gentlemen; we are very glad to
receive you. Make yourselves at home; come near the fire and sit down."
I took him at his word and sat down on the boards by the side of the
fire, rubbing my hands and making myself as comfortable as possible
under the circumstances. My two servants and the muleteer seeing what
turn affairs had taken, became of a sudden as loquacious as they had
been silent before, and in a short time we were all the greatest friends
in the world.

"So," said the captain, or whatever he was, "you are acquainted with our
friend at Mezzovo. How did you leave him? I hope he was well?"

"Oh, yes," I said; "we left him in excellent health. What a remarkably
pleasing person he is! and how well he looks in his red velvet dress!"

"Have you known him long?" he asked.

"Why, not _very_ long," replied my Albanian; "but my master has the
greatest respect for him, and so has he for my master."

"He says you are to take some of our men with you wherever you like,"
said our host.

"Yes, I know," said the Albanian; "we settled that at Mezzovo, with my
master's friend, his Excellency Mr. What's-his-name."

"Well, how many will you take?"

"Oh! five or six will do; that will be as many as we want. We are going
to Meteora and then we shall return over the mountains back to Mezzovo,
where I hope we shall have the pleasure of meeting your general again."

Whilst we were talking and drinking coffee by the fire, a prodigious
bustling and chattering was going on among the rest of the party, and
before long five slim, active, dirty-looking young rogues, in white
dresses, with long black hair hanging down their backs, and each with a
long thin gun, announced that they were ready to accompany us whenever
we were ready to start. As we had nothing to keep us in the dark, smoky
hovel, we were soon ready to go; and glad indeed was I to be out again
in the open air among the high trees, without the immediate prospect of
being hanged upon one of them. My party jumped with great alacrity and
glee upon their miserable mules and horses; all our belongings,
including the half of the cold fowl, were _in statu quo_; and off we
set--our new friends accompanied us on foot. And so delighted was our
Caliban of a muleteer at what we all considered a fortunate escape, that
he lifted up his voice and gave vent to his feelings in a song. The
grand gentleman in red velvet to whom I had presented the Pasha's letter
at Mezzovo, was, it seems, himself the captain of the thieves--the very
man against whom the Pasha wished to afford us his protection; and he,
feeling amused probably at the manner in which we had fallen unawares
into his clutches, and being a good-natured fellow (and he certainly
looked such), gave us a note to the officer next in command, ordering
him to protect us as his friends, and to provide us with an escort. When
I say that he of the red velvet was captain of the thieves, it is to be
understood, that although his followers did not excel in honesty, as
they proceeded to plunder us the moment they had entrapped us in the
valley of the box-trees, yet he should more properly be called a
guerilla chief in rebellion for the time being against the authorities
of the Turkish government, and I being a young Englishman, he
good-naturedly gave me his assistance, without which, as I afterwards
found, it would have been impossible for me to have travelled with
safety through any one of the mountain passes of the Pindus. I was told
that this chief, whose name I unfortunately omitted to note down,
commanded a large body of men before the city of Berat, and certainly
all the ragamuffins whom I met on my way to and from the monasteries of
Meteora acknowledged his authority. I heard that soon afterwards he
returned to his allegiance under Mahmoud Pasha, for it appears that the
outbreak, during which I had inadvertently started for a tour in
Albania, did not last long.

Late in the evening we arrived at a small khan something like an
out-building to a farmhouse in England; this was the khan of Malacash:
it was prettily situated on the banks of the river Peneus, and
contained, besides the stable, two rooms, one of which opened upon a
kind of verandah or covered terrace. My two servants and I slept on the
floor in this room, and the four robbers or guards (as in common
civility I ought to term them) in the ante-chamber. I gave them as good
a supper as I could, and we became excellent friends. It was almost dark
when we arrived at this place, but the next morning when the glorious
sun arose I was charmed with the beautiful scenery around us. On both
sides banks of stately trees rose above the margin of a rippling stream,
and the valley grew wider and wider as we rode on, the stream increasing
by the addition of many little rills, and the trees retiring from it,
affording us views of grassy plains and romantic dells, first on one
side and then on the other. The scenery was most lovely, and in the
distance was the towering summit of the great Mount Olympus, famous
nowadays for the Greek monasteries which are built upon its sides, and
near whose base runs the valley of Tempe, of which we are expressly told
in the Latin Grammar that it is a pleasant vale in Thessaly; and if it
is more beautiful than the valley of the Peneus, it must be a very
pleasant vale indeed.

I was struck with the original manner in which our mountain friends
progressed through the country; sometimes they kept with us, but more
usually some of them went on one side of the road and some on the other,
like men beating for game, only that they made no noise; and on the rare
occasions when we met any traveller trudging along the road or ambling
on a long-eared mule, they were always among the bushes or on the tops
of the rocks, and never showed themselves upon the road. But despite all
these vagaries they were always close to us. They were wonderfully
active, for although I trotted or galloped whenever the nature of the
road rendered it practicable, they always kept up with me, and
apparently without exertion or fatigue; and although they were often out
of my sight, I believe I was never out of theirs. Altogether I was glad
that we were such friends, for, from what I saw of them, they and their
associates would have proved very awkward enemies. They were curious
wild animals, as slim and as active as cats: their waists were not much
more than a foot and a half in circumference, and they appeared to be
able to jump over anything; and the thin mocassins of raw hide which
they wore enabled them to run or walk without making the slightest
noise. In fact, they were agreeable, honest rogues enough, and we got on
amazingly well together. I had a way of singing as I rode along for my
own particular edification, and from mere joyousness of heart, for the
beautiful scenery, and the fine fresh air, and the bright stream
delighted me, so I sung away at a great rate; and my horse sometimes put
back one of his ears to listen, which I took as a personal compliment:
but my robbers did not like this singing.

"Why," they said to the Albanian, "does the Frank sing?"

"It is a way he has," was the reply.

"Well," they said, "this is a wild country; there is no use in courting
attention--he had better not sing."

Nevertheless I would not leave off for all that. _Cantabit vacuus coram
latrone viator_; so I went on singing rather louder than before,
particularly as I was convinced that my horse had an ear for music; and
in this way, after travelling for seven hours, we came within sight of
the extraordinary rocks of Meteora.

Just at this time we observed among the trees before us a long string of
travellers who appeared to be convoying a train of baggage horses. On
seeing us they stopped, and closed their files; and as my thieves had
bolted, as usual, into the bushes some time before, my party consisted
only of four persons and five horses. As we approached the other party,
a tall, well-armed man, with a rifle across his arm, rode forwards and
hailed us, asking who we were. We said we were travellers.

"And who were those who left you just now?" said he.

"They are some of our party who have turned off by a short cut to go to
Meteora," replied my Albanian.

"What! a short cut on both sides of the road! how is that? I suspect you
are not simple travellers."

"Well," he replied, "we do not wish to molest you. Go on your way in
peace, and let us pass quietly, for you are by far the larger party."

"Yes," said the man, "but how many have you in the bushes? What are they
about there?"

"I don't know what they are about," said he, "but they will not molest
you [one of them was peeping over a bush at the back of the party all
the while, but they did not see him]; and we, I assure you, are
peaceable travellers like yourselves."

Our new acquaintance did not seem at all satisfied, and he and all his
party drew up along the path as we passed them, with evident misgivings
as to our purpose; and soon afterwards, looking back, we saw them
keeping close together and trotting along as fast as their loaded horses
would go, some of them looking round at us every now and then till we
lost sight of them among the trees.

The proverb says--you shall know a man by his friends, and my character
had evidently suffered from the appearance of the company I kept, for
the merchants held me as little better than a rogue; there was, however,
no time for explanations, and it was with feelings of indignant virtue
that I left the forest, and after crossing the river Peneus at a ford,
my merry men and I continued our journey along the grassy plain of
Meteora.



CHAPTER XIX.


     Meteora--The extraordinary Character of its Scenery--Its Caves
     formerly the Resort of Ascetics--Barbarous Persecution of the
     Hermits--Their extraordinary Religious Observances--Singular
     Position of the Monasteries--The Monastery of Barlaam--The
     difficulty of reaching it--Ascent by a Windlass and Net, or by
     Ladders--Narrow Escape--Hospitable Reception by the Monks--The
     Agoumenos, or Abbot--His strict Fast--Description of the
     Monastery--The Church--Symbolism in the Greek Church--Respect for
     Antiquity--The Library--Determination of the Abbot not to sell any
     of the MSS.--The Refectory--Its Decorations--Aërial Descent--The
     Monastery of Hagios Stephanos--Its Carved Iconostasis--Beautiful
     View from the Monastery--Monastery of Agia Triada--Summary Justice
     at Triada--Monastery of Agia Roserea--Its Lady Occupants--Admission
     refused.


The scenery of Meteora is of a very singular kind. The end of a range of
rocky hills seems to have been broken off by some earthquake or washed
away by the Deluge, leaving only a series of twenty or thirty tall,
thin, smooth, needle-like rocks, many hundred feet in height; some like
gigantic tusks, some shaped like sugar-loaves, and some like vast
stalagmites. These rocks surround a beautiful grassy plain, on three
sides of which there grow groups of detached trees, like those in an
English park. Some of the rocks shoot up quite clean and perpendicularly
from the smooth green grass; some are in clusters; some stand alone
like obelisks: nothing can be more strange and wonderful than this
romantic region, which is unlike anything I have ever seen either before
or since. In Switzerland, Saxony, the Tyrol, or any other mountainous
region where I have been, there is nothing at all to be compared to
these extraordinary peaks.

At the foot of many of the rocks which surround this beautiful grassy
amphitheatre, there are numerous caves and holes, some of which appear
to be natural, but most of them are artificial; for in the dark and wild
ages of monastic fanaticism whole flocks of hermits roosted in these
pigeon-holes. Some of these caves are so high up the rocks that one
wonders how the poor old gentlemen could ever get up to them; whilst
others are below the surface; and the anchorites who burrowed in them,
like rabbits, frequently afforded excellent sport to parties of roving
Saracens; indeed, hermit-hunting seems to have been a fashionable
amusement previous to the twelfth century. In early Greek frescos, and
in small, stiff pictures with gold backgrounds, we see many frightful
representations of men on horseback in Roman armour, with long spears,
who are torturing and slaying Christian devotees. In these pictures the
monks and hermits are represented in gowns made of a kind of coarse
matting, and they have long beards, and some of them are covered with
hair; these I take it were the ones most to be admired, as in the Greek
church sanctity is always in the inverse ratio of beauty. All Greek
saints are painfully ugly, but the hermits are much uglier, dirtier, and
older than the rest; they must have been very fusty people besides,
eating roots, and living in holes like rats and mice. It is difficult to
understand by what process of reasoning they could have persuaded
themselves that, by living in this useless, inactive way, they were
leading holy lives. They wore out the rocks with their knees in prayer;
the cliffs resounded with their groans; sometimes they banged their
breasts with a big stone, for a change; and some wore chains and iron
girdles round their emaciated forms; but they did nothing whatever to
benefit their kind. Still there is something grand in the strength and
constancy of their faith. They left their homes and riches and the
pleasures of this world, to retire to these dens and caves of the earth,
to be subjected to cold and hunger, pain and death, that they might do
honour to their God, after their own fashion, and trusting that, by
mortifying the body in this world, they should gain happiness for the
soul in the world to come; and therefore peace be with their memory!

On the tops of these rocks in different directions there remain seven
monasteries out of twenty-four which once crowned their airy heights.
How anything except a bird was to arrive at one which we saw in the
distance on a pinnacle of rock was more than we could divine; but the
mystery was soon solved. Winding our way upwards, among a labyrinth of
smaller rocks and cliffs, by a romantic path which, afforded us from
time to time beautiful views of the green vale below us, we at length
found ourselves on an elevated platform of rock, which I may compare to
the flat roof of a church; while the monastery of Barlaam stood
perpendicularly, above us, on the top of a much higher rock, like the
tower of this church. Here we fired off a gun, which was intended to
answer the same purpose as knocking at the door in more civilized
places; and we all strained our necks in looking up at the monastery to
see whether any answer would be made to our call. Presently we were
hailed by some one in the sky, whose voice came down to us like the cry
of a bird; and we saw the face and grey beard of an old monk some
hundred feet above us peering out of a kind of window or door. He asked
us who we were, and what we wanted, and so forth; to which we replied,
that we were travellers, harmless people, who wished to be admitted into
the monastery to stay the night; that we had come all the way from Corfu
to see the wonders of Meteora, and, as it was now getting late, we
appealed to his feelings of hospitality and Christian benevolence.

"Who are those with you?" said he.

"Oh! most respectable people," we answered; "gentlemen of our
acquaintance, who have come with us across the mountains from Mezzovo."

The appearance of our escort did not please the monk, and we feared that
he would not admit us into the monastery; but at length he let down a
thin cord, to which I attached a letter of introduction which I had
brought from Corfu; and after some delay a much larger rope was seen
descending with a hook at the end to which a strong net was attached. On
its reaching the rock on which we stood the net was spread open: my two
servants sat down upon it; and the four corners being attached to the
hook, a signal was made, and they began slowly ascending into the air,
twisting round and round like a leg of mutton hanging to a bottle-jack.
The rope was old and mended, and the height from the ground to the door
above was, we afterwards learned, 37 fathoms, or 222 feet. When they
reached the top I saw two stout monks reach their arms out of the door
and pull in the two servants by main force, as there was no contrivance
like a turning-crane for bringing them nearer to the landing-place. The
whole process appeared so dangerous, that I determined to go up by
climbing a series of ladders which were suspended by large wooden pegs
on the face of the precipice, and which reached the top of the rock in
another direction, round a corner to the right. The lowest ladder was
approached by a pathway leading to a rickety wooden platform which
overhung a deep gorge. From this point the ladders hung perpendicularly
upon the bare rock, and I climbed up three or four of them very soon;
but coming to one, the lower end of which had swung away from the top of
the one below, I had some difficulty in stretching across from the one
to the other; and here unluckily I looked down, and found that I had
turned a sort of angle in the precipice, and that I was not over the
rocky platform where I had left the horses, but that the precipice went
sheer down to so tremendous a depth, that my head turned when I surveyed
the distant valley over which I was hanging in the air like a fly on a
wall. The monks in the monastery saw me hesitate, and called out to me
to take courage and hold on; and, making an effort, I overcame my
dizziness, and clambered up to a small iron door, through which I crept
into a court of the monastery, where I was welcomed by the monks and the
two servants who had been hauled up by the rope. The rest of my party
were not admitted; but they bivouacked at the foot of the rocks in a
sheltered place, and were perfectly contented with the coffee and
provisions which we lowered down to them.

My servants, in high glee at having been hoisted up safe and sound, were
busy in arranging my baggage in the room which had been allotted to us,
and in making it comfortable: one went to get ready some warm water for
a bath, or at any rate for a good splash in the largest tub that could
be found; the other made me a snug corner on the divan, and covered it
with a piece of silk, and spread my carpet before it; he put my books in
a little heap, got ready the things for tea, and hung my arms and cloak,
and everything he could lay his hands on, upon the pegs projecting from
the wall under the shelf which was fixed all round the room. My European
clothes were soon pitched into the most ignominious corner of the divan,
and I speedily arrayed myself in the long, loose robes of Egypt, so much
more comfortable and easy than the tight cases in which we cramp up our
limbs. In short, I forthwith made myself at home, and took a stroll
among the courts and gardens of the monastery while dinner or supper,
whichever it might be called, was getting ready. I soon stumbled upon
the Agoumenos (the lord abbot) of this aërial monastery, and we prowled
about together, peeping into rooms, visiting the church, and poking
about until it began to get dark; and then I asked him to dinner in his
own room; but he could eat no meat, so I ate the more myself, and he
made up for it by other savoury messes, cooked partly by my servants and
partly by the monks. He was an oldish man. He did not dislike sherry,
though he preferred rosoglio, of which I always carried a few bottles
with me in my monastic excursions.

The abbot and I, and another holy father, fraternised, and slapped each
other on the back, and had another glass or two, or rather cup, for
coffee-cups of thin, old porcelain, called fingians, served us for
wine-glasses. Then we had some tea, and they filled up their cups with
sugar, and ate seaman's biscuits, and little cakes from Yanina, and
rahatlokoom, and jelly of dried-grape juice, till it was time to go to
bed; when the two venerable monks gave me their blessing and stumbled
out of the room; and in a marvellously short space of time I was sound
asleep.

_November 9th._--The monastery of Barlaam stands on the summit of an
isolated rock, on a flat or nearly flat space of perhaps an acre and a
half, of which about one-half is occupied by the church and a smaller
chapel, the refectory, the kitchen, the tower of the windlass, where you
are pulled up, and a number of separate buildings containing offices and
the habitations of the monks, of whom there were at this time only
fourteen. These various structures surround one tolerably large,
irregularly-shaped court, the chief part of which is paved; and there
are several other small open spaces. All Greek monasteries are built in
this irregular way, and the confused mass of disjointed edifices is
usually encircled by a high bare wall; but in this monastery there is no
such enclosing wall, as its position effectually prevents the approach
of an enemy. On a portion of the flat space which is not occupied by
buildings they have a small garden, but it is not cultivated, and there
is nothing like a parapet-wall in any direction to prevent your falling
over. The place wears an aspect of poverty and neglect; its best days
have long gone by; for here, as everywhere else, the spirit of
asceticism is on the wane.

[Illustration: diagram of church with four columns]

The church has a porch before the door, νάρθηξ, supported by marble
columns, the interior wall of which on each side of the door is painted
with representations of the Last Judgment, and the tortures of the
condemned, with a liberal allowance of flames and devils. These pictures
of the torments of the wicked are always placed outside the body of the
church, as typical of the unhappy state of those who are out of its
pale: they are never seen within. The interior of this curious old
church, which is dedicated to All Saints, has depicted on its walls on
all sides portraits of a great many holy personages, in the stiff,
conventional, early style. It has four columns within which support the
dome; and the altar or holy table, αγια τραπεζα, is separated from the
nave by a wooden screen, called the iconostasis, on which are paintings
of the Blessed Virgin, the Redeemer, and many saints. These pictures are
kissed by all who enter the church. The iconostasis has three doors in
it; one in the centre, before the holy table, and one on each side. The
centre one is only a half-door, like an old English buttery hatch, the
upper part being screened with a curtain of rich stuff, which, except on
certain occasions, is drawn aside, so as to afford a view of the book
of the Gospels, in a rich binding, lying upon the holy table beyond. A
Greek church has no sacristy; the vestures are usually kept in presses
in this space behind the iconostasis, where none but the priests and the
deacon, or servant who trims the lamps, are allowed to enter, and they
pass in and out by the side doors. The centre door is only used in the
celebration of the holy mass. This part of the church is the sanctuary,
and is called, in Romaic, αγιο, Βημο, or Θημο. It is typical of the holy
of holies of the Temple, and the veil is represented by the curtain
which divides it from the rest of the church. Everything is symbolical
in the Eastern Church; and these symbols have been in use from the very
earliest ages of Christianity. The four columns which support the dome
represent the four Evangelists; and the dome itself is the symbol of
heaven, to which access has been given to mankind by the glad tidings of
the Gospels which they wrote. Part of the mosaic with which the whole
interior of the dome was formerly covered in the cathedral of St. Sofia
at Constantinople, is to be seen in the four angles below the dome,
where the winged figures of the four evangelists still remain. Luckily
for the Greek Church their sacred buildings are not under the authority
of lay churchwardens--grocers in towns, and farmers in villages--who
feel it their duty to whitewash over everything which is old and
venerable, and curious, and to oppose the clergyman in order to show
their independence.

The Greek church, debased as it is by ignorance and superstition, has
still the merit of carefully preserving and restoring all the memorials
of its earlier and purer ages. If the fresco painting of a saint is
rubbed out or damaged in the lapse of time, it is scrupulously
repainted, exactly as it was before, even to the colour of the robe, the
aspect of the countenance, and the minutest accessories of the
composition. It is this systematic respect for everything which is old
and venerable which renders the interior of the ancient Eastern churches
so peculiarly interesting. They are the unchanged monuments of primæval
days. The Christians who suffered under the persecution of Dioclesian
may have knelt before the very altar which we now see, and which was
then exactly the same as we now behold it, without any additions or
subtractions either in its form or use.

To us Protestants one of the most interesting circumstances connected
with these Eastern churches is, that the altar is not called the
_altar_, but the _holy table_, as with us, and that the Communion is
given before it in both kinds. Besides the principal church there is a
smaller one, not far from it, which is painted in the same manner as the
other. I unfortunately neglected to ascertain the dates of the
foundation of these two edifices.

The library contains about a thousand volumes, the far greater part of
which are printed books, mostly Venetian editions of ecclesiastical
works, but there are some fine copies of Aldine Greek classics. I did
not count the number of the manuscripts; they are all books of divinity
and the works of the fathers; there may be between one and two hundred
of them. I found one folio Bulgarian manuscript which I could not read,
and therefore was, of course, particularly anxious to purchase. As I saw
it was not a copy of the Gospels, I thought it might possibly be
historical: but the monks would not sell it. The only other manuscript
of value was a copy of the Gospels, in quarto, containing several
miniatures and illuminations of the eleventh century; but with this also
they refused to part, so it remains for some more fortunate collector.
It was of no use to the monks themselves, who cannot read either
Hellenic or ancient Greek; but they consider the books in their library
as sacred relics, and preserve them with a certain feeling of awe for
their antiquity and incomprehensibility. Our only chance is when some
worldly-minded Agoumenos happens to be at the head of the community, who
may be inclined to exchange some of the unreadable old books for such a
sum of gold or silver as will suffice for the repairs of one of their
buildings, the replenishing of the cellar, or some other equally
important purpose. At the time of my visit the march of intellect had
not penetrated into the heights of the monastery of St. Barlaam, and
the good old-fashioned Agoumenos was not to be overcome by any special
pleading; so I told him at last that I respected his prejudices, and
hoped he would follow the dictates of his conscience equally well in
more important matters. The worthy old gentleman therefore pitched the
two much-coveted books back into the dusty corner whence he had taken
them, and where to a certainty they will repose undisturbed until some
other bookworm traveller visits the monastery; and the sooner he comes
the better, as mice and mildew are actively at work.

In a room near the library some ancient relics are preserved in silver
shrines or boxes, of Byzantine workmanship: they are, however, not of
very great antiquity or interest; the shrines are only of sufficient
size to contain two skulls and a few bones; the style and execution of
the ornaments are also much inferior to many works of the same kind
which are met with in ecclesiastical houses.

The refectory is a separate building, with an apsis at the upper end, in
which stands a marble table where the sacred bread used by the Greek
church is usually placed, and where, I believe, the agoumenos or the
bishop dines on great occasions. The walls of this room are also
painted: not, however, with the representations of celebrated eaters,
but with the likenesses of such thin, famished-looking saints that they
seem most inappropriate as ornaments to a dining-room. The kitchen,
which stands near the refectory, is a circular building of great
antiquity, but the interior being pitch dark when I looked in, and there
coming from the door a dusty cold smell, which did not savour of any
dainty fare, I did not examine it.

The monks and the abbot had now assembled in the room where the capstan
stood. Ten or twelve of them arranged themselves in order at the bars,
the net was spread upon the floor, and, having sat down upon it
cross-legged, the four corners were gathered up over my head, and
attached to the hook at the end of the rope. All being ready, the monks
at the capstan took a few steps round, the effect of which was to lift
me off the floor and to launch me out of the door right into the sky,
with an impetus which kept me swinging backwards and forwards at a
fearful rate; when the oscillation had in some measure ceased the abbot
and another monk, leaning out of the door, steadied me with their hands,
and I was let down slowly and gently to the ground.

When I was disencumbered of the net by my friends the robbers below, I
sat down on a stone, and waited while the rope brought down, first my
servants, and then the baggage. All this being accomplished without
accident, I sent the horses, baggage, and one servant to the great
monastery of Meteora, where I proposed to sleep; and, with the other
servant and the palicari, started on foot for a tour among the other
monasteries.

A delightful walk of an hour and a half brought us to the entrance of
the monastery of Hagios Stephanos, to which we gained access by a wooden
drawbridge. The rock on which this monastery stands is isolated on three
sides, and on the fourth is separated from the mountain by a deep chasm
which, at the point where the drawbridge is placed, is not more than
twelve feet wide. The interior of this building resembles St. Barlaam,
inasmuch as it consists of a confused mass of buildings, surrounding an
irregularly-formed court, of which the principal feature is the church.
The paintings in it are not so numerous as at St Barlaam, but the
iconostasis, or screen before the altar, is most beautifully carved,
something in the style of Grinlin Gibbons: the pictures upon it being
surrounded with frames of light open work, consisting of foliage, birds,
and flowers in alto rilievo, cut out of a light-coloured wood in the
most delicate manner. I was told that the whole of this beautiful work
had been executed in Russia, and put up here during the reign of Ali
Pasha, who had the good policy to protect the Greeks, and by that means
to ensure the co-operation of one half of the population of the country.

In this monastery there were thirteen or fourteen monks and several
women. On my inquiring for the library, one of the monks, after some
demurring, opened a cupboard door; he then unfastened a second door at
the back of it which led into a secret chamber, where the books of the
monastery were kept. They were in number about one hundred and fifty;
but I was disappointed at finding that although thus carefully concealed
there was not a single volume amongst them remarkable for its antiquity
or for any other cause: in fact, they were not worth the trouble of
turning over. The view from this monastery is very fine: at the foot of
the rock is the village of Kalabaki, to the east the citadel of Tricala
stands above a wide level plain watered by the river which we had
followed from its sources in Mount Pindus; beyond this a sea of distant
blue hills extends to the foot of Mount Olympus, whose summit, clothed
in perpetual snow, towers above all the other mountains. The whole of
this region is inhabited by a race of a different origin from the real
Albanians: they speak the Wallachian language, and are said to be
extremely barbarous and ignorant. Observing that the village of Kalabaki
presented a singularly black appearance, I inquired the cause: it had,
they said, been recently burned and sacked by the klephti or robbers
(some of my friends, perhaps), and the remnant of the inhabitants had
taken refuge in the two monasteries of Hagios Nicholas and Agia Mone,
which had been deserted by the monks some time before. The poor people
in these two impregnable fastnesses were, they told me, so suspicious
of strangers and in such a state of alarm, that there was no use in my
visiting them, as to a certainty they would not admit me; and as it
appeared that everything portable had been removed when the caloyeri
(the monks) had departed from their impoverished homes, I gave up the
idea.

I then proceeded along a romantic path to the monastery of Agia Triada,
and on the way my servants entertained me by an account of what the
monks had told them of their admiration of the Pasha of Tricala, whom
they considered as a perfect model of a governor; and that it would be a
blessing for the country if all other pashas were like him, as then all
the roving bands of robbers, who spread terror and desolation through
the land, would be cleared away. There is, it seems, a high tower over
the gate of the town of Tricala, and when the Pasha caught any people
whom he thought worthy of the distinction, he had them taken up to the
top of this tower and thrown from it against the city walls, which his
provident care had furnished with numerous large iron hooks, projecting
about the length of a man's arm, which caught the bodies of the culprits
as they fell, and on which they hung on either side of the town gate,
affording a pleasing and instructive spectacle to the people who came in
to market of a morning.

Agia Triada contains about ten or twelve monks, who pulled me up to the
entrance of their monastery with a rope thirty-two fathoms long. This
monastery, like the others, resembles a small village, of which the
houses stand huddled round the little painted church. Here I found one
hundred books, all very musty and very uninteresting. I saw no
manuscripts whatever, nor was there anything worthy of observation in
the habitation of the impoverished community. Having paid my respects to
the grim effigies of the bearded saints upon the chapel walls, I was let
down again by the rope, and walked on, still through most romantic
scenery, to the monastery of Hagia Roserea.

The rock upon which this monastery stands is about a hundred feet high;
it is perfectly isolated, and quite smooth and perpendicular on all
sides, and so small that there is only room enough for the various
buildings, without leaving any space for a garden. In fact, the
buildings, although far from large, cover the whole summit of the rock.
When we had shouted and made as much noise as we could for some time, an
old woman came out upon a sort of wooden balcony over our heads; another
woman followed her, and they began to talk and scream at us both
together, so that we could not understand what they said. At last, one
of them screaming louder than the other, we found that the monks were
all out, and that these two ladies being the only garrison of the place
declined the honour of our visit, and would not let down the rope
ladder, which was drawn half way up. We used all the arguments we could
think of, and told the old gentlewomen that they were the most beautiful
creatures in the world, but all to no purpose; they were not to be
overcome by our soft speeches, and would not let down the ladder an
inch. Finding there were no hopes of getting in, we told them they were
the ugliest old wretches in the country, and that we would not come near
them if they asked us upon their knees; upon which they screamed and
chattered louder than ever, and we walked off in high indignation.



CHAPTER XX.


     The great Monastery of Meteora--The Church--Ugliness of the
     Portraits of Greek Saints--Greek Mode of Washing the Hands--A
     Monastic Supper--Morning View from the Monastery--The
     Library--Beautiful MSS.--Their Purchase--The Kitchen--Discussion
     among the Monks as to the Purchase Money for the MSS.--The MSS.
     reclaimed--A last Look at their Beauties--Proposed Assault of the
     Monastery by the Robber Escort.


As the day was drawing to a close we turned our steps towards the great
monastery of Meteora, where we arrived just before dark. The vast rock
upon which it is built is separated from the end of a projecting line of
mountains by a widish chasm, at the bottom of which we found ourselves,
after scrambling up a path which wound among masses of rock and huge
stones which at some remote period had fallen from above.

Having reached the foot of the precipice under the monastery, we stopped
in the middle of this dark chasm and fired a gun, as we had done at the
monastery of Barlaam. Presently, after a careful reconnoitring from
several long-bearded monks, a rope with a net at the end of it came
slowly down to us, a distance of about twenty-five fathoms; and being
bundled into the net, I was slowly drawn up into the monastery, where I
was lugged in at the window by two of the strongest of the brethren, and
after having been dragged along the floor and unpacked, I was presented
to the admiring gaze of the whole reverend community, who were assembled
round the capstan. This is by far the largest of the convents in this
region; it is also in better order than the others, and is inhabited by
a greater number of caloyers; I omitted to count their number, but there
may have been about twenty: the monastery is, however, calculated to
contain three times that number. The buildings both in their nature and
arrangement are very similar to those of St. Barlaam, excepting that
they are somewhat more extensive, and that there is a faint attempt at
cultivating a garden which surrounded three sides of the monastery. Like
all the other monasteries, it has no parapet wall.

The church had a large open porch before it, where some of the caloyers
sat and talked in the evening; it was painted in fresco of bright
colours, with most edifying representations of the tortures and
martyrdoms of little ugly saints, very hairy and very holy, and so like
the old caloyers themselves, who were discoursing before them, that they
might have been taken for their portraits. These Greek monks have a
singular love for the devil, and for everything horrible and hideous. I
never saw a picture of a well-looking Greek saint anywhere, and yet the
earlier Greek artists in their conceptions of the personages of Holy
Writ sometimes approached the sublime; and in the miniatures of some of
the manuscripts written previous to the twelfth century, which I
collected in the Levant, there are figures of surpassing dignity and
solemnity: yet in Byzantine and Egyptian art that purity and angelic
expression so much to be admired in the works of Beato Angelico,
Giovanni Bellini, and other early Italian masters, are not to be found.
The more exalted and refined feeling which prompted the execution of
those sublime works seems never to have existed in the Greek church,
which goes on century after century, even up to the present time, using
the same conventional and stiff forms, so that to the unpractised eye
there would be considerable difficulty in discovering the difference
between a Greek picture of a saint of the ninth century from one of the
nineteenth. The agoumenos, a young active man with a good deal of
intelligence in his countenance, sent word that the hour of supper was
at hand, previously, however, to which I went through the process of
washing my hands in, or rather over a Turkish basin with a perforated
cover and a little vase in the middle for the piece of fresh-smelling
soap in common use, which is so very much better than ours in England
that I wonder none has been as yet imported, a venerable monk all the
while pouring the water over my hands from a vessel resembling an
antique coffee-pot. I then dried my fingers on an embroidered towel, and
sat down with the agoumenos and another officer of the monastery before
a metal tray covered with various dainty dishes. We three sat upon
cushions on the floor, and the tray stood upon a wooden stool turned
upside down, according to the usual fashion of the country: no meat had
entered into the composition of our feast, but it was very savoury
nevertheless, and our fingers were soon in the midst of the most
tempting dishes, knives and forks being considered as useless
superfluities. When my right hand was anointed with any oleaginous
mixture, which it was very frequently indeed, if I wanted to drink, a
monk held a silver bowl to my lips and a napkin under my chin, as you
serve babies; after which I began again, until with a sigh I was obliged
to throw myself back from the tray, and holding my hands aloft, the
perforated basin and the coffee-pot made their appearance again. A cup
of piping hot coffee concluded the evening's entertainment, and I
retired to another room--the guest chamber--which opened upon a narrow
court hard by, where all my things had been arranged. A long, thin
candle was placed on a small stool in the middle of the floor, and
having winked at the long rays which darted out of it for some time, I
rolled myself into a comfortable position in the corner, and was asleep
before I had settled upon any optical theory to account for them; nor
did the dull, monotonous sound of the mallet, which, struck on a
suspended board, called the good brethren to midnight prayer, disturb
me for more than a moment.

_Nov. 10._--Just before the dawn of day I opened the shutters of the
unglazed windows of my room and surveyed the scene before me; all still
looked grey and cold, and it was only towards the east that the distant
outline of the mountains showed clear and distinct against the dark sky.
By degrees the clouds, which had slept upon the shoulders of the hills,
rose slowly and heavily, whilst the valleys gradually assumed all their
soft and radiant beauty. It seemed to me as if I should never tire of
gazing at this view. In the course of time, however, breakfast appeared,
and having rapidly despatched it, I went to look at the buildings and
curiosities.

The church resembles that of St. Barlaam, but is in better order; and
the paintings are more brilliant in colour and are more profusely
decorated with gold. There is a dome above the centre of the church, and
the iconostasis or screen before the altar is ornamented with the usual
stiff pictures and carving, but the latter is not to be compared to that
in the monastery of St. Stephanos. There were some silver shrines
containing relics, but they were not particularly interesting either as
to workmanship or antiquity. The most interesting thing is a picture
ascribed to St. Luke, which, whatever may be its real history, is
evidently a very ancient and curious painting.

The books are preserved in a range of low-vaulted and secret rooms, very
well concealed in a sort of mezzanine: the entrance to them is through a
door at the back of a cupboard in an outer chamber, in the same way as
at St Stephanos. There are about two thousand volumes of very rubbishy
appearance, not new enough for the monks to read or old enough for them
to sell; in fact, they are almost valueless. I found, however, a few
Aldines and Greek books of the sixteenth century, printed in Italy, some
of which may be rather rare editions, but I saw none of the fifteenth
century. I did not count the number of the manuscripts; there are,
however, some hundreds of them, mostly on paper; but, excepting two,
they were all liturgies and church books. These two were poems. One
appeared to be on some religious subject, the other was partly
historical and partly the poetical effusions of St. Athanasius of
Meteora. I searched in vain for the manuscripts of Hesiod and Sophocles
mentioned by Biornstern; some later antiquarian may, perhaps, have got
possession of them and taken them to some country where they will be
more appreciated than they were here. After looking over the books on
the shelves, the librarian, an old grey-bearded monk, opened a great
chest in which things belonging to the church were kept; and here I
found ten or twelve manuscripts of the Gospels, all of the eleventh or
twelfth century. They were upon vellum, and all, except one, were small
quartos; but this one was a large quarto, and one of the most beautiful
manuscripts of its kind I have met with anywhere. In many respects it
resembled the Codex Ebnerianus in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. It was
ornamented with miniatures of the same kind as those in that splendid
volume, but they were more numerous and in a good style of art; it was,
in fact, as richly ornamented as a Romish missal, and was in excellent
preservation, except one miniature at the beginning, which had been
partially smeared over by the wet finger of some ancient sloven. Another
volume of the Gospels, in a very small, clear hand, bound in a kind of
silver filagree of the same date as the book, also excited my
admiration. Those who take an interest in literary antiquities of this
class are aware of the great rarity of an ornamental binding in a
Byzantine manuscript. This must doubtless have been the pocket volume of
some royal personage. To my great joy the librarian allowed me to take
these two books to the room of the agoumenos, who agreed to sell them to
me for I forget how many pieces of gold, which I counted out to him
immediately, and which he seemed to pocket with the sincerest
satisfaction. Never was any one more welcome to his money, although I
left myself but little to pay the expenses of my journey back to Corfu.
Such books as these would be treasures in the finest national collection
in Europe.

[Illustration]

We looked at the refectory, which also resembled that at Barlaam. The
kitchen, however, merits a detailed description. This very ancient
building, perched upon the extreme edge of the precipice, was square in
its plan, with a steep roof of stone, the top of which was open. Within,
upon a square platform of stone, there were four columns serving for the
support of the roof, which was arched all round, except in the space
between the tops of the columns, where it was open to the sky. This
platform was the hearth, where the fire was lit, whilst smaller fires of
charcoal might be lit all round against the wall, where there were stone
dressers for the purpose, so that in fact the building was all chimney
and fireplace; and when a great dinner was prepared on a feast-day the
principal difficulty must have been to have prevented the cook from
being roasted among the other meats. The whole of the arched roof was
thickly covered with lumps of soot, the accumulations probably of
centuries. The ancient kitchens at Glastonbury and at Stanton Harcourt
are constructed a good deal upon the same plan, but this is probably a
much earlier specimen of culinary architecture. The porch outside the
church is larger than ordinary, and extends, if I remember rightly,
along the side of that building which stands in the principal court, and
is not, as is usually the case, attached to the end of the church, over
the principal door.

Having seen all that was worthy of observation, I was waiting in the
court near the door leading to the place where the monks were assembled
to lower me down to the earth again. Just as I was ready to start there
arose a discussion among them as to the distribution of the money which
I had paid for the two manuscripts. The agoumenos wanted to keep it all
for himself, or at least for the expenses of the monastery; but the
villain of a librarian swore he would have half. The agoumenos said he
should not have a farthing, but as the librarian would not give way he
offered him a part of the spoil; however, he did not offer him enough,
and out of spite and revenge, or, as he protested, out of uprightness of
principle, he told all the monks that the agoumenos had pocketed the
money which he had received for their property, for that they all had a
right to an equal share in these books, as in all the other things
belonging to the community. The monks, even the most dunderheaded, were
not slow in taking this view of the subject, and all broke out into a
clamorous assertion of their rights, every man of them speaking at once.
The price I had given was so large that every one of them would have
received several pieces of gold each. But no, they said, it was not
that, but for the principles of justice that they contended. They did
not want the money, no more did the librarian, but they would not
suffer their rules to be outraged or their rights to be trampled under
foot. In the monasteries of St. Basil all the members of the society had
equal rights--they ate in common, they prayed in common, everything was
bought and sold for the benefit of the community at large. Tears fell
from the eyes of some of the particularly virtuous monks; others stamped
upon the ground, and showed a thoroughly rebellious spirit. As for me, I
kept aloof, waiting to see what might be the result.

The agoumenos, who was evidently a man of superior abilities, calmly
endeavoured to explain. He told the unruly brethren exactly what the sum
was for which he had sold the books, and said that the money was not for
his own private use, but to be laid out for the benefit of all, in the
same way as the ordinary revenues of the monastery, which, he added,
would soon prove quite insufficient if so large a portion of them
continued to be divided among the individual members. He told them that
the monastery was poor and wanted money, and that this large sum would
be most useful for certain necessary expenses. But although he used many
unanswerable arguments, the old brute of a librarian had completely
awakened the spirit of discord, and the ignorant monks were ready to be
led into rebellion, by any one and for any reason or none. At last the
contest waxed so warm that the sale of the two manuscripts was almost
lost sight of, and every one began to quarrel with his neighbour, the
entire community being split into various little angry groups,
chattering, gesticulating, and wagging their long beards.

After a while the agoumenos, calling my interpreter, said that as the
monks would not agree to let him keep the money in the usual way for the
use of the monastery, he could have nothing to do with it; and to my
great sorrow I was therefore obliged to receive it back, and to give up
the two beautiful manuscripts, which I had already looked upon as the
chief ornaments of my library in England. The monks all looked sadly
downcast at this unexpected termination of their noble defence of their
principles, and my only consolation was to perceive that they were quite
as much vexed as I was. In fact we felt that we had gained a loss all
round, and the old librarian, after walking up and down once or twice
with his hands behind his back in gloomy silence, retreated to a hole
where he lived, near the library, and I saw no more of him.

My bag was brought forward, and when the books were extracted from it, I
sat down on a stone in the court yard, and for the last time turned over
the gilded leaves and admired the ancient and splendid illuminations of
the larger manuscript, the monks standing round me as I looked at the
blue cypress-trees, and green and gold peacocks, and intricate
arabesques, so characteristic of the best times of Byzantine art. Many
of the pages bore a great resemblance to the painted windows of the
earlier Norman cathedrals of Europe. It was a superb old book: I laid it
down upon the stone beside me and placed the little volume with its
curious silver binding on the top of it, and it was with a sigh that I
left them there with the sun shining on the curious silver ornaments.

Amongst other arguments it had been asserted by some of the monks that
nothing could be sold out of the monastery without the leave of the
Bishop of Tricala, and, as a forlorn hope, they now proposed that the
agoumenos should go to some place in the vicinity where the bishop was
said to be, and that, if he gave permission, the two books should be
forwarded immediately by a trusty man to the khan of Malacash, where I
was to pass the night. I consented to this plan, although I had no hope
of obtaining the manuscripts, as in the present unsettled state of the
country the bishop would naturally calculate on the probability of the
messenger being robbed, and on the improbability of his meeting me at
the khan, as it would be absolutely necessary for me to leave the place
before sunrise the next day.

All this being arranged I proceeded to the chamber of the windlass, was
put into the net, swung out into the air, and let down. They let me down
very badly, being all talking and scolding each other; and had I not
made use of my hands and feet to keep myself clear of the projecting
points of the rock I should have fared badly. To increase my perils, my
friends the palicari at the bottom, to testify their joy at my
re-appearance, rested their long guns across their knees and fired them
off, without the slightest attention to the direction of the barrels,
which were all loaded with ball-cartridge: the bullets spattered against
the rock close to me, and in the midst of the smoke I came down and was
caught in the arms of my affectionate thieves, who bundled me out of my
net with many extraordinary screeches of welcome.

When my servants arrived and informed them of our recent disappointment,
"What!" cried they, "would they not let you take the books? Stop a bit,
we will soon get them for you!" And away they ran to the series of
ladders which hung down another part of the precipice: they would have
been up in a minute, for they scrambled like cats; but by dint of
running after them and shouting we at length got them to come back, and
after some considerable expenditure of oaths and exclamations, kicking
of horses, and loading of guns and saddle-bags, we found ourselves
slowly winding our way back towards the valley of the Peneus.

After all, what an interesting event it would have been, what a standard
anecdote in bibliomaniac history, if I had let my friendly thieves have
their own way, and we had stormed the monastery, broken open the secret
door of the library, pitched the old librarian over the rocks, and
marched off in triumph, with a gorgeous manuscript under each arm!
Indeed I must say that under such aggravating circumstances it required
a great exercise of forbearance not to do so, and in the good old times
many a castle has been attacked and many a town besieged and pillaged
for much slighter causes of offence than those which I had to complain
of.



CHAPTER XXI.


     Return Journey--Narrow Escape--Consequences of Singing--Arrival at
     the Khan of Malacash--Agreeable Anecdote--Parting from the Robbers
     at Mezzovo--A Pilau--Wet Ride to Paramathia--Accident to the
     Baggage-Mule--Its wonderful Escape--Novel Costume--A
     Deputation--Return to Corfu.


We made our way from the plain and rocks of Meteora by a different path
from the one by which we had arrived, and travelled along the north side
of the valley of the Peneus; we kept along the side of the hills, which
were covered sometimes with forest and sometimes with a kind of jungle
or underwood.

During the afternoon of this day, as I was singing away as usual in
advance of my party, some one shouted to me from the thicket, but I took
no notice of it. However, before I had ridden on many steps a man jumped
out of the bush, seized hold of my horse's bridle, and proceeded to draw
his pistol from his belt, but luckily the lock had got entangled in the
shawl which he wore round his waist. I pushed my horse against him, and
in a moment one of us would have been shot; when the appearance of three
or four bright gun-barrels in the bushes close by stopped our
proceedings. My men now came running up.

"Hallo!" said one of them. "Is that you? You must not attack this
gentleman. He is our friend; he is one of us."

"What!" said the man who had stopped me; "Is that you, Mahommed? Is that
you, Hassan? What are you doing here? How is this? Is this your friend?
I thought he was a Frank."

In short, they explained what kind of brotherhood we had entered into,
where we had been, and where we were going, and all about it. I did not
understand much of their conversation, and in the midst of it the
Albanian came up to me with a reproachful air and told me that they said
my being stopped was owing to my singing, and making such a noise. "Why,
Sir," he added, "can't you ride quietly, without letting people know
where you are? Why can't you do as others do, and be still, like a--"

"Thief," said I.

"Yes, Sir; or like a quiet traveller. In such troublesome times as
these, however honest a man may be, he need not try to excite
attention."

I felt that the advice was good, and practised it occasionally
afterwards.

In seven hours' time we arrived at the khan of Malacash, where I had
slept before; and my carpet was spread in my old corner. I heard my
companions talking earnestly about something, and on asking what it was,
I was told that they could not make out which room it was where the
people had been murdered--this room or the outer one.

"How was that?" I inquired.

Why, some time ago, they said, a party of travellers, people belonging
to the country, were attacked by robbers at this khan. One of the party,
after he had been plundered, had the imprudence to say that he knew who
the thieves were. Upon this the gang, after a short consultation, took
the party out, one by one, and cut all their throats in the next room;
and this was before the present disturbed state of the country.
Nevertheless, I slept very soundly, my only sorrow being that no tidings
came of the two manuscripts from Meteora.

_November 11th._--In our journey of this day we crossed the chain of the
Pindus by a different pass from the one by which we had traversed it
before; and in the evening we arrived at Mezzovo, where I was lodged by
a schoolmaster who had a comfortable house. The ceiling of the room
where we sat was hung all over with bunches of dried or rather drying
grapes. Here I presented each of my escort with a small bundle of
piasters. We had become so much pleased with each other in the few days
we had been together, that we had quite an affecting parting. Their
chief, the red velvet personage from whom I had received the letter
which gained me the pleasure of their company, was gone, it appeared,
towards Berat; but they had found some of their companions, with whom
they intended to retire to some small place of defence, the name of
which I did not make out, where in a few days they expected to be told
what they were to do.

"Why won't you come with us?" said they. "Don't go back to live in a
confined, stupid town, to sit all day in a house, and look out of the
window. Go back with us into the mountains, where we know every pass,
every rock, and every waterfall: you should command us; we would get
some more men together: we will go wherever you like, and a rare jolly
life we will lead."

"Gentlemen," said I, "I take your kind offers as highly complimentary to
me; I am proud to think that I have gained so high a place in your
estimation. When you see your captain, pray assure him of my friendship,
and how much I feel indebted to him for having given me such gallant and
faithful guards."

The poor fellows were evidently sorry to leave me: one of them, the most
active and gay of the whole party, seemed more than half inclined to
cry; so, cordially shaking hands with them before the door of the
schoolmaster of Mezzovo, we parted, with expressions of mutual goodwill.

"Thank goodness they are gone!" said the little schoolmaster; "those
palicari are all over the country now; some belong to one chief, some to
another; some are for Mahmoud Pasha, and some against him; but I don't
know which party is the worst; they are all rogues, every one of them,
when they have an opportunity--scamps! sad scamps! These are hard times
for quiet, peaceably-disposed people. So now, Sir, we will come in, and
lock the door, and make up the fire, for the nights are getting cold."

The schoolmaster had a snug fireplace, with a good divan on each side of
it, of blue cloth or baize. These divans came close up to the hearth,
which, like the divans, was raised two feet above the floor. The good
man brought out his little stores of preserves and marmalade. He was an
old bachelor, and we soon made ourselves very comfortable, one on each
side of the fire. We had a famous pilau, made by my "_artist_," and the
schoolmaster gave us raisins to put in it--not that they are a necessary
part of that excellent condiment, but he had not much else to give; so
we flavoured the pilau with raisins, as if it had been a lamb, which, by
the by, is the prince of Oriental dishes, and, when stuffed with
almonds, raisins, pistachio nuts, rice, bread-crumbs, pepper and salt,
and well roasted, is a dish to set before a king.

The schoolmaster, judging of me by the company I kept, never suspected
my literary pursuits, and was surprised when I asked him if he knew of
anything in that line, and assured him that I had no objection to do a
little business in the manuscript way. He said he knew of an old
merchant who had a great many books, and that to-morrow we would go and
see them. Accordingly, the next day we went to see the merchant's house;
but his collection was good for nothing; and after returning for an hour
or two to the schoolmaster's hospitable mansion, we got into marching
order, and defiled off the village green of Mezzovo.

After fording the river thirty-nine times, as we had done before, our
jaded steeds at last stood panting under the windows of the doctor at
Yanina, whose comfortable house we had left only a few days before. I
stayed at Yanina one day, but the Pasha could not see me to hear my
account of the protection I had enjoyed from his firman. A messenger had
arrived from Constantinople, and the report in the town was that the
Pasha would lose his head or his pashalic if he did not put down the
disturbances which had arisen in every part of his government. Some said
he would escape by bribing the ministers of the Porte; but as I was no
politician I did not trouble myself much on the subject His Highness,
however, was good enough to send me word that he would give me any
assistance that I needed. Accordingly, I asked for a teskéré for
post-horses; and the next day galloped in ten hours to Paramathia. All
day long the rain poured down in torrents, and I waded through the bed
of the swollen stream, which usually served for a high-road, I do not
know how many times. I was told the distance was about sixty miles; and
it was one of the hardest day's riding I ever accomplished; for there
was nothing deserving the name of a road any part of the way; and the
entire day was passed in tearing up and down the rocks or wading in the
swollen stream. The rain and the cold compelled us and our horses to do
our best: in a hot day we could never have accomplished it.

Towards the afternoon, when we were, by computation, about twenty-five
miles from Paramathia, as we were proceeding at a trot along a narrow
ledge above a stream, the baggage-horse, or mule I think he was, whose
halter was tied to the crupper of my horse, suddenly missed his footing,
and fell over the precipice. He caught upon the edge with his fore-feet,
the halter supported his head, and my horse immediately stopping, leant
with all his might against the wall of rock which rose above us,
squeezing my left leg between it and the saddle. The noise of the wind
and rain, and the dashing of the torrent underneath, prevented my
servants hearing my shouts for assistance. I was the last of the party;
and I had the pleasure of seeing all my company trotting on, rising in
their stirrups, and bumping along the road before me, unconscious of
anything having occurred to check their progress towards the journey's
end. It was so bad a day that no one thought of anything but getting on.
Every man for himself was the order of the day. I could not dismount,
because my left leg was squeezed so tightly against the rock, that I
every moment expected the bone to snap. My horse's feet were projected
towards the edge of the precipice, and in this way he supported the
fallen mule, who endeavoured to retain his hold with his chin and his
fore-legs. There we were--the mule's eyeballs almost starting out of his
head, and all his muscles quivering with the exertion. At last something
cracked: the staple in the back of my saddle gave way; off flew the
crupper, and I thought at first my horse's tail was gone with it. The
baggage-mule made one desperate scrambling effort, but it was of no use,
and down he went, over and over among the crashing bushes far beneath,
until at length he fell with a loud splash into the waters of the
stream. Some of the people hearing the noise made by the falling mule,
turned round and came back to see what was the matter; and, horse and
men, we all craned our necks over the edge to see what had become of our
companion. There he was in the river, with nothing but his head above
the water. With some difficulty we made our way down to the edge of the
torrent. The mule kept looking at us very quietly all the while till we
got close to him, when the muleteer proceeded to assist him by banging
him on the head with a great branch of a tree, upon which he took to
struggling and scrambling, and at last, to the surprise of all, came out
apparently unhurt, at least with no bones broken. The men looked him
over, walked him about, gave him a kick or two by way of asking him how
he was, and then placing his load upon him again, we pursued our
journey.

Before dark we arrived at Paramathia, and went straight to the house
where we had been so hospitably received before. We crawled up like so
many drowned rats into the upper rooms, where we were met by the whole
troop of ladies giggling, screaming, and talking, as if they had never
stopped since we left them a week before. When the baggage came to be
undone, alas! what a wreck was there! The coffee and the sugar and the
shirts had formed an amalgam; mud, shoes, and cambric handkerchiefs all
came out together; not a thing was dry. The only consolation was that
the beautiful illuminated manuscripts of Meteora had not participated in
this dirty deluge.

I was wet to the skin, and my boots were full of water. In this dilemma
I asked if our hosts could not lend me something to put on until some of
my own clothes could be dried. The ladies were full of pity and
compassion; but unfortunately all the men were from home, not having
returned from their daily occupations in the bazaar, and their clothes
could not be got at. At last the good-humoured young bride, seeing that
wherever I stood there was always, in a couple of minutes' time, a
puddle upon the floor, entered into an animated consultation with the
other ladies, and before long they brought me a shirt, and an immense
garment it was, like an English surplice, embroidered in gay colours
down the seams. The fair bride contributed the white capote, which I
remembered on my former visit, and a girdle. I soon donned this
extempore costume. My wet clothes were taken to a great fire, which was
lit for the purpose in another room, and I proceeded to dry my hair with
a long narrow towel, its ends heavy with gold embroidery, which one of
the ladies warmed far me, and twisted round my head in the way usual in
the Turkish bath--a method of drying the head well known in most eastern
towns, and which saves a great deal of trouble and exertion in rubbing
and brushing according to the European method.

I had ensconced myself in the corner of the divan, having nothing else
in the way of clothes beyond what I have mentioned, and was employed in
looking at one of my feet, which I had stuck out for the purpose,
admiring it in all its pristine beauty, for there were no spare slippers
to be had, when the curtain was suddenly lifted from over the door, and
my servant rushed in and told me with a troubled voice, that the
authorities of Paramathia, grieved at their remissness on the former
occasion, had presented themselves to compliment me on my arrival in
their town, and had brought me a present of tobacco or something, I
forget what, in testimony of their anxiety to show their good-will and
respect to so distinguished a personage as myself. "Don't let them in!"
I exclaimed. "Tell them I will receive them to-morrow. Say anything,
but only keep them out." But this was more than my servants could
accomplish. My friends at Corfu had sent letters explaining the
prodigious honour conferred upon the whole province of Albania by my
presence, so that nothing could stop them, and in walked a file of grave
elders in long gowns, one or two in stately fur pelisses, which I envied
them very much. They took very little notice of me, as I sat screwed up
in the corner, and all, ranging themselves upon the divan on the
opposite side of the room, sat in solemn silence, looking at me out of
the corners of their eyes, whenever they thought they could do so
without my perceiving it.

My servant stood in the middle of the room to interpret; and after he
had remained there a prodigious while, as it seemed to me, the most
venerable of the old gentlemen at last said, "I am Signor Dimitri
So-and-so; this is Signor Anastasi So-and-so; this gentleman is uncle to
the master of the house; and so on. We are come to pay our respects to
the noble and illustrious Englishman who passed through this place
before. Pray have the goodness to signify our arrival to his Excellency,
and say that we are waiting here to have the honour of offering him our
services. Where is the respected milordos?" Although I could not speak
Romaic, yet I understood it sufficiently to know what the old gentleman
was saying; and great was their surprise and admiration when they found
that the unhappy and very insufficiently-clothed little fellow in the
corner was the illustrious milordos himself. The said milordos had now
to explain how all his baggage had been upset over a precipice, and that
he was not exactly prepared to receive so distinguished a party. After
mutual apologies, which ended in a good laugh all round, pipes and
coffee were brought in. The visit of ceremony was concluded in as
dignified a manner as circumstances would permit; and they went away
convinced that I must be a very great man in my own country, as I did
not get up more than a few inches to salute them, either on their entry
or departure--a most undue assumption of dignity on my part which I
sincerely regretted, but which the state of my costume rendered
absolutely necessary.

_November 15th._--The morning of the following day was bright and clear.
I procured fresh horses, and galloped in six hours to the sea at
Gominiza. A small vessel was riding at anchor near the shore, whose
captain immediately closed with the offer of four dollars to carry me
over to Corfu. I was soon on board; and, creeping into a small
three-cornered hole under the half-deck, to which I gained access by a
hatchway about a foot and a half square, I rolled myself up upon some
ropes, and fell asleep at once. It seemed as if I had not been asleep an
instant, when my servant, putting his head into the square aperture
above, said, "Signore siamo qui." "Yes," said I, "but where is that?
What! are we really at Corfu?" I popped my head out of the trap, and
there we were sure enough--my fatigue of the day before having made me
sleep so soundly that I had been perfectly unconscious of the duration
of the voyage; and I landed on the quay congratulating myself on having
accomplished the most dangerous and most rapid expedition that it ever
was my fortune to undertake.



MONASTERIES OF THE LEVANT.

PART IV.

THE MONASTERIES OF MOUNT ATHOS.

[Illustration: THE NORTH WEST SIDE OF THE PROMONTORY OF MOUNT ATHOS,
WITH A VIEW OF THE THE MONASTERY OF PANTOCRATORAS]



CHAPTER XXII.


     Constantinople--The Patriarch's Palace--The Plague, Anecdotes,
     Superstitions--The Two Jews--Interview with the
     Patriarch--Ceremonies of Reception--The Patriarch's Misconception
     as to the Archbishop of Canterbury--He addresses a Firman to the
     Monks of Mount Athos--Preparations for Departure--The Ugly Greek
     Interpreter--Mode of securing his Fidelity.


I had been for some time enjoying the hospitality of Lord and Lady
Ponsonby at the British palace at Therapia, when I determined to put
into execution a project I had long entertained of examining the
libraries in the monasteries of Mount Athos. As no traveller had been
there since the days of Dr. Clarke, I could obtain but little
information about the place before I left England. But the Archbishop of
Canterbury was kind enough to give me a letter to the Patriarch of
Constantinople, in which he requested him to furnish me with any
facilities in his power in my researches among the Greek monasteries
which owned his sway.

Armed with this valuable document, one day in the spring of the year
1837 I started in a caïque with some gentlemen of the embassy, and
proceeded to the palace of the Patriarch in the Fanar--a part of
Constantinople situated between the ancient city wall and the port so
well known by its name of the Golden Horn. The Fanar does not derive its
appellation from the word fanar, a lantern or lighthouse, but from the
two words _fena yer_, a bad place; for it is in a low, dirty situation,
where only the conquered Greeks were permitted to reside immediately
after the conquest of their metropolis by the Sultan Mahommed II. The
palace is a large, dilapidated, shabby-looking building, chiefly of wood
painted black; it stands in an open court or yard on a steep slope, and
looks out over some lower houses to the Golden Horn and the hills of
Pera and Galata beyond.[12]

After waiting a little while in a large, dirty ante-room, during which
time there was a scuffling and running up and down of priests and
deacons, who were surprised and perhaps a little alarmed at a visit
from so numerous a company of gentlemen belonging to the British
embassy, we were introduced into a large square room furnished with a
divan under the windows and down two sides of the chamber. This divan
was covered with a rough sacking of grey goats' hair--a stuff which is
said not to be susceptible of the plague; and people sitting on it, or
on the bare boards, are not considered to be "_compromised_"--a word of
fearful import when that awful pestilence is raging in this neglected
city. When any person is compromised, he is obliged to separate from all
society, and to place himself in strict quarantine for forty days, at
the end of which period, if the fright and anxiety have not brought on
the plague, he is received again by his acquaintances. Dealers in oil,
and persons who have an open issue on their bodies, are considered
secure from the plague as far as they themselves are concerned; but as
their clothes will convey the infection, they are as dangerous as others
to their neighbours.

There was an old Armenian, who, whether he considered himself
invulnerable, or whether poverty and misfortune made him reckless, I do
not know; but he set up as a plague-doctor, and visited and touched
those who were stricken with the pestilence. Whenever he came down the
street, every one would start aside and give him three or four yards'
space at least. Sometimes he had men who walked before him and cried to
the people to get out of the way. As the old man moved on in his long,
dark robes, shunned with such horror by all, the mind was awfully
impressed with the fearful nature of the disease; for if the Prince of
Darkness himself had made his appearance in the face of day, no one
could have shown greater alarm at his approach than they did when the
men cried out that the Armenian plague-doctor was coming down the
street.

One peculiarity of the disease is the disinclination which is always
shown by those who are plague-stricken to confess that they are so, or
even to own that they are ill. They invariably conceal it as long as
possible; and even when burning with fever and in an agony of pain, they
will pretend that they are well, and try to walk about. But this attempt
at deception continues for a very short period, for they soon become
either delirious or insensible, and generally are unable to move. There
is a look about the eye and an expression of anxiety and horror in the
face of one who has got the plague which is not to be mistaken nor
forgotten by those who have once seen them. One day at Galata I nearly
ran against a man who was sitting on the ground on a hand-bier, upon
which some Turks were about to carry him away; and the look of the
unfortunate man's face haunted me for days. The expression of hopeless
despair and agony was indeed but too applicable to his case; they were
going to carry him to the plague hospital, from whence I never heard of
any one returning. It would have been far more merciful to have shot him
at once.

There are many curious superstitions and circumstances connected with
the plague. One is, that when the destroying angel enters into a house
the dogs of the quarter assemble in the night and howl before the door;
and the Greeks firmly believe that the dogs can see the evil spirit of
the plague, although it is invisible to human eyes. Some people,
however, are said to have seen the plague, its appearance being that of
an old woman, tall, thin, and ghastly, and dressed sometimes in black,
sometimes in white: she stalks along the streets--glides through the
doors of the habitations of the condemned--and walks once round the room
of her victim, who is from that moment death-smitten. It is also
asserted that, when three small spots make their appearance upon the
knee, the patient is doomed--he has got the plague, and his fate is
sealed. They are called the pilotti--the pilots and harbingers of death.
Some, however, have recovered after these spots have shown themselves.

I had at this time a lodging in a house at Pera, which I occupied when
anything brought me to Constantinople from Therapia. On one occasion I
was sitting with a gentleman whose filial piety did him much honour, for
he had attended his father through the horrors of this illness, and he
had died of the plague in his arms, when we heard the dogs baying in an
unusual way.[13] On looking out of the window there they were all of a
row, seated against the opposite wall, howling mournfully, and looking
up at the houses in the moonlight. One dog looked very hard at me, I
thought: I did not like it at all, and began to investigate whether I
had not some pain or other about me; and this comfortable feeling was
not diminished when my friend's Arab servant came into the room and said
that another person who lodged in the house was very unwell; it was said
that he had had a fall from his horse that morning. The dogs, though we
escaped the plague ourselves, were right; the plague had got into one of
the houses close to us in the same street; but how many died of it I did
not learn.

It was about this time that two Jews--extortioners, poor men, whom
consequently nobody cared about--were walking together in a narrow
street at Galata, when they both dropped down stricken with the plague:
there they lay upon the ground; no one would touch them; and, as the
street was extremely narrow, no one could pass that way; it was in
effect blocked up by the two unhappy men. They did not die quickly. "The
devil was sure of them," the charitable people said, "so he was in no
hurry." There they lay a long time--many days; and people called to
them, and put their heads round the corner of the street to look at
them. Some, tenderer-hearted than the rest, got a long pole from a
dyer's shop hard by, and pushed a tub of water to them, and threw them
some bread, for no one dared approach them. One Jew was quiet: he ate a
little bread and drank some water, and lay still. The other was violent:
the pain of his livid swellings drove him wild, and he shouted and raved
and twisted about upon the ground. The people looked at him from the
corner, and shuddered as they quickly drew back their heads. He died;
and the other Jew still lay there, quiet as he was before, close to the
quiet corpse of his poor friend. For some time they did not know whether
he was dead or not; but at last they found he drank no more water and
ate no more bread; so they knew that he had died also. There lay the two
bodies in the way, till some one paid a hamal--a Turkish porter--who,
being a stanch predestinarian, caring neither for plague, nor Jew, nor
Gentile, dead or alive, carried off the two bodies on his back; and then
the street was passable again.

The Turks have a touching custom when the plague rages very greatly, and
a thousand corpses are carried out daily from Stamboul through the
Adrianople gate to the great groves of cypress which rise over the
burial-grounds beyond the walls. At times of terror and grief, such as
these, the Sheikh Ul Islam causes all the little children to be
assembled on a beautiful green hill called the Oc Maidan--the Place of
Arrows--and there they bow down upon the ground, and raise their
innocent voices in supplication to the Father of Mercy, and implore his
compassion on the afflicted city!

But the grey goats' hair divan of the Patriarch's hall of audience has
led me a long way from the Patriarch himself, who entered the chamber
shortly after our arrival. He appeared to be rather a young man,
certainly not more than thirty-five years of age, with a reddish beard,
which is uncommon in this country. He was dressed in purple silk robes,
like a Greek bishop, and took his seat in the corner of the divan, and
said nothing, and stroked his beard as a pasha might have done.

When we had made our "téménahs," that is, salutations, and little bows,
&c., and were still again, the curtain over the doorway was pushed
aside, and various priestly servants, all without shoes, came in, one of
them bearing a richly embossed silver tray, on which were disposed small
spoons filled with a preserve of lemon-peel; each of us took a spoonful,
and returned the spoon to the dish. Then came various servants--as many
servants as guests--and one presented to each of us a cut-glass cup with
a lid, full of fresh spring-water. Then these disappeared; and others
came in bearing pipes to each of us--a separate servant always coming in
for each person of the company. After we had smoked our pipes for a
short time, a mighty crowd of attendants again entered at the bottom of
the room, among whom was one with a tray, which was covered over with a
satin shawl or cover as richly embroidered with gold as was possible for
its size, and with a deep gold fringe. Another servant took off this
covering, and placed it over the left shoulder of the tray-bearer, who
stood like a statue all the while. Now appeared a man with a silver
censer suspended by three silver chains, and having a coffee-pot
standing upon the burning coals within it. Another man took off the cups
which were upon the tray, filled them with coffee; and then various
servants, each armed with a coffee-cup placed on its silver zarf or
saucer, which he held in his left hand with his thumb and forefinger
only, strode forward with one accord, and we all at the same moment were
presented with our diminutive cup of coffee; the attendants received the
empty cups with both hands, and, walking backwards, disappeared as
silently as they came. All this is a scene of every-day occurrence in
the East, and, with more or less of display, takes place in the house of
every person of consideration.

When we had smoked our pipes for a while, and all the servants had gone
away, I presented the letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was
received in due form; and, after a short explanatory exordium, was read
aloud to the Patriarch, first in English, and then translated into
Greek.

"And who," quoth the Patriarch of Constantinople, the supreme head and
primate of the Greek Church of Asia--"who is the Archbishop of
Canterbury?"

"What?" said I, a little astonished at the question.

"Who," said he, "is this Archbishop?"

"Why, the Archbishop of Canterbury."

"Archbishop of _what_?" said the Patriarch.

"_Canterbury_," said I.

"Oh," said the Patriarch. "Ah! yes! and who is he?"

Here all my English friends and myself were taken aback sadly; we had
not imagined that the high-priest before us could be ignorant of such a
matter as the one in question. The Patriarch of the Greek church, the
successor of Gregory Nazianzen, St. John Chrysostom, and the heresiarch
Nestorius, seemed not to be aware that there were any other
denominations of Christians besides those of his own church and the
Church of Rome. But the fact is that the Patriarch of Constantinople is
merely the puppet of an intriguing faction of the Greek bankers and
usurers of the Fanar, who select for the office some man of straw whom
they feel secure they can rule, and whose appointment they obtain by a
heavy bribe paid to the Sultan; for the head of the Christian Church is
appointed by the Mahomedan Emperor!

We explained, and said that the Archbishop of Canterbury was a man
eminent for his great learning and his Christian virtues; that he was
the primate and chief of the great reformed Church of England, and a
personage of such high degree, that he ranked next to the blood-royal;
that from time immemorial the Archbishop of Canterbury was the great
dignitary who placed the crown upon the head of our kings--those kings
whose power swayed the destinies of Europe and of the world; and that
this present Archbishop and Primate had himself placed the crown upon
the head of King William IV., and that he would also soon crown our
young Queen.

"Well," replied the Patriarch, "but how is that? how can it happen that
the head of your Church is only an Archbishop? whereas I, the Patriarch,
command other patriarchs, and under them archbishops, archimandrites,
and other dignitaries of the Church? How can these things be? I cannot
write an answer to the letter of the Archbishop of--of--"

"Of Canterbury," said I.

"Yes! of Canterbury; for I do not see how he who is only an archbishop
can by any possibility be the head of a Christian hierarchy; but as you
come from the British embassy I will give my letters as you desire,
which will ensure your reception into every monastery which acknowledges
the supremacy of the _orthodox_ faith of the Patriarch of
Constantinople."

He then sent for his secretary, that I might give that functionary my
name and designation. The secretary accordingly appeared; and, although
there are only six letters in my name, he set it down incorrectly nearly
a dozen times, and then went away to his hole in a window, where he
wrote curious little memoranda at the Patriarch's dictation, from which
he drew up the firman which was sent me a few days afterwards, and which
I found of great service in my visits to various monasteries. As few
Protestants have been favoured with a document of this sort from the
Primate of the Greek Church, I subjoin a translation of it. It will be
perceived that it is written much in the style of the epistles of the
early patriarchs to the archbishops and bishops of their provinces. To
the requisitions contained in this firman it was incumbent upon those to
whom it was addressed to pay implicit obedience.[14]

My business being thus happily concluded with this learned personage, we
all smoked away again for a short time in tranquil silence; and then the
Universal Patriarch--for so he styles himself--clapped his hands, and in
swarmed the whole tribe of silent, bare-footed priestly followers,
bringing us sherbet in glass cups. Whilst we drank it, their reverences
held the saucer under our chins: and when we had had enough, those who
chose it wiped their lips and moustaches on a long, narrow towel, richly
embroidered at the two ends with gold and bright-coloured silks. I
prefer on these occasions my pocket-handkerchief, as the period at which
these rich towels are washed is by no means a matter of certainty. We
took our leave with the numerous bows and compliments, and went on our
way rejoicing.

My preparations for my expedition were soon made. I hired a Greek
servant, whom I intended should serve as interpreter and factotum. He
was a sharp, active man--as most Greeks are; and he had an intelligent
way of doing things, which pleased me; but he was an ugly, thin, little
fellow, and his right eye had a curious obliquity of vision, which was
not particularly calculated to inspire confidence. As nobody else was to
accompany me, I made various inquiries about him, and, although I did
not hear any particular harm of him, yet I failed to become acquainted
with any good actions of his performance; and as I was going into a
country which at that time was almost entirely unknown, and which had
moreover an unpleasant celebrity for pirates, klephti, and other sorts
of thieves, I felt that the moral character of my new follower was an
important consideration; and that if I could prop up his honesty and
fidelity by any artificial means, I might not be doing amiss.

In a few days the firman or letter of the patriarch arrived, and I
packed my things and got ready to start. Unknown to my servant I had
caused a belt of wash-leather to be made, in which were numerous little
divisions calculated to hold a good many pieces of gold without their
jingling, and it had a long flap which buttoned down over the series of
compartments. I had besides a large ostentatious purse, in which was a
small sum for the expenses of the journey, and as I wished to have it
supposed that I had but little cash, I made my Greek buy various things
for me out of his own money. All being ready, we started in a caïque
very early in the morning, and went down the Bosphorus from Therapia to
Stamboul, where we got on board a steamer. On handing up the things, my
servant found that his box, in which were his new clothes and valuables,
was missing--his bag only had come. "Good gracious!" said I, "was that
the box with two straps?" "Yes," said he, "a handsome brown box, about
so large." "Well," said I, "it is a most unfortunate thing; but when I
saw that box in my room this morning I locked it up in the closet and
told H---- not to give up the key of the door to anybody till I returned
to the embassy again. How very unlucky! however, we shall soon be back,
and you have biancheria enough in your bag for so short a journey as the
one before us." We were soon under way, and passing the Seraglio Point
stood down the swift current in the sea of Marmora, our luggage
encumbering but a very small space upon the deck.



CHAPTER XXIII.


     Coom Calessi--Uncomfortable Quarters--A Turkish Boat and its
     Crew--Grandeur of the Scenery--Legend of Jason and the Golden
     Fleece--The Island of Imbros--Heavy Rain Storm--A Rough
     Sea--Lemnos--Bad Accommodation--The Old Woman's Mattress and its
     Contents--Striking View of Mount Athos from the Sea--The Hermit of
     the Tower.


On landing at Coom Calessi, the European castle of the Dardanelles, I
found that there was no inn or hotel in the place; but it appeared that
the British consul, who lived on the top of the hill two miles off, had
built a new house in the town for purposes of business, and upon the
payment of a perquisite to the Jew who acted as his factotum, I was
presently installed in the new house, which, as houses go in this
country, was clean and good, but not a scrap of furniture was there in
it, not even a pipkin or a casserole--it was as empty as any house could
be. I sent my man out into the bazaar and we got some cabobs and yaourt
and salad, and various flaps of bread, and managed so far pretty well,
and then we went to the port, and after much waste of time and breath I
engaged a curious-looking boat belonging to a Turk, who by the by was
the only Turkish sailor I ever had anything to do with, as the seamen
are generally Greeks; and then I returned to my house to sleep, for we
were not to set out on our voyage till sunrise the next morning. The
sleeping was a more difficult affair than the dinner, for after the beds
at the embassy the boards did seem supernaturally hard; but I spread all
my property on the floor, and lying down on it flat on my back, out of
compassion to my hips, I got through the night at last.

All men were up and about in the Turkish town of Coom Calessi as soon as
the sun tinged the hills of Olympus, and the gay boat in which I was to
sail was bounding up and down on the bright transparent waves by the
sandy shore. The long-bearded captain sat on a half deck with the tiller
under his arm; he neither moved nor said a word when I came on board,
and before the god of day arose in his splendour over the famous plains
of Troy my little boat was spreading its white wings before the morning
wind. Every moment more and more lovely scenes opened to my delighted
eyes among the rocky and classic islands of the Archipelago. How fair
and beautiful is every part of that most favoured land! how fresh the
breezes on that poetic sea! how magnificent the great precipices of the
rocky island of Samotraki seemed as they loomed through the decreasing
distance in the morning sun! But no words, no painting can describe this
glorious region.

I had hired my grave sailors to take me to Lemnos, but the wind did not
serve, so we steered for Imbros, where we arrived in the afternoon. My
boat was an original-looking vessel to an English eye, with a high bow
and stem covered with bright brass; over the rudder there hung a long
piece of network ornamented with blue glass beads: flowers and
arabesques were carved on the boards at each end of the vessel, which
had one low mast with a single sail. It is the national belief in
England that ugliness is the necessary concomitant of utility, but for
my own part I confess that I delight in redundant ornament, and I liked
my old boat the better and was convinced that it did not sail a bit the
worse because it was pleasing to the eye.

We rowed away towards Imbros, and passed in our course a curious line of
waves, which looked like a straight whirlpool, if such an epithet may be
used; for where the mighty stream of the Dardanelles poured forth into
the Egean Sea, the two waters did not immediately mix together, but
rolled the one over the other in a long line which seemed as if it would
suck down into its snaky vortex anything which approached it. It was not
dangerous, however, for we rowed along it and across it; but still it
had a look about it which made me feel rather glad than sorry when we
had lost sight of its long, straight, curling line of waves.

As I sat in my beautifully-shaped and ornamented boat, which looked like
those represented in antique sculptures, with its high stem and lofty
prow, I thought how little changed things were in these latitudes since
the brave Captain Jason passed this way in the good ship Argo; and if an
old author who wrote on the Hermetic philosophy may be taken as
authority, that worthy's errand was much the same as mine; for he
maintains that the golden fleece was no golden fleece at all, "for who,"
says he, like a sensible man, "ever saw a sheep of gold?" But what Jason
sought was a famous volume written in golden letters upon the skins of
sheep, wherein was described the whole science of alchemy, and that the
man who should possess himself of that inestimable volume should conquer
the green dragon, and being able by help of the grand magisterium to
transmute all metals, and draw from the alembic the precious drops of
the elixir vitæ, men and nations and languages would bow down before him
as the prince of the pleasures of this world.

In the afternoon we arrived at the island of Imbros. The Turkish pilot
would go no farther, for he said there would be a storm. I saw no
appearance of the kind, but it was of no use talking to him; he had made
up his mind, so we drew the boat up on the sand in a little sheltered
bay, and making a tent of the sail, the sailors lit a fire and sat down
and smoked their pipes with all that quietness and decorum which is so
characteristic of their nation. I wandered about the island, but saw
neither man nor habitation. I shot at divers rock-partridges with a
rifle and hit none; nevertheless towards evening we cooked up a savoury
mess, whereof the old bearded Turk and his grave crew ate also, but
sparingly: I then curled myself up in a corner inside the boat under the
sail, and took to reading a volume of Sir Walter Scott's poems.

I was deep in his romantic legends when of a sudden there came a roar of
thunder and such quick bright flashes of sharp lightning that the
mountains seemed on fire. Down came the rain in waterfalls, and in went
Walter Scott and all his chivalry into the first safe hiding-place I
could find. The crew had got under a projecting rock, and I had the boat
to myself; the rain did not come in much, and the rattle of the thunder
by degrees died away among the surrounding hills. The rain continued to
pour down steadily and the fire on the beach went out, but my berth was
snug enough, and the dull monotonous sound of the splashing rain and the
dashing of the breakers on the shore soon lulled me to sleep, and I was
more comfortable than I had been the night before in the bare, empty
house at Coom Calessi.

Very early in the morning I peeped out; the rain was gone and the sun
shone brightly; all the Turks were up smoking their eternal pipes, so I
asked the old captain when we should be off. "There is too much wind,"
was his laconic reply. We were in a sheltered place, so we felt no wind,
but on the other side of a rocky headland we could see the sea running
like a cataract towards the south, although it was as smooth as glass in
our bay. We got through breakfast, and for the sake of the partridges I
repented that I had brought no shot. At last the men began righting the
boat and getting things ready, doing everything as quietly and
deliberately as usual, and scarcely saying a word to each other. In
course of time the captain sat himself down by the rudder, and beckoning
to me with his hand he took the pipe out of his mouth and said "Gel"
(come). I came, and away we went smoothly with the help of two or three
oars till we rounded the rocky headland, and then all at once we drifted
into the race, and began dancing, and leaping, and staggering before the
breeze in a way I never saw before nor since. Like the goats, from whom
this sea is said to have been named, we leaped from the summit of one
wave to that of the next, and seemed hardly to touch the water. We had
up a small sail, and we sat still and steady at the bottom of the
vessel. Never had I conceived the possibility of a boat scampering along
before the wind at such a rate as this. My man crossed himself. I looked
up at the old pilot, but he went on quietly smoking his pipe with his
finger on the bowl to keep the ashes from being blown away. It was a
marvel to me with what exactness he touched the helm just at the right
instant, for it seemed as if we had sixty narrow escapes every minute,
but the old man did not stir an inch. Gallantly we dashed, and skipped,
and bounded along. What a famous lively little boat it was, yet it was
carved and gilt and as pretty as anything could be! We were soon running
down the west coast of Lemnos, where the surf was lashing the precipice
in fury with an angry roar that resounded far out to sea: then of a
sudden we rounded a sharp point and shot into such smooth water so
instantaneously that one could scarcely believe that the blue waves of
the Holy Sea, Αγιος πελαγος, as the Greeks call it still, could be the
same as the furious and frenzied ocean out of which we had darted like
an arrow from a bow.

We had a long row in the hot sun along the sheltered coast till we
landed at a rotten wooden pier before the chief city or rather the dirty
village of the Lemnians. I had a letter to a gentleman who was sent by a
merchant of Constantinople to collect wool upon this island; so to him I
bent my way, hooted at by some Lemnian women, the worthy descendants
probably of those fair dames who have gained a disagreeable immortality
by murdering their husbands. Here it was that Vulcan broke his leg, and
no wonder, for a more barren, rocky place no one could have been kicked
down into. My friend of the woolpacks, who was a Frenchman, was very
kind and civil, only he had nothing to offer me beyond the bare house,
like the consul's Jew at the Dardanelles, so I walked about and looked
at nothing, which was all there was to see, whilst my servant hired a
little square-rigged brig to take me next day to Mount Athos.

After dinner I made inquiries of my host what he had in the way of bed.
His answer was specific. There was no bed, no mattress, no divan; sheets
were unknown things, and the wool he did not recommend. But at last I
was told of a mattress which an old woman next door was possessed of,
and which she sometimes let out to strangers; and in an evil hour I sent
for it. That treacherous bed and its clean white coverlet will never be
forgotten by me. I laid down upon it and in one minute was fast
asleep--the next I started up a perfect Marsyas. Never until that day
had I any idea of what fleas could do. So simultaneous and well
conducted was their attack that I was bitten all over from top to toe at
the first assault. They evidently were delighted at the unexpected
change of diet from a grim, skinny old woman to a well-fed traveller
fresh from the table of the embassy. I examined the white coverlet--it
was actually brown with fleas. I threw away my clothes, and taking
desperate measures to get rid of some myriads of my assailants, I ran
out of the room and put on a dressing-gown in the outer hall, at the
window of which I sat down to cool the fever of my blood. I half
expected to see the fleas open the door and march in after me, as the
rats did after Bishop Hatto on his island in the Rhine; but fortunately
the villains did not venture to leave their mattress. There I sat,
fanning myself in the night air and bathing my face and limbs in water
till the sun rose, when with a doleful countenance I asked my way to a
bath. I found one, and went into the hot inner room with nothing on but
a towel round my waist and one on my head, as the custom is. There was
no one else there, and when the bath man came in he started back with
horror, for he thought I had got that most deadly kind of plague which
breaks out in an eruption and carries off the patient in a few hours.
When it was explained to him how I had fallen into the clutches of these
Lemnian fleas, he proceeded to rub me and soap me according to the
Turkish fashion, and wonderfully soothing and comforting it was.

As there was a rumour of pirates in these seas, the little brig would
not sail till night, and I passed the day dozing in the shade out of
doors; when evening came I crept down to the port, went on board, and
curled myself up in the hole of a cabin among ropes and sails, and went
to sleep at once, and did not wake again till we arrived within a short
distance of the most magnificent mountain imaginable, rising in a peak
of white marble ten thousand feet straight out of the sea. It was a
lovely fresh morning, so I stood with half of my body out of the
hatchway enjoying the glorious prospect, and making my toilette with the
deck for a dressing-table, to the great admiration of the Greek
crew, who were a perfect contrast to my former Turkish friends, for they
did nothing but lounge about and chatter, and give orders to each other,
every one of them appearing unwilling to do his own share of the work.

[Illustration: GREEK SAILOR.]

We steered for a tall square tower which stood on a projecting marble
rock above the calm blue sea at the S.E. corner of the peninsula; and
rounding a small cape we turned into a beautiful little port or harbour,
the entrance of which was commanded by this tower and by one or two
other buildings constructed for defence at the foot of it, all in the
Byzantine style of architecture. The quaint half-Eastern half-Norman
architecture of the little fortress, my outlandish vessel, the brilliant
colours of the sailors' dresses, the rich vegetation and great tufts of
flowers which grew in crevices of the white marble, formed altogether
one of the most picturesque scenes it was ever my good fortune to
behold, and which I always remember with pleasure. We saw no one, but
about a mile off there was the great monastery of St. Laura standing
above us among the trees on the side of the mountain, and this
delightful little bay was, as the sailors told us, the scarricatojo or
landing-place for pilgrims who were going to the monastery.

We paid off the vessel, and my things were landed on the beach. It was
not an operation of much labour, for my effects consisted principally of
an enormous pair of saddle-bags, made of a sort of carpet, and which
are called khourges, and are carried by the camels in Arabia; but there
was at present mighty little in them: nevertheless, light as they were,
their appearance would have excited a feeling of consternation in the
mind of the most phlegmatic mule. After a brisk chatter on the part of
the whole crew, who, with abundance of gesticulations, all talked at
once, they got on board, and towing the vessel out by means of an
exceeding small boat, set sail, and left me and my man and the
saddle-bags high and dry upon the shore. We were somewhat taken by
surprise at this sudden departure of our marine, so we sat upon two
stones for a while to think about it. "Well," said I, "we are at Mount
Athos; so suppose you walk up to the monastery, and get some mules or
monks, or something or other to carry up the saddle-bags. Tell them the
celebrated Milordos Inglesis, the friend of the Universal Patriarch, is
arrived, and that he kindly intends to visit their monastery; and that
he is a great ally of the Sultan's, and of all the captains of all the
men of war that come down the Archipelago: and," added I, "make haste
now, and let us be up at the monastery lest our friends in the brig
there should take it into their heads to come back and cut our throats."

Away he went, and I and the saddle-bags remained below. For some time I
solaced myself by throwing stones into the water, and then I walked up
the path to look about me, and found a red mulberry-tree with fine ripe
mulberries on it, of which I ate a prodigious number in order to pass
away the time. As I was studying the Byzantine tower, I thought I saw
something peeping out of a loophole near the top of it, and, on looking
more attentively, I saw it was the head of an old man with a long grey
beard, who was gazing cautiously at me. I shouted out at the top of my
voice, "Kalemera sas, ariste, kalemera sas (good day to you, sir); ora
kali sas (good morning to you); του δἁπομειβομενος;" he answered in
return, "Kalos orizete?" (how do you do?) So I went up to the tower,
passed over a plank that served as a drawbridge across a chasm, and at
the door of a wall which surrounded the lower buildings stood a little
old monk, the same who had been peeping out of the loophole above. He
took me into his castle, where he seemed to be living all alone in a
Byzantine lean-to at the foot of the tower, the window of his room
looking over the port beneath. This room had numerous pegs in the wall,
on which were hung dried herbs and simples; one or two great jars stood
in the corner, and these and a small divan formed all his household
furniture. We began to talk in Romaic, but I was not very strong in that
language, and presently stuck fast. He showed me over the tower, which
contained several groined vaulted rooms one above another, all empty.
From the top there was a glorious view of the islands and the sea.
Thought I to myself, this is a real, genuine, unsophisticated live
hermit; he is not stuffed like the hermit at Vauxhall, nor made up of
beard and blankets like those on the stage; he is a genuine specimen of
an almost extinct race. What would not Walter Scott have given for him?
The aspect of my host and his Byzantine tower savoured so completely of
the days of the twelfth century, that I seemed to have entered another
world, and should hardly have been surprised if a crusader in
chain-armour had entered the room and knelt down before the hermit's
feet The poor old hermit observing me looking about at all his goods and
chattels, got up on his divan, and from a shelf reached down a large
rosy apple, which he presented to me; it was evidently the best thing he
had, and I was touched when he gave it to me. I took a great bite: it
was very sour indeed; but what was to be done? I could not bear to vex
the old man, so I went on eating a great deal of it, although it brought
the tears into my eyes.

We now heard a holloing and shouting, which portended the arrival of the
mules, and, bidding adieu to the old hermit of the tower, I mounted a
mule; the others were lightly loaded with my effects, and we scrambled
up a steep rocky path through a thicket of odoriferous evergreen shrubs,
our progress being assisted by the screams and bangs inflicted by
several stout acolytes, a sort of lay-brethren, who came down with the
animals from the convent.



CHAPTER XXIV.


     Monastery of St. Laura--Kind Reception by the Abbot--Astonishment
     of the Monks--History of the Monastery--Rules of the Order of St.
     Basil--Description of the Buildings--Curious Pictures of the Last
     Judgment--Early Greek Paintings; Richness of their Frames and
     Decorations--Ancient Church Plate--Beautiful Reliquary--The
     Refectory--The Abbot's Savoury Dish--The Library--The MSS.--Ride to
     the Monastery of Caracalla--Magnificent Scenery.


We soon emerged upon a flat piece of ground, and there before us stood
the great monastery of

ST. LAURA.

[Illustration]

It appeared like an ancient fortress, surrounded with high blank walls,
over the tops of which were seen numerous domes and pinnacles, and
odd-shaped roofs and cypress-trees, all jumbled together. In some places
one of those projecting windows, which are called shahneshin at
Constantinople, stood out from the great encircling wall at a
considerable height above the ground; and in front of the entrance was a
porch in the Byzantine style, consisting of four marble columns,
supporting a dome; in this porch stood the agoumenos, backed by a great
many of the brethren. My servant had, doubtless, told him what an
extraordinarily great personage he was to expect, for he received me
with great deference; and after the usual bows and compliments the dark
train of Greek monks filed in through the outer and two inner iron
gates, in a sort of procession, with which goodly company I proceeded to
the church, which stood in the middle of the great court-yard. We went
up to the screen of the altar, and there everybody made bows, and said
"Kyrie eleison," which they repeated as quickly and in as high a key as
they could. We then came out of the church, and the agoumenos, taking me
by the hand, led me up divers dark wooden staircases, until we came into
a large cheerful room well furnished in the Turkish style, and having
one of the projecting windows which I had seen from the outside. In this
room, which the agoumenos told me I was to consider as my own, we had
coffee. I then presented the letter of the patriarch; he read it with
great respect, and said I was welcome to remain in the monastery as long
as I liked; and after various compliments given and received he left me;
and I found myself comfortably installed in one of the grand--and, as
yet, unexplored--monasteries of the famous sanctuary of Mount Athos:
better known in the Levant by the appellation of Αγιον Ορος, or, as the
Italian hath it, Monte Santo.

Before long I received visits from divers holy brethren, being those who
held offices in the monastery under my lord the agoumenos, and there was
no end to the civilities which passed between us. At last they all
departed, and towards evening I went out and walked about; those monks
whom I met either opening their eyes and mouths, and standing still, or
else bowing profoundly and going through the whole series of
gesticulations which are practised towards persons of superior rank; for
the poor monks never having seen a stranger before, or at least a Frank,
did not know what to make of me, and according to their various degrees
of intellect treated me with respect or astonishment. But Greek monks
are not so ill-mannered as an English mob, and therefore they did not
run after me, but only stared and crossed themselves as the unknown
animal passed by.

I will now, from the information I received from the monks and my own
observation, give the best account I can of this extensive and curious
monastery. It was founded by an Emperor Nicephorus, but what particular
Nicephorus he was nobody knew. Nicephorus, the treasurer, got into
trouble with Charlemagne on one side, and Haroun al Raschid on the
other, and was killed by the Bulgarians in 811. Nicephorus Phocas was a
great captain, a mighty man of valour; who fought with everybody, and
frightened the Caliph at the gates of Bagdad, but did good to no one;
and at length became so disagreeable that his wife had him murdered in
969. Nicephorus Botoniates, by the help of Alexius Comnenus, caught and
put out the eyes of his rival Nicephorus Bryennius, whose son married
that celebrated blue-stocking Anna Comnena. However, Nicephorus
Botoniates having quarrelled with Alexius Comnenus, that great man
kicked him out and reigned in his stead, and Botoniates took refuge in
this monastery, which, as I make out, he had founded some time before.
He came here about the year 1081, and took the vows of a kaloyeri, or
Greek monk.

[Illustration: staff, πατρηζα]

This word kaloyeri means a good old man. All the monks of Mount Athos
follow the rule of St. Basil: indeed, all Greek monks are of this order.
They are ascetics, and their discipline is most severe: they never eat
meat, fish they have on feast-days; but on fast-days, which are above a
hundred in the year, they are not allowed any animal substance or even
oil; their prayers occupy eight hours in the day, and about two during
the night, so that they never enjoy a real night's rest. They never sit
down during prayer, but as the services are of extreme length they are
allowed to rest their arms on the elbows of a sort of stalls without
seats, which are found in all Greek churches, and at other times they
lean on a crutch. A crutch of this kind, of silver, richly ornamented,
forms the patriarchal staff: it is called the patritza, and answers to
the crosier of the Roman bishops. Bells are not used to call the
fraternity to prayers, but a long piece of board, suspended by two
strings, is struck with a mallet. Sometimes, instead of the wooden
board, a piece of iron, like part of the tire of a wheel, is used for
this purpose. Bells are rung only on occasions of rejoicing, or to show
respect to some great personage, and on the great feasts of the church.

The accompanying sketches will explain the forms of the patriarchal
staff, the board, and the iron bar.

[Illustrations: τοκμακ, a hammer, in Turkish.]

The latter are called in Romaic σημανδρος, a word derived from
σημασοκτουμαι, to gather together.

According to Johannes Comnenus, who visited Mount Athos in 1701, and
whose works are quoted in Montfaucon, 'Paleographia Græca,' page 452,
St. Laura was founded by Nicephorus Phocas, and restored by Neagulus,
Waywode of Bessarabia. The buildings consist of a thick and lofty wall
of stone, which encompasses an irregular space of ground of between
three and four acres in extent; there is only one entrance, a crooked
passage defended by three separate iron doors; the front of the building
on the side of the entrance extends about five hundred feet. There is no
attempt at external architecture, but only this plain wall; the few
windows which look out from it belong to rooms which are built of wood
and project over the top of the wall, being supported upon strong beams
like brackets. At the south-west corner of the building there is a large
square tower, which formerly contained a printing-press: but this press
was destroyed by the Turkish soldiers during the late Greek revolution;
and at the same time they carried off certain old cannons, which stood
upon the battlements, but which were more for show than use, for the
monks had never once ventured to fire them off during the long period
they had been there; and my question, as to when they were brought there
originally, was answered by the universal and regular answer of the
Levant, "[Greek: ti exebzo τι εξεβζο]--Qui sa?--who knows?" The interior
of the monastery consists of several small courts and two large open
spaces surrounded with buildings, which have open galleries of wood or
stone before them, by means of which entrance is gained into the various
apartments, which now afford lodging for one hundred and twenty monks,
and there is room for many more. These two large courts are built
without any regularity, but their architecture is exceedingly curious,
and in its style closely resembles the buildings erected in
Constantinople between the fifth and the twelfth century: a sort of
Byzantine, of which St. Marc's in Venice is the finest specimen in
Europe. It bears some affinity to the Lombardic or Romanesque, only it
is more Oriental in its style; the chapel of the ancient palace of
Palermo is more in the style of the buildings on Mount Athos than
anything else in Christendom that I remember; but the ceilings of that
chapel are regularly arabesque, whereas those on Mount Athos are flat
with painted beams, like the Italian basilicas, excepting where they are
arched or domed; and in those cases there is little or no mosaic, but
only coarse paintings in fresco representing saints in the conventional
Greek style of superlative ugliness.

In the centre of each of these two large courts stands a church of
moderate size, each of which has a porch with thin marble columns before
the door; the interior walls of the porches are covered with paintings
of saints and also of the Last Judgment, which, indeed, is constantly
seen in the porch of every church. In these pictures, which are often of
immense size, the artists evidently took much more pains to represent
the uncouthness of the devils than the beauty of the angels, who, in
all these ancient frescos, are a very hard-favoured set. The chief devil
is very big; he is the hero of the scene, and is always marvellously
hideous, with a great mouth and long teeth, with which he is usually
gnawing two or three sinners, who, to judge from the expression of his
face, must be very nauseous articles of food. He stands up to his middle
in a red pool which is intended for fire, and wherein numerous little
sinners are disporting themselves like fish in all sorts of attitudes,
but without looking at all alarmed or unhappy. On one side of the
picture an angel is weighing a few in a pair of scales, and others are
capering about in company with some smaller devils, who evidently lead a
merry life of it. The souls of the blessed are seated in a row on a long
hard bench very high up in the picture; these are all old men with
beards; some are covered with hair, others richly clothed, anchorites
and princes being the only persons elevated to the bench. They have good
stout glories round their heads, which in rich churches are gilt, and in
the poorer ones are painted yellow, and look like large straw hats.
These personages are severe and grim of countenance, and look by no
means comfortable or at home; they each hold a large book, and give you
the idea that except for the honour of the thing they would be much
happier in company with the wicked little sinners and merry imps in the
crimson lake below. This picture of the Last Judgment is as much
conventional as the portraits of the saints; it is almost always the
same, and a correct representation of a part of it is to be seen in the
last print of the rare volume of the Monte Santo di Dio, which contains
the three earliest engravings known: it would almost appear that the
print must have been copied from one of these ancient Greek frescos. It
is difficult to conceive how any one, even in the dark ages, can have
been simple enough to look upon these quaint and absurd paintings with
feelings of religious awe; but some of the monks of the Holy Mountain do
so even now, and were evidently scandalized when they saw me smile. This
is, however, only one of the numberless instances in which, owing to the
differences of education and circumstances, men look upon the same thing
with awe or pity, with ridicule or veneration.[15]

The interior of the principal church in this monastery is interesting
from the number of early Greek pictures which it contains, and which are
hung on the walls of the apsis behind the altar. They are almost all in
silver frames, and are painted on wood; most of them are small, being
not more than one or two feet square; the back-ground of all of them is
gilt; and in many of them this back-ground is formed of plates of silver
or gold. One small painting is ascribed to St. Luke, and several have
the frames set with jewels, and are of great antiquity. In front of the
altar, and suspended from the two columns nearest to the [Greek:
ikonostasis ικονοsτασις]--the screen which, like the veil of the temple,
conceals the holy of holies from the gaze of the profane--are two
pictures larger than the rest: the one represents our Saviour, the other
the Blessed Virgin. Except the faces they are entirely covered over with
plates of silver-gilt; and the whole of both pictures, as well as their
frames, is richly ornamented with a kind of coarse golden filigree, set
with large turquoises, agates, and cornelians. These very curious
productions of early art were presented to the monastery by the Emperor
Andronicus Paleologus, whose portrait, with that of his Empress, is
represented on the silver frame.

The floor of this church, and of the one which stands in the centre of
the other court, is paved with rich coloured marbles. The relics are
preserved in that division of the church which is behind the altar;
their number and value is much less than formerly, as during the
revolution, when the Holy Mountain was under the rule of Aboulabout
Pasha, he squeezed all he could out of the monks of this and all the
other monasteries. However, as no Turk is a match for a Greek, they
managed to preserve a great deal of ancient church plate, some of which
dates as far back as the days of the Roman emperors, for few of the
Christian successors of Constantine failed to offer some little bribe to
the saints in order to obtain pardon for the desperate manner in which
they passed their lives. Some of these pieces of plate are well worthy
the attention of antiquarians, being probably the most ancient specimens
of art in goldsmith's work now extant; and as they have remained in the
several monasteries ever since the piety of their donors first sent them
there, their authenticity cannot be questioned, besides which many of
them are extremely magnificent and beautiful.

The most valuable reliquary of St. Laura is a kind of triptic, about
eighteen inches high, of pure gold, a present from the Emperor
Nicephorus, the founder of the abbey. The front represents a pair of
folding-doors, each set with a double row of diamonds (the most ancient
specimens of this stone that I have seen), emeralds, pearls, and rubies
as large as sixpences. When the doors are opened a large piece of the
holy cross, splendidly set with jewels, is displayed in the centre, and
the inside of the two doors and the whole surface of the reliquary are
covered with engraved figures of the saints stuck full of precious
stones. This beautiful shrine is of Byzantine workmanship, and, in its
way, is a superb work of art.

[Illustration]

The refectory of the monastery is a large square building, but the
dining-room which it contains is in the form of a cross, about one
hundred feet in length each way; the walls are decorated with fresco
pictures of the saints, who vie with each other in the hard-favoured
aspect of their bearded faces; they are tall and meagre full-length
figures as large as life, each having his name inscribed on the picture.
Their chief interest is in their accurate representation of the clerical
costume. The dining-tables, twenty-four in number, are so many solid
blocks of masonry, with heavy slabs of marble on the top; they are
nearly semicircular in shape, with the flat side away from the wall; a
wide marble bench runs round the circular part of them in this form. A
row of these tables extend down each side of the hall, and at the upper
end in a semicircular recess is a high table for the superior, who only
dines here on great occasions. The refectory being square on the
outside, the intermediate spaces between the arms of the cross are
occupied by the bakehouse, and the wine, oil, and spirit cellars; for
although the monks eat no meat, they drink famously; and the good St.
Basil having flourished long before the age of Paracelsus, inserted
nothing in his rules against the use of ardent spirits, whereof the
monks imbibe a considerable quantity, chiefly bad arrack; but it does
not seem to do them any harm, and I never heard of their overstepping
the bounds of sobriety. Besides the two churches in the great courts,
which are shaded by ancient cypresses, there are twenty smaller chapels,
distributed over different parts of the monastery, in which prayers are
said on certain days. The monks are now in a more flourishing condition
than they have been for some years; and as they trust to the continuance
of peace and order in the dominions of the Sultan, they are beginning to
repair the injuries they suffered during the revolution, and there is
altogether an air of improvement and opulence throughout the
establishment.

I wandered over the courts and galleries and chapels of this immense
building in every direction, asking questions respecting those things
which I did not understand, and receiving the kindest and most civil
attention from every one. In front of the door of the largest church a
dome, curiously painted and gilt in the interior, and supported by four
columns, protects a fine marble vase ten feet in diameter, with a
fountain in it; in this magnificent basin the holy water is consecrated
with great ceremony on the feast of the Epiphany.[16]

I was informed that no female animal of any sort or kind is admitted on
any part of the peninsula of Mount Athos; and that since the days of
Constantine the soil of the Holy Mountain had never been contaminated by
the tread of a woman's foot. That this rigid law is infringed by certain
small and active creatures who have the audacity to bring their wives
and large families within the very precincts of the monastery I soon
discovered to my sorrow, and heartily regretted that the stern monastic
law was not more rigidly enforced; nevertheless, I slept well on my
divan, and the next morning at sunrise received a visit from the
agoumenos, who came to wish me good day. After some conversation on
other matters, I inquired about the library, and asked permission to
view its contents. The agoumenos declared his willingness to show me
everything that the monastery contained. "But first," said he, "I wish
to present you with something excellent for your breakfast; and from
the special good will that I bear towards so distinguished a guest I
shall prepare it with my own hands, and will stay to see you eat it; for
it is really an admirable dish, and one not presented to all persons."
"Well," thought I, "a good breakfast is not a bad thing;" and the fresh
mountain-air and the good night's rest had given me an appetite; so I
expressed my thanks for the kind hospitality of my lord abbot, and he,
sitting down opposite to me on the divan, proceeded to prepare his dish.
"This," said he, producing a shallow basin half-full of a white paste,
"is the principal and most savoury part of this famous dish; it is
composed of cloves of garlic, pounded down, with a certain quantity of
sugar. With it I will now mix the oil in just proportions, some shreds
of fine cheese [it seemed to be of the white acid kind, which resembles
what is called caccia cavallo in the south of Italy, and which almost
takes the skin off your fingers, I believe] and sundry other nice little
condiments, and now it is completed!" He stirred the savoury mess round
and round with a large wooden spoon until it sent forth over room and
passage and cell, over hill and valley, an aroma which is not to be
described. "Now," said the agoumenos, crumbling some bread into it with
his large and somewhat dirty hands, "this is a dish for an emperor! Eat,
my friend, my much-respected guest; do not be shy. Eat; and when you
have finished the bowl you shall go into the library and anywhere else
you like; but you shall go nowhere till I have had the pleasure of
seeing you do justice to this delicious food, which, I can assure you,
you will not meet with everywhere."

I was sorely troubled in spirit. Who could have expected so dreadful a
martyrdom as this? The sour apple of the hermit down below was
nothing--a trifle in comparison! Was ever an unfortunate bibliomaniac
dosed with such a medicine before? It would have been enough to have
cured the whole Roxburghe Club from meddling with libraries and books
for ever and ever. I made every endeavour to escape this honour. "My
Lord," said I, "it is a fast; I cannot this morning do justice to this
delicious viand; it is a fast; I am under a vow. Englishmen must not eat
that dish in this month. It would be wrong; my conscience won't permit
it, though the odour certainly is most wonderful! Truly an astonishing
savour! Let me see you eat it, O agoumenos!" continued I; "for behold, I
am unworthy of anything so good." "Excellent and virtuous young man!"
said the agoumenos, "no, I will not eat it. I will not deprive you of
this treat. Eat it in peace; for know, that to travellers all such vows
are set aside. On a journey it is permitted to eat all that is set
before you, unless it is meat that is offered to idols. I admire your
scruples: but be not afraid, it is lawful. Take it, my honoured friend,
and eat it: eat it all, and then we will go into the library." He put
the bowl into one of my hands and the great wooden spoon into the other:
and in desperation I took a gulp, the recollection of which still makes
me tremble. What was to be done? Another mouthful was an impossibility:
not all my ardour in the pursuit of manuscripts could give me the
necessary courage. I was overcome with sorrow and despair. My servant
saved me at last: he said "that English gentlemen never ate such rich
dishes for breakfast, from religious feelings, he believed; but he
requested that it might be put by, and he was sure I should like it very
much later in the day." The agoumenos looked vexed, but he applauded my
principles; and just then the board sounded for church. "I must be off,
excellent and worthy English lord," said he; "I will take you to the
library, and leave you the key. Excuse my attendance on you there, for
my presence is required in the church." So I got off better than I
expected; but the taste of that ladleful stuck to me for days. I
followed the good agoumenos to the library, where he left me to my own
devices.

The library is contained in two small rooms looking into a narrow court,
which is situated to the left of the great court of entrance. One room
leads to the other, and the books are disposed on shelves in tolerable
order, but the dust on their venerable heads had not been disturbed for
many years, and it took me some time to make out what they were, for in
old Greek libraries few volumes have any title written on the back. I
made out that there were in all about five thousand volumes, a very
large collection, of which about four thousand were printed books; these
were mostly divinity, but among them there were several fine Aldine
classics and the editio princeps of the Anthologia in capital letters.

The nine hundred manuscripts consisted of six hundred volumes written
upon paper and three hundred on vellum. With the exception of four
volumes, the former were all divinity, principally liturgies and books
of prayer. Those four volumes were Homer's 'Iliad' and Hesiod, neither
of which were very old, and two curious and rather early manuscripts on
botany, full of rudely drawn figures of herbs. These were probably the
works of Dioscorides; they were not in good condition, having been much
studied by the monks in former days: they were large, thick quartos.
Among the three hundred manuscripts on vellum there were many large
folios of the works of St. Chrysostom and other Greek fathers of the
church of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and about fifty copies of
the Gospels and the Evangelistarium of nearly the same age. One
Evangelistarium was in fine uncial letters of the ninth century; it was
a thick quarto, and on the first leaf was an illumination the whole size
of the page on a gold background, representing the donor of the book
accompanied by his wife. This ancient portrait was covered over with a
piece of gauze. It was a very remarkable manuscript. There were one
quarto and one duodecimo of the Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse of the
eleventh century, and one folio of the book of Job, which had several
miniatures in it badly executed in brilliant colours; this was probably
of the twelfth century. These three manuscripts were such volumes as are
not often seen in European libraries. All the rest were anthologia and
books of prayer, nor did I meet with one single leaf of a classic author
on vellum. I went into the library several times, and looked over all
the vellum manuscripts very carefully, and I believe that I did not pass
by unnoticed anything which was particularly interesting in point of
subject, antiquity, or illumination. Several of the copies of the
Gospels had their titles ornamented with arabesques, but none struck me
as being peculiarly valuable.

The twenty-one monasteries of Mount Athos are subjected to different
regulations. In some the property is at the absolute disposal of the
agoumenos for the time being, but in the larger establishments (and St.
Laura is the second in point of consequence) everything belongs to the
monks in common. Such being the case, it was hopeless to expect, in so
large a community, that the brethren should agree to part with any of
their valuables. Indeed, as soon as I found out how affairs stood within
the walls of St. Laura, I did not attempt to purchase anything, as it
was not advisable to excite the curiosity of the monks upon the subject;
nor did I wish that the report should be circulated in the other
convents that I was come to Mount Athos for the purpose of rifling their
libraries.

I remained at St. Laura three days, and on a beautiful fresh morning,
being provided by the monks with mules and a guide, I left the good
agoumenos and sallied forth through the three iron gates on my way to
the monastery of Caracalla. Our road lay through some of the most
beautiful scenery imaginable. The dark blue sea was on my right at about
two miles distance; the rocky path over which I passed was of white
alabaster with brown and yellow veins; odoriferous evergreen shrubs were
all around me; and on my left were the lofty hills covered with a dense
forest of gigantic trees, which extended to the base of the great white
marble peak of the mountain. Between our path and the sea there was a
succession of narrow valleys and gorges, each one more picturesque than
the other; sometimes we were enclosed by high and dense bushes;
sometimes we opened upon forest glades, and every here and there we came
upon long and narrow ledges of rock. On one of the narrowest and
loftiest of these, as I was trotting merrily along thinking of nothing
but the beauty of the hour and the scene, my mule stopped short in a
place where the path was about a foot wide, and, standing upon three
legs, proceeded deliberately to scratch his nose with the fourth. I was
too old a mountain traveller to have hold of the bridle, which was
safely belayed to the pack-saddle; I sat still for fear of making him
lose his balance, and waited in very considerable trepidation until the
mule had done scratching his nose. I was at the time half inclined to
think that he knew he had a heretic upon his back, and had made up his
mind to send me and himself smashing down among the distant rocks. If
so, however, he thought better of it, and before long, to my great
contentment, we came to a place where the road had two sides to it
instead of one, and after a ride of five hours we arrived before the
tall square tower which frowns over the gateway of the monastery of
Caracalla.



CHAPTER XXV.


     The Monastery of Caracalla--Its beautiful Situation--Hospitable
     Reception--Description of the Monastery--Legend of its
     Foundation--The Church--Fine Specimens of Ancient Jewellery--The
     Library--The Value attached to the Books by the Abbot--He agrees to
     sell some of the MSS.--Monastery of Philotheo--The Great Monastery
     of Iveron--History of its Foundation--Its Magnificent
     Library--Ignorance of the Monks--Superb MSS.--The Monks refute to
     part with any of the MSS.--Beauty of the Scenery of Mount Athos.


The monastery of CARACALLA is not so large as St. Laura, and in many
points resembles an ancient Gothic castle. It is beautifully situated on
a promontory of rock two miles from the sea, and viewed from the lofty
ground by which we approached it, the buildings had a most striking
effect, with the dark blue sea for a background and the lofty rock of
Samotraki looming in the distance, whilst the still more remote
mountains of Roumelia closed in the picture. As for the island of
Samotraki, it must have been created solely for the benefit of artists
and admirers of the picturesque, for it is fit for nothing else. It is
high and barren, a congeries of gigantic precipices and ridges. I
suppose one can land upon it somewhere, for people live on it who are
said to be arrant pirates; but as one passes by it at sea, its
interminable ribs of grey rock, with the waves lashing against them,
are dreary-looking in the extreme; and it is only when far distant that
it becomes a beautiful object.

I sent in my servant as ambassador to explain that the first cousin,
once removed, of the Emperor of all the Franks was at the gate, and to
show the letter of the Greek patriarch. Incontinently the agoumenos made
his appearance at the porch with many expressions of welcome and
goodwill. I believe it was longer than the days of his life since a
Frank had entered the convent, and I doubt whether he had ever seen one
before, for he looked so disappointed when he found that I had no tail
or horns, and barring his glorious long beard, that I was so little
different from himself. We made many speeches to each other, he in
heathen Greek and I in English, seasoned with innumerable bows,
gesticulations, and téménah; after which I jumped off my mule and we
entered the precincts of the monastery, attended by a long train of
bearded fathers who came out to stare at me.

The monastery of Caracalla covers about one acre of ground; it is
surrounded with a high strong wall, over which appear roofs and domes;
and on the left of the great square tower, near the gate, a range of
rooms, built of wood, project over the battlements as at the monastery
of St Laura. Within is a large irregular court-yard, in the centre of
which stands the church, and several little chapels or rooms fitted up
as places of worship are scattered about in different parts of the
building among the chambers inhabited by the monks. I found that this
was the uniform arrangement in all the monasteries of Mount Athos and in
nearly all Greek monasteries in the Levant. This monastery was founded
by Caracallos, a Roman: who he was, or when he lived, I do not know; but
from its appearance this must be a very ancient establishment. By Roman,
perhaps, is meant Greek, for Greece is called Roumeli to this day; and
the Constantinopolitans called themselves Romans in the old time, as in
Persia and Koordistan the Sultan is called Roomi Padischah, the Roman
Emperor, by those whose education and general attainments enable them to
make mention of so distant and mysterious a potentate. Afterwards
Petrus, Authentes or Waywode of Moldavia, sent his protospaithaire, that
is his chief swordsman or commander-in-chief, to found a monastery on
the Holy Mountain, and supplied him with a sum of money for the purpose;
but the chief swordsman, after expending a very trivial portion of it in
building a small tower on the sea-shore, pocketed the rest and returned
to court. The waywode having found out what he had been at, ordered his
head to be cut off; but he prayed so earnestly to be allowed to keep his
head and rebuild the monastery of Caracalla out of his own money, that
his master consented. The new church was dedicated to St. Peter and St.
Paul, and ultimately the ex-chief swordsman prevailed upon the waywode
to come to Caracalla and take the vows. They both assumed the same name
of Pachomius, and died in the odour of sanctity. All this, and many more
legends, was I told by the worthy agoumenos, who was altogether a most
excellent person; but he had an unfortunate habit of selecting the most
windy places for detailing them, an open archway, the top of an external
staircase, or the parapet of a tower, until at last he chilled my
curiosity down to zero. In all his words and acts he constantly referred
to brother Joasaph, the second in command, to whose superior wisdom he
always seemed to bow, and who was quite the right-hand man of the abbot.

My friend first took me to the church, which is of moderate size, the
walls ornamented with stiff fresco pictures of the saints, none of them
certainly later than the twelfth century, and some probably very much
earlier. There were some relics, but the silver shrines containing them
were not remarkable for richness or antiquity. On the altar there were
two very remarkable crosses, each of them about six or eight inches
long, of carved wood set in gold and jewels of very early and beautiful
workmanship; one of them in particular, which was presented to the
church by the Emperor John Zimisces, was a most curious specimen of
ancient jewellery.

This monastery is one of those over which the agoumenos has absolute
control, and he was then repairing one side of the court and rebuilding
a set of rooms which had been destroyed during the Greek war.

The library I found to be a dark closet near the entrance of the church;
it had been locked up for many years, but the agoumenos made no
difficulty in breaking the old-fashioned padlock by which the door was
fastened. I found upon the ground and upon some broken-down shelves
about four or five hundred volumes, chiefly printed books; but amongst
them, every now and then, I stumbled upon a manuscript: of these there
were about thirty on vellum and fifty or sixty on paper. I picked up a
single loose leaf of very ancient uncial Greek characters, part of the
Gospel of St. Matthew, written in small square letters and of small
quarto size. I searched in vain for the volume to which this leaf
belonged.

As I had found it impossible to purchase any manuscripts at St. Laura, I
feared that the same would be the case in other monasteries; however, I
made bold to ask for this single leaf as a thing of small value.

"Certainly!" said the agoumenos, "what do you want it for?"

My servant suggested that, perhaps, it might be useful to cover some jam
pots or vases of preserves which I had at home.

"Oh!" said the agoumenos, "take some more;" and, without more ado, he
seized upon an unfortunate thick quarto manuscript of the Acts and
Epistles, and drawing out a knife cut out an inch thickness of leaves at
the end before I could stop him. It proved to be the Apocalypse, which
concluded the volume, but which is rarely found in early Greek
manuscripts of the Acts: it was of the eleventh century. I ought,
perhaps, to have slain the _tomecide_ for his dreadful act of
profanation, but his generosity reconciled me to his guilt, so I
pocketed the Apocalypse, and asked him if he would sell me any of the
other books, as he did not appear to set any particular value upon them.

"Malista, certainly," he replied; "how many will you have? They are of
no use to me, and as I am in want of money to complete my buildings I
shall be very glad to turn them to some account."

After a good deal of conversation, finding the agoumenos so
accommodating, and so desirous to part with the contents of his dark and
dusty closet, I arranged that I would leave him for the present, and
after I had made the tour of the other monasteries, would return to
Caracalla, and take up my abode there until I could hire a vessel, or
make some other arrangements for my return to Constantinople.
Satisfactory as this arrangement was, I nevertheless resolved to make
sure of what I had already got, so I packed them up carefully in the
great saddlebags, to my extreme delight. The agoumenos kindly furnished
me with fresh mules, and in the afternoon I proceeded to the monastery
of

PHILOTHEO,

which is only an hour's ride from Caracalla, and stands in a little
field surrounded by the forest. It is distant from the sea about four
miles, and is protected, like all the others, by a high stone wall
surrounding the whole of the building. The church is curious and
interesting; it is ornamented with representations of saints, and holy
men in fresco, upon the walls of the interior and in the porch. I could
not make out when it was built, but probably before the twelfth century.
Arsenius, Philotheus, and Dionysius were the founders, but who they were
did not appear. The monastery was repaired, and the refectory enlarged
and painted, in the year 1492, by Leontius, ο βασιλευς Καχετιου, and his
son Alexander. I was shown the reliquaries, but they were not
remarkable. The monks said they had no library; and there being nothing
of interest in the monastery, I determined to go on. Indeed the
expression of the faces of some of these monks was so unprepossessing,
and their manners so rude, although not absolutely uncivil, that I did
not feel any particular inclination to remain amongst them, so leaving a
small donation for the church, I mounted my mule and proceeded on my
journey.

In half an hour I came to a beautiful waterfall in a rocky glen
embosomed in trees and odoriferous shrubs, the rocks being of white
marble, and the flowers such as we cherish in greenhouses in England. I
do not know that I ever saw a more charmingly romantic spot. Another
hour brought us to the great monastery of

IVERON, or IBERON,

(the Georgian, or Iberian, Monastery.)

This monastic establishment is of great size. It is larger than St.
Laura, and might almost be denominated a small fortified town, so
numerous are the buildings and courts which are contained within its
encircling wall. It is situated near the sea, and in its general form is
nearly square, with four or five square towers projecting from the
walls. On each of the four sides there are rooms for above two hundred
monks. I did not learn precisely how many were then inhabiting it, but I
should imagine there were above a hundred. As, however, many of the
members of all the religious communities on Mount Athos are employed in
cultivating the numerous farms which they possess, it is probable that
not more than one-half of the monks are in residence at any one time.

This monastery was founded by Theophania (Theodora?), wife of the
Emperor Romanus, the son of Leo Sophos,[17] or the Philosopher, between
the years 919 and 922. It was restored by a Prince of Georgia or
Iberia, and enlarged by his son, a caloyer. The church is dedicated to
the "repose of the Virgin." It has four or five domes, and is of
considerable size, standing by itself, as usual, in the centre of the
great court, and is ornamented with columns and other decorations of
rich marbles, together with the usual fresco paintings on the walls.

The library is a remarkably fine one, perhaps altogether the most
precious of all those which now remain on the holy mountain. It is
situated over the porch of the church, which appears to be the usual
place where the books are kept in these establishments. The room is of
good size, well fitted up with bookcases with glass doors, of not very
old workmanship. I should imagine that about a hundred years ago, some
agoumenos, or prior, or librarian, must have been a reading man; and the
pious care which he took to arrange the ancient volumes of the monastery
has been rewarded by the excellent state of preservation in which they
still remain. Since his time, they have probably remained undisturbed.
Every one could see through the greenish uneven panes of old glass that
there was nothing but books inside, and therefore nobody meddled with
them. I was allowed to rummage at my leisure in this mine of
archæological treasure. Having taken up my abode for the time being in a
cheerful room, the windows of which commanded a glorious prospect, I
soon made friends with the literary portion of the community, which
consisted of one thin old monk, a cleverish man, who united to many
other offices that of librarian. He was also secretary to my lord the
agoumenos, a kind-hearted old gentleman, who seemed to wish everybody
well, and who evidently liked much better to sit still on his divan than
to regulate the affairs of his convent. The rents, the long lists of
tuns of wine and oil, the strings of mules laden with corn, which came
in daily from the farms, and all the other complicated details of this
mighty cœenobium,--over all these, and numberless other important
matters, the thin secretary had full control.

Some of the young monks, demure fat youths, came into the library every
now and then, and wondered what I could be doing there, looking over so
many books; and they would take a volume out of my hand when I had done
with it, and, glancing their eyes over its ancient vellum leaves, would
look up inquiringly into my face, saying, "[Greek: ti ene τι ενε]?--what
is it?--what can be the use of looking at such old books as these?" They
were rather in awe of the secretary, who was evidently, in their
opinion, a prodigy of learning and erudition. Some, in a low voice, that
they might not be overheard by the wise man, asked me where I came from,
how old I was, and whether my father was with me; but they soon all went
away, and I turned to, in right good earnest, to look for uncial
manuscripts and unknown classic authors. Of these last there was not
one on vellum, but on paper there was an octavo manuscript of Sophocles,
and a Coptic Psaltery with an Arabic translation--a curious book to meet
with on Mount Athos. Of printed books there were, I should think, about
five thousand--of manuscripts on paper, about two thousand; but all
religious works of various kinds. There were nearly a thousand
manuscripts on vellum, and these I looked over more carefully than the
rest. About one hundred of them were in the Iberian language: they were
mostly immense thick quartos, some of them not less than eighteen inches
square, and from four to six inches thick. One of these, bound in wooden
boards, and written in large uncial letters, was a magnificent old
volume. Indeed all these Iberian or Georgian manuscripts were superb
specimens of ancient books. I was unable to read them, and therefore
cannot say what they were; but I should imagine that they were church
books, and probably of high antiquity. Among the Greek manuscripts,
which were principally of the eleventh and twelfth centuries--works of
St. Chrysostom, St. Basil, and books for the services of the ritual--I
discovered the following, which are deserving of especial mention:--A
large folio Evangelistarium bound in red velvet, about eighteen inches
high and three thick, written in magnificent uncial letters half an inch
long, or even more. Three of the illuminations were the whole size of
the page, and might almost be termed pictures from their large
proportions: and there were several other illuminations of smaller size
in different parts of the book. This superb manuscript was in admirable
preservation, and as clean as if it had been new. It had evidently been
kept with great care, and appeared to have had some clasps or ornaments
of gold or silver which had been torn off. It was probably owing to the
original splendour of this binding that the volume itself had been so
carefully preserved. I imagine it was written in the ninth century.

Another book, of a much greater age, was a copy of the four Gospels,
with four finely-executed miniatures of the evangelists. It was about
nine or ten inches square, written in round semiuncial letters in double
columns, with not more than two or three words in a line. In some
respects it resembled the book of the Epistles in the Bodleian Library
at Oxford. This manuscript, in the original black leather binding, had
every appearance of the highest antiquity. It was beautifully written
and very clean, and was altogether such a volume as is not to be met
with every day.

A quarto manuscript of the four Gospels, of the eleventh or twelfth
century, with a great many (perhaps fifty) illuminations. Some of them
were unfortunately rather damaged.

Two manuscripts of the New Testament, with the Apocalypse.

A very fine manuscript of the Psalms, of the eleventh century, which is
indeed about the era of the greater portion of the vellum manuscripts on
Mount Athos.

There were also some ponderous and magnificent folios of the works of
the fathers of the Church--some of them, I should think, of the tenth
century; but it is difficult, in a few hours, to detect the
peculiarities which prove that manuscripts are of an earlier date than
the twelfth century. I am, however, convinced that very few of them were
written after that time.

The paper manuscripts were of all ages, from the thirteenth and
fifteenth centuries down to a hundred years ago; and some of them, on
charta bombycina, would have appeared very splendid books if they had
not been eclipsed by the still finer and more carefully-executed
manuscripts on vellum.

Neither my arguments nor my eloquence could prevail on the obdurate
monks to sell me any of these books, but my friend the secretary gave me
a book in his own handwriting to solace me on my journey. It contained a
history of the monastery from the days of its foundation to the present
time. It is written in Romaic, and is curious not so much from its
subject matter as from the entire originality of its style and manner.

The view from the window of the room which I occupied at Iveron was one
of the finest on Mount Athos. The glorious sea, and the towers which
command the scaricatojos or landing-places of the different monasteries
along the coast, and the superb monastery of Stavroniketa like a Gothic
castle perched upon a beetling rock, with the splendid forest for a
background, formed altogether a picture totally above my powers to
describe. It almost compensated for the numberless tribes of vermin by
which the room was tenanted. In fact, the whole of the scenery on Mount
Athos is so superlatively grand and beautiful that it is useless to
attempt any description.



CHAPTER XXVI.


     The Monastery of Stavroniketa--The Library--Splendid MS. of St.
     Chrysostom--The Monastery of Pantocratoras--Ruinous Condition of
     the Library--Complete Destruction of the
     Books--Disappointment--Oration to the Monks--The Great Monastery of
     Vatopede--Its History--Ancient Pictures in the Church--Legend of
     the Girdle of the Blessed Virgin--The Library--Wealth and Luxury of
     the Monks--The Monastery of Sphigmenou--Beautiful Jewelled
     Cross--The Monastery of Kiliantari--Magnificent MS. in Gold Letters
     on White Vellum--The Monasteries of Zographon, Castamoneta,
     Docheirou, and Xenophou--The Exiled Bishops--The Library--Very fine
     MSS.--Proposals for their Purchase--Lengthened Negotiations--Their
     successful Issue.


An hour's ride brought us to the monastery of

STAVRONIKETA,

which is a smaller building than Iveron, with a square tower over the
gateway. It stands on a rock overhanging the sea, against the base of
which the waves ceaselessly beat. It was to this spot that a miraculous
picture of St Nicholas, archbishop of Myra in Lycia, floated over, of
its own accord, from I do not know where; and in consequence of this
auspicious event, Jeremias, patriarch of Constantinople, founded this
monastery, of "the victory of the holy cross," about the year 1522. This
is the account given by the monks; but from the appearance and
architecture of Stavroniketa, I conceive that it is a much older
building, and that probably the patriarch Jeremias only repaired or
restored it. However that may be, the monastery is in very good order,
clean, and well kept; and I had a comfortable frugal dinner there with
some of the good old monks, who seemed a cheerful and contented set.

The library contained about eight hundred volumes, of which nearly two
hundred were manuscripts on vellum. Amongst these were conspicuous the
entire works of St. Chrysostom, in eight large folio volumes complete;
and a manuscript of the Scala Perfectionis in Greek, containing a number
of most exquisite miniatures in a brilliant state of preservation. It
was a quarto of the tenth or eleventh century, and a most
unexceptionable tome, which these unkind monks preferred keeping to
themselves instead of letting me have it, as they ought to have done.
The miniatures were first-rate works of Byzantine art. It was a terrible
pang to me to leave such a book behind. There were also a Psalter with
several miniatures, but these were partially damaged; five or six copies
of the Gospels; two fine folio volumes of the Menologia, or Lives of the
Saints; and sundry ομοιλογο and books of divinity,
and the works of the fathers. On paper there were two hundred more
manuscripts, amongst which was a curious one of the Acts and Epistles,
full of large miniatures and illuminations exceedingly well done. As it
is quite clear that all these manuscripts are older than the time of the
patriarch Jeremias, they confirm my opinion that he could not have been
the original founder of the monastery.

It is an hour's scramble over the rocks from Stavroniketa to the
monastery of

PANTOCRATORAS.

This edifice was built by Manuel and Alexius Comnenus, and Johannes
Pumicerius, their brother. It was subsequently repaired by Barbulus and
Gabriel, two Wallachian nobles. The church is handsome and curious, and
contains several relics, but the reliquaries are not of much beauty, nor
of very great antiquity. Among them, however, is a small thick quarto
volume about five inches square every way, in the handwriting, as you
are told, of St. John of Kalavita. Now St. John of Kalavita was a hermit
who died in the year 450, and his head is shown at Besançon, in the
church of St. Stephen, to which place it was taken after the siege of
Constantinople. Howbeit this manuscript did not seem to me to be older
than the twelfth century, or the eleventh at the earliest It is written
in a very minute hand, and contains the Gospels, some prayers, and lives
of saints, and is ornamented with some small illuminations. The binding
is very curious: it is entirely of silver gilt, and is of great
antiquity. The back part is composed of an intricate kind of chainwork,
which bends when the book is opened, and the sides are embossed with a
variety of devices.

On my inquiring for the library, I was told it had been destroyed during
the revolution. It had formerly been preserved in the great square tower
or keep, which is a grand feature in all the monasteries. I went to look
at the place, and leaning through a ruined arch, I looked down into the
lower story of the tower, and there I saw the melancholy remains of a
once famous library. This was a dismal spectacle for a devout lover of
old books--a sort of biblical knight errant, as I then considered
myself, who had entered on the perilous adventure of Mount Athos to
rescue from the thraldom of ignorant monks those fair vellum volumes,
with their bright illuminations and velvet dresses and jewelled clasps,
which for so many centuries had lain imprisoned in their dark monastic
dungeons. It was indeed a heart-rending sight. By the dim light which
streamed through the opening of an iron door in the wall of the ruined
tower, I saw above a hundred ancient manuscripts lying among the rubbish
which had fallen from the upper floor, which was ruinous, and had in
great part given way. Some of these manuscripts seemed quite
entire--fine large folios; but the monks said they were unapproachable,
for that floor also on which they lay was unsafe, the beams below being
rotten from the wet and rain which came in through the roof. Here was a
trap ready set and baited for a bibliographical antiquary. I peeped at
the old manuscripts, looked particularly at one or two that were lying
in the middle of the floor, and could hardly resist the temptation. I
advanced cautiously along the boards, keeping close to the wall, whilst
every now and then a dull cracking noise warned me of my danger, but I
tried each board by stamping upon it with my foot before I ventured my
weight upon it. At last, when I dared go no farther, I made them bring
me a long stick, with which I fished up two or three fine manuscripts,
and poked them along towards the door. When I had safely landed them, I
examined them more at my ease, but found that the rain had washed the
outer leaves quite clean: the pages were stuck tight together into a
solid mass, and when I attempted to open them, they broke short off in
square bits like a biscuit. Neglect and damp and exposure had destroyed
them completely. One fine volume, a large folio in double columns, of
most venerable antiquity, particularly grieved me. I do not know how
many more manuscripts there might be under the piles of rubbish. Perhaps
some of them might still be legible, but without assistance and time I
could not clean out the ruins that had fallen from above; and I was
unable to save even a scrap from this general tomb of a whole race of
books. I came out of the great tower, and sitting down on a pile of
ruins, with a bearded assembly of grave caloyeri round me, I vented my
sorrow and indignation in a long oration, which however produced a very
slight effect upon my auditory; but whether from their not understanding
Italian, or my want of eloquence, is matter of doubt. My man was the
only person who seemed to commiserate my misfortune, and he looked so
genuinely vexed and sorry that I liked him the better ever afterwards.
At length I dismissed the assembly: they toddled away to their siesta,
and I, mounted anew upon a stout well-fed mule, bade adieu to the
hospitable agoumenos, and was soon occupied in picking my way among the
rocks and trees towards the next monastery. In two hours' time we passed
the ruins of a large building standing boldly on a hill. It had formerly
been a college; and a magnificent aqueduct of fourteen double
arches--that is, two rows of arches one above the other--connected it
with another hill, and had a grand effect, with long and luxuriant
masses of flowers streaming from its neglected walls. In half an hour
more I arrived at

VATOPEDE.

This is the largest and richest of all the monasteries of Mount Athos.
It is situated on the side of a hill where a valley opens to the sea,
and commands a little harbour where three small Greek vessels were lying
at anchor. The buildings are of great extent, with several towers and
domes rising above the walls: I should say it was not smaller than the
upper ward of Windsor Castle. The original building was erected by the
Emperor Constantine the Great. That worthy prince being, it appears,
much afflicted by the leprosy, ordered a number of little children to be
killed, a bath of juvenile blood being considered an excellent remedy.
But while they were selecting them, he was told in a vision that if he
would become a Christian his leprosy should depart from him: he did so,
and was immediately restored to health, and all the children lived long
and happily. This story is related by Moses Chorensis, whose veracity I
will not venture to doubt.

In the fifth century this monastery was thrown down by Julian the
Apostate. Theodosius the Great built it up again in gratitude for the
miraculous escape of his son Arcadius, who having fallen overboard from
his galley in the Archipelago, was landed safely on this spot through
the intercession of the Virgin, to whose special honour the great church
was founded: fourteen other chapels within the walls attest the piety of
other individuals. In the year 862 the Saracens landed, destroyed the
monastery by fire, slew many of the monks, took the treasures and broke
the mosaics; but the representation of the Blessed Virgin was
indestructible, and still remained safe and perfect above the altar.
There was also a well under the altar, into which some of the relics
were thrown and afterwards recovered by the community.

About the year 1300 St. Athanasius the Patriarch persuaded Nicholaus and
Antonius, certain rich men of Adrianople, to restore the monastery once
more, which they did, and taking the vows became monks, and were buried
in the narthex or portico of the church. I may here observe that this
was the nearest approach to being buried within the church that was
permitted in the early times of Christianity, and such is still the rule
observed in the Greek Church: altars were, however, raised over the
tombs or places of execution of martyrs.

This church contains a great many ancient pictures of small size, most
of them having the background overlaid with plates of silver-gilt: two
of these are said to be portraits of the Empress Theodora. Two other
pictures of larger size and richly set with jewels are interesting as
having been brought from the church of St. Sophia at Constantinople,
when that city fell a prey to the Turkish arms. Over the doors of the
church and of the great refectory there are mosaics representing, if I
remember rightly, saints and holy persons. One of the chapels, a
separate building with a dome which had been newly repaired, is
dedicated to the "Preservation of the Girdle of the Blessed Virgin," a
relic which must be a source of considerable revenue to the monastery,
for they have divided it into two parts, and one half is sent into
Greece and the other half into Asia Minor whenever the plague is raging
in those countries, and all those who are afflicted with that terrible
disease are sure to be cured if they touch it, which they are allowed to
do "_for a consideration_." On my inquiring how the monastery became
possessed of so inestimable a medicine, I was gravely informed that,
after the assumption of the Blessed Virgin, St. Thomas went up to heaven
to pay her a visit, and there she presented him with her girdle. My
informant appeared to have the most unshakeable conviction as to the
truth of this history, and expressed great surprise that I had never
heard it before.

The library, although containing nearly four thousand printed books, has
none of any high antiquity or on any subject but divinity. There are
also about a thousand manuscripts, of which three or four hundred are on
vellum; amongst these there are three copies of the works of St
Chrysostom: they also have his head in the church--that golden mouth out
of which proceeded the voice which shook the empire with the thunder of
its denunciations. The most curious manuscripts are six rolls of
parchment, each ten inches wide and about ten feet long, containing
prayers for festivals on the anniversaries of the foundation of certain
churches. There were at this time above three hundred monks resident in
the monastery; many of these held offices and places of dignity under
the agoumenos, whose establishment resembled the court of a petty
sovereign prince. Altogether this convent well illustrates what some of
the great monastic establishments in England must have been before the
Reformation. It covers at least four acres of ground, and contains so
many separate buildings within its massive walls that it resembles a
fortified town. Everything told of wealth and indolence. When I arrived
the lord abbot was asleep; he was too great a man to be aroused; he had
eaten a full meal in his own apartment, and he could not be disturbed.
His secretary, a thin pale monk, was deputed to show me the wonders of
the place, and as we proceeded through the different chapels and
enormous magazines of corn, wine, and oil, the officers of the different
departments bent down to kiss his hand, for he was high in the favour of
my lord the abbot, and was evidently a man not to be slighted by the
inferior authorities if they wished to get on and prosper. The cellarer
was a sly old fellow with a thin grey beard, and looked as if he could
tell a good story of an evening over a flagon of good wine. Except at
some of the palaces in Germany I have never seen such gigantic tuns as
those in the cellars at Vatopede. The oil is kept in marble vessels of
the size and shape of sarcophagi, and there is a curious picture in the
entrance room of the oil-store, which represents the miraculous increase
in their stock of oil during a year of scarcity, when, through the
intercession of a pious monk who then had charge of that department, the
marble basins, which were almost empty, overflowed, and a river of fine
fresh oil poured in torrents through the door. The frame of this picture
is set with jewels, and it appears to be very ancient. The refectory is
an immense room; it stands in front of the church and has twenty-four
marble tables and seats, and is in the same cruciform shape as that at
St. Laura. It has frequently accommodated five hundred guests, the
servants and tenants of the abbey, who come on stated days to pay their
rents and receive the benediction of the agoumenos. Sixty or seventy fat
mules are kept for the use of the community, and a very considerable
number of Albanian servants and muleteers are lodged in outbuildings
before the great gate. These, unlike their brethren of Epirus, are a
quiet, stupid race, and whatever may be their notions of another world,
they evidently think that in this there is no man living equal in
importance to the great agoumenos of Vatopede, and no earthly place to
compare with the great monastery over which he rules.

From Vatopede it requires two hours and a half to ride to the monastery
of

SPHIGMENOU,

which is a much smaller establishment. It is said to have been founded
by the Empress Pulcheria, sister of the Emperor Theodosius the younger,
and if so must be a very ancient building, for the empress died on the
18th of February in the year 453. Her brother Theodosius was known by
the title or cognomen of καλλιγραφος, from the beauty of his writing: he
was a protector of the Nestorian and Eutychian heretics, and ended his
life on the 20th of October, 460.

This monastery is situated in a narrow valley close to the sea, squeezed
in between three little hills, from which circumstance it derives its
name of σφιγμενος, "squeezed together." It is inhabited by thirty monks,
who are cleaner and keep their church in better order and neatness than
most of their brethren on Mount Athos. Among the relics of the saints,
which are the first things they show to the pilgrim from beyond the sea,
is a beautiful ancient cross of gold set with diamonds. Diamonds are of
very rare occurrence in ancient pieces of jewellery; it is indeed
doubtful whether they were known to the ancients, adamantine being an
epithet applied to the hardness of steel, and I have never seen a
diamond in any work of art of the Roman or classical era. Besides the
diamonds the cross has on the upper end and on the extremities of the
two arms three very fine and large emeralds, each fastened on with three
gold nails: it is a fine specimen of early jewellery, and of no small
intrinsic value.

The library is in a room over the porch of the church: it contains about
1500 volumes, half of which are manuscripts, mostly on paper, and all
theological. I met with four copies of the Gospels and two of the
Epistles, all the others being books of the church service and the usual
folios of the fathers. There was, however, a Russian or Bulgarian
manuscript of the four Gospels with an illumination at the commencement
of each Gospel. It is written in capital letters, and seemed to be of
considerable antiquity. I was disappointed at not finding manuscripts of
greater age in so very ancient a monastery as this is; but perhaps it
has undergone more squeezing than that inflicted upon it by the three
hills. I slept here in peace and comfort.

On the sea-shore not far from Sphigmenou are the ruins of the monastery
of St. Basil, opposite a small rocky island in the sea, which I left at
this point, and striking up the country arrived in an hour's time at the
monastery of

KILIANTARI,

or a thousand lions. This is a large building, of which the ground plan
resembles the shape of an open fan. It stands in a valley, and
contained, when I entered its hospitable gates, about fifty monks. They
preserve in the sacristy a superb chalice, of a kind of bloodstone set
in gold, about a foot high and eight inches wide, the gift of one of the
Byzantine emperors. This monastery was founded by Simeon, Prince of
Servia, I could not make out at what time. In the library they had no
great number of books, and what there were were all Russian or
Bulgarian: I saw none which seemed to be of great antiquity. On
inquiring, however, whether they had not some Greek manuscripts, the
Agoumenos said they had one, which he went and brought me out of the
sacristy; and this, to my admiration and surprise, was not only the
finest manuscript on Mount Athos, but the finest that I had met with in
any Greek monastery with the single exception of the golden manuscript
of the New Testament at Mount Sinai. It was a 4to. Evangelistarium,
written in golden letters on fine _white_ vellum. The characters were a
kind of semi-uncial, rather round in their forms, of large size, and
beautifully executed, but often joined together and having many
contractions and abbreviations, in these respects resembling the Mount
Sinai MS. This magnificent volume was given to the monastery by the
Emperor Andronicus Comnenus about the year 1184; it is consequently not
an early MS., but its imperial origin renders it interesting to the
admirers of literary treasures, while the very rare occurrence of a
_Greek_ MS. written in letters of gold would make it a most desirable
and important acquisition to any royal library; for besides the two
above-mentioned there are not, I believe, more than seven or eight MSS.
of this description in existence, and of these several are merely
fragments, and only one is on white vellum: this is in the library of
the Holy Synod at Moscow. Five of the others are on blue or purple
vellum, viz., Codex Cottonianus, in the British Museum, Titus C. 15, a
fragment of the Gospels; an octavo Evangelistarium at Vienna; a fragment
of the books of Genesis and St. Luke in silver letters at Vienna; the
Codex Turicensis of part of the Psalms; and six leaves of the Gospels of
St. Matthew in silver letters with the initials in gold in the Vatican.
There may possibly be others, but I have never heard of them. Latin MSS.
in golden letters are much less scarce, but Greek MSS., even those which
merely contain two or three pages written in gold letters, are of such
rarity that hardly a dozen are to be met with; of these there are three
in the library at Parham. I think the Codex Ebnerianus has one or two
pages written in gold, and the tables of a gospel at Jerusalem are in
gold on deep purple vellum. At this moment I do not remember any more,
although doubtless there must be a few of these partially ornamented
volumes scattered through the great libraries of Europe.

From Kiliantari, which is the last monastery on the N.E. side of the
promontory, we struck across the peninsula, and two hours' riding
brought us to

ZOGRAPHOU,

through plains of rich green grass dotted over with gigantic single
trees, the scenery being like that of an English park, only finer and
more luxuriant as well as more extensive. This monastery was founded in
the reign of Leo Sophos, by three nobles of Constantinople who became
monks; and the local tradition is that it was destroyed by the "_Pope of
Rome_." How that happened I know not, but it was rebuilt in the year
1502 by Stephanus, Waywode of Moldavia. It is a large fortified building
of very imposing appearance, situated on a steep hill surrounded with
trees and gardens overlooking a deep valley which opens on the gulf of
Monte Santo. The MSS. here are Bulgarian, and not of early date; they
had no Greek MSS. whatever.

From Zographou, following the valley, we arrived at a lower plain on the
sea coast, and there we discovered that we had lost our way; we
therefore retraced our steps, and turning up among the hills to our left
we came in three hours to

CASTAMONETA,

which, had we taken the right road, we might have reached in one. This
is a very poor monastery, but it is of great age and its architecture is
picturesque: it was originally founded by Constantine the Great. It has
no library nor anything particularly well worth mentioning, excepting
the original deed of the Emperor Manuel Paleologus, with the sign manual
of that potentate written in very large letters in red ink at the
bottom of the deed, by which he granted to the monastery the lands which
it still retains. The poor monks were much edified by the sight of the
patriarchal letter, and when I went away rang the bells of the church
tower to do me honour.

At the distance of one hour from hence stands the monastery of

DOCHEIROU.

It is the first to the west of those upon the south-west shore of the
peninsula. It is a monastery of great size, with ample room for a
hundred monks, although inhabited by only twenty. It was built in the
reign of Nicephorus Botoniates, and was last repaired in the year 1578
by Alexander, Waywode of Moldavia. I was very well lodged in this
convent, and the fleas were singularly few. The library contained two
thousand five hundred volumes, of which one hundred and fifty were
vellum MSS. I omitted to note the number of MSS. on paper, but amongst
them I found a part of Sophocles and a fine folio of Suidas's Lexicon.
Among the vellum MSS. there was a folio in the Bulgarian language, and
various works of the fathers. I found also three loose leaves of an
Evangelistarium in uncial letters of the ninth century, which had been
cut out of some ancient volume, for which I hunted in the dust in vain.
The monks gave me these three leaves on my asking for them, for even a
few pages of such a manuscript as this are not to be despised.

From Docheirou it is only a distance of half an hour to

XENOPHOU,

which stands upon the sea shore. Here they were building a church in the
centre of the great court, which, when it is finished, will be the
largest on Mount Athos. Three Greek bishops were living here in exile. I
did not learn what the holy prelates had done, but their misdeeds had
been found out by the Patriarch, and he had sent them here to rusticate.
This monastery is of a moderate size; its founder was St. Xenophou,
regarding whose history or the period at which he lived I am unable to
give any information, as nobody knew anything about him on the spot, and
I cannot find him in any catalogue of saints which I possess. The
monastery was repaired in the year 1545 by Danzulas Bornicus and
Badulus, who were brothers, and Banus (the Ban) Barbulus, all three
nobles of Hungary, and was afterwards beautified by Matthæus, Waywode of
Bessarabia.

The library consists of fifteen hundred printed books, nineteen MSS. on
paper, eleven on vellum, and three rolls on parchment, containing
liturgies for particular days. Of the MSS. on vellum there were three
which merit a description. One was a fine 4to. of part of the works of
St. Chrysostom, of great antiquity, but not in uncial letters. Another
was a 4to. of the four Gospels bound in faded red velvet with silver
clasps. This book they affirmed to be a royal present to the monastery;
it was of the eleventh or twelfth century, and was peculiar from the
text being accompanied by a voluminous commentary on the margin and
several pages of calendars, prefaces, &c., at the beginning. The
headings of the Gospels were written in large plain letters of gold. In
the libraries of forty Greek monasteries I have only met with one other
copy of the Gospels with a commentary. The third manuscript was an
immense quarto Evangelistarium sixteen inches square, bound in faded
green or blue velvet, and said to be in the autograph of the Emperor
Alexius Comnenus. The text throughout on each page was written in the
form of a cross. Two of the pages are in purple ink powdered with gold,
and these, there is every reason to suppose, are in the handwriting of
the imperial scribe himself; for the Byzantine sovereigns affected to
write only in purple, as their deeds and a magnificent MS. in another
monastic library, of which I have not given an account in these pages,
can testify: the titles of this superb volume are written in gold,
covering the whole page. Altogether, although not in uncial letters, it
was among the finest Greek MSS. that I had ever seen--perhaps, next to
the uncial MSS., the finest to be met with anywhere.

I asked the monks whether they were inclined to part with these three
books, and offered to purchase them and the parchment rolls. There was a
little consultation among them, and then they desired to be shown those
which I particularly coveted. Then there was another consultation, and
they asked me which I set the greatest value on. So I said the rolls, on
which the three rolls were unrolled, and looked at, and examined, and
peeped at by the three monks who put themselves forward in the business,
with more pains and curiosity than had probably been ever wasted upon
them before. At last they said it was impossible, the rolls were too
precious to be parted with, but if I liked to give a good price I should
have the rest; upon which I took up the St. Chrysostom, the least
valuable of the three, and while I examined it, saw from the corner of
my eye the three monks nudging each other and making signs. So I said,
"Well, now what will you take for your two books, this and the big one?"
They asked five thousand piastres; whereupon, with a look of indignant
scorn, I laid down the St. Chrysostom and got up to go away; but after a
good deal more talk we retired to the divan, or drawing-room as it may
be called, of the monastery, where I conversed with the three exiled
bishops. In course of time I was called out into another room to have a
cup of coffee. There were my friends the three monks, the managing
committee, and under the divan, imperfectly concealed, were the corners
of the three splendid MSS. I knew that now all depended on my own tact
whether my still famished saddle-bags were to have a meal or not that
day, the danger lying between offering too much or too little. If you
offer too much, a Greek, a Jew, or an Armenian immediately thinks that
the desired object must be invaluable, that it must have some magical
properties, like the lamp of Aladdin, which will bring wealth upon its
possessor if he can but find out its secret; and he will either ask you
a sum absurdly large, or will refuse to sell it at any price, but will
lock it up and become nervous about it, and examine it over and over
again privately to see what can be the cause of a Frank's offering so
much for a thing apparently so utterly useless. On the other hand, too
little must not be offered, for it would be an indignity to suppose that
persons of consideration would condescend to sell things of trifling
value--it wounds their aristocratic feelings, they are above such
meannesses. By St. Xenophou, how we did talk! for five mortal hours it
went on, I pretending to go away several times, but being always called
back by one or other of the learned committee. I drank coffee and
sherbet and they drank arraghi; but in the end I got the great book of
Alexius Comnenus for the value of twenty-two pounds, and the curious
Gospels, which I had treated with the most cool disdain all along, was
finally thrown into the bargain; and out I walked with a big book under
each arm, bearing with perfect resignation the smiles and scoffs of the
three brethren, who could scarcely contain their laughter at the way
they had done the silly traveller. Then did the saddlebags begin to
assume a more comely and satisfactory form.

After a stirrup cup of hot coffee, perfumed with the incense of the
church, the monks bid me a joyous adieu; I responded as joyously: in
short every one was charmed, except the mule, who evidently was more
surprised than pleased at the increased weight which he had to carry.



CHAPTER XXVII.


     The Monastery of Russico--Its Courteous Abbot--The Monastery of
     Xeropotamo--Its History--High Character of its Abbot--Excursion to
     the Monasteries of St. Nicholas and St. Dionisius--Interesting
     Relics--Magnificent Shrine--The Library--The Monastery of St.
     Paul--Respect shown by the Monks--Beautiful MS.--Extraordinary
     Liberality and Kindness of the Abbot and Monks--A valuable
     Acquisition at little Cost--The Monastery of Simopetra--Purchase of
     MS.--The Monk of Xeropotamo--His Ideas about Women--Excursion to
     Cariez--The Monastery of Coutloumoussi--The Russian
     Book-Stealer--History of the Monastery--Its reputed Destruction by
     the Pope of Rome--The Aga of Cariez--Interview in a Kiosk--The She
     Cat of Mount Athos.


From Xenophou I went on to

RUSSICO,

where also they were repairing the injuries which different parts of the
edifice had sustained during the late Greek war. The agoumenos of this
monastery was a remarkably gentlemanlike and accomplished man; he spoke
several languages and ruled over a hundred and thirty monks. They had,
however, amongst them all only nine MSS., and those were of no interest.
The agoumenos told me that the monastery formerly possessed a MS. of
Homer on vellum, which he sold to two English gentlemen some years ago,
who were immediately afterwards plundered by pirates, and the MS. thrown
into the sea. As I never heard of any Englishman having been at Mount
Athos since the days of Dr. Clarke and Dr. Carlysle, I could not make
out who these gentlemen were: probably they were Frenchmen, or Europeans
of some other nation. However, the idea of the pirates gave me a horrid
qualm; and I thought how dreadful it would be if they threw my Alexius
Comnenus into the sea; it made me feel quite uncomfortable. This
monastery was built by the Empress Catherine the First, of Russia--or,
to speak more correctly, repaired by her--for it was originally founded
by Saint Lazarus Knezes, of Servia, and the church dedicated to St.
Panteleemon the Martyr. A ride of an hour brought me to


XEROPOTAMO,

where I was received with so much hospitality and kindness that I
determined to make it my headquarters while I visited the other
monasteries, which from this place could readily be approached by sea. I
was fortunate in procuring a boat with two men--a sort of naval lay
brethren,--who agreed to row me about wherever I liked, and bring me
back to Xeropotamo for fifty piastres, and this they would do whenever I
chose, as they were not very particular about time, an article upon
which they evidently set small value.

This monastery was founded by the Emperor Romanus about the year 920; it
was rebuilt by Andronicus the Second in 1320; in the sixteenth century
it was thrown down by an earthquake, and was again repaired by the
Sultan Selim the First, or at least during his reign--that is, about
1515. It was in a ruinous condition in the year 1701; it was again
repaired, and in the Greek revolution it was again dismantled; at the
time of my visit they were actively employed in restoring it. Alexander,
Waywode of Wallachia, was a great benefactor to this and other
monasteries of Athos, which owe much to the piety of the different
Christian princes of the Danubian states of the Turkish empire.

The library over the porch of the church, which is large and handsome,
contains one thousand printed books and between thirty and forty
manuscripts in bad condition. I saw none of consequence: that is to say,
nothing except the usual volumes of divinity of the twelfth century. In
the church is preserved a large piece of the holy cross richly set with
valuable jewels. The agoumenos of Xeropotamo, a man with a dark-grey
beard, about sixty years of age, struck me as a fine specimen of what an
abbot of an ascetic monastery ought to be; simple and kind, yet clever
enough, and learned in the divinity of his church, he set an example to
the monks under his rule of devotion and rectitude of conduct; he was
not slothful, or haughty, or grasping, and seemed to have a truly
religious and cheerful mind. He was looked up to and beloved by the
whole community; and with his dignified manner and appearance, his long
grey hair, and dark flowing robes, he gave me the idea of what the
saints and holy men of old must have been in the early days of
Christianity, when they walked entirely in the faith, and--if required
to do so--willingly gave themselves up as martyrs to the cause: when in
all their actions they were influenced solely by the dictates of their
religion. Would that such times would come again! But where every one
sets up a new religion for himself, and when people laugh at and
ridicule those things which their ignorance prevents them from
appreciating, how can we hope for this?

Early in the morning I started from my comfortable couch, and ran
scrambling down the hill, over the rolling-stones in the dry bed of the
torrent on which the monastery of the "dry river" (ξηροποταμου--courou
chesmé in Turkish) is built. We got into the boat: our carpets, some
oranges, and various little stores for a day's journey, which the good
monks had supplied us with, being brought down by sundry good-natured
lubberly κατακυμενοι--religions youths--who were delighted at having
something to do, and were as pleased as children at having a good heavy
praying-carpet to carry, or a basket of oranges, or a cushion from the
monastery. They all waited on the shore to see us off, and away we went
along the coast. As the sun got up it became oppressively hot, and the
first monastery we came abreast of was that of Simopetra, which is
perched on the top of a perpendicular rock, five or six hundred feet
high at least, if not twice as much. This rather daunted me: and as we
thought perhaps to-morrow would not be so hot, I put off climbing up the
precipice for the present, and rowed gently on in the calm sea till we
came before the monastery of


ST. NICHOLAS,

the smallest of all the convents of Mount Athos. It was a most
picturesque building, stuck up on a rock, and is famous for its figs, in
the eating of which, in the absence of more interesting matter, we all
employed ourselves a considerable time; they were marvellously cool and
delicious, and there were such quantities of them. We and the boatmen
sat in the shade, and enjoyed ourselves till we were ashamed of staying
any longer. I forgot to ask who the founder was. There was no library;
in fact, there was nothing but figs; so we got into the boat again, and
sweltered on a quarter of an hour more, and then we came to


ST. DIONISIUS.

This monastery is also built upon a rock immediately above the sea; it
is of moderate size, but is in good repair. There was a look of comfort
about it that savoured of easy circumstances, but the number of monks
in it was small. Altogether this monastery, as regards the antiquities
it contained, was the most interesting of all. The church, a good-sized
building, is in a very perfect state of preservation. Hanging on the
wall near the door of entrance was a portrait painted on wood, about
three feet square, in a frame of silver-gilt, set with jewels; it
represented Alexius Comnenus, Emperor of Trebizonde, the founder of the
monastery. He it was, I believe, who built that most beautiful church a
little way out of the town of Trebizonde, which is called St. Sofia,
probably from its resemblance to the cathedral of Constantinople. He is
drawn in his imperial robes, and the portrait is one of the most curious
I ever saw. He founded this church in the year 1380; and Neagulus and
Peter, Waywodes of Bessarabia, restored and repaired the monastery.
There was another curious portrait of a lady; I did not learn who it
was: very probably the Empress Pulcheria, or else Roxandra Domna
(Domina?), wife of Alexander, Waywode of Wallachia; for both these
ladies were benefactors to the convent.

I was taken, as a pilgrim, to the church, and we stood in the middle of
the floor before the ικονοsτασις, whilst the monks brought out an
old-fashioned low wooden table, upon which they placed the relics of the
saints which they presumed we came to adore. Of these some were very
interesting specimens of intricate workmanship and superb and precious
materials. One was a patera, of a kind of china or paste, made, as I
imagine, of a multitude of turquoises ground down together, for it was
too large to be of one single turquoise; there is one of the same kind,
but of far inferior workmanship, in the treasury of St. Marc. This
marvellous dish is carved in very high relief with minute figures or
little statues of the saints, with inscriptions in very early Greek. It
is set in pure gold, richly worked, and was a gift from the Empress or
imperial Princess Pulcheria. Then there was an invaluable shrine for the
head of St. John the Baptist, whose bones and another of his heads are
in the cathedral at Genoa. St. John Lateran also boasts a head of St
John, but that may have belonged to St. John the Evangelist. This shrine
was the gift of Neagulus, Waywode or Hospodar of Wallachia: it is about
two feet long and two feet high, and is in the shape of a Byzantine
church; the material is silver-gilt, but the admirable and singular
style of the workmanship gives it a value far surpassing its intrinsic
worth. The roof is covered with five domes of gold; on each side it has
sixteen recesses, in which are portraits of the saints in niello, and at
each end there are eight others. All the windows are enriched in
open-work tracery, of a strange sort of Gothic pattern, unlike anything
in Europe. It is altogether a wonderful and precious monument of
ancient art, the production of an almost unknown country, rich, quaint,
and original in its design and execution, and is indeed one of the most
curious objects on Mount Athos; although the patera of the Princess
Pulcheria might probably be considered of greater value. There were many
other shrines and reliquaries, but none of any particular interest.

I next proceeded to the library, which contained not much less than a
thousand manuscripts, half on paper and half on vellum. Of those on
vellum the most valuable were a quarto Evangelistarium, in uncial
letters, and in beautiful preservation; another Evangelistarium, of
which three fly-leaves were in early uncial Greek; a small quarto of the
Dialogues of St. Gregory, διαλογοι Γρεγοριου του θεολογου, not in uncial
letters, with twelve fine miniatures; a small quarto New Testament,
containing the Apocalypse; and some magnificent folios of the Fathers of
the eleventh century; but not one classic author. Among the manuscripts
on paper were a folio of the Iliad of Homer, badly written, two copies
of the works of Dionysius the Areopagite, and a multitude of books for
the church-service. Alas! they would part with nothing. The library was
altogether a magnificent collection, and for the most part well
preserved: they had no great number of printed books. I should imagine
that this monastery must, from some fortunate accident, have suffered
less from spoliation during the late revolution than any of the others;
for considering that it is not a very large establishment, the number of
valuable things it contained was quite astonishing.

A quarter of an hour's row brought us to the scaricatojo of


ST. PAUL,

from whence we had to walk a mile and a half up a steep hill to the
monastery, where building repairs were going on with great activity. I
was received with cheerful hospitality, and soon made the acquaintance
of four monks, who amongst them spoke English, French, Italian, and
German. Having been installed in a separate bed-room, cleanly furnished
in the Turkish style, where I subsequently enjoyed a delightful night's
rest, undisturbed by a single flea, I was conducted into a large airy
hall. Here, after a very comfortable dinner, the smaller fry of monks
assembled to hear the illustrious stranger hold forth in turn to the
four wise fathers who spoke unknown tongues. The simple, kind-hearted
brethren looked with awe and wonder on the quadruple powers of those
lips that uttered such strange sounds: just as the Peruvians made their
reverence to the Spanish horses, whose speech they understood not, and
whose manners were beyond their comprehension. It was fortunate for my
reputation that the reverend German scholar was of a close and taciturn
disposition, since my knowledge of his scraughing language did not
extend very far, and when we got to scientific discussion I was very
nearly at a stand still; but I am inclined to think that he upheld my
dignity to save his own; and as my servant, who never minced matters,
had doubtless told them that I could speak ninety other languages, and
was besides nephew to most of the crowned heads of Europe, if a phœnix
had come in he would have had a lower place assigned him. I found also
that in this--as indeed in all the other monasteries--one who had
performed the pilgrimage to the Holy Land was looked upon with a certain
degree of respect. In short, I found that at last I was amongst a set of
people who had the sense to appreciate my merits; so I held up my head,
and assumed all the dignified humility of real greatness.

This monastery was founded for Bulgarian and Servian monks by
Constantine Biancobano, Hospodar of Wallachia. There was little that was
interesting in it, either in architecture or any other walk of art; the
library was contained in a small light closet, the books were clean, and
ranged in order on the new deal shelves. There was only one Greek
manuscript, a duodecimo copy of the Gospels of the twelfth or thirteenth
century. The Servian and Bulgarian manuscripts amounted to about two
hundred and fifty: of these three were remarkable; the first was a
manuscript of the four Gospels, a thick quarto, and the uncial letters
in which it was written were three fourths of an inch in height: it was
imperfect at the end. The second was also a copy of the Gospels, a
folio, in uncial letters, with fine illuminations at the beginning of
each Gospel, and a large and curious portrait of a patriarch at the end;
all the stops in this volume were dots of gold; several words also were
written in gold. It was a noble manuscript. The third was likewise a
folio of the Gospels in the ancient Bulgarian language, and, like the
other two, in uncial letters. This manuscript was quite full of
illuminations from beginning to end. I had seen no book like it anywhere
in the Levant. I almost tumbled off the steps on which I was perched on
the discovery of so extraordinary a volume. I saw that these books were
taken care of, so I did not much like to ask whether they would part
with them; more especially as the community was evidently a prosperous
one, and had no need to sell any of their goods.

After walking about the monastery with the monks, as I was going away
the agoumenos said he wished he had anything which he could present to
me as a memorial of my visit to the convent of St Paul. On this a brisk
fire of reciprocal compliments ensued, and I observed that I should like
to take a book. "Oh! by all means!" he said; "we make no use of the old
books, and should be glad if you would accept one." We returned to the
library; and the agoumenos took out one at a hazard, as you might take a
brick or a stone out of a pile, and presented it to me. Quoth I, "If
you don't care what book it is that you are so good as to give me, let
me take one which pleases me;" and, so saying, I took down the
illuminated folio of the Bulgarian Gospels, and I could hardly believe I
was awake when the agoumenos gave it into my hands. Perhaps the greatest
piece of impertinence of which I was ever guilty, was when I asked to
buy another; but that they insisted upon giving me also; so I took the
other two copies of the Gospels mentioned above, all three as free-will
gifts. I felt almost ashamed at accepting these two last books; but who
could resist it, knowing that they were utterly valueless to the monks,
and were not saleable in the bazaar at Constantinople, Smyrna, Salonica,
or any neighbouring city? However, before I went away, as a salve to my
conscience I gave some money to the church. The authorities accompanied
me beyond the outer gate, and by the kindness of the agoumenos mules
were provided to take us down to the sea-shore, where we found our
clerical mariners ready for us. One of the monks, who wished for a
passage to Xeropotamo, accompanied us; and, turning our boat's head
again to the north-west, we arrived before long a second time below the
lofty rock of


SIMOPETRA.

This monastery was founded by St. Simon the Anchorite, of whose history
I was unable to learn anything. The buildings are connected with the
side of the mountain by a fine aqueduct, which has a grand effect,
perched as it is at so great a height above the sea, and consisting of
two rows of eleven arches, one above the other, with one lofty arch
across a chasm immediately under the walls of the monastery, which, as
seen from this side, resembles an immense square tower, with several
rows of wooden balconies or galleries projecting from the walls at a
prodigious height from the ground. It was no slight effort of gymnastics
to get up to the door, where I was received with many grotesque bows by
an ancient porter. I was ushered into the presence of the agoumenos, who
sat in a hall, surrounded by a reverend conclave of his bearded and
long-haired monks; and after partaking of sweetmeats and water, and a
cup of coffee, according to custom, but no pipes--for the divines of
Mount Athos do not indulge in smoking--they took me to the church and to
the library.

In the latter I found a hundred and fifty manuscripts, of which fifty
were on vellum, all works of divinity, and not above ten or twelve of
them fine books. I asked permission to purchase three, to which they
acceded. These were the 'Life and Works of St. John Climax, Agoumenos of
Mount Sinai,' a quarto of the eleventh century; the 'Acts and Epistles,'
a noble folio written in large letters, in double columns: a very fine
manuscript, the letters upright and not much joined together: at the end
is an inscription in red letters, which may contain the date, but it is
so faint that I could not make it out. The third was a quarto of the
four Gospels, with a picture of an evangelist at the beginning of each
Gospel. Whilst I was arranging the payment for these manuscripts, a
monk, opening the copy of the Gospels, found at the end a horrible
anathema and malediction written by the donor, a prince or king, he
said, against any one who should sell or part with this book. This was
very unlucky, and produced a great effect upon the monks; but as no
anathema was found in either of the two other volumes, I was allowed to
take them, and so went on my way rejoicing. They rang the bells at my
departure, and I heard them at intervals jingling in the air above me as
I scrambled down the rocky mountain. Except Dionisiou, this was the only
monastery where the agoumenos kissed the letter of the patriarch and
laid it upon his forehead: the sign of reverence and obedience which is,
or ought to be, observed with the firmans of the Sultan and other
oriental potentates.

[Illustration: From a Sketch by R. Curzon.

VIEW OF THE MONASTERY AND AQUEDUCT OF SIMOPETRA, ON MOUNT ATHOS, TAKEN
FROM THE SEA SHORE.]

The same evening I got back to my comfortable room at Xeropotamo, and
did ample justice to a good meagre dinner after the heat and fatigues of
the day. A monk had arrived from one of the outlying farms who could
speak a little Italian; he was deputed to do the honours of the
house, and accordingly dined with me. He was a magnificent-looking man
of thirty or thirty-five years of age, with large eyes and long black
hair and beard. As we sat together in the evening in the ancient room,
by the light of one dim brazen lamp, with deep shades thrown across his
face and figure, I thought he would have made an admirable study for
Titian or Sebastian del Piombo. In the course of conversation I found
that he had learnt Italian from another monk, having never been out of
the peninsula of Mount Athos. His parents and most of the other
inhabitants of the village where he was born, somewhere in Roumelia--but
its name or exact position he did not know--had been massacred during
some revolt or disturbance. So he had been told, but he remembered
nothing about it; he had been educated in a school in this or one of the
other monasteries, and his whole life had been passed upon the Holy
Mountain; and this, he said, was the case with very many other monks. He
did not remember his mother, and did not seem quite sure that he ever
had one; he had never seen a woman, nor had he any idea what sort of
things women were, or what they looked like. He asked me whether they
resembled the pictures of the Panagia, the Holy Virgin, which hang in
every church. Now, those who are conversant with the peculiar
conventional representations of the Blessed Virgin in the pictures of
the Greek church, which are all exactly alike, stiff, hard, and dry,
without any appearance of life or emotion, will agree with me that they
do not afford a very favourable idea of the grace or beauty of the fair
sex; and that there was a difference of appearance between black women,
Circassians, and those of other nations, which was, however, difficult
to describe to one who had never seen a lady of any race. He listened
with great interest while I told him that all women were not exactly
like the pictures he had seen, but I did not think it charitable to
carry on the conversation farther, although the poor monk seemed to have
a strong inclination to know more of that interesting race of beings
from whose society he had been so entirely debarred. I often thought
afterwards of the singular lot of this manly and noble-looking monk:
whether he is still a recluse, either in the monastery or in his
mountain-farm, with its little moss-grown chapel as ancient as the days
of Constantine; or whether he has gone out into the world and mingled in
its pleasures and its cares.

I arranged with the captain of a small vessel which was lying off
Xeropotamo taking in a cargo of wood, that he should give me a passage
in two or three days, when he said he should be ready to sail; and in
the mean time I purposed to explore the metropolis of Mount Athos, the
town of Cariez; and then to go to Caracalla, and remain there till the
vessel was ready.

[Illustration: CIRCASSIAN LADY.]

Accordingly, the next morning I set out, the Agoumenos supplying me with
mules. The guide did not know how far it was to Cariez, which is
situated almost in the centre of the peninsula. I found it was only
distant one hour and a half; but as I had not made arrangements to go
on, I was obliged to remain there all day. Close to the town is the
great monastery of


COUTLOUMOUSSI,

the most regular building on Mount Athos. It contains a large square
court with a cloister of stone arches all round it, out of which the
cells and chambers open, as they do in a Roman Catholic convent. The
church stands in the centre of this quadrangle, and glories in a famous
picture of the Last Judgment on the wall of the narthex, or porch,
before the door of entrance. The monastery was at this time nearly
uninhabited; but, after some trouble, I found one monk, who made great
difficulties as to showing me the library, for he said a Russian had
been there some time ago, and had borrowed a book which he never
returned. However, at last I gained admission by means of that ingenious
silver key which opens so many locks.

In a good-sized square room, filled with shelves all round, I found a
fine, although neglected, collection of books; a great many of them
thrown on the floor in heaps, and covered all over with dust, which the
Russian did not appear to have much disturbed when he borrowed the book
which had occasioned me so much trouble. There were about six or seven
hundred volumes of printed books, two hundred MSS. on paper, and a
hundred and fifty on vellum. I was not permitted to examine this library
at all to my satisfaction. The solitary monk thought I was a Russian,
and would not let me alone, or give me the time I wanted for my
researches. I found a multitude of folios and quartos of the works of
St. Chrysostom, who seems to have been the principal instructor of the
monks of Mount Athos, that is, in the days when they were in the habit
of reading--a tedious custom, which they have long since given up by
general consent. I met also with an Evangelistarium, a quarto in uncial
letters, but not in very fine condition. Two or three other old monks
had by this time crept out of their holes, but they would not part with
any of their books: that unhappy Russian had filled the minds of the
whole brotherhood with suspicion. So we went to the church, which was
curious and quaint, as they all are; and as we went through all the
requisite formalities before various grim pictures, and showed due
respect for the sacred character of a Christian church, they began at
last to believe that I was not a Russian; but if they had seen the
contents of the saddle-bags which were sticking out bravely on each side
of the patient mule at the gate, they would perhaps have considered me
as something far worse.

Coutloumoussi was founded by the Emperor Alexius Comnenus, and, having
been destroyed by "_the Pope of Rome_," was restored by the piety of
various hospodars and waywodes of Bessarabia. It is difficult to
understand what these worthy monks can mean when they affirm that
several of their monasteries have been burned and plundered by the Pope.
Perhaps in the days of the Crusades some of the rapacious and
undisciplined hordes who accompanied the armies of the Cross--not to
rescue the holy sepulchre from the power of the Saracens, but for the
sake of plunder and robbery--may have been attracted by the fame of the
riches of these peaceful convents, and have made the differences in
their religion a pretext for sacrilege and rapacity. Thus bands of
pirates and brigands in the middle ages may have cloaked their acts of
violence under the specious excuse of devotion to the Church of Rome;
and so the Pope has acquired a bad name, and is looked upon with terror
and animosity by the inhabitants of the monasteries of Mount Athos.

Having seen what I could, I went on to the town of Cariez, if it can
properly be called such; for it is difficult to explain what it is. One
may perhaps say that what Washington is to the United States, Cariez is
to Mount Athos. A few artificers do live there who carve crosses and
ornaments in cypress-wood. The principal feature of the place is the
great church of Protaton, which is surrounded by smaller buildings and
chapels. These I saw at a distance, but did not visit, because I could
get no mules, and it was too hot to walk so far. A Turkish aga lives
here: he is sent by the Porte to collect the revenue from the monks, and
also to protect them from other Turkish visitors. He is paid and
provided with food by a kind of rate which is levied on the twenty-one
monasteries of [Greek: agion oros αγιον ορος], and is in fact a sort of
sheep-dog to the flock of helpless monks who pasture among the trees and
rocks of the peninsula. On certain days the Agoumenoi of the monasteries
and the high officers of their communities meet at the church of
Protaton for the transaction of business and the discussion of affairs.
I am sorry I did not see this ancient house of parliament. The rooms in
which these synods or convocations are held adjoin the church. Situated
at short distances around these principal edifices are numerous small
ecclesiastical villas, such as were called cells in England before the
Reformation: these are the habitations of the venerable senators when
they come up to parliament. Some of them are beautifully situated; for
Cariez stands in a fair, open vale, half-way up the side of the
mountain, and commands a beautiful view to the north of the sea, with
the magnificent island of Samotraki looming superbly in the distance.
All around are large orchards and plantations of peach-trees and of
various other sorts of fruit-bearing trees in great abundance, and the
round hills are clothed with greensward. It is a happy, peaceful-looking
place, and in its trim and sunny arbours reminds one of Virgil and
Theocritus.

I went to the house of the aga to seek for a habitation, but the aga was
asleep; and who was there so bold as to wake a sleeping aga? Luckily he
awoke of his own accord; and he was soon informed by my interpreter that
an illustrious personage awaited his leisure. He did not care for a
monk, and not much for an agoumenos; but he felt small in the presence
of a mighty Turkish aga. Nevertheless, he ventured a few hints as usual
about the kings and queens who were my first cousins, but in a much more
subdued tone than usual; and I was received with that courteous civility
and good breeding which is so frequently met with among Turks of every
degree. The aga apologised for having no good room to offer me; but he
sent out his men to look for a lodging; and in the mean time we went to
a kiosk, that is, a place like a large birdcage, with enough roof to
make a shade, and no walls to impede the free passage of the air. It was
built of wood, upon a scaffold eight or ten feet from the ground, in the
corner of a garden, and commanded a fine view of the sea. In one corner
of this cage I sat all day long, for there was nowhere else to go to;
and the aga sat opposite to me in another corner, smoking his pipe, in
which solacing occupation to his great surprise I did not partake. We
had cups of coffee and sherbet every now and then, and about every
half-hour the aga uttered a few words of compliment or welcome,
informing me occasionally that there were many dervishes in the place,
"very many dervishes," for so he denominated the monks. Dinner came
towards evening. There was meat, dolmas, demir tatlessi, olives, salad,
roast meat, and pilau, that filled up some time; and shortly afterwards
I retired to the house of the monastery of Russico, a little distance
from my kiosk; and there I slept on a carpet on the boards; and at
sunrise was ready to continue my journey, as were also the mules. The
aga gave me some breakfast, at which repast a cat made its appearance,
with whom the day before I had made acquaintance; but now it came, not
alone, but accompanied by two kittens. "Ah!" said I to the aga, "how is
this? Why, as I live, this is a _she_ cat! a cat feminine! What business
has it on Mount Athos? and with kittens too! a wicked cat!"

"Hush!" said the Aga, with a solemn grin; "do not say anything about it.
Yes, it must be a she-cat: I allow, certainly, that it must be a
she-cat. I brought it with me from Stamboul. But do not speak of it, or
they will take it away; and it reminds me of my home, where my wife and
children are living far away from me."

[Illustration: TURKISH LADY, IN THE YASHMAK, OR VEIL.]

I promised to make no scandal about the cat, and took my leave; and
as I rode off I saw him looking at me out of his cage with the cat
sitting by his side. I was sorry I could not take aga and cat and all
with me to Stamboul, the poor gentleman looked so solitary and
melancholy.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


     Caracalla--The Agoumenos--Curious Cross--The Nuts of
     Caracalla--Singular Mode of preparing a Dinner Table--Departure
     from Mount Athos--Packing of the MSS.--Difficulties of the
     Way--Voyage to the Dardanelles--Apprehended Attack from
     Pirates--Return to Constantinople.


It took me three hours to reach Caracalla, where the agoumenos and
Father Joasaph received me with all the hospitable kindness of old
friends, and at once installed me in my old room, which looked into the
court, and was very cool and quiet. Here I reposed in peace during the
hotter hours of the day; and here I received the news that the captain
of the vessel which I had hired had left me in the lurch and gone out to
sea, having, I suppose, made some better bargain. This caused me some
tribulation; but there was nothing to be done but to get another vessel;
so I sent back to Xeropotamo, which appeared to be the most frequented
part of the coast, to see whether there was any craft there which could
be hired.

I employed the next day in wandering about with the agoumenos and Father
Joasaph in all the holes and corners of the monastery; the agoumenos
telling me interminable legends of the saints, and asking Father Joasaph
if they were not true. I looked over the library, where I found an
uncial Evangelistarium; a manuscript of Demosthenes on paper, but of
some antiquity; a manuscript of Justin ([Greek: Ioustinou Ιουστινου]) in
Greek; and several other manuscripts,--all of which the agoumenos agreed
to let me have.

One of the monks had a curiously carved cross set in silver, which he
wished to sell; but I told the agoumenos that it was not sufficiently
ancient: I added, however, that if I could meet with any ancient cross
or shrine or reliquary, I should be delighted to purchase such a thing,
and that I would give a good price for it. In the afternoon it struck
him suddenly that as he did not care for antiquities, perhaps we might
come to an arrangement; and the end of the affair was that he gave me
one of the ancient crosses which I had seen when I was there before, and
put the one the monk had to sell in its place; certain pieces of gold
which I produced rendering this transaction satisfactory to all parties.
This most curious and beautiful piece of jewellery has been since
engraved, and forms the subject of the third plate in Shaw's 'Dresses
and Decorations of the Middle Ages,' London, 1843. It had been presented
to the monastery by the Emperor John, whom, from what I was told by the
agoumenos, I take to have been John Zimisces. It is one of the most
ancient as well as one of the finest relics of its kind now existing in
England.

On the evening of the second day my man returned from Xeropotamo with
the information that he had found a small Greek brig, and had engaged to
give the patron or captain eleven hundred piastres for our passage
thence to the Dardanelles the next day, if I could manage to be ready in
so short a time. As fortunately I had purchased all the manuscripts
which I wished to possess, there was nothing to detain me on Mount
Athos; for I had now visited every monastery excepting that of St. Anne,
which indeed is not a monastery like the rest, but a mere collection of
hermitages or cells at the extreme point of the peninsula, immediately
under the great peak of the mountain. I was told that there was nothing
there worth seeing; but still I am sorry that I did not make a
pilgrimage to so original a community, who it appears live on roots and
herbs, and are the most strict of all the ascetics in this strange
monastic region.

All of a sudden, as we were walking quietly together, the agoumenos
asked me if I knew what was the price of nuts at Constantinople.

"Nuts?" said I.

"Yes, nuts," said he; "hazel-nuts: nuts are excellent things. Have they
a good supply of nuts at Constantinople?"

"Well," said I, "I don't know; but I dare say they have. But why, my
Lord, do you ask? Why do you wish to know the price of hazel-nuts at
Constantinople?"

"Oh!" said the agoumenos, "they do not eat half nuts enough at Stamboul.
Nuts are excellent things. They should be eaten more than they are.
People say that nuts are unwholesome; but it is a great mistake." And so
saying, he introduced me into a set of upper rooms that I had not
previously entered, the entire floors of which were covered two feet
deep with nuts. I never saw one-hundredth part so many before. The good
agoumenos, it seems, had been speculating in hazel-nuts; and a vessel
was to come to the little tower of the scaricatojo down below to be
freighted with them: they were to produce a prodigious profit, and
defray the expense of finishing the new buildings of Caracalla.

"Take some," said he; "don't be afraid; there are plenty. Take some, and
taste them, and then you can tell your friends at Constantinople what a
peculiar flavour you found in the famous nuts of Athos; and in all Athos
every one knows that there are no nuts like those of Caracalla!"

They were capital nuts; but as it was before dinner, and I was
ravenously hungry, and my lord the agoumenos had not brought a bottle of
sherry in his pocket, I did not particularly relish them. But there had
been great talking during the morning between the agoumenos and Pater
Joasaph about a famous large fish which was to be cooked for dinner;
and, as the important hour was approaching, we adjourned to my sitting
room. Father Joasaph was already there, having washed his hands and
seated himself on the divan, in order to regulate the proceedings of the
lay brother who acted as butler. The preparations for the banquet were
made. The lay brother first brought in the table-cloth, which he spread
upon the ground in one corner of the room; then he turned the table
upside down upon the table-cloth, with its legs in the air: next he
brought two immense flagons, one of wine, the other of water; these were
made of copper tinned, and were each a foot and a half high; he set them
down on the carpet a little way from the table-cloth; and round the
table he placed three cushions for the agoumenos, Pater Joasaph, and me;
and then he went away to bring the dinner. He soon reappeared, bringing
in, with the assistance of another stout catechumen, the whole of the
dinner on a large circular tray of well-polished brass called a sinni.
This was so formed as to fix on the sticking-up legs of the subverted
table, and, with the aid of Pater Joasaph, it was soon all tight and
straight. In a great centre-dish there appeared the big fish in a sea of
sauce surrounded by a mountainous shore of rice. Round this luxurious
centre stood a circle of smaller dishes, olives, caviare, salad (no
eggs, because there were no hens), papas yaknesi, and several sweet
things. Two cats followed the dinner into the room, and sat down
demurely side by side. The fish looked excellent, and had a most
savoury smell. I had washed my hands, and was preparing to sit down,
when the Father Abbot, who was not thinking of the dinner, took this
inopportune moment to begin one of his interminable stories.

"We have before spoken," he said, "of the many kings, princes, and
patriarchs who have given up the world and ended their days here in
peace. One of the most important epochs in the history of Mount Athos
occurred about the year 1336, when a Calabrian monk, a man of great
learning though of mean appearance, whose name was Barlaam, arrived on a
pilgrimage to venerate the sacred relics of our famous sanctuaries. He
found here many holy men, who, having retired entirely from the world,
by communing with themselves in the privacy of their own cells, had
arrived at that state of calm beatitude and heavenly contemplation, that
the eternal light of Mount Tabor was revealed to them."

"Mount Tabor?" said I.

"Yes," said the agoumenos, "the light which had been seen during the
time of the Transfiguration by the apostles, and which had always
existed there, was seen by those who, after years of solitude and
penance and maceration of the flesh, had arrived at that state of
abstraction from all earthly things that in their bodies they saw the
divine light. They in those good times would sit alone in their chambers
with their eyes cast down upon the region of their navel; this was
painful at first, both from the fixedness of the attitude required, with
the head bent down upon the breast, and from the workings of the mind,
which seemed to wander in the regions of darkness and space. At last,
when they had persevered in fasting day and night with no change of
thought or attitude for many hours, they began to feel a wonderful
satisfaction; a ray of joy ineffable would seem to illuminate the brain;
and no sooner had the soul discovered the place of the heart than it was
involved in a mystic and ethereal light."[18]

"Ah," said I, "really!"

"Now this Barlaam, being a carnal and worldly-minded man, took upon
himself to doubt the efficacy of this bodily and mental discipline; it
is said that he even ventured to ridicule the venerable fathers who gave
themselves up so entirely to the contemplation of the light of Mount
Tabor. Not only did he question the merits of these ascetic acts, but,
being learned in books, and being endowed with great powers of eloquence
and persuasion, he infused doubts into the minds of others of the monks
and anchorites of Mount Athos. Arguments were used on both sides;
conversations arose upon these subjects; arguments grew into
disputations, conversations into controversies, till at last, from the
most peaceful and regular of communities, the peninsula of the holy
mountain became from one end to the other a theatre of discord, doubt,
and difference; the flames of contention were lit up; every thing was
unsettled; men knew not what to think; till at last, with general
consent, the unhappy intruder was dismissed from all the monasteries;
and, flying from the storm of angry words which he had raised on all
sides around him, he departed from Mount Athos and retired to the city
of Constantinople. There his specious manners, his knowledge of the
language of the Latins, and the dissensions he had created in the
church, brought him into notice at court; and now not only were the
monks of Mount Athos and Olympus divided against each other, but the
city was split into parties of theological disputants; clamour and
acrimony raged on every side. The Emperor Andronicus, willing to remove
the cause of so much contention, and being at the same time surrounded
with difficulties on all sides (for the unbelieving Turks, commanded by
the fierce Orchan, had with their unnumbered tribes overrun Bithynia and
many of the provinces of the Christian emperor), he graciously
condescended to give his imperial mandate that the monk Barlaam should
[here the two cats became vociferous in their impatience for the fish]
be sent on an embassy to the Pope of Rome; he was empowered to enter
into negotiations for the settlement of all religious differences
between the Eastern and Western churches, on condition that the Latin
princes should assist the emperor to drive the Turks back into the
confines of Asia. The Emperor Andronicus died from a fever brought on by
excitement in defending the cause of the ascetic quietists before a
council in his palace. John Paleologus was set aside; and John
Cantacuzene, in a desperate endeavour to please all parties, gave his
daughter Theodora to Orchan the Emperor of the Osmanlis; and at his
coronation the purple buskin of his right leg was fastened on by the
Greeks, and that of his left leg by the Latins. Notwithstanding these
concessions, the embassy of Barlaam, the most important with which any
diplomatic agent was ever trusted, failed altogether from the troubles
of the times. The Emperor John Cantacuzene, who celebrated his own acts
in an edict beginning with the words 'by my sublime and almost
incredible virtue,' gave up the reins of power, and taking the name of
Josaph, became a monk of one of the monasteries of the holy mountain,
which was then known by the name of the monastery of Mangane, while the
monk Barlaam was created Bishop of Gerace, in Italy."

By the time the good abbot had come to the conclusion of his history,
the fish was cold and the dinner spoilt; but I thought his account of
the extraordinary notions which the monks of those dark ages had formed
of the duties of Christianity so curious, that it almost compensated for
the calamity of losing the only good dinner which I had seen on Mount
Athos.

What a difference it would have made in the affairs of Europe if the
embassy of Barlaam had succeeded! The Turks would not have been now in
possession of Constantinople; and many points of difference having been
mutually conceded by the two great divisions of the church, perhaps the
Reformation never would have taken place. The narration of these events
was the more interesting to me, as I had it from the lips of a monk who
to all intents and purposes was living in the darkness of remote
antiquity. His ample robes, his long beard, and the Byzantine
architecture of the ancient room in which we sat, impressed his words
upon my remembrance; and as I looked upon the eager countenance of the
abbot, whose thoughts still were fixed upon the world from which he had
retired, while he discoursed of the troubles and discords which had
invaded the peaceful glades and quiet solitudes of the holy mountain, I
felt that there was no place left on this side of the grave where the
wicked cease from troubling or where the weary are at rest. No places,
however, that I have seen equal the beauty of the scenery and the calm
retired look of the small farmhouses, if they may so be called, which I
met with in my rides on the declivities of Mount Athos. These buildings
are usually situated on the sides of hills opening on the land which the
monastic labourers cultivate; they consist of a small square tower,
usually appended to which are one or two little stone cottages, and an
ancient chapel, from which the tinkling of the bar which calls the monks
to prayer may be heard many times a day echoing softly through the
lovely glades of the primæval forest. The ground is covered in some
places with anemones and cyclamen; waterfalls are met with at the head
of half the valleys, pouring their refreshing waters over marble rocks.
If the great mountain itself, which towers up so grandly above the
enchanting scenery below, had been carved into the form of a statue of
Alexander the Great, according to the project of Lysippus, though a
wonderful effort of human labour, it could hardly have added to the
beauty of the scene, which is so much increased by the appearance of the
monasteries, whose lofty towers and rounded domes appear almost like the
palaces we read of in a fairy tale.

The next morning, at an early hour, mules were waiting in the court to
carry me across the hills to the harbour below the monastery of
Xeropotamo, where the Greek brig was lying which was to convey me and my
treasures from these peaceful shores. Emptying out my girdle, I
calculated how much, or rather how little money would suffice to pay the
expenses of my voyage to the Asiatic castle of the Dardanelles, feeling
assured that from thence I could get credit for a passage in the
magnificent steamer _The Stamboul_, which ran between Smyrna and
Constantinople. With the reservation of this sum, I gave the agoumenos
all my remaining gold, and in return he provided me with an old wooden
chest, in which I stowed away several goodly folios; for the
saddle-bags, although distended to their utmost limits, did not suffice
to carry all the great manuscripts and ponderous volumes that were now
added to my store. Turning out the corn from the nosebags of the mules,
I put one or two smaller books in each; and, after all, an extra mule
was sent for to convey the surplus tomes over the rough and craggy ridge
which we were to pass in our journey to the other sea. Although the
stories of the agoumenos were too windy and too long, I was sorry to
part from him, and I took an affectionate leave also of Pater Joasaph
and the two cats. Unfortunately, in the hurry of departure, I left on
the divan the MS. of Justin, which I had been trying to decipher, and
forgot it when I came away. It was a small thick octavo, on charta
bombycina, and was probably kicked into the nearest corner as soon as I
evacuated the monastery.

Our ride was a very rough one. We had first to ascend the hill, in some
places through deep ravines, and in others through most glorious forests
of gigantic trees, mostly planes, with a thick underwood of those
aromatic flowering evergreens which so beautifully clothe the hills of
Greece and this part of Turkey.

When we had crossed the upper ridge of rock, leaving the peak of Athos
towering to the sky on our left, we had to descend the dry bed of a
torrent so full of great stones and fallen rocks, that it appeared
impossible for anything but a goat to travel on such a road. I got off
my mule, and began jumping from one rock to another on the edge of the
precipice; but the sun was so powerful, that in a short time I was
completely exhausted; and on looking at the mules, I saw that one after
another they jumped down so unerringly over chasms and broken rocks,
alighting so precisely in the exact place where there was standing-room
for their feet, that, after a little consideration, I remounted my mule;
and keeping my seat, without holding the bridle, we hopped and skipped
from rock to rock down this extraordinary track, until in due time we
arrived safely at the sea-shore, close to the mouth of the little river
of Xeropotamo. My manuscripts and myself were soon embarked, and with a
favouring breeze we stood out into the Gulf of Monte Santo, and had
leisure to survey the scenery of this superb peninsula as we glided
round the lofty marble rocks and noble forests which formed the
background to the strange and picturesque Byzantine monasteries with
every one of which we had become acquainted.

Being a little nervous on account of the pirates, of whom I had heard
many stories during my sojourn on Mount Athos, I questioned the master
of the vessel on this subject. "Oh," said he, "the sea is now very
quiet; there have been no pirates about the coast for the last
fortnight." This assurance hardly satisfied me. How terrible it would be
to see these precious volumes thrown into the sea, like my unhappy
precursor's MS. of Homer! It was frightful to think of! We were three
days at sea, there being at this fine season very little wind. Once we
thought we were chased by a wicked-looking cutter with a large white
mainsail, which kept to windward of us; but in the end, after some hours
of deadly tribulation, during which I hid the manuscripts as well as I
could under all kinds of rubbish in the hold, we descried the stars and
stripes of America upon her ensign; so then I pulled all the old books
out again. This cutter was, I suppose, a tender to some American
man-of-war. On the evening of the third day we found ourselves safe
under the guns of Roumeli Calessi, the European castle of the
Dardanelles; and, after a good deal of tedious tacking, we got across to
the Asiatic castle of Coom Calessi, where I landed with all my
treasures. Before long, the Smyrna steamer, _The Stamboul_, hove in
sight, and I took my passage in her to Constantinople.


THE END.

London: Printed by W. Clowes and Son, Stamford Street.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] Moyah--"water."

[2] This, the first mosque built at Cairo, is said to have been paid for
by Sultan Tayloon with a part of an immense treasure in gold, which he
found under a monument called the altar of Pharaoh, on the mountain of
Mokattam. This building was destroyed by Tayloon, who founded a mosque
upon the spot in the year 873, in honour of Judah, the brother of
Joseph, who resorted there to pray when he came to Egypt. This mosque
becoming ruined, another was built upon the spot by the Emir El Guyoosh,
minister of the Caliph Mostansir, A.D. 1094, which still remains perched
on the corner of a rock, which is excavated in various places with
ancient tombs.

[3] A fragment of the Gospel of St. Mark was found in the tomb which was
reputed to be his. Damp and age have decayed this precious relic, of
which only some small fragments remain; but an exact facsimile of it was
made before it was destroyed. This facsimile is now in my possession: it
is in Latin, and is written in double columns, on sixteen leaves of
vellum, of a large quarto size, and proves that whoever transcribed the
original must have been a proficient in the art of writing, for the
letters are of great size and excellent formation, and in the style of
the very earliest manuscripts.

[4] See Quarterly Review, vol. lxxvii. p. 43.

[5] It is perhaps more likely that these beautiful specimens of ancient
glass were made in the island of Murano, in the lagunes of Venice, as
the manufactories of the Venetians supplied the Mahomedans with many
luxuries in the middle ages.

[6] The only early church in which the columns are continued on the end
opposite to the altar, where the doorway is usually situated, is the
Cathedral of Messina. The effect is very good, and takes off from the
baldness usually observable at that end of a basilica. The early Coptic
churches have no porch or narthex, an essential part of an original
Greek church.

[7] This curious old sunken oratory bears a resemblance in many points
to the fine church of St. Agnese, at Rome, where the ground has been
excavated down to the level of the catacomb in which the holy martyr's
body reposes. The long straight flight of steps down to the lower level
are also similar in these two very ancient churches, although the Church
of Der-el-Adra is poor and mean, whilst that of St. Agnese is a superb
edifice, and is famous for being the first basilica in which a gallery
is found over the side aisles. This gallery was set apart for the women,
as in the oriental churches of St. Sophia at Constantinople, and
perhaps, also, of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem.

[8] It is much to be desired that some competent person should write a
small cheap book, with plates or wood-cuts explaining what an early
Christian Church was; what the ceremonies, ornaments, vestures, and
liturgy were at the time when the Church of our Lord was formally
established by the Emperor Constantine: for the numerous well-meaning
authors who have written on the restoration of our older churches,
appear to me to be completely in the dark. Gothic is NOT Christian
architecture--it is Roman Catholic architecture: the vestures of English
ecclesiastics are not restorations of early simplicity--they are modern
inventions taken from German collegiate dresses which have nothing to do
with religion.

[9] We are perhaps not entirely acquainted with the mechanical powers of
the ancients. The seated statue of Rameses II., in the Memnonium at
Thebes, a solid block of granite forty or fifty feet high, has been
broken to pieces apparently by a tremendous blow. How this can have been
accomplished without the aid of gunpowder it is difficult to conjecture.

[10] For the benefit of the reader I subjoin two of there songs
translated from the originals; or rather, I may say, paraphrased:
although the first of them has the same rhythm as the original. The
notes are but very little, if at all, altered from those which have been
frequently sung to me, accompanied by a drum, called a tarabouka, or a
long sort of guitar with only two or three strings. It must be observed
that the chorus, Amaan, Amaan, Amaan, is generally added to all
songs--_à discrétion_--and that the way this chorus is howled out, is to
an European ear the most difficult part to bear of the whole:--

                      1.

    Thine eyes, thine eyes have kill'd me:
      With love my heart is torn:
    Thy looks with pain have fill'd me:
      Amaan, Amaan, Amaan.

                      2.

    Oh gently, dearest! gently,
      Approach me not with scorn:
    With one sweet look content me:
      Amaan, Amaan, Amaan.

                      3.

    That yellow shawl encloses
      A form made to adorn
    A Peri's bower of roses:
      Amaan, Amaan, Amaan.

                      4.

    The snows, the snows are melting
      On the hills of Isfahan.
    As fair, be as relenting:
      Amaan, Amaan, Amaan.

           *       *       *       *

                      1.

    Let not her, whose eyelids sleep,
    Imagine I no vigil keep.
    Alas! with hope and love I burn:
    Ah! do not from thy lover turn!

                      2.

    Patron of lovers, Bedowi!
      Ah! give me her I hold most dear;
    And I will vow to her, and thee,
      The brightest shawl In all Cashmere.

                      3.

    Ah! when I view thy loveliness,
      The lustre of thy deep black eye,
    My songs but add to my distress!
      Let me behold thee once, and die.

                      4.

    Think not that scorn and bitter words
      Can make me from my true love sever!
    Pierce our hearts, then, with your swords:
      The blood of both will flow together.

                      5.

    Fill us the golden bowl with wine;
      Give us the ripe and downy peach:
    And, in this bower of jessamine,
      No sorrows our retreat shall reach.

                      6.

    Masr may boast her lovely girls,
      Whose necks are deck'd with pearls and gold:
    The gold would fall; the purest pearls
      Would blush could they my love behold.

                      7.

    Famed Skanderieh's beauties, too,
      On Syria's richest silks recline:
    Their rosy lips are sweet, 'tis true;
      But can they be compar'd to thine?

                      8.

    Fairest! your beauty comes from Heaven:
    Freely the lovely gift was given.
    Resist not, then, the high decree--
    'Twas fated I should sigh for thee.

This last song is well known upon the Nile by the name of its chorus,
_Doas ya leili_.

[11] This sword is used by the Reverendissimo, the title given to the
superior of the Franciscans, when he confers the order of Knight of the
Holy Sepulchre, which is only given to a Roman Catholic of noble birth.
The Reverendissimo is also authorised by the Pope to give a flag bearing
the Five Crosses of Jerusalem to the captain of any ship who has
rendered service to the Catholic religion. These honours were first
instituted by the Christian Kings of Jerusalem, but they are now sold by
the monks for about forty dollars to any Roman Catholic who likes to pay
for them.

[12] On another occasion some years afterwards, I was waiting in the
same place, when I wandered into the new Patriarchal church which opens
on this court: while I stood there, a corpse was brought in on a bier,
followed by many persons, who I suppose were the relations and friends
of the deceased. After the funeral service had been read by a priest,
every person in the church went up to the bier and kissed the dead man's
hand and forehead: this is the usual custom, and an affecting one to see
when friends bid friends a last farewell. But this man had died of some
fearful and horrible disease, perhaps the plague, which through this
horrid means may have been distributed to half the congregation.

[13] All eastern cities are infested with troops of half-wild dogs, who
act the part of scavengers, and live upon the refuse food which is
thrown into the streets.

[14]

     DIRECTION.--"To the blessed Inspectors, Officers, Chiefs, and
     Representatives of the Holy Community of Monte Santo, and to the
     Holy Fathers of the same, and of all other sacred convents, our
     beloved Sons.

"We, Gregorios, Patriarch, Archbishop Universal, Metropolitan of
Constantinople, &c. &c. &c.

     "Blessed Inspectors, Officers, Superiors, and Representatives of
     the Community of the Holy Mountain, and other Holy Fathers of the
     same, and of the other Holy and Venerable Convents subject to our
     holy universal Throne. Peace be to you.

"The bearer of the present, our patriarchal sheet, the Honourable Robert
Curzon, of a noble English family, recommended to us by most worthy and
much-honoured persons, intending to travel and wishing to be instructed
in the old and new philology, thinks to satisfy his curiosity by
repairing to those sacred convents which may have any connexion with his
intentions. We recommend his person, therefore, to you all: and we order
and require of you, that you not only receive him with every esteem and
every possible hospitality, in each and in the several holy convents;
but to lend yourselves readily to all his wants and desires, and to give
him precise and clear explanations to all his interrogations relative to
his philological examinations, obliging yourselves, and lending
yourselves, in a manner not only fully to satisfy and content him, but
so that he shall approve of and praise your conduct.

"This we desire and require to be executed, rewarding you with the
Divine and with our blessing.

    "(Signed) GREGORIOS, Universal Patriarch.

"Constantinople, 1 (13) July, 1837."

[15] Ridiculous as these pictorial representations of the Last Judgment
appear to us, one of them was the cause of a whole nation's embracing
Christianity. Bogoris, king of Bulgaria, having written to
Constantinople for a painter to decorate the walls of his palace, a monk
named Methodius was sent to him--all knowledge of the arts in those days
being confined to the clergy. The king desired Methodius to paint on a
certain wall the most terrible picture that he could imagine; and, by
the advice of the king's sister, who had embraced Christianity some
years before whilst in captivity at Constantinople, the monastic artist
produced so fearful a representation of the torments of the condemned in
the next world, that it had the effect of converting Bogoris to the
Christian faith. In consequence of this event the Patriarch of
Constantinople despatched a bishop to Bulgaria, who baptised the king by
the name of Michael in the year 865. Before long his loyal subjects,
following the example of their sovereign, were converted also; and
Christianity from that period became the religion of the land.

[16] In the early ages of the Greek church the Epiphany was a day of
very great solemnity; for not only was the adoration of the Magi
celebrated on the 6th of January, but also the changing of the water
into wine at the marriage at Cana, the baptism, and even the birth of
our Lord. On this day the holy water is blessed in the Greek church, by
throwing a small cross into it, or otherwise by holding over it the
cross, with a handle attached to it, which is used by the Greek clergy
in the act of benediction.

[17] The Emperor Leo the First was crowned by the Patriarch of Anatolia
in the year 459. He is the first prince on record who received his crown
from the hands of a bishop.

[18] Mosheim's 'Ecclesiastical History;' Gibbon.





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