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Title: A Decade of Italian Women, vol. I (of 2)
Author: Trollope, Thomas Adolphus
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Decade of Italian Women, vol. I (of 2)" ***

                      A DECADE OF ITALIAN WOMEN.

[Illustration: VITTORIA COLONNA.]

_From an Original Painting in the Colonna Gallery at Rome_

                               A DECADE


                            ITALIAN WOMEN.


                         T. ADOLPHUS TROLLOPE,


                            IN TWO VOLUMES.

                                VOL. I.

                  CHAPMAN AND HALL, 193, PICCADILLY.

               [_The right of Translation is reserved._]



The degree in which any social system has succeeded in ascertaining
woman's proper position, and in putting her into it, will be a very
accurate test of the progress it has made in civilisation. And the
very general and growing conviction, that our own social arrangements,
as they exist at present, have not attained any satisfactory measure
of success in this respect, would seem, therefore, to indicate,
that England in her nineteenth century has not yet reached years of
discretion after all.

But conscious deficiency is with nations at least, if not always with
individuals, the sure precursor of improvement. The path before us
towards the ideal in this matter is a very long one; extends, indeed,
further than eye can see. What path of progress does not? And our
advance upon it will still be a sure concomitant and proof of our
advance in all civilisation. But the question of more immediate moment
is, admitting that we are moving in this respect, are we moving in the
right direction? We have been _moving_ for a long time back. Have we
missed the right road? Have we unfortunately retrograded instead of

There are persons who think so. And there are not wanting, in the
great storehouse of history, certain periods, certain individuals,
certain manifestations of social life, to which such persons point as
countenancing the notion, that better things have been, as regards
woman's position and possibilities, than are now. There are, painted
on the slides of Mnemosyne's magic lanthorn, certain brilliant and
captivating figures, which are apt to lead those who are disgusted with
the smoke and reek of the Phœnix-burning going on around them, to
suppose that the social conditions which produced such, must have been
less far from the true path than our present selves. Nay, more. There
have been constellations of such stars, quite sufficiently numerous to
justify the conclusion, that the circumstances of the time at which
they appeared were in their nature calculated to produce them.

Of such times, the most striking in this respect, as in so many others,
is that fascinating dawn time of modern life, that ever wonderful
"rénaissance" season, when a fresh sap seemed to rush through the
tissues of the European social systems, as they passed from their long
winter into spring. And in the old motherland of European civilisation,
where the new life was first and most vehemently felt,—in Italy,
the most remarkable constellations of these attractive figures were

The women of Italy, at that period remarkable in different walks, and
rich in various high gifts, form in truth a very notable phenomenon;
and one sufficiently prevalent to justify the belief, that the general
circumstances of that society favoured the production of such. But
the question remains, whether these brilliant types of womanhood,
attractive as they are as subjects of study, curiously illustrative as
they are of the social history of the times in which they lived, are
on the whole such as should lead us to conclude, that the true path of
progress would be found to lead towards social conditions that should
be likely to reproduce them?

Supposing it to be asserted, that they were not so necessarily
connected in the relationship of cause and effect with the whole social
condition of the times in which they lived, as that any attempt to
resuscitate such types need involve a reproduction of their social
environment; even then the question would remain, whether, if it were
really possible to take them as single figures out of the landscape
in which they properly stand, they would be such as we should find it
desirable to adopt as models of womanhood? Are these such as are wanted
to be put in the van of our march—in the first ranks of nineteenth
century civilisation? Not whether they are good to put in niches to be
admired and cited for this or that virtue or capacity; nor even whether
they might be deemed desirable captains in a woman's march towards
higher destinies and better conditioned civilisation, if, indeed, such
a progress were in any sane manner conceivable; but whether such women
would work harmoniously and efficiently with all the other forces
at our command for the advancement of a civilisation, of which the
absolute _sine quâ non_ must be the increased solidarity, co-operation,
and mutual influence of both the sexes?

It may be guessed, perhaps, from the tone of the above sentences,
that the writer is not one of those who think that the past can in
this matter be made useful to us, as affording ready-made models for
imitation. But he has no intention of dogmatising, or even indulging
in speculations on "the woman's question." On the contrary, in
endeavouring to set before the reader his little cabinet of types of
womanhood, he has abstained from all attempt at pointing any moral
of the sort. The wish to do so is too dangerously apt to lead one to
assimilate one's portrait less carefully to the original than to a
pattern figure conceived for the purpose of illustrating a theory.
Whatever conclusions on the subject of woman's destiny, proper
position, and means of development are to be drawn, therefore, from the
consideration of the very varied and certainly remarkable types set
before him, the reader must draw for himself. It has been the writer's
object to show his portraits, more or less fully delineated according
to their interest, and in some measure according to the abundance or
the reverse of available material, in their proper setting of social
environment. They have been selected, not so much with any intention of
bringing together the best, greatest, or most admirable, nor even the
most remarkable women Italy has produced, as with a view of securing
the greatest amount of variety, in point of social position and
character. Each figure of the small gallery will, it is hoped, be found
to illustrate a distinct phase of Italian social life and civilisation.

The canonised Saint, that most extraordinary product of the "ages of
faith," highly interesting as a social, and perhaps more so still as
a psychological phenomenon;—the feudal Châtelaine, one of the most
remarkable results of the feudal system, and affording a suggestive
study of woman in man's place;—the high-born and highly-educated
Princess of a somewhat less rude day, whose inmost spiritual nature was
so profoundly and injuriously modified by her social position;—the
brilliant literary denizen of "La Bohème;"—the equally brilliant
but large-hearted and high-minded daughter of the people, whose
literary intimacies were made compatible with the strictest feminine
propriety, and whom no princely connections, lay and ecclesiastical,
prevented from daring to think and to speak her thought, and to meet
with brave heart the consequences of so doing;—the popular actress,
again a daughter of the people, and again in that, as is said,
perilous walk in life, a model of correct conduct in the midst of
loose-lived princesses;—the nobly-born adventuress, every step in
whose extraordinary _excelsior_ progress was an advance in degradation
and infamy, and whose history, in showing us court life behind the
scenes, brings us among the worst company of any that the reader's
varied journey will call upon him to fall in with;—the equally
nobly-born, and almost equally worthless woman, who shows us that
wonderful and instructive phenomenon, the Queen of a papal court;—the
humbly born artist, admirable for her successful combination in perfect
compatibility of all the duties of the home and the studio;—and
lastly, the poor representative of the effeteness of that social system
which had produced the foregoing types, the net result, as may be said,
of the national passage through the various phases illustrated by
them:—all these are curiously distinct manifestations of womanhood,
and if any measure of success has been attained in the endeavour to
represent them duly surrounded by the social environment which produced
them, while they helped to fashion it, some contribution will have been
made to a right understanding of woman's nature, and of the true road
towards her more completely satisfactory social development.


  Born, 1347. Died, 1380.


  Her Birth-place                                                  1


  The Saint's Biographer                                           9


  The Facts of the Case                                           18


  The Church View of the Case                                     32


  St. Catherine as an Author                                      51


  Catherine's Letter to the King of France                        67


  Dupe or Impostor?                                               77


  The Secret of her Influence                                     83

  Born, 1462. Died, 1509.



  Of Catherine's father, the Duke, and of his magnificent
  journey to Florence                                             90


  A Franciscan Pope and a Franciscan Cardinal.—A notable
  illustration of the proverb concerning mendicants'
  rides.—The Nemesis of Despotism                               102


  Catherine's marriage.—"Petit Courrier des dames"
  for 1476.—Four years of prosperity.—Life in Rome
  in the fifteenth century.—A hunting party in the
  Campagna.—Guilty or not guilty.—Catherine and her
  husband leave Rome                                             121


  From Rome to Forlì with bag and baggage.—First
  presentation of a new lord and lady to their
  lieges.—Venice again shows a velvet paw to a second
  Riario.—Saffron-hill in brocade and ermine.—Sad conduct
  on the part of our lieges.—Life in Rome again.—"Orso!
  Orso!"—"Colonna! Colonna!"—A Pope's hate, and a Pope's
  Vengeance.—Sixtus finally loses the game                      140


  The Family is founded.—But finds it very difficult
  to stand on its Foundations.—Life in Rome during an
  Interregnum.—Magnificent Prince short of Cash.—Our
  Heroine's Claims to that Title.—A Night Ride to Forlì,
  and its results.—An Accident to which splendid Princes
  are liable                                                     166


  Catherine in trouble.—"Libertà e Chiesà!" in Forlì.—The
  Cardinal Savelli.—The Countess and her Castellano
  perform a comedy before the lieges.—A veteran
  revolutionist.—No help coming from Rome.—Cardinal
  Legate in an awkward position.—All over with the
  Orsi.—Their last night in Forlì.—Catherine herself
  again.—Retribution.—An octogenarian conspirator's last
  day                                                            182


  An unprotected Princess.—Match-making, and its
  penalties.—A ladies' man for a Castellano.—A woman's
  weakness, and a woman's political economy.—Wanted, by
  the city of Forlì, a Jew; any Israelite, possessing
  sufficient capital, will find this, &c. &c.—The new Pope,
  Alexander VI.—The value of a Jubilee.—Troublous times in
  Forlì.—Alliances made, and broken.—Catherine once more a
  widow                                                          204


  Guilty or not guilty again.—Mediæval Clanship.—A woman's
  vengeance.—Funeral honours.—Royal-mindedness.—Its
  costliness; and its mode of raising the wind.—Taxes spent
  in alms to ruined tax-payers.—Threatening times.—Giovanni
  de' Medici.—Catherine once more wife, mother, and widow       223


  A nation of good haters.—Madama's soldier trade.—A
  new Pope has to found a new family.—Catherine's bounty
  to recruits.—A shrewd dealer meets his match.—Signs
  of hard times.—How to manage a free council.—Forlì
  ungrateful.—Catherine at Bay.—"A Borgia! A Borgia!"—A
  new year's eve party in 1500.—The lioness in the
  toils.—Catherine led captive to Rome                          238


  Catherine arrives in Rome; is accused of attempting to
  poison the Pope; is imprisoned in St. Angelo; is liberated;
  and goes to Florence.—Her cloister life with the Murate
  nuns.—Her collection of wonderful secrets.—Making
  allowances.—Catherine's death                                 256

  Born, 1490. Died, 1547.



  Changes in the Condition of Italy.—Dark
  Days.—Circumstances which led to the Invasion of
  the French.—State of things in Naples.—Fall of
  the Arragonese Dynasty.—Birth of Vittoria.—The
  Colonna.—Marino.—Vittoria's Betrothal.—The Duchessa di
  Francavilla.—Literary Culture at Naples.—Education of
  Vittoria in Ischia                                             271


  Vittoria's Personal Appearance.—First Love.—A Noble
  Soldier of Fortune.—Italian Wars of the Fifteenth and
  Sixteenth Centuries.—The Colonna Fortunes.—Death
  of Ferdinand II.—The Neapolitans carry Coals to
  Newcastle.—Events in Ischia.—Ferdinand of Spain in
  Naples.—Life in Naples in the Sixteenth Century.—Marriage
  of Pescara with Vittoria.—Marriage presents                   287


  Vittoria's Married Life.—Pescara goes where glory waits
  him.—The Rout of Ravenna.—Pescara in prison turns
  penman.—His "Dialogo di amore."—Vittoria's poetical
  epistle to her Husband.—Vittoria and the Marchese del
  Vasto.—Three cart-loads of ladies, and three mule-loads of
  sweatmeats.—Character of Pescara.—His Cruelty.—Anecdote
  in proof of it                                                 301


  Society in Ischia.—Bernardo Tasso's sonnet thereon.—How
  a wedding was celebrated at Naples in 1517.—A Sixteenth
  Century trousseau.—Sack of Genoa.—The Battle of
  Pavia.—Italian conspiracy against Charles V.—Character of
  Pescara.—Honour in 1525.—Pescara's treason.—Vittoria's
  sentiments on the occasion.—Pescara's infamy.—Patriotism
  unknown in Italy in the sixteenth century.—No such
  sentiment to be found in the writings of Vittoria.—Evil
  influence of her husband's character on her mind.—Death of
  Pescara                                                        312


  Vittoria, a widow, with the Nuns of San Silvestro.—Returns
  to Ischia.—Her Poetry divisible into two
  classes.—Specimens of her Sonnets.—They rapidly attain
  celebrity throughout Italy.—Vittoria's sentiments towards
  her husband.—Her unblemished character.—Platonic
  love.—The love poetry of the Sixteenth Century                328


  Vittoria in Rome in 1530.—Antiquarian rambles.—Pyramus
  and Thisbe medal.—Contemporary commentary on Vittoria's
  poems.—Paul III.—Rome again in 1536.—Visit to Lucca.—To
  Ferrara.—Protestant tendencies.—Invitation from
  Giberto.—Return to Rome                                       345


  Oratory of Divine Love.—Italian reformers.—Their
  tenets.—Consequence of the doctrine of justification
  by faith.—Fear of schism in Italy.—Orthodoxy of
  Vittoria questioned.—Proofs of her Protestantism from
  her writings.—Calvinism of her sonnets.—Remarkable
  passage against auricular confession.—Controversial
  and religious sonnets.—Absence from the sonnets of
  moral topics.—Specimen of her poetical power.—Romanist
  ideas.—Absence from the sonnets of all patriotic feeling      356


  Return to Rome.—Her great reputation.—Friendship with
  Michael Angelo.—Medal of this period.—Removal to
  Orvieto.—Visit from Luca Contile.—Her determination
  not to quit the Church.—Francesco d'Olanda.—His
  record of conversations with Vittoria.—Vittoria at
  Viterbo.—Influence of Cardinal Pole on her mind.—Last
  return to Rome.—Her death                                     377


  The Original of the Letter of St. Catherine of Siena to the
  King of France                                                 393

  NOTES                                                          398

  INDEX                                                          410





There are not many chapters of history more extraordinary and more
perplexing than that which relates the story of St. Catherine. Very
perplexing it will be found by any, who may think it worth while to
examine the record;—which is indeed well worthy of examination, not
only as illustrative of one of the most obscure phases of human nature,
but also as involving some highly interesting questions respecting the
value of historic evidence.

Of such examination it has received but little. Among Catholics the
"legend" of the Saint is to this day extensively used for such purposes
as similar legends were intended to serve. Orthodox teachers have
used the story unsparingly as stimulus, example, and testimony. But
orthodox historians have passed over it with the lightest tread and
most hurried step; while such Protestant readers as may have chanced
to stray into the dim, despised wilderness of Romish hagiography, have
in all probability very quickly tossed the volume aside, compendiously
classing its subject in their minds with other dark-aged lumber of
martyrs, who walked with their heads in their hands, and saints who
personally maltreated the enemy of mankind.

Yet a very little consideration of the story will show, that it
cannot with fairness be thus summarily disposed of. After seeing
large solid masses of monastic romance and pious falsehood evaporate
from the crucible of our criticism, there will be still found a very
considerable residuum of strangely irreducible fact of the most
puzzling description.

It is to be borne in mind, moreover, that the phenomena to be examined
are not the product of the dark night-time of history, so favourable
to the generation of saints and saintly wonders. Cock-crow was
near at hand when Catherine walked the earth. The grandsons of her
contemporaries had the printing-press among them; and the story of
her life was printed at Florence in the ninety-seventh year after
her death. While the illiterate Sienese dyer's daughter was working
miracles, moral and physical, Petrarch and Boccaccio were still
writing, and Dante had recently written. Giotto had painted the panels
we still gaze on, and Niccolò of Pisa carved the stones we yet handle.
Chroniclers and historians abounded; and the scene of the strange
things recorded by them was at that time one of the centres of human
civilisation and progress. We are there in no misty debateable land
of myth and legendary song; but walk among familiar facts of solid
well-authenticated history, studied for its lessons by statesmen, and
accepted as the basis of theories by political philosophers. And yet,
in the midst of these indubitable facts, mixed with them, acting on
them, undeniably influencing them, we come upon the records of a story
wild as any tale of Denis or Dunstan.

[Sidenote: SIENA.]

When once launched on the strange narrative, as it has come down to
us, it is somewhat difficult to remember steadily how near we are
all along to the solid shore of indisputable fact. Holding fast to
this, therefore, as long as may be, we will approach the subject by
endeavouring to obtain some idea of the material aspect of the "locus
in quo."

No one perhaps of the more important cities of Italy retains the
visible impress of its old republican medieval life to so remarkable
a degree as Siena. Less favoured by fortune than her old enemy, and
present ruler, Florence, she has been less benefited or injured by
the activity and changes of modern days. And the city retains the
fossilised form and shape which belonged to it at the time when its
own stormy old life was finally crushed out of it. The once turbulent,
energetic, and brave old city, sits there still, on the cold bleak
top of a long spent volcano—emblem meet enough of her own nature and
fortunes—grim, silent, stern, in death. The dark massy stone fronts,
grand and gloomy, of old houses, built to defy all the vicissitudes
of civic broils, and partisan town-fighting, still frown over narrow
streets, no longer animated by the turbulent tide of life which filled
them during the centuries of the city's independence.

The strange old "piazza," once the pulsating heart, whence the hot tide
of the old civic life flowed through all the body of the little state,
still occupies its singular position in the hollow of what was in
some remote ante-Etruscan time, the crater of a volcano. Tall houses
of five or six stories stand in a semicircle around this peculiar
shell-shaped cup, while the chord of the arc they form, is furnished
by the picturesque "palazzo pubblico," with its tall slender tower of
dark brick, and quaintly painted walls. Like the lava tide, which at
some distant period of the world's history flowed hence down the scored
sides of the mountain, the little less boiling tide of republican war
and republican commerce, which Siena was wont to pour out from the same
fount, is now extinct and spent. But such lazy, stagnant, unwholesome
life as despotism and priestcraft have left to Siena, is still most
alive in and around the old piazza.

Up the sides of this doubly extinguished crater, and down the
exterior flanks of the mountain, run steep, narrow, tortuous and
gloomy, the flagstone-paved streets of the old city. So steep are
they in some parts, that stairs have to take the place of the sloping
flagstones, which are often laid at such an angle of declivity as
to render wheel-traffic impossible. On the highest pinnacle of the
rim, overlooking the hollow of the once crater, stands the Cathedral,
on such uneven ground, that its east end is supported by a lofty
baptistery, built underneath it on the rapid descent. In the most
ornamented style of Italian-gothic architecture, and picturesque,
though quaint, in its parti-coloured livery of horizontal black and
white stripes in alternate courses of marble, the old church still
contains a wonderful quantity of medieval Sienese art in many kinds.
Carving in wood and in stone, painting in fresco and in oil, inlaid
work and mosaic, richly coloured windows and gilded cornices, adorn
walls, floor, and roof, in every part. The whole history of art
from the early days, when Sienese artists first timidly essayed to
imitate barbaric Byzantine models, to its perfect consummation in
those glorious ages which immediately preceded the downfall of Italian
liberty, is set forth in this fine old church, as in a rich and
overflowing museum. Some half dozen popes sleep beneath sculptured tons
of monumental marble in different parts of it,—among them two of the
very old Sienese family of Picolomini.

[Sidenote: FONTEBRANDA.]

On another peak, or spur, of the deeply seamed mountain, stands
the huge unornamented brick church and monastery of St. Dominic,
so situated, that between it and the Cathedral is a steep gorge,
the almost precipitous sides of which the old city has covered with
stair-like streets. Deep at the bottom of this gorge, near a gate in
the city wall, which runs indefatigably up and down the mountain ridges
and ravines in its circuit around the spacious city, now a world too
wide for its shrunken population, is that old fountain, which one
passing word of the great poet has made for ever celebrated. Here is
still that Fontebranda,[1] which, with all its wealth of sparkling
water, the thirst-tormented coiner in the thirtieth canto of the
Inferno, less longs for than he does to see in torment with him those
who had tempted him to the deed he was expiating.

The Dantescan pilgrim, who, among his first objects at Siena, runs
to visit this precious fountain, finds, not without a feeling of
disappointment, a square mass of heavy ugly brickwork, supported on
some three or four unornamented arches on each of its four sides.
Within is a large tank, also of brick, the sides of which rise about
two feet above the level of the soil; and this is perennially filled
by a cool and pure spring from the sandstone side of the mountain,
which there rises in a broken cliff immediately behind the ungraceful,
though classic building. Descending the steep street in search of this
poet-hallowed spot, with the Cathedral behind him, and St. Dominic's
church high on its peak above and in front of him, the visitor finds
that he is passing through a part of the city inhabited by the poorer
classes of its people. And near the bottom of the hill, and around the
fountain itself, it is manifest to more senses than one, that a colony
of tanners and dyers is still established on the same site which their
forefathers occupied, when Giacomo Benincasa was one of the guild.

The general aspect of this remote and low-lying corner of the city
is squalid and repulsive. Eyes and nose are alike offended by all
around them. And the stranger, who has been attracted thither by the
well-remembered name of "Fontebranda," hastens to reclimb his way to
the upper part of the town; probably unconscious, perhaps uncaring,
that within a few yards of him lies another object of pilgrimage,
classic after another fashion, and hallowed to the feelings of a far
more numerous body of devotees. For a little way up the hill, on the
left hand side of the poverty-stricken street, as one goes upwards,
among the miserable and filthy-looking skin-dressers' houses, is still
to be seen that of Giacomo Benincasa, in which his daughter Catherine,
the future Saint, was born, in the year 1347, and lived dining the
greater portion of her short career.


The veneration of her fellow citizens during the two centuries
which followed her death, has not permitted the dwelling to remain
altogether as it was when she inhabited it. The street front has been
sufficiently altered to indicate to any passenger, that it belongs to
some building of more note than the poor houses around it. Two stories
of a "loggia," or arcade, of dark brick, supported on little marble
columns,—four arches above, and four below,—run along the front of
the upper part of the building. On the ground-floor, a large portal,
like that of a chapel, such as in fact now occupies the entire basement
story, sufficiently shows that the building within is no longer a poor
dyer's habitation. On the side is a smaller door opening on a handsome
straight stone staircase, eight feet wide. By this entrance visitors
are admitted to gratify for an equal fee their Catholic devotion or
heretic curiosity.

The whole lower floor of the house, once, as tradition, doubtless
correctly, declares, the dyer's workshop (as similar portions of the
neighbouring houses are still the workshops of modern dyers), is now a
chapel. "Virginea Domus," is conspicuously carved in stone above the
portal, somewhat unfairly ignoring the existence of poor Giacomo in
his own workshop. The walls are covered with frescoes by Salimbeni and
Pachierotti, and a picture by Sodoma adorns the altar. Ascending the
handsome flight of stone stairs, the visitor finds most of the space
on the first floor occupied by another chapel. This was the living
room of the family, and is nearly as large as the workshop below. But
at the end of it, farthest from the street, and therefore from the
light also, there is a little dark closet, nine feet long by six wide.
It is entered from the larger room by a very low door, cut in a very
thick wall, and has no other means of receiving light or air. This was
Catherine's bedchamber. The pavement of the little closet is of brick,
and on this, with a stone—still extant _in situ_—for a pillow, the
future Saint slept. The bricks, sanctified by this nightly contact with
her person, have been boarded over to preserve them from the wear and
tear of time, and from the indiscreet pilfering of devout relic-hunters.

Various treasures of this sort, such as the lamp she used to carry
abroad, the handle of her staff, &c., are preserved on the altar of
the adjoining chapel: and one or more other oratories have been built
and ornamented in and about the Saint's dwelling-place. But the only
spot which has any interest for a heretical visitor is the little dark
and dismal hole—Catherine's own chamber and oratory—the scene of the
young girl's nightly vigils, lonely prayers, spiritual struggles, and
monstrous self-inflictions.

"Surely," cries the pious pilgrim, "as holily penetential a cell, as
ever agonized _De profundis_ rose from to the throne of Grace!"

"Truly," remarks the philosophic visitor, "a dormitory well calculated,
in all its conditions, to foster and develop every morbid tendency of
mind or body in its occupant!"



A great number of devout writers have occupied their pens on "legends"
and biographies of St. Catherine, more or less complete in their scope
and pretensions. The public library at Siena contains no less than
seventy-nine works, of which the popular Saint of the city is the
subject. Almost all of them, however, seem to be based more or less
directly and avowedly on the work of "the Blessed" Raymond of Capua.

Perhaps some heretic's untutored mind may be so ignorant as not to know
that the adjective joined to Raymond in the preceding sentence is not
only an epithet, but a title. "Beatification," is a spiritual grade
inferior to "sanctification," conferred by the same unerring authority,
and implying different and inferior privileges and position.

Childish trash enough it seems. Yet may not possibly some disciple of
that modern school of moralists, which teaches that happiness is not,
or should not be man's highest and ultimate aim, see in this assertion
of the superiority of "sanctification" to "blessedness," one of the
many instances in which Rome's pettifogging formalism and unspiritual
materialism have fossilised a lofty thought into a low absurdity?

Be this as it may, Raymond of Capua was never in Rome's hierarchy "more
than blessed."

This "Beato Raimondo" was "in the world" Raimondo delle Vigne,
great-grandson of Pietro delle Vigne, the celebrated Chancellor of
the Emperor Frederick II., who right royally rewarded his life-long
services by putting his eyes out. Raymond his great-grandson was a
Dominican monk; and became[2] twenty-fourth general of the order, in
1578, at the time when a schism in the Church, divided between two
popes, produced a corresponding schism in all the monastic orders.
Raymond governed that portion of the Dominican fraternity which
recognised the Pope, subsequently acknowledged by the Church as the
true one.

Having been sent, in 1367, to preside over the Dominican convent
in Siena, he was there by divine[3] intervention, say the learned
historians of the literature of the order, appointed confessor and
confidant to St. Catherine. The superior sanctity of the penitent was
however soon made manifest. For when Siena was ravaged by a pestilence,
in 1372, and Prior Raymond having caught it, while ministering to the
sick, lay dying, he was miraculously restored to health by the prayers
of St. Catherine.

The General of the Dominicans, as he shortly afterwards became, was
a man of mark, moreover, beyond the limits of his own Society; for
he was employed on several missions and negotiations by the Pope.
With such qualifications and opportunities, he certainly would seem
to have been the most competent person imaginable to give the world
an account of his saintly penitent's career. This he has done in a
work often reprinted, and most recently at Milan, in two good-sized
octavo volumes, in 1851. The "Life of Saint Catherine of Siena, the
Seraphic spouse of Jesus Christ" forms volumes nine and ten of an
"Ecclesiastical Library," brought out at a very cheap rate, as a
means of supplying the people of Italy in the nineteenth century with
wholesome and profitable mental food.


A glance at the nature and quality of this work is desirable for
several reasons. In the first place, it is necessary to ascertain
how far we can implicitly rely on its statements of matters of fact
respecting Catherine's history. In the second place, a knowledge of
the mental calibre and intellectual standing of the Saint's confessor,
confidant, and friend, cannot but assist us in estimating her own
character. And lastly, it is no little interesting to observe what
spiritual and intellectual provender is provided in these days for the
population of Italy by those who have the education and guidance of her
people in their hands.

This widely circulated work is an Italian translation from the
original Latin of Father Raymond, executed by Bernardino Pecci, Bishop
of Grosseto. In the notice of St. Catherine, in the "Biographie
Universelle," it is stated, among a singularly large number of other[4]
errors, that Raymond translated into Latin the Life of the Saint from
the Italian of Fra Tommaso della Fonte, who preceded him in his office
of confessor, making some additions to the original text. But a very
cursory examination of the book would have sufficed to show the French
writer that, although Father Raymond frequently cites Fra Tommaso as
the authority for some of his statements, the entire composition is
wholly the work of the former.

An equally short glance at this "Life" will also suffice to convince
any one in search of the facts of the Saint's career, that little
assistance is to be got from Father Raymond. It is indeed very evident,
that the author did not write with any intention of furnishing
such. He rarely gives any dates, and scarcely makes any pretence of
observing chronological order. He says, that he writes in his own old
age, long after the events occurred; owns that he forgets much; and,
though carefully and ostentatiously winding up every chapter with a
reference to his authorities for the statements contained in it, is
yet avowedly throwing together a mass of anecdotical recollections, as
they occur to him. He rarely, if ever, records any unmiraculous and
unsaintly doings;—mentions, for instance, that she performed such
and such miracles at Pisa, or discoursed in such and such terms at
Genoa; but does not give the slightest hint why she went thither, or
when. In short, the whole scope and object of the book is devotional,
and in no degree historic. It is written for the promotion of piety,
and especially for the glory of the Order of St. Dominic, and of the
Dominican St. Catherine. The wonders related are evidently intended to
cap other wonders. They constantly consist of performances essentially
similar to those recorded of older saints, but enhanced by some
added circumstance of extra impossibility. And the writer, in his
competitive eagerness, often pauses in his narration to point out, that
no former recorded miracles have come up to that he is relating in
outrageousness of contradiction to the laws of nature.


Were it not, however, for these and such like evidences of the _animus_
of the writer, and were it not also, it must be added, for the
exceeding difficulty of supposing that an undoubtedly distinguished
man, a contemporary of Petrarch and Boccaccio, could have believed
the monstrous impossibilities he relates as facts,—the tone of the
book would seem to be that of sincerity. In a subsequent chapter, the
reader will have an opportunity of examining some specimens of these
extraordinary relations. For the present, as a taste of the quality of
this remarkable book, _reprinted in 1851 for wide circulation among the
readers of Italy_, and as a means of judging how far it is possible
to credit the writer with simple-hearted sincerity, he may take the
following passages from a long prologue of thirty pages, which the
learned author opens with a quotation from the Apocalypse, "I saw an
angel descending from Heaven, having the key of the Abyss and a great
chain in his hand;"—and in which he points out the application of
these words to St. Catherine. Having shown at much length that she
may well be considered an angel descending from Heaven, he proceeds

"Finally we find added to the words of St. John, which have been taken
as a foundation for this prologue, the following phrase: '_Et catenam
magnam habens in manu suâ_;' which, like those that precede them, adapt
themselves to our subject, and explain the significance of her name.
What wonder is it, that Catherine should have a chain,—_catena_? Is
there then no agreement in the sound of the two words? Since if you
pronounce 'Caterina' with a syncope, you have 'Catena;' and if to
'Catena' you join a syllable, you have the name of 'Caterina.' Shall
we attach ourselves then to words and appearances only, neglecting the
things and the mysteries signified by these words? Not only the words,
but also the things themselves point out to us the applicability.
Since _catha_ in the Greek tongue signifies that which in the Latin
is _universe_.[6] Hence also the Catholic Church is from the force of
the Greek word properly called in Latin Universal. Caterina therefore
and Catena signify in our tongue University; which thing also a
chain—_catena_—manifests in its very nature."

After many pages of such extraordinary nonsense, he arrives at the
conclusion, that Caterina certainly means Universality, and that in
this name, made Catena by syncope, "lies hidden perhaps no small

It does seem wholly incredible, that this should be the best product
of the mind of one, chosen out to be the foremost of the Dominicans
of his day, and selected by the Pope to be entrusted with important
missions. It is difficult not to suspect, that this great-grandson
of Frederick II.'s famous Chancellor was a very different man, when
subtly diplomatising in Rome's interest with courts and princes, or
when considering in council the interests of his order, from what
he shows himself when addressing the people. Surely the _Concio ad
Populum_ must have differed from the _Concio ad Clerum_ as widely as
any sect's esoteric ever did from its exoteric doctrines. And the "no
small mystery of Caterina cut down by syncope to Catena," was, we may
well believe, not the subject of very serious meditations behind the
screen on the priestly side of the altar. Is it indeed possible to
abstain from the conviction, that we have detected the reverend figure
of Father Raymond of Capua, General of the Dominicans, very decidedly
laughing in his sleeve at that poor ill-used people, to whose proneness
to be deceived, Rome has ever answered with so ready and so hearty a


One other specimen of the quality of this Dominican monk's work may not
be superfluous in enabling the reader to make up his mind respecting
him and his teaching.

He tells us[7] that Catherine, when in her seventh year, retired one
day into some corner of the house, where she could not be seen or
overheard, and thus prayed:—

"O most blessed and holy Virgin, first among women to consecrate by a
perpetual vow thy virginity to the Lord, by whom thou wast graciously
made mother of His only begotten son, I pray of thy ineffable goodness,
that without considering my merits or my weakness, thou wouldst be
pleased to do me the great favour[8] of giving me for husband Him, whom
I desire with all the passion of my soul, thy most Holy Son, our only
Lord Jesus Christ; and I promise to Him and to thee, that I will never
receive any other husband, and that with all my power I will preserve
for Him my purity ever unblemished."

"Do you perceive, O reader!" continues the biographer, "with what
order all the graces and virtuous operations of this Holy Virgin are
powerfully and sweetly regulated by that Wisdom which disposes all
things? In the _sixth_ year of her age, while yet seeing her spouse
with the eyes of the body, she gloriously received his benediction.
In the _seventh_ year, she made the vow of chastity. The first of
these numbers is superior to all others in perfection: and the latter
is called by all theologians, the number of Universality. What then
can be understood from this, if not that this Virgin was destined to
receive from the Lord the _Universal Perfection_ of all the virtues;
and consequently to possess a perfect degree of glory? Since the first
number signifies Perfection, and the second Universality, what can they
signify, when put together, other than Universal Perfection? Wherefore
she was properly called Catherine,[9] which signifies, as has been
shown, Universality."

This, and some three or four hundred closely printed pages of similar
material, has recently (1851) been published at a price, which only a
very large circulation could make possible. "And yet," cry the priests
and priest-ridden rulers of the nations for whom this spiritual food
is provided, "we are accused of keeping our people in ignorance, and
discouraging reading! On the contrary, we carefully teach our flocks,
and seek but to provide them wholesome instead of poisonous mental
food. Here is reading, calculated to make men good Christians, good
subjects—and to keep them quiet."


Volumes might yet be written, and not superfluously, though many have
been written already, on the deliberate, calculated, and intentional
soul-murder perpetrated by this "safe" literature! And it is curious
to mark how this poor sainted Catherine, and her "blessed" confessor
are still active agents for evil nearly five hundred years after the
sepulchre has closed on them!

      "Like vampyres they steal from their tombs,
        To suck out life's pith with their lying,"

as a poet sings, who has well marked the working of saints and
saint-worship in that unhappy land.

Truth is immortal! as is often said. Yes! but men do not perhaps
so often consider, that, as far as human ken may extend, falsehood
unhappily is in its consequences equally immortal.



Little reliable information as to the real unmiraculous events of
Catherine Benincasa's life is to be obtained, as has been seen, from
the pages of her professed biographer. But there is another pietistic
work, forming part of the same "Ecclesiastical Library," in which
Father Raymond's book has been recently reprinted, that offers somewhat
better gleanings to the inquirer into the facts of the case. This is
a reprint in four volumes (Milan, 1843–4) of the Saint's Letters,
with the annotations of the Jesuit, Father Frederick Burlamacchi.
These letters had been already several times published, when the
learned Lucchese Jesuit undertook to edit them in the beginning of the
eighteenth century. The former editions were imperfect, incorrect,
and uncommented. But the Jesuit, jesuitlike, has done his work well;
and his notes, appended to the end of each letter, contain abundant
information respecting the persons to whom they are addressed, the
events and people alluded to in them, and, wherever attainable, the
dates at which they were written. To the labours therefore of Father
Burlamacchi is due most of the information thrown together in the
following concise account of Catherine's career; in which it is
intended, leaving aside saintship and miracles for a moment, to give
the reader a statement of those facts only which a sceptical inquirer
may admit to be historical.


Thus denuded of all devotional "improvement," and of all those portions
of the narrative which alone clerical writers have for the most part
thought much worth preserving, the story can present but a very
skeleton outline indeed; for the notices of the Saint to be met with in
contemporary lay writers are singularly few and scanty.

Catherine was one of the youngest of a family of twenty-five children.
Her twin sister died a few days after her birth. At a very early age
she was observed to be taciturn, and solitary in her habits; and was
remarkable for the small quantity of nourishment she took. At about
twelve years old she manifested her determination to devote herself to
a religious life. The modes of this manifestation, and the difficulties
she encountered in carrying her wishes into execution against the
opposition of her family, as related by her biographer, are curious;
but cannot be admitted into this chapter of "facts."

Some few years later than this, it should seem,—but Father Raymond's
aversion to dates does not permit us to ascertain exactly at what
age,—Catherine, with much difficulty, and being confined to her
bed by illness at the time, persuaded her mother to go to certain
religious women attached to the order of St. Dominic, and prefer to
them her petition to be admitted among them. These devotees were
termed—"Mantellate di S. Domenico,"—"the cloaked women of St.
Dominic;" and they appear to have been bound by the vows of chastity,
poverty, and obedience. But they were not strictly nuns, as they
were not cloistered, but lived each in her own habitation, and went
about the city freely. On these grounds the Mantellate made much
difficulty about receiving Catherine into their society; alleging,
that they conferred their habit only on widows, or elderly single
women, as scandal would be caused by a young woman leading a single but
uncloistered life. On being further urgently entreated, however, on the
behalf of Catherine, they agreed to send a deputation of their body to
visit the sick girl, promising to receive her, if it should be found
that, though young, she was not pretty. The deputed judges came; and to
Catherine's great delight pronounced favourably as to the absence of
any disqualifying personal charms; though the more gallant confessor
insinuates, that their decision was in great part influenced by the
effects of illness on the candidate's appearance. She was accordingly
made a sister of St. Dominic, and placed under the spiritual guidance
and direction of the friars of that order.

Then we have exceedingly copious accounts of penitences, austerities,
and abstinence, which, though in all probability true to a frightful
degree, yet, certainly cannot, as related by Father Raymond, be
accepted as unmiraculous truths. One circumstance mentioned by him,
however, at this point of his narrative, does not seem liable to any
suspicion, and is worth noting. Her early confessors, he says, did not
believe the miraculousness of her fasts and sufferings.

From this period to the end of her life we have accounts of her
frequent, apparently daily, "ecstasies," or fits. And it is interesting
to observe, that the descriptions of these seizures given by her
biographer on more than one occasion, show them to have been very
evidently of a cataleptic nature. The Dominican monk of course has
not, or at least does not manifest, the least suspicion that these
"ecstasies" were attributable to any other than a directly miraculous
cause. But his account is sufficiently accurate to render the matter
satisfactorily clear to modern readers.


The passage, in which he first speaks of these fits, of his own doubts
concerning the nature of them, and especially of the mode he adopted to
arrive at a correct decision on this point, is sufficiently curious.

"Shortly[10] afterwards," he says, having been telling the story of
some vision, "she lost the use of her corporal senses and fell into
ecstasy. Hence proceeded all the wonderful things that subsequently
took place, both as regards her abstinence, such as is not practised
by others, her admirable teaching, and the manifest miracles, which
Almighty God, even during her lifetime, showed before our eyes.
Wherefore, since here is the foundation, the root, and the origin of
all her holy works.... I sought every means and every way, by which I
might investigate whether her operations were from the Lord, or from
another source,—whether they were true or fictitious. For I reflected,
that now was the time of that third beast with the leopard's skin, by
which hypocrites are pointed out; and that in my own experience I had
found some, especially among the women, who easily deceive themselves,
and are more readily seduced by the enemy, as was manifested in the
case of the first mother of us all. Other matters also presented
themselves to my mind, which constrained me to remain uncertain and
dubious concerning this matter. While I was thus in doubt, unable
to acquire a strong conviction on either side of the question, and
anxiously wishing to be guided by Him, who can neither deceive nor be
deceived, it struck me, that if I could be certain, that by means of
her prayers I had obtained from the Lord a great and unusual sense of
contrition for my sins, beyond anything I was wont to feel, this should
be for me a perfect proof that all her operations proceeded from the
Holy Ghost."

He then recounts at length, what may be as well told in a few
words,—how he besought her to pray for him, telling her, that he
desired to have a proof of the efficacy of her prayer by being
conscious of an unusually strong sense of contrition within
himself,—how she promised that he assuredly should have this
proof,—how he was next day confined to his bed by illness, and so weak
as to be hardly able to speak; and how, being then visited and exhorted
by Catherine, who herself left with difficulty a sick bed to come
to him, he _did_ feel especially and unusually contrite; and so the
required proof was complete, and he was ever after ready to accept any
amount of miraculous performance on the part of the Saint with perfect
faith in its reality and sanctity.

Did the diplomatist General of the Dominicans really think that he had
obtained the _proof_, he says he wished for? Were the other women, whom
he had deemed impostors or dupes of the evil one, equally devoted to
and in the hands of the Dominican Order, equally fervent and promising
in their vocation of saintship, and equally endowed with the strength
of character and will, which united to her physical infirmities,
rendered Catherine so rarely and highly valuable an instrument for the
promotion of "religion" and the glory of the order?—questions, which
must be left to the consideration of the reader. On a subsequent
occasion, Father Raymond describes[11] more at length the nature of the
seizure, to which Catherine was subject. We are told that,—

[Sidenote: HER ECSTASIES.]

"Whenever the remembrance of her sacred husband,"—by which phrase
thousands of times repeated in the course of his work, the monk always
alludes to our Saviour,—"became a little refreshed in that holy mind,
_she withdrew herself as much as she could_ from her corporal senses;
and her extremities, that is to say, her hands and her feet became
contracted and deadened; her fingers first. Then her limbs became so
strongly fixed both in themselves, and attached to the places which
they touched, that it would have been more possible to break them to
pieces than to remove them in any wise. The eyes also were perfectly
closed; and the neck was rendered so rigid, that it was not a little
dangerous to her to touch her neck at such moments."

The frequency and duration of these attacks appear to have increased.
At a later period[12] of his narrative, Father Raymond tells us that
"the inferior and sensitive part of her nature abandoned her for
the greater part of her time, and left her deprived of sensation.
Of which," he says, "we are assured a thousand times by seeing and
touching her arms and her hands so rigidified, that it would have been
easier to break the bone, than remove them from the position in which
they were. The eyes were completely shut; the ears did not hear any
sound however great, and all the bodily senses were entirely deprived
of their proper action."

These passages will leave little doubt on the minds of any who have
witnessed the phenomena of catalepsy, that Catherine was habitually
subject to attacks of that complaint. The hint to be derived from
the writer's declaration, that she threw herself into this state "as
much as she could," is worthy of notice; and will not seem surprising
to those who have studied this form of disease. Those also, who have
watched the physical phenomena of animal magnetism, will not fail to
remark the similarity of the facts recorded of Catherine, to those they
have been accustomed to observe.

For several years of her life after her profession, and previous to
1376, we find various undated intimations of her being in different
cities of Tuscany; and Father Raymond has recorded her complaints,
that people both secular and of "the order," had been scandalised by
her frequent travelling, whereas she had never gone any whither, she
declares, except for the salvation of souls. But when it is remembered
what travelling was in those days, and that to go from Siena to
Florence, Pisa, or Lucca, was to cross the frontier of her own country,
and traverse the dominions of foreign and often hostile states, it
seems strange, that a young girl of obscure origin, and necessarily
with small pecuniary resources at her command, should have found the
means of travelling about the world, accompanied, as she appears
always to have been, by a suite of confessors and other ecclesiastical
followers. To render these journeyings yet more difficult and puzzling,
we find contemporary mention of her frequent illness. She is again and
again confined to her bed by fever, and "her ordinary infirmities,"
and "accustomed sufferings;"—a state of things that would seem to put
out of the question for her the wandering mendicant friar's ordinary
inexpensive mode of locomotion.


Not a word, however, is to be found throwing light on any such
difficulties; and they must be left to the reader, as they present
themselves. It may be noted, however,—rather, though, to the increase
than to the lessening of the strangeness of the circumstances,—that
by special Papal Bull she was permitted to carry with her a portable
travelling altar, and the confessors who accompanied her were specially
licensed to absolve all such penitents as came to the Saint for
spiritual advice and edification.

In the year 1376 Catherine was in her twenty-ninth year; and we then
come to the most important and most remarkable incident in her career.
At that time Gregory XI., the last of seven French popes, who had
succeeded one another in the chair of St. Peter, was living at Avignon,
where for the last seventy-three years the Papal Court had resided to
the infinite discontent and considerable injury of Italy. To put an
end to this absenteeism, and bring back the Pontiff, and all the good
things that would follow in his train, was the cherished wish of all
good Italians, and especially of all Italian churchmen. Petrarch had
urgently pressed Gregory's predecessor, Urban V., to accomplish the
desired change; Dante had at an earlier period laboured to accomplish
the same object. But it was not altogether an easy step to take. The
French Cardinals who surrounded the Pope at Avignon were of course
eager to keep him and the Court in their own country. The King of
France was equally anxious to detain him. The French Pope's likings and
prejudices of course pointed in the same direction. Rome too was very
far just then from offering an agreeable or inviting residence. The
dominions of the Church were in a state of almost universal rebellion.
The turbulence of the great Roman barons was such, that going to live
among them seemed as safe and as pleasant as finding a residence in a
den of ruffians.

Thus all the representations of the Italian Church, and all the
spiritual and temporal interests, which so urgently needed the ruler's
presence in his dominions, had for some years past not sufficed to
bring back the Pope to Rome. Under these circumstances Catherine, the
obscure Sienese dyer's illiterate daughter, determined to try her
powers of persuasion and argument on the Pontiff, and proceeded to
Avignon for that purpose in the summer of 1376. In the September of
that same year, the Pope set out on his return to Rome! The dyer's
daughter succeeded in her enterprise, and moved the centre of Europe
once more back again to its old place in the eternal city!

It should seem, that she was also charged by the government of
Florence, then at war with the Pope, to make their peace with him. And
this object also, though it was not accomplished on the occasion of her
visit to Avignon, she appears to have subsequently contributed to bring
to a satisfactory termination. But it is remarkable, that in none of
the six letters to Gregory, written in the early months of 1376, does
she speak a word on the subject of Florence. The great object of her
anxiety is the Pope's return to Rome. There are four letters extant
written by her[13] to Gregory, while she was in Avignon. But neither
in these is the business of the Florentines touched on. So that we
must suppose, says Father Burlamacchi in his notes to Letter VII.,
that this affair was treated by the Pope and the Saint in personal
interviews,[14] or in other letters now lost.


But it seems strange, that she should write elaborate letters to a
person inhabiting the same town, and with whom she was doubtless in
the habit of having frequent personal intercourse. And the suspicion
naturally arises that these compositions were intended, at all events
in great measure, for the perusal of others besides the person to whom
they were avowedly written. One of them is extant in the form of a
Latin translation by Father Raymond. It is true, that that language was
probably the only medium of communication between the Italian Saint
and the French Pope. Nevertheless, the question,—Did this letter ever
originally exist in any other form than the Dominican's Latin presents

The following testimony however of the historian Ammirato, who wrote
about two hundred years after the events of which we are speaking,
seems to show decisively, that from her own time to that of the author,
she was generally considered to have been the principal cause of the
restoration of the Papal Court to Rome.

"There was living," he writes,[15] "in those days a young virgin born
in Siena, who from the great austerity of her life, from the fervour of
her zeal of charity, and indefatigable perseverance in all good works,
was even in her lifetime deemed holy by all, and is so by the writer of
these lines, though the reader may perceive, that he has no special
devotion to her. Nor was this opinion conceived without the appearance
to many persons of wonderful signs of a miraculous and supernatural
character." Having briefly described these wonders in words, which
certainly do not reveal any disbelief of them in his own mind, he
continues thus:—

"It came into the minds therefore of those, who then governed Florence,
that she might be of use in effecting a treaty of peace with the Pope.
And if they had themselves no really sincere desire for this, yet the
employment of her in the matter served to prove to others, who were
opposed to the war with the Pope, that no efforts were wanting on
their part to obtain peace. Being, therefore, urged by the war[16]
commissioners to proceed to Avignon on this mission, she did not refuse
to undertake it, but went thither, as is related by herself in one
of her letters. And it is a certain fact, not only that she was well
received and affectionately listened to by the Pope, but that by her
instances he was induced to restore the Apostolic seat to Rome."

Not having been able to bring the negotiation for peace to a
conclusion, she returned to Florence in the autumn of 1376, and
remained there living in a house provided for her by Niccolò
Soderini[17] and others connected with the government, while she
continued to use her influence in every possible way for the conclusion
of a treaty. Becoming thus well known to the Florentines, she was, says
Ammirato, "considered by some to be a bad woman, as in more recent
times, similar opinions have been held respecting Jerome Savonarola."


It should seem, however, that Catherine must have been favourably known
in Florence some years before this time from an incidental notice
of the chronicler, Del Migliore, who has recorded that in 1370 her
brothers were publicly presented with the freedom of the city. And it
is difficult to suppose that such an honour could have been conferred
on them on any other grounds than the celebrity of their saintly sister.

Muratori also testifies,[18] that Catherine contributed much to the
restoration of the Papal Court to Rome, saying that she wrote to the
Pope on the subject. He appears not to have been aware that she went

Again, Maimbourg, who took the contrary side in the great schism, which
so soon afterwards divided the Church into two camps, and who is far
from being prejudiced in favour of Catherine, admits that the Pope,
"resolved at last to re-establish the see in Rome, in consequence of
the urgent and repeated solicitations of St. Catherine of Siena."[19]

The Abate Ughelli bears his testimony[20] also to the efficacy of
Catherine's exertions in this matter.

"The greatest part," he says, "of the praise due to Gregory's return
to Rome belongs to Catherine of Siena, who with infinite courage made
the journey to Avignon, and at last induced the Pontiff to return, and
by his presence dispel those evils which had shockingly overrun all
Italy in consequence of the absence of the popes. So that it is not
surprising, that writers, who rightly understood the matter, should
have said that Catherine, the virgin of Siena, brought back to God the
abandoned Apostolical seat oil her shoulders."

It should appear, then, that it must be admitted, strange as it may
seem, among the _facts_ of the Saint's life, that the restoration of
the Pope and his Court to Rome, that great change so important to
all Europe, so long battled and struggled for and against by kings,
cardinals, and statesmen, was at last brought about by her.

Without pausing at present to look further into a result so startling,
it will be better to complete this chapter, by briefly adding the few
other authentically known facts of her story which remain to be told.

Gregory XI. died on the 27th of March, 1378. On the 7th of April
sixteen cardinals entered into conclave for the election of his
successor. Of these, eleven were Frenchmen, and all of course anxious
to elect a Frenchman. But seven out of the eleven being Limousins, were
bent on creating one of their number Pope. The other four Frenchmen
were opposed to this; and by favour of this dissension the Italians
succeeded in placing an Italian, Bartolomeo Prignani, in the sacred
chair, who took the name of Urban VI.

This took place while Catherine was still at Florence. There are two
letters written by her thence to the new Pope. In one of them she
alludes to a "scandalo," which had occurred; and was in truth nothing
less than a city tumult, in which some turbulent rioters of the
anti-church party had threatened her life. It is recorded,[21] that
the Saint intrepidly presented herself before the mob, saying, "I am
Catherine. Kill me, if you will!"—on which they were abashed and slunk

[Sidenote: HER DEATH.]

Two other letters to Urban VI. follow, which appear to have been
written from Siena; and on the 28th of November, 1378, in obedience
to the Papal commands, she arrived in Rome. There are then four more
letters written to the Pope after that date; and on the 29th day of
April, 1380, she died at the age of thirty-three, after long and
excruciating sufferings.

Father Raymond was at Genoa at that time; and declares that in that
city at the hour of her death, he heard a voice communicating to him a
last message from Catherine, which he afterwards found she had uttered
on her death-bed, word for word as he heard it. "And of this," he adds,
solemnly, "let that Eternal Truth, which can neither deceive nor be
deceived, be witness." Nevertheless, some may be inclined to think that
this statement has no right to be included among the _facts_ of the
case. Such sceptics may, however, be reminded that it is a certain and
not altogether unimportant fact, that Father Raymond makes this solemn

The extant letters of the Saint, 198 in number, are also facts, of
a very singular and puzzling nature. But it will be more convenient
to defer any examination of this part of the subject to a future and
separate chapter.



Authentic history, conceiving herself justified, probably, in leaving
a saint in the hands of her own professional advisers and chroniclers,
has meddled so little with Catherine biographically, that it was easy
to give within the limits of a short chapter a tolerably complete
summary of all that can be said to be really known of her story. The
professional records of her career as Saint and Thaumaturgist on the
other hand are exuberant, minute in detail, and based on abundance of
that sort of evidence to their veracity, which the writers of such
narratives are wont to consider as most irrefragable and conclusive.
And these stories are by no means deficient in interest even to those,
whose habits of mind lead them to distinguish widely between such
and the materials for what they would admit to be history. For it
is a genuine historical fact, and one of no light importance, that
these things _were_ believed, were written by men of learning, and
are _still_ believed by thousands. It is an historical, as well as a
very curious psychological fact, that the statements in question were
considered by the writers and thousands of readers of them during many
generations to have been proved to be true by the evidence adduced. And
it is an historical question, far more interesting, unfortunately, than
easy to be solved, who were the believers of the officially received
narrative, and who were not.


For these reasons the Church view of the case, is at least as important
a part of any satisfactory account of the Saint as the lay view,
which was the subject of the last chapter. But all attempt to state
the former with the completeness with which it has been sought to lay
the latter before the reader, would, within any limits endurable by
Englishmen of the nineteenth century, be wholly futile. It will be
necessary to proceed by way of specimen-giving. And in the present case
that compendious mode of examination will not be so unsatisfactory as
it sometimes is found to be. For the masses of visions, penitences,
revelations, and miracles recorded, with their respective confirmatory
evidences, are so perfectly homogeneous in their nature, that the
handful may very confidently be accepted as a fair sample of the
contents of the sack.

The austerities and self-inflictions by which she prepared herself for
her career internally, and at the same time gave proof of her vocation
externally to those around her, began at an almost incredibly early
age, and went on increasing gradually in intensity and monstrosity
till they pass from the probable to the highly improbable, and thence
to the manifestly impossible and miraculous. The line of demarcation
which limits the latter, will be differently drawn by different minds.
But the perfectly authentic records of human achievement in this
department, are such as warn us against absolutely refusing our belief
to any horrible self-torment under which life may possibly be retained.

At _five_ years old, it was her practice in going up stairs to kneel at
each step to the Virgin.

She habitually flogged herself, and induced other children to imitate
her in doing so, at six years of age. At seven, she deprived herself
of a great portion of her food, secretly giving it to her brother, or
throwing it to the cats. At the same age, she would watch from the
window to see when a Dominican monk passed, and as soon as ever he had
moved on, she used to run out and kiss the spot on the pavement on
which he had placed his feet.

[Sidenote: HER GREAT SIN.]

At twelve years old, being then marriageable, her mother begged her to
comb her hair and "wash her face oftener." But this she steadfastly
refused to do, till her mother having requested a married sister for
whom Catherine had the warmest affection, to use her influence with
her, she yielded, and began to pay some attention to the cleanliness
of her person and the neatness of her dress. "When she afterwards
confessed this fault to me," says the "Blessed" Raymond, "she spoke
of it with such sighs and tears, that you would have supposed she had
been guilty of some great sin. And as I know that, now that she is in
heaven, it is lawful for me to reveal such things as redound to her
praise, though they were heretofore secret, I have determined to insert
here what passed between her and me on this subject. For she frequently
made a general[22] confession to me, and always when she came to this
point, she bitterly accused herself with sobs and tears. So that
although I knew that it is the peculiarity of virtuous souls to believe
that sin exists where in truth it does not,"—(observe the morality
and think a little of the practical and psychological consequences of
it)—"and to deem it great, where it is in fact small, nevertheless,
since Catherine accused herself as meriting eternal punishment for the
above fault, I was obliged to ask her, whether in acting as she had
done, she had at all proposed or wished to violate her vow of chastity?
To which she replied, that no such thought had ever entered her heart.
I again asked her, whether, since she had no intention of transgressing
her vow of virginity, she had done this in order to please any man in
particular, or all men in general? And she answered that nothing gave
her so much pain, as to see men, or be seen by them, or to be where any
of them were. So that whenever any of her father's workmen, who lived
in the house with him, came into any place where she chanced to be,
she used to run from them, as if they had been serpents, so that all
wondered at her." (Note the general state of manners and individual
state of mind indicated by the fact, that such conduct should be deemed
a praiseworthy proof of maidenly purity!) "She never," she said,
"placed herself at the window, or at the door of the house to look at
those who passed."—(Surely the Saint forgot her pious habit of looking
out for the Dominicans, in order to kiss their footsteps.)—"Then I
asked her in reply, for what reason this act of having attended to
her dress, especially if it were not done in excess, merited eternal
punishment? She answered, that she had loved her sister too much, and
appeared to love her more than she loved God, for which reason she wept
inconsolably, and did most bitter penance. And on my wishing to reply,
that, although there might have been some excess, yet seeing that there
had been no bad or even vain intention, there was nothing contrary to
divine precept, she lifted up her eyes and voice to God, crying, 'O
Lord my God, what kind of spiritual father have I now, who excuses my
sins? Was it right then, Father, that this bad and most worthless
creature, who without labour or merit of her own has received so many
favours from her Creator, should spend her time in adorning this putrid
flesh, at the instigation of any mortal? Hell, I think, would have been
no sufficient punishment for me, if the divine mercy had not shown
me pity.' Thereupon," concludes the conscientious confessor, "I was
constrained to be silent." He felt that his penitent's view of her sin
was the just one, as indeed was sufficiently shown by the following
conclusion of the story of the Saint's temporary backsliding.

Her sister continued to persuade her to pay attention to her person.
"But the omnipotent Lord not being able any longer to endure that his
chosen bride should in any way be kept at a distance from him, removed
that obstacle which prevented her from uniting herself to God. For
Bonaventura, the Saint's married sister, who instigated her to vanity,
being near the time of her confinement, died in child-birth, young as
she was. Observe, O reader, how displeasing and hateful to God it is
to impede or divert those who wish to serve him. This Bonaventura was,
as has been said, a very worthy woman, both in her conduct and in her
conversation; but because she endeavoured to draw back to the world her
who wished to serve God, she was smitten by the Lord, and punished with
a very painful death." Take care, therefore, what you do, all mothers
and sisters, of any who may seem to have a vocation for the cloister,
lest you share the fate of Bonaventura Benincasa, doomed by God to a
fearful death for having persuaded her sister to wash her face!

And to such practical teaching is the Saint's story moralised to this
day even as 500 years ago!

[Sidenote: HER FASTING.]

At about this period of Catherine's life—to return to the series of
her penances and mortifications—she wholly abandoned the use of animal
food. At fifteen she left off wine. At twenty she gave up bread, living
only on uncooked vegetables. She used to sleep but one quarter of an
hour in the twenty-four; always flogged herself till the blood streamed
from her three times a day; and lived three years without speaking.
She wore a chain of iron round her body, which gradually eat its way
into her flesh. And finally, she remained wholly without food for many
years. This Father Raymond declares to have been the case within his
own knowledge, and adds with much triumph, "that we know from Scripture
that Moses fasted twice during a space of forty days, and Elias once,
and that our Saviour accomplished the same, as the Gospel tells us: but
a fast of many years has not hitherto been known."

Passing from the Saint's achievements in this kind, we find her equally
distancing all competitors in the matter of personal and familiar
communication and conversation with the Deity.

She began to have visions at six years old. Returning home one day
about that time, through the streets of Siena, she saw in the sky
_immediately over the Dominican's church_ a throne, with Christ sitting
on it dressed in Papal robes, accompanied by St. Paul, St. Peter, and
St. John.

At a later period, Christ appeared to her daily as soon as she
retired to her cell, as she informed Father Raymond, for the purpose
of teaching her the doctrines of religion, which, said she to her
confessor, "no man or woman ever taught me, but only our Lord Jesus
Christ himself, sometimes by means of inspiration, and sometimes by
means of a clear bodily appearance, manifest to the bodily senses, and
talking with me, as I now talk with you."

Again, a little farther on in her career, we read that "the Lord
appeared to Catherine very frequently, and remained with her longer
than he had been wont to do, and sometimes brought with him his most
glorious mother, sometimes St. Dominic, and sometimes both of them:
but mostly he came alone and talked with her, as a friend with a most
intimate friend; in such sort, that, as she herself secretly and
blushingly confessed to me, the Lord and she frequently recited the
Psalms together, walking up and down the chamber, as two monks or
priests are wont to recite the service. Oh, marvel! Oh, astonishment!
Oh, manifestation of divine familiarity unheard of in our times!"
exclaims the biographer: as he truly well might!

Very soon after this, having tried in vain, as she informed her
confessor, to learn to read, she one day prayed God, that, if it was
His will that she should read, he would teach her at once, to avoid
further loss of time in learning. She rose from her knees perfectly
well able to read any writing as readily and quickly as any learned man
could. This Father Raymond heard her do; but on asking her to spell
the words she could not, and did not know the letters; a proof, says
the confessor, of the reality of the miracle! In another place it is
incidentally mentioned that she read especially the _Psalter_. Does
not this, joined to the Dominican's _proof_ of the miracle, seem to
indicate, that what passed for reading was in fact repeating by heart?

[Sidenote: HER MARRIAGE.]

On a subsequent day, in carnival time, while the others in the Saint's
family were carousing, and she was alone in her chamber, Christ
appeared to her, and said that he was come to keep his promise of
marrying her. Then appeared the Virgin, St. John, St. Paul, and St.
Dominic, and David with a harp, on which he played very sweetly. The
Virgin then took Catherine's hand in hers, and holding out the fingers
towards her son, asked if he would deign to espouse her "in the faith.
To which the only begotten Son of God graciously consented, and drew
forth a golden ring, with four pearls and a magnificent diamond in
it, which ring he placed with his own most holy right hand on the
ring-finger of the right hand of Catherine, saying, 'Behold I marry
you in the faith to me your Creator and Saviour.'" After adding some
further exhortations, the vision disappeared; but as a proof of its
reality, there remained the ring on the finger of Catherine! It was
not indeed visible to any eyes but those of the Saint herself, adds
Father Raymond with perfect composure and contentment; but she saw
it, inasmuch as she has many times confessed to me, though with many
blushes, that she always continued to see the ring on her finger, and
was never long without looking at it.

One day while she was praying to God to _renew her heart_, Christ
suddenly appeared to her—or, in the words of the biographer, her
eternal spouse came to her as usual—opened her side, removed her
heart, and carried it away with him. So truly was this done, that for
several days she declared herself to be without any heart, pointing out
to those who objected that it was impossible, that with God nothing
is impossible. After some days Christ again appeared, bearing in his
hand what seemed a human heart, red and shining, again opened her side,
put the new heart in, and closed the aperture, saying, "See, dearest
daughter; as I took from you the other day your heart, so now I will
give you mine, with which you will always live!" And as a proof of the
miracle, there remained evermore in her side the scar, as she herself
and her female companions had often assured Father Raymond. A further
confirmation of the fact was moreover to be seen in the remarkable
circumstance, that from that day forth, the saint was unable to say, as
she had been wont, "Lord, I commend to thee my heart," but always said,
"Lord, I commend to thee thy heart."

Another time the first person of the Trinity appeared to her "in a
vision," and she seemed to see him pull from out his mouth our Saviour
Christ in his human form. Then he pulled from out his breast St.
Dominic, and said to her, "Dearest daughter, I have begotten these two
sons, the one by natural generation, the other by sweet and loving
adoption." Then the Almighty enters into a detailed comparison between
Christ and St. Dominic, and ends by saying, that the figure of the
latter had now been shown her "because he resembled much the body of my
most holy naturally begotten and only son."

Once when she was carrying some comforts to a sick poor woman, Christ,
"joking with her," suddenly made the things so heavy that she could
hardly carry them. Then, when she wished to leave the sick woman,
still jesting, he took from her the power of moving. Being troubled,
therefore, and yet at the same time smiling, she said to her heavenly
spouse, who was jesting with her, "Why, dearest husband, have you thus
tricked me? Does it seem to you well to keep me here, and thus mock and
confuse me?" She adds more remonstrances of this sort, and at last,
"the eternal husband seeing the secret annoyance of his wife, and not
being in a manner able to endure it, he restored to her her previous

[Sidenote: THE BEGGAR-MAN.]

Upon another occasion, when she was at her devotions in the church of
the Dominicans, a poor beggar, _who appeared to be about thirty-two or
thirty-three years old_, implored her to bestow on him some clothing.
The Saint bade him wait a minute; and returning into a private chapel,
she drew off by the feet, "cautiously and modestly," says Father
Raymond, an under garment without sleeves, which she wore under her
outer clothing because of the cold, and very gladly gave it to the poor
man. Upon which the beggar replied, "Madonna, since you have furnished
me with a woollen garment, I pray you to provide me with one of linen
also." To which she willingly consented, saying, "Follow me, and I will
readily give you what you ask." So she returned to her father's house,
followed by the poor man, and going into a store room, where the linen
clothing of her father and brothers was kept, she took a shirt and
pair of drawers and joyfully gave them to him. But he, when he had got
these, did not desist from begging, saying, "Madonna, what can I do
with this garment, which has no sleeves to cover the arms. I beg you
to give me some sleeves of some sort, that so my whole clothing may be
your gift." Upon this, Catherine, not the least displeased with his
importunity, searched all over the house to find some sleeves to give
him. And finding by chance, hanging on a peg, a new gown belonging to
the servant, which she had never yet worn, she instantly stripped the
sleeves from it, and gave them to the beggar. But he, when he had taken
them, still persevered, saying, "See now, Madonna, you have clothed
me, for which may He reward you, for love of whom you have done it.
But I have a companion in the hospital, who is in extreme want of
clothing. If you will give him some garment, I would willingly carry
it to him from you." Upon which, Catherine, in no wise displeased at
the poor man's reiterated demands, or cooled in the fervour of her
charity, bethought her how she could find some clothing to send to the
poor man in the hospital. But, in the words of the biographer monk,
"remembering that all the family, except her father, disapproved of
her almsgiving, and kept all they had under lock and key, to prevent
her from giving the things away to the poor, and further discreetly
considering that she had taken away enough from the servant, who was
herself poor, and therefore ought not to have everything taken from
her, she found that her resources were confined wholly to herself.
She, therefore, seriously discussed in her mind the question, whether
she ought to give the poor wretch the only garment which remained to
her. Charity argued for the affirmative; but maidenly modesty opposed
a negative. And in this contest charity was overcome by charity. That
is to say, the charity which pities the bodies of our neighbour, was
conquered by the charity which regards their souls; since Catherine
considered that great scandal would arise if she were to go naked, and
that souls ought not to be scandalised for the sake of any alms to
the body." Accordingly, she told the beggar, that she would willingly
have given him that, her only covering, if it had been lawful to do
so—but that it was not permissible. "I know," said he, smiling, "that
you would give me anything you could. Adieu!" And so he went. On the
following night, however, Christ came to her, holding in his hand the
garment she had given the poor man, now all adorned with pearls and
gems, and said, "Dost thou know this gown? Thou gavest it to _me_
yesterday, and charitably clothedst me when I was naked, saving me from
the pain of cold and shame. Now I will give thee from my sacred body a
garment, which, though invisible to men, shall preserve both thy body
and soul from cold." So saying, he pulled from out the wound in his
side a garment of the colour of blood, exceedingly resplendent, and
clothed her with it. And, in fact, so perfectly did it fulfil, though
invisible, the purpose for which it was given, that the Saint never
afterwards wore any under garment, either in summer or winter, nor did
she ever more suffer from the cold.


It occurred frequently, that the most hardened sinners were reclaimed
by her intervention, but not by the means of exhortation or
persuasion—(in this there would have been nothing worth telling)—but
by direct application to God, and asking the required conversion as a
favour to herself. There was a certain inveterate reprobate in Siena,
who having led an exceedingly wicked life, was near his death, and
obstinately refused to confess, or humble himself in any way. "Fallen
into final impenitence, he continually committed that sin against the
Holy Ghost, which is not forgiven either in this world, or the world
to come, and thus deservedly was going down to eternal torments," says
Father Raymond. In short, if he had lived anywhere but in Siena, or if
his parish priest had not bethought him of applying to Catherine in the
difficulty, he would infallibly have perished eternally. But what luck
some people have! Catherine, on being applied to, undertook the case
immediately, but found it a rather more difficult one than usual; for,
on praying to Christ to rescue the dying sinner, he answered her by
saying, "The iniquities of this man, horrible blasphemer as he is, have
risen up to heaven. Not only has he blasphemed with his mouth me and my
saints, but he has even thrown into the fire a picture, in which was my
image, and that of my mother, and others of my saints. It is, therefore
just that he should burn in eternal fire. Let him alone, my dearest
daughter, for he is worthy of death." Catherine, however, replied with
many arguments, given at length by her biographer; but, nevertheless,
for a long time she could not prevail. From five in the evening till
the morning, Catherine, watching and tearful, disputed with the Lord
for the salvation of that soul, he alleging the sinner's many and
grave sins, which justice required to be punished, and she insisting
on the mercy, for the sake of which he had become incarnate. At last
the Saint conquered, and at dawn of day Christ said, "Dearest daughter,
I have granted your prayer, and I will now convert this man, for whom
you pray so fervently." So from that hour all went well. The sinner
began to confess, the priest began to absolve him, and he died within
a few hours. But it was a very near run thing. For the priest who had
applied to Catherine had found on reaching her house, that she was in
a trance or ecstasy, and could not be spoken with. He waited as long
as he could, and when he could wait no longer, he left a message with
a companion of Catherine's to the desired effect. As it was, all went
well. But it is clear that if a few hours more had been lost, if the
Saint's trance had lasted longer, or her long argument on the subject
had not been concluded when it was, or if the woman with whom the
message was left, had made any blunder about the matter, or forgotten
it, the man's evil life would have produced its natural consequences
according to God's eternal law, and he would have been damned.


It has been suggested by some, eager to exercise the candour which can
see whatever of excellence there may be in every system, that the many
stories of Catherine's successful efforts to convert the most hardened
sinners, are a proof of her having possessed that confidence in the
latent good in every human heart which is one of the best results of
a truly philosophic faith in God; and which would in truth go far to
show that her heart unconsciously, if not her intellect consciously,
had placed her in advance of the ethics and theology of her day. But
the story just related fatally destroys any such agreeable theory. The
conversion of the sinner was to be achieved not by any human action on
his heart, but by wholly different means. The Saint did not even seek
to see or speak with him. The conversion was to be a miracle, worked as
a special favour granted to her. The dying sinner's moral capabilities
had nothing whatever to do with the matter.

There is another even more remarkable instance in which the Saint
prevails with God to work a miracle, which He declares at the time
to be hurtful to the person who is the subject of it. Catherine's
mother, Lapa, was dying, but was most unwilling to die. Her daughter,
therefore, prayed that her health might be restored to her, but was
answered that it was better for Lapa that she should leave this life
then. With this answer she returns to her mother, and endeavours to
reconcile her to the necessity of then dying, but in vain. Thus the
Saint became mediator between the Lord and her mother, supplicating the
one not to take Lapa out of the world against her will, and exhorting
the other to be resigned to the disposition of the Lord. But Catherine,
who with her prayers, constrained, as it were, the Omnipotent, could
not, by her exhortation, bend the weak mind of her mother. So the Lord
said to his wife, "Tell your mother that if she will not leave the body
now, the time will come when she shall greatly desire death, and not
be able to find it." Lapa, however, could not make up her mind to die,
nor would she confess in preparation for death; and, accordingly, died
unshriven. Then her daughter cried to God, and said, "Oh, Lord God! are
these then the promises you made me, that no one of this house should
perish? * * * * * And now I see my mother dead without the sacraments
of the church! By thy infinite mercy I pray thee, do not let me be
defrauded in such a manner! Nor will I move hence for an instant as
long as I live, until thou shalt render back my mother to life." So
God, although he knew that it was bad for her mother, recalled her
again to life; and she lived to be eighty-nine years old, surviving all
her numerous children, tried by much adversity, and often longing for
that death which she had before so unwisely rejected.

[Sidenote: THE STIGMATA.]

One of the most remarkable miraculous events which occurred to her was
the following, related by Father Raymond as having happened at Pisa in
his presence. Catherine had received the sacrament, and was, as usual
with her at such times, in a trance. Her confessor and some others were
awaiting her recovery from it, when they saw her suddenly rise with a
start to a kneeling posture, with her arms stretched out horizontally,
and in a minute or two more fall prostrate. Soon afterwards she came
out of her trance, and immediately calling aside her confessor, said,
"Be it known to you, my father, that I now bear on my body the marks
of the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ." "And I," says the monk,
"having told her that I had observed as much from the movements of her
body while she was in her trance, asked her in what manner the Lord
had performed that miracle? And she said, 'I saw the crucified Lord
descending towards me with a great light, which caused me, from the
impetus of my soul to meet its Creator, to raise up my body, then I saw
five bloody rays descending from the scars of his most holy wounds, and
directing themselves to the hands and feet and heart of my body. Upon
which, knowing what the mystery was, I exclaimed, "O Lord my God, let
not, I pray you, the scars appear externally on my body; it is enough
for me to have them internally." Then, while I was yet speaking, the
rays, before they reached me, turned from blood-colour to a pure and
splendid light, and touched the five parts of my body, that is, my
hands, my feet, and my heart.' I asked her further, 'Do you now feel
in those spots any sensible pain?' To which, with a deep sigh, she
replied, 'So great is the pain I feel in all those five places, but
especially in my heart, that it appears impossible to me to live many
days, unless the Lord perform some further miracle.'"

To appreciate the importance and bearing of this miracle, the fierce
and bitter rivalry which existed between the Dominicans and Franciscans
must be borne in mind. St. Francis had received these five wounds,
the counterpart of Christ's wounds, in the same way. The marks
are familiarly known among hagiographers and their readers as the
_stigmata_, and the having received them was the crowning glory of St.
Francis, and the proud and exclusive boast of his Franciscans: and now
the Dominicans were even with them. The Sienese Pope, who canonized
Catherine, Pius II., gave his approbation to a service, in which this
reception of the _stigmata_ was prominently asserted. And so severely
was the blow felt by the indignant Franciscans, that they obtained from
the next Pope but one, Sixtus the Fourth, himself a member of their
Order, a decree to the effect that St. Francis had an exclusive right
to, and monopoly of that special miracle, and that it was accordingly
forbidden to represent St. Catherine receiving the _stigmata_ under
pain of ecclesiastical censures!

Whether the opposition monk, Sixtus, intended by this decree to assert
that no such miracle was performed on Catherine, or that it ought not
to have been performed in justice to St. Francis, or that having been
unfortunately performed, nothing ought to be said about it, is left to
the very unsatisfactory conjectures of indiscreet inquirers.

The tendency observable in many of the austerities and miracles related
of St. Catherine, to outdo the austerities and miracles of other
saints, is especially remarkable in this of the _stigmata_. The degree
in which it served the purpose of the Dominicans, is the measure of
the suspicion attaching to it. But as there is nothing incredible in
the supposition that Catherine may have imagined all she related in
her trance, so it is by no means unlikely that such diseased dreamings
may have been the natural product of a waking fancy filled with, and
dwelling on this much envied manifestation. Perhaps the condition
so providently introduced, as it seems, that the scars were not to
be visible, may be suggestive of a fraudulent intention. But, on
the other hand, it should seem, that if fraud had been planned, it
would have been very easy, for one who subjected her body to so much
self-inflicted torment, to submit to the required wounds beforehand.


In another instance there seems to be emulation of a higher model.
Wishing to give wine away to the poor against the desire of her
family, she miraculously causes a barrel to become for a long while
inexhaustible, the wine drawn from it being, at the same time, of a
much superior quality to that originally put into it.

Many details are recorded of her ministry to the sick; but, strangely
enough, the most prominent circumstances in each case, are those which
go to prove her readiness to encounter whatever was most loathesome;
and some of the particulars of her victories over the natural
repugnances of mind and body in this respect—often of a nature in no
wise conducive to, or connected with the well-being of her patient—are
far too revolting for reproduction on any English page.

The reader has now an abundant—perhaps he may think a superfluously
abundant—specimen of that part of Catherine's history which the Church
most loves to preserve, contemplate, and enlarge on, and of the kind of
teaching she draws from it—draws from it, be it again observed, for
this is an important part of the subject—at this present day.

The morality set forth by example in the tales of the Saint abstracting
the property of her relatives to give it to any mendicant who begged of
her, is more largely and accurately reduced to systematic precept in
the "Manual for Confessors," now in use as the rule for those who have
the guidance of the popular conscience. It is there laid down, that a
wife or son may "take" from the goods of a husband or father, who will
not give for the purpose, what is requisite for "good works!"

The stories which represent the Creator as capriciously reversing
his decrees with the unconscientious levity of an earthly potentate
ruled by an exacting favourite, and inflicting undeserved torment and
miserable death in accordance with the suggestions of evil passions
wholly fiend-like, are still shaping the Italian peasant's conception
of the Almighty, and thus poisoning the master well-head of all
spiritual and moral amelioration.

The depravation, or rather the annihilation of the natural conscience,
which necessarily results from attributing fearful sinfulness to
trifling and absurd omissions and inadvertences, and from installing an
admiration for useless, and often mischievous practices on the throne,
which should be occupied in the human soul by reverence for man's
homely duties, and homely affections, is still doing its appointed work
as busily and as surely as it did five hundred years ago, and has been
doing ever since,—with what results, we see.

But it is sufficient to have indicated to the reader the importance,
from this point of view, of this story of a Saint, who, alas! but
too truly "being dead, yet speaketh." It would require an analysis
extending over the whole field of national character, to trace all the
ramified evil produced by the views of God and man involved in such
stories as those related in the preceding pages. And if there were no
other reason against here attempting such an essay, it might assuredly
be urged, that such considerations have no place in a chapter devoted
to the Church view of the case.



The literary phase of Catherine's career and character, especially as
seen in her letters, is by no means its least curious and suggestive
aspect. The indications of what she herself was, and yet more, the
evidences obtainable from them of the undeniably exceptional and
extraordinary position she held among her contemporaries, are valuable,
and yet at the same time not a little puzzling.

Her works consist of a treatise occupying a closely printed quarto
volume, which Father Raymond describes as "a Dialogue between a Soul,
which asked four questions of the Lord, and the same Lord, who made
answer, and gave instruction in many most useful truths;" of her
letters, three hundred and seventy-three in number; and of twenty-six

This Dialogue is entitled, "The book of Divine Doctrine, given in
person by God the Father, speaking to the mind of the most glorious and
holy Virgin, Catherine of Siena, and written down as she dictated it in
the vulgar tongue, she being the while entranced, and actually hearing
that which God spoke in her." It is stated to have been dictated by the
Saint in her father's house in Siena, a little before she went to Rome,
and to have been completed the 13th of October, 1378. This dialogue
has been divided into five parts, though no such division existed in
it, as it fell from her lips. The first part treats of Discretion; the
second of Prayer; the third of the Divine Providence; the fourth of
Obedience; and the fifth of Consummate Perfection. The four first exist
in manuscript in the original Italian, as they were taken down from the
lips of the entranced Saint; though these ancient manuscript copies
abound, we are told by the modern editor of them, Girolamo Gigli, with
such errors as frequently not only to alter the sense, but to render
it inconsistent with true orthodoxy. Of course nothing but the purest
doctrine could have been uttered by the Saint, and these dangerous
errors have been corrected. But the fifth treatise is not extant in the
original, but only in Father Raymond's Latin translation of it, from
which the published Italian version has been re-translated.

[Sidenote: HER "DIALOGUE."]

The French oratorian, Father Casimir Oudin,[23] in his Supplement of
Ecclesiastical writers, omitted by Bellarmine, quietly says, "She
wrote, or Raymond de Vineis wrote in her name, a work inscribed," &c.
&c. It is very possible, that the Frenchman's suspicion may be just.
But, with the exception of some allusions and subtleties, indicating,
perhaps, a greater acquaintance with scholastic theology than the Saint
may be thought to have possessed, there is nothing in the work itself
to belie the origin attributed to it. It could not, indeed, have been
written down from the Saint's dictation, as it professes to have been,
in the form and sequence in which we have it printed; because it is
intermingled (without any typographical or other advertisement, that
the reader is about to enter on matter of a different authorship and
pretensions)—with long passages descriptive of the Saint's mode of
receiving the revelation, written in the person of the secretary, and
bearing a strong likeness to Father Raymond's style and phraseology.
But the Saint's own utterances are exactly such as might have been
expected from such a patient, and much resemble in many respects those
which many readers have probably heard in these latter days, from
persons in all likelihood similarly affected in greater or less degree.
As the latter have often been found to bear a singular resemblance in
quality and manner to the verbose and repetitive inanities of some very
slenderly gifted extempore preacher, so these ecstatic outpourings of
St. Catherine are like the worst description of the pulpit eloquence of
her day and country. Low and gross as the taste and feeling of the age
were, especially in matters spiritual and theological, it is difficult
to imagine that Catherine could have gained any part of the great
reputation and influence she undeniably exercised in high places from
this production. The reader may see from the following passage, taken
quite at haphazard from its pages, whether his impression on this point
agrees with that of the writer.

Catherine dictates these sentences as hearing them word for word as she
repeats them, from the mouth of God!

"Know, O daughter! that no one can escape from my hands, because I am
He, who I am; and ye do not exist by yourselves, but only in so far
as ye are created by Me, who am the Creator of all things that have
existence, except only Sin, which does not exist, and therefore has
not been created by me. And because it is not in me, it is not worthy
of being loved. And therefore the Creature offends, because he loves
that which he ought not to love, which is sin, and hates Me, whom he
is bound and obliged to love; for I am supremely good, and have given
him existence by the so ardent fire of my love. But from Me men cannot
escape. Either they fall into my hands for justice on their sins, or
they fall into my hands for mercy. Open therefore the eyes of your
mind, and look at my hand, and you will see that what I have said to
you is the truth." _Then she raising her eyes in obedience to the
supreme Father_, "_saw_ enclosed in his hand the entire universe," &c.,

It is evident, that this could not have been written from the Saint's
dictation. But the work may have been composed from notes taken down
while she poured forth her trance-talk. And such an hypothesis would
not be incompatible with Oudin's supposition, that the book, as we
have it, was composed by Father Raymond. In any case the staple of
its contents, if not inferior to the generality of the theological
literature of the time, shows at least no such superiority to it as
to place the author in the high and exceptional position Catherine is
proved to have occupied.

Twenty-six prayers have been preserved among the works of Saint
Catherine; and it might be supposed, that such a record of the secret
outpourings of an ardent heart in its communion with the infinite
God, sole object of its fervent aspirations and daily and nightly
meditations, would have been calculated to throw considerable light on
the character, capabilities, and mental calibre of the worshipper. But
these documents afford no glimpse of any such insight. They are not
the sort of utterances that could ever bring one human heart nearer
to another: and no assimilating power of sympathy will enable the
reader of them to advance one jot towards a knowledge of the heart from
which they proceeded. The impression they are calculated to produce,
is either that the Saint was a self-conscious actor and pretender, or
that they are not her compositions. And the latter, perhaps, may be
considered the more probable hypothesis.

[Sidenote: HER PRAYERS.]

Though addressed in form to the Deity, there is little that can
be accurately called prayer. The speaker, or writer rather,
seems continually to forget his avowed object, and runs off into
long statements of the nature and attributes of the Deity, and
ecclesiastical propositions based thereon, evidently prompted rather
by didactic views on mortal hearers, than by effort to hold communion
with the Almighty. It is all dry, cold, repetitive, verbose theology,
instead of the spontaneous warm utterances of either a thankful or a
contrite heart;—neither the expression of an earnest spirit, nor the
production of an eloquent writer.

There remain the letters, by far the most interesting and valuable of
the Saint's reputed works. They are 373 in number, and form two stout
quarto volumes of the Lucca edition. In the four octavo volumes of the
cheap Milan reprint before mentioned, only the first 198 are given;
though there is no word of notice or explanation to indicate, that the
work is not complete. On the contrary, the fourth volume is entitled
"fourth and last;" and we are left to the hopeful conjecture, that the
devout editors found the speculation so bad a one commercially, that
they thought fit to close the publication suddenly, and leave their
subscribers to discover as late as might be, that they had purchased
an imperfect book.

The 373 letters of the entire collection have among them many addressed
to kings, popes, cardinals, bishops, conventual bodies, and political
corporations, as well as a great number written to private individuals.
And it seems strange, that among so many correspondents of classes,
whose papers are likely to be preserved, and many of whom, especially
the monastic communities, would assuredly have attached a high value
to such documents, no one original of any of these letters should have
been preserved.


Girolamo Gigli, the editor of the quarto edition of the Saint's works,
printed at Lucca and Siena, in 1707-13, an enthusiastic and laborious
investigator and collector of every description of information
regarding her, gives in his Preface to the letters, a careful account
of the manuscript collections from which they have at different times
been printed, but has not a word to say of any scrap of original
document. "As soon," he writes, "as the saintly Virgin had ascended
to heaven in the year 1380, some of her secretaries and disciples
collected from one place and another some of her letters and writings."
But the words which follow this seem to indicate that even these
earliest collectors did not possess any of the original manuscripts,
but made copies of them, in most cases probably from other copies.
"The blessed Stefano Maconi," he says, "having transcribed the book of
the Dialogue, added at the end of it some epistles; and another larger
collection was made, also by him as I think, in a certain volume which
exists in the library of the Certosa at Pavia. Buonconti also collected
not a few, as may be seen by an ancient copy in his writing, which was
among the most notable things left by the Cardinal Volunnio Bandinelli,
and now belongs to the Signor Volunnio, his nephew and heir. We have
another abundant collection in an ancient manuscript preserved in the
library of St. Pantaleo at Rome; and this is one of the most faithful
of all those I have seen in its orthography and style; and as far as
can be judged by the character of the writing, the scribe must have
been contemporary with the Saint. But the blessed Raymond of Capua,
her confessor, left to the Dominicans of Siena two very large volumes
of her letters neatly copied out on parchment, in which nearly all
those collected by the others are contained. And these most precious
documents are rendered more valuable by the testimony given to their
authenticity by the blessed Tomaso Caffarini in the above cited reports
made at Venice."[25]

The epistles were first printed by Aldus in 1500, just 180 years
after Catherine's death, and afterwards in many other editions, all,
according to Gigli, exceedingly incorrect, and requiring much critical
care both in the restoration of the text to its original Tuscan purity,
and in the arrangement of the letters, as far as possible, in their
due chronological order. This, however, is made subsidiary in Gigli's
edition to a division of them according to the persons to whom they
were addressed. Thus those to the two Popes, Gregory XI. and Urban VI.,
come first; then those written to cardinals; then those to bishops
and other ecclesiastical authorities; and lastly those to private

And this is the substance of all the Sienese editor has to tell us
respecting the texts, manuscript and printed, on which his own has been
formed. But the Saint's confessor, and one or two of her disciples,
have recorded some circumstances respecting the lost originals of these
letters which require to be noticed.

It is stated in perfect accordance with all probability, that Catherine
had never learned to read or write, as was in those days the case
with the great majority of women in stations of life far superior
to her own. Her biographer's account of her miraculously acquiring
the power of reading by sudden endowment has been related in the
preceding chapter. And at a later period of her life we are told that
she similarly acquired the power of writing, "in order that she might
be able," writes Girolamo Gigli in his Preface to the Letters, "to
carry out the office of her apostolate by more agencies than one,
and in more places than one, at the same time, Christ gave her by
a wonderful method the use of the pen, in the short schooling of a
trance, and by the teaching of St. John the Evangelist, and of the
blessed Doctor, Aquinas, as the Saint herself affirms in a letter to
the above-mentioned blessed Raymond her confessor."

One of the most interesting points of inquiry in the life of St.
Catherine turns on the question, more fully examined in a subsequent
chapter, how far was she, or was she not, entirely sincere in her
statements and pretensions. Now if she makes the statement attributed
to her respecting her acquisition of the art of writing, it must
be concluded that she was guilty of wilful imposture. No possible
self-deception could have misled her as to the fact of her previous
ignorance of writing, and as little as to that of her writing after
the trance. It will be well therefore to observe accurately what
she really does say herself upon the subject. In 1377, when she was
in the thirtieth year of her age, after her return from Avignon, and
before her final journey to Rome, she was inhabiting a villa belonging
to the noble Sienese family of Salimbeni, situated on an isolated
eminence overlooking the road to Rome, and called "Rocca d'Orcia."
Hence she wrote a very long letter—the longest probably in the whole
collection—occupying, as it does, twelve full octavo pages—to Father
Raymond; and concludes it with the following lines.


"This letter, and another which I sent you, I have written with my
own hand from this isolated fortress, with many sighs and abundance
of tears, so that seeing with my eyes, I did not see. But I was full
of admiration at myself, and at the goodness of God, considering his
mercy towards creatures, who have reason in them, and his providence,
which abounded upon me, giving and providing me with the aptitude for
writing for my comfort, I having been deprived of that consolation,
which by reason of my ignorance I knew not. So that on descending
from the height (does this mean 'on coming out of my trance,' or 'on
leaving this fortress?') I might have some little vent for the feelings
of my heart, so that it should not burst. Not being willing to take
me as yet out of this darksome life, God formed it in my mind in a
wonderful manner, as the master does to the child, to whom he gives an
exemplar. So that, as soon as ever he was gone from me, together with
the glorious Evangelist John, and Thomas Aquinas, sleeping I began to

Now the entire value of this incident in the eyes of the fourteenth,
and the entire incredibility of it in the eyes of the nineteenth
century, and consequently its stringency as evidence against the
sincerity of St. Catherine, depends on the length of time intervening
between the moment when she began to learn in her sleep, and that at
which she first wrote. All her own admiration of herself and of God's
providence in the matter, all her own belief in miracle, and her
beginning to learn in her sleep, we may admit without founding thereon
any impeachment of her sincerity. Nor need we be accurate in taking the
sense of her statement, that she then _began_ to learn. Most people
would find it difficult to say when they began to learn most things.
And on the other hand the phrase would seem to express, that she did
not _complete_ her learning to write in that same trance. We have other
indications also of a gradual advance in the art. The long letter,
in which the Saint makes the above statement, is certainly not the
first product of her new acquirement. She speaks of having written a
former letter to the same correspondent. But neither was that her first

In the evidence given by the Beato Tomaso Caffarini on the occasion
of the examination of her pretensions to canonization, he deposes:
"I further testify, that I heard from Master Stephen,[26] of Siena,"
by means of letters from him, how that this Virgin, after that she
miraculously learned to write, rising up from prayer with a desire of
writing, wrote with her own hand a _little_ letter (litterulam), which
she sent to the said Master Stephen, and in which was the following
conclusion, written, that is to say, in her own vernacular: "Know, my
son, that this is the first letter, which I ever wrote;"—much such a
first attempt as the most unmiraculously taught of penmen might be
likely to make.


Consistently then with all that Catherine distinctly asserts on the
subject, we may believe, that despite her ready credence of her own
environment with the supernatural at every moment of her life, the
only miracle on the occasion of her newly acquired power of writing
was worked by that intensely strong will, which works so many miracles
in this world, and which all Catherine's history shows her to have
eminently possessed.

The same witness further testifies that the above-mentioned Stephen
informed him that Catherine had after that frequently written in his
presence both letters and some sheets of the book[27] she composed in
the vulgar tongue, all which writings he—Stephen—had preserved in the
Carthusian convent of Pontignano near Siena, over which he presided.
And there, according to Girolamo Gigli, "they were known to have been
in existence for many years, until, not long ago," says he, writing in
1707, "they were transported to Grenoble, at the time when the monks of
Pontignano, as well as all those of the Carthusian order, were obliged
to send all their papers to the Grande Chartreuse." And so they vanish
out of our sight.

Further Caffarini testifies, that he saw and had in his own possession
at Venice a prayer, written miraculously, as he says, by Catherine,
with a piece of cinnabar, immediately on waking from a trance; meaning,
apparently, that trance, during which she obtained the faculty of
writing. He gives the prayer in Latin prose. But Gigli says that it
ought to be written in the Tuscan as verse, in the manner in which it
is printed by Crescimbeni in the third volume of his "Volgare Poesia,"
as follows:—

  "O Spirito santo, vieni nel mio cuore;
  Per la tua potenzia trailo a te, Dio:
  E concedemi carità con timore.
  Custodimi Christo da ogni mal pensiere,
  Riscaldami e rinfiammami del tuo dolcissimo amore,
  Sicchè ogni pena mi paja leggiere.
  Santo il mio padre, e dolce il mio Signore,
  Ora ajutami in ogni mio mestiere,
  Christo amore, Christo amore."

This writing, in cinnabar, Caffarini declares is "now," 1411, in the
Dominican nunnery at Venice. But this also has shared the ill fortune
which seems to have attended every scrap of the Saint's writing. For
Gigli states that all his efforts to obtain any tidings of it in his
own time had been in vain.

A few other letters are recorded to have been written by her own hand,
especially one to Pope Urban. But it is admitted, that the great bulk
of the letters were written by her secretaries, of whom she seems to
have kept three regularly employed, besides occasionally using the
assistance of several other of her companions and disciples. A few
of the letters are recorded to have been dictated by her, when in a
state of trance or extasy; but there is nothing in either their matter
or manner to distinguish them from the rest. Whatever may have been
the true physical characteristics of these trances, it is perfectly
clear, that the mind which dictated the letters in question, was
pursuing the habitual tenor of its daily thoughts, neither obscured
nor intensified by the condition of the body. They are neither more
nor less argumentative, neither more nor less eloquent, than the
others of the collection. And it seems strange, that the same state
of abstraction from all bodily clog or guidance, which so often left
her mind impressionable by visions and hallucinations having to her all
the vivid reality of material events, should on other occasions have
been compatible with the conduct of mental operations, in no respect
differing from those of her ordinary waking state. But it is to be
observed, that the authority on which it is stated, that these letters
were dictated by the Saint in a state of extasy, is only that of her
amanuenses; and that, admitting them to have been of perfect good faith
in the matter, nothing is more probable, than that, all agape, as they
were ever for fresh wonders, and evidences of Saintship, any trifling
circumstance, such as long continuance in the same attitude, or closed
eyes, may have been considered sufficient evidence of trance.


The very high reputation, and that not altogether of a pietistic or
ecclesiastical nature, which this large mass of writings has enjoyed
for several centuries has appeared to the present writer an extremely
singular fact. It will justify him however in occupying some pages,
and the reader's attention with a translation[28] of one of the
most esteemed of the collection. Be it what it may, it can hardly
be otherwise than interesting to any reader to see a specimen of
compositions, said to have produced so widely spread and important
results, and praised by so many men of note; and the means, which it
will give him of comparing his impressions of it with those of the
writer, will in some degree lessen the diffidence with which the latter
must express an opinion wholly at variance with so large a quantity of
high authority.

A great deal of the praise bestowed on St. Catherine's writings by
Italian critics has reference to their style and diction. Written at
a time when the language, fresh from the hands of Dante, of Petrarch,
and of Boccaccio, was still in its infancy, and in a city in all times
celebrated for the purity of its vernacular, they have by the common
consent of Italian scholars taken rank as one of the acknowledged
classics of the language;—"testa di lingua," as the Tuscan purists
say. The Della Cruscans have placed them on the jealously watched
list of their authorities; and an enthusiastic Sienese compatriot
has compiled a "vocabalario Caterineano," after the fashion of those
consecrated to the study of the works of Homer and Cicero. Of course
no one from the barbarous side of the Alps can permit themselves any
word of observation on this point. Had no such decisive opinion been
extant to guide his ignorance, it might probably have seemed to a
foreigner, that the Saint's style was loose in its syntax, intricate in
its construction, and overloaded with verbosity. But we are bound to
suppose, that any such opinion could be formed only by one ignorant of
the real beauties of the language: especially as we know how great and
minute is the attention paid to diction by Italian critics.

But these philological excellences are after all the least part of
the praise that has been lavished on Catherine as an author. Her
admirers enlarge on the moving eloquence, the exalted piety, the noble
sentiments, the sound argumentation of her compositions, especially
her letters. And it is not from an Italian, or a Dominican, but from a
French Jesuit and historian, Papire Masson, that we have the following
enthusiastic praise of that letter more especially, which it is
intended to submit to the reader of these pages.


"Several epistles are extant," writes this sixteenth century Frenchman,
"from Catherine of Siena to Urban, and one to King Charles V., written
on the 6th of May, 1379, to uphold that Pope's cause. And certainly
nothing more weighty or more elegant could have been conceived or
written by any man of that time, not even excepting Petrarch, whose
genius I admire, and whose works I generally prefer to those of any
other writer of that age."

To the present writer such an opinion appears perfectly monstrous,
and wholly unaccountable on any simply literary consideration of the
matter. It may be admitted to be no little extraordinary that a poor
dyer's daughter in the fourteenth century should write these letters,
such as they are; that she should possess so much knowledge of the
general state of Church politics in Europe, as they evince; and most of
all that having popes, kings, and cardinals for her correspondents, she
should be listened to by them with respect and attention. Even to the
Pope, she on more than one occasion ventures on a tone of very decided
reproof; and it should seem, that Urban VI., a choleric and violent
tempered man, received from her in good part communications couched in
language such as rarely reaches Papal ears. "The blessed Christ," she
says, in writing to Urban of the vices of the ecclesiastics, a topic to
which she returns again and again, "complains of this, that his Church
is not swept clean of vices, and your Holiness has not that solicitude
on the subject which you ought to have." Again, when there had been
riots in Rome, in consequence of the Pope having failed to keep certain
promises he had made to the people, she "humbly begs him to take care,
prudently to promise only what it will be possible for him to perform
in its entirety."

All this is curious enough, and abundantly sufficient to prove that
Catherine was an influential power in her generation. It will be the
business of a following chapter to offer some suggestions as to the
explanation of this remarkable fact. But let the causes of it have been
what they may, it is difficult to suppose that they can be found in
the persuasive eloquence, or literary merit of her appeals to those in



The letter selected as a specimen of the vast mass of the Saint's
correspondence is perhaps the most specially celebrated of the whole
collection. It was to Charles V. of France, on the 6th of May, 1379, on
the subject of the favour shown by him to the party of the Anti-pope
Clement VII., and runs as follows:—

"Dearest father in sweet Christ Jesus, I Catherine the slave of the
servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in his precious blood, with the
desire to see in you[29] a true and entirely perfect light, in order
that you may know the truth of that which is necessary to you for your
salvation. Without this light, we shall go into darkness; darkness
which will not permit us to discern that which is hurtful to the soul
and to the body, from that which is useful to us; and thus destroys the
perceptions of the soul, so that good things are made to seem bad, and
bad things good, that is to say, vice. And those things, which lead us
to sin, appear to us good and delightful; and virtue, and that which
leads us to virtue, appears to us bitter and of great difficulty. But
he, who has light, knows well the truth; and accordingly loves virtue,
and God, who is the cause of all virtue; and hates vice, and his own
sensuality, which is the cause of all vice. What is it, that takes
from us this true and sweet light? The self-love which a man has for
his own self, which is a cloud that obscures the eye of the intellect,
and hides from the pupil the light of the most holy faith. And thus a
man goes as one blind and ignorant, following his own frailty, wholly
given up to passion, without the light of reason, even as an animal,
which, because it has no reasoning powers, allows itself to be guided
by its own sensations. Great pity is it that man, whom God has created
in his own image and likeness, should voluntarily by his own fault
make himself worse than the brute animal, that like an ungrateful and
ignorant creature, neither knows nor acknowledges the benefits of God,
but attributes them to himself. From self-love proceeds every evil.
Whence come injustice, and all the other faults? From self-love. It
commits injustice against God, against itself, against its neighbour,
and against Holy Church. Against God it commits injustice, in that
it does not render glory and praise to his name, as it ought to do.
To itself it does not render hatred and dislike of vice, and love of
virtue; nor to its neighbour benevolence; and if it is found in a
ruler, it does not do justice to its neighbour, because it does so[30]
only according to the pleasure of human creatures, or for its own
natural pleasure.[31] Nor to the Church does it render obedience, or
assistance, but continually persecutes it. All is caused by self-love,
which does not permit a man to know the truth, because he is deprived
of light. This is very manifest to us, and we see it, and have proofs
in ourselves every day that it is so.


"I would not, dearest father, that this cloud should take the light
from you; but I wish that there should be in you that light, which is
able to make you know and discern the Truth. It appears to me, from
what I hear, that you begin to allow yourself to be guided by the
counsel of evil men; and you know, that if one blind one leads another,
both fall into the ditch. So will it happen to you, if you do not
find some better remedy than what I hear of. It is a matter of great
wonder to me, that a Catholic man, who is willing to fear God, and
to be manlike, should let himself be guided like a child, and should
not see how he leads himself and others into so great ruin, as is the
contaminating the light of the most Holy Faith according to the word
and counsel of those whom we see to be members of the devil, corrupt
trees, whose faults are manifest to us by the poison of heresy they
have recently disseminated, saying that Pope Urban VI. is not truly
Pope. Open the eye of your mind,[32] and see that they lie in their
throats,[33] may be put to confusion by their own showing, and be seen
to be worthy of heavy punishment, from whatever side we turn ourselves.
If we turn to those, who, as they say, elected Urban Pope from fear of
the fury of the people, they say what is not the truth, since they, in
the first instance, had elected him by an election so canonical and
orderly, that never was any other supreme pontiff so elected. They
in truth gave out, that they proceeded to elect for fear the people
should rise, but not that from this fear they elected Bartholomew,
Archbishop of Bari, who is now Urban VI. And this much I confess is
the truth, and do not deny it. He whom they elected by fear was the
Cardinal of St. Peter,[34] as is evident to every one; but the election
of Pope Urban was made in a legitimate manner, as has been said. This
election they announced to you, and to us, and to the other rulers
of the world, manifesting by their deeds, that which they told us in
words, doing reverence to him, that is to say, adoring him as Christ on
earth, and crowning him with all solemnity, and by remaking anew the
election with great unanimity. From him, as from the supreme Pontiff,
they besought favours, and used them. And if it were not true that
Urban is Pope, but that he has been elected under the constraint of
fear, would not they be worthy eternally of confusion? That the pillars
of Holy Church, set up for the spreading of the faith, should for fear
of bodily death, be willing to consign themselves and us to eternal
death, by showing us as our father one who was not so. And would they
not be thieves, taking and using[35] that which they had no right to
use? Indeed, if that were true, which they now say, as true it is not,
still Urban VI. is truly Pope. But fools and blinded madmen as they
are, they have shown and given to us this truth, and hold a lie for
themselves. This truth they confessed so long as his Holiness delayed
to correct their vices. But as soon as he began to attack them, and to
show that their wicked mode of life was displeasing to him, and that he
was minded to put an end to it, they immediately raised their heads.
And against whom have they raised them? Against the holy faith. They
have acted worse than renegade Christians.


"Oh! miserable men! They and those who follow them know not their own
ruin; for if they knew it, they would seek the Divine aid; they would
acknowledge their fault, and not be obstinate as the devils, as devils
they in truth appear, and have taken on them the office of such. The
office of the devils is to pervert souls from Christ crucified, to
withdraw them from the way of the truth, to lead them into lies, and
to gather them through pain and through punishment to himself, who is
the father of lies, giving them that fate which he has for himself. In
like manner these men go subverting the truth which they themselves
have given us; and returning to lies, have introduced division into the
whole world. And that evil which they have in themselves, that they
propose to us. Have we the will to know thoroughly this truth? Let us
look now and consider their life and conduct, and what following they
have of themselves, who are followers of the vestiges of iniquity;
since one devil is not contrary to another, but on the contrary they
agree together. And pardon me, dearest father (for such I will consider
you, as long as I see you to be a lover of truth, and confounder of
lies), for I speak thus, because grief for the damnation of them and
of others, and the desire I have for their salvation, causes me to do
so. I say this not in disparagement of them, as God's creatures, but in
disparagement of vice and of the heresy which they have sown throughout
the world, and of the cruelty of which they are guilty towards
themselves, and towards the humble souls that perish by their means,
for which they must give an account to the Supreme Judge. For if they
had been men having the fear of God, or if not the fear of God, respect
for the opinion of the world, they would patiently have borne the worst
that Pope Urban could have done to them, or even greater contumely, and
would have preferred a thousand deaths to doing what they have done;
for to greater shame they cannot come, than to appear to the eyes of
mankind schismatics, and heretical despisers of the holy faith. If I
look to spiritual and corporeal loss, I see them by heresy deprived
of God as regards his mercies, and in the body reasonably deprived
of their dignities; and they themselves have done it. If I look to
the Divine judgment I see it close upon them, if they do not lift
themselves out of this darkness; for every fault is punished, and every
good deed is rewarded. It will be hard for them to kick against God, if
they possessed the greatest possible human power. God is the supreme
strength, which fortifies the weak who confide and trust in Him. And it
is the truth; and the truth is that which makes us free. We see that
only the truth of the servants of God follows,[36] and holds this truth
of Pope Urban VI., confessing him to be truly Pope, as he is. You will
not find a servant of God, who _is_ a servant of God, that holds the
contrary.[37] I do not speak of such as wear outside the garment of
lambs, but inside are ravenous wolves. And do you suppose that, if this
were not the truth, God would endure that His servants should walk in
such darkness? He would not endure it. If He endures it in the wicked
men of the world, He would not endure it in them; and therefore He
has given them the light of His truth, for He is no despiser of holy
desires but is the accepter of them, like a kind and merciful Father as
He is. I would that you would call to you such men as these, and cause
them to declare this truth to you; and that you would not choose to
walk so ignorantly. Let not your private interest move you; for that
would be worse in you than in any other. Have pity on the many souls
which you cast into the hands of the devils. If you will not do good,
at least do not evil; for evil frequently turns more to the hurt of
him who does it, than of him whom the doer of it wishes to injure. So
much evil comes of it, that by it we lose the grace of God, temporal
wealth is consumed, and the death of men follows from it. Alas me! And
it does not seem that we[38] see the light; for the cloud of self-love
has taken from us the light, and does not let us see. For this reason
we are apt to receive any evil information, that may be given to us
against the truth by lovers of themselves. But if we have the light
it will not be so; but with great prudence and holy fear of God, you
would be willing to know and investigate this truth by means of men
of conscience and knowledge. If you choose, ignorance need not fall
upon you, since you have where you are the fountain of knowledge,[39]
which I fear you may lose if you continue in your present course; and
you know well how your kingdom will fare, if they shall be men of good
consciences, who will not follow a human will with servile fear, but
will maintain the truth. They will declare it to you, and will put
your mind and soul at rest. Now act not so any more, most dear Father!
consult your own conscience; think that you must die, and that you know
not when; put before the eye of your intellect, God and his truth, and
not interest, or love of country; for as regards God, we ought not
to make any difference between one country and another, since we all
proceed from His holy mind, are created in His image and likeness, and
redeemed by the precious blood of His only-begotten Son. I am certain
that if you have light you will do this, and will not wait for time,
for time does not wait for you; and will invite them[40] to return to
their holy and true obedience, but otherwise not. And for this reason
I said that I desired to see in you a true and perfect light, in order
that with the light you may recognise and love and fear the truth. My
soul will then be made happy by your safety, at seeing you come out
from so great an error. I say to you nothing further. Remain in the
holy and sweet love of God. Pardon me if I have been too heavy on you
with my words. My desire for your safety urges me to say them to you by
my mouth in your[41] presence, rather than by writing. May God fill you
with His most sweet grace. Jesus is sweet; Jesus is love."[42]


Such is the composition pronounced to be unsurpassed for weight of
reasoning and eloquence, and to be equal to the writings of Petrarch!
Can it be supposed that, putting out of the question any influence
exercised by the character of the writer, any human mind was ever
persuaded to do or to think anything by such an address? As argument it
is surely worse than in any other point of view. With the exception of
the passage pointing out the insincerity of the cardinals who raised
objections to the election of Urban, there were perhaps never strung
together so many absurdly glaring instances of begging the question.
And as for rhetorical power, surely in this waste of pleonastic
phrases, redundant tautology, and trite common-place hack-preacher's
topics, there is no faintest trace even of that untaught eloquence
which strong feeling and earnest conviction are apt to command.

And yet looking at the matter in hand from the fourteenth century
point of view, what a subject it was to call forth an awful and
heart-stirring appeal! If a true Pope be anything, how tremendous
and infinitely horrible a phenomenon must an Anti-pope be. Think of
the adulteration of the infallible with the fallible, of the doubts
engendered, where certainty is imperatively needed, of the sacraments
nullified, and the one half of sacred Christendom cheated into eternal
perdition, as the necessary result of void ordinations, void baptisms,
and void absolutions, and think for a moment how Petrarch, or still
better how Dante, would have written on such a subject!

But Catherine must have sincerely believed that her utterances were the
utterances of inspiration, and must necessarily have effect as such.
For that she bestowed on this long and important letter none of the
ordinary care and labour which such a composition would naturally claim
from a merely human author, is curiously shown by the record which has
preserved the fact, that the Saint dictated three other long letters
on the same 6th of May on which she composed this! It is recorded
also that she occasionally dictated as many as three letters to three
secretaries at the same time. Her biographer and commentators consider
the excessive outpouring of words one of the most remarkable proofs of
her supernatural claims and powers. And more sceptical minds may admit
it as at least a proof of wonderful energy, and indomitable strength of



The official accredited story of this undoubtedly extraordinary and
exceptional woman contains, as has been sufficiently seen, a large
number of statements, which probably every reader of these pages will,
without hesitation, pronounce to be false. Many of the events stated
to have happened undoubtedly never did happen; but the question will
still remain, how large a portion of the tale must be deemed fraudulent
fiction by those who cannot believe things to have happened which
contradict the known laws of nature. And when this shall have been
answered as satisfactorily as may be under the difficult circumstances
of the investigation, it will yet remain to be decided _who_ is to be
deemed to have been guilty of fraud.

Before entering on these questions; it may be just suggested to the
reader,—as a caution to be borne in mind, not as a point intended
to be dwelt on in considering the matter,—that we are perhaps not
altogether so well aware what _are_ the laws of nature in the case of
persons afflicted as Catherine was, as some of us are apt to imagine.

Looking at the matter, however, from the most ordinary points of view,
it may perhaps be found, that as regards Catherine herself, it is not
so necessary to consider her an impostor, as it may at first sight of
the matter appear.

Of the austerities, mortifications, and abstinences recounted, all
perhaps may be admitted to have been possible,—especially bearing in
mind that Catherine's life was neither a long nor a healthy one—except
the fasting for years, and the sleeping only one quarter-of-an-hour
per diem. As to the fasting, it is mentioned incidentally in another
part of Father Raymond's book, that she was sustained only by the
sacramental bread, which she seems to have been in the habit of taking
daily. May it not be possible, that the idea of her living without
food, may have been generated by some talk of hers, in quite her usual
strain, of this Holy Eucharist being her only nourishment, etc., etc.,
meaning spiritual nourishment? But then was Father Raymond deceived by
any such expressions? Did he really believe that she lived for years
without taking food? For in his account, no mistake of meaning is
possible. He, at all events, intends his readers to believe the simple
fact in its naked absurdity.

As for the sleep, it maybe remarked that in the case of a person
subject to daily trances and states of insensibility, it is very
difficult to say how many hours are passed in sleep, and what is sleep,
and what not.

In the next place, all the relations of visions seen in "extasy," and
of conversations held, and sensations suffered during them, may—due
consideration being given to what we know of the patient—be accepted
as not only possible but exceedingly probable. And this category will
comprise the greatest part of the whole budget of wonders. Even in
those cases, in which an abiding evidence of what had happened to her
in trance is said to have remained appreciable only by her own senses,
as in the case of the marriage ring, and the pain after the infliction
of the stigmata; those most able to form an opinion on such matters,
will not think, probably, that it is attributing too much to the
imagination of a cataleptic patient, living on raw vegetables, wholly
without active occupation, and engrossed by a series of highly exciting
thoughts on one ever-present subject of a mystical and transcendental
nature, to suppose that she may have in all sincerity imagined herself
to see and to feel as she described.


Of many of the miracles, including some of those most insisted on and
boasted of by her biographer,—as for instance of the restoration of
her mother to life,—a natural explanation, not necessarily involving
any intentional falsehood, is so obvious, as to need no pointing. And
others may, without any great improbability, be referred to mistake,
inaccuracy, or exaggeration. On the whole, I do not think that the
evidence constrains us to convict Catherine of falsehood or imposture
in her miraculous pretensions. The impression of her innocence of this
cannot, however, I think, be stated in any more forcible form. Few
persons, probably, will obtain from an impartial consideration of the
story, any satisfactory conviction that she was wholly sincere. We
find her guilty of falsehood to her mother at an early period of her
life, when she represents herself as frequenting certain hot baths
with a different purpose than the real one, which was to burn herself
by their heat, as a means of discounting eternal burning hereafter.
This deception is related by her confessor as a holy and praiseworthy
act. And the whole tenor of his morality, and of that of the school
to which he belongs, forbids the idea, that a high reverence for
truth, as truth, formed any part of their teaching. There is nothing
in all we know of Catherine, either from her own writings, or from
those of her biographer, to indicate that her spiritual conceptions,
religious system, or theory of morals, differed in any respect from the
standard orthodoxy of her time and country. We find no more elevated
notions of Deity, no saner views of duty, no nobler beau-ideal of human
excellence. Her history may be regarded as the culminating expression
of the ascetic divinity of that age. She lived wholly surrounded by,
and devoted (very literally) body and soul, to a fiercely fanatical
community, eager and conscientiously bound to advance their system and
the glory of their order by all and every means. Their thoughts were
her thoughts, their interests her interests, and their views of all
things in heaven and earth, her views. And it must be admitted, that
these considerations make it very difficult to suppose, that she would
have felt the least scruple in lending herself to any scheme of pious
fraud, which might appear calculated to promote the "glory of God," and
of the order of St. Dominic. If she could have felt any such scruple,
she assuredly would have been far in advance of the moral theories and
feelings of her day; and this, as has been seen, there is every reason
to think that she was not.


The same consideration of the story, as it has been handed down to us,
which, despite the suspicion that a pupil of Father Raymond and the
Dominicans of the fourteenth century could not have had any very strict
ideas of the sacredness of truth, leads us nevertheless to believe it
more probable that Catherine was no conscious impostor, by no means
points to the same conclusion respecting the monk, her biographer
and confessor. Of course he could have had no means of ascertaining
the reality of the visions she represented herself to be in the daily
habit of seeing, beyond the natural probabilities of the case. And
it is likely enough, that the cataleptic trances and convulsions
witnessed by him, may have appeared to him, as to the generality of his
contemporaries, the signs and consequences of supernatural communion
with, and especial favour of, heaven. But there remain other portions
of the narrative, in which facts are stated as having occurred within
the writer's knowledge, which he must have known to be untrue. He
could not have been deceived into supposing that Catherine lived for
many years without food, though her own expressions on the subject,
as has been pointed out, may have been equivocal. In one passage of
her letters, referred to as containing authority of her own for the
statement, the Saint, in speaking of the bodily sufferings she had
recently endured, says that her body remained without food. But she
says no word to indicate how long her fast lasted, and the reference is
clearly a dishonest one.

Among the vast number of miracles related, it is difficult to find
cases on which a charge of wilful fraud against the Dominican
biographer can be safely pressed to conviction. In so many instances
mistake may have been possible. In so many others, whatever he may have
been inclined to believe in his own heart, he had no means of testing
with certainty the truth of her statements to him; and, therefore,
cannot be _convicted_ of falsehood for repeating them. He _may_ have
believed them to be real facts. But one case of fair conviction is
enough; and that we have in the statement of the total abstinence from
food for many years. It should seem then, that although we may acquit
Catherine of conscious deception, we must believe her confessor,—the
Barnum, who "brought out" the wonder, introduced her to the world, and
reaped the profit of her,—to be a rogue and impostor.

Such a subject as this enthusiastic strong-willed cataleptic girl,
was a rare and most valuable catch for the Dominican Order, and was
to be turned to the best account accordingly. A real producible
miracle-working Saint, who did veritably pass daily into a state
of rapt extasy, and whose excitable and diseased brain was in that
state ever prompt to impose on her imagination as realities whatever
phantasmagoria of hallucinations her ghostly instructors chose to
ply her waking fancy with, was a treasure calculated to bring much
grist, spiritual as well as temporal, to the Dominican mill. In that
remarkable case of the stigmata, which so admirably supplied the sons
of St. Dominick with exactly what they needed, to enable them to hold
their own against the rival Order of the Stigmatised St. Francis, how
readily may be conceived the sort of conversation and suggestions,
which must have prepared the mind of Catherine to reproduce the miracle
for them as soon as her infirmity should set free her imagination from
the world of reality!

And this capability of being played upon, rendered her, it is to be
observed, a far more valuable instrument in the hands of those who
touched the keys than if she had been a mere accomplice of imposture.
Such an every-day cheat would hardly have accomplished the feats, and
held the position, which are the most remarkable facts in this strange
story, and which present an enigma, that requires some examination in
the closing chapter of it.



The recent reprint, and large circulation of the "Legend" and Letters
of St. Catherine, give a present interest to her story, which it would
otherwise want, and indicate but too clearly, that her influence is
not a mere thing of the past, but a living and active fact. But the
causes and nature of this influence are far from being a secret to
those who have paid any attention to the present condition of Italy,
and who understand the _modus operandi_, and policy of a church, the
whole purpose, scope, and meaning of whose being, is the preservation
of its own existence, and that of the sovereigns, its partners and
accomplices in the subjugation and plundering of the people. And the
direct and indirect uses of Saintly literature towards this end,
however well worthy of being studied, form no proper part of the
present subject. The influence, far more difficult to be accounted
for, which Catherine cannot be denied to have exercised over Popes and
Kings, her contemporaries, is what should be here explained, as far as
any explanation can be found for it.

That none such must be sought in the literary qualities of her
writings, has probably been made sufficiently manifest. When every
allowance has been made for the intellectual difference, which may
be supposed to exist between a fourteenth century and a nineteenth
century reader, it still remains incredible, that such missives, as
that above translated from the Saint's Italian, should, irrespectively
of any otherwise manifested claims of the sender of them, have been
found powerfully persuasive by those to whom they were addressed. We
have no proof, indeed, that this especial letter did produce any effect
on the King of France. And with regard to the letters written to Urban,
after the breaking out of the schism, it may be argued, that, whatever
he may have privately thought of Catherine's pretensions and powers,
he was no doubt too well aware of the importance an enthusiastic, well
accredited Saint, might be of to his party, to think of throwing cold
water on her zeal and exertions. The success of her mission to Avignon,
however, and the employment of her intercession with the Pope by the
rulers of Florence, testify abundantly to the esteem in which she was

Can it be supposed, that the wide-spread reputation she acquired, and
the marvellous power she exercised, were derived from the impression
made on her contemporaries by her virtues, the purity of her life, the
earnestness of benevolence, and the zeal of her charity? But that would
be to attribute to mere goodness a power over one of the most corrupt
generations in the history of the world, which it has never been seen
able to exert over any age. It would be to attribute to the virtue of
Catherine a triumph, which the infinitely more perfect virtue of One
infinitely greater than she failed to achieve.


Of all possible solutions this would be the least compatible with the
conditions of the age in which she lived. But the low morality, to
which mere purity of life would have appealed in vain, was especially
favourable to the powerful and successful operation of another class
of the Saint's pretensions. In proportion as the intellectual and
moral darkness of men make a spiritual conception of Deity more and
more impossible to them, are they prone in the desolation of their
unacknowledged, but none the less effective atheism, to accept with
ready awe and reverential fear any such gross material manifestations,
as profess to reveal to them a God sufficiently ungodly not to be
disturbingly out of place in their scheme of life and eternity. Those
"ages of faith," therefore, whose title to that appellation consists
in their eager readiness to accept and believe any quantity of such
miracles as could be conceived to proceed only from the will of a
God created in the likeness of a very unspiritual man, were probably
as little faithful to any spiritually profitable ideal of the Divine
nature, as any generations since the dawn of Christianity.

To such ages Catherine was admirably adapted to appeal with remarkable
force and success. Her strength of will, and her infirmity of body,
both contributed to produce the effect to be explained. The first, as
evidenced by the unflinchingly persevering infliction of self-torments,
such as would have been wholly intolerable to a weaker will, and
by continued exertion under suffering, weakness, and malady, made
a large and important part of the saintly character; as the same
qualities differently evidenced would have led to eminence in any
career, and in any age. But joined to this potent strength of will
may be observed evidences of a very remarkable degree of spiritual
egotism, and "the pride that apes humility." The poor Sienese dyer's
daughter must have been one of those rare natures, to whom the quiet
obscure career marked out for them, as it might seem, irrevocably by
the circumstances of their birth, was an intolerable impossibility.
A woman, poor, plebeian, unlettered, frail in health, and in the
fourteenth century! Surely no possible concatenation of circumstances
could be devised, from which it would appear so impossible to emerge
into power and celebrity! But the "_Io Caterina schiava dei servi di
Dio_," of the letters, who thinks that entire nations shall be accepted
or rejected as reprobate by the Eternal in accordance with the measure
of HER merits or demerits, and who bargains with God to bear
in HER own person the sacrilegious sin of a whole revolted
people!—this Caterina was one whom no position could doom to the
obscurity intolerable to such idiosyncrasies. And she rushed forth with
uncontrollable determination on the one only path open to her;—not
by any means necessarily with the conscious intention of making
hypocritical use of the profession of sanctity for the achievement of
distinction; but driven by the unrecognised promptings of ambition to
the determination to excel in the department of human endeavour, which
all contemporary opinion pointed out to her, as the highest, holiest,
and noblest, open to mankind.

But the peculiar infirmity to which she was subject contributed a part
of her extraordinary adaptability to the career she was to run, fully
as important as any of the elements of strength in her character.
Not only did her frequent cataleptic trances obtain from the people
the most unhesitating belief in her supernatural communion with God,
and in the miraculous visions which she related, in all probability
with perfect sincerity, as having taken place therein; but they had
as powerful a subjective as an objective effect. The Saint arose
from each of these abnormal conditions of existence, nerved for fresh
endurance, armed with increased pretensions, and animated with renewed
enthusiasm, the result of hallucinations produced by the intensity of
her waking wishes, imaginations, and aspirations.


To these fortunately combined elements of success must be added a
third, perhaps hardly less essential to it than either. Catherine,
with her equally valuable and rare gifts and infirmities, fell from
the outset of her career into hands well skilled and well able to make
the most of them. She was from the beginning a devoted member of the
great Order of St. Dominick; and it may be doubted on which side lies
the balance of obligation between the Saint and her order. If she was
to them a fruitful source of credit, profit, and power, they afforded
her a status, worldly-wisdom, and backing, without which she could
not have attained the position she did. She had for her confessor and
special adviser one whom we must suppose to have been the most notable
man among the Dominicans of his time, inasmuch as he became their
General. And we have seen enough of this able monk in his quality of
Saint-leader, to authorise the belief, that he was quite ready to
supply as much of the wisdom of the serpent, as might be needed to
bring to a good working alloy the Saint's dove-like simplicity. In what
exact proportions the metal was thus run, that was brought to bear on
the Popes and other great people so strangely influenced by Catherine,
it is impossible to say. But there will be little danger of error in
concluding, that the effect of either ingredient solely would not have
been the same.

Finally, should it still seem difficult to believe, that two
fourteenth century Popes, one a mild Frenchman, and the other an
overbearing and choleric Italian, should have accepted the Sienese
Virgin as a special messenger from Heaven, have really credited her
miraculous pretensions, and have accorded a respect to her epistles on
the score of their being inspired (which they assuredly would not have
yielded to them as simply human compositions), it may be suggested,
that men placed in the position of those Popes may possibly not have
sincerely believed all that they deemed it politic to seem to believe.
The miracle-working Saint, who came with such a man as Father Raymond
to prompt her, backed by all the power and interest of the Dominican
Order, with the ambassadorial credentials of the revolted and dangerous
community of Florence in her hand, and with almost unlimited power of
moving and directing the passions of large masses of the populace,
was not a personage to be set at nought by a prudent Pontiff in the
position of either Gregory XI. or Urban VI.

The history of Catherine's Saintship since her canonisation has been
too much the same, as that of all her brethren and sisters of the
calendar, to make it at all interesting to enter into details of the
"_dulia_"—not worship! observe Protestant reader!—offered to her.
She has her chapels, her relics, her candles, her office, her day, her
devotees, like the rest of Rome's holy army. But what she could not be
permitted to have, despite the recognition of Urban VIII., in 1628,
was a claim to blood-relationship with the noble family of Borghese.
Whether the Saint's heraldic backers were correct in attributing to
her such an honour, or those of the Borghese right in disputing the
fact, it is clear that that remarkably noble family had not sufficient
respect for saintly reputation, however exalted, to endure that a
dyer's daughter, let her have been what she might, should mar by her
vicinity the nobleness of the many barbarous barons and worthless
knights who have borne the family name. So great was the outcry they
raised, that Urban VIII. was obliged infallibly to unsay his previous
saying on the subject.


By way of a conclusion, which, while it shows, that in the case of
Catherine at least, there is an exception to the rule that excludes a
prophet from honour in his own country, proves also that the subject of
her Saintship is not a matter of mere historical interest, but aspires
to the dignity of an "actualité," an anecdote may be told of the
present Pope's recent journey through Tuscany.

Arrived at Siena, he too, like his predecessors, either thought it
holy, or thought it politic, to pay due attention to the popular Saint
in her own city. He accordingly directed the Saint's head, in its
setting of silver and precious stones, to be brought from the Dominican
church to his lodging in the Grand-ducal palace. But the populace of
the city, especially the women of the ward in which the Saint was born,
estimated the value of the precious relic so much more highly than they
did the honesty of the Pontiff, that they insisted on not losing sight
of their treasure, and could hardly be persuaded that Pio Nono had no
burglarious intentions respecting it.




 Of Catherine's father, the Duke, and of his magnificent journey to

The latter years of the fifteenth century, up to 1494, were a time
of unusual prosperity in Italy. Never since the fall of the Roman
empire, one thousand years previously, says Guicciardini,[43] had she
enjoyed a period so flourishing and happy. "Reposing in perfect peace
and tranquillity," continues the great historian, "cultivated in the
more sterile and mountainous regions, as well as in the plains and
fertile districts, subject to none save her native rulers, she not
only abounded with inhabitants, trade, and wealth, but was especially
adorned by the magnificence of a great number of princes, by the
splendour of many noble and beautiful cities, by the majesty of the
supreme seat of religion, and by the excellence of her great men in
every art, pursuit, and science."

Of these noble and wealthy cities, Milan was one of the noblest and
wealthiest; and Galeazzo Maria Sforza, its Duke, was one of the princes
who most notably "adorned Italy with his magnificence." The Visconti
had reigned there from 1277, till the death of Filippo, the last
Duke of that race, in 1447, without heirs male. He had, some years
before his death, given his daughter Bianca, and the succession to his
duchy, to the celebrated soldier of fortune Francesco Sforza. And the
magnificent Galeazzo, whose lot fell on the halcyon times described by
Guicciardini, was the son of Francesco and Bianca, and succeeded his
father in 1466.


Now, in the smiling and happy city of Milan, in these merry days of the
good old time, there lived, eating his polenta, paying church-dues and
taxes, and so pursuing, as quietly as he might, his way to dusty death
among a crowd bound for the same bourne, a citizen named John Peter
Landriano. To this John Peter, also, it might have been permitted to
sleep in tranquil oblivion together with the others of his probably
polenta-eating, and certainly tax-paying, fellow-citizens, instead
of being still, after now four hundred years, thus extant, despite
his "fallentis semita vitæ," had not Mnemosyne marked him for her
own, by right of one small fact. He was the husband of a remarkably
beautiful wife, named somewhat unhappily Lucretia, on whom it pleased
his magnificent Highness Galeazzo Maria to look with condescension in
the year 1462. In a later part of that same year, the family of John
Peter Landriano was increased by the birth of a female child, named
Catherine, whom his Highness was so good as to consider and educate as
his own.

This splendid prince, who was, as Catherine's priestly biographer,[44]
Burriel, informs us, more bookishly inclined than could have been
expected from a person of his exalted rank, took care that her
education should be sedulously attended to by some of the learned
persons who abounded in his court. And he had reason to be so well
contented with the promise of her early years, that shortly after
she had reached the age of eight, he caused her to be "legitimatised
"—a curious process, which would seem to prove that, though not Jove
himself has power o'er the past, Holy Mother Church possesses it.

Thenceforward Catherine's education was conducted under the
superintendence of the Duchess Bona, a princess of the house of
Savoy, whom Duke Galeazzo married in 1468 after the death of his
first wife, Dorotea Gonzaga, by whom he had no child. It is to be
supposed, probably, that the process of "legitimation," among its other
mysterious virtues, had that of inspiring a good church-woman with
maternal feelings for the offspring of another; for the Duchess Bona,
who seems to have been a kind and gentle rather than a royal-souled
lady, appears to have affectionately welcomed the little stranger as
a princess of the noble house of Sforza, and to have done her best to
prepare her duly for the high fortunes to which her father destined
her, as a means of extending the connections and assuring the greatness
of his house.


Such schemes, and others directed to the same end, formed the principal
serious occupation of the Italian princes of that time, and were
the fruitful source of atrocities and abominations innumerable, as
the reader of Italian history well knows. To a certain degree such
ambition found its excuse in the great law of self-preservation. For in
the perpetually shifting scene produced by the alliances, jealousies,
leagues, ruptures, friendships and treasons, of a crowd of petty
potentates, it was well nigh impossible for any family of princely
rank to hold its own, neither encroaching itself, nor encroached on by
others. The fortunes of each were ever on the rise, or on the decline.
And at the period of our heroine's appearance on the scene, the
peace, which Italy was then enjoying, was preserved only by a careful
maintenance of the balance of power between some four or five of the
leading princes of the peninsula.

How large a portion of the labours and of the abilities of statesmen
has been devoted to the perpetual trimming of this troublesome balance,
at a later period of the world's history on the great theatre of
Europe, we all know. And it is interesting to observe how thoroughly
the theory was understood, and how perfectly and sedulously reduced
to practice by exceedingly accomplished professors of the art of
state-craft, in the miniature world shut off from the rest of Europe
by the Alps. Indeed, the smallness of the objects to be weighed
against each other rendered the task of keeping the scales even in
that microcosm a peculiarly delicate one. Where very small matters
were capable of disarranging the adjustment of the balance, only great
dexterity and prudence could preserve the equilibrium. And accordingly,
the game of checking and counter-checking, far-sighted schemes of
attack, and still more cunningly devised means for future defence, was
carried on upon that small chess-board with a perfection of duplicity,
vigilance, and small vulpine sagacity, which might give a lesson to
most modern professors of the same art.

Ferdinand of Aragon at Naples, Popes Paul II., and his successor
Sixtus IV. at Rome, Lorenzo the Magnificent at Florence, Galeazzo
Maria Sforza at Milan, and the Republic of Venice,[45] were the powers
between whom and by whom the balance of power, the peace of Italy, and
the possessions of each of them, were to be preserved. The first four
of these were, at the time in question, united in a common course of
policy by the necessity of watching and keeping in check the ambitious
Queen of the Adriatic, far more powerful than any one of the four,
though much less so than all of them together. The rest of Italy, not
comprised in the above five states, consisted of a crowd of petty
principalities, which served singularly to complicate the game played
by the great players, and to increase the interest of its vicissitudes.
If endowed with any military talent, these small princes of a city
and its immediate neighbourhood would take service as generals of the
forces, in the pay of one or other of their more powerful neighbours.
And in this way several of them became important elements in the
calculations of those potentates. Some, again, would die without heirs
male, and leave their female successors, daughter or widow, a prize to
be scrambled for by the royal crowd always on the look out for such
windfalls. Others were perpetually at feud with their own subjects, and
thus gave an opportunity to some neighbour to intervene on behalf of
one or the other party, with the same ultimate result. Finally, (and
this was perhaps the way in which they most seriously compromised the
tranquillity and influenced the destinies of Italy)—they formed the
material from which each new Pope, who was anxious to be the founder
of a princely family sought to carve out a dominion for his "nephews"
by any of those arts of fraud or intimidation, of which Rome was so
consummate a mistress.


No sooner had Catherine's legitimation given her the value of a piece
on the political chess-board, than she became involved in the moves
of the game. At a very early age she had been promised in marriage
to the Count Onorato Torelli, scion of a noble family, which had in
the preceding generation given valuable support to the Sforzas, ere
their star was so decidedly in the ascendant. But Catherine became a
princess; the young Onorato very conveniently died; and Duke Galeazzo
conceived schemes for selling his daughter in a better market. The
Manfredi were lords of Imola, a neat little city, situated in the midst
of a rich alluvial territory between the foot of the Apennines and the
Adriatic, about twenty miles to the south of Bologna; a compact and
very desirable little sovereignty in short, with taxes capable of an
increased yield in the hands of an enterprising possessor.

Now it so happened, that Tadeo Manfredi, the reigning prince, was
involved in a dangerous quarrel with Guidazzo, his son, who complained
that his spendthrift father was loading "the property" with an
unconscionable amount of debt. And this uncomfortable state of things
was talked over at the splendid court of Milan. Whereupon Duke Galeazzo
came forward with a proposition, which he hoped would prove acceptable
to all parties. He would assign within the limits of his duchy an
appanage to Tadeo, would pay that extravagant old gentleman's debts,
and would give his daughter Catherine, with the lordship of Imola,
which was thenceforth to be his, to Guidazzo. The bargain certainly
appeared advantageous enough to the Manfredi. The debts would be paid,
and Guidazzo the heir, would after all be lord of his father's state;
and whether in his own right, or that of his wife, would not so much

But that little lady was, at the time she was thus disposed of,
scarcely more than eight or nine years old. Poor Guidazzo had therefore
to content himself with the promise of her hand, when she should have
reached a marriageable age. And never was there period in the world's
history, or clime on its surface, where slips between cup and lip were
more abundant than in those good old times on the sunny side of the

Meanwhile old Tadeo is shelved on the estate of Castelnuovo, near
Alessandria; Imola and its territory has passed into the hands of Duke
Galeazzo; and young Guidazzo is dangling about the gay and magnificent
court of Milan, and deems his fortune is a ripening, while his promised
bride is daily growing in grace, beauty, and princely accomplishments,
under the hot-house influences of the same splendid and dazzling

Dazzling indeed was the pomp, and ostentatiously reckless the
expenditure of wealth, amid which Catherine passed those years of her
life, when the impressions eagerly received from external objects
are the most busy in forming the taste, and modifying the character.
For the age was one of rapidly increasing luxury and riches. And the
parvenu sovereign of Milan was especially bent on eclipsing his peers,
and proving his right to his position among them by an unrivalled
display of all that tailors, upholsterers, mercers, and jewellers can
do towards creating the majesty that should hedge a king.


It was very shortly after he had concluded the arrangements for
Catherine's future marriage, that, fired with this right royal
ambition, Galeazzo determined on a festal journey to Florence, Lucca,
Pisa, and so home by Genoa. Lorenzo, "the Magnificent," was sovereign
in all save name at Florence, and now he was to be shown that Milan's
Duke could advance a better claim to so proud a title. The Duchess Bona
accompanied him. And from the provision of no less than twelve litters,
it may be concluded that the other female members of his family, and
doubtless Catherine among them, were of the party. These litters are
called by a contemporary writer,[47] carts—"caretti"—but he adds that
they were _carried on_ mules over the mountains. The carts were covered
with awnings of cloth of gold, embroidered with the ducal arms; and the
"mattresses and feather beds" which were laid in the bottoms of them,
were some of cloth of gold, some of silver, and some of crimson satin.

All the great feudatories who held of the Duke, and all the members
of his council, each followed by several splendidly dressed servants,
attended him. All the members of the ducal household were clothed
in velvet. Forty footmen were decorated with golden collars, and
other forty with embroidery. The Duke's grooms were dressed in silk,
ornamented with silver. There were fifty led horses, with housings of
cloth of gold, and gilt stirrups; an hundred men-at-arms, "each dressed
as if he were a captain;" five hundred foot soldiers, all picked men;
an hundred mules, covered with cloth of gold; and fifty magnificently
caparisoned pages. Two thousand other horses, and two hundred more
mules, all covered with rich damask, carried the baggage of the
multitudinous host. Five hundred couples of hounds, with huntsmen and
falcons and falconers in proportion, together with trumpeters, players,
mimes, and musicians, made part of the monstrous cortège.[48]

Let the reader picture to himself this gilded and velvet covered
army, slowly wending in long slender file, glistening dazzlingly in
the southern sun, but grievously tormented under their ponderously
magnificent trappings by the same, as they laboured over the steep and
sinuous Apennine paths, by which alone they could reach mountain-girt
Florence. For only a difficult bridle-path then crossed those
mountains, over which the traveller now rolls in his carriage between
Modena and Florence. Let him imagine, too, the camp of the brilliant,
but wayworn host, pitched for the night amid the shelter of a chestnut?
forest, in the midst of those wild hills, where even now, and much less
then, there is neither town nor village capable of housing a tithe
of such a multitude. And further, while amusing his fancy with such
gorgeous and picturesque imaginings, let him not forget, that every
yard of this cloth-of-gold, and richly-tinted velvet, represented
the value of some horny palm's hard labour, the sweat of some weary
brow, wrung from the wronged labourer by the most cruel and lawless
severities of extortion.


But while the Duke and his Court were startling the world with the
glories of this unprecedented cavalcade, making awe-struck peasants
wonder, emulous peers envy, and angels weep, there were three young
nobles, who had remained at home at Milan, engaged in reading "certain
passages of Roman history" with their schoolmaster, one Cola Montano.
Their names were Giovanni Andrea Lampugnano, Girolamo Olgiato, and
Carlo Visconti; and, I dare say, descendants of theirs, whether under
those names or others, may yet be found in the fair city of Milan; and
perhaps they may be equally fond of reading the Roman history,—an
occupation, it might be supposed, as innocent, though not so fatiguing,
as riding over the Apennines in a suit of cloth of gold. Yet the
reverend and right-minded historian,[49] who mentions the circumstance,
speaks of their occupation with much disgust and indignation. Perhaps
he is right. Perhaps "certain passages of Roman history" are not
wholesome reading for the subjects of splendid princes.

For the present, however, we will let Galeazzo ride on in his glory,
and the young gentlemen pursue their story-fed meditations in
tranquillity at Milan.

The Duke arrived at Florence on the 13th of March, and was
magnificently received by the magnificent Lorenzo, who entertained
him and his family in his own house, while the enormous body of his
retainers and followers were lodged and fed at the cost of the city.
The Florentine historian, Ammirato,[50] after having enumerated all the
particulars of the pomp detailed above, goes on in the true spirit of
the old Italian city-patriotism to maintain, that Galeazzo, "for all
that, young and proud, and the minion of Fortune, as he was, found
himself obliged to admit that all his splendour was outdone by the
magnificence of Lorenzo," inasmuch as the precious treasures of the
Medici were far more admirable from the artistic excellence of the
workmanship, than from the mere value of the material. "He could not
but confess," continues the partisan of the Italian Athens, "that art
had a higher value than mere costliness, as being attainable only by
more arduous labour, and with greater difficulty; while he declared,
that in all Italy he had not seen so great a number of paintings by the
first masters, of gems, beautiful vases, statues ancient and modern,
bronzes, medals, and rare books, as he now saw collected in the palace
of the Medici;—treasures which he should esteem cheaply purchased by
any quantity of silver or gold."

Florence did all she could for the amusement of her princely guests.
But as it was in time of Lent, she could not, as she did twelve years
previously, when Galeazzo had visited the city as a boy, show him a
"hunt," as the historian calls it,[51] of wolves, boars, lions, and
a giraffe, on the Piazza of Santa Croce! To be "like the time," it
was necessary that the dissipations should be of an ecclesiastical
character. So the gallant company were treated to a representation of
the Annunciation in the church of St. Felice, to the Ascension in the
church of the Carmine, and to the descent of the Holy Ghost on the
Apostles, at the church of the Santo Spirito.[52] The souls of the
Lombards, says Ammirato, were filled with admiration of the wonderful
artifices and ingenuity displayed on this occasion. And all passed off
with the greatest éclat, save that the church of Santo Spirito was
burned to the ground by the forked tongues of fire.


This little accident was the only circumstance, that tended, says
the historian, to mingle some flavour of bitterness with the general
rejoicing. But the graver citizens of the republic complained that the
brilliant Duke, when he started two days after this disaster on his
return to his own states, full of compliments and admiration at his
hospitable reception, left behind him among the young Florentine nobles
a taste for profusion and display, which was a far greater evil than
the enormous expense to which the city had been put, including the cost
of rebuilding their burned church.


 A Franciscan Pope and a Franciscan Cardinal.—A notable illustration
 of the proverb concerning mendicant's rides.—The Nemesis of Despotism.

The first news that reached the Court of Milan, after the return of the
Duke, full of gratified vanity and glorification from his progress, was
that of the death of Pope Paul II.,—that superb old man, who, if he
had none other of the qualities befitting the head of the Church, yet
at least looked every inch a Pope; of whom one of the chroniclers of
the time says, that not having succeeded very well in his attempts at
literary culture, "he determined to make his pontificate reputable by
ornamental pomp, in which his majestic presence, and pre-eminently tall
and noble person helped him not a little, giving him, as it did, the
appearance of a new Aaron, venerable and reverend beyond that of any
other Pontiff."

And the tidings of the death of this magnificent lay-figure Pope were
very shortly followed by the yet more interesting news of the election
of his successor, on the 9th of August, 1471.

[Sidenote: A FRIAR POPE.]

This successor was Francesco della Rovere, who had risen from the cell
of a Franciscan friar by his merit as a scholar and theologian, and
by his eloquence as a preacher, to be first, General of his order,
then Cardinal; and now reached, as Sixtus IV., the highest aim of an
ecclesiastic's ambition. He was the son of a poor fisherman of the
coast near Savona. For the fiction of the heralds, who found for him
a place in the genealogy of the noble family of the same name, was an
afterthought of the time, when such a relationship was acceptable to
all the parties concerned. For though the Borghesi decidedly objected,
as we have seen, to own any connection with a _roturiere_ saint, the
Della Rovere were well pleased enough to find a kinsman in a Pope,
whose greatness manifested an immediate tendency to take a quite
terrestrial and tangible shape.

For this barefooted mendicant friar—the vowed disciple of that St.
Francis whom no degree of poverty would satisfy short of meeting his
death naked and destitute on the bare earth—this monk, sworn to
practise an humility abject in the excess of its utter self-abnegation,
was the first of a series of popes who one after the other sacrificed
every interest of the Church, waded mitre deep in crime and bloodshed,
and plunged Italy into war and misery, for the sake of founding a
princely family of their name.

It is curious to observe, that generally throughout the pontifical
history, scandalously infamous popes and tolerably decent popes, are
found in bunches, or series of six or eight in succession; a striking
proof of the fact that when they have been of the better sort, the
amelioration has been due to some force of circumstance operative from
without. Never were they worse, with perhaps one or two exceptions,
than during the century which preceded the first quickly-crushed
efforts of the Reformation in Italy—from about 1450, that is to say,
down to 1550. Competing Protestantism then began to act on the Roman
Church exactly as competing Methodism acted on the Anglican Church
three centuries later; and a series of Popes of a different sort was
the result.

But the conduct of the great family-founding popes, which strikes us,
looking at it through the moral atmosphere of the nineteenth century,
as so monstrous, wore a very different aspect even to the gravest
censors among their contemporaries. The Italian historians of the time
tell us of the "royal-mindedness" and "noble spirit" of this ambitious
Franciscan, Pope Sixtus, in a tone of evident admiration. And the gross
worldliness, the low ambition, and the unscrupulous baseness, of which
he may fairly be accused, did not seem even to Du Plessis Mornai,[53]
and the French Protestant writers of that stamp, to be sufficient
ground for denouncing him and the system which produced him. Otherwise
they would not have disgraced themselves and their cause by asserting
that he was guilty of hideous and nameless atrocities, for which, as
the less zealous but more candid Bayle[54] has sufficiently shown,
there is no foundation either in fact or probability.

[Sidenote: A POPE'S NEPHEW.]

The new Pope lost no time in turning the papacy to the best possible
account, in the manner which had for him the greatest attractions.
And it so happened that he was singularly well supplied with the raw
material from which the edifice of family greatness he was bent on
raising was to be furnished forth. He had no less than nine nephews:
five of them the sons of his three brothers, and four the sons of his
three sisters!—a field for nepotism sufficiently extensive to satisfy
the "high-spirited" ambition of even a Sixtus IV. But among all this
wealth of nephews, the two sons of his eldest sister, Girolamo and
Pietro Riario, were distinguished by him so pre-eminently, that a
great many contemporary writers, thinking it strange that he should
prefer them to those of his own name, have asserted that these young
men were in fact his sons.[55] Giuliano della Rovere, the eldest of
all the nine, who received a cardinal's hat from his uncle, but could
obtain from him no further favour, was nevertheless destined, as Pope
Julius II., to become by far the most important pillar of the family
greatness. The course of Catherine's fortunes, however, will justify
the present reader in confining his attention, as all Rome was doing in
the year 1472, to the two fortunate young men on whom the pontifical
sun shone brightest.

Peter Riario was, like his uncle, a Franciscan monk, and was twenty-six
years old when the latter was elected. Within a very few months he
became Bishop of Treviso, Cardinal-Archbishop of Seville, Patriarch of
Constantinople, Archbishop of Valentia, and Archbishop of Florence!
From his humble cell, from his ascetic board, from his girdle of rope
and woollen frock renewed yearly, and baked occasionally to destroy the
vermin bred in its holy filth, this poverty-vowed mendicant suddenly
became possessed of revenues so enormous, that his income is said to
have been larger than that of all the other members of the Sacred
College put together! The stories which have been preserved[56] of
his reckless and unprecedented expenditure at Rome, would seem almost
incredible were they not corroborated by the fact that he had in a
very short time, besides dissipating the enormous wealth assigned to
him, incurred debts to the amount of sixty thousand florins! He gave a
banquet to the French ambassadors which cost twenty thousand crowns,
a sum equal to more than ten times the same nominal amount at the
present day. "Never," says the Cardinal of Pavia, "had pagan antiquity
seen anything like it. The whole country was drained of all that was
rare and precious; and the object of all was to make a display, such
as posterity might never be able to surpass.[57] The extent of the
preparations, their variety, the number of the dishes, the price of the
viands served up, were all registered by inspectors, and were _put into
verse_, of which copies were profusely circulated, not only in Rome,
but throughout Italy, and even beyond the Alps."

Girolamo, the brother of this spendthrift monk, and equally a
favourite of his uncle, was a layman; and the process of enriching and
aggrandising him was necessarily a somewhat slower one. Not even a
fifteenth-century pope could accomplish so monstrous an iniquity and
insult to humanity as the promotion of Peter Riario in any other branch
or department of human affairs save the Church! Girolamo, however, who
was, we are told, "not literate," was at once made Captain-General of
the pontifical troops, and Governor of the Castle of St. Angelo. And
for his further advancement measures were adopted, which, among other
advantages, have conferred upon him that of occupying a prominent place
in these pages.


For it so happened, that the elevation of Sixtus IV. to the papal
throne turned out to be the "slip" which dashed from poor Guidazzo's
lips the cup he was waiting for in the shape of the bride, who was
to bring back to him as her dower his lost principality of Imola. The
tidings from Rome, which were astonishing all history with accounts
of the wonderful and unprecedented "greatness" achieved by the Riario
brothers, produced a prodigious sensation at the court of Milan.
Here was evidently a rising sun worth a little worship! And now, how
valuable became our little "legitimatised" Kate, as a means of hooking
on our ducal fortunes to the career of this "high-spirited" Pope, and
the magnificent nephews so evidently marked out for high destinies!
What was Guidazzo and his little state of Imola in comparison to the
favourite nephew of a "high-spirited" Pope? And besides, there is no
reason to give up Imola, because we give up Guidazzo. Imola is in our
own hands, and will make a dower for our daughter by no means unworthy
of the consideration of a Franciscan monk's reputed son, about to start
on his career of sovereign prince. So Guidazzo may go whistle for his

The gorgeous accounts of the Cardinal Peter Riario's unprecedented
splendour and reckless prodigality especially touched a sympathetic
chord of admiration in the bosom of Maria Galeazzo. The splendid Duke,
who lavished on upholstery, festivals, and courtezans, the substance
wrung from a groaning people, recognised a kindred spirit in the
princely churchman, who expended the revenues of a dozen sees on a
banquet and revel. The spirit of noble rivalry, too, was awakened in
the Ducal bosom. Here was a man in whose eyes it was worth while to
shine, and whose admiration would confer real glory.

It was to the Cardinal, accordingly, that Galeazzo caused the first
cautious overtures to be made; and the reception of them was such as
to encourage him to entreat his Eminence to honour his poor court with
a visit. The Cardinal was nothing loth to accept the invitation. He,
too, recognised in the Duke of Milan that "greatness" which was most
calculated to excite his sympathy and admiration. He, too, felt, that
here was a spirit of his own calibre,—one with whom he would willingly
pull together in the arduous work of furthering their mutual fortunes,
and vie in the ostentation of magnificence.

The Cardinal's visit to Milan was accordingly arranged with as little
delay as possible. He left Rome with a train more like that of the most
magnificent of popes, say the chroniclers, than what might befit a
cardinal, and reached Milan on the 12th of September, 1473.[58] Great
were the preparations made to receive him, and bitter were the groans
of the magnificent Duke's hapless subjects under the new extortions
necessitated by their master's gorgeous "hospitality." The glittering
cavalcade of the lay prince met the no less glittering cavalcade of
the ecclesiastical prince at the gates of the city; and, as those were
"ages of faith," both proceeded at once to the cathedral to inaugurate
the pleasure and business of the meeting by a solemn "Te Deum." So
thoroughly did the sanctifying influences of religion, as has been
often remarked, pervade every affair of life in those happy times!


All Milan was witness to the festal doings on this notable
meeting,—the processioning, revelling, tailoring, gilding, and
reckless profusion, which marked the noble rivalry between these two
great men. This friendly emulation was pushed to an intensity, which
seems unhappily to have led the lay champion in the generous contest
to have recourse to disloyal arms against his rival. For a tell-tale
gossip of the pestilent race of scribblers has recorded that the
great Galeazzo purchased secretly a quantity of imitation gems, and
passed them off for real;[59] an anecdote extremely creditable to
the fifteenth century artificers in that line. In all the ordinary
pastimes and pleasures of the princes of that day, of whatever sort,
the splendid Cardinal, though so recently a mendicant friar, was able
and willing to run neck and neck with his secular host. But some of
Maria Galeazzo's favourite enjoyments were not ordinary. He was ever
an avid eye-witness of the executions, tortures, and mutilations,
which his duty as a sovereign obliged him frequently to inflict on his
subjects. We have indeed on record a sufficient number of instances
of princes who had this taste, to justify our deeming it part of a
despotic ruler's natural idiosyncrasy. But Galeazzo had stranger, if
less maleficent, propensities. He revelled in the sight of death, and
human decay. Some strange touch of that insanity, which so frequently,
and with such salutary warning, develops itself in minds exposed to
the poison that wells out from the possession of unchecked power,
influenced, as in such cases it is apt to do, his moral rather than
his intellectual nature. He would cause himself to be brought into
the presence of the suffering, the dying, and the dead, for the mere
pleasure of witnessing pain and destruction. He would rifle graves
to gaze on the process of corruption, and haunted charnel-houses,
impelled by the instinct of the ghoul, rather than by any touch of
that sentiment, which impels the morbid fanatic to seek in such
contemplatio a moving sermon on the vanity of human wishes. This
man, whose wishes, hopes, and ambitions were as unbridled in their
violence as low and vain in their aims and scope, would hurry from the
death-chamber to the revel, and from the charnel-house hasten to plot
long-sighted intrigues in the council-hall.

For the latter the pleasure-loving Cardinal was as ready as for gala
making and revelry. Long conferences were held between the host and
his guest in the secrecy of the Duke's private chambers. But princes
are more than other men subjected to the vigilant surveillance of
those who form their pomp or minister to their service. And their
secrets, therefore, are rarely absolutely secret. Accordingly, Corio,
the page, chamberlain, and annalist—a dangerous pluralism for better
sovereigns than Galeazzo Sforza!—Corio informs us, though qualifying
his assertion with a cautious "si dice," that these prolonged
discussions had for their object the terms of a bargain between the
Duke and the Cardinal, by virtue of which the former was to be exalted
into King of Lombardy by the acquisition of sundry provinces from the
smaller princes around him, and especially by the conquest of the
terra-firma possessions of Venice; while the latter was to be insured
the succession to his uncle on the papal throne. This statement of the
chamberlain and page has been believed by most subsequent historians.
Verri, without any qualification, writes that such was the fact.
Rosmini contents himself with saying that such is believed to have been
the case.

[Sidenote: DONE AND DONE.]

But alas! for the short span which should forbid such long-sighted
hopes. To men who live such lives as his Eminence the Cardinal Riario,
the span is apt to be especially short. And as for the Duke ... there
are Cola Montano the scholar, and his three young pupils, all the time
of this splendid revelry in Milan, reading Roman history harder than

Meanwhile the other business, which had to be settled between the
high contracting powers—the marriage of Catherine to Girolamo
Riario—though not unattended with those difficulties which naturally
arise between parties intent on driving a hard bargain, was at length
brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The Duke was to give his daughter
the city and territory of Imola, and sixteen thousand ducats, besides
certain estates in the Milanese for her separate use. The Pope was to
give Girolamo forty thousand ducats, and "expectations;" which, in the
case of such a nephew of such a Pope, might fairly be reckoned at a
high figure.

The youthful bride, just past her eleventh birthday, was accordingly
betrothed publicly to Girolamo Riario, who performed his part of the
ceremony by proxy. The young couple had never seen each other; but
we are told much of the mutual admiration of the future brother and
sister-in-law for each other. The Cardinal was loud in his praises of
the beauty, grace, and accomplishments of the hot-house forced child,
who was to be made so important a stepping-stone to his brother's
fortunes. And she was dazzled and delighted with his magnificence and
splendour, and especially charmed, we are assured,[60] by his eloquence!

The luxuriously-nurtured little lady, it may be fancied, would not
have appreciated so highly the "eloquence" of the mendicant friar, had
he presented himself to her notice in his garb of some three years
previously. But when grave historians[61] assure us, that the fortunate
monk on his elevation "put on a lofty and imperial spirit," and when
all Italy was admiringly marvelling at his cost-despising splendour, a
little girl, and she the daughter of Galeazzo Sforza, may be excused
for being captivated by one, who appeared to possess in a higher degree
than any other man, all that her experience of life had taught her to

When these matters had thus been satisfactorily settled, the Cardinal
prepared to bring his visit to a conclusion, and informed his host
of his intention to pass a short time at Venice before returning to
Rome. The Duke strongly urged him to abandon any such idea. The secret
schemes which they had been engaged in concocting, were mainly based
on the intended spoliation of the great republic. Uneasy suspicions,
as the chroniclers mention, had already been aroused in various
courts by the prolonged conferences of the Duke and his guest. The
Signory of Venice had proverbially long ears, and unscrupulous arms
at its command. It might well be, urged the Duke, that at the present
conjuncture, Venice might not be so safe a place of sojourn for his
Eminence as could be wished. Probably, also, Sforza had jealous
suspicions that Riario's business at Venice might possibly be to play
a double game,—to throw him over in case contingencies might arise to
make such a policy expedient,—and to prepare his way with the Signory
for any such eventualities.

At all events his representations and endeavours were in vain. The
Cardinal was bent on visiting Venice; and to Venice he went. In all
probability his leading motive was to exhibit his magnificence to
the nobles of perhaps the richest and most pleasure-loving capital in
Italy. Nowhere did that taste for show and festive pomp, which was
so especially his own, prevail to so insane a degree as among the
money-making nobles of the Queen of the Adriatic.


The celebrated "Compagnia della Calza," or Guild of the Stocking,
was flourishing there, and distinguishing itself by extravagances
altogether in the taste of the brilliant Franciscan Cardinal. This
stocking brotherhood, which derived its name from the circumstance of
each member wearing parti-coloured hose, differently quartered with
brilliant colours, was instituted by the wealthy young nobles,—the
_jeunesse dorée_ of pleasure-loving Venice—for the avowed purpose of
encouraging magnificence in dress, and of providing opportunities for
the exhibition of it by organising those gala spectacles and pomps,
which so many of the gorgeous artists of the republic have perpetuated
on their glowing canvas. The description[62] given us of their costume
is made up of velvet, satin, embroidery, cloth of gold, brocade and
jewels. On the long pointed hood which hung at their backs, was
embroidered the heraldic cognisance of each man's family; which was
repeated on that part of the black or red cap, which hung pendant over
the ear. The hair, which was kept as long and as abundant as possible,
was tied up with a cord of silk. The doublets generally of velvet, were
worn with slashed sleeves showing a portion of fine linen underneath,
and tied with silken cords ornamented with tassels of solid gold. In
the hand it was the mode to carry a ball containing perfumes.

The Cardinal, Archbishop of so many churches, was ambitious of
exhibiting his magnificence among these illustrious youths, and taking
a part in their gorgeous revels. Despite the prognostications of the
Duke of Milan, he was received with all honour by the Venetians, hailed
as a worthy compeer by the heroes of the parti-coloured stocking, fêted
to his heart's content, and taken leave of, when towards the end of
the year he started on his return to Rome, with every demonstration of
respect and friendship.

But there were ancient Senators in Venice, very gravely sitting in one
of those thick-walled smaller chambers on the second floor of the Ducal
palace, reading despatches in cypher from secret agents, taking secret
counsel together, and making secret provision for the safety of the
republic, while the _jeunesse dorée_ and the gay and gallant guest, who
had so recently been plotting against the Queen of the Adriatic, were
dazzling the citizens with their gilding and parti-coloured hose....
And it did so happen, that the young Cardinal died from some cause or
other, a few days after his arrival in Rome.

Mnemosyne says nothing; since she knows nothing on the subject,
beyond the facts here set down. But she may be permitted to observe,
on the one hand, that fifteenth-century dissipation was particularly
destructive of human life, and that the Cardinal had evidently for some
time past been leading a life to kill any man;—and on the other hand,
that as a specimen of the good old times, the very general contemporary
suspicion that St. Mark's lion _had_ stretched out on this occasion a
long and stealthy paw, comes much to the same thing as evidence of
character, as if the deed itself were chronicled.[63]


The Cardinal died on the 5th of January, 1474, to the great grief of
Pope Sixtus, says Corio,[64] and to the infinite delight of the whole
college of Cardinals. The indignation caused by the accumulation of so
many scandalous vices, and so many rich benefices on one pair of purple
shoulders, manifested itself after the wonted fashion of the eternal
city in a volley of epigrams and satirical epitaphs more savage than
witty. One somewhat to the following effect,[65] was found placarded on
the monument raised over his remains by the afflicted Pope:

  "Once more let worth, and long lost virtue reign,
    And vice be banish'd from its throne in Rome!
  Rogues, wretches, profligates, and all their train
    No more shall find on Latian soil their home;
  For he, the plague-spot of our church and state,
  Peter, is gone to meet in hell his fate."

Orthodox Burriel, however, assures us, that all the malicious
outpourings of envious hate were silenced and put to shame by the
following victorious couplet in the genuine decorous tombstone style.

  "Sage in his prime!—'tis that has caused our tears;
  Death from his virtues deemed him full of years."

Among the select minority, who truly mourned the premature death of
this youthful sage, the Duke of Milan and his daughter may be safely
reckoned. The marriage arranged wholly by him might very possibly run
risk of being broken off. And in any case the Duke's ulterior and more
ambitious schemes were nipped in the bud.

Catherine was, however, as her biographer assures us, "infinitely
rejoiced and comforted" by an early courier from Rome, bearing
assurances, that her unseen bridegroom and his august kinsman had no
intention of allowing the Cardinal's death to make any difference in
the arrangements for the marriage.

Let the reader's mind dwell a moment on the "infinite rejoicing and
comfort" of this eleven-year-old princess, at the news that she was not
after all to lose her marriage with an unseen stranger;—remembering
the while that, making allowance for longitude and latitude, we
Northerns may for "eleven" read thirteen or fourteen.

The Duke prudently hastened to make peace with his powerful and
dangerous neighbours, the Venetians, and having accomplished this,
soothed his disappointment by giving a magnificent reception to some
envoys sent to him by the Sultan of Egypt; a circumstance so novel in
Europe, as greatly to exalt, we are told, the name and glory of the
house of Sforza among neighbouring, and even among transalpine, courts
and princes; and which naturally and necessarily required, in order to
do due honour to the occasion, new taxes on the subjects of a dynasty
so distinguished, new pretexts for compelling rich citizens to purchase
pardon for imaginary offences, and new perversions of law for the
purpose of colouring confiscations.


These, however, were little matters, which passed in the shade fitted
for such things. The broad sunlight of prosperity shone gloriously on
the house of Sforza, on its apparently durably established fortunes,
and on the gala doings in the gay streets of sunny Milan. The poor
might grumble low down in the social depths out of hearing about
scarcity and dearness of bread; a few citizens might groan over ducats
or lands abstracted, or wives or daughters abducted for the needs or
pleasures of their gracious sovereign; but the admirable principles of
civil and religious duty and subordination, which prevailed in those
ages of faith, were such, that in all probability the great Galeazzo
might have continued to preserve order, and save society in Milan,
had not those gloomy students, whom we have from time to time caught
sight of poring over their crabbed folios, while the merry city was
gazing at some brilliant and costly pageant or other, brought their
studies to a conclusion towards the end of the year 1476. For though
it did so happen,[66] that two out of Cola Montano's three pupils owed
to the Duke's profligacy a sister's shame, while the family of the
third had been unjustly deprived by him of an inheritance, yet the
historians, who have recorded the facts, seem to be unanimously of
opinion, that had it not been for those pernicious historical readings,
they would have borne these misfortunes as meekly as hundreds of their
fellow-citizens did similar mishaps, instead of posting themselves at
the door of the cathedral on St. Stephen's day in December of the year
1476, and there stabbing to death their sovereign lord in the midst of
his guards, and of the assembled crowd.

The names of these misled youths were Giovanni Andrea Lampugnani,
Girolamo Olgiato, and Carlo Visconti. The first was killed by one of
the Duke's attendants immediately after the commission of his crime.
Visconti was arrested, and ordered to immediate execution by being
quartered. Olgiato escaped from the church, and fled to his father's
house. But father and brothers alike refused to afford him any shelter.
His mother alone found means to persuade a certain priest to hide the
murderer in his house. After three days' concealment, the unhappy youth
crept forth to ascertain the aspect of the city, and the feelings of
the citizens thus liberated from their tyrant. The first sight that met
his eyes was the corpse of his friend and fellow criminal Lampugnani,
dragged through the streets by an exulting and ferocious rabble. This
horrible proof of the futility of all his hopes, and of the judgment
passed upon his deed by his fellow-citizens, so drove him to despair,
that he at once gave himself up into the hands of justice. On his trial
for the crime, seeing that none were left alive who could be injured
by the recital, he gave a full account of the whole conspiracy. And
from this document are drawn the narratives of the historians. He was
condemned to be torn to pieces by iron pincers, "tanagliato;"—that
being the proper juridical term to indicate a by no means unprecedented
mode of punishment.

"Stabit vetus memoria facti" were the last words uttered by the dying
regicide, as the living flesh was being rent from the quivering
muscles. And indeed the sad story has been made the subject of a
tragedy much praised by Milanese[67] writers; but which does not seem,
unfortunately, to have so moralised the tale, as to make it likely that
it should at present be represented in the theatres of that city.


And, truly, when we find a man in the position, and of the character
of Verri, writing a grave and learned history at the close of the
last century, and representing in its well-considered pages the deed
of Girolamo Olgiato as similar in kind to that of Oliver Cromwell, we
cannot but become sensible how wholly and irreconcileably different
the views and moral judgments of a law-respecting Anglo-Saxon on such
subjects, must needs be from those of a people, to whom, for centuries,
LAW has been presented only as the expression of a despot's
will. To the inmost heart of nations so trained amiss, we may be sure,
that "the wild justice of revenge" will commend itself with a force of
honest conviction, proportioned ever to the amount of wrong suffered,
and not to the heinousness of wrong done, by those who, at their own
risk and peril, take upon themselves the execution of it.

Thus died at the age of thirty-two years the magnificent Maria Galeazzo
Sforza, our heroine's father. Did these pages profess to give a
biography of him instead of his daughter, it would be necessary to
follow the chroniclers of his time through the long and sickening list
of his cruelties and abominations. This we may spare ourselves. For the
purpose of showing what tendencies and dispositions his daughter may
be supposed to have inherited, and what were the manners and habits of
the home in which, and from which, she received her early impressions
and education, it will be sufficient, in addition to what has been
already said, to mention one or two of the facts which history has put
on record against this man.

There is every reason to believe that he murdered his mother by
poison. All the authorities concur in representing her as an excellent
and very able princess, whose wisdom and energy ensured his quiet
succession to his father's throne. He very soon became jealous of her
authority; drove her by his ill treatment from Milan; and is believed
to have poisoned her at the first halting-place of her journey from
that capital towards her own dower city, Cremona. His guilt was very
generally credited by his contemporaries, and subsequent writers concur
in thinking their suspicions in all probability just.

Enough has probably been said in previous pages to give the reader some
idea of the profligate debauchery which marked the whole course of his
life. It is unnecessary to transfer to an English page the details
of cynical immorality, mingled with a ferocious cruelty, which seems
to mark them to a certain degree with the character of insanity, as
recorded by the old writers,[68] especially by Corio, his own personal
attendant. It is sufficient to have drawn attention to the influences
which must have been exercised by the moral atmosphere of such a court,
and such a home on the young bride, who is about to step from it to a
court of her own.


 Catherine's marriage.—"Petit Courrier des dames" for 1476.—Four
 years of prosperity.—Life in Rome in the fifteenth century.—A
 hunting party in the Campagna.—Guilty or not guilty?—Catherine and
 her husband leave Rome.

If the death of the Cardinal Riario had seemed, during a few anxious
days, to throw a doubt on the succesful termination of the matrimonial
schemes projected for Catherine, much greater was the danger to which
they were exposed by the untimely death of the Duke. "Catherine
herself," says Burriel, "considering the circumstances of her birth,
thought that it was now all over with her fortune." And, in truth,
it was hardly to be hoped that the Duchess Bona, now Regent, would
consent to prejudice her own children by giving up Imola as the
dower of a stranger to her blood, obtruded under such circumstances
into her family. Meanwhile, the bridegroom Girolamo, and his august,
"high-spirited" uncle, had, on their side, been struck by similar
misgivings on receiving the news of Maria Galeazzo's death; and they
were by no means disposed to relinquish the principality, whose title
Girolamo had already assumed.

Sixtus, therefore, well aware, remarks Burriel, of the truth of the
proverb which teaches that "this world is given to the active,"[69]
lost no time in sending Cardinal Mellini to Milan, with orders to
claim the prompt execution of the marriage contract, and to hurry on
the performance of the ceremony by every possible means. This active
churchman arrived while the Duchess and all Milan were still in the
midst of the confusion, anxieties, and uncertainties resulting from
the sudden demise of the Crown. The position of the Duchess as Regent
and guardian of her son, still in his minority, was precarious and
difficult. Subsequent events at Milan abundantly show how difficult
a task it was to maintain her own and her son's rights against the
pretensions and encroachments of his uncles. The friendship or
hostility of the royal-minded and high-handed _Servus servorum_ might
be of infinite importance to her and to Milan. The good Bona, too,
was inclined to make it a point of honour to carry out the intentions
of her murdered husband. The Cardinal, acting up zealously to his
instructions, urged unceasingly that "if 'twere done, 'twere well
it were done quickly." And thus it was brought about that, without
any alteration in the articles previously agreed upon, Catherine was
married to Girolamo Riario acting by proxy, in the latter part of May,

As the mourning for the Duke was not yet over, the ceremony was
performed in a comparatively private manner in the presence of the
Cardinal and the Duchess. And as no festivities and rejoicings were
under the circumstances permissible in Milan, it was determined that
the bride should depart immediately for Rome, and that all such
celebration should take place there under the auspices of the young
couple's magnificent uncle. No record is found of the exact date of the
marriage; but Catherine arrived in Rome about the end of May.


The "sensation" produced in Rome by the young bride's arrival is dwelt
on by the historians, and may be readily believed. All the contemporary
chroniclers agree in describing her as eminently beautiful.[70] A
modern historian[71] of Forlì cites in proof of the truth of these
assertions two likenesses of her still existing, when he wrote, in the
church of St. Jerome in that city. And a Forlì coin and two medals,
engraved for the work of Burriel, fully confirm the praises of the old
writers. All three of these portraits appear to have been made after
the death of Girolamo Riario. The face is hard and even stern, but full
of vigour and intelligence. The features are somewhat large, but of
beautiful outline and perfect regularity: a face to be admired rather
than to be loved.

When at fifteen she rode through the Porta del Popolo into Rome, in
the midst of the brilliant cavalcade composed of all that was noblest
in the eternal city, those finely-cut features were doubtless softer
in their expression, more delicate in their beauty, and more fitted
to win all hearts in the manner we are assured they did. It was about
a generation later that a jovial prelate,[72] writing to his friend
from Rome, protested that nothing was wanting to the pleasures of a
residence there save "a court with ladies." But no doubt the same
want was a frequent one among the tonsured epicureans of a court in
which every high office was held by a priestly incumbent. And now the
lamentable deficiency was about to be supplied by the young and lovely
bride of the most powerful, most magnificent, and wealthiest prince
in Rome. For all this was Girolamo, the survivor of the two favoured
brothers, who had divided between them all that Papal affection and
munificence could bestow.

Doubtless nothing was left undone which could add brilliancy to the gay
cavalcade amid which Girolamo brought his wife to her new home. The
period was especially favourable to the display of personal splendour;
and the fashion of dress, especially of female costume, had recently
assumed an elegance and costly gorgeousness unknown to the previous
generation. If we would figure to ourselves our fifteen-year-old
heroine as she appeared on her richly-caparisoned "dappled palfrey"
to the admiring eyes of the Roman citizens, we must picture her clad
in one of those then recently-introduced dresses called "Cyprians,"
of which we hear so much in the records of the time, and which were
the favourite mode of the young and beautiful towards the end of the
fifteenth century.

Like other innovations in similar matters, this new costume, we are
told, gave much offence to the more austere among those who never in
their own day had enjoyed any such opportunity of displaying their
charms, and who were now too old to profit by it.[73] For, instead of
being made to fit close round the throat, the "Cyprian" was contrived
to show the entire neck. These dresses were cut square on the bust,
were extremely full around the feet, close-fitting from the waist
upwards, and had very long and large sleeves. Some ladies would have
even three of these celebrated robes: one of blue, one of crimson, and
one of watered camblet—"zambellotto undato"—lined with silk or with
mixed furs. Beautifully thin and fine veils of white cotton were worn;
and the hair was drawn back over hair-cushions, and tied with strings
of silk ornamented with gold or with pearls. A girdle of silver gilt or
of pearls confined the dress at the waist.


We may be perfectly sure, that the daughter of Sforza and bride
of Riario displayed whatever was most costly and most superb, as
she passed from the Porta del Popolo to the princely residence of
her husband on the Lungara, that long street which runs along the
farther bank of the river from St. Peter's to the Porta Settimana.
There the Riarii inhabited the spot now marked on the maps as the
Palazzo Corsini. Two hundred and fifty years further down on the
roll of pontiffs the latter name is met with;[74] the place of the
magnificent Riarii knows them no more; and the change of masters,
which those delicious terraces, looking down on the Farnese palaces
and gardens,—the creations of another Papal[75] family intermediate
in time between the Riarii and the Corsini—have undergone, is a quite
normal illustration of the working of a system, which is the leading
fact of Rome's modern history.

In this magnificent home on the banks of the Tiber, Catherine spent
four happy, prosperous, and brilliant years;—probably the most
happy, the most prosperous, and the most brilliant of her career.
Never, perhaps, since the old times of a Marozia and a Theodora,
whose boundless and shameless power in the eternal city had given
rise to the fable of a female Pope, had a woman occupied a position
of so much power and pre-eminence in Rome. She very shortly became
an all-powerful favourite with her uncle (or father-in-law) Sixtus.
All Rome was absolutely at her feet. Courtiers in search of favour,
litigants in search of justice—(or injustice)—officials in search
of promotion, brought their petitions and applications to her.
The most important employments were often given according to the
recommendations of this girl in her teens, as Burriel[76] assures us,
without manifesting the shadow of an idea, that there was anything
objectionable in such a mode of administering the Papal power. At this
period of her life, writes another[77] chronicler, she was so great a
favourite with the Pope, that most of the princes of Italy, who had
any request to make of the Apostolic see, availed themselves of the
intercession of Catherine for the attainment of their desires.

Though apparently totally unaware, that all this was in any way
otherwise than it should have been, the old writers tell us much
of Catherine's prudence, discretion and moderation in wielding and
managing the great power so strangely entrusted to such hands. We
have no recorded facts adducible in direct proof of the justice of
this high praise. But we may find some evidence in support of it from
the observation of our heroine under adversity; for which some later
portions of her career will afford abundant opportunity. Assuredly
there must have been materials of high and noble quality in a nature
not wholly corrupted and spoiled by such an education and such
environment in childhood and in youth, as that which fell to the lot of
this young princess.

[Sidenote: THE ORDELAFFI.]

Dark days were not far distant; but all as yet in her life had been
rose-colour:—or purple-tinted rather; for the more modest hue seems
hardly gorgeous enough to typify the blaze of prosperous sunshine which
had hitherto illumined her path. And now, during these years at Rome,
though they had been sufficiently marked already as the minions of
fortune, the star of the young couple was still ever rising.

On the 15th of December of the year in which Catherine arrived in Rome,
her husband was with much ceremony and speechifying made a citizen of
the eternal city.[78]

On the 4th of September 1480, the same fortunate youth received from
the Pope investiture of the city and county of Forlì;[79] of which the
Duke of Urbino, general of the forces of the Church, took possession
in his name. This city, now the capital of a delegation, and one of
the most important towns of Romagna, was conveniently situated with
regard to the principality of Imola, already acquired by Girolamo
in right of his wife. Forlì is some sixteen miles to the south-east
of the latter town, in the same rich and highly productive alluvial
district, which lies between the Apennines and the Adriatic. It had
long been under the dominion of its native lords, of the family of the
Ordelaffi. The story of their ousting, with its episodes of poisoning,
fighting, love-making, and plotting, though curious enough, would lead
us too far away from our more immediate subject. Suffice it that the
upshot was the same, as it was in so many other similar cases. The Pope
declared that the old family had forfeited their rights, that the fief
had devolved to the Holy See; and, accordingly, handed it over to his

On the 8th of September in the same year Count Girolamo was solemnly
made generalissimo of the Papal forces. The diarist Jacopo of
Volterra[80] tells us how on that day, being the celebration of the
nativity of the blessed Virgin, the Pope and all the College of
Cardinals attended a solemn mass, in the course of which the Count
in full armour knelt at the feet of the Pope, seated in front of the
altar, and then and there received the staff of command, and the
standard; and took the prescribed oaths, reading, says the historian,
the whole formula at length himself;—truly the most arduous part
of the matter in all probability to this "non literatus" _preux_
chevalier. All Rome, both clerical and lay, was there, says gossiping
Jacobus Volaterranus, as much to see the Count go through his part in
the play, as to perform their devotions.

The picture of life in Rome at this period, obtainable from the
inartistic matter-of-fact narrations of these diarists, the Jacopo just
cited, Stefano Infessura, and one or two others of the same class, is a
strange and striking one. Their ever-recurring accounts of solemnities,
celebrations, and festivals, are chequered with notices almost equally
frequent, and as calmly chronicled of such deeds and occurrences, as
we are accustomed to hear reported from Sacramento, or San Francisco,
and to consider as the product of a new and half-organised state of
society. A noble patrician is stabbed to death, while sitting at the
door of his own palace enjoying the evening air after supper. The
name of the murderer and his motive are briefly told, and no further
remark is made about the matter. A raid is made by one family against
another and many men are killed; but none worth mentioning save one
or two nobles. Of such matters nobody dreams of complaining. But when
once on Ascension-day a great mass of people had assembled as usual
in expectation of receiving the papal benediction, and Sixtus for
some unassigned reason did not come forth to give it, there was great
murmuring, and the multitude heaped bitter curses, we are told, on the
Pontiff, who had defrauded them of his blessing.

[Sidenote: A DEATH-BED SCENE.]

The figures of the recently-married couple, however, with whose
fortunes our story is more immediately concerned, appear most
frequently, as might be expected, during those years of their
prosperity on the bright squares of the chequered board. The Count,
indeed, is found figuring in one strange and unpleasant scene a few
days previous to his installation as commander-in-chief.

One of the Pope's nephews, Antonio Bassi, is lying grievously ill on
his death-bed. His cousin Girolamo visits him the day before his death,
and tries to comfort him "with fraternal words," and assurances that he
will soon get well. But the dying man, either from the peevishness of
suffering, says the chronicler,[81] or because he knew that he could
now speak out with impunity what he had long felt, abused his powerful
cousin in the most violent manner, "mentioning certain deeds of the
Count universally condemned, and certain conduct of his reprobated by
all men; on account of which, he said, the judgment of God, from which
no human power could avail to protect him, would shortly fall on him.
And in speaking of these things, he used a degree of vehemence which
none of those who knew him best had ever heard him speak with when
in health." The Count, it seems, took it very quietly; but "we all
standing round the bed blushed for shame at the scene, and several
of us slunk away out of hearing." It would have been satisfactory to
have been told what these so universally reprobated deeds and conduct
were. Perhaps nephew Bassi would have liked some of the good things
that were heaped on nephew Riario. There _was_, indeed, one dark topic,
of which we shall have to speak presently, the indiscreet handling
of which might well make discreet courtiers slink out of hearing,
lest their ears should become the unwilling depositories of truths so
carefully concealed that history, after nearly four hundred years of
investigation, has failed in obtaining satisfactory evidence of them.
Could it have been that the dying man felt himself so safe from earthly
vengeance, and so beyond all considerations of worldly prudence, as to
have dared to speak aloud in such a tone of the black Pazzi tragedy?
If so, we know how dangerous it might have been to hear him. If so,
could Girolamo Riario have been so unmoved by his upbraiding? Be it as
it may, the above few hints, so fortuitously, as it seems, floating on
the surface of the vast, black, all-devouring pool of oblivion, are all
that we have to speculate on in the matter. Antonio Bassi died, and no
"judgment" followed—yet awhile.

On the contrary, all sorts of festivities, mingling themselves with the
more serious business of prosperous ambition, seem to have made up the
life of the young Count and Countess. One constantly recurring cause of
pomp and festival at Rome in those days, was the arrival in the eternal
city of strangers of note from almost every part of Europe. English,
German, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek ambassadors, cardinals, or
prelates, arrived in the great capital of Christianity to ask favours
of Heaven's vicegerent; to plead their international or ecclesiastical
causes and quarrels before him; to bring him gifts and compliments from
distant potentates; to beg for assistance in money or money's worth;
to obtain absolution for national sins committed against the Papal
interest; or to secure aid and connivance for such as could be shown to
square with it.


On the occasion of such arrivals, cardinals, with their numerous
retinues of attendants, lay and clerical, used to go out to meet the
strangers at the gate, and bring them in pomp to the lodgings prepared
for them. Then followed grand ceremonial services in the basilicas,
in which modern Circenses the Roman populace shared with delight, and
vast banquets, shared only by the privileged of the earth. Now and then
occur descriptions of gay doings of a less exclusive character, in
which all classes of that strangely-variegated society are seen mingled
in a more pleasing and more picturesque fashion.

On Wednesday,[82] the 22nd of March, 1480, for instance, Ernest,
Duke of Saxony, arrives at Rome for the performance of a vow. He is
accompanied by the Duke of Brunswick and other German nobles. All are
clothed in black, with a staff embroidered in white across the breast,
as a symbol of pilgrimage. The Pope and all the Sacred College go out
to the Porta del Popolo to meet him; and fortunately we have among us
two cardinals who can talk German. These ride one on each side of his
Serene Highness, and thus the cortège of some two hundred horses of
the Duke's retinue, together with all the trains of Pope and cardinals,
sweep on through the streets of Rome towards St. Peter's. Sovereign
princes coming to Rome in discharge of vows of pilgrimage are worthy
of every encouragement. So Sixtus treats the noble stranger with all
possible honour—even to the extent of allowing him to sit at mass and
vespers on the bench of the cardinals, and in the stall next below the
junior of those dignitaries, an honour rarely granted. Then, as is the
case with those whom Rome delighteth to honour, he was presented in
St. Peter's with the consecrated golden rose. But on this occasion,
strangely enough, the golden rose was not a rose, but a golden
oak-bough,[83] which Sixtus, contrary to all custom and precedent, had
chosen to consecrate instead of the immemorially accustomed emblem.
The substitution of this golden bough, the well-known heraldic bearing
of the Della Rovere family, is a curious manifestation of the family
feeling, which was so intense in Sixtus, and was the ever-present
motive of all his crimes.

[Sidenote: A HUNTING PARTY.]

But the most pleasing of the doings in honour of the Elector recorded
by the old diarist, is a grand hunting party given him by our Count
Girolamo. It took place on the 10th of April, 1480, a day remembered by
the people of Rome long afterwards, says Jacopo of Volterra. For the
hunting took place only eight miles from the city, in the neighbourhood
of the Fonte Malliane, to the south-west of Rome, and all classes of
the citizens made holiday. Even the boys were able to join and enjoy
the sport. The foreign princes themselves, with their retinue, all
mounted on splendid horses, holding the hounds in leash, and shining,
says the diarist, with gold and jewels, were the most interesting part
of the sight to the populace. A very great quantity of stags and deer
were taken, "and some beasts were captured by the hands of the princes
themselves, _as if the creatures suffered themselves to be caught from
the wish to contribute to the happiness of so great an occasion_"—a
somewhat left-handed compliment to a sportsman, friend Jacopo, and
savouring more of the antechamber than the greenwood. A more joyous
scene, adds the diarist, cannot be imagined than that afforded by those
hill-sides and woods thronged with eager sportsmen, and resounding
far and near with the notes of the horns, the halloes of the hunters,
the barking of the dogs, and the voices of singing and rejoicing.
Then at the Fonte Malliane a magnificent banquet was prepared under
the ilex woods of a shady hill-side, not for the invited guests only,
but for all present. The Roman dames, with Catherine mistress of the
revel, mingling in their brilliant and gorgeous-coloured[84] costume
among the carousing knights, amid the dark-green verdure that shaded
the hill-side, give what was wanted in colour to make the gay scene
perfect. At respectful distance amid the surrounding woods, the Roman
citizens are making the most of the rare opportunity; not less loud in
their mirth, or less jovial over the good things provided at the cost
of taxes drawn by the good Count from faraway provinces, than their
masters. Their stalwart forms, clad in russet jerkin or hempen frock,
mingled with hounds in leash, and richly-caparisoned horses, group well
as seen among the trunks of the trees against the dark background of
the ilex woods. "It is not to be told," says Jacopo, thus winding up
his unusually detailed description, "how much those German chiefs,
rejoicing after their own fashion, enjoyed themselves on that memorable
day!" Is it intended, good Jacopo, by those words of yours, "_Germani
illi proceres lætantes more suo_," that we should catch a glimpse of
our Teuton friends riding back the eight miles into Rome rather less
steadily than they sat on those tall horses of theirs in the morning?

Four days afterwards, at any rate, the Elector and his company are
ready to start on their homeward journey; and the Pope, as a parting
gift, presents them with wax candles blessed by his own holy fingers:
"so that, accompanied by such holy things, they might reach their own
country in safety without any ill encounters by the way."

Thus, amid honours, pleasures, and the agreeable business arising out
of her large share in the administion of Papal favour, passed four
brilliant years of the heyday prime of Catherine's life. Was there no
darker woof to chequer the bright web—no shading to so much sunlight?
That terrible death-bed scene, when Girolamo's cousin, Antonio Bassi,
lay a-dying, has led us already to the mention of the dark story of the
Pazzi murders. This celebrated episode of Florentine history, which
has been made again and again the novelist's and poet's as well as
the historian's subject, is too well known for it to be necessary to
do more here than briefly recapitulate the familiar facts, especially
as the present story is only concerned with the question, how far the
Riarii were implicated in them.


On Easter day, the 26th of April, 1478, Lorenzo de Medici, afterwards
"the Magnificent," and his brother Giuliano were, while at worship
before the high altar of the Cathedral, stabbed by the daggers of
assassins—Lorenzo inefficiently, Giuliano mortally. Francesco de Pazzi
and his adherents were the murderers. A Salviati, Archbishop of Pisa,
was also one of the conspirators, to whom had been assigned the part
of seizing the Palazzo Pubblico while the others did the murder. The
daggers of the assassins, however, having done only half their work,
and the populace of Florence showing themselves in no wise inclined to
rise against the Medici, or make any demonstration in favour of the
conspirators, the game was lost. Francesco and the numerous family of
the Pazzi were almost wholly exterminated; and the stout republicans
of Florence, having no fear of the Church before their eyes, hung the
Archbishop Salviati out of a window of the Palazzo Pubblico in a very
summary manner.

Now, that the great Florentine family of the Pazzi should hate, worry,
and conspire against the great Florentine family of the Medici, was as
intelligible, as much according to the habitudes of the place and time,
and as natural, as that one butcher's mastiff should fly at the throat
of another. And if the deed of that Easter Sunday had involved no other
persons in its causes and consequences, than the Medici and the Pazzi,
the destruction of the losing party would have been the natural ending
and completion of the story. But, in the first place, an Archbishop
had been publicly hung in Florence;—a deed more difficult to be wiped
out, than the blood of scores of laymen, whether Medici or Pazzi. And,
in the second place, the municipal and commercial rivalry and hatred
of those two families had been exasperated and put into fatal action
by being involved with the yet more culpable hatred of the Riarii for
the rival parvenu princes of the Medicean race. Both Medici and Pazzi
were bankers in Rome. The former had held the lucrative appointment of
treasurers to the Apostolic chamber. Sixtus IV. took this from them,
and gave it to the Pazzi. These were friends and allies of the Riarii.
And there seems no reason to doubt the assertion of the Florentine
writers, that Girolamo was one of the conspirators, if not the original
contriver of the whole scheme.

The Pope launched his interdict against Florence, in punishment for
the execution of the Archbishop; and followed up this spiritual
attack by a less formidable secular one. The republicans were able to
defend themselves against the latter; but were obliged by the former
tremendous weapon to humiliate themselves before the Papal throne. It
is clear enough, in short, that all the sympathies of the Pope after
the deed were with the perpetrators of it. Was he a consenting and
abetting party to it before the fact? This is a question, which has
occupied the attention and investigations of historians, anxious to
decide the matter according to their respective prepossessions, more
perhaps than its importance deserves. One more crime, however dark,
added to the list of those which history has heaped up at the door of
the _Servi servorum_, can effect but little any of the vexed questions
raised between the defenders and the accusers of Popes and Papacy.
A synod of the Tuscan prelates, which met in July of the year 1478,
solemnly accused Sixtus of having instigated the murder. The Florentine
historians are nearly unanimous in making the same accusation. And most
of the arguments on the point have been based on consideration of this
testimony. But we have less suspected evidence to the same purpose in
the direct assertion of Stefano Infessura, the Roman diarist. Having
briefly told the circumstances and upshot of the attempt, he adds:[85]
"These things were ordered by Pope Sixtus, together with the Count
Girolamo, and others, to take away the dominion [of Florence] from
Lorenzo de Medici, and give it to the Count Girolamo." A moment's
consideration of the mode in which Sixtus and his son, or nephew,
Girolamo, worked in concert and pulled together during the whole of
his papacy for the founding and advancement of the family greatness,
and a little reflection on the perfect confidence and community of
aims and wishes existing between them, will add all the weight which
extreme probability can give to the opinion that the Pope was one of
the conspirators.


But then arises the question more nearly touching the subject of these
pages; What guilty knowledge may Catherine have had of her husband's
crime? Did the young bridegroom, within the first year of his married
life, take counsel with his girl-wife, at that time within a few weeks
of having become for the first time a mother at sixteen years of age,
respecting this deed of blood to be done for the furthering of their
mutual greatness? Did he seek to gratify her ambition,—certainly no
less worldly, less gross in quality, or less a ruling passion than his
own,—and obtain her admiring smiles by laying at the proud beauty's
feet these high hopes to be realised at the price of a daring deed?
Or, when returning from dark plottings with priests and desperate men
in the most secret council closet of the Papal palace to the brilliant
home of his young wife, did he mutter Macbeth-like, "Be innocent of
the knowledge, dearest chuck, till thou applaud the deed"? No written
word survives to throw the least light on this question. And each
reader must judge of the probabilities of the case according to his
knowledge and theories of human character. It was certainly Riario's
practice, as we shall see, to take counsel of his wife in state
matters of less unlawful kind. And thoroughly does she seem to have
been capable of seconding and aiding in all the rough business that
might fall to the hand of a stirring and ambitious prince in those
unquiet times;—truly a help-meet for one who had to hold his own by
craft in the council-chamber, as well as by energy and valour in the
field. Certainly, bearing in mind the character of the times, and the
character of the women, there can be small doubt, that had Catherine
found herself called to queen it in fair Florence, she would have
"applauded the deed," that placed her there.... Yet ... at sixteen,
and at this period of her life at all events, (however much we may at
a later time find her wholly busied in virile struggles for power and
supreme rule), occupied with the more womanly and more holy cares of
wife and mother-hood, it may be fairly hoped that she was innocent of
this black guilt, despite the nearness of her connection with Heaven's

During these four years in Rome, Catherine presented her husband
with three children. The first was a disappointment to the ambitious
pair. Bianca, a daughter, born in March, 1478, was greeted, we may
be sure, with scant welcome. But on the 1st of September, 1479, the
long-sighted—yet so short-seeing—hopes of the parents and of the
Pontiff were gratified by the birth of a son, christened Ottaviano. And
on the 24th of August, 1480, a second son, named Cesare, was born to

[Sidenote: A JOURNEY.]

At length, in the summer of 1481, some brief pause in the business of
sharing the Papal councils, making and breaking of leagues, persecuting
the Colonnas, and entertaining ambassadors, made it possible for
Girolamo and his wife to visit for the first time their dominions of
Forlì and Imola. There were to be grand doings in Rome on the 30th of
June, 1481. The Pope in grand gala, and with much ceremony and great
rejoicings, was to bless the fleet, now coming up from Ostia to the
city. There were to be feasts, candles, processions, and other such
like "divine services," with "Florentine ambassador washing the Pope's
hands at the beginning of the sacred rites; Venetian ambassadors
washing them in the middle, and the Prefect of Rome at the end of the
same;"[86] and drink and Papal blessings distributed to all comers.

But, despite all these attractions, Girolamo and Catherine with their
retinue left Rome at daybreak on that day. It caused great surprise,
says the chronicler, that they should not have chosen, at the cost of
one day's delay, to be present at all these gay doings. But it was
understood that that special day and hour had been indicated to him as
fortunate for his journey, by the planets.


 From Rome to Forlì with bag and baggage.—First presentation of a new
 lord and lady to their lieges.—Venice again shows a velvet paw to a
 second Riario.—Saffron-hill in brocade and ermine.—Sad conduct on
 the part of our lieges.—Life in Rome again.—"Orso! Orso!—Colonna!
 Colonna!"—A Pope's hate, and a Pope's vengeance.—Sixtus finally
 loses the game.

Journeys in the fifteenth century were important
undertakings,—especially journeys of women and children. But this
expedition of the Count Girolamo and his family was a very serious
affair indeed. His departure from Rome resembled a veritable exodus.
For he determined on transporting to Forlì, not only the whole of
his numerous establishment of servants and retainers of all kinds,
but also all his immense wealth in goods and chattels of all sorts.
This kind of property formed a very much larger part of a rich man's
substance in those times, than it does in these days of public debts
and investments in all kinds of industrial undertakings. A rich
man's wealth in the fifteenth century consisted of large masses of
hoarded coin,—very much smaller in numerical amount, however, than
the sums with which the traders and men of property of our day are
daily conversant,—of horses, and long trains of richly caparisoned
mules,—of large quantities of silks and other rich stuffs, both for
clothing and furniture,—of arms and armour,—of jewels, and gold
and silver plate,—and of the various other articles of household
plenishing. In all such things the Count Riario, who had inherited all
those rich possessions of his spendthrift brother the Cardinal, which,
we are assured,[87] were for their quantity and magnificence one of
the wonders of that age, was rich beyond any other individual of his
contemporaries. And all this vast mass of miscellaneous property he now
carried with him from Rome to Forlì.[88]

[Sidenote: ALONG THE ROAD.]

For eight days[89] the long road by Orte, Terni, Spoleto to Perugia,
and thence over rough and picturesque Apennine passes to Ancona, and so
through the flat and rich plains of Romagna to the distant provincial
city, was thronged with beasts of burden and vehicles, and the servants
and men-at-arms guarding them. As far as the eye could reach from the
highest tower-top in Forlì over the straight dusty line of the ancient
Via Emilia, long strings of laden mules, and carts, might be seen
labouring onwards under the July sun, and, at length, slowly passing
under the city gateway into the welcome shade of the narrow streets.
Each mule load was covered with an embroidered cloth, showing the arms
of Rovere and Sforza; and was bound with silken cords; and each cart
similarly protected. For eight days the citizens of Forlì watched with
ever-increasing wonder the arrival within their little city of all
this wealth; and congratulated themselves on belonging to a master,
whose riches, they trusted, would have the effect of making him less
extortionate towards his new subjects.

At Rome, meanwhile, much gossip and speculation was excited by this
departure of Girolamo, with bag and baggage; men observed, and
whispered to each other, that Sixtus was growing old, and was latterly
much broken. Some went so far as to assert, that his death had been
foretold as to occur in the July or August of that year.[90] At all
events, the Pontiff could not be expected to survive many years.
And Rome, always a turbulent and dangerous place for wealthy men
during the lawless interval between the death of one Pope and the
election of his successor, would be like to be especially so to the
immoderately enriched kinsman of a very much hated Pontiff. It was
surmised, accordingly, that the prudent Count judged it to be time to
think of abandoning a falling house, and preparing himself to ride
out the storms which were sure to follow the death of Sixtus, in the
comparatively safe anchorage of the provincial city he had made his
own, during the hay-making time of Papal sunshine.

Catherine and her husband reached Forlì on the 15th of July, 1481,
having been preceded by their children and goods. Prepared by all they
had witnessed during the previous eight days, to expect something very
magnificent, indeed, when their hitherto unseen lord should at length
make his appearance, the citizens of Forlì did their utmost to welcome
their young sovereigns. Nor, as it appears from the details of their
festal entry preserved to us,[91] were the young couple less anxious
to impress their subjects favourably. All the youth of both sexes,
dressed uniformly in white, and bearing olive branches in their hands,
went out to meet them, headed by the clergy and magistrates, in full
canonicals and robes of office. On meeting this procession, the Count
and Countess descended from their horses, and received their greetings
standing. Catherine, we are told, had decked herself for the occasion
in the most magnificent gala dress she possessed, and had put on all
her most precious pearls and diamonds. "Her mind and intellect being
filled moreover with the choicest Roman manners," says Burriel, "and
joining to these her own elegance, and select and polished diction,
and dexterously taking care, moreover, that the dazzling beauty of her
personal perfections was not hidden from the spectators," she made
conquest at first sight of the eyes and hearts of the Forlivesi.


Girolamo also did his best to make his entry as imposing as possible;
and came attended on his journey by a party of the first nobles in
Rome. It is very curious, and strikingly indicative of the degree to
which Papal splendour outshone all other splendour in the old capital
of the world, and Papal favour lifted the objects of it, be they what
they might, far above all other grandeurs and greatnesses, however
proud, during the brief period of a Pope's incumbency, to find this
low-born kinsman of a mendicant friar attended on his journey by a
Colonna,[92] two princes of the Orsini, one of the great Savelli
family, and others of the oldest patrician families of Rome.

Inside the city every sort of revelry prevailed for three days. In the
principal square of Forlì, admirably adapted, say the Forlì writers,
for such purposes, from its handsome regularity and ample size, a
tournament was held, in which the Roman princes condescended to run
a course; and then a vast wooden castle, constructed in the middle
of the square for this purpose, was besieged and defended by two
parties of the townsfolk, with a reward from the Count to the first
of the besieging party who should enter it; a distinction cheaply won
by a Forlì youth, at the cost of an eye poked out by the zeal of the

Then there was a magnificent ball, in which the Count and Countess led
off the dance, followed first by the Roman guests, and then by all the
"beau monde" of Forlì. The chronicler, Leon Cobelli, who is recorded
to have been also a painter, musician, and ballet-master, was there
playing on his rebeck at the Count's elbow; and winds up his account of
the festival by saying that he had never seen such a ball, and never
should again in his days.

There were, of course, triumphal arches, allegorical paintings, cunning
carpentry devices moving by unseen means, eating, drinking, and
speechifying, in prose and verse, to a wonderful extent. "And charming
it was to see the Lady Countess and all her damsels come forth in
different magnificent dresses every day for a whole week, and the great
buffets, ten feet high, in the banqueting hall of the palace, loaded
every day with a fresh service of silver and gold."[93] Every room in
the palace, too, was hung with tapestry, "however large, and however
irregular in form."


But the crowning joy of all was, when, on the occasion of receiving the
homage of the city, offered in "a very elegant oration by Dr. Guido
Peppi, a perfect master not only of the vulgar tongue, but of Latin,
Greek, and Hebrew,"[94] the gracious Count was pleased to remit the
corn duties to his loving subjects of Forlì. Yet while relinquishing
this important source of revenue, the new sovereigns, at the same time,
undertook various expensive works for the amelioration and improvement
of their cities of Forlì and Imola. At the former, the strong fortress
of Ravaldino, commenced by the preceding dynasty, was carried to
completion. The palace was enlarged and newly ornamented. The public
square was adorned with new buildings and handsome porticoes. Schools
were established both there and at Imola. In the latter city, such
portions as had been built of mud were destroyed, and rebuilt of
stone. The public square was enlarged and beautified, the paving of
the streets improved, and an Academy of Fine Arts instituted.[95] In
short, the young sovereigns seem to have been really anxious for the
well-being of the people committed to their rule; and to have started
at least with some idea of having duties to perform, and some intention
of performing them.[96]

After thus winning golden opinions in Forlì, Girolamo and Catherine
left that city for their other capital, Imola, on the 12th of August;
having sojourned among the Forlivesi a little less than a month. There
a similar welcome, and similar gala doings on a somewhat smaller
scale, awaited them. There also their time was as busily occupied in
making beneficent arrangements for the improvement of the town, and in
striving to obtain the affections of their subjects; and their stay as
short. For Girolamo was called away from these duties and interests
more properly his own, by the necessity of attending to affairs of
the Pope, which made it necessary for him to visit Venice. For this
purpose he left Imola together with Catherine, on the 2nd of September,
after a stay there of three weeks only.

All Italy was filled with uneasy suspicions and jealousies
at this visit of the Pope's nephew, favourite, general and
right-hand-man-in-ordinary to the powerful republic. Every little court
was on thorns, and had spies on the alert to ascertain if possible
the object and the degree of success attending the move. All sorts
of things were suspected, asserted, and chattered of by these busy
gentry; and subsequent historians have had to pick a somewhat thorny
path amid their contradictory statements.[97] The most probable, and
indeed scarcely doubtful explanation of the matter seems, however,
sufficiently simple.

The Turks were in possession of Otranto. The Turkish raids were the
constant terror and bugbear of Italy in these centuries, as were
those of the Danes to our own island at an earlier period. Like the
Danish inroads too to our monarchs, the aggressions of the Turks were
sometimes a motive, and constantly a pretext to the popes for raising
troops and money, and requiring the assistance of the other states of
Italy. The Venetians had in the year before granted no such aid to
Sixtus against the infidels. To obtain the promise of such now from
the Signory was the avowed motive of the Count's visit. But no Italian
potentate ever believed anything that was avowed. Besides, whenever the
Pope was bent on hiding the real causes of movements, whose true scope
was some iniquitous spoliation or ambitious scheme, he always had the
Turks in his mouth.


Now for the real motive. Hercules, Duke of Ferrara, had quarrelled with
the Venetians. He was also in disgrace with Sixtus. In the war, which
had ensued between the Pope and Florence, in consequence of the Pazzi
affair, and the hanging of the Archbishop of Pisa, Duke Hercules had
accepted the place of General on the Florentine side. For which highly
irreligious conduct Heaven's vicar had excommunicated him, and declared
him deprived of his dukedom. Hercules of Ferrara however declared, that
excommunicated he might be, but that Duke of Ferrara he would live and
die by the grace of his own right arm.

The business in hand therefore between Sixtus and the Republic was
first to unite their force for the destruction of this audacious rebel,
and then to decide who was to have the spoil. The Republic said they
would have Ferrara;—and meant it. The Pope said that it should belong
to the Church; but meant, that it should fall to the lot of Girolamo,
and form the main pillar of that edifice of family greatness, for which
Sixtus lived and laboured.

But in stating the high policy of princes with this naked
brutality,—into which the necessity of brevity has betrayed the
writer—there is a danger, that perverse and ill-constituted
idiosyncrasies may picture to themselves Counts, high and mighty
Signors, and even Heaven's Vicegerent himself under the figure and
similitude of some Bill Sikes, Artful Dodger, and reverend Fagin
contending with mutually deceptive intentions respecting some equally
nobly won booty. It becomes the historian therefore to lose no time
in having recourse to those means, which the time-honoured practice
and general consent of the world have appointed for the decorous
draping and nobilitating similar passages of history. Bill Sikes
in Doge's bonnet and ermine cloak, a venerable Fagin duly tiara-ed
and apostolically elected, and an Artful Dodger in knightly guise,
with a lovely and brilliant she-dodger by his side, gracefully going
through decorous festivities in ducal halls in the midst of admiring
satellites, will offend no proprieties.

Hasten we then to the all-potent upholstery, which decently differences
the monarch and the burglar.

Of these Venetian festivities, it so happens, that our old Roman friend
Jacopo of Volterra has left us the account of an eye-witness. Taking
a rare holiday from diary-writing in the capital of the world, he had
gone, he tells us,[98] to visit certain relations at Lucca. And thence,
led by the desire of seeing the world, "videndi studio," he visited
Bologna, Ferrara, and Padua. In the latter city he heard that the Count
Girolamo and his noble lady had just arrived at Venice, having passed
not by the route of Padua, but by Comacchio and the marshes, for the
sake of avoiding Ferrara. So our curious Jacopo, who like a gadabout
gossip as he was, could not resist the temptation of being present on
such an occasion, left his horses with the innkeeper at Padua; and
hiring a boat on the Brenta, sailed for Venice—"Navigavi Venetias."

The day after his arrival was Sunday, on which day at noon "the noble
Virgins of Venice, to the number of an hundred and thirty-two, all,
if not equally beautiful, equally loaded with gems, gold, and pearls,
offered the Count, in the great hall of the ducal palace, a most
magnificent spectacle, worthy of being remembered throughout all time."
Giovanni Mocenigo, the Doge, sat on a lofty dais between Girolamo
and Catherine. All the nobility of Venice were ranged tier above tier
around the hall, in such numbers, that Jacopo never remembered having
seen such an assembly even at Rome, except on occasion of the jubilee.
Dancing was kept up till it was dark. Then white wax-candles were
lighted in such numbers that night became more brilliant than day.
Games of various kinds were then exhibited till the fourth hour after
sunset. Then the feasting began—feasting of which it was difficult to
say whether quantity or quality were the more wonderful! The women's
dresses, "_ut a peritis intelligo_,"—as I am given to understand
by such as are up in such matters, were estimated to be worth three
hundred thousand gold pieces.


Other particulars of the doings at Venice on this occasion, and of the
great honour shown to the Count by the Signory, have been preserved in
a letter[99] by the Archdeacon of Forlì, to Lorenzo de' Medici, from
the tone of which it should seem that, although in the suite of his
sovereign, his real business at Venice was to act as spy for Lorenzo.
This good Archdeacon tells his correspondent that it cannot be denied
that the Signory have treated the Count in the most distinguished
manner, that any prince was ever treated by them in the memory of
man. He relates how forty noble citizens were sent to meet him at
Malamocco; how the Senators themselves, with the Doge on board the
Bucentaur, and an hundred and fifteen noble ladies to do honour to the
Countess Catherine, came out to St. Clement in the Lagoon, two miles
from Venice, and escorted him into the city, with every possible
mark of respect and rejoicing; how the Doge received him the next
day standing at the foot of the Giant's staircase; how he had been
created "Gentilhuomo di Venezia;" and how the Senate had assembled and
proceeded in his presence to transact certain business, in order that
he might see their mode of procedure. Notwithstanding all which, adds
this traitor Archdeacon, and clever spy, "I am certain that this visit
has produced no fruit, which need give umbrage to your Lordship, or our
other friends. Nor am I by any means sorry that it has taken place;
as I know, that despite all this show of respect, the Count has seen
here certain things, which have been discouraging to him rather than

And, indeed, the experience of his brother the Cardinal's visit
to Venice, and its results, ought to have been sufficient to warn
Girolamo, that the grave Senators of the Republic were not unwont to
laugh in their sleeves, while fooling vain young courtiers to the top
of their bent with all sorts of external honours and gala-making, and
sending them away wholly unsped, as regarded the substantial objects of
their mission. How far Count Girolamo, and Catherine on whose counsel,
we are told, he relied much on occasion of this visit to Venice,
having taken her thither for the express purpose of availing himself
of it, were contented with the result of their negotiations, we have
no means of knowing, though Burriel undertakes to say, that he was
highly dissatisfied. But it will be seen in the sequel, that Lorenzo's
correspondent, the Archdeacon, had found the means of arriving at a
very correct opinion of the real intentions of the Venetian statesmen.


The Count and Countess reached Imola on their return on the 23rd of
September, and remained there till the 9th of October. While still
busy there, according to the historians, in making various provisions
for the amelioration of their territories and the benefit of their
subjects, they received news from Forlì of the discovery of a dangerous
conspiracy for the purpose of restoring the dynasty of the Ordelaffi.
The conspirators proposed to assassinate Girolamo on his journey from
Imola to Forlì; and then with the help of the Lord of Faenza, who was
an uncle of the banished Ordelaffi, of the Lord of Bologna, and above
all of Lorenzo de' Medici, who had by no means forgotten the ill turn
he owed the Riarii, to secure the city for its ancient masters.

It is upon the occasion of this conspiracy that we learn, for the
first time, from the reluctant admission of the historians, that two
others having the same object had already been crushed by the vigilance
of Francesco Tolentino, governor of Forlì, in the course of the year
1480, before the new sovereign had yet visited his principality. On
both these occasions the clergy implicated in them had been exiled
for a while, and the laymen hung in the orthodox manner.[100] And now
the turbulent artisans of Forlì are trying again the same desperate
game. The only consolation to the feelings of the injured sovereigns,
was to be found in the fact, says Burriel, that no noble was engaged
in the affair. Happily our vigilant Tolentino has the leaders of the
conspiracy safe in the fort of Ravaldino before any mischief is done,
beyond the painful effect of so much ingratitude on the feelings of the
gracious sovereigns.

The historians are diffuse in indignant moralising on this
"ingratitude," and perverseness. It seems true, indeed, that Girolamo
and Catherine showed themselves inclined to govern according to
the best extant lights of state-craft. But these writers omit to
remember, that the Riarii were usurpers; and that the ousted family,
and old familiar name, with its three centuries of history clinging
round it, now represented by two young men, known to the Forlì
artisans only by their unmerited misfortunes, were sure in absence
and exile to be remembered with affection, and associated with a
thousand "good-old-times" recollections, more potent over the minds
of ignorantly patriotic burghers, than modern fiscal reforms. The
Ordelaffi pretenders have no biographers except their enemies; and
we must trust therefore to our imaginations for their view of these
recurring conspiracies.

The Count and Countess hastened to Forlì on hearing these tidings from
Tolentino. All danger was however over; and Girolamo with magnanimous
clemency—much praised by his biographer—gave orders that no vengeance
should be inflicted ... till after he had left Forlì.

This he immediately did, starting for Rome with Catherine on the 14th
of October. And ten days afterwards, the good people of Forlì received
the necessary lesson from the sight of four corpses dangling from as
many windows of the _Palazzo Pubblico_.

The second residence in Rome, which followed this return in October,
1481, was characterised by events of a very different kind from those
which had imparted so festive a character to those first four years.
In the early days of his Papacy, the efforts of Sixtus to turn his
elevation to account in the only manner in which it was valuable
to him, had been crowned with success by the establishment of his
son—or nephew—as prince of the third-rate states of Forlì and Imola.
The bolder attempt, which followed, to acquire for him the dominion
of Florence at the expense of so much black and odious guilt had, as
has been seen, not only failed, but had entailed on Italy two years
of war. And now the same undying ambition and insatiable avarice was
driving him into the still greater misfortunes, which resulted from his
endeavours to appropriate the dukedom of Ferrara.

[Sidenote: ITALIAN POLITICS IN 1481.]

Though much discontented with Girolamo's failure in the object of his
visit to Venice, in as much as the Signory, while giving him abundance
of fair words, had steadily evaded any engagement as to relinquishing
their pretentions to Ferrara, when its Duke should be driven out by
their joint forces, Sixtus, nevertheless, determined on continuing his
alliance with them, in the hope that, when the prey was hunted down,
he might find the means of appropriating it to himself. The Venetian
Senators were doubtless guided in their secret counsels by similar

Every effort was at first made at Rome to conceal the existence of such
an understanding; and the Pope was in public loud in his abuse of the
Republic. But Ferdinand, the crafty and cautious old King of Naples,
was not to be taken in by any such means. And the first consequence of
the Pope's policy was the necessity of sending troops with Girolamo at
their head to the Neapolitan frontier to oppose the hostile movements
of the Neapolitans, who, under the command of Alfonzo, the King's
son, threatened to force their way through the Roman states, for the
purpose of going to the assistance of the Duke of Ferrara. Most of the
other states of Italy, as usual, joined in the quarrel; the greater
potentates for the protection of their own, or the hope of acquiring
new dominions; and the lesser, as usual, in the capacity of mercenaries
and "condottieri" captains. Thus all Italy was in a state of war and

In order to meet Alfonzo with as powerful a force as possible, Girolamo
sent to his trusty governor, Tolentino, to come from Forlì, and bring
with him as strong a band of Forlivesi as he could raise. The Bishop
Magnani was appointed governor in his absence.[101] But his reverence,
frightened at the remembrance of former conspiracies, and seeing
ground of suspicion in everything, so used his authority, imprisoning,
confiscating, and racking the lieges, even to death, right and left,
that the commander of the fortress, after fruitlessly remonstrating
with the bishop, wrote to Girolamo, that if he wished to preserve
his position in Forlì, he must lose no time in putting a stop to the
proceedings of his churchman governor. So Tolentino had to be sent back
in a hurry.

At length, on the 21st of August, 1482, Girolamo at the head of the
Papal troops, and the celebrated "condottiere," Robert Malatesta,
at the head of the Venetians, gave battle to the Neapolitans near
Velletri, and won a victory over them. The success, such as it was,
produced no very important or decisive consequences; but of course
the utmost was made of it at Rome. Girolamo marched into the city in
triumph, and prisoners and standards were paraded and presented to his
lady Countess, who must have felt, thinks Burriel, that this was the
happiest day in her life. It may well be doubted, however, whether
Catherine felt much happiness on the occasion, though she no doubt
played her sovereign part before the public eye as well on that day as
on so many others. She had little cause for happiness. Things were not
looking well for her and hers in those days. News had recently been
received of the siege of Forlì by some of the allies of the Duke of
Ferrara; and though the attack had been beaten off, mischief had been
done: there was expense to be incurred, and future danger to be feared.


Rome itself, moreover, was by no means a place to be happy in during
these latter years of Sixtus IV.'s Papacy. The scarcity of all
necessaries was extreme, the distress very great, and the discontent
threatening. A large portion of the Papal force, however much needed
in the field, was obliged to be retained in Rome for fear of a rising
of the people. Wine was hardly to be procured. Many taverns were shut
up, from absolute impossibility of obtaining food and drink to offer
their customers.[102] Grain was at an unprecedented price; and the
bakers were compelled, under pain of fine and imprisonment, to purchase
their supplies at granaries established by the Pope, for the storing
of inferior corn imported by him at a low price from Naples, and
sold at an enormous profit. And the bread made from this grain, says
Infessura,[103] "was black, stinking, and abominable, eaten only from
necessity, and the cause of much disease."

Another misfortune was the death of the great soldier Robert Malatesta,
who survived his Velletri victory only fifteen days. He died in Rome,
in all probability of fever caused by his exertions in the battle.
But public rumour, as usual, spoke of poison, and attributed his death
to Girolamo's jealousy of his share in the command of the forces. Such
accusations are of interest only as indicative of the motives which the
public mind of the time deemed with probability attributable to its
great men, and of the deeds which were considered likely to have been

He was buried in the church of St. Peter with all honour, "with
sixty-four torches and many banners and many standards, of which one
bore his arms and this motto: '_Veni, vidi, vici; victoriam Sixto
dedi; Mors invidit gloriæ_;' and a catafalque as if he had been a
pope."[104] The more mordant contemporary diarist, Infessura, in
recording these funeral honours, writes that once upon a time Siena
having been liberated from the Florentines by some great captain, the
Sienese were at a great loss what honours and recompense to award him.
Whereupon a citizen rose and said, "Let us put him to death, and then
worship him as a saint, and so make him our perpetual protector;" which
was accordingly done. "Now, it is said—not that I altogether believe
it," honestly adds Infessura, who bitterly hated Sixtus—"that the
Pope imitated these Sienese in the matter of Malatesta's death and the
honours shown to his dead body."

Many curious indications of the strange disorder and wretched state of
Rome during these years may be gleaned from the prolix daily notices of
these laborious old diarists.

On the 23rd of January, 1483, died "the poor old Cardinal de Rohan,
who was robbed in life and robbed in death. For just before his death,
Messer Bernardo de' Massimi" (a scion of a princely house!) "broke
into his dwelling through the church of St. Apollinare, and robbed it
of thirty thousand ducats' worth of richly wrought plate, with which
he got clear off to Venice. And when the body was being carried to his
burial, the friars of St. Augustin fought with the friars of Santa
Maria Maggiore for certain gold brocade with which the corpse was
covered, and belaboured each other with the torches. And then there was
such a row that swords were drawn, and the rings that the corpse had on
its fingers and the mitre on its head were stolen."


Here is another queer little picture furnished by the same anonymous
"Notary of Nantiporto:"

One of the great Savelli family, the Signor Mariano, is a prisoner in
St. Angelo. One night, the 25th of July, 1483, the cardinal-governor
of the castle, the constable and other authorities are supping in the
garden behind the fortress; and after supper sit playing cards till
three in the morning. While they are thus engaged, Signor Mariano
contrives to escape from the prison. At four A. M., armed men
are searching all Rome for him, in vain; for he is safe out of the
city. A bad business for the convives of that pleasant supper and card
party; for that same day, Pope Sixtus, who does not like his prisoners
to escape him, goes in person and in a great passion to St. Angelo,
"and stayed there almost the whole day, and drove out the governor and
the constable and the whole of the rest of the party."

Shortly afterwards we have the following anecdote preserved for us by
Stefano Infessura:

A certain youth, one Messer Gianantonio di Parma, a deformed hunchback,
and "monster of a man," grossly ignorant besides, and of infamous
character, had paid down two hundred and fifty ducats to Count
Girolamo, and promised a thousand to the Pope for a place. So Sixtus
sends this promising youth to the Auditors of the Rota, the highest,
most learned, and most respected legal body in Rome, with orders to
admit him at once as one of their number! The members of that court
demurred; humbly pointing out that it was contrary to all law and
custom to appoint as Auditor of the Rota one not qualified by the usual
preparatory degrees and examinations. The Pope, in reply, ordered a
body of guards to march down to the court, and take all the members
prisoners. But that grave and learned body, having received notice
of what was coming, quickly broke up their sitting, and "stole off
secretly, every man to his own house, not by the direct way, but by
Trastevere, for fear of being caught and taken to prison." Hereupon
Messer Gianantonio, baulked of his place, demanded his two hundred
and fifty ducats back again from the Count. But it by no means suited
that magnanimous Prince to refund. So he angrily answered that the
money had been an unconditional gift! In which characteristic story,
it is doubtful whether the Pope's audacious attempt, in despite of all
law, decency, and reason, or the apparent ease with which the Papal
vengeance was escaped, is the more strange.

But nothing is more curiously indicative of the disjointed state of
society, and general disorder prevailing in these times, than the
frequent apparent powerlessness of rulers wielding despotic authority
to do as they would with things immediately, as it should seem, beneath
their hand. Nothing works regularly. Appointed forces abdicate their
functions; and the position of the baulked autocrat puts one in
mind of that of the old woman of the nursery rhyme: "Fire won't burn
rope,—rope won't hang man;" and the despot can't get over the small
stile that impedes the path of his wishes. The immediate instruments
of the tyrant's will, act as if he were a bad child or dangerous
madman. If his orders can be evaded, or escaped from for the day, it
is probable that the morrow may find him busy with some new freak of
power. As there is no inviolable law, there is no certain line of
demarcation between the criminal and the correct citizen. And all the
mass of society is prepared to oppose at least such inert resistance as
it can with safety, to the unreasonable will of an unrespected master.


Another curious trait of manners has been preserved by two of the
diarists so frequently cited.[105] Girolamo had besieged and driven
out the Colonnas from one of their castles in the neighbourhood of
Rome. This achievement was of course made much of in the city; and
a young painter, one Antonio, son of Giuliano, made the bombardment
the subject of a picture. All the fight was, we are told, painted to
the life with its various incidents and episodes. But in one corner
of the picture, the painter, in one of those whimsical moods so often
indulged in by the artists of that day, had represented[106] a lady in
closer conversation with a Franciscan friar than was consistent with
strict propriety. The painting was talked of; and to the poor painter's
great delight, the Pope desired to see it. Sixtus was at first much
pleased; but then observing the two figures above mentioned, he took
it into his head that the lady was intended to represent the Countess
Catherine. Whereupon, without further ado, he ordered the painter to be
put on the rack, and then hung,—his house to be sacked, and all his
and his father's substance confiscated. All of which was done, except
the hanging, for which exile was substituted, on the pretext that the
offender was little better than crazy.

The constant cause, however, of the worst and most frequent of the
disorders that then rendered Rome little better than a den of outlaws
and anarchy, was the great feud between the Colonnas and the Orsini,
in which the Pope and Girolamo warmly espoused the side of the latter.
No pretext was too flimsy, no injustice too flagrant, no violence too
lawless, for these rulers to commit, in pursuit of the utter ruin of
the hated family.

At length, on the 29th of March, 1484, there was "such work in Rome, as
I never saw the like in my day,"[107] says the Notary of Nantiporto.
All the Orsini and Girolamo Riario with them, armed themselves for a
night attack on the palaces of the Colonnas, with the especial purpose
of destroying the Protonotary Colonna, the head of that family. They,
well knowing of the intended attack, which was in no wise kept secret,
made the best preparations for defence that they could, barricading the
streets with loads of hay and beams, &c. Thus, during that whole day,
"Rome was in great trouble, and every one was in arms." Every body made
their own dwelling as secure as possible; and "I," says the Notary,
"put two carts full of stones before my door, and shored it up well
with beams, and did the same to the windows; and all night long I heard
them crying on the bridge, 'Orso! Orso! Chiesa! Chiesa!' with much
sounding of trumpets, and continual discharges of fire-arms."


The magistrates of Rome, the "Conservatori," the Senators, the
"Caporioni," and many notable citizens, went to the Pope in the midst
of the tumult, to endeavour to bring about a pacification. But the
fierce and vindictive old man would hear of no terms of submission or
reconciliation till the Protonotary should give himself up into his
hands. There was little doubt what would be the result of such a step.
But the Colonna, seeing that it was the only chance of appeasing the
storm that threatened to destroy his whole race, at length declared
that he would go to the Pope. The other members of his family, however,
would not permit him to do so; but determined that he should pass the
night in the house of the Cardinal Colonna, his kinsman.

That night, after a regular bombardment, in the course of which many
lives were lost on both sides, the houses both of the Cardinal and
the Protonotary were taken by assault, and given up to pillage. The
dwellings of many private citizens were also sacked in the tumult and
confusion. At last, the Protonotary surrendered to Virgilio Orsini,
who, together with the Count Girolamo, dragged him off to the Pope.
As for the Cardinal, "all that he possessed was given up to plunder;
his gold and silver, his robes, rich tapestry, and household goods,
even to his hat."[108] As Virgilio Orsini and Girolamo Riario took the
Protonotary through the streets, the Count made several attempts to
put an end to their prisoner with his arquebuss, but was prevented by
Orsini. "Ah! ah! traitor," screamed the Count to his enemy, "when I get
you into my hands I will hang you by the neck."

The Pope ordered him to be taken to St. Angelo; and there Girolamo did
get him into his hands. The torments to which he was subjected in those
secret thick-walled torture chambers, are described as horrible. "At
last," writes Infessura,[109] goaded by his feelings into the unwonted
eloquence of irony, "the most holy Father in Christ, our Lord and
Master, together with his accomplice, the Count Girolamo, according
to their innate and wonted clemency, mercy, and justice, which they
have ever shown, and still show, towards the faithful sons of holy
Mother Church, have given us a crowning proof of their admirable
qualities and hearts. For the medical men summoned by themselves to
the prison of the Protonotary Colonna, have declared, that the varied
and most excruciating tortures to which he has been subjected, have
made it impossible that he should live." He then proceeds to give a
detailed account, according to the report of the surgeons, of the
injuries inflicted on every part of the unfortunate man's body, which,
curious as it is in its indications of the scientific ingenuity of the
torturers, is too painful for reproduction.

But though the Colonna was dying, he did not die fast enough. On the
30th of June, therefore, the anniversary, as Infessura remarks, of the
decapitation of St. Paul by Nero, "His Holiness, our Lord and Master,
inflicted a similar fate on the Protonotary." The mutilated body was
then dressed in vile and grotesque rags in mockery of his late rank and
state, and so sent to his mother. "And I, Stefano Infessura, the writer
of this history, saw it with these eyes, and buried his body with these
hands! For no other citizen of the Colonna faction would meddle in the
matter, as I suppose, from fear."


It is to be observed therefore that our chronicler was evidently a
warm partizan of the persecuted family. But his narrative has all the
characteristics of truthfulness as to its facts. Whenever any ill-deed
of the opposite faction rests only on common report, or suspicion, he
records the accusation, but always marks it as only a report. Besides
that he is in the main perfectly corroborated by the apparently
impartial Notary of Nantiporto.

After the death of the Protonotary the Colonnas attempted by submission
to make peace with Sixtus, so as to preserve some remnant of the family
possessions. But Sixtus, though trembling on the verge of the grave
himself, would hear of no peace or reconciliation as long as there
remained anything belonging to a Colonna, which might be wrenched from
them for the enriching of a Riario.

Yet the horizon was daily growing darker around the fortunes and
long-cherished hope and aims of the rapidly declining Pontiff. Some
months previously to the events just related, he had found himself
forced to change suddenly and scandalously his policy with regard to
the Venetians. As soon as their success against the Duke of Ferrara
seemed imminent, almost all the other states of Italy became seriously
alarmed at the prospect of so great an accession of territory and power
to the great Republic already so formidable to its neighbours. They
united in urging these views on the Pope, who seems to have become
aware about the same time, that if the Venetians conquered, they would
conquer for themselves, and that in such case he would have no chance
of obtaining the coveted dukedom. He therefore suddenly united himself
with the other states in a "santissima lega," against Venice, still
intending to direct its forces also against Ferrara, and hoping thus to
win the prize he could not bring himself to relinquish.

Rarely has been seen a more striking instance of that strangely
interesting but painful spectacle of an unworthy ruling passion strong
in death, than that offered by the dying Sixtus. For what had he
prostituted to mean aims the awful powers and solemn position intrusted
to him? for what wholly disregarded every most dread responsibility;
brought scandal, disgrace, and scoffing on his great office; and made
the title of Heaven's Vicegerent a blasphemy? for what had he plunged
Italy into war, and made Rome a bandit's lair? For a name!—a name
that a few years before had been borne from father to son by unknown
fishermen, happy in their obscurity! That his "family" might be great
among the great ones of the earth!—the family of a mendicant friar and
sworn Romish priest!

This was the one passion for which Sixtus IV. lived, and sinned, and
died. Yes! died for it. For the misery of failure in his hope was the
malady that crushed him into the grave. The game was going all against
him. For as all Italy was united in the determination that Venice
should not possess Ferrara, and the Republic saw clearly that she could
never succeed in taking it in defiance of them all, there was little
obstacle to the peace Italy so much needed. But the Holy Father (!)
would hear of no peace. Each courier that brought news from the camp,
which indicated the probability of such a solution, inflicted a blow
that prostrated him. He was seen by the few who had access to him,
plunged in deep melancholy, and totally unable to rally his failing

[Sidenote: THE POPE'S DEATH.]

At length came envoys with the news that peace was made;—made without
consent, intervention, or stipulation of his! The messengers with
decorously malicious hypocrisy, pretended to think that they were
the bearers of acceptable tidings,—enlarged on the blessings thus
secured to Italy, which must be so consolatory to the paternal heart
of the father of the faithful, and congratulated him on the prospect
of durable repose opened to the bleeding country. Every word was a
rankling stab to the heart of the despairing but still implacable
Pontiff. Willingly would he have clutched with those shaking hands,
which he was compelled to raise in hypocritical benediction, the
throats of these babblers of peace and reconciliation. But the blow was
fatal to the sinking old man. Ferrara and its fair dukedom would never
now belong to kith or kin of his. So Sixtus turned his face to the wall
and died.[110]


 The Family is founded.—But finds it very difficult to stand on its
 Foundations.—Life in Rome during an Interregnum.—Magnificent Prince
 short of Cash.—Our Heroine's Claims to that Title.—A Night Ride to
 Forlì, and its Results.—An Accident to which splendid Princes are

Yet, to a certain extent, Sixtus had done his work and attained the
desire of his heart. The "family" _was_ founded, though not with
all the splendour and all the guarantees for durability which he so
ardently wished. The poor Franciscan monk's long studious vigils in
his lonely cell, unquenchable ambition, hard upward struggle, patient
self-denial in the acquirement of the reputation that was to be his
ladder, and audacious spurning of that ladder when the height was
won, had obtained the desired reward. The name of Riario was written
among those of the princes of Italy. And all those deep theological
readings, so well and earnestly pursued as to have made this poor friar
the "greatest theologian of the day," "profound casuist," confessor,
doctor, general of all Franciscans, and finally, apostolically chosen
head of all Christ's Church, never led him to doubt the adequacy of
such reward in return for a soul smirched, and moral nature degraded!
Well! we must not attempt to weigh in our nineteenth-century atmosphere
the deeds done, and still less, the thoughts conceived in the grosser
fifteenth-century air, or presume to judge even a pernicious Pope. But
for his "theology," his science of God.... I think that there are some
materials here for forming a judgment of that.


The "noble" family had got founded. From base-born father and base-born
mother, very unexceptionably legitimate and "noble," princes had been
born by due application of properly paid sacerdotal rites at proper
times and seasons. Strange to think of! And now the business in hand
was only to keep what had been gained, to "defend our legitimate
position, and the birthright of our children." And that holding our own
without an apostolic uncle, may be more difficult than was the making
it our own with that assistance.

In truth, the difference between the position of Girolamo and his wife,
as long as the breath of life lingered in the nostrils of the terrible
old man, and that which it became the instant that breath had departed
was tremendous. The fall was a stunning one.

But Catherine was not stunned. Though alone in Rome at that critical
moment—for Girolamo was with the troops engaged in driving the
Colonnas out of their fastnesses in the neighbourhood of the city—she
showed herself, on this her first meeting with difficulty and danger,
as promptly energetic and as equal to the emergency as she did on many
a subsequent not less trying occasion. Anticipating the more tardy
action of the Sacred College, now the only existing authority in Rome,
she threw herself into the Castle of St. Angelo, and taking possession
of it in the name of her husband, as Commander of the Forces, found
there a safe asylum for herself and children, during the first outburst
of anarchy that followed the Pontiff's death.

The step was by no means a stronger one than the necessities of the
case required. When Girolamo returned to Rome on the 14th, he found his
home a ruin. The state of Rome was like that of a city given up to
pillage. The streets were filled with citizens carrying property of all
sorts hither and thither, in the endeavour to find some comparatively
safe place of stowage for it. Those who had just sacked the houses
of others were as much at a loss to preserve their plunder as the
more legitimate owners were to save their property. All who were in
any wise connected with the Riarii were of course more especially
exposed to danger. The large magazines belonging to a certain Giovanni
Battista Pallavicini, a brother-in-law of Count Girolamo, which had
for several years escaped, by fraudulent connivance, from all visits
of the tax-gatherer, were utterly gutted. The mob found in them, we
are specially told,[111] all the wax intended for the obsequies of the
Pontiff, a large quantity of alum, and much quicksilver. The Genoese
merchants, of whom there were many at Rome, were particularly obnoxious
to the mob, as countrymen of the deceased Pope. But little property of
value was found in the Count's palace. We have seen it all prudently
packed off in time to Forlì. But the mob revenged themselves for their
disappointment by almost destroying the house itself. Marble doorways
and window-cases were wrenched from the walls, and carried off. What
could not be removed was destroyed. The green-houses, and even the
trees in the gardens, were utterly devastated. One mob rushed out of
the city to a farm belonging to the Count in the neighbourhood, and
there made booty of a hundred cows, as many goats, and a great number
of pigs, asses, geese, and poultry, which belonged, says Infessura, to
the Countess. Other indications of our heroine's good house-keeping
were found in enormous stores of salt meat, round Parma cheeses, and
very large quantities of Greek wine. The huge granaries, also, from
which Sixtus had derived so unrighteous a gain, fell, of course, an
easy prey to the plunderers.

[Sidenote: LEAVES ROME.]

By the 22nd of August the Sacred College had succeeded in some degree
in restoring Rome to a condition of not more than usual disorder. On
that day Girolamo formally undertook to give up into the hands of the
Cardinals, the castle and all the fortresses of the Church—but not
till they had consented to discharge his little bill of 4000 ducats for
arrears of pay as General of the forces.

It would seem, however, as if his active and energetic partner had
conceived at the last moment some idea of maintaining her position in
St. Angelo contrary to her husband's undertaking—probably until the
result of the coming election should be ascertained. For the College
was informed, that during the night between the 24th and the 25th,
which had been fixed for the handing over of the fortress, a hundred
and fifty armed men had been quietly marched into it. The Cardinals
were exceedingly indignant at this breach of good faith. It must be
concluded, however, that Catherine, strong-hearted as she was, did not
find herself sufficiently strong for the contest she clearly seems to
have meditated. For Infessura concludes the incident by saying that
"the Cardinals, nevertheless, took care that the Countess with all
her family, and with the said hundred and fifty men at arms, should
evacuate the Castle on the 25th," as had been stipulated.

Accordingly, on that day, she and Girolamo left Rome, and arrived at
Forlì on the 4th of September.

On the 29th, while they were still on their journey, Cardinal Cibo was
created Pope by the name of Innocent VIII.

The news of this election was most important and most welcome to the
sovereigns of Forlì; for Innocent VIII. had been most materially
assisted in his elevation by the two Riario Cardinals, one the cousin
and the other the nephew of Girolamo. Infessura lets us into quite
enough of the secrets of the Conclave which elected Innocent VIII.,
to make it clear how grossly simoniacal was their choice—an affair
of unblushing bargain and barter altogether. And it may be safely
concluded that Girolamo and his fortunes were not forgotten in the
agreement for the price of the voices of the Cardinals his kinsmen.

Accordingly, on the fourth day after their arrival at Forlì, arrived
three documents, executed in due form: the first recognising and
confirming the Count's investiture, with the principalities of Forlì
and Imola; the second continuing his appointment as General of the
Apostolic forces; and the third dispensing with the residence in Rome
which his office in usual course entailed.[112]

Notwithstanding these great points gained, the position of Girolamo
and Catherine was a difficult one, and very different indeed from what
it had been at the period of their last arrival in their capital. On
this occasion we hear nothing of festal processions and olive branches,
of balls, tournaments, or speechifications. The Forlivesi, doubtless,
already appreciated by anticipation the great difference, soon to be
more vividly brought home to them, between belonging to an enormously
wealthy Papal favourite, who had the means of freely spending among
them a portion of the immense revenues derived from sources which in
no way wrung _their_ withers, and being the subjects of a needy prince,
who expected to draw from them the principal part of his income.


Besides, the abortive attempts to increase his possessions, which had
formed the leading object of his life for the last eight years, had
most materially contributed to increase the difficulties of holding
what he _had_ acquired under his present changed circumstances. Lorenzo
de' Medici, at Florence, whom he had failed to assassinate, Hercules
d'Este, at Ferrara, whom he had failed to drive from his dukedom by
force, and the Venetians whom Sixtus had suddenly jilted the year
before to ally himself with their enemies, and had then excommunicated,
were none of them likely to be very cordial or safe neighbours, and
were not unlikely to lend a favourable ear, and, under the rose, a
helping hand to those persevering Ordelaffi youths, who were always in
search of some such means of recovering the heritage of their ancestors.

Thus the four years following the death of Sixtus were little else
for Girolamo and Catherine, than a period of continually increasing
difficulty and struggle. To the sources of trouble indicated above
Girolamo soon added by his imprudence another, which in the sequel
led to consequences still more fatal. At the time of the Pope's death
he had, as may easily be imagined from some little indications we
have had of his theory and practice of administration of the Papal
affairs, a very considerable sum of ready money in his hands. But for
the last thirteen years of his life his command of resources had been
practically almost unlimited; and he was wholly unused to the necessity
of abstaining from what he wished on account of considerations of
cost. He was a man of magnificent and expensive tastes; and like his
apostolic kinsman, had especially that, most fatal to the pocket, of
building. At the same time, the extremely distressed state of the
people of his principalities at the period of his second arrival among
them from Rome, arising from the war and the consequently neglected
state of industry and agriculture, made it absolutely necessary to do
something for their relief. Girolamo remitted the tax on meat; and at
the same time launched out into great and costly building enterprises.

Besides enlarging and beautifying their own residence, and raising the
fine vaulting of the cathedral, which still remains to testify to the
skill of the builders and the ungrudging orders of their employers,
the Count and Countess completed the fortress of Ravaldino[113]
on a greatly increased scale of magnificence and cost. It was now
made capable of accommodating 2000 men-at-arms, besides containing
magnificent apartments for their own dwelling in case of need, immense
storehouses of all sorts, and last, though very far from least in
importance, ample prisons. Then, again, there were certain ugly Pazzi
and Colonna reminiscences, which made it only common prudence to
invest a considerable sum in building a convent or two, considering,
as our modern insurance offices remind us, the uncertainty of life. So
a Franciscan cloister, and a nunnery of Santa Maria were built "con
incredible spesa," says Burriel. The former tumbled down when just
finished, and had to be built a second time. Let us hope, that the
catastrophe was not due to any unhandsome attempt at palming off cheap
work on "the recording angel."


All these various sources of expenditure in a short time reduced the
Count from being a rich man, to the condition of a poor and embarrassed
one. This led him to the re-imposition of the taxes he had taken off.
And the latter step led to the very unpleasant results indeed, which
the sequel of the present chapter has to tell.

In the meantime Catherine presented her husband with three other sons.
Her fourth child, and third son, was born on the 30th of October, 1484,
and named Giorgio Livio. A fourth was born on the 18th of December,
1485; and a fifth on the 17th of August, 1487. The second of these
was christened Galeazzo, after Catherine's father; and it is worth
noticing, that one of the child's sponsors at the baptismal font was
the envoy sent to the court of Forlì by Lorenzo de' Medici. Now, we
have abundant evidence that the feelings of Lorenzo were anything but
friendly to Girolamo, as indeed it was hardly to be expected that
they could have been. And this public friend-like manifestation is an
instance of a kind constantly recurring in Italian history, of the mode
in which the "_viso sciolto, pensieri stretti_" wisdom was carried into
practice, that is far less pleasing to trans-Alpine barbarians than to
the Macchiavelli and Guicciardini schooled statesmen of Italy.

From this Galeazzo descend, it may be noted, the present family of the

Catherine's sixth child was christened Francesco Sforza, and was
generally known by the familiar diminutive Sforzino.

There would be neither instruction nor amusement to be got from reading
page after page filled with detailed accounts of the various occasions
on which the chronic state of conspiracy against the Riarii burst out
ever and anon into overt acts, during these years. Correspondence was
well known to be actively kept up by the Ordelaffi with their friends
within the city; and every now and then some butter woman, or friar,
or countryman driving a pig into market, was caught with letters in
his possession, and had to be hung. Then would occur attempts at
insurrection, which occasioned fines and banishment, and beheading and
hanging upon a larger scale. And the historians adverse to the Riarii
assert that he hung and beheaded too much, and could expect no love
from subjects thus treated; while the writers of opposite sympathies
maintain, that he hung and beheaded so mildly and moderately, that the
Forlìvesi were monsters of ingratitude not to love and honour so good a

Thus matters go on, perceptibly getting from bad to worse. Cash
runs very low in the princely coffers, and the meat tax has to be
re-imposed, occasioning a degree of discontent and disaffection
altogether disproportioned to the gratitude obtained by its previous
repeal. Unceasing vigilance has to be practised, stimulated by the
princely but uncomfortable feeling, that every man approaching is as
likely as not to be intent on murdering you. Girolamo and his Countess,
one or other, or both, have to rush from Forlì to Imola, and from Imola
to Forlì, at a moment's notice, for the prompt stamping out of some
dangerous spark of tumult or insurrection.

[Sidenote: A HARD LIFE.]

In a word, this business of great family-founding on another man's
foundations seems to have entailed a sufficiently hard life on those
engaged in it. And though that "last infirmity of noble (?) minds,"
which prompts so much ignoble feeling, and engenders so many ignoble
actions, vexing as it did their prince, vexed also the cultivators of
the rich alluvial fields around Forlì by corn taxes, salt taxes, meat
taxes, and other "redevances," yet on the whole it may be well supposed
that "fallentis semita vitæ" at the plough tail had the best of it,
despite occasional danger from the summary justice of the _Castellano_
of Ravaldino. That black care, which rode so inseparably and so hard
behind the harassed prince backwards and forwards between Forlì and
Imola, did more than keep the balance even between hempen jerkin and
damasqued coat of mail; and the least enviable man in Forlì and its
county was in all probability the founder of the greatness of the

One consolation, however, this hard-worked prince had in all his
troubles, and that perhaps the greatest that a man can have. His wife
was in every way truly a help meet for him. Catherine was the very
_belle idéale_ of a sovereign châtelaine in that stormy fifteenth
century. Her aims and ambitions were those of her husband; and she
was ever ready in sunshine or in storm to take her full share of the
burden of the day; and, indeed, in time of trouble and danger, far
more than what was even then deemed a woman's share in meeting and
overcoming them. Dark to all those higher and nobler views of human
morals and human conduct which have since been slowly emerging, and are
still struggling into recognition, as we must suppose that vigorous
intelligence and strong-willed heart to have been, nourished as it
was only on such teaching, direct and indirect, as "ages of faith"
could supply, still Catherine had that in her, which, if it may fail
to conciliate our love, must yet command our respect, even in the
nineteenth century. From what she deemed to be her duty, as far as we
can discern, this strong, proud, energetic, courageous, masterful woman
never shrank. And it led her on many a trying occasion into by no means
rose-strewed paths. Her duty, as she understood it, was by all means
of all sorts,—by subtle counsel when craft was needed, by lavished
smiles where smiles were current, by fastuous magnificence where
magnificence could impose, by energetic action when the crisis required
it, by gracious condescension when that might avail, by high-handed
right-royal domineering when such was more efficacious, by fearlessly
meeting peril and resolutely labouring, to aid and abet her husband
in taking and holding a place among the sovereign princes of Italy,
and to preserve the same, when she was left to do so single-handed for
her children. And this duty Catherine performed with a high heart, a
strong hand, and an indomitable will, throwing herself wholly into
the turbulent objective life before her, and perfectly unmolested
by any subjective examination of the nature of the passions which
conveniently enough seemed to range themselves on the side of duty,
or doubt-begetting speculations as to the veritable value of the aims
before her and the quality of the means needed for the attainment of

In March, 1487, Catherine went to visit her relations and connections
at Milan, leaving her husband at Imola; but had been there a very
few weeks when she was hurriedly summoned to return. Girolamo had
been seized with sudden and alarming illness at Imola.[114] Catherine
reached his bedside on the 31st of May, and found him given over by his
medical attendants. She judged, however, that he had not been properly
treated, and lost no time in obtaining the best medical advice in
Italy, we are told,—from Milan, Ferrara, and Bologna. She also nursed
him indefatigably herself, and had the gratification of seeing him
slowly recover.


While he was still unable to leave his chamber alarming news arrived
from Forlì. The faithful Tolentino had died some time previously, and
one Melchior Zocchejo, of Savona, had been appointed _Castellano_
of Ravaldino. This man is described[115] as having been previously
a corsair, and as being a most ferocious and brutal man, worthless,
moreover, in all respects. The seneschal of the palace at Forlì at this
time was a certain Innocenzio Codronchi, an old and faithful adherent
of the Riarii. He had made a sort of intimacy with Zocchejo, as a
brother chess-player, and used to go into the fortress frequently to
play with him, for the duties of the _Castellano_ did not permit him
ever to leave the fort for an hour. This same impossibility made, it
seems, an excuse for the seneschal to offer to send a dinner into the
fort, since he could return the governor's hospitality in no other way.
Introducing thus several bravoes in the guise of servants, Codronchi
suddenly poinarded Zocchejo at table, and with the assistance of his
men seized the fort.

It was supposed at once in Forlì, that, old retainer of the family
as Codronchi was, he had been gained by the Ordelaffi; and that the
fortress, and in all probability the city also, was consequently lost.
The consternation was great; and a messenger, despatched in all haste
to Imola, reached the sick room of the Count late at night with these
alarming tidings. He was still too far from well to leave his room.
Catherine was expecting her fifth confinement every day. Still the
matter was too urgent to be neglected. She at once got into the saddle;
and by midnight that night was before the gate of Fort Ravaldino in
Forlì, summoning Codronchi to give an account of his conduct.

"Dearest lady," replied the seneschal,[116] appearing on the
battlements, and speaking thence to his mistress below, "the fortress
should not have been entrusted to the hands of such a man as the
governor, a worthless drunkard. To-night I can say no more than this.
Go, I entreat, and seek repose, and to-morrow return here to breakfast
with us in the fort."

Old servants, it must be supposed, occasionally take strange liberties
in all climes and ages; but certainly this address does, under the
circumstances of the case, seem one of the strangest.

Catherine, with one attendant before the closed gates of her castle
at midnight, had nothing for it but to do as this audacious seneschal
advised her. The next morning she went according to invitation,
carrying with her, we are told, the materials for an excellent
breakfast. But on reaching again the still closely barred gates of
Ravaldino, the lady was told from the battlements, that she herself,
and the breakfast, with one servant to carry it would be admitted,
but no more. If matters looked bad before, this insolent proposition
certainly gave them a much worse appearance; and made it very necessary
for the Countess to reflect well before acceding to it. If indeed
the seneschal had been bought by the Ordelaffi, his conduct was
intelligible enough, and her fate would be sealed if she trusted
herself within the fortress. It might be, however, that Codronchi,
alarmed at the daring step he had taken, was only thinking of providing
for the immediate safety of his own neck from the first burst of his
mistress's wrath, when he refused to admit any followers with her.
Again, it might be that he was wavering in his allegiance, and might
yet be confirmed in it.

[Sidenote: A BOLD STEP.]

Catherine, after a few minutes of reflection, decided in opposition to
the strongly urged advice of her counsellors in the city, on accepting
the man's terms; and she and the breakfast and one groom passed into
the fortress. All Forlì was, meanwhile, on the tip-toe of anxious
expectation for the result. Of what passed at this odd breakfast, we
have no means of knowing anything, inasmuch as the citizens of Forlì,
including the writers who have chronicled the strange story, remained
then and ever after in perfect ignorance on the subject. Catherine, we
are told, shortly came forth, and summoning to her one Tommaso Feo, a
trusted friend of her own, returned with him into the fortress. And
Codronchi immediately gave over the command of it into his hands; which
done, he and Catherine, leaving Feo as _Castellano_, came away together
to the Palazzo Pubblico of Forlì, where a great crowd of the citizens
were waiting to hear the result of these extraordinary events.

The Countess, however, spoke "only a few mysterious words" to the
crowd. "Know, my men of Forlì," said she, "that Ravaldino was lost
to me and to the city by the means of this Innocenzio here; but I
have recovered it; and have left it in right trusty hands." And the
seneschal voluntarily confirmed what the lady said, remarking that it
was true enough! Whereupon this self-confessed traitor and the Countess
mounted their horses, and rode away to Imola together, apparently in
perfect understanding with each other! "And the next morning, two hours
after sunrise, Catherine gave birth, without any untoward accident
whatever, to a fine healthy boy."[117]

The whole of which queer story, reading as it does, more like a sort of
Puss-in-boots nursery tale than a bit of real matter-of-fact history,
gives us a very curious peep at the sort of duties and risks these
little sovereigns of a city and its territory had to meet, and the
sort of footing on which they often were obliged to stand with their

This night-ride to Forlì, too, may under all the circumstances of the
case be cited in justification of the assertion, that our dashing,
vigorous, little scrupulous heroine, had some stuff of fine quality in
her after all. And it was on the eve of being yet more severely tried.

Girolamo had recovered and returned with Catherine to Forlì. Being
hardly pressed for money, he had farmed out the much-hated meat-tax
to one Checco, of the Orsi family, to whom he appears to have owed
considerable arrears of pay for military service. Checco d'Orsi wanted,
not unreasonably, to stop the arrears due to him out of the sum
coming to the Prince from the tax. But this did not suit the Prince's
calculations, and he threatened the noble Orsi with imprisonment.

[Sidenote: MURTHER!]

Yet, notwithstanding these sources of ill-feeling, the Count seems
to have received him courteously, when on the evening of the 14th
of April, 1488, he presented himself at the Prince's usual hour of
granting audiences. It was after supper, and Catherine had retired to
"her secret bower," a point of much importance to Checco d'Orsi and
his friends. Entering the palace they made sure that the business in
hand should not be interrupted by interference of hers, by placing a
couple of their number at the foot of the turret stair which led to
her private apartments. The others passing on to the great hall,—Sala
dei Ninfi,—they found Girolamo leaning with one elbow on the sill of
the great window looking on to the Piazza Grande, and talking with his
Chancellor.[118] There was one servant also in the further part of the

"How goes it, Checco mio?" said he, putting out his hand kindly.

"That way goes it!" replied his murderer, stabbing him mortally as he
uttered the words.

So Catherine became a widow with six children, at twenty-six years of


 Catherine in trouble.—"Libertà e Chiesà!" in Forlì.—The Cardinal
 Savelli.—The Countess and her Castellano perform a comedy before the
 lieges.—A veteran revolutionist.—No help coming from Rome.—Cardinal
 Legate in an awkward position.—All over with the Orsi.—Their
 last night in Forlì.—Catherine herself again.—Retribution.—An
 octogenarian conspirator's last day.

The corpse of the murdered man lay tranquilly on the pavement of that
vast "Hall of the Nymphs," surrounded by the hangings of arras, and
sideboards of plate "ten feet high," the produce of many a deed of
rapine, oppression, and wrong; tranquilly and free, for some five
minutes past now, from troublous thoughts of meat-taxes, empty coffers,
Ordelaffi conspiracies, and revolutions, for the first time these
four years! It lay near the great window, and the thick blood flowed
slowly over the painted brick floor, making a dark stain, which Forlì
tradition could still point out to curious strangers towards the end of
the last century. The affrighted servant, who it seems was one Ludovico
Ercolani, a butler, long in the service of the Riarii, had run from
the hall, to carry the terrible tidings to the distant chamber of the
Countess. And for a few short minutes the murderers, Checco d'Orsi and
his accomplices, Giacomo Ronchi and Ludovico Pansecco, stood alone over
their victim, with pallid faces and starting eyeballs, taking rapid
counsel as to what was next to be done.[119]


This ruffian Pansecco, one of the historians quietly remarks, had been
employed by the Count on occasion of the Pazzi murders.

Those moments were anxious ones to the doers of the desperate deed, for
all depended on the feeling, with which the populace might at the first
blush regard it. Their anxiety was not of long duration, however. From
the open window the three assassins cried to the people in the Piazza
"Liberty! Liberty! The tyrant is dead! Forlì is its own mistress!" It
was the evening hour at which every Italian, then as now, is out of
doors enjoying the fresh air, and chatting with neighbours, sitting in
groups in front of the druggists' shops—(a curiously universal and
time-honoured habit in the provincial cities of Italy), or walking to
and fro in the principal square; and the news, therefore, ran through
the city with the quickness of lightning. In an instant the Piazza was
crowded with citizens, crying, "An Orso! an Orso! Liberty! Liberty!"
and the conspirators were safe—for the present.

The palace guard lost no time in providing for their own safety, by
separating and mingling with the people. Ludovico d'Orsi, Checco's
brother, a doctor of law and whilome senator at Rome, who had been
guarding the stair leading to Catherine's apartments, went out into
the Piazza to excite and direct the mob. But the Chancellor, who had
been with the Count at the time of the murder, had meanwhile reached
Catherine's room by another passage. Her younger children and their
nurses, and a young sister of hers, named Stella, whom she was about to
marry advantageously to a certain Andrea Ricci, were with her. And the
confusion in that room, full of women and children, on the abrupt and
breathless telling of such news may be easily imagined. But Catherine,
with infinite promptitude of thought, ordered Ludovico to hasten,
without losing a moment by lingering with them, to the castle; and to
tell Feo, the governor, from her, to send off instant couriers to her
brother, the Duke, at Milan, and to her husband's friend and ally,
Bentivoglio, Lord of Bologna.

Catherine, and the women with her, barred the door behind him as
best they might with heavy furniture and so forth. But he had hardly
had time to get clear of the palace before Checco with half-a-dozen
ruffians were thundering at the Countess's room, and in a very few
minutes had forced an entrance. The chroniclers have noted that Orsi
could not bring himself at that moment to face Catherine. He remained
at the door, while the men he had brought with him made the women
understand that they must come with them.

And thus the family of the murdered sovereign were marched through the
crowded streets of the city to the Orsi palace, and there locked up as

That done, the conspirators hastily called together the leading men in
the city, to decide on the steps to be taken for the government of it
henceforth. For the Orsi, wealthy, numerous, influential, and violent
as they were, had no hope of being permitted to make themselves lords
of Forlì. They proposed, therefore, the step which promised the next
best chances for their own greatness and power,—to lay Forlì at the
feet of the Pontiff. This was frequently a measure adopted in those
days in similar circumstances. The crime committed would be thus wiped
out; the family of the murdered prince, and the neighbouring princes,
who might be disposed to profit by the occasion, would be kept at
bay; and, since the Church could only hold and govern and tax distant
dependencies by means of governors and lieutenants, who so likely to
step into such profitable places, as the powerful citizen who had
gained the new state for the Holy Father?


The frightened council at once assented to the proposal, and sent off
that same night messengers to the Cardinal Savelli, who was residing
as governor for the Church at Cesena, a city about twelve miles to the
south of Forlì.

Meanwhile some of the partisans of the Orsi had thrown the body of
Girolamo from the window into the Piazza; and while the citizens were
busied in displaying everywhere the papal flag, amid cries of "Chiesà!
Chiesà!" the mob having torn every rag of clothing from the corpse,
dragged it through the streets of the city, till certain friars took it
from them, and placed it in the sacristy of their church.

The Cardinal Savelli did not at all like the proposal made to him; and
lost some important time, before, "being unwilling to have it said that
the Church had lost a chance through his cowardice," he at last made
up his mind to accept it. On arriving at Forlì, his first step was to
visit Catherine in the Orsi Palace. An historical novelist would have
little difficulty, and better historical warranty than often suffices
for such purposes, in presenting his readers with a sufficiently
striking and picturesque account of that interview. Catherine, the
historians tell us, was, as we might expect from our knowledge of
her, haughty, unbroken, and unbending; the Cardinal, as we might also
expect from our knowledge of his kind, smooth-tongued, courteous, full
of regrets and talk about his sacred duty to Holy Mother Church. This
is all history tells us. But it is enough. The imagination has no
difficulty in filling up the sketch.

But at the conclusion of his courteous talking, the Cardinal intimated,
that it would be better, that the Countess and her family should for
the present find a safe shelter in a small but strong building over the
St. Peter's gateway, under the care of trusty citizens, to be named by
his Eminence. And Catherine was far from unwilling to acquiesce in the
change. For though the accommodation proposed to her was materially of
the most wretched, yet she naturally preferred any prison to the home
of her husband's murderer; and the Cardinal's hint, that the gateway
prison might be a safer asylum for her and her children than the palace
of the Orsi, was, she felt, more than a mere pretext.

That night, accordingly, the 15th of April, Catherine and her family
were marched through the city, escorted by a troop of guards, bearing
torches, from the Orsi palace to her new prison. The little procession
of prisoners consisted of twelve persons; the Countess herself, her
mother (who is now mentioned for the first time since her daughter's
birth, and who may in all probability be supposed to have become
Catherine's inmate at the time of her settling permanently in Forlì
after the death of Sixtus), her sister Stella, her six children, a
natural son of the Count, named Scipio, and two nurses. They were
received with all courtesy by the three citizens to whose keeping the
Cardinal had consigned them; but suffered much from the insufficiency
of the small room to hold them.


The next day Cardinal Savelli and the conspirators summoned Feo, the
Governor of Ravaldino, to deliver up the fortress; and on his refusal,
they brought Catherine from her prison to the foot of the walls,
and there compelled her to give her own orders _viva voce_ to the
_Castellano_ to do so. On his showing himself on the ramparts, she
not only commanded, but implored him with every possible appearance
of earnestness, to save her life by delivering up the fort. In all
probability the Countess and her _Castellano_ perfectly understood each
other. In any case he knew Catherine's character, and had, moreover,
the orders which had reached him by Ercolani for his guidance. At all
events, he replied to her commands and entreaties by a steady refusal;
and the baffled conspirators had to take her back to the gate-house.

"Ah, Madame Catherine," said Giacomo Ronchi, one of three who had
murdered the Count, and who stood by her side as she parleyed with Feo,
"if you were really in earnest, he would yield. But it is you, who do
not wish him to obey your words; and it makes me long to lay you dead
where you stand with a thrust of this partizan through the body!"

This, writes Cobelli, the ballet-master historian, I heard, who was
there, listening and seeing everything in order to record it faithfully.

That night the faithful Ercolani contrived to gain admittance to
his mistress in her prison; and it was then concerted, that if, as
she anticipated, she were again taken to the fort on the morrow, to
repeat the scheme which had that day failed, she should attempt to
obtain permission to enter the fortress. To this end, Ercolani was
to communicate with Feo with the utmost secrecy, and give him the
necessary instructions for playing into Catherine's hands. He was to
seek an interview with the Cardinal also, and endeavour to persuade
him by feigning anxiety on account of the danger to Catherine from the
governor's obstinacy, that the surest means of inducing him to yield
would be to allow her to speak to him within the castle. He knew both
parties well enough, he assured his Eminence, to feel certain, that Feo
would not be able to resist his mistress, when brought face to face
with her.

The Cardinal had lately had that honour, and was inclined to think the
statement probable enough.

The following day, Catherine, as she had expected, was again taken
to the foot of the ramparts of the fortress by the conspirators,
accompanied this time by Savelli; and the _Castellano_ was again called
to parley.

The comedy of yesterday having been again performed between them, the
Cardinal demanded of the governor, whether he would obey his lady, if
she were to enter the fortress, and there give him the same orders, so
that he could have no pretext for supposing that she was acting under
constraint. To this Feo replied, that he could not say what he might do
under such circumstances, but should endeavour to act up to what should
then seem to be his duty. On her part, Catherine declared, that she was
sure she could induce him to yield, if only she could be permitted to
speak to him privately.

The Orsi and their friends were strongly against letting her out of
their hands, although she reminded them that she left her children as
hostages in their power. Cardinal Savelli, however, was for allowing
her to go in, and his counsel prevailed.

[Sidenote: WHAT WILL SHE DO?]

Catherine was permitted to enter the fortress alone, on the agreed
understanding, that, successful or not in prevailing upon the governor,
she was to come forth again in three hours.

Very exciting was the interest which kept all parties in the city on
the tip-toe of expectation during these important three hours. Both
among the well-wishers of the Countess, and among her enemies, opposite
opinions prevailed as to the probabilities of the issue. Money to a
great extent would have changed hands on the event, had the scene been
enacted among our bet-loving countrymen. The Forlìvesi passed the time
in ceaseless debate as to the course which the lady might, could,
would, or should adopt. The space before the ramparts of the castle
remained crowded with anxious groups of talking citizens during the
whole of the appointed interval. And the Orsi, and their more immediate
allies, consoled their shrewd misgivings, that their victim had escaped
them, by dark threats as to the fate of her children.

At length, the great bell on the Piazza told all Forlì that the three
hours were over. All rushed towards the castle to witness the variously
expected event. The sitting groups sprang to their feet; and a sudden
silence succeeded to the roar of a whole city's chatter, when, in
obedience to a summons from a trumpet, Feo appeared on the battlements.
And it is easy to imagine the burst of varied passions, which again
broke forth into a storm of voices, when that officer, with most
untroubled coolness, told them, that:—

"His liege lady was much fatigued by what she had gone through; that
immediately on her entry into the fort, he had counselled her to seek
repose; and that she was now, in fact, enjoying a sound sleep, from
which he could not think of disturbing her. That, as to her quitting
the fortress of Ravaldino in the present state of her city of Forlì,
he, governor of that fortress, judged it safer for her not to do so;
and, therefore, be her own intentions what they might, when she should
awake from her slumbers, he should in no wise permit her to go forth."

And so saying, the _Castellano_, calm, in the secure consciousness of
the perfect strength of his walls, retreated into their shelter.

His Eminence the Cardinal Savelli was angry enough at the dupery which
had been practised on him. But the Orsi, to whom the matter in hand was
a question of life, station, and property, were transported with fury.
Some of them hastened off to the gate-house prison, and soon returned
with Catherine's children. The imperturbable _Castellano_ was again
summoned to his ramparts, and ordered to inform the Countess[120] that
the lives of her children depended on the instant performance of her

Again he replied, that he would do nothing of the kind. As to the
children, who were there below in the hands of their father's
assassins, in mortal terror enough, poor things, and naturally urging
the governor with very earnest and sincere entreaties to give up the
fort and save their lives, he would merely advise the citizens of Forlì
to reflect a little before they suffered a hair of their heads to be
hurt. He reminded them, that these children were the nephews of the
powerful and neighbouring Duke of Milan, that the Lord of Bologna,
still nearer at hand, was their ally and connection; and told them to
ask of themselves whether, in the case of their cold-blooded murder, it
was not likely that the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah might be tolerable
compared with that, which would fall on Forlì.


The Cardinal Savelli, angry and provoked as he was, had certainly no
intention of really staining his hands with these children's blood.
The body of the citizens felt the truth of what Feo had said; and
eventually the boys and their sister were carried back to their prison
unhurt, though the Orsi and their accomplices were, says Burriel,
gnashing their teeth with baffled fury.

On the evening of that day, the 16th, while the Orsi and their friends
were at supper, and engaged in anxious discussion as to the next
steps to be taken, their father, who had retired from the city to his
country house a little before the murder of the Count, returned to
the Orsi palace. He was eighty-five years old, and in revolutionary
matters certainly might well be deemed a high authority, for this was
the seventh insurrection in which he had been engaged in Forlì. In all
the troubles, which had preceded the expulsion of the Ordelaffi, as
well as in all those which had succeeded the usurpation of the Riarii,
this turbulent old noble had always taken a leading part. Now, drawing
various examples from the treasures of his long experience, the old man
severely blamed his sons for leaving their work half done. Either they
ought to have never ventured on such a step as putting the Count to
death, or they ought to have extinguished his entire family. As it was,
he augured ill of the future, and feared that the having let Catherine
escape into a fortress perfectly impregnable by any means at their
command, would prove an irremediable and fatal error.

It was determined among them to send off messengers to Rome that night,
to lay the obedience of the city at the feet of the Pontiff, and urge
him to send immediate assistance in troops and munitions.

The 17th was occupied in hostilities, which caused much mischief and
suffering in the city, without the least advancing any solution of the
position. The Cardinal Legate brought up from Cesena all the troops he
could collect under the pontifical banner; but they had no efficient
means of attacking Ravaldino. On the other hand, Feo bombarded the
town, and left marks still pointed out centuries afterwards; and caused
many catastrophes, the subject of Forlì traditional talk for many a
year. But still nothing decisive was accomplished.

On the 18th, a herald from Bentivoglio, Prince of Bologna, arrived in
Forlì, and was received by Savelli and the heads of the revolutionary
party in the town hall. He came, he said, in the first place, to
warn the citizens on the part of his master, on pain of certain and
entire destruction of their city, to do no harm to the children of the
murdered Count; and secondly, to demand that Catherine should be placed
in liberty, and Octavian, the eldest son of Girolamo, proclaimed Count
of Forlì.

To these demands Savelli replied, that for the children there was
nothing to be feared: they were in perfect safety. As to the Countess,
she was in perfect liberty as far as the city authorities were
concerned; and all that was asked of her was to give up the citadel
and depart in peace. But as for proclaiming the late Count's heir,
sovereign of Forlì, that was wholly out of the question, even if the
city wished to do so; inasmuch as they had already declared themselves
the Pope's subjects, and had sent an embassy to Rome to lay their city
and their fealty at the feet of his Holiness. With which answer the
herald retired.


But the mere appearance of this messenger from the Lord of Bologna had
produced an effect upon several of the citizens, which must have warned
the conspirators how little they could depend upon the steadiness or
support of the people. Many began to murmur against those who, they
already surmised, might be ultimately on the losing side; and Savelli
and the Orsi had to send many suspected of adhering to the Riarii out
of the city.

Catherine's sister Stella was taken from the Gatehouse prison to the
bedside of her betrothed husband Ricci, who was laid up by wounds
he had received in the fighting that had occurred in the palace
immediately after the murder; and having been there married to him, was
permitted to depart to Cesena in company with her mother Lucretia.

During this day, too, the Orsi, becoming more and more painfully
anxious about the issue of their enterprise, sent a letter to Lorenzo
de' Medici, asking his support against the family of his old enemy. But
on the 19th, the messenger came back, bringing only a verbal answer
from Lorenzo, to the effect that he had no surviving resentment on
account of by-gone matters to gratify—that he had no inclination to
meddle in such an affair as that proposed to him; and that he hoped and
purposed to pass the remainder of his days in quiet.

On the 20th, arrived two letters from the Duke of Milan, one to
Savelli, and one to the Comunità of Forlì. In the first the Duke
expressed his astonishment that the Cardinal should have ventured
to take possession of Forlì, not merely without any commission from
his Holiness, but, as there was every reason to believe, before
any knowledge of the recent events had reached the Papal court. He
admonished his Eminence, that he was acting in open disregard of all
law and every principle of justice; and concluded by very pointedly
advising him, as he would avoid further misfortunes, to return
forthwith to his own affairs at Cesena. The letter to the Comunità
in much the same terms advised the citizens, as the only means of
confining the consequences of the late excesses to the immediate
authors of them, to send away the Cardinal, and return at once to their

Savelli began to find himself in a difficult and disagreeable position,
and resolved on taking a strong, and what would appear to our ideas
a dangerous step. Since nothing came from Rome, neither troops,
nor authority of any kind for what he had done in the Pope's name,
his Eminence determined to forge the letter so urgently needed. He
accordingly produced a bull, which he declared had just reached him
from Rome, by which his Holiness thanked the Forlìvesi for their
affection towards the Church, accepted the allegiance of the city, and
promised to send troops with speed to support them in the course they
had taken. The fraud was, however, but partially successful for the
moment; for many, we are told, doubted of the authenticity of this bull
from the first.

[Sidenote: HOPES AND FEARS.]

The next day things looked still worse for the conspirators and their
ecclesiastical patron. Two heralds from Bentivoglio, and the Duke of
Milan, rode into the great square of Forlì, and publicly before the
people demanded, in the name of the Duke of Milan, that the children
of the late Count should be immediately brought to him; announcing
further, that a strong force was then on its march, and already within
a short distance of the city. Checco d'Orsi, who received them, replied
with the utmost insolence and audacity, that the children had already
been put to death, and that Forlì feared neither Bentivoglio nor
the Duke of Milan, as the Pope's troops would be there to help them
before the Milanese could reach the city. How much of this was mere
bravado, and how much inspired by real hope of succour from Rome, it
is difficult to say. But it became clear afterwards, that Innocent
VIII., who was a very different man from the aggressive Franciscan his
predecessor, had turned a completely deaf ear to the proposals of the
Forlìvesi, and the communications of his own legate; being determined,
as it should seem, in no wise to interfere in the matter. Indeed, when
the over-zealous legate Savelli was afterwards within an inch of being
hung by Catherine for his share in the revolution, Innocent abstained
from all interference even by remonstrance in his favour.

Thus matters went on till the 29th, the Milanese and Bolognese troops
gradually drawing near to the city, and Savelli and the Orsi becoming
daily more discouraged and alarmed at the non-appearance of the
expected assistance from the Pope. Once the sentine on the top of the
tower of the Palazzo Pubblico declared, that he saw troops coming
towards the city from the southward; and the news in an instant put the
declining cause of the conspirators once again in the ascendant with
the fickle populace. The whole city was ringing with cries of "Orso!
Orso! Chiesà! Chiesà!" when it was discovered that the supposed Papal
army was a body of fifty horsemen coming to the assistance of the
Countess; and the affections of the Forlì lieges again began to lean
towards their old masters accordingly.

Meantime Savelli battered the citadel with cannon brought from Cesena
and Forlimpopoli, and Feo battered the city from his rampart, but
without much mischief being done on either side.

On the 29th, the army of the Duke of Milan and the Bolognese were
before the walls of Forlì. A duly accredited envoy from the Duke
entered the town, and had a long secret interview with Savelli.
Communications passed also between Catherine in the fortress and her
friends outside the city. The fort of Ravaldino seems during the whole
time of the rebellion to have had free means of communication, for
ingress and egress, with the open country beyond the walls of the
city; so that Catherine might at any time have escaped had she not
preferred to hold the citadel. The preservation of her dominions,
and very possibly her life, were entirely due to the possession of
this stronghold. And the incidents of this rebellion in Forlì, which
may be taken as a very perfect type of hundreds of similar events
of constant recurrence in the history of the petty principalities
and municipalities of Italy in those centuries, throw a very
sufficient light on the paramount importance attached by the rulers
of those cities to the possession of such a place of refuge, and the
proportionably vast sums they expended in erecting and maintaining
them. The great difficulty in the matter always was to find some
_Castellano_ sufficiently trustworthy for it to be safe to confide the
fortress to his keeping. The great power arising from the absolute
command of a building so strong as to be impregnable to any means of
attack that citizens could bring against it, and from which the inmates
might do much damage to the city with very little danger of suffering
any injury themselves, was so great and so tempting, that the governors
of these fortresses were rarely to be depended on. It might be almost
said, that in cases of difficulty and temptation treachery was the
rule, and fidelity to the lord the exception. And it not unfrequently
occurred, that the _Castellano_ within his walls felt himself to be
more than a match for his master and sovereign outside them: a state of
things of which some of the episodes in the history of Forlì narrated
in these pages have shown us a few symptoms.

[Sidenote: THE ORSI ARE OFF.]

By the evening of the 29th, it was sufficiently evident that it was
all up with the hopes of the insurgents in Forlì. The game was clearly
played out and lost. To make their situation still more desperate, a
great number of written papers signed by Catherine were found scattered
about the great square and streets of the town soon after dusk that
evening. These contained strong exhortations from the Countess to her
faithful subjects of Forlì, to put summarily to death all the leaders
of the conspiracy before they could escape from the city; and promises
of favour and rewards to any man whose dagger should be the means of
making an end of any one of them.

The Orsi and their associates felt that the city was rapidly becoming
too hot to hold them. That night, in hurried council, they determined
on leaving Forlì secretly, before morning.

But there was one thing,—and the incident is strikingly illustrative
of the character of the country and the epoch, and of the undying
ferocity of Italian party hatred,—one thing to be done, even before
providing for their personal safety, fearfully endangered as it was by
every hour of delay. They determined that Catherine, on coming forth
triumphant from her fortress, should find herself childless; and feel,
in the moment of consummating her success, that it was worthless to her.

The six children were still at the gate-house in the care of the three
citizens to whom Savelli had entrusted them. In the early part of
the night, therefore, Checco d'Orso, Ronchi, and Pansecchi presented
themselves at the prison, with a fictitious order from Savelli that
the children should be given up to them to be conducted to a place of
safety out of the city. Fortunately for the little ones, Capoferri
conceived suspicions of the truth of the representations made to him,
and steadily refused to give up the children, despite the urgent
persuasions and threats of Orsi. The cautious triumvirate of the
gate-house had declined to admit within their walls more than him alone
of the party at the door. Checco, therefore, on finding himself thus
baffled, made a sign from a window to his comrades outside to force
an entrance at the moment of his passing out. Ronchi, seizing an axe,
approached the door for this purpose. But a sentinel on the wall above,
observing this hostile movement, fired down upon him and a servant, who
was with him, and killed the latter. Ronchi retired from the wall, and
at the same moment Orsi came out, and the gate was safely shut behind

There remained nothing for the baulked desperadoes but to hurry, with
rage and despair in their hearts, to join the small body of relatives
and adherents, who had prepared to quit the city with them. They went
out, a party of seventeen, at two o'clock in the morning of the 30th
of April: and thus the revolution was at an end.


According to all medieval law, right, and custom, Forlì deserved to be
sacked in punishment for its rebellion; and it was not altogether easy
for Catherine to save it from the horrors of such a fate. For it might
be difficult to get rid of the troops who had come to her aid, if they
were baulked of their anticipated prey. The Countess announced to the
citizens that if she spared them this merited chastisement, she did so
solely for the sake of the women of Forlì; for the men had not deserved
mercy from her: and eventually, by prudence and caution, and permitting
only a very few of the soldiers to enter the walls, Forlì was saved
from sack.

One of the historians somewhat maliciously observes, that though he has
no doubt of Madama Caterina's merciful consideration for the women of
Forlì, still it was a fact, that all the vast quantity of plunder taken
from the palace after the murder of the Count, was scattered through
the city, and was subsequently nearly all recovered by the Countess;
whereas, if Forlì had been sacked, no fragment of all this wealth would
ever have been seen again.

And now, once again, we have pomps and processions, and complimentary
speeches, and smiles, and oaths of fealty, and gracious condescension.
The magistrates go in procession to Catherine in the fortress, with the
key of the city, and excuses, and compliments, and loud detestation of
the recent crime. And Catherine, on horseback between the generals of
the forces sent to support her, makes a triumphant entry into the city;
and there is an affecting meeting, with embracings and tears, between
the Countess and her children; and Ottaviano is proclaimed Count,
and "Madama," his mother, named regent; poor Girolamo is buried with
much pomp in Imola; every tongue has something now to tell in favour
of the lady regent:—did she not, when, surrounded by the Milanese and
Bolognese officers, she was taking formal re-possession in great state
of a fort outside the city, and when a man-at-arms rushed up to her in
the middle of the ceremony, to say with panting breath, "Madonna! all
the cellars of the Orsi are being plundered by the people! but I have
secured some of the largest butts of wine for your ladyship, and have
set a guard over them!"—did she not then and there, in the midst of
the stranger generals, graciously reply, that she preferred that the
poor people should share the wine among them, for that neither she
nor her children wished to possess anything that had belonged to the
Orsi!... and, in a word, all is sunshine once again, ... except in one
small cell of the Palazzo Pubblico, where a few of those who have made
themselves noted by their violence during the insurrection, and have
failed to escape in time from the city, are reserved for vengeance.

It is but just to Catherine's fair fame to note, that they were very
few; and further to remember, if their punishment excites our loathing,
that mercy was hardly recognised as a virtue, or known as a sentiment
in those "ages of faith." There were among them the man who had
thrown the Count's body from the window, and he who had been chiefly
prominent in dragging it through the city. There was also the veteran
revolutionist, Orsi, with his eighty-five years, long-flowing silver
locks, and noble patrician bearing. The unfortunate old man had been
left behind, when his sons and the others of the family had left the
city, probably because his great age made it impossible for him to join
in their hurried flight.

[Sidenote: VENGEANCE.]

On the 1st of May three of these prisoners were hung at the windows
of the Palazzo Pubblico, and then thrown thence into the square,
where they were literally torn to pieces, and the shocking fragments
left exposed till sunset, when they were collected and buried. The
brutalising effects of such spectacles on the entire mass of the
population is sufficiently indicated by the fact, that contemporary
public opinion considered the Countess to have used much and unusual
moderation in her dealings with such of the conspirators as fell into
her hands.

On the evening of that day an ominous decree was posted in all quarters
of the city, requiring that one able-bodied man from every family in
Forlì should attend on the morrow with pickaxe and crowbar in front of
the vast and magnificent palace of the Orsi. At daybreak on the 2nd of
May a great crowd, armed as had been ordered, were assembled. At the
same hour the venerable-looking head of the great Orsi clan was seen
coming forth from his prison on the piazza, bare-headed, with his long
silver locks glancing in the sunshine of that bright May morning, with
hands bound behind his back, and led by the hangman, holding the end
of a halter passed round the old man's neck. Thus led into the midst
of the crowd of his fellow-citizens, he was placed in front of his
ancestral home. And then the work of demolition was commenced.

"Have you well marked the spectacle, O Orso!" said the hangman to his
prisoner, when the work was done; and then led him by the halter back
to the piazza.

A cruel death awaited him there; but that which he had already endured,
was probably the bitterest part of his punishment to the old patrician.
That razing of the family mansion was infinitely more to a medieval
Italian noble, than the mere destruction of so much property; and
carried with it a bitterness of misery hardly appreciable to our less
clannish feelings, and less localised attachments. The old Italian
noble would have seen an equal amount of property destroyed at his
villa in the country, or at a residence in a foreign city, had he
possessed such, with comparative indifference. But the turreted family
"palazzo" in his native city, his fortress in time of civil broil, the
patriarchal home of several branches and generations of his race, the
manifestation and evidence of the rank and importance of his clan, was
more in his eyes than mere stone and timber. His strongest passion, his
family pride, saw in the old ancestral walls the corporeal presentment
of the family name. And the levelling of the massive building with the
soil, was the extremest ignominy an enemy could inflict, and was felt
by the doomed race as a symbol of the extinction of their name and
stock for ever.

These were the feelings in that old man's heart, when the hangman asked
if he had well observed the spectacle before him, as he led him away
to the one other scene that remained for him. In the piazza it was the
nerves of the old man's _body_ that were to be tortured.

A powerful horse was there ready prepared with a stout plank attached
to its tail. To this plank the Orso was bound in such a manner that the
feet were nearest to the horse, and the head passing beyond the length
of the board, fell back upon the stones. In this manner he was dragged
twice round the piazza; and then, though by that time nearly, if not
quite dead, his side was opened, the heart torn from the quivering
carcase, and rent to pieces before the people.


But it is probable, that all unpleasant traces of these things were
properly wiped away and removed, the next morning, when the Countess,
in procession, passed over those same flagstones, on her way to the
cathedral to "celebrate Te Deum," and do other appropriate "Divine


 An unprotected Princess.—Match-making, and its penalties.—A ladies
 man for a Castellano.—A woman's weakness.—And a woman's political
 economy.—Wanted, by the city of Forlì, a Jew; any Israelite,
 possessing sufficient capital, will find this, &c. &c.—The new
 Pope, Alexander VI.—The value of a Jubilee.—Troublous times in
 Forlì.—Alliances made, and broken.—Catherine once more a widow.

Our Catherine now found herself in exactly that position, which in
her age and country had led to so many historical tragedies, and
brought about the ruin of so many similarly situated princesses, and
the misery of the hapless people subjected to them. A beautiful widow
of six-and-twenty, holding one rich principality in her own right,
and a second still more valuable, as regent for a son only nine years
of age, was infallibly a mark for all the princely fortune-hunters,
and ambitious intriguers throughout Italy. Every degree and mode of
interference from marriage to murder was likely to be brought to bear
by greedy nobles and unprincipled brother sovereigns against one of
the weaker sex so circumstanced. But Catherine hardly deserves to be
described by such a phrase. If her sex marked her place among the
feebler portion of mankind, the virility of her character claimed a
high standing for her among the strongest of the masters of creation.
And she felt, and showed herself perfectly capable of standing alone,
and holding her own and her son's inheritance by her sole unaided
prudence and energy.

[Sidenote: JUST THE THING!]

In the early days of her widowhood a report arose that a marriage[121]
was in contemplation between the Countess of Forlì and Antonio
Ordelaffi, pretender to that principality. His brother, Francesco, was
dead, and he was now the sole representative of the old dynasty, which
had ruled Forlì for so many centuries. The report of the probability
of such a marriage arose, doubtless, from the manifest advantages
derivable from such an arrangement. It has been seen how sure a thorn
in the sides of the Riarii was the existence of this exiled but
unforgotten family; how insecure and uneasy it rendered their hold of
the principality, and how the never-ceasing intrigues and incitements
of the pretenders continually kept party jealousies and hatred alive,
and ever and anon burst into insurrectionary attempts, necessitating
constant vigilance and severe punishments, themselves the cause of
further disaffection.

All this unhappy state of things might be remedied, the unfortunate
heir of a long line of princes restored to his inheritance, and a
beautiful young widow very satisfactorily mated with a noble and not
undistinguished cavalier (for such Antonio Ordelaffi had become as a
_Condottiere_ in the service of Venice), and everything made pleasant
to all parties by this match. So thought the gossips, patrician and
plebeian, in the cities of Romagna; and, accordingly, settled the
matter to their own satisfaction, as gossips are wont to do in similar

So much appearance of authenticity had the report assumed, and so
completely had the good folk of Forlì taken for granted the truth of
it, that in order not to be found behind-hand in their preparations
for the festivities to ensue, when the great event should be announced,
many families had prepared liveries and streamers, with the united
colours of the Ordelaffi and Riarii, and staves in great numbers,
similarly painted, for carrying in processions. And it was the chance
discovery of some of these well-intended preparations, that first
revealed to the Countess the plans which her lieges of Forlì had taken
on themselves to make in her behalf.

Catherine was furious! Who had dared to speak, or to believe when
spoken, so gratuitous and detestable a calumny? What had the world,
and especially her own subjects, ever seen in her conduct to make them
think it possible that she should sacrifice the prospects of her son
to any considerations of her own tranquillity? What! she a Sforza,
unite herself to an Ordelaffi, and for fear of him! She need to seek a
protector, and find him in the vagabond heir of a house, whose weakness
and misconduct had deservedly lost them their dominion! She would show
them that her own hand was strong enough to hold the rein, ay, and the
whip as well, in her City of Forlì. And now, what fool had been guilty
of the insolent absurdity of painting these sticks with colours so
offensively chosen?

Whereupon, cringes into the presence-chamber of the angry dame, shaking
in his shoes, and with many a profound obeisance, an old acquaintance
of our own—no other than gossiping Messer Leon Cobelli, musician,
painter, ballet master, and historian! He, in his capacity of painter,
while dreaming of festivals to be arranged, enjoyed, and afterwards
chronicled by himself, had mingled those tints in so detestable

[Sidenote: LEON COBELLI.]

Off to the gate-house prison with him, there to meditate on the
difference between scribbling his history, when his lords had enacted
it, and presuming to arrange it for them beforehand.

So poor Cobelli is forthwith marched off in high dudgeon, and had
awful thoughts,[122] in his anger, of condemning his liege lady to
sudden and irreparable forfeiture of an immortality of glory by burning
his chronicle of her deeds; but the reflection, that in that case
he, Leon Cobelli, ballet-master to the court, would himself share in
the condemnation, happily arrested his hand before the sacrifice was

So thoroughly did the high and haughty dame impress on the frightened
Forlìvesi the expediency of holding their tongues and not opening
too wide their eyes in respect to matters of such delicate nature,
and so much above them, that when, not long afterwards, there really
was somewhat of the sort to talk about, such a discreet silence was
observed, as almost to have defeated the detective investigations of
Mnemosyne herself.

Tommaso Feo was, as has been seen, governor of the citadel of Forlì
for Catherine, having been placed there by herself on a very critical
occasion. It has been seen, also, how well and zealously he acquitted
himself of his trust in the difficult circumstances following upon
the assassination of the Count. He came from Savona, Girolamo's
birthplace, and had been for many years a faithful follower of the
fortunes of the Riarii. Now, this Tommaso Feo had a brother, Giacomo,
not yet twenty years old, a remarkably handsome youth, "very tall,
excellently well-made, of a beautiful pink complexion, courteous and
pleasant with all, both high and low, and well skilled in all manly and
knightly exercises."[123] This well-favoured youth had been looked on
with a very approving eye by the high and puissant dame, his sovereign
lady. And the circumstance of her having, a short time previously,
given a lady, who was a relative of her own, in marriage to Tommaso
Feo, his brother, made it seem natural that both the young men should
be admitted more freely into the society of the Countess than might
otherwise have been expected.

Before long, however, the young and beautiful widow determined on
taking a step, which,—as is frequently the case with the steps taken
by young and beautiful widows,—caused no little raising of the
eyebrows, and some very cautiously whispered talk among the citizens
of Forlì. This was nothing less startling than the substitution of the
young and handsome bachelor brother, for the tried and trusty elder
brother, in the high and important post of _Castellano_ of Ravaldino.

But high-handed and strong as Catherine was, we have already seen
enough of the ways of these governors of strong fortresses in general,
and of stout Tommaso Feo in particular, to make it very intelligible
that the lady did not see fit to proceed to her intent by simply
ordering Tommaso to walk out, and Giacomo to walk in to Ravaldino. A
good _Castellano's_ duty was to hold his castle, as a good terrier's
duty is to hold the throat of the creature he has been bidden to
attack; and it often happens that the master of the staunch beast
cannot induce him to relinquish his gripe. The question was, before a
word had transpired of the proposed change, how to get staunch Tommaso
out of his place of strength.


With this view, the crafty lady gave a fête in her gardens outside
the city, to which the Governor was courteously invited. In this
little excursion outside the walls, there was little to excite the
_Castellano's_ suspicions. He could leave the communication between
the fortress and the city safely closed behind him, come out from
the citadel into the open country, and return to it at pleasure by
the same road. But what is man's wit worth against a woman's wiles!
In the gardens, no arm would serve Catherine to lean on save that of
her trusty _Castellano_. They spent a charming day; "tasted together
various fruits;" and when his beautiful sovereign declared herself at
the end of the day's pleasure so tired that he must give her his arm
as far as the palace, what mortal _Castellano_ could do otherwise than
fall into the trap so cleverly baited.

If such there were, good Tommaso Feo was not the man. Pleased and
flattered, he led the fair traitress through the little city to her
palace, and was no sooner within its walls than he was tapped on his
shoulder, and bade to deliver up his sword, and consider himself
a prisoner! This having been satisfactorily done, Madama,—as the
chroniclers from the period of her first husband's death almost
invariably call her,—summoned the conscious Giacomo to her presence,
and stated, that though nothing had occurred to diminish her high
esteem for his brother, circumstances made it desirable that she should
change her _Castellano_—that Tommaso would for the present return
to his native Savona, quitting the city with a guard of honour as a
mark of her high consideration; and that she wished him to accept the
vacated post.

Giacomo, we are told, accepted his preferment with well-acted modesty
and surprise, and Tommaso appears to have become easily reconciled to
the arrangement, as he is not long after found back again in Forlì, in
the service of the Countess.

These events took place in the summer of 1490; and there is reason[124]
to suppose that the new _Castellano_ had then been his liege lady's
husband for several months. The marriage, though a perfectly legitimate
one in the eyes of the Church, was, and remained a rigidly guarded
secret; not only because it was a wholly unavowable mesalliance, but
because according the public law of the Holy Roman Empire, Catherine's
second marriage would have entailed deprivation of the guardianship of
her children.

It was, as may be supposed, by no means a prudent thing even to allude
to a secret of such importance. A poor ignorant artisan, who had been
overheard saying, that somebody had told him, that somebody else had
said that their lady had married her _Castellano_, was forthwith
summoned to the presence of the Countess, who, after a few words
spoken with a severity which half frightened him out of his senses,
ordered him at once to be put on the rack: from which torture, says the
historian, he barely escaped with his life. We may be very sure, that
few words were ever whispered even in Forlì on so dangerous a subject.
And the reverend biographer, who relates the above incident, seems as
if he hardly felt safe two hundred years afterwards in meddling with
such state secrets, remarking apologetically, that he merely notifies
the fact, that his readers may not think any ill when they at a later
period meet with mention of a son of Catherine's named Giacomo, born
somewhere about this time.


In truth, the Forlì public had little cause to pay any attention
to this portion of the private life of their sovereign. For in all
respects as far as regarded them, and as far as the world could
see, Catherine was still sovereign Countess, and Giacomo Feo still
_Castellano_ of Ravaldino, and nothing more. All that could be done
for her young husband without lifting him from the rank of a subject,
Catherine delighted in accomplishing. Thus, we find her obtaining for
him from her brother at Milan some order of chivalry, all the insignia
of which were duly sent by the hands of proper heraldic personages
from that splendid court. The noblest knights of the most conspicuous
families in Forlì invested the young man, one with cloak, another with
collar, and another with spurs; and there were grand festivities, and
Catherine was, it is written, in the highest spirits.

Her new marriage, we are especially told, in no wise made her
neglectful of her duties towards her children, and especially that of
constantly attending to their education, and superintending it in a
great measure personally. She took infinite pains in seeking for the
best masters, and in ascertaining for what career each of her sons was
by nature most adapted. We learn further, without surprise, that she
was a careful and prudent, rather than an indulgent mother; and find
her acquiring the praise of contemporary writers by "never caressing
her children," and never allowing them to come into her presence, save
in full state costume, and requiring them to maintain a grave and
decorous demeanor to match![125]

For the rest, public affairs go on much the same as during the lifetime
of Girolamo. The conspiracies are hatched and detected much as usual.
That troublesome Ordelaffi knows no middle course between love and
murder. As Catherine would not listen to him on the former topic, he is
continually plotting to compass the latter. Now in Imola, now in Forlì,
and now in some one of the outlying fortresses of the small state,
some little conspiracy is continually being discovered and crushed by
the lady's prudence and vigilance. A few traitors, found guilty of
being in correspondence with the pretender, are hung, a few others
banished,—and then things are quiet for a few months.

As usual, the finance question is found to be the most difficult and
abstruse part of the whole science of governing. The court of Forlì
is maintained, we hear, on as magnificent a scale as that of many
larger states. And money must be had. But Madama is a good manager;
and strives much to find some means of making a full treasury not
absolutely incompatible with a fair show of prosperity among the
tax-payers; not, unhappily, with much success.

Once Madama thought she had found the Aladdin's lamp at last. The great
Via Emilia, high road from Milan, Bologna, Venice, and all Germany, to
Rome, runs through our towns of Imola and Forlì. Suppose we put up, as
we have a clear right to do, a turnpike-gate,—say two toll-bars,—one
at either end of our territory, and so fleece travellers to the most
needful replenishing of our own coffers, and every way desirable
lightening of the burdens of our faithful subjects. How strange never
to have thought of it before!

[Sidenote: THE NEW TOLL-BARS.]

So the new toll-bars are forthwith erected; but to the great surprise
of Madama and her counsellors with very much less result than had been
anticipated; with little other result indeed than a few broken heads
and bloody noses, arising from the scuffles of the toll-bar keepers
with violent travellers who decline paying the new imposition. This was
all natural enough; but the strange thing is, that the traffic most
notably falls off. Travellers won't come to be taxed. Ducky won't come
to be killed. With a perverse cunning, most provoking, men go round
another way; some stay at home and don't go at all; and the toll-bars
barely pay the expense of their keepers. Then the Pesaro folk, whose
communications with the neighbouring towns are much interrupted by the
Lady Catherine's new toll-bars, take it into their heads to retaliate,
by seizing every Forlì man who ventures to show his face within their
jurisdiction, weighing him publicly on a steel yard by the road-side,
and taxing him so much a pound, as if he were hogsflesh or mutton, to
the great amusement and scoffing of the cities round about, and the
infinite scandal and discomfiture of the men of Forlì.

But Catherine was a wise princess, and in a very short time got a
lesson in finance from her new scheme, which some other princes have
failed to learn from the experience of centuries; and the unsuccessful
toll-bars were quietly removed.

Another somewhat curious matter, in which we find Madama engaged about
this time, was the providing Forlì, both on her own behalf and that of
her subjects, with one of the most necessary conveniences of civilised
life, of which the city had been destitute since the riots at the time
of the Count's death. The banks and pawnshops of two wealthy Jews had
been then broken into and pillaged, and their owners frightened into
abandoning the city. And now if a Christian had need of a little ready
cash, where was he to look for it? Money absolutely needed, and not a
Jew within hail! Madama felt that this was a state of things calling
for immediate remedy. So special overtures were made to a wealthy
Israelite of Bologna to come and settle in Forlì. The Jew admitted the
urgent necessity of the case, but bearing in mind recent events, deemed
it no more than common prudence to stipulate, that an instrument should
be drawn up and executed in due legal form, by which the sovereign,
state, and municipality, of Forlì, should be bound to indemnify him for
any loss to his capital or property that might occur from revolution or
other violence. This was promptly acceded to; the Jew was installed in
Forlì, to the great joy of its ever-orthodox, but often out-at-elbows,
Christian population; and, by Madama's wise provision, her lieges could
once again get their little bills done as heretofore.

Meantime, Innocent VIII. died; and in August of the same year, 1492,
the Sacred College announced "_Urbi et Orbi_" that they had been
inspired by the Holy Spirit to elect as Heaven's Vicegerent on earth,
the Cardinal Roderigo Borgia; one, who may be safely assumed, without
any careful scanning of the members of the college, to have been
the worst of those offered to their choice, inasmuch as history has
assigned to him the portentous pre-eminence of being the worst of
the successors of St. Peter. English readers have no idea what this
Pope, Alexander VI., was; and no English page can dare to tell them.
Studious men, who feel, that, inasmuch as despite all change of time
and circumstance, similar causes will, in the moral world as certainly
as in the physical world, produce similar effects, it is therefore
fitting that such cesspools of abominations should be sounded by those
who for the sake of the general health ought to be conversant with
every form of disease,—these may in the cynical unblushing dead Latin
of Burckhardt the diarist, look on the loathsome picture of life in the
Vatican under this Father of Christendom. For others let it suffice,
that this man, chosen by the Church by infallible inspiration, for the
infallible guidance of Christian souls, was such, that no human soul
could be in communication with his without deep injury and degradation.

[Sidenote: ALEXANDER VI.]

This man, as Cardinal under Sixtus IV., had been his vice-chancellor,
and a steady adherent of the Riarii. He was the sponsor chosen by the
young Count and Countess to hold at the font their first-born son. And
the friendship which existed, and was thus specially marked, between
them and such a man as the Cardinal Borgia, cannot but be felt to have
the force of unfavourable evidence in our estimate of them.

Catherine, however, considered the news of Borgia's elevation to be
most important to her interests, and highly satisfactory. Two envoys on
behalf of Forlì, and two on behalf of Imola, were despatched to Rome to
compliment the new Pope on his election, and offer the homage of the
Countess and her son. Being very well received by his Holiness, they
begged that he would grant that a Jubilee, with plenary absolution,
might be held for three successive years in two churches of the
Franciscans in Forlì, which was graciously accorded, with the condition
however that a fresh bull should be applied for each year; which was
only laying a small tax on the profits of the Jubilee. Such a grant
was not uncommon. But the result of the three years' speculation, as
recorded by the Forlì historians, is curious. The first year brought
2500 lire, with which the monks of one church built a cloister, and
the nuns of the other put a new roof to their chapel, and newly fitted
out a miraculous Virgin. The second year's produce was almost nothing,
because the brief enabling the convents to absolve from homicide did
not arrive in time. And the third year, they got only 184 lire, because
the Apostolic Court, having then more important matters in hand, again
neglected to send the necessary brief in due time.

Up to this period the life of Catherine has been passed altogether in
that good time,—those halcyon days for Italy described by Guicciardini
in the opening of his great work, and marked by him as coming to an end
in the fatal year, 1494. To readers more conversant with the regular
well-ordered course of life in the nineteenth century than with that
of the fifteenth, it may seem, that the little magic-lanthorn-like
peeps at the men and things of that old time, offered to them in the
foregoing pages, can hardly be deemed samples of that happy condition
so regretfully commemorated by the great historian. Murders of princes,
and awards of torture and death to their conspiring subjects, recurring
in oscillations of pendulum-like regularity,—civil war in the streets
of Rome, and monstrous corruption in her palaces,—lawless violence
of the law-making classes, met by continually successful evasion of
the law by those for whose oppression rather than protection it was
intended: all this does not represent to our ideas a happy state of

But Guicciardini looks back to these days from amid the misfortunes
of a far more disastrous period. The good old days,—when Italian
throats were throttled only by Italian hands; when the tyrants were
Italian tyrants not too strong to be occasionally knocked on the
head by Italian rebels; when the wealth extorted from the people by
splendid princes was at least scattered among them again by their
splendour; when, in a word, Italy, manage it as they might, was for the
Italians,—were sighed for as a golden age in that iron period, when
the barbarian from beyond the Alps had come down upon them.


Charles VIII., of France, was the second Attila, who headed an inroad
of barbarians, from whose gripe on some part of her body, soft Italy
has never since been able to shake herself free. That ambitious Prince
undertook to make good certain old standing genealogical claims to the
sovereignty of Naples, long since advanced by France; and marched into
Italy with an army for that purpose in the summer of 1494. It would
lead us too far away into the great high-road of the history of that
time, if we were to attempt to trace an intelligible picture of the
dissensions and jealousies among the princes of Italy, which made that
moment appear peculiarly opportune for the prosecution of his claims.
We have only to deal with the immediate result of the great calamity to
Forlì and its Countess.

Those rich alluvial flats of Romagna were capital fighting ground, and
lay besides just on the high road of the French troops southwards. And
on the 18th of August the main body of the Neapolitan troops were at
Cesena, about twelve miles to the south; and five days later the French
troops were at Bologna, some thirty miles to the north of Forlì. The
little state found itself in a sufficiently dangerous position under
any circumstances. But the situation was rendered yet more difficult by
the necessity of taking one or the other side, when there were strong
reasons for taking neither. The Duke of Milan, Catherine's brother,
and her uncle "Ludovico il Moro," who, in fact, held the power of Milan
in his hands, were allies of the French king. On the other hand, the
Pope had allied himself with the King of Naples; and Forlì was held as
a fief of the Church; and all Catherine's sympathies, and her Riario
connections,—among whom were two cardinals high in the confidence of
the Pontiff,—drew her towards the party taken by the court of Rome.

The decision was difficult; and Catherine was long in deciding.
Repeated embassies were seen in those days arriving from the hostile
camps, and departing without having obtained the promise they wished.

Meantime, Madama was busily engaged in preparing, as best she might,
for the storm which was sure to burst over Forlì, whichever side
she might decide on supporting. Men were sent throughout the whole
territory warning the peasants of the plains to leave their homes, and
betake themselves[126] with such property as was moveable to places of
safety. The time of vintage was close at hand, and it was hard to leave
the fruit of the year's labour to be gathered by others. But to have
remained would only have been to lose all that might have been moved,
and probably life itself, as well as that which they were compelled
to leave behind them. So, throughout the length and breadth of the
plains around Forlì, long trains of the cultivators of the soil, with
their families and cattle, might be seen moving into the shelter of the
over-crowded cities, or towards the comparatively safe recesses of the

At length, after much vacillation and long bargaining, Madama declared
herself the ally of the King of Naples. The principal conditions
were, that both Naples and Rome should guarantee the defence of her
states; and that Octavian, her eldest son, then seventeen years old,
should receive the rank of General in the allied army with a large


The historians of Forlì, and especially Burriel, Catherine's
biographer, insist much on the pause in the movements of the two
armies, while encamped respectively at Bologna and at Cesena, while
either party strove by repeated efforts to obtain her alliance. It
would not be credible, Burriel remarks, that the generals of two
armies, each of about 16,000 men, should have lost so much time,
and taken so much trouble to secure the friendship of so small
a principality, if all the chroniclers did not accord in their
clear statements, that such was the case. And they point out,
with much municipal pride, the high position and authority which
these circumstances indicate Catherine to have attained among her
contemporaries. The observation is a fair one. And the evident
importance attached by both the contending parties to the friendship
of a state so entirely unimportant on the score of its power, is very

The alliance with Naples, which Madama had been so slow to form, she
was very quick to break. A few successes on the part of the French seem
to have caused a greater degree of discouragement among their enemies
than was reasonable. The Pope recalled his troops from Romagna, and
the Duke of Calabria began to draw off his forces southwards. In these
circumstances, which would seem to have left Forlì exposed to certain
destruction, and to have been totally at variance with the conditions
that had been stipulated for its protection, Catherine sought to secure
the safety of her little state by suddenly changing sides and becoming
at the shortest possible notice the friend of the winning party. The
measure was not wholly successful: for the Duke of Calabria in retiring
southwards, angry as he might well be with the Countess, ravaged the
country as he passed to the utmost of his power.

The French troops remained in the neighbourhood of Forlì as friends
till the 23rd of November, at which time they proceeded to cross the
Apennine to join King Charles, who had arrived at Florence on the 18th
of that month. They were friends, but friends whose departure was seen
with no small satisfaction; for the difficulty and cost of feeding
them, and inducing them to abstain from helping themselves had been

During this time of trouble and continual anxiety, Giacomo Feo had been
governor-general of Catherine's states. He seems to have efficiently
seconded the dexterous management, by which Catherine succeeded in
bringing her little state through this critical time in an only
half-ruined condition; and Madama, determined, says Burriel, not to let
such an opportunity as having these French generals at Forlì slip away
without making something out of it, obtained by their means the rank
and title of baron for her General and husband from the King of France.

The young General was, we are told, beyond measure elated at the
possession of this coveted preferment; and Madama was as pleased to
have gratified him with it. But, it would seem, that the gift was a
fatal one.

[Sidenote: MURDER OF FEO.]

On the 27th of August, 1495, Catherine and her sons and Feo had gone
out of Forlì on a hunting excursion. The party were returning to the
city in the evening; Madama, and some of her sons, were in a carriage,
Feo was riding behind them on horseback. Now, seven[128] citizens
of Imola and Forlì, some nobles, some priests, and some peasants,
had sworn together that they would that day kill the favourite. So
they posted themselves at a spot within the city walls, by which the
Court party were sure to pass on their return; and there, letting the
carriage with Catherine and her sons pass on unmolested, they stabbed
the unfortunate young husband with a pike through the body, so that
with one cry he fell dead.

It is of no interest to chronicle the obscure names of these assassins.
But it is worth remarking that most, if not all of them, were
personally known to their victim. And this is a circumstance, that
in almost every case characterises these medieval assassinations of
Italian princes. The murderers are not politically fanatical regicides,
who for the working out of some theory or hope, salve their consciences
with the plea of necessity for the removal of a man whom they have
perhaps never seen, and certainly never known. They are men in the
habit of daily intercourse with him, and strike with all the virulence
of personal hate. The victim apostrophises them by their Christian
names, not unconscious in all probability of the items in the score
thus finally settled.

In the case of this unfortunate young Feo, as far as can be judged[129]
from the scanty notices of the provincial historians, his death seems
to have been due to the jealousy occasioned by the reiterated honours
showered upon him. This obscure young man, a stranger from Savona, some
place, they say, away beyond Genoa, is brought here, raised above all
the ancient nobility of the country, made Cavaliere, Conte, Castellano,
Governor-General; and now not content with all that, must needs be a
French Baron too! This last preferment seems from some feeling to have
been the most irksome and most odious of all to the Forlìvesi. Come
what might, they would not be lorded over by a French Baron!

And thus, at the age of thirty-three, Catherine was for the second time
after five years of marriage, the widow of a murdered husband.


 Guilty or not guilty again.—Medieval clanship.—A woman's
 vengeance.—Funeral honours.—Royal-mindedness.—Its costliness;
 and its mode of raising the wind.—Taxes spent in alms to ruined
 tax-payers.—Threatening times.—Giovanni de'Medici.—Catherine once
 more wife, mother, and widow.

Catherine, with two of her sons in the carriage with her, had advanced
but a few yards beyond the spot where the murder was committed, when,
alarmed by the cries of the conspirators and of her own retinue, she
looked back, and became at once aware of the truth. The whole of the
attendants, except two, who made a futile attempt to kill or arrest
the assassins, immediately dispersed themselves, and fled in different
directions. The seven conspirators did likewise; and Catherine and her
sons, hastily throwing themselves on horses taken from the grooms,
galloped at full speed to the fortress. And the murdered man's body
was left alone in a ditch near the spot where he was slain, till
late that night it was removed to a neighbouring church by "some
decent and compassionate people" who lived hard by. The ballet-master
historian[130] Cobelli went to look on it, as it lay in the ditch, and
pours forth a flood of voluble lamentations over the beauty of the body
thus mutilated and disfigured, and that of his gold brocade jacket and
rose-coloured pantaloons besmeared with mud.[131]

Necessity for providing for their own safety may furnish some excuse
for Catherine and her sons' precipitate retreat to the citadel. Her
husband was beyond all need of assistance, and her sons' security, and
that of her dominions, was in imminent danger. For it was probable
enough, that the assassination just committed almost under her eyes was
the first outbreak of one of those plans for restoring the old dynasty
that were so constantly occurring.

Such, however, does not seem to have been the case. The popular
indignation against the perpetrators of Feo's murder was at once
strongly manifested. They were that night hunted through the town, and
most of them dragged prisoners to the piazza before the morning.

There, before the assembled crowd, Gian Antonio Ghetti, the principal
of them, declared to the magistrates that Feo had been put to death
by the express order of Catherine and Octavian; and the others loudly
confirmed his assertion.[132] There does not seem to have been the
slightest attempt made to test the truth of these declarations by
separately examining and cross-questioning the assassins. But it is
remarkable, that the _Auditor_, Catherine's chief magistrate, does
not appear to have considered this explanation at all impossible. On
the contrary, he found himself in a position of difficulty, evidently
fearing, that if he proceeded at once on the supposition, that these
men were to be treated as murderers and traitors, his zeal might
possibly turn out to have been expended on the wrong side. In this
difficulty "the worthy magistrate" beckoned from the crowd a young man
whom he could trust, and with a few whispered words despatched him in
all haste to the fortress, dexterously holding law in leash the while.


In a very short time the messenger returned, and our "worthy
magistrate" was himself again. It was all right. Murther was murther.
Law was to "have its course;" and quartering alive, dragging at horses
tails, and other ingenious devices of the sort were to be resorted to,
according to the most approved precedents.

But are these orders from the citadel as efficacious in disproving
the truth of Gian Antonio's assertion before the tribunal of history,
as they were in making the Auditor's course clear before him? The
learned Litta, in his great work on the Families of Italy thinks not.
He writes,[133] "Feo was killed by conspirators in 1495: if, indeed,
it were not Catherine herself who ordered his death." But we know that
suspicion of crime becomes morbidly active in those whose duties make
them continually conversant with criminals; and in estimating the value
of Litta's impressions, great allowance must be made for the mental
bias of one who spent his life in chronicling the Fasti of the noble
families of Italy.

No contemporary writer gives the slightest indication of any suspicion
of the possible truth of this audacious inculpation of the widowed
princess having existed at the time. It is true, that if such
suspicions had existed, they would probably have been deep buried in
the hearts of those who conceived them. But all the probabilities of
the case plead in favour of Catherine's innocence upon this occasion.
Had she wished to rid herself of her young husband, nothing would
have been easier than to have made an end of him, privately, quietly,
and safely, in the secresy of the fort or of the palace. It is curious
to observe, that when subsequently she condescended to point out the
absurdity of the accusation, she made use of this argument; remarking,
as the historian records it, that "Thank God, neither she nor any
of her family had need to apply to common bravoes, when they saw
fit to make away with their enemies!" Had she even chosen to employ
bravoes for the purpose, with the intention of leaving to them the
responsibility of the deed, it might have been done far more safely in
the palace than in the street. The latter necessarily involved a very
considerable degree of danger of popular tumult, and ever-menacing,
ever-near revolution. In the confusion and excitement following the
perpetration of such a deed, it may be said to have been merely a toss
up which way the popular mind, so easily moved to violence, so prone to
change, might turn.

There is, indeed, no more curiously suggestive and striking proof of
the chronic state of discontent, uneasiness, and discomfort, in which
men lived in those good old times, than this wonderful readiness to
turn any incident of sufficient interest to make a couple of score of
tongues shout together, into an occasion for seeking to change for
another the rider mounted on their galled shoulders, at whatsoever
almost certain cost of ruin and destruction to them and theirs.

Them and theirs;—for another very noticeable trait of Italian social
life in those centuries is the great strength of the clannish tie,
which made all the members of a family responsible for, and generally
partakers in the political crimes of any one among them. The fathers,
sons, brothers, uncles of a baffled, detected, or overpowered
conspirator, share his fate. Often the females of a family are involved
in the condemnation. The whole race is to be rooted out. And such an
award seems to have been generally accepted as natural, and to be
expected, at least, if not as just, by the suffering party. In most
cases the members of a political assassin's family adopted his views,
and more or less actively shared his crime.

[Sidenote: VENGEANCE.]

In the present instance, the vengeance of the bereaved wife took a
yet wider sweep. Not only were the families of the guilty men, even
women and innocent children and infants at the breast, slaughtered
indiscriminately; but the slightest cause of suspicion sufficed to
involve others wholly unconnected with them in destruction.[134] This
seems to have been the only occasion in the strangely varied life
of Catherine, when evil passions, unmixed with political reasons,
or calculations of expediency, governed her conduct, and urged her
to excesses of cruelty. And it is impossible to avoid comparing the
calm, judicial proceedings, and not wholly unreasonable chastisement,
consequent upon the death of Riario, with the wild excesses of
vindictive fury that followed that of Giacomo Feo. Surely it cannot be
supposed that all this was simulated rage, acted out in such terrible
earnest, merely to divert suspicion from herself as the murderess!
Not even acquaintance with the unnatural atrocities so common in that
age and clime, nor the wonderful deadness of the moral sense which
prevailed, can justify so shocking a belief.

No! Either we must suppose, that passing years, the habits of
despotism, familiarity with bloodshed, and much trouble and adversity
had potently changed Catherine's character for the worse. Or we must,
with perhaps more probability, seek an explanation of her altered
conduct in the difference of the feelings the two bereavements may be
supposed to have occasioned. In the first case, we have a princess
decorously mourning; and with high stern justice punishing the
political fanatics, who had taken from her a husband, the partner
indeed of her greatness, and fellow-labourer in the toils of ambition;
but one, who had been assigned to her solely for the purposes of that
ambition, and whom no preference or personal sympathy had had any share
in selecting. In the second instance, we have a woman, raging with
tiger-like fury against the murderers of her love. This so faultlessly
beautiful form, ruthlessly made a mangled corpse before her eyes, was
the first and last love of this vehement and strong-willed woman;—her
only taste of real natural heart's joy;—the one pet, private sanctuary
of her life, not dedicated to the weary life-long toil of building up
the Riario name. Hence the almost indiscriminate slaughter, hanging,
quartering, torturing, banishments, and ruin, that scared all Forlì
with fear who next might be the victim, when Giacomo Feo fell. Above
forty persons, counting men, women, and children, were put to death,
of whom the greater part were in all probability wholly innocent of
any participation in the crime! More than fifty others suffered lesser
degrees of persecution.

[Sidenote: THE FUNERAL.]

In the midst of these horrors, while the mutilated bodies of some of
the victims were still hanging before the palace of the _Podestà_,
exposed to the public view, a most magnificent funeral ceremony was
performed in honour of the murdered Feo. Burriel describes the
long line of ecclesiastical, military, and civic dignitaries, with
pages, musicians, ladies, friars, soldiers, and three squires in
cloth of gold, on horses similarly caparisoned, who bore the sword,
spurs, helmet, and cuirass of the deceased, moving to the sound of
loud-chanted dirges from the fortress to the cathedral. The procession
must have passed with its wailing _De profundis_ and _Miserere_ chants,
and its glittering heraldic braveries, by the spot where the ghastly
remains of the victims, for whom was no "miserere," were polluting
the air in the hot summer sunshine. And the entire scene in its
setting of picturesque Italian city architecture, with its startling
contrasts, and suggestiveness of unbridled passions, and deeds of
lawless violence, would seem to be marked characteristically enough
by the impress of medieval peculiarities. But Burriel says, that the
similitude of the spectacle to that described by Virgil, as having
taken place at the funeral of Pallas, son of King Evander, was so
great, that it may be supposed that Catherine had modelled the one in
imitation of the other!

By the combined soothing of funeral services, and gratified vengeance,
the bereaved widow was, it should seem, sufficiently consoled, to
engage herself, early in the year 1496, in extensive projects of
palace building, and acquisition of parks and pleasure-grounds. The
alterations and improvements, which Madama was now bent on, mark
characteristically the change in the habits and desires of the powerful
and wealthy, which was now beginning to manifest itself. Increasing
magnificence and luxury demanded ampler opportunity for its display,
and a pleasanter field for its enjoyment. Italian princes began to be
no longer content to pass their lives immured in the high dungeon-like
walls of ancient feudal mansions, in the heart of walled and gloomy

And Catherine was not likely to be among the slowest to adopt any new
mode of increased magnificence and splendour. There were, moreover,
dark and sad reminiscences enough attached to the old seignorial
residence in the _piazza_, to make it odious to the lady twice widowed
there, under circumstances in themselves, and in their consequences, so
painful to look back on.

So all that portion of the ancient building, which had been used
for the personal accommodation of the Princess, was thrown down;
and its materials contributed towards the erection of a new palace,
at the extremity of the city, near to the fortress Ravaldino, and
connected with it by one of the gateways of the town. The pleasures
and splendour, which the tastes of the new age demanded, were thus
admirably made compatible with the old time provision for security,
which could by no means yet be dispensed with. For material was
advancing more rapidly than moral civilisation.

Outside the wall, in connection with the new palace, a large tract
of land was purchased[135] for orchards, gardens, dairy pastures, "a
great wood, in which were wild beasts of various kinds for the lord's
diversion of hunting," and every kind of device, by which the inmates
"might at all hours enjoy the pleasures of the country unobserved." The
place was, "from its magnificence and beauty, named the Paradise;"[136]
and in all the preparations for making her Paradise perfect, Catherine
"left nothing unattempted, which could be a proof of greatness and of a
royal mind."


But there is a vile, ignoble difficulty, that ever dogs and hampers
this sort of proof of a great and royal mind. Paradises are not
produced in iron, brazen, or leaden ages, without abundant supply of
cash. Royal minds have, accordingly, been ever exceedingly apt to show
their quality by a remarkable fertility of expedient for the procuring
of this base means for great aims. And Burriel details for us, with
much admiration, the method hit upon by Catherine for paying for her
new palace and park.

There were, it seems, and for generations had been, certain taxes,
to which lands in the territory of Forlì possessed by peasants were
liable, and which were not paid by such as were in the hands of
citizens. The unjust difference, it is to be remarked, does not appear
to have been made between patrician and plebeian as such, but between
countryman and townsman. The possessors of these unequally-taxed lands
were, as might be supposed, an impoverished class, continually sinking
towards utter destitution, and numbers of the peasant proprietors
sold their land to prosperous citizens "for a bit of bread," says the
historian, thus baulking the tax-gatherer and depopulating the country.
As it was necessary to find a remedy for this growing evil, and as the
simple one of equalising the tax was an idea far too opposed to the
whole fabric of medieval political economy to enter for a moment even
into the head of anyone, it was enacted, that no peasant should sell
his land under heavy penalties, and forfeiture of the land by the buyer.

Now this wise law, as is usually the case with such, was very
frequently evaded by the connivance of parties anxious, the one
to sell and the other to buy, and it was found extremely difficult
to bring the illegality home to offenders. But it so happened,
that just at the time of Catherine's greatest need, the "Bargello"
or gaol-governor of Imola was himself committed to prison for
the non-payment of a fine of 200 ducats imposed on him for some
mal-practices in his office. It seems, however, that besides the
delinquencies for which he had been condemned, he had been in the
habit of lending some official facilities to the illegal bargains
for land between peasants and townsmen. Reflecting, therefore, on
his own position and that of his sovereign lady, it struck this
shrewd and worthy "Bargello," that he might find the means of making
his undetected offences pay the penalty for those which had been
discovered. So he caused a communication to be made to Madama to the
effect, that if his liberty were granted him, and pardon assured to him
for anything in respect to which he might perchance compromise himself,
in certain revelations he proposed making to her, he thought he could
put her in a way to find the necessary funds for her new palace and
park, without doing wrong to anyone.

This latter clause was a _sine quâ non_ with Catherine of course; but
on the understanding that that condition was to be faithfully observed,
she closed with her "Bargello's" offer at once. So that useful and
clever officer came up to Forlì from his prison in Imola with a long
list, all duly prepared, of all the illegal land-sales for a long time
past. Twenty-five lire was the fine due from each seller, and total
forfeiture of the purchased lands the much heavier penalty to be levied
on each buyer. Intense was the consternation throughout Forlì and its
county! And rich and abundant the harvest reaped by the sovereign.


So our good "Bargello" is liberated and graciously pardoned. No
wrong is done to anybody, since, on the contrary, law is enforced,
and right therefore done. "Paradise" is won, and duly paid for, and
remains, as the historian Bonoli so judiciously remarks, a proof of the
royal-mindedness of its noble builder.

It has been mentioned that the unequal pressure of this land-tax had
caused a vast amount of pauperism and destitution; and the presence
of pestilence in Forlì and its territory both this year and the last,
following in the wake of an army of foreign troops, as has so often
happened, had terribly increased the evil. This and other oppressive
taxes were, therefore, more necessary than ever, for Catherine (besides
the cost of her improvements, so happily paid for out of nothing at
all, as one may say,) was at great expenses for the alleviation of the
increasing misery. She bought corn, she organised means of relief, she
hired medical men from foreign parts, she founded confraternities for
charitable purposes, but she repealed no taxes. How could she with such
imperative calls on her for alms?

Can it be that splendid princes find it more congenial to royal-minded
tastes, and more convenient to royal-minded habits, to reign over
alms-fed mendicants than over prosperous self-fed freemen? Then again,
what says Mother Church? Is not almsgiving the broadest of all the
roads to heaven? And how are the rich to, buy off their own sins in
conformity with orthodox rule, if there are no beggars?

But among all the cares and occupations arising out of the twofold
business of advancing her own splendour and alleviating the misery of
her subjects, Catherine found time to think of yet another matter
of still greater importance than either of these. Madama was now
meditating a third marriage, and this time she seems to have returned
to the plan of marrying from policy and ambition. Probably the
increasing storminess of the political horizon, and the consequent
precariousness of the position of all the smaller princes of Italy,
made her deem it desirable to seek the support which a connexion with
some important and powerful family would afford her. In truth, it was
the eve of a period, during which it was hardly to be expected that any
unaided female hand, however virile in its energy, would be able to
retain its grasp of a sceptre; and considering the matter in this point
of view, she could not, probably, have chosen more prudently than she

For the last year past, Giovanni de' Medici had been residing in Forlì
as Ambassador from the Republic of Florence. He was great-grandson of
that Giovanni who was the common ancestor of the two great branches of
the family. That founder of the Medicean greatness had two sons, the
elder of whom was Cosmo, "pater patriæ," from whom descended the elder
branch, including among its scions Lorenzo the Magnificent, the two
Popes Leo X. and Clement VII., and Catherine, the wife of Henry II. of
France, and becoming extinct in the person of Alexander first Duke of
Florence, murdered in 1537. Giovanni's second son, the younger brother
of Cosmo, was Lorenzo, the grandfather of that Giovanni who now was the
envoy in Forlì from the Republic of Florence.


When, therefore, in the early part of the summer of 1497, Catherine
gave her hand to Giovanni de' Medici, however much this, her third
marriage, may have been a matter of calculated prudence and state
policy, she at least had a sufficient knowledge of the man whom she was
about to make her husband. Madama was now thirty-five years of age,
while Giovanni was only thirty. He had not, and has never occupied any
very conspicuous place in history; but what little we hear of him is
favourable. He had fought with credit, in France, under Charles VIII.,
and had brought back with him to Florence, a French patent of nobility,
and a pension of two thousand crowns a-year, the gifts of that monarch.
He had also the credit of a wise and prudent negociator and statesman.

There is extant among the Florence archives a letter from Savonarola to
Catherine, dated from the Convent of St. Mark, the 18th of June, 1477,
of which a few copies have recently been printed by the Count Carlo
Capponi at Florence. The contents are of little interest, being merely
general exhortations to piety, to God-fearing conduct in the government
of her states. But it is somewhat remarkable that this letter must
have been written just about the time of her marriage with Giovanni
de' Medici; which yet was, like the preceding union with Feo, and for
the same reasons, kept perfectly secret. Yet, as there is no reason to
think, that the reforming friar had any correspondence with Catherine,
either previously or subsequently, it can hardly be doubted, that this
letter of exhortation was motived by the occasion of the marriage; and
that the friar, friar-like, knew all about it, however secret it may
have been kept.

This wholly volunteered and unprefaced preachment from the friar to
a foreign princess, is a trait worth noting of the social position
arrogated to themselves by the spiritual teachers of that day.

Of this union, however, of the great houses of Sforza and Medici, the
most, and indeed the only important result was the birth of a son
baptised Ludovico, on the 6th of April, in the year 1498. The name
Ludovico was, a few months later, changed to Giovanni; and this child
became that celebrated Giovanni "Delle Bande Nere," who acquired an
European reputation as the greatest captain of his day, and from whom
descended the long line of Tuscan Grand-Dukes of the Medicean race. For
Cosmo, his son and Catherine's grandson, succeeded to that dignity on
the extinction of the elder branch of the family.

Through this Giovanni, moreover, Catherine's eighth child and seventh
son, she is the ancestress of that Maria de' Medici who became the
wife of Henry IV. of France, and by him the progenitress of all the
Bourbons, who have sat on the thrones of France, Spain, Naples, Parma,
and Lucca; and who, by her daughter Henrietta, the wife of Charles I.,
was the mother of an equally royal, and almost equally pernicious race.

It cannot be said, therefore, that this third marriage of Catherine was
unimportant or barren of results; though, upon her own fortunes, it had
little influence; for Giovanni, whose health appears to have been for
some time failing, died six months after the birth of his son, on the
14th of September, 1498.

[Sidenote: AGAIN A WIDOW.]

His physicians had sent him to one of the little bathing-places in the
Apennines, called St. Piero, in Bagno. There finding himself becoming
rapidly worse, he sent in haste to call Catherine from Forlì, who
reached his bedside barely in time to receive his last words; and
was thus, for the third time, left a widow at a moment when every
appearance in the political horizon seemed to indicate that she was on
the eve of events that would make the protection of a husband, and a
powerful alliance, more necessary to her than it had ever yet been.


 A nation of good haters.—Madama's soldier trade.—A new Pope has
 to found a new family.—Catherine's bounty to recruits.—A shrewd
 dealer meets his match.—Signs of hard times.—How to manage a
 free council.—Forlì ungrateful.—Catherine at bay.—"A Borgia!
 A Borgia!"—A new year's eve party in 1500.—The lioness in the
 toils.—Catherine led captive to Rome.

Dr. Samuel Johnson ought to have been a warm admirer of Italian
character had he been acquainted with it; for he "liked a good
hater." And assuredly the leading physiological characteristic which
colours the whole course of Italian history, and furnishes the
most universally-applicable master-key to the understanding of its
intricacies, is the intensity of mutually-repellant aversion which has
always existed among all the constituent elements of society. Private
hatred between man and man; clan hatred between family and family;
party hatred between blacks and whites, or longs and shorts, or any
other distinctive faction-cry; political hatred between patricians
and plebeians; social hatred between citizens and the inhabitants of
the fields around their walls; and, by no means least though last,
municipal hatred between one city and another, has ever been in Italy
the master passion, vigorous in its action and notable in its results
in proportion to the vigour of social life animating the body of the

Orsini clans no longer level Colonna palaces with the soil in the
streets of Rome; the story-graven flagstones of the old Florentine
Piazza are no longer stained with the blood of _Bianchi_ or _Neri_;
Siena no more sends out her war-car against Pisa, nor does Genoa
fit out fleets against Venice. Despotism has crushed out all vigour
from the life and torpified every pulse; and having made a deathlike
"solitude, calls it peace."

[Sidenote: LAW OF PROGRESS.]

And has not, then, Despotism done well, even on the showing of the
preceding statements? asks its apologists.

The true and enlightened believer in a god-governance, and no
devil-governance, of the world, will of course answer unhesitatingly,
No! But to answer from the conscience, No!—with faith still as firm
as when the nineteenth century was young and proud with chimerical
hopes—to answer with convictions still undefeated by the defeats of
'48, for ever No!—requires, it must be admitted, a strong and clear
belief in the immutability of the causes that result in human good and
evil; a lively perception of the truth that no faults of a nation's
life can best be remedied by national death; and such a whole-hearted
persuasion of the universality of God's law of progress as can cast out
all doubt of the fact, that every nation on earth's surface must either
advance to improved civilisation, or else prepare to quit the scene, as
some little improvable peoples have done and are doing, and leave the
valuable space they occupy to more highly-gifted races.

The Italian writers of every age, from the sixteenth century to the
present day, are naturally inclined to attribute all the misfortunes
of their country to foreign wrong-doing and aggression. And they date
the sunset of Italian prosperity, as Guicciardini does in the passage
previously referred to, from the French invasion in the last years
of the fifteenth century. But not even the dangers to be anticipated
from the pretensions of the French monarch, nor the actual presence of
foreign troops on the soil of Italy, could avail to check, even for a
time, the deadly hatred of city against city.

This had blazed out fatally between Florence and Pisa in 1496, and
was still raging in the early months of 1499. Pisa was assisted by
the Venetians; and the strength of the two maritime republics seems
to have tried the resources of the Florentines severely. Like the
other second-rate princes of Italy, our "Madama di Forlì" drove a
considerable and important trade in hireling troops. This species of
business was in every respect profitable to the rulers of these petty
states. They thus, besides pocketing considerable sums, maintained
bodies of troops owing allegiance to them and fighting under their
flag, which their own resources would have been wholly insufficient to
support. And the power of hiring out these to either of two contending
powers caused their alliance to be bid for by their more powerful
neighbours, and gave them an importance in the political calculations
of the time disproportioned to the size of their little territories.

Madama had had considerable dealings of this sort with the Florentines.
Ottaviano had taken service with the wealthy republicans, and drew a
handsome stipend from them as General. Early in 1499 the Republic had
sent proposals for a fresh body of troops, and Madama desired nothing
better than to execute the order. But times were hard in Forlì, and
were daily threatening to become harder. Pestilence had been raging
throughout the city and territory, and had inopportunely raised the
value of the raw material of armies.

[Sidenote: ROME'S DUES.]

Worse still, in March of this year Pope Alexander, in full conclave,
had declared Catherine and sundry other little potentates of Romagna
deposed from their sovereignties, for not having punctually paid up
their dues to the Apostolic Chamber. Catherine, indeed, forthwith sent
up envoys to Rome—doctors learned in law and others—to point out to
Pope Alexander that there was an outstanding account due to her late
husband, the noble Count Riario, which had not been settled at the time
of Sixtus IV.'s death; and that she would readily pay anything that
at a fair settling might be found due. One would have thought that a
Riario's wife might have known the Apostolic court better than to have
taken such useless trouble. Did she think Uncle Sixtus of holy memory
was the only Pope who had a family to found? Of course her envoys
were sent about their business without having been allowed to speak a
syllable of their errand.

These dues, a feudal tribute always reserved to the Holy See in its
bulls of investiture, seem rarely to have been heard anything of as
long as a friendly pope occupied the chair of St. Peter; but as soon
as ever an excuse was wanted at Rome for getting rid of an obnoxious
princeling, the Holy Father looked up his ledger and pronounced
sentence of dechéance against the debtor.

Now, Pope Alexander had sons, whom he did not even take the trouble of
calling nephews; and he was, to say the least, quite as royal-minded as
the Franciscan Sixtus. His eldest hope, Cesare Borgia, was exceeding
royal-minded too. And so the Borgias had to be founded as well as the
Riarii; and, unhappily for the other princes of Romagna, as well as
for Catherine and her son, upon a much wider foundation.

Thus from the early spring of 1499, things wore a stormy and troubled
appearance at Forlì. Not that it is to be imagined that Catherine for
an instant dreamed of submitting to the sentence pronounced against
her. Such a course would have been unheard of in her day. Holy Father
might say what he pleased, hail bulls, and do his worst. The Countess
of Forlì would hold her son's sceptre for him, as long as the walls of
the city and fortress would hold together!

And besides, this old debauchee of a Pope might die any fine morning.
He was well stricken in years, and his life said to be none of the
best. And then there would be a fresh shuffle of the cards, and a new
deal, with who knows what new fortunes, and Borgias nowhere in the race.

Meantime it was very desirable to keep on good terms of friendship with
Florence, and Madama accordingly set about preparing the body of troops
desired by the Republic. But symptoms unpleasant enough of Rome's ban
having already begun to produce dangerous effects were not slow to
manifest themselves.


Two deputies were appointed for each ward of the city to make out lists
of all the men capable of bearing arms; and the roll having been duly
sent in to the castle, all those named in it were ordered to present
themselves in the space in front of the citadel at a given hour, to
receive, as they were bound to do, their sovereign's orders.[137]
Catherine and her officers were there to receive their brave lieges.
But time came—time went—and not a man appeared. The lady was angered
to a degree she rarely suffered herself to appear; and issued orders
that officers should that night go round to every house in Forlì at
midnight, when the inmates were sure to be found there, and warn each
enrolled man severally, that if he did not appear at the appointed hour
on the morrow, he should be dangling from a gallows before the next
nightfall. But the result of this vigorous measure by no means tended
to mend matters. For the threatened men, almost to a man, used the
remaining hours of that night to escape from the city; a contingency
against which no provision had been made; as it had never entered into
the head of Catherine or her counsellors that the daring disaffection
of her subjects could proceed to such lengths. The anger of the baffled
sovereign may be imagined. But it was still worse to find, from the
unusually loud mutterings of the citizens, that public opinion was
in favour of the deserters. One said that citizens unaccustomed to
soldiership could be of no use in war; another, that it was hard for
men with families to be called on to abandon them for Madama's affairs,
and merely because she willed it; while others, more daringly meddling
with matters of state policy, maintained, that it was against all
reason that Forlì should unite herself with Florence, which could be
of no use to her, against the Venetians, with whom was the principal
commerce of the city.

The incident was assuredly an ominous one. But Catherine was not to be
easily frightened or diverted from her intent; and for this time the
required levies were obtained from the apparently more docile and more
long-suffering peasants of the territory.

A little later in July of this year 1499, we find the Florentines
again negotiating with Catherine, and no less a man than Niccolò
Macchiavelli was the agent sent to her by the Republic. The written
instructions received by him from the Signory on the occasion of this
embassy, and seven letters from him to the Gonfolonière and council,
giving an account of his proceedings, have been printed from the
originals preserved in the Archives at Florence.[138]

The business in hand was the signing of a new engagement for another
year with the Count Ottaviano, as general in the army of the Republic.
The young count was now just twenty years old. But he does not appear
to have taken any part in the matter, leaving his mother to make the
best bargain for his services that she could. But Florence wanted
to reduce his pay from the twelve thousand ducats it had been fixed
at the previous year, to ten thousand; and this was the point which
Macchiavelli was urged to use all his state-craft and subtilty in
gaining. The arguments used, the considerations put forward, and the
weighing of the probabilities as to the opposite party yielding or
holding out, are very amusingly similar in tone and turn of mind, to
those of any Florentine driving a hard bargain at the present day; and
show us the learned and profound Secretary of the Republic almost a
match for any chafferer of the Mercato nuovo.

He alleges the exhausted condition of the Florentine treasury for
the moment; enlarges much on the advantages to be drawn from the
friendship of Florence, and speaks largely of her well-known gratitude
to her supporters. At the same time he points out, that the present
proposition of the Republic is solely motived by its wish to continue
a connexion honourable to both parties, as, for the present, it has
absolutely no need of the noble Count's services.


But the astute Secretary had met with a match for his diplomacy.
Catherine said, that she had ever found the Florentines, as now,
abounding in most satisfactory assurances and courteous words, but that
their acts matched badly with them. She thought she merited better
treatment at their hands, having exposed her State to the inroads of
the Venetians by her faithful adherence to them. She wished nothing
but to continue on the good and friendly terms they had hitherto been
on. And as for this matter of the reduction of the salary, it pained
her, because it was seeming to cast a slight upon her son to diminish
his appointments, while those of other generals were maintained by the
Republic at the old amount. Besides, there was the Duke of Milan, her
relative, now offering to engage Ottaviano at twelve thousand ducats:
and what excuse could she make to him, if she refused his offer, and
accepted a worse one from Florence? Then again, the stipend due for
last year had not been paid yet; and really she wished to see that
settled before entering on new engagements.

Macchiavelli writes home, that he strove hard to content her with
good words, saying everything he could think of to cajole her; but
was forced to come away convinced, he says, that "words and reasoning
will not avail much to satisfy her, unless some partial performance be
added to them." As to this offer from the Duke of Milan, he fears there
may be some grounds of apprehension concerning it, as Messer Giovanni
Casale, the Duke's envoy, had been at Forlì for the last two months,
and evidently had much influence there.

It is amusing, knowing as we do right well, what was in the minds of
either party, to read the abundance of complimentary speeches, duly
detailed by the careful secretary, in which all these bargainings were
carefully wrapped up.

At last Macchiavelli writes home to his masters to the effect, that
he thinks they must pay off the old score, and increase their present
offer to twelve thousand ducats. And the treaty was eventually signed
for that amount.

There are signs however in these letters of Macchiavelli, that the
Florentine coffers were really running low. The envoy had been
instructed to ask for a body of 500 troops; and writes back, that they
may be had; and that Catherine will take all care to send picked men,
well armed, and faithful;—_but_ that the cash must be sent beforehand,
five hundred ducats at the least, before a man could march. If the
above sum were sent, they might reckon on having the five hundred
men before Pisa in fifteen days; but the ready cash was an absolute
sine-quâ-non. And the result of this communication from the envoy was,
that the Signory suffered the negociation quietly to drop.

Then come orders to purchase sundry war-stores and ammunitions; to
which the reply is, that Catherine had neither powder nor balls to
spare, being but badly provided for her own exigences. To show however
her wish to do everything in her power for the Republic, Madama had
consented to let the Signory have the half of a parcel of twenty
thousand pounds of nitre, which she had succeeded in purchasing at

And so on the 25th of July Macchiavelli left Forlì, having been obliged
to yield every point in dispute to our business-like heroine.

[Sidenote: EVIL DAYS.]

But the evil days were at hand. Louis XII., who had succeeded to
Charles VIII., entered into a league with the Venetians and Pope
Alexander, with the understanding that the king should be assisted
in seizing the Duchy of Milan, while Cesare Borgia was to be helped
to possess himself of the various small principalities of Romagna,
specially those of Imola and Forlì. Early in November, Borgia with a
numerous army, chiefly French, appeared before Imola. Ottaviano hurried
thither immediately, and having done what he could to persuade the
little city to make a vigorous defence, returned to the more important
care of preparing Forlì to stand a siege.

Imola surrendered at the first summons of Borgia. But not so did
Dionigi Naldi the _Castellano_ of the fortress. To every threat of the
enemy he replied, that he was determined to do his duty to the last;
and in fact only yielded when the fortress had been battered into ruins
around him.

Meanwhile Madama and her son were taking every means to defend Forlì.
The country was laid waste around, and everything portable brought into
the city. The fortifications were repaired, Ottaviano himself labouring
as a porter to encourage his subjects, and Madama herself personally
superintending the work. But the conduct of Imola made Catherine
feel, that unless the Forlìvesi really intended to stand by her and
defend their city, it would be much wiser to employ all her efforts in
preparing for an obstinate resistance in the fortress, and leave the
town to itself. She therefore determined to call a general council of
the citizens, and invite every one to speak his opinion freely on the
measures to be adopted, for raising the necessary supplies. Her own
plans and intentions were first fully explained, and then any who had
objections to make were desired to speak. Whereupon many rose to put
forward different views, to whom the superior advantages of the lady's
plans were duly pointed out. But it so happened, that the objectors
were still unconvinced. Whereupon Madama became so angered, that "she
regarded this circumstance as an abuse of her kindness; and being
resolved to tolerate such opposition no further, caused a gallows to be
forthwith raised on the piazza, and a rack to be erected by the side of
it; wishing thus to let it be understood to the terror of all, that,
though her goodness was great, it had its limits."[139]

Yet these conciliatory measures do not seem to have had all the
effect that could have been desired on the minds of the citizens.
For notwithstanding the persuasive nature of the arguments mentioned
above, it seems, that the result of one or two other councils of her
lieges finally convinced Catherine that no hope was to be placed in
the fidelity of the city; and that she had nothing to look to but the
strength of the fortress, and her own energy in defending it.

In these nearly desperate circumstances the still undaunted Countess
determined on the 11th of December to send her son away into Tuscany,
that _his_ safety at least might in case of the worst be secured, while
she remained to face the storm. The division between the town and the
citadel now became complete. The citizens made no longer any secret of
their intentions to open their gates to Borgia, and tender him their
allegiance; while all those who were personal adherents of the Riarii,
or who determined still to link their fortunes with that of Madama and
her sons retreated into the fortress.


The citizens had thus abandoned and defied in her danger and extremity
the high-handed and haughty mistress, before whom they had so often
trembled; and were doubtless congratulating themselves in having been
permitted so easily to change their allegiance from a sinking house to
one in the ascendant, when they were suddenly reminded that they were
not yet well "off with the old love," by the opening of the fortress
guns on the city. The astonishment was great, that Catherine, who must
well know that she would shortly have need of every arm and every
ounce of powder she could muster, should thus commence a contest with
a second enemy, as if the Borgia were not enough. But the proud Dame
held that all those who were not for her, were against her; and could
ill brook the disobedience and desertion of her vassals. But this
cannonading her own city, was, under any provocation, an act but poorly
excusable by the motives set forth in its defence by Burriel;—that
the enemy might not suppose that she was an acquiescing party in the
abandonment of the city, or that she was alarmed or discouraged by it.

On the other hand it must not be imagined that the injury inflicted
on the citizens by such a measure was in any way comparable to that
which we naturally picture to ourselves, as the result of firing on a
city from the walls of a fortress. The proportion between the means of
offence and defence at the disposal of European combatants, has for
the last four hundred years been continually changing in favour of
the former. So that the mischief done in a given time by any military
operations is infinitely greater now than was the case when Catherine
battered Forlì.

On the 19th of December Cesare Borgia made his triumphal entry into
Forlì, with all those theatrical circumstances of personal pomp and
bravery which in the conceptions of those peacock-like southern
idiosyncracies form so large and essential portion of the idea of
"greatness." The troops and their officers having filed into the
city before him, the great man,—most wicked, base, and incapable of
any great or noble thought of all men there;—the great man, most
reverenced, admired, and obeyed of all men there, advanced stately in
full armour on a white horse, with an heraldically embroidered silk
tunic over his armour, a tall white plume nodding above his helmet, and
in his hand a long green lance, the point of which rested on the toe of
his boot.

And these well selected properties answered their purpose so perfectly,
that no man in the vast concourse there guessed, that Cesare Borgia
was not a great man, even when to the considerable discomfiture of
all the scenic arrangements a sudden torrent of rain threatened to
wash out all visible distinction between his Highness and ordinary
mortals. The magistrates and deputation of nobles, who were receiving
him at the gate, turned and fled in scamping disorder, each man to
the nearest shelter.[140] Borgia hastily rode round the piazza in
performance of the recognised symbol of taking possession of the city,
and then hurried off to the lodging prepared for him. But the storm
was productive of far more serious evil to the unfortunate townsfolk.
For all the officers, having hurried away to their various quarters,
no one remained to superintend the billeting of the soldiers with any
regularity. And the consequence was, that they rushed pell-mell through
the city, forcing their way into the houses, and finding lodging for
themselves according to their own discretion.


The results of this irruption, and of the license which followed it,
were almost equivalent to the sack of the city. The town became a
perfect hell, writes one chronicler.[141] The shops were gutted. The
_Palazzo Pubblico_ was almost entirely devastated. The great council
hall was turned into a tavern, and all the seats burned. The guard-room
and the offices of the customs were made a slaughter-house; and the
utmost confusion and disorder prevailed everywhere. "In the houses,"
writes Burriel, "neither could any business be carried on, nor could
their inmates even live there, as the soldiers entered in parties, made
themselves masters of everything, and ill-treated the owners;—not to
mention the worse lot of widows, and of those who had daughters, and
could find no place of safety for them."

The citizens began to find that things could hardly have been worse
with them had they rallied round their courageous liege lady, and
bravely defended their walls.

Borgia twice had parley with Madama at his request; and used every
argument to induce her to give up the fortress, wholly in vain. Towards
the end of December the attack was commenced; and for about a week
continued without much result. And then, at the beginning of the new
year and century, a truce was agreed on for a few days. The French
during this time gave themselves up to festivities and amusements,
which seem not a little to have astonished the more civilised Italians.
For instance, writes one of the historians, D'Aubigny and Galvani,
two of Borgia's generals, lodging in the house of Messer Giovanni
Monsignani determined on inviting a party of their brother officers.
A sufficiently ample banqueting hall was provided by boarding up the
arches of the "loggia" or open arcade so common in Italian domestic
architecture; and provision for a feast intended to last two entire
days was obtained at small cost by a razzia upon the peasants. When the
guests arrived, they were followed, we are assured, by a mob of all
sorts of people, who, while the convives sat at table, stood around
eating and drinking all they could lay their hands on. And when the
repast was finished, two men, "according to their barbarous, and truly
too outrageous custom," sprung on the table, and dancing on it, smashed
and destroyed all the plates and other utensils thereon, and threw
the wreck with all the remnant of the eatables to the ground. "Then
came in an exceedingly long procession of men and women," (of whom a
considerable number, it should seem, accompanied the camp;) "driving
before them a man on horseback in a long gown and cap like a mitre on
his head. This procession stood around the tables drinking and making
merry, with much laughter. Then all went out arm in arm, parading
the streets, and roaring out their tasteless disagreeable songs to
the exceeding wonder of the Forlìvesi."[142] We can easily believe
it;—easily imagine too the scene produced by the Lord of Misrule, who
may probably be recognised in the gentleman with the long gown and
mitre, and his roystering crew of roaring swash-bucklers startling
the echoes from the tall stone walls of the old Italian town, amid
the cautious peeping of the scared and scandalised burghers, quite
at a loss to understand the meaning and intention of this strange
manifestation of the barbarians.


On the 10th of January, 1500, the attack on the fortress was renewed,
and by mid-day on the 12th, the breach was nearly practicable. Borgia
left the attack, we are told, at that hour, to go to dinner! and while
at table, made a bet of thirty ducats with some of his officers, that
he would have Catherine in his hands within three days. Returning to
the walls, he found that fortune had prepared for him a more rapid
victory than he had hoped for. Either by treachery, as the Forlì
historians, of course, maintain, or by the efforts of the enemy, a
fire had broken out in the fort, which paralysed the garrison; and
driving them from their defences, caused the principal part of the
fortifications to fall into the hands of the enemy.

The case was now clearly hopeless; but Catherine retiring into the
principal tower, still stood at bay. At the same time another tower,
which had served as the magazine, and into which a large number of the
enemy had penetrated, was fired by some of Catherine's people; and all
those within it met with a fearful death. This act of useless cruelty
so exasperated the soldiers of Borgia, that a general massacre of the
garrison was commenced. At this juncture, Borgia once again demanded
to parley with the Countess, who accordingly presented herself at a
window of her tower. They spoke together at length, while he strove to
persuade her of the uselessness of prolonging the struggle. But while
she still stood at the window speaking with him, a French soldier, who
had found some means of entrance into the tower, stepped up behind her,
and made her prisoner in the name of his captain.

All this took place on the afternoon of the 12th of January. Catherine
was that night kept prisoner in the citadel, where Borgia and the
French general visited her, and talked with her, it is recorded, for
more than an hour;—an hour sufficiently bitter, one may suppose, to
that haughty dame, who had to listen to the courtesies of her captors,
while the sounds of falling masonry, and exploding mines, the shouts
of the pursuers, and the cries of the conquered as they fell, ever and
anon came through the thick walls, and gave clear evidence of the work
of destruction which was in progress.

The Forlì historians recount at much length the cruelties and insults
which their forefathers had to suffer from the victorious barbarian
army during several days,—the insatiable rapacity of all classes
of the soldiers, the wanton destruction of that which could not be
appropriated, and the general devastation of the city. But all this is
unhappily too common, and too well known a story, to need repeating

History has for centuries been preaching to mankind from her great
stock text, on war and its consequences;—and at last not so wholly in
vain, as in the good old time. But if so terrible an amount of evil be
inseparable from the most glorious war,—and the valorous assertion of
right, against wrong-doing might is, and must ever be, glorious,—what
shall be said of slaughter-matches, in which no high idea or noble
feeling had any, the least share; by which the basest passions are
intensified, the lowest motives alone brought into action, with only
this distinction, that the higher the social rank of the "noble
soldier," the baser were the objects he proposed to himself as the
prizes of the fight!

[Sidenote: ONCE MORE TO ROME.]

Towards the end of January, Borgia left Forlì, wholly submitted to his
authority, and led away his noble captive to Rome. Catherine, clothed,
it is recorded, in a black satin dress, made the journey on horseback,
riding between her conqueror and one of the French generals. She
arrived in Rome on the 26th of February, 1500. And, as she once again
entered that Porta del Popolo, the dethroned widow can hardly have
failed to contrast the circumstances of her return with those of her
first arrival in the Eternal City.


 Catherine arrives in Rome;—is accused of attempting to poison the
 Pope;—is imprisoned in St. Angelo;—is liberated;—and goes to
 Florence.—Her cloister life with the Murate nuns.—Her collection of
 wonderful secrets.—Making allowances.—Catherine's death.

Passing along the same line of streets which she had traversed
twenty-three years before as the bride of the then wealthiest and most
powerful man in Rome,—as much an object of curiosity now as then to
the sight-loving populace, eager to stare at the celebrated prisoner of
the now wealthiest and most powerful man in Rome, as then to welcome
the great man's bride,—Catherine was led by her captor to the Vatican.
Up the well-known stair, and through the familiar chambers, lined,
when last she passed across them, with a crowd of bending courtiers,
anxious to catch a word or glance from the powerful favourite, who held
all Apostolic graces in her hand, she passed on to the presence of the

Alexander received her courteously; assigned an apartment in the
Belvidere of the Vatican as her prison, and assured her, that no care
should be wanting to make her residence there as little irksome as was
consistent with the precautions necessary to secure her safe custody.

No doubt the haughty lady replied to the Sovereign Pontiff, who, when
last they had met, had been too happy in being honoured with her
friendship, with equal courtesy. But the feelings in the breast of
either interlocutor, which were thus decorously veiled, may be easily


And it was not long before the genuine hatred pierced through the
flimsy sham of courtly politeness. In the month of June—that is, four
months after her arrival in Rome—an accusation was brought against
Catherine of having attempted to destroy the Pope by poison. The story
put forward was one strangely characteristic of medieval modes of
thinking and acting.[143] It was asserted that when Catherine heard in
the spring of 1499, that the Pope had judicially declared her deposed
from her sovereignty, she had at once determined on compassing his
death. With this view, she had caused certain letters, written by her
to the Pontiff, to be placed inside the clothing, on the breast of one
dying of the plague, then prevalent in Forlì. These letters, having
thus been rendered deadly to whoso should touch them, were consigned to
a certain confidential servant of the Countess, named Battista, with
orders to proceed to Rome, and deliver the papers into no hand save
that of Alexander himself. This man, the accusation went on to say, met
in Rome one Cristoforo Balatrone, a former servant of the Riarii, then
in disgrace with his mistress; and confided to him the real object of
the mission intrusted to him, promising him restoration to Catherine's
favour, if he would assist in the execution of it.

The accusation, therefore, it will be observed, supposed that Catherine
did not merely avail herself of this servant's aid, as a courier to
carry the letters and deliver them as ordered, which would have been
all that was needful, but unnecessarily, as it would seem, confided to
him the fatal secret of her intentions.

Cristoforo, it was said, instead of acquiescing in Battista's proposal,
persuaded the latter to reveal the whole to the Pontiff. For that
purpose they forthwith proceeded to the Vatican. It was late in
the evening, and they were bidden by one Tommaso Carpi, the Pope's
chamberlain, and who was also, as it happened, a Forlì man, to return
on the morrow if they wished an audience. In the mean time Cristoforo,
not being able to keep so great a secret for so many hours, related
the whole matter to his brother, a private in the Papal guards.
The soldier immediately reported the story to his captain; and he,
thinking promptitude necessary in such a case, forthwith arrested both
Cristoforo and Battista, and made the Pope acquainted with all the
circumstances on the following morning. Alexander knowing, it was said
(although at that period he could have known nothing of the sort, but
could only have hoped it), that Catherine would shortly be brought to
Rome, ordered that these men should be kept in secret confinement till
the arrival of the Countess.

According to this story, therefore, Alexander was aware of Catherine's
murderous intentions at the time of that courteous reception we read
of. But then, and for four months afterwards, no such accusation was
heard of. At the end of that time Catherine was submitted to the
humiliation of being confronted with the two men who testified to
this accusation, before Alexander himself. To our ideas it would seem
that there must have been various means of proving or disproving the
facts in question. The letters might have been produced, and means of
ascertaining their contagiousness devised. But juridical and medical
science were in far too barbarous a state, and still more fatally the
sentiment of fairness and appreciation of the desirableness of truth,
far too much deadened for any such mode of proceeding to have been
thought of. The witnesses maintained their story by their assertion;
Catherine utterly denied that there was any truth in any part of it;
and the whole scope of the examination seems to have been to see which
party would most obstinately adhere to their assertion.


In an ordinary case the obstinacy would quickly have been more
satisfactorily tested by placing the accused on the rack. But even a
Pope, and that Pope Alexander VI., would hardly venture to apply the
torture to Catherine Sforza. The examination, therefore appears to have
resulted in a battledore-and-shuttlecock iteration of "You did," and
"I did not," so much to the advantage of the lady, that one[144] of
her biographers writes triumphantly of her, that "Although confronted
with those who audaciously accused her of having sent them to Rome for
that purpose, she, with a virile and intrepid mind, conquered by her
obstinate constancy the wicked will of Alexander."

This wicked will was not, however, so completely vanquished as to
prevent the accused, though not convicted, Countess from being
immediately transferred from the Belvidere to the castle of St. Angelo;
to the prisons of which ill-omened fortress she was consigned on the
26th of June.

And all the probabilities of the case seem to indicate that the
accusation was trumped up merely to justify this change in the
Countess' place of confinement. Catherine, while she lived, was likely
to be ever as tormenting a thorn in the side of Cæsare Borgia, as the
ousted Ordelaffi pretenders had been in hers, even during the Pontiff's
life. And after that, when the new sovereign of Romagna would have to
maintain himself in his position unaided by Apostolic influence, she
would be a far more dangerous enemy. Yet the rank and connections of
Catherine, and her own reputation and character and standing among the
princes of Italy were such, that it was requisite to proceed warily in
any attempt to get rid of her. A good pretext was necessary to justify
even the rigour of imprisoning her in St. Angelo. But that step taken,
the rest would not be so difficult. Those once hidden in the dreadful
vaults of that huge mass of old Roman masonry, were too completely
cut off from all communication with the outer world, for there to be
any possibility of marking their passage from the living tomb, to the
veritable grave within its walls. Papal dungeons reveal no secrets;
and there can be little doubt that, but for the interposition of an
arm more powerful than that of the Pontiff, Catherine would never have
recrossed that threshold passed by so many unreturning feet.


As to the real guilt of our heroine in this matter, it must be admitted
that the presumption in her favour rests more on the improbability of
the means said to have been selected by her, and on the incredibility
of Alexander's having suppressed all mention of the crime for four
months, rather than on any conviction that she would have been
incapable of any such atrocity. That Catherine would without hesitation
or scruple take human life—nay, many human lives—on the provocation
of wrong much lighter than that received by her from the Pontiff,
is clear enough; but it is true, that many, most probably, of her
contemporaries, who would have never thought twice of sending burgher
or peasant to the rack or gallows in a fit of passing passion, would
have shrunk from poisoning a Pope. The atrocity of the deed, in the
estimation of the contemporary writers, is derived from the sacred
character and high rank of its object. And these are considerations
which, it may be fairly supposed from what we have seen of Catherine,
would be likely to influence her less than they might have done others.
It is difficult to believe that Popes were very sacred personages in
her eyes. She had been too much behind the scenes to be much under
the influence of stage illusion. And, in a word, it will be felt, if
the foregoing pages have at all succeeded in picturing this masterful
woman to the reader as she appears to the writer, that she was not
likely to have turned away from any means that presented themselves to
her of removing out of her path any individual, be he who he might,
whose existence seemed fatal to the objects for which she had lived and

Nevertheless, for the reasons above stated, it seems more probable that
the accusation in question was trumped up for the sake of furnishing
an opportunity to the Pope of taking her life, which was almost as
dangerous to his aims, as his life was to her. And had it not been for
the powerful interference of the French king, doubtless Catherine would
never have come out alive from the dungeons of St. Angelo. One of the
historians[145] simply says that she owed her life to the protection
of France. Things were not in a position to render it possible that
Alexander should act in defiance of the remonstrances of Louis XII.;
and Catherine was liberated on the 30th of June, 1501.

Having remained at Rome a few days among her relatives and connections
of the house of Riario, she left it for the last time on the 27th of
July, and went to Florence. All her children by her three husbands had
already found an asylum there; where, in consideration of her third
marriage, rights of citizenship had, by an instrument bearing date the
27th of July, 1498, been conferred on all of them.

It is not without a certain feeling of surprise that one remembers that
Catherine, after a career so full of incident, comprising three married
lives and three widowhoods, was now only thirty-nine years of age. The
active and useful portion of many an existence begins at as late a
period. But Catherine seems to have felt that she had lived her life,
and that the active portion of her career was over. Almost immediately
on arriving in Florence, she selected the convent of the Murate as the
place of her retirement; and she never afterwards quitted it.

More than one change in the political world occurred during the years
she passed there, which seemed calculated to make a place for her once
again upon the great scene of Europe, and perhaps to open a path for
her return to sovereign place and power. Alexander VI. died in 1503;
and, after a few months' occupation of the Papal throne by Pius III.,
Giuliano della Rovere, first cousin of Girolamo Riario, was elected and
became Pope under the name of Julius II. It is true that this warrior
Pope did not subsequently appear disposed to lend any helping hand
to his Riari cousins for the recovery of their dominions; but the
elevation of a cousin to the chair of St. Peter might well call forth
from the cloister one who had any wish remaining to play a part in the

[Sidenote: AT THE MURATE.]

But Catherine remained quiet in the monotonous repose of her cell
in the Via Ghibellina, and did not disturb herself to make even the
smallest attempt at obtaining the favour of the new Pontiff. It must
be concluded that she had in truth abandoned the world, with an
earnestness of purpose more durable than is usually the case with such
votaries of seclusion.

Yet few can have ever experienced a more violent change than that
suffered by this strong-willed woman in passing from a life so filled
with movement, excitement, activity, danger, pains, pleasures, and
vicissitudes, to the dead tranquillity of a secure cloister cell.
Her priest biographer[146] hints that the macerations, fasts, and
austerities practised by her during her residence at the Murate, were
such as in all probability to have shortened her life. Having followed
with infinite complacency the worldly triumphs and grandeurs of his
heroine, as long as devoutly worshipped Mammon had rewards to shower on
his votary, the greedy biographer seeks to finish off his picture by
adding a little halo of sanctity, and thus claims double honours for
his client.

But there is reason to think that these severe penances are wholly
the creatures of the writer's priestly invention. The Murate, at the
period of Catherine's retirement there, was not the place any penitent
would have selected for the leading of an austere life. The convent was
inhabited exclusively by noble ladies, and some picture of the life
led there by them, has been given by the present writer in speaking of
the residence there of another Catherine[147] a few years afterwards.
Her childhood was passed within the same cloister-wall that had
sheltered the decline of that namesake whose character presented so
many striking points of similarity to her own.

It is not likely that the Murate convent was the scene of any severe
austerities. But if no spiritual excitement of this sort supplied
for Catherine the place of that which she had lost, the hours of the
long day, however diversified by matins, lauds, complines, and vesper
amusements, must surely have passed heavily.

A very curious MS. volume,[148] copied from one in Catherine's own
handwriting, may perhaps indicate the disposal of some of those weary
hours. It consists of more than five hundred receipts and experiments
in medicine, chemistry, cosmetics, perfumery, alchemy, &c. The practice
of forming and preserving such collections seems to have been a common
one among the ladies of that time; and various similar volumes may be
met with. In a short preface, the copier of Catherine's manuscript, a
certain Messer Lucantonio Cuppani, declares that he has tested many of
the receipts and found the results perfectly satisfactory, and that he
doubts not that the rest are equally trustworthy, seeing that so great
a woman had recorded them; wherefore he has made the present copy, lest
the knowledge of such wonderful secrets might be lost.


Many of these valuable secrets are of a nature to be only too really
valuable in the hands of a sovereign possessing a mint of her own. The
papal bull authorising the coining of money at Forlì contains a special
provision for the goodness of the metal. But the following entries, in
the royal-minded Catherine's own hand, suggest strong doubts of the
condition having been duly observed:—

"To convert pewter into silver of the finest quality and of standard

"For giving to bars of brass a fine golden colour."

Several receipts, "For multiplying silver."

More curious and suspicious still, is the possession of a method by
which "to give weight to a crown or ducat of gold, _without hurting the
conscience_—senza carico di coscienza"!

A great number refer to subjects, which we must suppose to have been
more interesting to Catherine at an earlier period of her life, than
when living among "the wall'd-up Nuns." As, for instance, a receipt
"to drive away pallor from the face, and give it a colour." For this
purpose, roots of myrrh must be shred into good generous wine; then
"drink sufficiently of that, and it will give you a carnation of the
most beautiful." This is probably one of the receipts tried, and found
to answer by Messer Lucantonio.

Then we have a water to preserve the skin against blotches; another to
make the teeth white; and a third to make the gums red; and very many
others for the beautification of almost every part of the person.

As a specimen of the medical "secrets," of which a great number are
treasured up in this curious volume, the following may be cited: For
infirm lungs, an ointment is to be made of the blood of a hen, a duck,
a pig, a goose, mixed with fresh butter and white wax. And this is to
be applied to the chest on a fox's skin. In which the fox-skin holds
a place analogous to that of the six pounds of beef in the well-known
recipe for making stone soup.

More problematical is a receipt for "a drink to make splintered bones
come out of the wound of themselves."

There are many examples of sick-room practice, based on curious
combinations of medical with theological treatment; as in the following
method for healing sabre wounds: "Take three pieces of an old shirt,
steeped in holy water, and bind them on the wound in the form of a
cross. The wound must have been carefully washed; and the patient must
have no offensive arms about him. He must say three _paters_ and three
_aves_ off; if he cannot, some one must say them for him. For the
success of this cure, it is necessary that both the wounded man and the
operator be in a state of bodily purity."

The following must probably be one of those which good Lucantonio did
not make trial of, but took on trust undoubtingly, from his faith in
the noble author's "greatness:" "To make a toad cast his stone. Take a
toad of those which have a red head. Place him in a cage, and put the
cage upon a piece of scarlet cloth; and early in the morning, set it in
the ray of the rising sun. The toad will look fixedly at the sun; and
you must let him remain there for three hours. And at the end of that
time he will cast forth a stone which has three virtues: 1st, It is
specific against poison; 2nd, It is good to staunch blood; 3rd, When a
horse is in pain, grate some of the stone, and make him drink it."


There are among these valuable secrets, waters "to make iron hard;" "to
make it as brittle as glass;" "to dissolve pearls;" "to dissolve all
metals;" &c., &c.

There are no less than thirteen different specifics against witchcraft.

Then, if you would know whether a sick person will recover, you must
"clean the face of the sick with warm paste, and then give the paste to
a dog. If the dog should eat the paste, the sick man will recover; if
not, he will die."

Lastly, there are a great number of a kind that, less than any of the
others, should have been of any interest to the recluse of the Murate;
such as love philtres, specifics against sterility and other kindred
inconveniences. Several are for purposes set forth by the noble lady
with the utmost cynical directness of terms, but which cannot, under
any veil of phrase, be even indicated here. And some instructions
there are, which would place any modern English man or woman acting on
them, in a very disagreeable position in the dock of the Old Bailey;
but which are here, by some theological sharp practice, so cleverly
and piously managed, as to attain their object, "_senza carico di

It would seem, too, that, startling as is the cynicism of some of the
language which Messer Lucantonio has not scrupled to copy in his best
text-hand, some of the lady's secrets must have been of a yet more
abominable description. For passages in cipher frequently occur in a
context, which indicates that such has been the reason for so veiling

In short, there is to be found in the pages of this strangely curious
and tell-tale volume, abundant evidence that the woman who could
collect, transcribe, and find an interest in preserving such "secrets,"
as many of those here, must, according to English nineteenth-century
codes and feelings, have been lost to every sense of decency, and
deplorably ignorant of the laws, and even of the true nature of
morality. But there is no reason to think that Catherine fell in these
respects at all lower than the general level of her age and country.
There is ample proof, on the contrary, that in these, as in all other
matters, Catherine was essentially a woman of her time—in no respect
in advance of her time, or behind it; but furnishing a full and fair
expression and type of her age and class, as is ever the case with
vigorous, bustling, strong, practical natures of her stamp. The men,
who are before their time, whose domain is the future, to their utter
exclusion from all dominion over the present, are of another sort.


The writers and readers of biographies are, as it seems to the author
of the present, too much wont to feel themselves called upon to
express, or at least to form a judgment, as to the amount of moral
approbation or condemnation to be awarded to the object of their
examination. They continually suffer their thoughts to be drawn from
the legitimate and useful study of their subject, by a constant
consideration of the judgment to be passed on such or such individual
soul by the one all-seeing Judge, alone competent to solve any such
question. They talk of "making allowance," as the phrase goes; and
spend much weighing on the quantum of such allowance admissible. Vain
speculation surely, and quite beside the purpose! Not on the ground
of "charitable construction" being due, and of "judging not," &c.
(for lack of charity towards a fellow-creature, or other evil passion
whatever, can hardly find place in our thoughts of one, whose exit
from our scene was four centuries ago), but because such questions
are insoluble, and if they were soluble, would be unprofitable. For
we are not in the position of the bedside physician, whose duty is
to alleviate the pangs of the sufferer, and to struggle against the
individual malady by individual appliances. We are in the place of
the _post-mortem_ anatomist, who, without reference to the sufferings
of the deceased, has only to ascertain that a certain amount of
mischief to the machine he is examining, resulted from such and such
circumstances. And this information is useful only on account of his
persuasion that other similar machines will be in like circumstances
similarly affected.

We have no need, therefore, of any of that feeling of the moral
pulse, which might be useful for the priest or philosopher, who would
"minister to a mind diseased." We have only to ascertain that a
certain amount of deviation from moral health existed under such and
such circumstances. And this, in as much as the laws which govern our
ethical constitution are as immutable as those which rule the physical
world, is an investigation of infinite and eternal interest. Under the
influence of such and such social constitutions, spiritual teachings,
and modes of living, this case of moral disease was generated. Here is
a practically useful fact. And if it should appear that, under those
same influences this malady was epidemic, the interest of the case
assumes larger proportions.

Altogether dismissing from our minds, therefore, all considerations
of our poor defunct subject's blameableness, and deservings, and all
weighing of allowances wholly imponderable in any scales of ours, let
us heedfully observe and reflect on the proved facts of the case.

This poor Catherine, born, as our autopsy shows, with so strong,
vigorous, and large a nature, came to be savagely reckless of human
life, and blood-thirsty in her vengeance; came to be so grossly
material in her mode of regarding that part of our nature, which,
duly spiritualised, contributes much to our preparation for eternity,
but which, unspiritualised, most draws us to the level of the lower
animals, as to be capable of _writing_ such things as have been
alluded to; came lastly to consider all distinction between right
and wrong, and God's eternal laws to be of the nature of an Act of
Parliament carelessly drawn, through which, by sharp-witted dexterity,
coaches-and-four, as the saying goes, might be driven with impunity;
came, we say, to be all this as the result of the teaching offered her
by all around her in that great fifteenth century, of the spiritual
guidance afforded her by those "ages of faith," and living heart-felt
religion, and of the social ideas produced by the medieval relationship
between the governors of mankind and their subjects.

Catherine continued to reside with the Murate nuns till the time of her
death, in the year 1509, the forty-seventh of her age. She made a long
and accurately drawn will, characterised by the justice and good sense
with which she partitioned what belonged to her among the children
of her three marriages; and was buried in the chapel of the convent;
where her monument was still visible, although, strangely enough,
its inscribed altar tombstone had at some period been turned face
downwards, and where her remains reposed till they were (literally)
dispersed a few years ago, on occasion of the old Murate convent being
converted into a state prison.



 Changes in the Condition of Italy.—Dark Days.—Circumstances
 which led to the Invasion of the French.—State of things in
 Naples.—Fall of the Arragonese Dynasty.—Birth of Vittoria.—The
 Colonna.—Marino.—Vittoria's Betrothal.—The Duchess di
 Francavilla.—Literary Culture at Naples.—Education of Vittoria in

A number of years less than sufficient for the passing away of one
generation elapsed between the birth of Catherine Sforza and that of
Vittoria Colonna. The latter was celebrating her marriage, with life
all decked in its gayest hues, and lighted with its brightest sunshine
spread out before her, in the same year in which the stout-hearted
old châtelaine, wearied and world-sick was dying out of sight in a
cloister. But the passage of these few years had brought about events
that furnished forth a changed scene for the younger lady to play her
part on. The second dark age of Italy, according to the historians, was
about to commence. The bad times were at hand. The change, we are told
by the recorders of it, was all for the worse. And in truth it might
well appear so, to all, save those whose faith forbids them to believe
in any change for the worse, and whose patience can afford to allow the
world-phœnix, as Carlyle says, a long time,—say, as regards Italy,
some four hundred years or so—for burning herself.

The process has not, it must be admitted, been a pleasant one; and
those years at the beginning of it were assuredly not pleasant times to
those whose lot was cast in them.

The French came down on the country to light up the pyre; the Spaniards
followed to make matters worse; Holy Fathers, the only Heaven-given
guidance known, went from bad to worse, till badness culminated in a
Borgia; new ideas too were bred, like flies in the heat, coming from
no man knew where,—leading, assuredly no man then living guessed
whither,—and promising in the long run to give more trouble than
either French, Spaniards, or Popes,—all tended to make a troublous,
yeasty, seething time of our Vittoria's life-span.

The signs of change, which were perplexing monarchs at the period
of her entry on the scene, belonged simply to the material order of
things; and such broad outline of them, as is necessary to give some
idea of the general position of Italy at that day, may be drawn in few

Certain more important symptoms of changes in the world of thought and
speculation, did not rise to the surface of society till a few years
later, and these will have to be spoken of in a subsequent page.


When Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, was murdered in 1476, his
son, Gian Galeazzo, a minor, succeeded to the dukedom. But his uncle
Ludovico, known in history as "Ludovico il Moro," under pretence of
protecting his nephew, usurped the whole power and property of the
crown, which he continued wrongfully to keep in his own hands even
after the majority of his nephew. The latter, however, having married
a grand-daughter of Ferdinand of Arragon, King of Naples, her father,
Alphonso, heir apparent of that crown, became exceedingly discontented
at the state of tutelage in which his son-in-law was thus held. And
his remonstrances and threats became so urgent, that "Black Ludovick"
perceived that he should be unable to retain his usurped position,
unless he could find means of disabling Ferdinand and his son Alphonso
from exerting their strength against him. With this view he persuaded
Charles VIII. of France to undertake with his aid the conquest of
the kingdom of Naples, to which the French monarch asserted a claim,
derived from the house of Anjou, which had reigned in Naples, till they
were ousted by the house of Arragon. This invitation, which the Italian
historians consider the first fountain head of all their calamities,
was given in 1492. On the 23rd of August, 1494, Charles left France on
his march to Italy, and arrived in Rome on the 31st of December of that

On the previous 25th of January, Ferdinand, the old King of Naples,
died, and his son, Alphonso, succeeded him. But the new monarch, who
during the latter years of his father's life had wielded the whole
power of the kingdom, was so much hated by his subjects, that on the
news of the French King's approach they rose in rebellion and declared
in favour of the invader. Alphonso made no attempt to face the storm,
but forthwith abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand, fled to Sicily,
and "set about serving God," as the chroniclers phrase it, in a
monastery, where he died a few months later, on the 19th of November,

Ferdinand II., his son, was not disliked by the nation; and
Guicciardini gives it as his opinion, that if the abdication of his
father in his favour had been executed earlier, it might have had the
effect of saving the kingdom from falling into the hands of the French
monarch. But it was now too late. A large portion of it had already
declared itself in favour of the invaders. Ferdinand found the contest
hopeless, and early in 1495 retired to Ischia. Charles entered Naples
the 21st of February, 1495, and the whole kingdom hastened to accept
him as its sovereign.

Meantime, however, Ludovico, Duke of Milan, whose oppressed nephew
had died on the 22nd of October, 1494, began to be alarmed at the too
complete success of his own policy, and entered into a league with the
Venetians, the King of the Romans, and Ferdinand of Castile, against
Charles, who seems to have immediately become as much panic stricken
at the news of it as Alphonso had been at his approach. The French,
moreover, both the monarch and his followers, had lost no time in
making themselves so odious to the Neapolitans, that the nation had
already repented of having abandoned Ferdinand so readily, and were
anxious to get rid of the French and receive him back again. Towards
the end of May, 1495, Charles hastily left Naples on his return to
France, leaving Gilbert de Montpensier as Viceroy; and on the 7th of
July, Ferdinand returned to Naples and was gladly welcomed by the

And now, having thus the good-will of his subjects already disgusted
with their French rulers, Ferdinand might in all probability have
succeeded without any foreign assistance in ridding his country
of the remaining French troops left behind him by Charles, and in
re-establishing the dynasty of Arragon on the throne of Naples, had
he not at the time when things looked worst with him, on the first
coming of Charles, committed the fatal error of asking assistance from
Ferdinand the Catholic, of Castile.


Ferdinand the Catholic and the crafty, did not wait to be asked a
second time; but instantly despatched to his aid, Consalvo Ernandez
d'Aguilar, known thereafter in Neapolitan history as "Il gran
Capitano," both on account of his rank as Generalissimo of the Spanish
forces, and of his high military merit and successes. Ferdinand of
Arragon, with the help of Consalvo and the troops he brought with him,
soon succeeded in driving the French out of his kingdom; and appeared
to be on the eve of a more prosperous period when a sudden illness put
an end to his life in October, 1496. He died without offspring, and was
succeeded by his uncle Frederick.

Thus, as the Neapolitan historians remark, Naples had passed under the
sway of no less than five monarchs in the space of three years: to wit—

Ferdinand of Arragon, the first, who died 25th of January, 1494.

Alphonso, his son, who abdicated on the 3rd of February, 1495.

Charles of France, crowned at Naples on the 20th of May, 1495, and
driven out of the kingdom immediately afterwards.

Ferdinand of Arragon, II., son of Alphonso, who entered Naples in
triumph on the 7th of July, 1495, and died in October, 1496.

Frederick of Arragon, his uncle, who succeeded him.

But these so rapid changes had not exhausted the slides of Fortune's
magic lanthorn. She had other harlequinade transformations in hand,
sufficient to make even Naples tired of change and desirous of repose.
Frederick, the last, and perhaps the best, and best-loved of the
Neapolitan sovereigns of the dynasty of Arragon, reigned but to witness
the final discomfiture and downfall of his house.

Charles VIII. died in April, 1498; but his successor, Louis XII., was
equally anxious to possess himself of the crown of Naples, and more
able to carry his views into effect. The principal obstacle to his
doing so was the power of Ferdinand of Spain, and the presence of the
Spanish troops under Consalvo in Naples. Ferdinand the Catholic, could
by no means permit the spoliation of his kinsman and ally, Frederick,
who loyally relied on his protection, for the profit of the King of
France. Louis knew that it was impossible he should do so. But the Most
Christian King thought that the Most Catholic King might very probably
find it consistent with kingly honour to take a different view of the
case, if it were proposed to him to go shares in the plunder. And
the Most Christian King's estimate of royal nature was so just, that
the Most Catholic King acceded in the frankest manner to his royal
brother's proposal.

Louis accordingly sent an army to invade Naples in the year 1500. The
unfortunate Frederick was beguiled the while into thinking that his
full trust might be placed on the assistance of Spain. But, when on the
25th of June, 1501, the Borgia Pope, Alexander VII., published a bull
graciously dividing his dominions between the two eldest sons of the
Church, he perceived at once that his position was hopeless. Resolving,
however, not to abandon his kingdom without making an attempt to
preserve it, he determined to defend himself in Capua. That city was
however taken by the French on the 24th of July, 1501, and Frederick
fled to Ischia; whence he subsequently retired to France, and died at
Tours on the 9th of November, 1504.


Meanwhile, the royal accomplices having duly shared their booty,
instantly began to quarrel, as thieves are wont to do, over the
division of it. Each in fact had from the first determined eventually
to possess himself of the whole; proving, that if indeed there be
honour among thieves, the proverb must not be understood to apply to
such as are "Most Christian," and "Most Catholic."

Naples thus became the battle-field, as well as the prize of the
contending parties; and was torn to pieces in the struggle while
waiting to see which invader was to be her master. At length the
Spaniard proved the stronger, as he was also the more iniquitous of the
two; and on the 1st of January, 1504, the French finally quitted the
kingdom of Naples, leaving it in the entire and peaceful possession
of Ferdinand of Spain. Under him, and his successors on the Spanish
throne, the unhappy province was governed by a series of viceroys,
of whom, says Colletta,[149] "one here and there was good, many bad
enough, and several execrable," for a period of 230 years, with results
still visible.

Such was the scene on which our heroine had to enter in the year 1490.
She was the daughter of Fabrizio, brother of that protonotary Colonna,
whose miserable death at the hands of the hereditary enemies of his
family, the Orsini, allied with the Riarii, then in power for the
nonce during the popedom of Sixtus IV., has been related in the life
of Caterina Sforza. Her mother was Agnes of Montefeltre; and all the
biographers and historians tell us, that she was the youngest of six
children born to her parents. The statement is a curious instance of
the extreme and very easily detected inaccuracy, which may often be
found handed on unchallenged from one generation to another of Italian
writers of biography and history.

The Cavaliere Pietro Visconti, the latest Italian, and by far the most
complete of Vittoria's biographers, who edited a handsome edition of
her works, not published, but printed in 1840 at the expense of the
prince-banker, Torlonia, on the occasion of his marriage with the
Princess Donna Teresa Colonna, writes thus at page lv of the life
prefixed to this votive volume:—"The child (Vittoria) increased and
completed the number of children whom Agnes of Montefeltre, daughter of
Frederick, Duke of Urbino, had presented to her husband." He adds, in
a note, "this Princess had already had five sons, Frederick, Ascanio,
Ferdinando, Camillo, Sciarra."

Coppi, in his "Memorie Colonnesi," makes no mention[150] of the last
three,—giving as the offspring of Fabrizio and Agnes, only Frederick,
Ascanio, and Vittoria. Led by this discrepancy to examine further the
accuracy of Visconti's statement, I found that Agnes di Montefeltre was
born in 1472; and was, consequently, eighteen years old at the time of
Vittoria's birth. It became clear, therefore, that it was exceedingly
improbable, not to say impossible, that she should have had five
children previously. But I found farther, that Frederick the eldest
son, and always hitherto said to have been the eldest child of Agnes,
died according to the testimony of his tombstone,[151] still existing
in the Church of Santa Maria di Pallazzola, in the year 1516, being
then in his nineteenth year. He was, therefore, born in 1497 or 1498,
and must have been seven or eight years younger than Vittoria; who
must, it should seem, have been the eldest and not the youngest of her
parent's children.


It can scarcely be necessary to tell even the most exclusively English
reader, how ancient, how noble, how magnificent, was the princely
house of Colonna. They were so noble, that their lawless violence,
free-booting habits, private wars, and clan enmities, rendered them a
scourge to their country; and for several centuries contributed largely
to the mass of anarchy and barbarism, that rendered Rome one of the
most insecure places of abode in Europe, and still taints the instincts
of its populace with characteristics, which make it one of the least
civilisable races of Italy. The Orsini being equally noble, and equally
powerful and lawless, the high-bred mastiffs of either princely house
for more than 200 years, with short respites of ill-kept truce, never
lost an opportunity of flying at each other's throats, to the infinite
annoyance and injury of their less noble and more peaceably disposed

Though the possessions of the Colonna clan had before been wide-spread
and extensive, they received considerable additions during the Papacy
of the Colonna pope, Martin V., great uncle of Fabrizio, Vittoria's
father, who occupied the Papal chair from 1417 to 1431. At the period
of our heroine's birth the family property was immense.

Very many were the fiefs held by the Colonna in the immediate
neighbourhood of the city, and especially among the hills to the
east and south-east of the Campagna. There several of the strongest
positions, and most delightfully situated towns and castles, belonged
to them.

Among the more important of these was Marino, admirably placed among
the hills that surround the lovely lake of Albano.

Few excursionists among the storied sites in the environs of Rome make
Marino the object of a pilgrimage. The town has a bad name in these
days. The Colonna vassals who inhabit it, and still pay to the feudal
lord a tribute, recently ruled by the Roman tribunals to be due (a
suit having been instituted by the inhabitants with a view of shaking
off this old mark of vassalage), are said to be eminent among the
inhabitants of the Campagna for violence, lawlessness, and dishonesty.
The bitterest hatred, the legacy of old wrong and oppression, is
felt by them against their feudal lords; and this sentiment, which,
inherited, as it seems to be, from generation to generation, speaks
but little in favour of the old feudal rule, does not tend to make the
men of Marino good or safe subjects. Many a stranger has, however,
probably looked down from the beautifully wooded heights of Castel
Gandolfo on the picturesquely gloomy little walled town creeping up the
steep side of its hill, and crowned by the ancient seignorial residence
it so much detests. And any one of these would be able to assure a
recent intensely French biographer of Vittoria, that he is in error in
supposing that the town and castle of Marino have so entirety perished
and been forgotten, that the site of them even is now unknown![152]

[Sidenote: PALIANO.]

On the contrary the old castle has recently been repaired and
modernised into a very handsome nineteenth century residence to the no
small injury of its outward appearance in a picturesque and historical
point of view. The interior still contains unchanged several of the
nobly proportioned old halls, which were planned at a time when mighty
revels in the rare times of peace, and defence in the more normal
condition of clan warfare, were the object held in view by the builder.
Many memorials of interest, moreover, pictures, and other records of
the old times were brought to Marino from Paliano, when the Colonna
family were in the time of the last Pope, most unjustly compelled to
sell the latter possession to the Roman government. Paliano, which from
its mountain position is extremely strong and easily defended, seemed
to the government of the Holy Father to be admirably adapted to that
prime want of a Papal despotism, a prison for political offenders.
The Colonnas, therefore, were invited to sell it to the state; and on
their declining to do so, received an intimation, that the paternal
government having determined on possessing it, and having also fixed
the price they intended to give for it, no option in the matter could
be permitted them. So Marino was enriched by all that was transferable
of the ancient memorials that had gathered around the stronger mountain
fortress in the course of centuries.

It was at Marino that Vittoria was born, in a rare period of most
unusually prolonged peace. Her parents had selected, we are told, from
among their numerous castles, that beautiful spot for the enjoyment
of the short interval of tranquillity which smiled on their first
years[153] of marriage. A very successful raid, in which Fabrizio and
his cousin Prospero Colonna had harried the fiefs of the Orsini, and
driven off a great quantity of cattle,[154] had been followed by a
peace made under the auspices of Innocent VIII. on the 11th August,
1486, which seems absolutely to have lasted till 1494, when we find the
two cousins at open war with the new Pope Alexander VI.

Far more important contests, however, were at hand, the progress of
which led to the youthful daughter of the house being treated, while
yet in her fifth year, as part of the family capital, to be made use of
for the advancement of the family interests, and thus fixed the destiny
of her life.

When Charles VIII. passed through Rome on his march against Naples at
the end of 1494, the Colonna cousins sided with him; placed themselves
under his banners, and contributed materially to aid his successful
invasion. But on his flight from Naples in 1495, they suddenly changed
sides, and took service under Ferdinand II. The fact of this change
of party, which to our ideas seems to require so much explanation,
probably appeared to their contemporaries a perfectly simple matter;
for it is mentioned as such without any word of the motives or causes
of it. Perhaps they merely sought to sever themselves from a losing
game. Possibly, as we find them rewarded for their adherence to the
King of Naples by the grant of a great number of fiefs previously
possessed by the Orsini, who were on the other side, they were induced
to change their allegiance by the hope of obtaining those possessions,
and by the Colonna instinct of enmity to the Orsini race. Ferdinand,
however, was naturally anxious to have some better hold over his new
friends than that furnished by their own oaths of fealty; and with
this view caused the infant Vittoria to be betrothed to his subject,
Ferdinand d'Avalos, son of Alphonso, Marquis of Pescara, a child of
about the same age as the little bride.


Little, as it must appear to our modern notions, as the child's future
happiness could have been cared for in the stipulation of a contract
entered into from such motives, it so turned out, that nothing could
have more effectually secured it. To Vittoria's parents, if any doubts
on such a point had presented themselves to their minds, it would
doubtless have appeared abundantly sufficient to know, that the rank
and position of the affianced bridegroom were such, as to secure their
daughter one of the highest places among the nobility of the court of
Naples, and the enjoyment of vast and wide-spread possessions. But to
Vittoria herself all this would not have been enough. And the earliest
and most important advantage arising to her from her betrothal was the
bringing her under the influence of that training, which made her such
a woman, as could not find her happiness in such matters.

We are told, that henceforth, that is, after the betrothal, she was
educated, together with her future husband, in the island of Ischia,
under the care of the widowed Duchessa di Francavilla, the young
Pescara's elder sister. Costanza d'Avalos, duchessa de Francavilla,
appears to have been one of the most remarkable women of her time. When
her father Alphonso, Marchesa di Pescara, lost his life by the treason
of a black slave on the 7th of September, 1495, leaving Ferdinand his
son the heir to his titles and estates, an infant five years old, then
quite recently betrothed to Vittoria, the Duchessa di Francavilla
assumed the entire direction and governance of the family. So high
was her reputation for prudence, energy, and trust-worthiness in every
way, that on the death of her husband, King Ferdinand made her governor
and "châtelaine" of Ischia, one of the most important keys of the
kingdom. Nor were her gifts and qualities only such as were calculated
to fit her for holding such a post. Her contemporary, Caterina Sforza,
would have made a "châtelaine" as vigilant, as prudent, as brave and
energetic as Costanza. But the Neapolitan lady was something more than

Intellectual culture had been held in honour at Naples during the
entire period of the Arragonese dynasty. All the princes of that house,
with the exception, perhaps, of Alphonso, the father of Ferdinand
II., had been lovers of literature and patrons of learning. Of this
Ferdinand II., under whose auspices the young Pescara was betrothed to
Vittoria, and who chose the Duchessa di Francavilla as his governor in
Ischia, it is recorded, that when returning in triumph to his kingdom
after the retreat of the French, he rode into Naples with the Marchese
de Pescara on his right hand, and the poet Cariteo on his left. Poets
and their art especially were welcomed in that literary court; and the
tastes and habits of the Neapolitan nobles were at that period probably
more tempered by those studies, which humanise the mind and manners,
than the chivalry of any other part of Italy.

Among this cultured society Costanza d'Avalos was eminent for
culture, and admirably qualified in every respect to make an
invaluable protectress and friend to her youthful sister-in-law. The
transplantation, indeed, of the infant Colonna from her native feudal
castle to the Duchessa di Francavilla's home in Ischia, was a change
so complete and so favourable, that it may be fairly supposed, that
without it the young Roman girl would not have grown into the woman she

[Sidenote: HER BETROTHAL.]

For in truth Marino, little calculated, as it will be supposed, such
a stronghold of the ever turbulent Colonna was at any time to afford
the means and opportunity for intellectual culture, became shortly
after the period of Vittoria's betrothal to the heir of the D'Avalos,
wholly unfit to offer her even a safe home. Whether it continued to
be the residence of Agnes, while her husband Fabrizio was fighting
in Naples, and her daughter was under the care of the Duchessa di
Francavilla in Ischia, has not been recorded. But we find that when
Fabrizio had deserted the French king, and ranged himself on the side
of Ferdinand of Naples, he was fully aware of the danger to which his
castles would be exposed at the hands of the French troops as they
passed through Rome on their way to or from Naples. To provide against
this, he had essayed to place them in safety by consigning them as a
deposit in trust to the Sacred College.[155] But Pope Borgia, deeming,
probably, that he might find the means of possessing himself of some
of the estates in question, refused to permit this, ordering that they
should, instead, be delivered into his keeping. On this being refused,
he ordered Marino to be levelled to the ground. And Guicciardini
writes,[156] that the Colonna, having placed garrisons in Amelici and
Rocca di Papa, two other of the family strongholds, abandoned all
the rest of the possessions in the Roman States. It seems probable,
therefore, that Agnes accompanied her husband and daughter to Naples.
Subsequently the same historian relates,[157] that Marino was burned by
order of Clement VII. in 1526. So that it must be supposed, that the
order of Alexander for its utter destruction in 1501 was not wholly
carried into execution.

The kingdom and city of Naples was during this time by no means without
a large share of the turmoil and warfare that was vexing every part
of Italy. Yet whosoever had his lot cast during those years elsewhere
than in Rome, was in some degree fortunate. And considering the general
state of the Peninsula, and her own social position and connections,
Vittoria may be deemed very particularly so to have found a safe
retreat, and an admirably governed home on the rock of Ischia. In
after life we find her clinging to it with tenacious affection, and
dedicating more than one sonnet to the remembrances which made it
sacred to her. And though in her widowhood her memory naturally most
frequently recurs to the happy years of her married life there, the
remote little island had at least as strong a claim upon her affections
as the home of her childhood. For to the years there passed under
the care of her noble sister-in-law, Costanza d'Avalos, she owed the
possibility, that the daughter of a Roman chieftain, who passed his
life in harrying others and being harried himself, and in acquiring as
a "condottiere" captain the reputation of one of the first soldiers
of his day, could become either morally or intellectually the woman
Vittoria Colonna became.


 Vittoria's Personal Appearance—First Love—A Noble Soldier of
 Fortune—Italian Wars of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries—The
 Colonna Fortunes—Death of Ferdinand II.—The Neapolitans carry Coals
 to Newcastle—Events in Ischia—Ferdinand of Spain in Naples—Life
 in Naples in the Sixteenth Century—Marriage of Pescara with
 Vittoria—Marriage Presents.

From the time of her betrothal in 1495 to that of her marriage in
1509, history altogether loses sight of Vittoria. We must suppose her
to be quietly and happily growing from infancy to adolescence under
the roof of Costanza d'Avalos, the _châtelaine_ of Ischia, sharing the
studies of her future husband and present playmate, and increasing, as
in stature, so in every grace both of mind and body. The young Pescara
seems also to have profited by the golden opportunities offered him
of becoming something better than a mere _preux chevalier_. A taste
for literature, and especially for poesy, was then a ruling fashion
among the nobles of the court of Naples. And the young Ferdinand,
of whose personal beauty and knightly accomplishments we hear much,
manifested also excellent qualities of disposition and intelligence.
His biographer Giovio[158] tells us that his beard was auburn, his nose
aquiline, his eyes large and fiery when excited, but mild and gentle at
other times. He was, however, considered proud, adds Bishop Giovio, on
account of his haughty carriage, the little familiarity of his manners,
and his grave and brief fashion of speech.

[Sidenote: HER MARRIAGE.]

To his playmate Vittoria, the companion of his studies and hours of
recreation, this sterner mood was doubtless modified; and with all the
good gifts attributed to him, it was natural enough that before the
time had come for consummating the infant betrothal, the union planned
for political purposes had changed itself into a veritable love-match.
The affection seems to have been equal on either side; and Vittoria,
if we are to believe the concurrent testimony of nearly all the poets
and literateurs of her day, must have been beautiful and fascinating
in no ordinary degree. The most authentic portrait[159] of her is one
preserved in the Colonna gallery at Rome, supposed to be a copy by
Girolamo Muziano, from an original picture by some artist of higher
note. It is a beautiful face of the true Roman type, perfectly regular,
of exceeding purity of outline, and perhaps a little heavy about the
lower part of the face. But the calm, large, thoughtful eye, and the
superbly developed forehead, secure it from any approach towards an
expression of sensualism. The fulness of the lip is only sufficient
to indicate that sensitiveness to, and appreciation of beauty, which
constitutes an essential element in the poetical temperament. The hair
is of that bright golden tint that Titian loved so well to paint;
and its beauty has been especially recorded by more than one of her
contemporaries. The poet Galeazzo da Tarsia, who professed himself,
after the fashion of the time, her most fervent admirer and devoted
slave, recurs in many passages of his poems to those fascinating
"chiome d'oro;" as where he sings, with more enthusiasm than taste, of

  "Trecce d'or, che in gli alti giri,
  Non è ch'unqua pareggi o sole o stella;"

or again, where he tells us, that the sun and his lady-love appeared

  "Ambi con chiome d'or lucide e terse."

But the testimony of graver writers, lay and clerical, is not wanting
to induce us to believe, that Vittoria in her prime really might be
considered "the most beautiful woman of her day" with more truth
than that hackneyed phrase often conveys. So when at length the
Colonna seniors, and the Duchessa di Francavilla thought, that the
fitting moment had arrived for carrying into effect the long-standing
engagement—which was not till 1509, when the _promessi sposi_ were
both in their nineteenth year—the young couple were thoroughly in love
with each other, and went to the altar with every prospect of wedded

But during these quiet years of study and development in little
rock-bound Ischia, the world without was anything but quiet, as
the outline of Neapolitan history in the last chapter sufficiently
indicates; and Fabrizio Colonna was ever in the thick of the confusion.
As long as the Aragonese monarchs kept up the struggle, he fought for
them upon the losing side; but when, after the retreat of Frederick,
the last of them, the contest was between the French and the Spaniards,
he chose the latter, which proved to be the winning side. Frederick,
on abandoning Naples, threw himself on the hospitality of the King
of France, an enemy much less hated by him than was Ferdinand of
Spain, who had so shamefully deceived and betrayed him. But his high
Constable, Fabrizio Colonna, not sharing, as it should seem, his
sovereign's feelings on the subject, transferred his allegiance to the
King of Spain. And again, this change of fealty and service seems to
have been considered so much in the usual course of things, that it
elicits no remark from the contemporary writers.

In fact, the noble Fabrizio, the bearer of a grand old Italian name,
the lord of many a powerful barony, and owner of many a mile of fair
domain, a Roman patrician of pure Italian race, to whom, if to any,
the honour, the independence, the interests, and the name of Italy
should have been dear, was a mere Captain of free lances,—a soldier
of fortune, ready to sell his blood and great military talents in the
best market. The best of his fellow nobles in all parts of Italy were
the same. Their profession was fighting. And mere fighting, in whatever
cause, so it were bravely and knightly done, was the most honoured and
noblest profession of that day. So much of real greatness as could be
imparted to the profession of war, by devotion to a _person_, might
occasionally—though not very frequently in Italy—have been met with
among the soldiers of that period. But all those elements of genuine
heroism, which are generated by devotion to a _cause_, and all those
ideas of patriotism, of resistance to wrong, and assertion of human
rights, which compel the philosopher and philanthropist to admit that
war may sometimes be righteous, noble, elevating, to those engaged in
it, and prolific of high thoughts and great deeds, were wholly unknown
to the chivalry of Italy at the time in question.


And, indeed, as far as the feeling of nationality is concerned, the
institution of knighthood itself, as it then existed, was calculated
to prevent the growth of patriotic sentiment. For the commonwealth
of chivalry was of European extent. The knights of England, France,
Italy, Spain, and Germany, were brothers in arms, linked together
by a community of thought and sentiment infinitely stronger than
any which bound them to the other classes of their own countrymen.
The aggregation of caste wholly overbore that of nationality. And
the nature of the former, though not wholly evil in its influences,
any more than that of the latter is wholly good, is yet infinitely
narrower, less humanising, and less ennobling in its action on human
motives and conduct. And war, the leading aggregative occupation of
those days, was proportionably narrowed in its scope, deteriorated
in its influences, and rendered incapable of supplying that stimulus
to healthy human development which it has in its more noble forms,
indisputably sometimes furnished to mankind.

And it is important to the great history of modern civilisation, that
these truths should be recognised and clearly understood. For this
same period, which is here in question, was, as all know, one of great
intellectual activity, of rapid development, and of fruitful progress.
And historical speculators on these facts, finding this unusual
movement of mind contemporaneous with a time of almost universal and
unceasing warfare, have thought, that some of the producing causes of
the former fact were to be found in the existence of the latter; and
have argued, that the general ferment, and stirring up, produced by
these chivalrous, but truly ignoble wars, assisted mainly in generating
that exceptionally fervid condition of the human mind. But, admitting
that a time of national struggle for some worthy object may probably be
found to exercise such an influence, as that attributed to the Italian
wars of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it is certain that these
latter were of no such ennobling nature. And the causes of the great
intellectual movement of those centuries must therefore be sought

From the time when "il gran Capitano" Consalvo, on behalf of his
master, Ferdinand of Spain, having previously assisted the French in
driving out the unfortunate Frederick, the last of the Aragonese kings
of Naples, had afterwards finally succeeded in expelling the French
from their share of the stolen kingdom, the affairs of the Colonna
cousins, Fabrizio and Prospero, began to brighten. The last French
troops quitted Naples on January 1, 1504. By a diploma, bearing date
November 15, 1504,[160] and still preserved among the Colonna archives,
eighteen baronies were conferred on Prospero Colonna by Ferdinand. On
the 28th of the same month, all the fiefs which Fabrizio had formerly
possessed in the Abruzzi were restored to him; and by another deed,
dated the same day, thirty-three others, in the Abruzzi and the Terra
di Lavoro, were bestowed on him.

In the meantime, earth had been relieved from the presence of the
Borgia Vicegerent of heaven, and Julius II. reigned in his stead.
By him the Colonna were relieved from their excommunication, and
restored to all their Roman possessions. So that the news of the family
fortunes, which from time to time reached the daughter of the house in
her happy retirement in rocky Ischia, from the period at which she
began to be of an age to appreciate the importance of such matters,
were altogether favourable.


But the tranquil life there during these years was not unbroken by
sympathy with the vicissitudes which were variously affecting the
excitable city, over which the little recluse court looked from their
island home. The untimely death of Ferdinand II., on Friday, October 7,
1496, threw the first deep shade over the household of the Duchessa di
Francavilla, which had crossed it since Vittoria had become its inmate.
Never, according to the contemporary journalist, Giuliano Passeri,[161]
was prince more truly lamented by his people of every class. Almost
immediately after his marriage, the young king and his wife both
fell ill at Somma, near Naples. The diarist describes the melancholy
spectacle of the two biers, supporting the sick king and queen,
entering their capital side by side. Everything that the science of the
time could suggest, even to the carrying in procession of the head as
well as the blood of St. Januarius, was tried in vain. The young king,
of whom so much was hoped, died; and there arose throughout the city,
writes Passeri, "a cry of weeping so great, that it seemed as if the
whole world were falling in ruin, all, both great and small, male and
female, crying aloud to heaven for pity. So that I truly think, that
since God made the world, a greater weeping than this was never known."

Then came the great Jubilee year, 1500; on which occasion a
circumstance occurred, that set all Naples talking. It was discussed,
we may shrewdly conjecture, in a somewhat different spirit in that
Ischia household, which most interests us, from the tone in which
the excitable city chattered of it. At the beginning of April,[162]
the Neapolitans, in honour of the great Jubilee, sent a deputation,
carrying with them the celebrated Virgin, della Bruna dello Carmine,
who justified her reputation, and did credit to her country by
working innumerable miracles all the way as she went. But what was
the mortification of her bearers, when arrived at Rome, the result
of the fame arising from their triumphant progress was, that Pope
Borgia, jealous of a foreign Virgin, which might divert the alms of the
faithful from the Roman begging boxes, showed himself so thorough a
protectionist of the home manufacture, that he ordered the Neapolitan
Virgin to be carried back again immediately. This had to be done; but
Madonna della Bruna, nothing daunted, worked miracles faster than ever
as she was being carried off, and continued to do so all the way home.

In July, 1501, there came a guest to the dwelling of Costanza
d'Avalos, whose coming and going must have made a durable impression
on the opening mind of Vittoria, then just eleven years old. This was
Frederick, the last of the Aragonese kings. When all had gone against
him, and the French had taken, and most cruelly sacked Capua, and were
advancing on Naples,[163] he sought refuge with his wife and children
on the Island of Ischia, and remained there till he left it on the 6th
of September to throw himself on the generosity of the French King.
Fabrizio Colonna was, it is recorded, with him on the island, where
the fallen king left for awhile his wife and children; and had then an
opportunity of seeing,—as far as the brave _condottiere_ chieftain
had eyes to see such matters,—the progress his daughter had made in
all graces and good gifts during six years of the superintendence of
Costanza d'Avalos.


Then there came occasionally events, which doubtless called the
Duchessa di Francavilla from her retirement to the neighbouring, but
strongly contrasted scene of Naples; and in all probability furnished
opportunities of showing her young pupil something of the great and gay
world of the brilliant and always noisy capital. Such, for instance,
was the entry of Ferdinand of Spain into Naples, on November I, 1506.
The same people, who so recently were making the greatest lamentation
ever heard in the world over the death of Ferdinand of Aragon, were now
equally loud and vehement[164] in their welcome to his false usurping
kinsman, Ferdinand of Castile. A pier was run out an hundred paces into
the sea for him and his queen to land at, and a tabernacle, "all of
fine wrought gold," says Passeri, erected on it for him to rest in. The
city wall was thrown down to make a new passage for his entrance into
the city; all Naples was gay with triumphal arches and hangings. The
mole, writes the same gossiping authority, was so crowded, that a grain
of millet thrown among them would not have reached the ground. Nothing
was to be heard in all Naples but the thunder of cannon, and nothing
to be seen but velvet, silk, and brocade, and gold on all sides. The
streets were lined with richly tapestried seats, filled with all the
noble dames of Naples, who, as the royal cortege passed, rose, and
advancing, kissed the hands of the king, "et lo signore Re di questo
si pigliava gran piacere." It is a characteristic incident of the
times, that as quick as the cortege passed, all the rich and costly
preparations for its passage were, as Passeri tells us, scrambled for
and made booty of by the populace.

The Duchessa di Francavilla, at least, who had witnessed the melancholy
departure of Frederick from her own roof, when he went forth a wanderer
from his lost kingdom, must have felt the hollowness and little worth
of all this noisy demonstration, if none other among the assembled
crowd felt it. And it may easily be imagined how she moralised the
scene to the lovely blonde girl at her side, now at sixteen, in the
first bloom of her beauty, as they returned, tired with the unwonted
fatigue of their gala doings, to their quiet home in Ischia.

Here is a specimen from the pages of the gossiping weaver,[165] of the
sort of subjects which were the talk of the day in Naples in those

In December, 1507, a certain Spaniard, Pietro de Pace, by name, a
hunchback, and much deformed, but who "was of high courage, and in
terrestrial matters had no fear of spirits or of venomous animals,"
determined to explore the caverns of Pozzuoli; and discovered in them
several bronze statues and medals, and antique lamps. He found also
some remains of leaden pipes, on one of which the words "Imperator
Cæsar" were legible. Moreover, he saw "certain lizards as large
as vipers." But for all this, Pietro considered his adventure an
unsuccessful one; for he had hoped to find hidden treasure in the

[Sidenote: FIRE AT ST. CLARE.]

Then there was barely time for this nine days' wonder to run out its
natural span, before a very much more serious matter was occupying
every mind, and making every tongue wag in Naples. On the night
preceding Christmas day, in the year 1507, the Convent of St. Clare
was discovered to be on fire. The building was destroyed, and the
nuns, belonging mostly to noble Neapolitan families, were burnt out
of their holy home;—distressing enough on many accounts. But still
it was not altogether the misfortune of these holy ladies that spread
consternation throughout the city. It was the practice, it seems, for
a great number of the possessors of valuables of all sorts, "Baruni
od altri," as Passeri says,[166] in his homely Neapolitan dialect, to
provide against the continual dangers to which moveable property was
exposed, by consigning their goods to the keeping of some religious
community. And the nuns of St. Clare, especially, were very largely
employed in this way. The consequence was, that the almost incredibly
large amount of three hundred thousand ducats worth of valuable
articles of all sorts was destroyed in this disastrous fire. Taking
into consideration the difference in the value of money, this sum must
be calculated to represent at least a million and a half sterling of
our money. And it is necessary to bear in mind how large a proportion
of a rich man's wealth in those days consisted in chattels to render
the estimate of the loss at all credible.

The prices, however, at which certain of the products of artistic
industry were then estimated, were such as to render such an
accumulation of property possible enough. For instance, among the
valuables recorded by Passeri as belonging to Ferdinand of Aragon I.,
were three pieces of tapestry, which were called "La Pastorella," and
were considered to be worth 130,000 ducats.

And thus the years rolled on; Naples gradually settling down into
tranquillity under the Spanish rule, administered by the first of the
long list of viceroys, the "Gran Capitano," Don Consalvo de Corduba,
and the star of the Colonna shining more steadily than ever in the
ascendant, till in the year 1509, the nineteenth of Vittoria's and of
the bridegroom's age, it was determined to celebrate the long arranged

It took place on the 27th of December in that year; and Passeri
mentions,[167] that Vittoria came to Ischia from Marino on the
occasion, escorted by a large company of Roman nobles. It appears,
therefore, that she must have quitted Ischia previously. But it is
probable that she did so only for a short visit to her native home,
before finally settling in her husband's country.

The marriage festival was held in Ischia with all the pomp then usual
on such occasions; and that, as will be seen in a subsequent page, from
the accounts preserved by Passeri of another wedding, at which Vittoria
was present, was a serious matter. The only particulars recorded for
us of her own marriage ceremony consist of two lists of the presents
reciprocally made by the bride and bridegroom. These have been printed
from the original documents in the Colonna archives by Signor Visconti,
and are curious illustrations of the habits and manners of that day.

[Sidenote: HER TROUSSEAU.]

The Marquis acknowledges to have received, says the document, from the
Lord Fabrizio Colonna and the Lady Vittoria,

1. A bed of French fashion, with the curtains and all the hangings of
crimson satin, lined with blue taffetas with large fringes of gold;
with three mattresses and a counterpane of crimson satin of similar
workmanship; and four pillows of crimson satin garnished with fringes
and tassels of gold.

2. A cloak of crimson raised brocade.

3. A cloak of black raised brocade, and white silk.

4. A cloak of purple velvet and purple brocade.

5. A cross of diamonds and a housing for a mule of wrought gold.

The other document sets forth the presents offered by Pescara to his

1. A cross of diamonds with a chain of gold of the value of 1000 ducats.

2. A ruby, a diamond, and an emerald set in gold, of the value of 400

3. A "desciorgh" of gold (whatever that may be) of the value of 100

4. Twelve bracelets of gold, of the value of 40 ducats.

Then follow fifteen articles of female dress, gowns, petticoats,
mantles, skirts, and various other finery with strange names, only
to be explained by the ghost of some sixteenth century milliner, and
altogether ignored by Ducange, and all other lexicographers. But
they are described as composed of satin, velvet, brocade; besides
crimson velvet trimmed with gold fringe, and lined with ermine;
and flesh-coloured silk petticoats, trimmed with black velvet. The
favourite colour appears to be decidedly crimson.

It is noticeable, that while all the more valuable presents of Pescara
to Vittoria are priced, nothing is said of the value of her gifts to
the bridegroom. Are we to see in this an indication of a greater
delicacy of feeling on the part of the lady?

So the priests did their office—a part of the celebration, which,
curiously enough, we learn from Passeri, was often in those days at
Naples, deferred, sometimes for years, till after the consummation of
the marriage—the Pantagruelian feastings were got through, the guests
departed, boat-load after boat-load, from the rocky shore of Ischia;
and the little island, restored after the unusual hubbub to its wonted
quiet, was left to be the scene of as happy a honeymoon as the most
romantic of novel readers could wish for her favourite heroine.


 Vittoria's Married Life—Pescara goes where Glory Waits Him—The
 Rout of Ravenna—Pescara in Prison turns Penman—His "Dialogo di
 amore"—Vittoria's Poetical Epistle to her Husband—Vittoria and the
 Marchese del Vasto—Three Cart-loads of Ladies, and three Mule-loads
 of Sweetmeats—Character of Pescara—His Cruelty—Anecdote in Proof of

The two years which followed, Vittoria always looked back on as the
only truly happy portion of her life, and many are the passages of her
poems which recall their tranquil and unbroken felicity, a sweet dream,
from which she was too soon to be awakened to the ordinary vicissitudes
of sixteenth century life. The happiest years of individuals, as of
nations, afford least materials for history, and of Vittoria's two
years of honeymoon in Ischia, the whole record is that she was happy;
and she wrote no poetry.

Early in 1512 came the waking from this pleasant dream. Pescara was,
of course, to be a soldier. In his position not to have begun to
fight, as soon as his beard was fairly grown, would have been little
short of infamy. So he set forth to join the army in Lombardy, in
company with his father-in-law, Fabrizio. Of course there was an army
in Lombardy, where towns were being besieged, fields laid waste, and
glory to be had for the winning. There always was, in those good old
times of course. French, Swiss, Spanish, German, Venetian, Papal, and
Milanese troops were fighting each other, with changes of alliances
and sides almost as frequent and as confusing as the changing of
partners in a cotillion. It is troublesome and not of much consequence
to understand who were just then friends and who foes, and what were
the exact objects all the different parties had in cutting each other's
throats. And it will be quite sufficient to say that the Duchy of Milan
was at that moment the chief bone of contention,—that the principal
pretenders to the glory of "annexing" it were the King of France and
the King of Spain, who was now also King of Naples—that the Pope was
just then allied with Spain, and the Venetians with France, and that
Italy generally was preparing for the destiny she has worked out for
herself, by the constant endeavour to avail herself of the destroying
presence of these foreign troops, and their rivalries, for the
prosecution of her internal quarrels, and the attainment of equally low
and yet more unjustifiable, because fratricidal aims.

Pescara, as a Neapolitan subject of the King of Spain, joined the army
opposed to the French, under the walls of Ravenna. Vittoria, though her
subsequent writings prove how much the parting cost her, showed how
thoroughly she was a soldier's daughter and a soldier's wife. There had
been some suggestion, it seems, that the marquis, as the sole surviving
scion of an ancient and noble name, might fairly consider it his duty
not to subject it to the risk of extinction by exposing his life in the
field. The young soldier, however, wholly refused to listen to such
counsels; and his wife strongly supported his view of the course honour
counselled him to follow, by advice, which a young and beautiful wife,
who was to remain surrounded by a brilliant circle of wits and poets,
would scarcely have ventured on offering, had she not felt a perfect
security from all danger of being misinterpreted, equally creditable to
wife and husband.


So the young soldier took for a motto on his shield, the well-known
"With this, or on this;" and having expended, we are told, much care
and cash on a magnificent equipment, was at once appointed to the
command of the light cavalry. The knowledge and experience necessary
for such a position comes by nature, it must be supposed, to the
descendant of a long line of noble knights, as surely as pointing
does to the scion of a race of pointers. But the young warrior's
episcopal[168] biographer cursorily mentions, that certain old and
trusty veterans, who had obtained their military science by experience,
and not by right of birth, were attached to his person.

The general of light cavalry arrived at the camp at an unfortunate
moment. The total defeat of the United Spanish and Papal army by the
French before Ravenna on the 9th of April, 1512, immediately followed.
Fabrizio Colonna and his son-in-law were both made prisoners. The
latter had been left for dead on the field, covered with wounds, which
subsequently gave occasion to Isabella of Aragon, Duchess of Milan,
to say, "I would fain be a man, Signor Marchese, if it were only to
receive such wounds as yours in the face, that I might see if they
would become me as they do you."[169]

Pescara, when picked up from the field, was carried a prisoner to
Milan, where, by means of the good offices and powerful influence of
Trivulzio, who had married Beatrice d'Avalos, Pescara's aunt, and was
now a general in the service of France, his detention was rendered as
little disagreeable as possible, and he was, as soon as his wounds were
healed, permitted to ransom himself for six thousand ducats.[170]

During his short confinement he amused his leisure by composing a
"Dialogo d'Amore," which he inscribed and sent to his wife. The Bishop
of Como, his biographer, testifies that this work was exceedingly
pleasant reading—"summæ jucunditatis"—and full of grave and witty
conceits and thoughts. The world, however, has seen fit to allow this
treasury of wit to perish, notwithstanding the episcopal criticism.
And in all probability the world was in the right. If, indeed, the
literary general of light horse had written his own real thoughts and
speculations on love, there might have been some interest in seeing a
sixteenth century soldier's views on that ever interesting subject. But
we may be quite certain, that the Dialogo, "stuffed full," as Giovio
says, "of grave sentiments and exquisite conceits," contained only a
reproduction of the classic banalities, and ingenious absurdities,
which were current in the fashionable literature of the day. Yet it
must be admitted, that the employment of his leisure in any such
manner, and still more, the dedication of his labours on such a subject
to his wife, are indications of an amount of cultivation and right
feeling, which would hardly have been found, either one or the other,
among many of the preux chevaliers, his brothers-in-arms.


Meanwhile, Vittoria, on her part, wrote a poetical epistle to her
husband in prison, which is the first production of her pen that has
reached us. It is written in Dante's "terza rima," and consists of
112 lines. Both Italian and French critics have expressed highly
favourable judgments of this little poem. And it may be admitted that
the lines are elegant, classical, well-turned, and ingenious. But
those who seek something more than all this in poetry—who look for
passion, high and noble thoughts, happy illustration or deep analysis
of human feeling, will find nothing of the sort. That Vittoria did feel
acutely her husband's misfortune, and bitterly regret his absence from
her, there is every reason to believe. But she is unable to express
these sentiments naturally or forcibly. She, in all probability made
no attempt to do so, judging from the models on which she had been
taught to form her style, that when she sat down to make poetry, the
aim to be kept in view was a very different one. Hence we have talk
of Hector and Achilles, Eolus, Sirens, and marine deities, Pompey,
Cornelia, Cato, Martia, and Mithridates—a parade of all the treasures
of the schoolroom. The pangs of the wife left lonely in her home are in
neatly antithetical phrase contrasted with the dangers and toils of the
husband in the field. Then we have a punning allusion to her own name:—

  "Se Vittoria volevi, io t'era appresso;
  Ma tu, lasciando me, lasciasti lei."

"If victory was thy desire, I was by thy side; but in leaving me, thou
didst leave also her."

The best, because the simplest and most natural lines are the

  "Seguir si deve il sposo e dentro e fora;
  E, s'egli pate affanno, ella patisca;
  Se lieto, lieta; e se vi more, mora.
  A quel che arrisca l'un, l'altro s'arrisca;
  Eguali in vita, eguali siano in morte;
  E ciò che avviene a lui, a lei sortisca."

"At home or abroad the wife should follow her husband; and if he
suffers distress, she should suffer; should be joyful if he is joyful,
and should die if he dies. The danger confronted by the one should be
confronted by the other; equals in life, they should be equal in death;
and that which happens to him should be her lot also,"—a mere farrago
of rhetorical prettinesses, as cold as a school-boy's prize verses, and
unanimated by a spark of genuine feeling; although the writer was as
truly affectionate a wife as ever man had.

But, although all that Vittoria wrote, and all that the vast number of
the poets and poetesses, her contemporaries, wrote, was obnoxious to
the same remarks; still it will be seen, that in the maturity of her
powers she could do better than this. Her religious poetry may be said,
generally, to be much superior to her love verses; either because they
were composed when her mind had grown to its full stature, or, as seems
probable, because, model wife as she was, the subject took a deeper
hold of her mind, and stirred the depths of her heart more powerfully.

Very shortly after the despatch of her poetical epistle, Vittoria was
overjoyed by the unexpected return of her husband. And again for a
brief interval she considered herself the happiest of women.

One circumstance indeed there was to mar the entirety of her
contentment. She was still childless. And it seems, that the science of
that day, ignorantly dogmatical, undertook to assert, that she would
continue to be so. Both husband and wife seem to have submitted to
the award undoubtingly; and the dictum, however rashly uttered, was
justified by the event.


Under these circumstances, Vittoria undertook the education of Alphonso
d'Avalos, Marchese del Vasto, a young cousin of her husband's. The
task was a sufficiently arduous one;[171] for the boy, beautiful, it
is recorded, as an angel, and endowed with excellent capabilities of
all sorts, was so wholly unbroken, and of so violent and ungovernable
a disposition, that he had been the despair and terror of all who had
hitherto attempted to educate him. Vittoria thought that she saw in the
wild and passionate boy the materials of a worthy man. The event fully
justified her judgment, and proved the really superior powers of mind
she must have brought to the accomplishment of it. Alphonso became a
soldier of renown, not untinctured by those literary tastes which so
remarkably distinguished his gentle preceptress. A strong and lasting
affection grew between them; and Vittoria, proud with good reason of
her work, was often wont to say, that the reproach of being childless
ought not to be deemed applicable to her whose moral nature might well
be said to have brought forth that of her pupil.

Pescara's visit to Naples was a very short one. Early in 1513, we find
him again with the armies in Lombardy, taking part in most of the
mischief and glory going.

Under the date of July the 4th in that year, the gossiping Naples
weaver, who rarely fails to note the doings of the Neapolitan General
of light horse with infinite pride and admiration, has preserved for
us a rather picturesque little bit of Ariosto-flavoured camp life. The
Spanish army, under Don Raymond di Cardona, who, on Consalvo's death
had succeeded him as Viceroy of Naples, was on its march from Peshiera
to Verona, when a messenger from the beautiful young Marchioness of
Mantua came to the General-in-chief to say that she wished to see
those celebrated Spanish troops, who were marching under his banners,
and was then waiting their passage in the vineyards of the Castle of
Villafranca. "A certain gentle lady of Mantua, named the Signora Laura,
with whom Don Raymond was in love," writes the weaver, was with the
Marchioness; and much pleased was he at the message. So word was passed
to the various captains; and when the column reached the spot, where
the Marchioness with a great number of ladies and cavaliers of Mantua
were reposing in the shade of the vines, "Don Ferrante d'Alarcone, as
Chief Marshal, with his bâton in his hand made all the troops halt,
and place themselves in order of battle; and the Signor Marchese di
Pescara marched at the head of the infantry, with a pair of breeches
cut after the Swiss fashion, and a plume on his head, and a two-handed
sword in his hand, and all the standards were unfurled." And when the
Marchioness from among the vines looking down through the chequered
shade on to the road saw that all was in order, she and her ladies
got into three carts, so that there came out of the vineyard, says
Passeri, three cartsful of ladies surrounded by the cavaliers of Mantua
on horseback. There they came very slowly jolting over the cultivated
ground, those three heavy bullock carts, with their primitive wheels of
one solid circular piece of wood, and their huge cream-coloured oxen
with enormous horned heads gaily decorated, as Leopold Robert shows
them to us, and the brilliant tinted dresses of the laughing bevy drawn
by them, glancing gaudily in the sunlight among the soberer colouring
of the vineyards in their summer pride of green. Then Don Raymond and
Pescara advanced to the carts, and handed from them the Marchioness
and Donna Laura, who mounted on handsomely equipped jennets prepared
for them. It does not appear that this attention was extended to any
of the other ladies, who must therefore be supposed to have remained
sitting in the carts, while the Marchioness and the favoured Donna
Laura rode through the ranks "con multa festa et gloria." And when she
had seen all, with much pleasure and admiration, on a given signal
three mules loaded with sweetmeats were led forward, with which the
gay Marchioness "regaled all the captains." Then all the company with
much content,—excepting, it is to be feared, the soldiers, who had
to stand at arms under the July sun, while their officers were eating
sugar-plums, and Don Raymond and Donna Laura were saying and swallowing
sweet things,—took leave of each other, the army pursuing its march
towards Verona, and the Marchioness and her ladies returning in their
carts to Mantua.[172]

[Sidenote: A REVIEW.]

The other scattered notices of Pescara's doings during his campaign
are of a less festive character. They show him to have been a hard
and cruel man, reckless of human suffering, and eminent even among
his fellow captains for the ferocity, and often wantonness of the
ravages and wide-spread misery he wrought. On more than one occasion,
Passeri winds up his narrative of some destruction of a town, or
desolation of a fertile and cultivated district, by the remark, that
the cruelty committed was worse than Turks would have been guilty of.
Yet this same Passeri, an artisan, belonging to a class which had
all to suffer and nothing to gain from such atrocities, writes, when
chronicling this same Pescara's[173] death, that "on that day died,
I would have you know, gentle readers, the most glorious and honoured
captain that the world has seen for the last hundred years." It is
curious to observe how wholly the popular mind was enslaved to the
prejudices and conventional absurdities of the ruling classes; how
entirely the feelings of the masses were in unison with those of the
caste which oppressed them; how little reason they conceived they had
to complain under the most intolerable treatment, and how little hope
of progressive amelioration there was from the action of native-bred
public opinion.

Bishop Giovio, the biographer and panegyrist of Pescara admits, that he
was a stern and cruelly-severe disciplinarian; and mentions an anecdote
in proof of it. A soldier was brought before him for having entered a
house _en route_ for the purpose of plundering. The General ordered
that his ears should be cut off. The culprit remonstrated; and begged,
with many entreaties, to be spared so dishonouring and ignominious a
punishment, saying in his distress that death itself would have been
more tolerable.

"The grace demanded is granted," rejoined Pescara instantly, with grim
pleasantry. "Take this soldier, who is so careful of his honour, and
hang him to that tree!"

In vain did the wretch beg not to be taken at his word so cruelly, no
entreaties sufficed to change the savage decree.


It will be well that we should bear in mind these indications of the
essential nature of this great and glorious captain, who had studied
those ingenuous arts which soften the character, and do not suffer men
to be ferocious, as the poet assures us, and who could write dialogues
on love, when we come to consider the curious phenomenon of Vittoria's
unmeasured love for her husband.


 Society in Ischia.—Bernardo Tasso's sonnet thereon.—How a
 wedding was celebrated at Naples in 1517.—A Sixteenth Century
 trousseau.—Sack of Genoa.—The Battle of Pavia.—Italian conspiracy
 against Charles V.—Character of Pescara.—Honour in 1525.—Pescara's
 treason.—Vittoria's sentiments on the occasion.—Pescara's
 infamy.—Patriotism unknown in Italy in the Sixteenth Century.—No
 such sentiment to be found in the writings of Vittoria.—Evil
 influence of her husband's character on her mind.—Death of Pescara.

Meanwhile, Vittoria continued her peaceful and quiet life in Ischia,
lonely indeed, as far as the dearest affections of her heart were
concerned, but cheered and improved by the society of that select
knot of poets and men of learning, whom Costanza di Francavilla, not
unassisted by the presence of Vittoria, attracted to her little island
court. We find Musefilo, Filocalo, Giovio, Minturno, Cariteo, Rota,
Sanazzaro, and Bernardo Tasso, among those who helped to make this
remote rock celebrated throughout Europe at that day, as one of the
best loved haunts of Apollo and the Muses,—to speak in the phraseology
of the time.

Many among them have left passages recording the happy days spent on
that fortunate island. The social circle was doubtless a charming and
brilliant one, and the more so, as contrasted with the general tone and
habits of the society of the period. But the style of the following
sonnet by Bernardo Tasso, selected by Visconti as a specimen of the
various effusions by members of the select circle upon the subject,
while it accurately illustrates the prevailing modes of thought and
diction of that period, will hardly fail to suggest the idea of a
comparison—mutatis mutandis—between this company of sixteenth century
choice spirits, and that which assembled, and provoked so severe a
lashing in the memorable Hôtel de Rambouillet, more than an hundred
years afterwards. But an Italian Molière is as wholly impossible in the
nature of things, as a French Dante. And the sixteenth century swarm of
Petrarchists and Classicists have, unlike true prophets, found honour
in their own country.


Gentle Bernardo celebrates in this wise these famed Ischia meetings:—

  "Superbo scoglio, altero e bel ricetto
      Di tanti chiari eroi, d'imperadori,
      Onde raggi di gloria escono fuori,
    Ch'ogni altro lume fan scuro e negletto;
  Se per vera virtute al ben perfetto
      Salir si puote ed agli eterni onori,
      Queste più d'altre degne alme e migliori
  V'andran, che chiudi nel petroso petto.
    Il lume e in te dell'armi; in te s'asconde
      Casta beltà, valore e cortesia,
      Quanta mai vide il tempo, o diede il cielo.
    Ti sian secondi i fati, e il vento e l'onde
      Rendanti onore, e l'aria tua natia
      Abbia sempre temprato il caldo e il gelo!"

Which may be thus "done into English," for the sake of giving those
unacquainted with the language of the original, some tolerably accurate
idea of Messer Bernardo's euphuisms.

  "Proud rock! the loved retreat of such a band
      Of earth's best, noblest, greatest, that their light
      Pales other glories to the dazzled sight,
    And like a beacon shines throughout the land,
  If truest worth can reach the perfect state,
      And man may hope to merit heavenly rest,
      Those whom thou harbourest in thy rocky breast,
  First in the race will reach the heavenly gate.
    Glory of martial deeds is thine. In thee,
      Brightest the world e'er saw, or heaven gave,
    Dwell chastest beauty, worth, and courtesy!
    Well be it with thee! May both wind and sea
      Respect thee: and thy native air and wave
      Be temper'd ever by a genial sky!"

Such is the poetry of one of the brightest stars of the Ischian galaxy;
and the incredulous reader is assured that it would be easy to find
much worse sonnets by the ream, among the extant productions of the
crowd, who were afflicted with the prevalent Petrarch mania of that
epoch. The statistical returns of the ravages of this malady, given
by the poetical registrar-general Crescimbeni, would astonish even
Paternoster Row at the present day. But Vittoria Colonna, though a
great number of her sonnets do not rise above the level of Bernardo
Tasso in the foregoing specimen, could occasionally, especially in her
later years, reach a much higher tone, as will, it is hoped, be shown
in a future chapter.

It has been suggested, that the religious feelings which inspired her
latter poetry, were, though not more genuine, yet more absorbing than
the conjugal love, which is almost exclusively the theme of her earlier
efforts. And it is at all events certain, that the former so engrossed
her whole mind, as to sever her in a great measure from the world.
This the so fervently sung pangs of separation from her husband do not
appear to have effected.

[Sidenote: A MARRIAGE IN 1517.]

Besides the constant society of the select few, of whom mention has
been made, there were occasionally gayer doings in Ischia; as when in
February, 1517, a brilliant festival was held there on occasion of the
marriage[174] of Don Alfonso Piccolomini with Costanza d'Avalos, the
sister of Vittoria's pupil, the Marchese del Vasto. And occasionally
the gentle poetess, necessitated probably by the exigences of her
social position, would leave her beloved Ischia for brilliant and noisy
Naples. And when these necessities did occur, it is recorded, that the
magnificence and pomp, with which the beautiful young wife made her
appearance among her fellow nobles, was such, as few of them could
equal, and none surpass.

One of these occasions is worth specially noting, for the sake of the
detailed account, which has been preserved of it by that humble and
observant chronicler, our friend the weaver. For it contains traits
and indications, curiously and amusingly illustrative of the life and
manners of that time in Naples.

It was December 6, 1517, and high festival was to be held for the
marriage of the King of Poland with Donna Bona Sforza. The guests
comprised the whole nobility of Naples; and worthy Passeri begins his
account with an accurate Morning-Post-like statement of the costume of
each in the order of their arrival at the church. Doubtless the eager
weaver, a shrewd judge of such matters, had pushed himself into a good
place in the front row of the crowd, who lined the roadway of the noble
guests, and might have been seen with tablets in hand, taking notes
with busy excitement to be transferred to his journal at night. One
after another the high-sounding titles, very many of them Spanish, are
set forth, as they swept by, brilliant with gold and every brightest
tint of costly fabric, and are swallowed up by the dark nave of the
huge church.

It is not necessary to attempt a translation of all the changes Master
Passeri rings on velvet, satin, gold, brocade, and costly furs. Merely
noting that the bride's dress is estimated to be worth seven thousand
ducats, we let them all pass on till "The illustrious lady the Signora
Vittoria, Marchioness of Pescara," arrives. She is mounted on a black
and white jennet, with housings of crimson velvet, fringed with gold.
She is accompanied by six ladies in waiting, uniformly clad in azure
damask, and attended by six grooms on foot, with cloaks and jerkins
of blue and yellow satin. The lady herself wears a robe of brocaded
crimson velvet, with large branches of beaten gold on it. She has a
crimson satin cap, with a head-dress of wrought gold above it; and
around her waist is a girdle of beaten gold.

Some of the assembled company, one might think, would require their
girdles to be of some more yielding material. For, on quitting the
church, they sat down to table at six in the evening, "and began
to eat," says Passeri, "and left off at five in the morning!" The
order and materials of this more than Homeric feast, are handed down
to posterity with scrupulous accuracy by our chronicler. But the
stupendous menu, in its entirety, would be almost as intolerable to the
reader, as having to sit out the eleven hours orgy in person. A few
particulars culled here and there, partly because they are curious, and
partly because the meaning of the words is more intelligible than is
the case in many instances, even to a Neapolitan of the present day,
will amply suffice.

[Sidenote: A FESTIVAL.]

There were twenty-seven courses. Then the quantity of sugar used,
was made, as we have noticed on a former occasion at Rome, a special
subject of glorification. There was "putaggio Ungarese," Hungary soup,
stuffed peacocks, quince pies, and thrushes served with bergamottes,
which were not pears, as an English reader might perhaps suppose, but
small highly scented citrons, of the kind, from which the perfume of
that name is, or is supposed, to be made. With the "bianco mangiare,"
our familiarity with "blanc-mange," seems at first sight to make us
more at home. But we are thrown out by finding, that it was eaten
in 1517, "con mostarda." The dishes of pastry seem according to
our habits, much out of proportion to the rest. Sweet preparations
also, whether of animal or vegetable composition, seem greatly
to preponderate. At the queen's own table, a fountain gave forth
odoriferous waters. But, to all the guests, perfumed water for the
hands was served at the removal of the first tables.

"And thus having passed this first day with infinite delight," the
whole party passed a second, and a third, in the same manner!

That eleven hours should have been spent in eating and drinking is of
course simply impossible. Large interludes must be supposed to have
been occupied by music, and very likely by recitations of poetry. On
the first day a considerable time must have been taken up by a part
of the ceremonial, which was doubtless far more interesting to the
fairer half of the assembly than the endless gormandising. This was
a display, article by article, of the bride's trousseau, which took
place while the guests were still sitting at table. Passeri minutely
catalogues the whole exhibition. The list begins with twenty pairs of
sheets, all embroidered with different coloured silks; and seven pairs
of sheets, "d'olanda," of Dutch linen, fringed with gold. Then come
an hundred and five shirts of Dutch linen, all embroidered with silk
of divers colours; and seventeen shirts of cambric, "cambraia," with
a selvage of gold, as a present for the royal bridegroom. There were
twelve head-dresses, and six ditto, ornamented with gold and coloured
silk, for his majesty; an hundred and twenty handkerchiefs, embroidered
with gold cord; ninety-six caps, ornamented with gold and silk, of
which thirty-six were for the king. There were eighteen counterpanes
of silk, one of which was wrought "alla moresca;" forty-eight sets
of stamped leather hangings, thirty-six others "of the ostrich egg
pattern," sixteen "of the artichoke pattern," and thirty-six of silk
tapestry. Beside all these hundred sets, there were eight large pieces
of Flanders arras, "con seta assai." They represented the seven works
of mercy, and were valued at a thousand golden ducats. There was a
litter, carved and gilt, with its four mattrasses of blue embroidered
satin. Passing on to the plate department, we have a silver waiter, two
large pitchers wrought in relief, three basins, an ewer, and six large
cups, twelve large plates, twelve ditto of second size, and twenty-four
soup-plates made "alla franzese," a massive salt-cellar, a box of
napkins, spoons, and jugs, four large candlesticks, two large flasks, a
silver pail, and a cup of gold worth two hundred ducats for the king's
use. Then for the chapel, a furniture for the altar, with the history
of the three kings embroidered in gold on black velvet; a missal on
parchment, with illuminated miniatures, bound in velvet ornamented
with silver clasps and bosses; and a complete set of requisites for
the service in silver. Then, returning to the personal department,
came twenty-one gowns, each minutely described, and one of blue satin
spangled with bees in solid gold, particularly specified as being worth
four thousand ducats.


When all this and much more had been duly admired, there were brought
forward an empty casket and fifteen trays, in which were an hundred
thousand ducats of gold, which were put into the casket "before all the
Signori." But our chronicler is compelled by his love of truth to add
reluctantly that there were several false ducats among them.[175]

It is evident from the nature of many of the articles in the above
list, that this "trousseau" was not merely a bride's fitting out
purchased for the occasion, but was a collection of all the Lady Bona's
chattel property, and represented, as was then usually the case with
all wealthy persons, a very large, if not the principal part, of her
worldly goods.

It may well be imagined, that Vittoria was not sorry to return to
the quiet and intellectual society of Ischia after these tremendous
three days at Naples. There she was cheered from time to time by
three or four short visits from her husband; and by continual tidings
of his increasing reputation and advancement in dignity and wealth;
a prosperity which she considered dearly purchased by his almost
continual absence. The death of her father Fabrizio in March, 1520,
and that of her mother in 1522, made her feel more poignantly this
loneliness of heart.

In October of 1522, Pescara made a flying visit to his wife and home.
He was with her three days only, and then hastened back to the army.
It was the last time she ever saw him. His career with the army
meantime was very glorious. In May, 1522, he took and sacked Genoa;
"con la maggior crodelitate de lo mundo," writes admiring Passeri. The
plundering lasted a day and a half; and "da che lo mundo fo mundo,"
never was seen a sacking of so great riches, "for there was not a
single soldier who did not at the least get a thousand ducats." Then,
with the year 1525 came, on the 24th of February, the memorable day of
Pavia, which was so glorious that, as Passeri writes, the desolation
inflicted by it on the country around was such, that neither house,
tree, nor vine was to be seen for miles. All was burned. Few living
creatures were to be met with, and those subsisting miserably on roots.

The result of that "field of honour" is sufficiently well known.
Pescara, who received three wounds, though none of them serious, in
the battle, considered that he was ill-used, when the royal captive
Francis was taken out of his hands to Spain, and made complaints on the
subject to his master Charles V., who had succeeded Ferdinand on the
thrones of Spain and Naples in 1516. He was now, however, at the age of
thirty-five, general-in-chief for that monarch in Lombardy, and enjoyed
his perfect confidence, when circumstances arose calculated to try his
fidelity severely. Whether that, almost the only virtue recognised,
honoured, and professed by his own class at that day, remained
altogether intact and unblemished is doubtful. But it is certain, that
in any view of the case, his conduct was such as would consign him to
utter infamy in any somewhat more morally enlightened age than his
own, and such as any noble-hearted man, however untaught, would have
instinctively shrunk from even then.


The circumstances briefly were as follows:—

Clement VII., who had succeeded to the Popedom in 1523, had, after much
trimming and vacillation between Francis I. and Charles V., become,
like the rest of Italy, exceedingly alarmed at the preponderating
power of Charles, after the discomfiture of the French at Pavia. Now
the discontent of Pescara, mentioned above, being notorious, the Pope
and his counsellors, especially Giberti, Bishop of Verona, and Morone,
Chancellor and Prime Minister of the Duke of Milan, thought that it
might not be impossible to induce him to turn traitor to Charles, and
make use of the army under his command to crush once and for ever the
Spanish power in Italy. The prime mover and agent in this conspiracy
was Morone, who had the reputation of being one of the profoundest and
most far-sighted statesmen of his day. Guicciardini[176] has recorded,
that he (the historian) had often heard Morone declare, that there did
not exist a worse or more faithless man in all Italy than Pescara.
The conspiring Chancellor, therefore, being empowered by the Pope to
promise the malcontent general the throne of Naples as the price of his
treason, thought that he might well venture to make the proposal.

Pescara received his overtures favourably, saying, that _if he could be
satisfied that what was proposed to him could be done without injury
to his honour_, he would willingly undertake it, and accept the reward
offered to him.[177] Upon this reply being communicated to the Pope,
a couple of cardinals forthwith wrote to the Marchese, assuring him
that the treason required of him was, "according to the dispositions
and ordinances of the laws, civil as well as canon,"[178] perfectly
consistent with the nicest honour. Meanwhile, however, it chanced, that
one Messer Gismondo Santi, who had been sent by the conspirators with
letters on the subject into France or Switzerland, was murdered for
the purpose of robbery by an innkeeper with whom he lodged at Bergamo,
and was buried under the staircase, as was discovered some years
afterwards. And as no tidings were heard of this messenger, all engaged
in the plot, and Pescara among them, suspected that he had been waylaid
for the sake of his dispatches, and that thus all was probably made
known to Charles. Thereupon Pescara immediately wrote to the Emperor,
revealing the whole conspiracy, and declaring that he had given ear to
their proposals only for the purpose of obtaining full information of
the conspirators' designs.

Such is the version of the story given by Varchi, probably the most
trustworthy of all the numerous contemporary historians. He adds,
"it is not unknown to me, that many say, and perhaps think, that the
Marchese, acting loyally from the beginning, had all along given the
emperor true information of everything; all which I, for my part,
knowing nothing further than what I have said, will not undertake to
deny. It would, indeed, be agreeable to me to believe that it was so,
rather than that the character of so great a soldier should be stained
with so foul a blot. Though, indeed, I know not what sort of loyalty or
sincerity that may be, which consists in having deceived and betrayed
by vile trickery and fraud a Pope, who, if nothing else, was at least
very friendly to him, a republic such as that of Venice, and many
other personages, for the sake of acquiring favour with his master.
This I know well, that the lady Vittoria Colonna, his wife, a woman of
the highest character, and abounding in all the virtues which can adorn
her sex, had no sooner heard of the intrigue on foot, than, wholly
untempted by the brilliant hope hung out to her, she with infinite
sorrow and anxiety wrote most warmly to her husband, urging him to
bethink him of his hitherto unstained character, and to weigh well what
he was about, assuring him that as far as she was concerned, she had no
wish to be the wife of a king, but only of a loyal and upright man."


This letter from Vittoria, urging her husband not to be seduced to
swerve from the path of honour and duty, is recorded by most of the
writers; and Visconti asserts, that it was the means of inducing
Pescara to abandon the idea of betraying his sovereign. At all events,
the existence of such a letter is very strong evidence that Pescara
had _not_ from the first informed Charles of the plot, but _had_ at
least hesitated whether he should not join in it, inasmuch as his
communications to her upon the subject had given her reason to fear
lest he should do so.

On the other hand, it is fair to observe, that several of those
concerned in the intrigue saw reason to suspect the possibility of
Pescara's having from the first listened to their overtures only to
betray them; as is proved by extant letters from one to another of

Perhaps this, too, was consistent with the nicest honour, as defined
"by the ordinances of canon and civil law." But whether he were a
traitor to his king or not, he was determined to shrink from no depth
of treachery towards his dupes, that could serve to ingratiate him
with his master. While still feigning to accede to their proposals, he
sent to Morone to come to him at Novara, that all might be arranged
between them. Morone, against the advice of many of his friends, and,
as Guicciardini thought,[180] with a degree of imprudence astonishing
in so practised and experienced a man, went to the meeting. He was
received in the most cordial manner by Pescara, who, as soon as they
were alone together, led him to speak of all the details of the
proposed plan. The trap was complete; for behind the hangings of the
room in which they were sitting, he had hidden Antonio da Leyva, one of
the generals of the Spanish army, who arrested him as he was quitting
the house, and took him to the prison of Novara, where Pescara the next
day had the brazen audacity to examine as a judge the man whom a few
hours previously he had talked with as an accomplice.[181]

Surely, whichever version of the story may be believed, as to Pescara's
original intentions, there is enough here in evidence to go far towards
justifying Chancellor Morone's opinion, that he was one of the worst
and most faithless men in Italy. Some modern Italian writers, with
little moral, and less historical knowledge, have rested the gravamen
of the charge against him on his want of patriotic Italian feeling on
the occasion. In the first place, no such motive, however laudable
in itself, could have justified him in being guilty of the treason
proposed to him. In the second place, the class of ideas in question
can hardly be found to have had any existence at that period, although
distinct traces of such may be met with in Italian history 200 years
earlier. Certainly the Venetian Senate were not actuated by any such;
and still more absurd would it be to attribute them to Pope Clement. It
is possible that Morone, and perhaps still more, Giberti, may not have
been untinctured by them.


But Pescara was one of the last men, even had he been as high-minded
as we find him to have been the reverse, in whom to look for Italian
"_fuori i barbari_" enthusiasm. Of noble Spanish blood, his family had
always been the counsellors, friends, and close adherents of a Spanish
dynasty at Naples, and the man himself was especially Spanish in all
his sympathies and ideas. "He adopted,"[182] says Giovio, "in all his
costume the Spanish fashion, and always preferred to speak in that
language to such a degree, that with Italians, and even with Vittoria
his wife, he talked Spanish." And elsewhere he is said to have been in
the habit of expressing his regret that he was not born a Spaniard.

Such habits and sentiments would have been painful enough to a wife,
a Roman and a Colonna, if Vittoria had been sufficiently in advance
of her age to have conceived patriotic ideas of Italian nationality.
But though her pursuits and studies were infinitely more likely to
have led her mind to such thoughts, than were those of the actors
in the political drama of the time to generate any such notions in
them, yet no trace of any sentiment of the kind is to be found in her
writings. Considering the extent of the field over which her mind had
travelled, her acquaintance with classical literature, and with the
history of her own country, it may seem surprising that a nature,
certainly capable of high and noble aspirations, should have remained
untouched by one of the noblest. That it was so is a striking proof of
the utter insensibility of the age to any feelings of the sort. It is
possible too, that the tendencies and modes of thought of her husband
on the subject of Italy may have exercised a repressing influence in
this respect on Vittoria's mind; for who does not know how powerfully
a woman's intelligence and heart may be elevated or degraded by the
nature of the object of her affections; and, doubtless, to Vittoria
as to so many another of every age do the admirable lines of the poet
address themselves:—

              "Thou shalt lower to his level day by day,
  What is fine within thee growing coarse to sympathise with clay.
  As the husband is, the wife is; thou art mated with a clown,
  And the grossness of his nature will have weight to drag thee down."

When we come to examine the tone of sentiment prevailing in Vittoria's
poetry, other indications of this deteriorating influence will be
perceptible, and if much of nobleness, purity, high aspiration be
nevertheless still found in her, this partial immunity from the evil
influence must be attributed to the trifling duration of that portion
of her life passed in her husband's company.

Pescara was not unrewarded for the infamy with which he covered himself
in the service of his master. He obtained the rank of Generalissimo
of the imperial forces in Italy. But he enjoyed the gratification for
a very little while. In the latter end of that year, he fell into a
state of health which seems to have been not well accounted for by the
medical science of that day. The wounds he had received at Pavia in
the previous February are specially described by Passeri as having
been very slight. Some writers have supposed that either shame for the
part he had acted in the Morone affair, or, with greater probability,
misgiving as to the possibility of the emperor's discovering the real
truth of the facts (for the fate of Gismondo Santi and his papers was
not known yet), was the real cause of his illness. It seems clearly
to have been of the nature of a sudden and premature decay of all the
vital forces.

[Sidenote: PESCARA'S DEATH.]

Towards the end of the year he abandoned all hope of recovery, and sent
to his wife to desire her to come to him with all speed. He was then at
Milan. She set out instantly on her painful journey, and had reached
Viterbo on her way northwards, when she was met by the news of his

It took place on the 25th of November, 1525. He was buried on the
30th of that month, says Giovio, at Milan; but the body was shortly
afterwards transported with great pomp and magnificence to Naples.


 Vittoria, a Widow, with the Nuns of San Silvestro.—Returns to
 Ischia.—Her Poetry divisible into two classes.—Specimens of her
 Sonnets.—They rapidly attain celebrity throughout Italy.—Vittoria's
 sentiments towards her Husband.—Her unblemished Character.—Platonic
 Love.—The Love Poetry of the Sixteenth Century.

Vittoria became thus a widow in the thirty-sixth year of her age. She
was still in the full pride of her beauty, as contemporary writers
assert, and as two extant medals, struck at Milan shortly before her
husband's death, attest. One of them presents the bust of Pescara on
the obverse, and that of Vittoria on the reverse; the other has the
same portrait of her on the obverse, and a military trophy on the
reverse. The face represented is a very beautiful one, and seen thus
in profile is perhaps more pleasing than the portrait, which has been
spoken of in a previous chapter. She was moreover even now probably the
most celebrated woman in Italy, although she had done little as yet to
achieve that immense reputation which awaited her a few years later.
Very few probably of her sonnets were written before the death of her

But the exalted rank and prominent position of her own family, the high
military grade and reputation of her husband, the wide-spread hopes and
fears of which he had recently been the centre in the affair of the
conspiracy, joined to the fame of her talents, learning, and virtues,
which had been made the subject of enthusiastic praise by nearly all
the Ischia knot of poets and wits, rendered her a very conspicuous
person in the eyes of all Italy. Her husband's premature and unexpected
death added a source of interest of yet another kind to her person. A
young, beautiful, and very wealthy widow, gave rise to quite as many
hopes, speculations, and designs in the sixteenth century as in any

[Sidenote: SADOLETO'S BULL.]

But Vittoria's first feeling, on receiving that fatal message at
Viterbo, was, that she could never again face that world, which was
so ready to open its arms to her. Escape from the world, solitude, a
cell, whose walls should resemble, as nearly as might be, those of the
grave, since that asylum was denied to her, was her only wish. And
she hastened, stunned by her great grief, to Rome, with the intention
of throwing herself into a cloister. The convent of San Silvestro in
Capite—so called from the supposed possession by the community of the
Baptist's head—had always been a special object of veneration to the
Colonna family; and there she sought a retreat. Her many friends, well
knowing the desperation of her affliction, feared, that acting under
the spur of its first violence, she would take the irrevocable step
of pronouncing the vows. That a Vittoria Colonna should be so lost to
the world was not to be thought of. So, Jacopo Sadoleto, Bishop of
Carpentras, and afterwards made a cardinal by Pope Paul III., one of
the most learned men of his day, himself a poet, and an intimate friend
of Vittoria, hastened to Pope Clement, whose secretary he was at the
time, and obtained from him a brief addressed to the abbess and nuns of
San Silvestro, enjoining them to receive into their house, and console
to the best of their ability the Marchesana di Pescara, "omnibus
spiritualibus et temporalibus consolationibus," but forbidding them,
under pain of the greater excommunication, to permit her to take the
veil, "impetu potius sui doloris, quam maturo consilio circa mutationem
vestium vidualium in monasticas."

This brief is dated the 7th December, 1525.

She remained with the sisters of San Silvestro till the autumn of the
following year; and would have further deferred returning into a world
which the conditions of the times made less than ever tempting to her,
had not her brother Ascanio, now her only remaining natural protector,
taken her from the convent to Marino, in consequence of the Colonna
clan being once again at war with the Pope, as partisans of the Emperor.

On the 20th of September, 1526, this ever turbulent family raised a
tumult in Rome to the cry of "Imperio! Imperio! Libertà! Libertà!
Colonna! Colonna!" and sacked the Vatican, and every house belonging to
the Orsini;[183] the old clan hatred showing itself as usual on every
pretext and opportunity.

The result was a papal decree, depriving Cardinal Colonna of his hat;
and declaring confiscated all the estates of the family. Deeply grieved
by all these excesses, both by the lawless violence of her kinsmen,
and by the punishment incurred by them, she left Marino, and once more
returned to the retirement of Ischia in the beginning of 1527. It was
well for her that she had decided on not remaining in or near Rome
during that fatal year. While the eternal city and its neighbourhood
were exposed to the untold horrors and atrocities committed by the
soldiers of the Most Catholic King, Vittoria was safe in her island
home, torn indeed to the heart by the tidings which reached her of the
ruin and dispersion of many valued friends, but at least tranquil and

[Sidenote: IN MEMORIAM.]

And now, if not perhaps while she was still with the nuns of San
Silvestro, began her life as a poetess. She had hitherto written but
little, and occasionally only. Henceforward, poetical composition
seems to have made the great occupation of her life. Visconti, the
latest, and by far the best editor of her works, has divided them into
two portions. With two or three unimportant exceptions, of which the
letter to her husband already noticed is the most considerable, they
consist entirely of sonnets. The first of Signor Visconti's divisions,
comprising 134 sonnets, includes those inspired almost entirely by her
grief for the loss of her husband. They form a nearly uninterrupted
series "In Memoriam," in which the changes are rung with infinite
ingenuity on a very limited number of ideas, all turning on the glory
and high qualities of him whom she had lost, and her own undiminished
and hopeless misery.

  "I only write to vent that inward pain,
  On which my heart doth feed itself, nor wills
  Aught other nourishment,"

begins the first of these elegiac sonnets; in which she goes on to
disclaim any idea of increasing her husband's glory,—"non per giunger
lume al mio bel sole;" which is the phrase she uses invariably to
designate him. This fancy of alluding to Pescara always by the same
not very happily chosen metaphor, contributes an additional element of
monotony to verses still further deprived of variety by the identity of
their highly artificial form.

This form, it is hardly necessary to remark, more than any other
mode of the lyre, needs and exhibits the beauties of accurate finish
and neat polish. Shut out, as it is, by its exceeding artificiality
and difficult construction from many of the higher beauties of more
spontaneous poetical utterance, the sonnet, "totus, teres atque
rotundus," is nothing if not elaborated to gem-like perfection.

Yet Vittoria writes as follows:—

  "Se in man prender non soglio unqua la lima
    Del buon giudicio, e ricercando intorno
    Con occhio disdegnoso, io non adorno
    Nè tergo la mia rozza incolta rima,
  Nasce perchè non è mia cura prima
    Procacciar di ciò lode, o fuggir scorno;
    Nè che dopo il mio lieto al ciel ritorno
    Viva ella al mondo in più onorata stima.
  Ma dal foco divin, che 'l mio intelletto
    Sua mercè infiamma, convien che escan fuore
    Mal mio grado talor queste faville.
  E se alcuna di loro un gentil core
    Avvien che scaldi, mille volte e mille
    Ringraziar debbo il mio felice errore."

Which may be thus Englished with tolerable accuracy of meaning, if not
with much poetical elegance.[184]

  "If in these rude and artless songs of mine
    I never take the file in hand, nor try
    With curious care, and nice fastidious eye,
    To deck and polish each uncultured line,
  'Tis that it makes small portion of my aim
    To merit praise, or 'scape scorn's blighting breath;
    Or that my verse, when I have welcomed death,
    May live rewarded with the meed of fame.
  But it must be that Heaven's own gracious gift,
    Which with its breath divine inspires my soul,
    Strike forth these sparks, unbidden by my will.
  And should one such but haply serve to lift
    One gentle heart, I thankful reach my goal,
    And, faulty tho' the strain, my every wish fulfil."


Again, in another sonnet, of which the first eight lines are perhaps
as favourable a specimen of a really poetical image as can be found
throughout her writings, she repeats the same profession of "pouring an
unpremeditated lay."

  "Qual digiuno augellin, che vede ed ode
    Batter l'ali alla madre intorno, quando
    Gli reca il nutrimento; ond egli amando
    Il cibo e quella, si rallegra e gode,
  E dentro al nido suo si strugge e rode
    Per desio di seguirla anch'ei volando,
    E la ringrazia in tal modo cantando,
    Che par ch'oltre 'l poter la lingua snode;
  Tal'io qualor il caldo raggio e vivo
    Del divin sole, onde nutrisco il core
    Più del usato lucido lampeggia,
  Muovo la penna, spinta dall'amore
    Interno; e senza ch'io stessa m'avveggia
    Di quel ch'io dico le sue lodi scrivo."

Which in English runs pretty exactly as follows:—

  "Like to a hungry nestling bird, that hears
    And sees the fluttering of his mother's wings
    Bearing him food, whence, loving what she brings
    And her no less, a joyful mien he wears,
  And struggles in the nest, and vainly stirs,
    Wishful to follow her free wanderings,
    And thanks her in such fashion, while he sings,
    That the free voice beyond his strength appears;
  So I, whene'er the warm and living glow
    Of him my sun divine, that feeds my heart,
    Shine's brighter than its wont, take up the pen,
  Urged by the force of my deep love; and so
    Unconscious of the words unkempt by art
    I write his praises o'er and o'er again."

The reader conversant with Italian poetry will have already seen enough
to make him aware, that the Colonna's compositions are by no means,
unkempt, unpolished, or spontaneous. The merit of them consists in
the high degree, to which they are exactly the reverse of all this.
They are ingenious, neat, highly studied, elegant, and elaborate. It
may be true, indeed, that much thought was not expended on the subject
matter; but it was not spared on the diction, versification, and form.
So much so, that many of her sonnets were retouched, altered, improved,
and finally left to posterity, in a form very different from that in
which they were first handed round the literary world of Italy.[185]
The file in truth was constantly in hand; though the nice fastidious
care bestowed in dressing out with curious conceits a jejune or trite
thought, which won the enthusiastic applause of her contemporaries,
does not to the modern reader compensate for the absence of passion,
earnestness, and reality.

Then, again, the declaration of the songstress of these would-be "wood
notes wild," that they make no pretension to the meed of praise, nor
care to escape contempt, nor are inspired by any hope of a life of fame
after the author's death, leads us to contrast with such professions
the destiny that really did,—surely not altogether unsought,—await
these grief-inspired utterances of a breaking heart during the author's

No sooner was each memory-born pang illustrated by an ingenious
metaphor, or pretty simile packed neatly in its regulation case of
fourteen lines with their complexity of twofold rhymes all right, than
it was handed all over Italy. Copies were as eagerly sought for as
_the_ novel of the season at a nineteenth-century circulating library.
Cardinals, bishops, poets, wits, diplomatists, passed them from one
to another, made them the subject of their correspondence with each
other, and with the fair mourner; and eagerly looked out for the next
poetical bonne bouche which her undying grief and constancy to her "bel
sole" should send them.

[Sidenote: WOOD-NOTES WILD.]

The enthusiasm created by these tuneful wailings of a young widow as
lovely as inconsolable, as irreproachable as noble, learned enough to
correspond with the most learned men of the day on their own subjects,
and with all this a Colonna, was intense. Vittoria became speedily the
most famous woman of her day, was termed by universal consent "the
divine," and lived to see three editions of the grief-cries, which
escaped from her "without her will."

Here is a sonnet, which was probably written at the time of her return
to Ischia in 1527; when the sight of all the well-loved scenery of the
home of her happy years must have brought to her mind Dante's—

                "Nessun maggior dolore
  Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
  Nella miseria!"

Vittoria looks back on the happy time as follows:—

  "Oh! che tranquillo mar, oh che chiare onde
    Solcava già la mia spalmata barca,
    Di ricca e nobil merce adorna e carca,
    Con l'aer puro, e con l'aure seconde,
  Il ciel, ch'ora i bei vaghi lumi asconde
    Porgea serena luce e d'ombra scarca;
    Ahi! quanto ha da temer chi lieto varca!
    Chè non sempre al principio il fin risponde.
  Ecco l'empia e volubile fortuna
    Scoperse poi l'irata iniqua fronte,
    Dal cui furor sì gran procella insorge.
  Venti, pioggia, saette insieme aduna,
    E fiere intorno a divorarmi pronte;
    Ma l'alma ancor la fida Stella scorge."

In English, thus:—

  "On what smooth seas, on what clear waves did sail
    My fresh careenèd bark! what costly freight
    Of noble merchandise adorn'd its state!
    How pure the breeze, how favouring the gale!
  And Heaven, which now its beauteous rays doth veil,
    Shone then serene and shadowless. But fate
    For the too happy voyager lies in wait.
    Oft fair beginnings in their endings fail.
  And now doth impious changeful fortune bare
    Her angry ruthless brow, whose threat'ning power
    Rouses the tempest, and lets loose its war!
  But though rains, winds, and lightnings fill the air,
    And wild beasts seek to rend me and devour,
    Still shines o'er my true soul its faithful star."

Bearing in mind what we have seen of Pescara, it would seem evident,
that some monstrous illusion with respect to him must have obscured
Vittoria's mind and judgment. It might have been expected that she
would have been found attributing to him high and noble qualities,
which existed only in her own imagination. But it is remarkable that,
though in general terms she speaks of him as all that was noblest and
greatest, yet in describing his merits, she confines herself to the
few which he really had. This highly cultured, devout, thoughtful,
intellectual woman, seems really to have believed, that a mercenary
swordsman's calling was the noblest occupation earth could offer, and
the successful following of it the best preparation and surest title to
immortal happiness hereafter.


The following sonnet is one of many expressing the same sentiments.

  "Alle Vittorie tue, mio lume eterno,
    Non diede il tempo o la stagion favore;
    La spada, la virtù, l'invitto core
    Fur li ministri tuoi la state e' verno.
  Col prudente occhio, e col saggio governo
    L'altrui forze spezzasti in si brev'ore,
    Che 'l modo all'alte imprese accrebbe onore
    Non men che l'opre al tuo valore interno.
  Non tardaro il tuo corso animi altieri,
    O fiumi, o monti; e le maggior cittadi
    Per cortesia od ardir rimaser vinte.
  Salisti al mondo i più pregiati gradi;
    Or godi in ciel d'altri trionfi e veri,
    D'altre frondi le tempie ornate e cinte."

Which may be Englished as follows:—

  "To thy great victories, my eternal light,
    Nor time, nor seasons, lent their favouring aid;
    Thy sword, thy might, thy courage undismay'd,
    Summer and winter serv'd thy will aright.
  By thy wise governance and eagle sight,
    Thou didst so rout the foe with headlong speed,
    The manner of the doing crown'd the deed,
    No less than did the deed display thy might.
  Mountains and streams, and haughty souls in vain
    Would check thy course. By force of courtesy
    Or valour vanquish'd, cities of name were won.
  Earth's highest honours did thy worth attain;
    Now truer triumphs Heaven reserves for thee,
    And nobler garlands do thy temples crown."

Often her wishes for death are checked by the consideration, that haply
her virtue may not suffice to enable her to rejoin her husband in the
mansions of the blest. Take the following example:—

  "Quando del suo tormento il cor si duole
    Si ch'io bramo il mio fin, timor m'assale,
    E dice; il morir tosto a che ti vale
    Si forse lungi vai dal tuo bel sole?
  Da questa fredda tema nascer suole
    Un caldo ardir, che pon d'intorno l'ale
    All alma; onde disgombra il mio mortale
    Quanto ella può, da quel ch e 'l mondo vuole.
  Così lo spirto mio s'asconde e copre
    Qui dal piacer uman, non già per fama
    O van grido, o pregiar troppo se stesso;
  Ma sente 'l lume suo, che ognor lo chiama,
    E vede il volto, ovunque mira, impresso,
    Che gli misura i passi e scorge l'opre."

Thus done into English:—

  "When of its pangs my heart doth sore complain,
    So that I long to die, fear falls on me,
    And saith, what boots such early death to thee,
    If far from thy bright sun thou should'st remain.
  Then oft from this cold fear is born again
    A fervent boldness, which doth presently
    Lend my soul wings, so that mortality
    Strives to put off its worldly wishes vain.
  For this, my spirit here herself enfolds,
    And hides from human joys; and not for fame,
    Nor empty praise, nor overblown conceit;
  But that she hears her sun still call her name,
    And still, where'er she looks, his face doth meet,
    Who measures all her steps, and all her deeds beholds."

A similar cast of thought, both as regards her own disgust of life and
the halo of sanctity, which by some mysterious process of mind she was
able to throw around her husband's memory, is found again in this, the
last of the sonnets, selected to illustrate this phase of our poetess's
mind, and exemplify the first division of her writings.

  "Cara union, che in si mirabil modo
    Fosti ordinata dal signor del cielo,
    Che lo spirto divino, e l'uman velo
    Legò con dolce ed amoroso nodo,
  Io, benchi lui di si bell'opra lodo,
    Pur cerco, e ad altri il mio pensier non celo,
    Sciorre il tuo laccio; ni più a caldo o gelo
    Serbarti; poi che qui di te non godo.
  Che l'alma chiusa in questo carcer rio
    Come nemico l'odia; onde smarrita
    Ne vive qui, nè vola ove desia.
  Quando sarà con suo gran sole unita,
    Felice giorno! allor contenta fia;
    Che sol nel viver suo conobbe vita."


Of which the subjoined rendering, prosaic and crabbed as it is, is
perhaps hardly more so than the original.

  "Sweet bond, that wast ordain'd so wondrous well
    By the Almighty ruler of the sky,
    Who did unite in one sweet loving tie
    The godlike spirit and its fleshy shell,
  I, while I praise his loving work, yet try—
    Nor wish my thought from others to withhold—
    To loose thy knot; nor more, through heat or cold,
    Preserve thee, since in thee no joy have I.
  Therefore my soul, shut in this dungeon stern,
    Detests it as a foe; whence, all astray,
    She lives not here, nor flies where she would go.
  When to her glorious sun she shall return,
    Ah! then content shall come with that blest day,
    For she, but while he liv'd, a sense of life could know."

In considering the collection of 117 sonnets, from which the above
specimens have been selected, and which were probably the product of
about seven or eight years, from 1526 to 1533–4 (in one she laments
that the seventh year from her husband's death should have brought
with it no alleviation of her grief); the most interesting question
that suggests itself, is,—whether we are to suppose the sentiments
expressed in them to be genuine outpourings of the heart, or rather
to consider them all as part of the professional equipment of a poet,
earnest only in the work of achieving a high and brilliant poetical
reputation? The question is a prominent one, as regards the concrete
notion to be formed of the sixteenth-century woman, Vittoria Colonna;
and is not without interest as bearing on the great subject of woman's

Vittoria's moral conduct, both as a wife and as a widow, was wholly
irreproachable. A mass of concurrent contemporary testimony seems to
leave no doubt whatever on this point. More than one of the poets of
her day professed themselves her ardent admirers, devoted slaves,
and despairing lovers, according to the most approved poetical and
Platonic fashion of the time; and she received their inflated bombast
not unpleased with the incense, and answered them with other bombast,
all _en règle_ and in character. The "carte de tendre" was then laid
down on the Platonic projection; and the sixteenth century fashion in
this respect was made a convenient screen, for those to whom a screen
was needful, quite as frequently as the less classical whimsies of a
later period. But Platonic love to Vittoria was merely an occasion for
indulging in the spiritualistic pedantries, by which the classicists
of that day sought to link the infant metaphysical speculations then
beginning to grow out of questions of church doctrine, with the
ever-interesting subject of romantic love.

A recent French writer,[186] having translated into prose Vittoria's
poetical epistle to her husband, adds that she has been "obliged to
veil and soften certain passages which might damage the writer's
poetical character in the eyes of her fair readers, by exhibiting her
as more woman than poet in the ardent and 'positive' manner, in which
she speaks of her love." Never was there a more calumnious insinuation.
It is true indeed that the Frenchwoman omits, or slurs over some
passages of the original, but as they are wholly void of the shadow of
offence, it can only be supposed that the translator did not understand
the meaning of them.

There is no word in Vittoria's poetry which can lead to any other
conclusion on this point, than that she was, in her position and
social rank, an example, rare at that period, not only of perfect
regularity of conduct, but of great purity and considerable elevation
of mind. Such other indications as we have of her moral nature are
all favourable. We find her, uninfluenced by the bitter hereditary
hatreds of her family, striving to act as peacemaker between hostile
factions, and weeping over the mischiefs occasioned by their struggles.
We find her the constant correspondent and valued friend of almost
every good and great man of her day. And if her scheme of moral
doctrine, as gatherable from that portion of her poems which we have
not yet examined, be narrow,—as how should it be otherwise,—yet it
is expressive of a mind habitually under the influence of virtuous
aspiration, and is more humanising in its tendencies, than that
generally prevalent around her.


Such was Vittoria Colonna. It has been seen what her husband Pescara
was. And the question arises,—how far can it be imagined possible that
she should not only have lavished on him to the last while living,
all the treasures of an almost idolatrous affection; not only have
looked back on his memory after his death with fondness and charitable,
even blindly charitable, indulgence; but should absolutely have so
canonised him in her imagination as to have doubted of her own fitness
to consort hereafter with a soul so holy! It may be said, that Vittoria
did not know her husband as we know him; that the few years they had
passed together had no doubt shown her only the better phases of his
character. But she knew that he had at least doubted whether he should
not be false to his sovereign, and had been most infamously so to his
accomplices or dupes. She knew at least all that Giovio's narrative
could tell her; for the bishop presented it to her, and received a
sonnet in return.

But it is one of the most beautiful properties of woman's nature, some
men say, that their love has power to blind their judgment. Novelists
and poets are fond of representing women whose affections remain
unalterably fixed on their object, despite the manifest unworthiness
of it; and set such examples before us, as something high, noble,
admirable, "beautiful;" to the considerable demoralisation of their
confiding students of either sex. There _is_ a tendency in woman to
refuse at all risks the dethroning of the sovereign she has placed on
her heart's throne. The pain of deposing him is so great, that she is
tempted to abase her own soul to escape it; for it is only at that cost
that it can be escaped. And the spectacle of a fine nature "dragged
down to sympathise with clay," is not "beautiful," but exceedingly the
reverse. Men do not usually set forth as worthy of admiration—though
a certain school of writers do even this, in the trash talked of love
at first sight—that kind of love between the sexes, which arises from
causes wholly independent of the higher part of our nature. Yet it is
that love alone which can survive esteem. And it is highly important to
the destinies of woman, that she should understand and be thoroughly
persuaded, that she cannot love that which does not merit love, without
degrading her own nature; that under whatsoever circumstances love
should cease when respect, approbation, and esteem have come to an end;
and that those who find poetry and beauty in the love which no moral
change in its object can kill, are simply teaching her to attribute
a fatally debasing supremacy to those lower instincts of our nature,
on whose due subordination to the diviner portion of our being all
nobleness, all moral purity and spiritual progress depends.


Vittoria Colonna was not one whose intellectual and moral self had
thus abdicated its sceptre. The texture of her mind and its habits of
thought forbid the supposition; and, bearing this in mind, it becomes
wholly impossible to accept the glorification of her "bel sole,"
which makes the staple of the first half of her poems, as the sincere
expression of genuine feeling and opinion.

She was probably about as much in earnest as was her great model and
master, Petrarch, in his adoration of Laura. The poetical mode of the
day was almost exclusively Petrarchist; and the abounding Castalian
fount of that half century in "the land of song" played from its
thousand jets little else than Petrarch and water in different degrees
of dilution. Vittoria has no claim to be excepted from the "servum
pecus," though her imitation has more of self-derived vigour to support
it. And this assumption of a mighty, undying, exalted and hopeless
passion, was a necessary part of the poet's professional appurtenances.
Where could a young and beautiful widow, of unblemished conduct, who
had no intention of changing her condition, and no desire to risk
misconstruction by the world, find this needful part of her outfit as
a poet, so unobjectionably as in the memory of her husband, sanctified
and exalted by the imagination to the point proper for the purpose.

For want of a deeper spiritual insight, and a larger comprehension of
the finer affections of the human heart and the manifestations of them,
with the Italian poets of the "rénaissance," love-poetry was little
else than the expression of passion in the most restricted sense of
the term. But they were often desirous of elevating, purifying, and
spiritualising their theme. And how was this to be accomplished? The
gratification of passion, such as they painted, would, they felt, have
led them quite in a different direction from that they were seeking. A
hopeless passion therefore, one whose wishes the reader was perfectly
to understand were never destined to be gratified—better still, one
by the nature of things impossible to be gratified—this was the
contrivance by which love was to be poetised and moralised.

The passion-poetry, which addressed itself to the memory of one no
more, met the requirements of the case exactly; and Vittoria's ten
years despair and lamentations, her apotheosis of the late cavalry
captain, and longing to rejoin him, must be regarded as poetical
properties brought out for use, when she sat down to make poetry for
the perfectly self-conscious, though very laudable purpose of acquiring
for herself a poet's reputation.

But it must not be supposed that anything in the nature of hypocrisy
was involved in the assumption of the poetical rôle of inconsolable
widow. Everybody understood that the poetess was only making poetry,
and saying the usual and proper things for that purpose. She was no
more attempting to impose on anybody than was a poet when on entering
some "academia" he termed himself Tyrtæus or Lycidas, instead of the
name inherited from his father.

And from this prevailing absence of all real and genuine feeling,
arises the utter coldness and shallow insipidity of the poets of
that time and school. Literature has probably few more unreadable
departments than the productions of the Petrarchists of the beginning
of the sixteenth century.

Vittoria, when she began to write on religious subjects, was more in
earnest; and the result, as we shall see, is accordingly improved.


 Vittoria in Rome in 1530.—Antiquarian rambles.—Pyramus and Thisbe
 medal.—Contemporary commentary on Vittoria's poems.—Paul the
 Third.—Rome again in 1536.—Visit to Lucca.—To Ferrara.—Protestant
 tendencies.—Invitation from Giberto.—Return to Rome.

The noble rivalry of Francis I. and Charles V. was again, in 1530,
making Naples a field of glory in such sort, that outraged nature
appeared also on the scene with pestilence in her hand. The first
infliction had driven most of the literary society in Naples to take
refuge in the comparative security of Ischia. The latter calamity had
reached even that retreat; and Vittoria some time in that year again
visited Rome.

Life was beginning there to return to its usual conditions after the
tremendous catastrophe of 1527. Pestilence had there also, as usual,
followed in the train of war and military license. And many in all
classes had been its victims. Great numbers fled from the city, and
among these were probably most of such as were honoured by Vittoria's
personal friendship. Now they were venturing back to their old haunts
on the Pincian, the Quirinal, or those favourite Colonna gardens, still
ornamented by the ruins of Aurelian's Temple to the Sun. The tide
of modern Goths, who had threatened to make the eternal city's name
a mockery, had been swept back at the word of that second and "most
Catholic" Alaric, Charles V. Cardinals, poetasters, wits, Ciceronian
bishops, statesmen, ambassadors, and artists, busy in the achievement
of immortality, were once more forming a society, which gave the Rome
of that day a fair title to be considered, in some points of view, the
capital of the world. The golden Roman sunlight was still glowing over
aqueduct, arch and temple; and Rome the Eternal was herself again.

By this varied and distinguished society Vittoria was received with
open arms. The Colonna family had become reconciled to Pope Clement,
and had had their fiefs restored to them; so that there was no cloud
on the political horizon to prevent the celebrated Marchesana from
receiving the homage of all parties. The Marchese del Vasto, Vittoria's
former pupil, for whom she never ceased to feel the warmest affection,
was also then at Rome.[187] In his company, and that of some others of
the gifted knot around her, Vittoria visited the ruins and vestiges of
ancient Rome with all the enthusiasm of one deeply versed in classic
lore, and thoroughly imbued with the then prevailing admiration for
the works and memorials of Pagan antiquity. Vittoria's sister-in-law,
Donna Giovanna d'Aragona, the beautiful and accomplished wife of her
brother Ascanio, in whose house she seems to have been living during
this visit to Rome, was doubtless one of the party on these occasions.
The poet Molza has chronicled his presence among them in more than one
sonnet. His muse would seem to have "made increment of anything." For
no less than four sonnets[188] were the result of the exclamation from
Vittoria, "Ah happy they"—the ancients, "who lived in days so full
of beauty!" Of course, various pretty things were obtainable out of
this. Among others, we have the gallant Pagans responding to the lady's
ejaculation, that on the contrary their time was less fortunate than
the present, in that it was not blessed by the sight of her.

[Sidenote: VISIT TO ROME.]

It would have been preferable to have had preserved for us some further
scraps from the lips of Vittoria, while the little party gazed at
sunset over that matchless view of the aqueduct-bestridden Campagna
from the terrace at the western front of the Lateran, looked up at
the Colosseum, ghostly in the moonlight, from the arch of Titus, or
discoursed on the marvellous proportions of the Pantheon.

But history rarely guesses aright what the after-ages she works for
would most thank her for handing down to them. And we must be content
to construct for ourselves, as best we may, from the stray hints we
have, the singularly pleasing picture of these sixteenth century
rambles among the ruins of Rome by as remarkable a company of pilgrims
as any of the thousands who have since trodden in their steps.

Vittoria's visit to Rome upon this occasion was a short one. It was
probably early in the following year that she returned to Ischia.
Signor Visconti attributes this journey to the restlessness arising
from a heart ill at ease, vainly hoping to find relief from its
misery by change of place. He assumes all the expressions of despair
to be found in her sonnets of this period, to be so many reliable
autobiographical documents, and builds his narrative upon them
accordingly. To this period he attributes the sonnet, translated in a
previous chapter, in which the poetess declares that she has no wish to
conceal from the world the temptation to suicide which assails her.
And in commemoration of this mood of mind, he adds, in further proof of
the sad truth, a medal was struck upon this occasion, in Rome, of which
he gives an engraving. It represents, on one side, the inconsolable
lady as a handsome, well nourished, comfortable-looking widow, in
mourning weeds, more aged in appearance, certainly, since the striking
of the former medal spoken of, than the lapse of seven years would seem
sufficient to account for. And, on the reverse, is a representation of
the melancholy story of Pyramus and Thisbe, the former lying dead at
the feet of the typical paragon, who is pointing towards her breast
a sword, grasped in both hands, half-way down the blade, in a manner
sure to have cut her fingers. The two sides of the medal, seen at one
glance, as in Signor Visconti's engraving, are, it must be admitted,
calculated to give rise to ideas the reverse of pathetic.

To this period too belongs the sonnet, also previously alluded to, in
which Vittoria speaks of the seventh year of her bereavement having
arrived, without bringing with it any mitigation of her woe. Signor
Visconti takes this for simple autobiographical material. It is
curious, as a specimen of the modes of thought at the time, to see how
the same passage is handled by Vittoria's first editor and commentator,
Rinaldo Corsi, who published her works for the second time at Venice in
1558. His commentary begins as follows:—"On this sonnet, it remains
for me to speak of the number Seven as I have done already of the
number Four. But since Varro, Macrobius, and Aulus Gellius, together
with many others, have treated largely of the subject, I will only add
this,—which, perhaps, Ladies, may appear to you somewhat strange;
that, according to Hippocrates, the number four enters twice into
the number seven; and I find it stated by most credible authors as a
certain fact, and proved by the testimony of their own observation,
that a male child of seven years old has been known to cure persons
afflicted by the infirmity called scrofula by no other means than by
the hidden virtue of that number seven," &c., &c., &c.


In this sort, Messer Rinaldo Corso composed, and the literary ladies,
to whom throughout, as in the above passage, his labours are especially
dedicated, must be supposed to have read more than five hundred
close-printed pages of commentary on the works of the celebrated
poetess, who, in all probability, when she penned the sonnet in
question, had no more intention of setting forth the reasons for her
return to Ischia, than she had of alluding to the occult properties of
the mysterious number seven. The natural supposition is, that as she
had been driven from her home by the pestilence, she returned to it
when that reason for absence was at an end.

There she seems to have remained tranquilly employed on her favourite
pursuits, increasing her already great reputation, and corresponding
assiduously with all the best and most distinguished men of Italy,
whether laymen or ecclesiastics, till the year 1536.

In that year she again visited Rome, and resided during her stay there
with Donna Giovanna d'Aragona, her sister-in-law. Paul III., Farnese,
had in 1534 succeeded Clement in the chair of St. Peter; and though
Paul was on many accounts very far from being a good Pope or a good
priest, yet the Farnese was an improvement on the Medici. As ever,
Rome began to show signs of improvement when danger to her system
from without began to make itself felt. Paul seems very soon to have
become convinced that the general council, which had been so haunting
a dread to Clement during the whole of his pontificate, could no
longer be avoided. But it was still hoped in the council chambers of
the Vatican that the doctrinal difficulties of the German reformers,
which threatened the Church with so fatal a schism, might be got over
by conciliation and dexterous theological diplomacy. As soon as it
became evident that this hope was vain, fear began to influence the
papal policy, and at its bidding the ferocious persecuting bigotry of
Paul IV. was contrasted with the shameless profligacy of Alexander, the
epicurean indifferentism of Leo, and the pettifogging worldliness of

Between these two periods came Paul III., and the illusory hopes
that the crisis might be tided over by finding some arrangement of
terminology, which should satisfy the reformers, while Rome should
abandon no particle of doctrine on which any vital portion of her
system of temporal power was based. To meet the exigencies of this
period, Paul III. signalised his accession by raising to the purple
a number of the most earnest, most learned, and truly devout men in
Italy. Contarini, the Venetian; Caraffa, from Naples; Sadoleto, Bishop
of Carpentras; Pole, then a fugitive from England; Giberti, Bishop of
Verona; and Fregoso, Archbishop of Salerno, were men chosen solely on
account of their eminent merit.

With most, if not all of these, Vittoria was connected by the bonds of
intimate friendship. With Contarini, Sadoleto, and Pole, especially,
she corresponded; and the esteem felt for her by such men is the most
undeniable testimony to the genuine worth of her character. It is easy
to imagine, therefore, how warm a reception awaited her arrival on this
occasion in Rome, and how delightful must have been her stay there.
She had now reached the full measure of her reputation. The religious
and doctrinal topics which were now occupying the best minds in Italy,
and on which her thoughts were frequently busied in her correspondence
with such men as those named above, had recently begun to form the
subject-matter of her poems. And their superiority in vigour and
earnestness to her earlier works must have been perfectly apparent to
her reverend and learned friends.

[Sidenote: TO FERRARA.]

Accordingly we are told that her stay in Rome on this occasion was a
continued ovation; and Signor Visconti informs us, on the authority of
the Neapolitan historian Gregorio Rosso, that Charles V. being then in
Rome "condescended to visit in their own house the ladies Giovanna di
Aragona, wife of Ascanio Colonna, and Vittoria Colonna, Marchesa di

The following year, 1537 that is, she went, Visconti says, to Lucca,
from which city she passed to Ferrara, arriving there on the 8th of
April "in humble guise, with six waiting women only."[189] Ercole
d'Este, the second of the name, was then the reigning duke, having
succeeded to his father Alphonso in 1534. And the court of Ferrara,
which had been for several years preeminent among the principalities
of Italy for its love of literature and its patronage of literary men,
became yet more notably so in consequence of the marriage of Hercules
II. with Renée of France, the daughter of Louis XII. The Protestant
tendencies and sympathies of this Princess had rendered Ferrara also
the resort, and in some instances the refuge, of many professors and
favourers of the new ideas which were beginning to stir the mind of
Italy. And though Vittoria's orthodox Catholic biographers are above
all things anxious to clear her from all suspicion of having ever held
opinions eventually condemned by the Church, there is every reason
to believe that her journey to Ferrara was prompted by the wish to
exchange ideas upon these subjects with some of those leading minds
which were known to have imbibed Protestant tendencies, if not to have
acquired fully formed Protestant convictions. It is abundantly clear,
from the character of her friendships, from her correspondence, and
from the tone of her poetry at this period, and during the remainder of
her life, that her mind was absorbingly occupied with topics of this
nature. And the short examination of the latter division of her works,
which it is proposed to attempt in the next chapter, will probably
convince such as have no partisan Catholic feelings on the subject,
that Vittoria's mind had made very considerable progress in the
Protestant direction.

No reason is assigned for her stay at Lucca. Visconti, with unusual
brevity and dryness, merely states that she visited that city.[190]
And it is probable that he has not been able to discover any documents
directly accounting for the motives of her visit. But he forbears to
mention that the new opinions had gained so much ground there that that
Republic was very near declaring Protestantism the religion of their
state. After her totally unaccounted-for visit to the heresy-stricken
city, she proceeds to another almost equally tainted with suspicion.


It is no doubt perfectly true that Duke Hercules and his court
received her with every possible distinction on the score of her
poetical celebrity, and deemed his city honoured by her presence. He
invited, we are told, the most distinguished poets and men of letters
of Venice and Lombardy to meet her at Ferrara. And so much was her
visit prized that when Cardinal Giberto sent thither his secretary,
Francesco della Torre, to persuade her to visit his episcopal city
Verona, that ambassador wrote to his friend Bembo, at Venice, that he
"had like to have been banished by the Duke, and stoned by the people
for coming there with the intention of robbing Ferrara of its most
precious treasure, for the purpose of enriching Verona." Vittoria,
however, seems to have held out some hope that she might be induced to
visit Verona. For the secretary, continuing his letter to the literary
Venetian cardinal, says, "Who knows but what we may succeed in making
reprisal on them? And if that should come to pass, I should hope to see
your Lordship more frequently in Verona, as I should see Verona the
most honoured as well as the most envied city in Italy."[191]

It is impossible to have more striking testimony to the fame our
poetess had achieved by her pen; and it is a feature of the age and
clime well worth noting, that a number of small states, divided by
hostilities and torn by warfare, should have, nevertheless, possessed
among them a republic of letters capable of conferring a celebrity so
cordially acknowledged throughout the whole extent of Italy.

From a letter[192] written by Vittoria to Giangiorgio Trissino of
Vicenza, the author of an almost forgotten epic, entitled "Italia
liberata da Goti," bearing date the 10th of January (1537), we
learn that she found the climate of Ferrara "unfavourable to her
indisposition;" which would seem to imply a continuance of ill-health.
Yet it was at this time that she conceived the idea of undertaking a
journey to the Holy Land.[193] Her old pupil, and nearly life-long
friend, the Marchese del Vasto, came from Milan to Ferrara, to dissuade
her from the project. And with this view, as well as to remove her from
the air of Ferrara, he induced her to return to Rome, where her arrival
was again made a matter of almost public rejoicing.

[Sidenote: CHURCH HOPES.]

The date of this journey was probably about the end of 1537. The
society of the Eternal City, especially of that particular section of
it which made the the world of Vittoria, was in a happy and hopeful
mood. The excellent Contarini had not yet departed[194] thence on his
mission of conciliation to the Conference, which had been arranged with
the Protestant leaders at Ratisbon. The brightest and most cheering
hopes were based on a total misconception of the nature, or rather on
an entire ignorance of the existence of that under current of social
change, which, to the north of the Alps, made the reformatory movement
something infinitely greater, more fruitful of vast results, and
more inevitable, than any scholastic dispute on points of theologic
doctrine. And at the time of Vittoria's arrival, that little band
of pure, amiable, and high-minded, but not large-minded men, who
fondly hoped that, by the amendment of some practical abuses, and a
mutually forbearing give-and-take arrangement of some nice questions of
metaphysical theology, peace on earth and good-will among men, might
be yet made compatible with the undiminished pretensions and theory of
an universal and infallible Church, were still lapped in the happiness
of their day-dream. Of this knot of excellent men, which comprised all
that was best, most amiable, and most learned in Italy, Vittoria was
the disciple, the friend, and the inspired Muse. The short examination
of her religious poetry, therefore, which will be the subject of the
next chapter, will not only open to us the deepest and most earnest
part of her own mind, but will, in a measure, illustrate the extent and
nature of the Protestantising tendencies then manifesting themselves in


 Oratory of Divine Love.—Italian reformers.—Their
 tenets.—Consequence of the doctrine of justification by
 faith.—Fear of schism in Italy.—Orthodoxy of Vittoria
 questioned.—Proofs of her Protestantism from her writings.—Calvinism
 of her sonnets.—Remarkable passage against auricular
 confession.—Controversial and religious sonnets.—Absence from the
 sonnets of moral topics.—Specimen of her poetical power.—Romanist
 ideas.—Absence from the sonnets of all patriotic feeling.

The extreme corruption of the Italian church, and in some degree also
the influence of German thought, had even as early as the Pontificate
of Leo X., led several of the better minds in Italy to desire ardently
some means of religious reform. A contemporary writer cited by
Ranke,[195] tells us that in Leo's time some fifty or sixty earnest and
pious men formed themselves into a society at Rome, which they called
the "Oratory of Divine Love," and strove by example and preaching to
stem as much as in them lay the tide of profligacy and infidelity.
Among these men were Contarini, the learned and saint-like Venetian,
Sadolet, Giberto, Caraffa (a man, who however earnest in his piety,
showed himself at a later period, when he became pope as Paul IV.,
to be animated with a very different spirit from that of most of his
fellow religionists), Gaetano, Thiene, who was afterwards canonised,
etc. But in almost every part of Italy, not less than in Rome, there
were men of the same stamp, who carried the new ideas to greater
or lesser lengths, were the objects of more or less ecclesiastical
censure and persecution; and who died, some reconciled to, and some
excommunicated by the Church they so vainly strove to amend.

[Sidenote: JUAN VALDEZ.]

In Naples, Juan Valdez, a Spaniard, Secretary to the Viceroy, warmly
embraced the new doctrines; and being a man much beloved, and of
great influence, he drew many converts to the cause. It was a pupil
and friend of his, whose name it has been vainly sought to ascertain,
who composed the celebrated treatise, "On the Benefits of the Death
of Christ," which was circulated in immense numbers over the whole of
Italy, and exercised a very powerful influence. A little later, when
the time of inquisitorial persecution came, this book was so vigorously
proscribed, sought out and destroyed, that despite the vast number of
copies which must have existed in every corner of Italy, it has utterly
disappeared, and not one is known to be in existence.[196] It is
impossible to have a more striking proof of the violent and searching
nature of the persecution under Paul IV. Another friend of Valdez, who
was also intimate with Vittoria, was Marco Flaminio, who revised the
treatise "On the Benefits of Christ's Death."

In Modena, the Bishop Morone, the intimate friend of Pole and
Contarini, and his chaplain, Don Girolamo de Modena, supported and
taught the same opinions.

In Venice, Gregorio Cortese, Abbot of San Giorgio Maggiore, Luigi
Priuli, a patrician, and the Benedictine Marco, of Padua, formed a
society mainly occupied in discussing the subtle questions which formed
the "symbolum" of the new party.

"If we enquire," says Ranke,[197] "what was the faith which chiefly
inspired these men, we shall find that the main article of it was that
same doctrine of justification, which, as preached by Luther, had given
rise to the whole Protestant movement."

The reader fortunate enough to be wholly unread in controversial
divinity, will yet probably not have escaped hearing of the utterly
interminable disputes on justification, free-will, election, faith,
good works, prevenient grace, original sin, absolute decrees, and
predestination, which, with much of evil, and as yet little good
consequence, have occupied the most acute intellects, and most
learning-stored brains of Europe for the last three centuries. Without
any accurate knowledge of the manner in which the doctrines represented
by these familiar terms are dependent on, and necessitated by each
other, and of the precise points on which the opposing creeds have
fought this eternal battle, he will be aware that the system popularly
known as Calvinism, represents the side of the question taken by the
reformers of the sixteenth century, while the opposite theory of
justification by good works was that held by the orthodox Catholic
Church, or unreforming party. And with merely these general ideas to
guide him, it will appear strangely unaccountable to find all the
best, noblest and purest minds adopting a system which in its simplest
logical development inevitably leads to the most debasing demonolatry,
and lays the axe to the root of all morality and noble action;
while the corrupt, the worldly, the ambitious, the unspiritual,
the unintellectual natures that formed the dominant party, held the
opposite opinion apparently so favourable to virtue.


An explanation of this phenomenon by a partisan of either school
would probably be long and somewhat intricate. But the matter
becomes intelligible enough, and the true key to the wishes and
conduct of both parties is found, if, without regarding the moral or
theological results of either scheme, or troubling ourselves with
the subtleties by which either side sought to meet the objections of
the other, we consider simply the bearings of the new doctrines on
that ecclesiastical system, which the orthodox and dominant party
were determined at all cost to support. If it were admitted that man
is justifiable by faith alone, that his election is a matter to be
certified to his own heart by the immediate operation of the divine
spirit, it would follow that the whole question of his religious
condition and future hopes might be, or rather must be, settled between
him and his creator alone. And then what would become of ecclesiastical
authority and priestly interference? If the only knowledge possible to
be attained of any individual's standing before God, were locked in
his own breast, what hold can the Church have on him? It is absolutely
necessary to any system of spiritual tyranny, that no doctrine should
be admitted by virtue of which a layman may tell a priest that despite
the opinion he, the priest, may form upon the subject, he, the layman,
has the assurance of acceptation before God, by means of evidence of
a nature inscrutable to the priest. Once admit this, and the whole
foundation of ecclesiastical domination is sapped. Nay, by a very
logical and short route, sure to be soon travelled by those who have
made good this first fundamental pretension, they would arrive at the
negation and abolition of all priesthood. Preachers and teachers might
still have place under such a system, but not priests, or priestly
power. To this an externally ascertainable religion is so vitally
necessary, that the theory of justification by good works was far from
sufficient for the purposes of the Catholic priesthood, as long as
good works could be understood to mean a general course of not very
accurately measurable virtuous living. This was not sufficient, because
though visible not sufficiently tangible, countable, and tariffable.
Hence the good works most urgently prescribed, became reduced to that
mass of formal practices so well known as the material of Romanist
piety, among which, the most valuable for the end in view, are of
course those which can only be performed by the intervention of a

But it must not be supposed that all this was as plainly discerned
by the combatants in that confused strife as it may be by lookers
back on it from a vantage ground three centuries high. The innovators
were in all probability few, if any of them, conscious of the extent
and importance of the principle they were fighting for. And, on the
other hand, there is no reason to attribute an evil consciousness of
motives, such as those nakedly set forth above, to the conservative
party. The fact that a doctrine would tend to abridge Church power and
endanger Church unity, would doubtless have appeared to many a good and
conscientious man a sufficient proof of its unsoundness and falsity.


Indeed, even among the reformers in Italy the fear of schism was so
great, and the value attached to Church unity so high, that these
considerations probably did as much towards checking and finally
extinguishing Protestantism in Italy as did the strong hand of
persecution. From the first, many of the most earnest advocates of the
new doctrines were by no means prepared to sever themselves from the
Church for the sake of their opinions. Some were ready to face such
schism and martyrdom also in the cause; as, for instance, Bernardino
Ochino, the General of the Capuchins, and the most powerful preacher
of his day, who fled from Italy and became a professed Protestant, and
Carnesecchi, the Florentine, who was put to death for his heresy at

But it had not yet become clear how far the new doctrines might be
held compatibly with perfect community with the Church of Rome at the
time when Vittoria arrived in that city from Ferrara. The conference
with the German Protestants, by means of which it was hoped to effect
a reconciliation, was then being arranged, and the hopes of Vittoria's
friends ran high. When these hopes proved delusive, and when Rome
pronounced herself decisively on the doctrines held by the Italian
reformers, the most conspicuous friends of Vittoria did not quit
the Church. She herself writes ever as its submissive and faithful
daughter. But as to her having held opinions which were afterwards
declared heretical, and for which others suffered, much of her poetry,
written probably about this time, affords evidence so clear that it
is wonderful Tiraboschi and her biographers can deem it possible to
maintain her orthodoxy.

Take, for example, the following sonnet:

  "Quand'io riguardo il nobil raggio ardente
    Della grazia divina, e quel valore
    Ch'illustra 'l intelletto, infiamma il core
    Con virtù sopr'umana, alta, e possente,
  L'alma le voglie allor fisse ed intente
    Raccoglie tutte insieme a fargli onore;
    Ma tanto ha di poter, quant'è 'l favore
    Che dal lume e dal foco intende e sente.
  Ond ella può ben far certa efficace
    L'alta sua elezion, ma insino al segno
    Ch'all autor d'ogni ben, sua mercè, piace.
  Non sprona il corso nostro industria o ingegno;
    Quel corre più sicuro e più vivace,
    C'ha dal favor del ciel maggior sostegno."

Thus rendered into English blank verse, with a greater closeness to
the sense of the original than might perhaps have been attained in a
translation hampered by the necessity of rhyming:

  "When I reflect on that bright noble ray
    Of grace divine, and on that mighty power,
    Which clears the intellect, inflames the heart
    With virtue, strong with more than human strength,
  My soul then gathers up her will, intent
    To render to that Power the honour due;
    But only so much can she, as free grace
    Gives her to feel and know th'inspiring fire.
  Thus can the soul her high election make
    Fruitful and sure; but only to such point
    As, in his goodness, wills the Fount of good.
  Nor art nor industry can speed her course;
    He most securely and alertly runs
    Who most by Heaven's free favour is upheld."

The leading points of Calvinistic doctrine could hardly be in the
limits of a sonnet more clearly and comprehensively stated. Devotional
meditation inclines the heart to God; but the soul is powerless even
to worship, except in such measure as she is enabled to do so by
freely-given grace. By this means only can man make sure his election.
To strive after virtue is useless to the non-elect, seeing that man can
safely run his course only in proportion as he has received the favour
of God.


Again, in the following sonnet will be remarked a tone of thought and
style of phrase perfectly congenial to modern devotional feeling of
what is termed the evangelical school; while it is assuredly not such
as would meet the approval of orthodox members of either the Roman
Catholic or Anglo-Catholic churches:

  "Quando dal lume, il cui vivo splendore
    Rende il petto fedel lieto e sicuro,
    Si dissolve per grazia il ghiaccio duro,
    Che sovente si gela intorno al core,
  Sento ai bei lampi del possente ardore
    Cader delle mie colpe il manto oscuro,
    E vestirmi in quel punto il chiaro e puro
    Della prima innocenza e primo amore.
  E sebben con serrata e fida chiave
    Serro quel raggio; egli è scivo e sottile,
    Si ch'un basso pensier lo scaccia e sdegna.
  Ond'ei ratto sen vola; io mesta e grave
    Rimango, e 'l prego che d'ogni ombra vile
    Mi spogli, acciò più presto a me sen vegna."

Which may be thus, with tolerable accuracy, rendered into English:

  "When by the light, whose living ray both peace
    And joy to faithful bosoms doth impart,
    The indurated ice, around the heart
    So often gather'd, is dissolved through grace,
  Beneath that blessed radiance from above
    Falls from me the dark mantle of my sin;
    Sudden I stand forth pure and radiant in
    The garb of primal innocence and love.
  And though I strive with lock and trusty key
    To keep that ray, so subtle 'tis and coy,
    By one low thought 'tis scared and put to flight.
  So flies it from me. I in sorrowing plight
    Remain, and pray, that he from base alloy
    May purge me, so the light come sooner back to me."

Here, in addition to the "points of doctrine" laid down in the previous
sonnet, we have that of sudden and instantaneous conversion and
sanctification; and that without any aid from sacrament, altar, or

Similar thoughts are again expressed in the next sonnet selected, which
in Signor Visconti's edition immediately follows the preceding:

  "Spiego per voi, mia luce, indarno l'ale,
    Prima che 'l caldo vostro interno vento
    M'apra l'ere d'ntorno, ora ch'io sento
    Vincer da nuovo ardir l'antico male;
  Chè giunga all'infinito opra mortale
    Opra vostra è, Signor, che in un momento
    La può far degna; ch'io da me pavento
    Di cader col pensier quand'ei più sale.
  Bramo quell'invisibil chiaro lume,
    Che fuga densa nebbia; e quell'accesa
    Secreta fiamma, ch'ogni gel consuma.
  Onde poi, sgombra dal terren costume,
    Tutta al divino amor l'anima intesa
    Si mova al volo altero in altra piuma."

Thus done into English:

  "Feeling new force to conquer primal sin,
    Yet all in vain I spread my wings to thee,
    My light, until the air around shall be
    Made clear for me by thy warm breath within.
  That mortal works should reach the infinite
    Is thy work, Lord! For in a moment thou
    Canst give them worth. Left to myself I know
    My thought would fall, when at its utmost height.
  I long for that clear radiance from above
    That puts to flight all cloud; and that bright flame
    Which secret burning warms the frozen soul;
  So that set free from every mortal aim,
    And all intent alone on heavenly love,
    She flies with stronger pinion t'wards her goal."


In the following lines, which form the conclusion of a sonnet, in which
she has been saying that God does not permit that any pure heart
should be concealed from His all-seeing eye "by the fraud or force of
others," we have a very remarkable bit of such heresy on the vital
point of the confessional, as has been sufficient to consign more than
one victim to the stake:

  "Securi del suo dolce e giusto impero,
    Non come il primo padre e la sua donna,
    Dobbiam del nostro error biasimare altrui;
  Ma con la speme accesa e dolor vero
    Aprir dentro, _passando oltra la gonna
    I falli nostri a solo a sol con lui_".

The underlined words, "passando oltra la gonna," literally, "passing
beyond the gown," though the sense appears to be unmistakable, are
yet sufficiently obscure and unobvious, and the phrase sufficiently
far-fetched, to lead to the suspicion of a wish on the part of the
writer in some degree to veil her meaning. "That in the captain's but
a choleric word, which in the soldier is foul blasphemy." And the
high-born Colonna lady, the intimate friend of cardinals and princes,
might write much with impunity which would have been perilous to less
lofty heads. But the sentiment in this very remarkable passage implies
an attack on one of Rome's tenderest and sorest points. In English the
lines run thus:

  "Confiding in His just and gentle sway
    We should not dare, like Adam and his wife,
    On other's backs our proper blame to lay;
  But with new-kindled hope and unfeigned grief,
    _Passing by priestly robes, lay bare within
    To him alone the secret of our sin_."

Again, in the conclusion of another sonnet, in which she has been
speaking of the benefits of Christ's death, and of the necessity of
a "soprannatural divina fede" for the receiving of them, she writes
in language very similar to that of many a modern advocate of "free
inspiration," and which must have been distasteful to the erudite
clergy of the dominant hierarchy, as follow:

  "Que' ch'avrà sol in lui le luci fisse,
    Non que' ch'intese meglio, o che più lesse
    Volumi in terra, in ciel sarà beato.
  In carta questa legge non si scrisse;
    Ma con la stampa sua nel cor purgato
    Col foco dell'amor Gesù l'impresse."

In English:

  "He who hath fixed on Christ alone his eyes,
    Not he who best hath understood, or read
    Most earthly volumes, shall Heaven's bliss attain.
  For not on paper did He write His law,
    But printed it on expurgated hearts
    Stamped with the fire of Jesus' holy love."

In another remarkable sonnet, she gives expression to the prevailing
feeling of the pressing necessity for Church reform, joined to a
marked declaration of belief in the doctrine of Papal infallibility; a
doctrine, which by its tenacious hold on the Italian mind, contributed
mainly to extinguish the sudden straw-blaze of reforming tendencies
throughout Italy. The lines run as follows:—

  "Veggio d'alga e di fango omai sì carca,
    Pietro, la rete tua, che se qualche onda
    Di fuor l'assale o intorno circonda,
    Potria spezzarsi, e a rischio andar la barca;
  La qual, non come suol leggiera e scarca,
    Sovra 'l turbato mar corre a seconda,
    Ma in poppa e 'n prora, all'una e all'altra sponda
    E' grave sì ch'a gran periglio varca.
  Il tuo buon successor, _ch'alta cagione
    Direttamente elesse_, e cor e mano
    Move sovente per condurla a porto.
  Ma contra il voler suo ratto s'oppone
    L'altrui malizia; onde ciascun s'è accorto,
    Ch'egli senza 'l tuo aiuto adopra in vano."

Which may be thus read in English blank verse, giving not very
poetically, but with tolerable fidelity, the sense of the original:—

  "With mud and weedy growth so foul I see
    Thy net, O Peter, that should any wave
    Assail it from without or trouble it,
    It might be rended, and so risk the ship.
  For now thy bark, no more, as erst, skims light
    With favoring breezes o'er the troubled sea;
    But labours burthen'd so from stem to stern,
    That danger menaces the course it steers.
  Thy good successor, _by direct decree
    Of providence elect_, with heart and hand
    Assiduous strives to bring it to the port.
  But spite his striving his intent is foiled
    By other's evil. So that all have seen
    That without aid from thee, he strives in vain."


The lofty pretensions of the Bishop of Rome, which our poetess, with
all her reforming aspirations, goes out of her way to declare and
maintain in the phrase of the above sonnet marked by Italics, were
dear to the hearts of Italians. It may be, that an antagonistic bias,
arising from feelings equally beyond the limits of the religious
question, helped to add acrimony to the attacks of the transalpine
reformers. But there can be no doubt, that Italian self-love was active
in rendering distasteful to Italians a doctrine, whose effect would be
to pull down Rome from her position as capital of the Christian world,
and no longer permit an Italian eclesiastic to issue his lofty decrees
"Urbi et Orbi." And those best acquainted with the Italian mind of
that period, as evidenced by its literature, and illustrated by its
still-existing tendencies and prejudices, will most appreciate the
extent to which such feelings unquestionably operated in preventing the
reformation from taking root, and bearing fruit in Italy.

The readers of the foregoing sonnets, even those who are familiar
with the language of the original, will probably have wondered at the
greatness of the poetical reputation, which was built out of such
materials. It is but fair, however, to the poetess to state, that
the citations have been selected, rather with the view of decisively
proving these Protestant leanings of Vittoria, which have been so
eagerly denied, and of illustrating the tone of Italian Protestant
feeling at that period, than of presenting the most favourable
specimens of her poetry. However fitly devotional feeling may be
clothed in poetry of the highest order, controversial divinity is not
a happy subject for verse. And Vittoria, on the comparatively rare
occasions, when she permits herself to escape from the consideration of
disputed dogma, can make a nearer approach to true poetry of thought
and expression.

In the following sonnet, it is curious to observe how the expression
of the grand and simple sentiment of perfect trust in the will and
intentions of the omnipotent Creator, which, in the first eight lines,
rises into something like poetry, becomes flattened and debased into
the most prosaic doggrel, as soon as the author, recollecting the
controversies raging round her on the subject, bethinks her of the
necessity of duly defining the theological virtue of "Faith," as being
of that sort fit for the production of works.

  "Deh! mandi oggi, Signor, novello e chiaro
    Raggio al mio cor di quella ardente fede,
    Ch'opra sol per amor, non per mercede,
    Onde ugualmente il tuo voler gli è caro!
  Dal dolce fonte tuo pensa che amaro
    Nascer non possa, anzi riceve e crede
    Per buon quant'ode, e per bel quanto vede,
    Per largo il ciel, quand'ei si mostra avaro.
  Se chieder grazia all'umil servo lice,
    Questa fede vorrei, che illustra, accende,
    E pasce l'alma sol di lume vero.
  Con questa in parte il gran valor s'intende,
    Che pianta e ferma in noi l'alta radice,
    Qual rende i frutti a lui tutti d'amore."

Which may be thus rendered:—

  "Grant to my heart a pure fresh ray, O Lord,
    Of that bright ardent faith, which makes thy will
    Its best-loved law, and seeks it to fulfil
    For love alone, not looking for reward;—
  That faith, which deems no ill can come from thee,
    But humbly trusts, that, rightly understood
    All that meets eye or ear is fair and good,
    And Heaven's love oft in prayers refused can see.
  And if thy handmaid might prefer a suit,
    I would that faith possess that fires the heart,
    And feeds the soul with the true light alone;
  I mean hereby, that mighty power in part,
    Which plants and strengthens in us the deep root,
    From which all fruits of love for him are grown."


In the following sonnet, which is one of several dictated by the same
mood of feeling, the more subjective tone of her thought affords us an
autobiographical glimpse of her state of mind on religious subjects.
We find, that the new tenets which she had imbibed had failed to give
her peace of mind. That comfortable security, and undoubting satisfied
tranquillity, procured for the mass of her orthodox contemporaries, by
the due performance of their fasts, vigils, penitences, &c., was not
attained for Vittoria by a creed, which required her, as she here tells
us, to stifle the suggestions of her reason.

  "Se con l'armi celesti avess'io vinto
    Me stessa, i sensi, e la ragione umana,
    Andrei con altro spirto alta e lontana
    Dal mondo, e dal suo onor falso dipinto.
  Sull'ali della fede il pensier cinto
    Di speme, omai non più caduca e vana,
    Sarebbe fuor di questa valle insana
    Da verace virtute alzato e spinto.
  Ben ho già, fermo l'occhio al miglior fine
    Dei nostro corso; ma non volo ancora
    Per lo destro sentier salda e leggiera.
  Veggio i segni del sol, scorgo l'aurora;
    Ma per li sacri giri alle divine
    Stanze non entro in quella luce vera."

Englished as follows:—

  "Had I with heavenly arms 'gainst self and sense
    And human reason waged successful war,
    Then with a different spirit soaring far
    I'd fly the world's vain glory and pretence.
  Then soaring thought on wings of faith might rise
    Armed by a hope no longer vain or frail
    Far from the madness of this earthly vale,
    Led by true virtue towards its native skies.
  That better aim is ever in my sight,
    Of man's existence; but not yet 'tis mine
    To speed sure-footed on the happy way.
  Signs of the rising sun and coming day
    I see; but enter not the courts divine
    Whose holy portals lead to perfect light."

A touch of similar feeling may be observed also in the following
sonnet, united with more of poetical feeling and expression. Indeed,
this sonnet may be offered as a specimen of the author's happiest

  "Fra gelo e nebbia corro a Dio sovente
    Per foco e lume, onde i ghiacci disciolti
    Sieno, e gli ombrosi veli aperti e tolti
    Dalla divina luce e fiamma ardente.
  E se fredda ed oscura è ancor la mente,
    Pur son tutti i pensieri al ciel rivolti;
    E par che dentro in gran silenzio ascolti
    Un suon, che sol nell'anima si sente;
  E dice; Non temer, chè venne al mondo
    Gesù d'eterno ben largo ampio mare,
    Per far leggiero ogni gravoso pondo.
  Sempre son l'onde sue più dolci e chiare
    A chi con umil barca in quel gran fondo
    Dell'alta sua bontà si lascia andare."


If the reader, who is able to form a judgment of the poetical merit of
this sonnet only from the subjoined translation, should fail to find in
it anything to justify the opinion that has been expressed of it, he is
entreated to believe that the fault is that of the translator, who can
promise only that the sense has been faithfully rendered:—

  "Ofttimes to God through frost and cloud I go
    For light and warmth to break my icy chain,
    And pierce and rend my veils of doubt in twain
    With his divinest love, and radiant glow.
  And if my soul sit cold and dark below
    Yet all her longings fixed on heaven remain;
    And seems she 'mid deep silence to a strain
    To listen, which the soul alone can know,—
  Saying, Fear nought! for Jesus came on earth,—
    Jesus of endless joys the wide deep sea,
    To ease each heavy load of mortal birth.
  His waters ever clearest, sweetest be
    To him, who in a lonely bark drifts forth,
    On his great deeps of goodness trustfully."

It will probably be admitted, that the foregoing extracts from Vittoria
Colonna's poetry, if they do not suffice to give the outline of the
entire fabric of her religious faith, yet abundantly prove, that she
must be classed among the Protestant and reforming party of her age and
country, rather than among the orthodox Catholics, their opponents.
The passages quoted all bear, more or less directly, on a few special
points of doctrine, as do also the great bulk of her religious poems.
But these points are precisely those on which the reforming movement
was based, the cardinal points of difference between the parties. They
involve exactly those doctrines which Rome, on mature examination
and reflection, rightly found to be fatally incompatible with her
system. For the dominant party at Trent were assuredly wiser in their
generation than such children of light, as the good Contarini, who
dreamed that a purified Papacy was possible, and that Rome might still
be Rome, after its creed had been thus modified. Caraffa and Ghislieri,
Popes Paul IV. and Pius V., and their inquisitors knew very clearly

It is, of course, natural enough, that the points of doctrine then new
and disputed, the points respecting which the poetess differed from the
majority of the world around her, and which must have been the subject
of her special meditation, should occupy also the most prominent
position in her writings. Yet it is remarkable, that in so large a
mass of poetry on exclusively religious themes, there should be found
hardly a thought or sentiment on topics of practical morality. The
title of "_Rime sacre e morali_," prefixed by Visconti to this portion
of Vittoria's writings, is wholly a misnomer. If these sonnets furnish
the materials for forming a tolerably accurate notion of her scheme
of theology, our estimate of her views of morality must be sought

[Sidenote: BAD MORALITY.]

There is every reason to feel satisfied, both from such records as we
have of her life, and from the perfectly agreeing testimony of her
contemporaries, that the tenour of her own life and conduct was not
only blameless, but marked by the consistent exercise of many noble
virtues. But, much as we hear from the lamentations of preachers of the
habitual tendency of human conduct to fall short of human professions,
the opposite phenomena exhibited by men, whose intuitive moral sense is
superior to the teaching derivable from their creed, is perhaps quite
as common. That band of eminent men, who were especially known as the
maintainers and defenders of the peculiar tenets held by Vittoria, were
unquestionably in all respects the best and noblest of their age and
country. Yet their creed was assuredly an immoral one. And in the rare
passages of our poetess's writings, in which a glimpse of moral theory
can be discerned, the low and unenlightened nature of it is such, as
to prove, that the heaven-taught heart reached purer heights than the
creed-taught intelligence could attain.

What could be worse, for instance, than the morality of the following
conclusion of a sonnet, in which she has been lamenting the blindness
of those who sacrifice eternal bliss for the sake of worldly pleasures.

She writes:—

  "Poichè 'l mal per natura non gli annoia,
    E del ben per ragion piacer non hanno,
    Abbian almen di Dio giusto timore."

In English:—

  "Since evil by its nature pains them not,
    Nor good for its own proper sake delights,
    Let them at least have righteous fear of God."

She appears incapable of understanding, that no fear of God could in
any wise avail to improve or profit him, who has no aversion from
evil, and no love for good. She does not perceive, that to inculcate
so godless a fear of God, is to make the Creator a mere bugbear for
police purposes; and that a theory of Deity constructed on this basis
would become a degrading demonolatry!

Vittoria Colonna has survived in men's memory as a poetess. But she is
far more interesting to the historical student, who would obtain a full
understanding of that wonderful sixteenth century, as a Protestant.
Her highly gifted and richly cultivated intelligence, her great social
position, and above all, her close intimacy with the eminent men who
strove to set on foot an Italian reformation which should not be
incompatible with the Papacy, make the illustration of her religious
opinions a matter of no slight historical interest. And the bulk of the
citations from her works has accordingly been selected with this view.
But it is fair to her reputation to give one sonnet at least, chosen
for no other reason than its merit.

The following, written apparently on the anniversary of our Saviour's
crucifixion, is certainly one of the best, if not the best in the

  "Gli angeli eletti al gran bene infinito
    Braman oggi soffrir penosa morte,
    Acciò nella celeste empirea corte
    Non sia più il servo, che il signor, gradito.
  Piange l'antica madre il gusto ardito
    Ch'a' figli suoi del ciel chiuse le porte;
    E che due man piagate or sieno scorte
    Da ridurne al cammin per lei smarrito.
  Asconde il sol la sua fulgente chioma;
    Spezzansi i sassi vivi; apronsi i monti;
    Trema la terra e 'l ciel; turbansi l'acque;
  Piangon gli spirti, al nostro mal si pronti,
    Delle catene lor l'aggiunta soma.
    L'uomo non piange, e pur piangendo nacque!"

Of which the following is an inadequate but tolerably faithful

  "The angels to eternal bliss preferred,
    Long on this day a painful death to die,
    Lest in the heavenly mansions of the sky
    The servant be more favoured than his Lord.
  Man's ancient mother weeps the deed, this day
    That shut the gates of heaven against her race,
    Weeps the two piercèd hands, whose work of grace,
    Refinds the path, from which she made man stray.
  The sun his ever-burning ray doth veil;
    Earth and sky tremble; ocean quakes amain,
    And mountains gape, and living rocks are torn.
  The fiends, on watch for human evil, wail
    The added weight of their restraining chain.
    Man only weeps not; yet was weeping born."


As the previous extracts from the works of Vittoria have been, as
has been stated, selected principally with a view to prove her
Protestantism, it is fair to observe, that there are several sonnets
addressed to the Virgin Mary, and some to various Saints, from
which (though they are wholly free from any allusion to the grosser
superstitions that Rome encourages her faithful disciples to connect
with these personages), it is yet clear that the writer believed in
the value of saintly intercession at the throne of grace. It is also
worth remarking, that she nowhere betrays the smallest consciousness
that she is differing in opinion from the recognised tenets of the
Church, unless it be found, as was before suggested, in an occasional
obscurity of phrase, which seems open to the suspicion of having been
intentional. The great majority of these poems, however, were in all
probability composed before the Church had entered on her new career
of persecution. And as regards the ever-recurring leading point of
"justification by grace," it was impossible to say exactly how far
it was orthodox to go in the statement of this tenet, until Rome had
finally decided her doctrine by the decrees of the Council of Trent.

One other remark, which will hardly fail to suggest itself to the
modern reader of Vittoria's poetry, may be added respecting these
once celebrated and enthusiastically received works. There is not to
be discovered throughout the whole of them one spark of Italian, or
patriotic feeling. The absence of any such, must, undoubtedly, be
regarded only as a confirmation of the fact asserted in a previous
chapter, that no sentiment of the kind was then known in Italy. In that
earlier portion of her works, which is occupied almost exclusively
with her husband's praises, it is hardly possible that the expression
of such feelings should have found no place, had they existed in her
mind. But it is a curious instance of the degree to which even the
better intellects of an age are blinded by, and made subservient to,
the tone of feeling and habits of thought prevalent around them, that
it never occurs to this pure and lofty-minded Vittoria, in celebrating
the prowess of her hero, to give a thought to the cause for which he
was drawing the sword. To prevail, to be the stronger, "to take great
cities," "to rout the foe," appears to be all that her beau ideal of
heroism required.

Wrong is done, and the strong-handed doer of it admired, the moral
sense is blunted by the cowardly worship of success, and might takes
from right the suffrages of the feeble, in the nineteenth as in the
sixteenth century. But the contemplation of the total absence from such
a mind as that of Vittoria Colonna, of all recognition of a right and
a wrong in such matters, furnishes highly instructive evidence of the
reality of the moral progress mankind has achieved.


 Return to Rome.—Her great reputation.—Friendship with Michael
 Angelo.—Medal of this period.—Removal to Orvieto.—Visit from
 Luca Contile.—Her determination not to quit the Church.—Francesco
 d'Olanda.—His record of conversations with Vittoria.—Vittoria at
 Viterbo.—Influence of Cardinal Pole on her mind.—Last return to
 Rome.—Her death.

Vittoria arrived in Rome from Ferrara in all probability about the end
of the year 1537. She was now in the zenith of her reputation. The
learned and elegant Bembo[198] writes of her, that he considered her
poetical judgment as sound and authoritative as that of the greatest
masters of the art of song. Guidiccioni, the poetical Bishop of
Fossombrone, and one of Paul III.'s ablest diplomatists, declares[199]
that the ancient glory of Tuscany had altogether passed into Latium in
her person; and sends her sonnets of his own, with earnest entreaties
that she will point out the faults of them. Veronica Gambara, herself a
poetess, of merit perhaps not inferior to that of Vittoria, professed
herself her most ardent admirer, and engaged Rinaldo Corso to write the
commentary on her poems, which he executed as we have seen. Bernardo
Tasso made her the subject of several of his poems. Giovio dedicated
to her his life of Pescara, and Cardinal Pompeo Colonna his book on
"The Praises of Women;" and Contarini paid her the far more remarkable
compliment of dedicating to her his work "On Free Will."

Paul III. was, as Muratori says,[200] by no means well disposed towards
the Colonna family. Yet Vittoria must have had influence with the
haughty and severe old Farnese. For both Bembo, and Fregoso, the Bishop
of Naples, have taken occasion to acknowledge that they owed their
promotion to the purple in great measure to her.

But the most noteworthy event of this period of Vittoria's life,
was the commencement of her acquaintance with Michael Angelo
Buonarroti.[201] That great man was then in his 63rd year, while the
poetess was in her 47th. The acquaintanceship grew rapidly into a close
and durable friendship, which lasted during the remainder of Vittoria's
life. It was a friendship eminently honourable to both of them. Michael
Angelo was a man whose influence on his age was felt and acknowledged,
while he was yet living and exercising it, to a degree rarely
observable even in the case of the greatest minds. He had, at the time
in question, already reached the zenith of his fame, although he lived
to witness and enjoy it for another quarter of a century. He was a man
formed by nature, and already habituated by the social position his
contemporaries had accorded to him, to mould men—not to be moulded
by them—not a smooth or pliable man; rugged rather, self-relying,
self-concentrated, and, though full of kindness for those who needed
kindness, almost a stern man; no courtier, though accustomed to the
society of courts; and apt to consider courtier-like courtesies and
habitudes as impertinent impediments to the requirements of his high
calling, to be repressed rather than condescended to. Yet the strong
and kingly nature of this high-souled old man was moulded into new form
by contact with that of the comparatively youthful poetess.


The religious portion of the great artist's nature had scarcely shaped
out for itself any more defined and substantial form of expression than
a worship of the beautiful in spirit as well as in matter. By Vittoria
he was made a devout Christian. The change is strongly marked in his
poetry; and in several passages of the poems, four or five in number,
addressed to her, he attributes it entirely to her influence.[202]

Some silly stuff has been written by very silly writers, by way of
imparting the "interesting" character of a _belle passion_, more or
less platonic, to this friendship between the sexagenarian artist and
the immaculate Colonna. No argument is necessary to indicate the utter
absurdity of an idea which implies a thorough ignorance of the persons
in question, of the circumstances of their friendship, and of all that
remains on record of what passed between them. Mr. Harford, whose "Life
of Michael Angelo" has been already quoted, was permitted, he says, to
hear read the letters from Vittoria to her friend, which are preserved
in that collection of papers and memorials of the great artist, which
forms the most treasured possession of his descendants;[203] and he
gives the following account of them:[204]

"They are five in number; and there is a sixth, addressed by her to a
friend, which relates to Michael Angelo. Two of these letters refer in
very grateful terms to the fine drawings he had been making for her,
and to which she alludes with admiration. Another glances with deep
interest at the devout sentiments of a sonnet, which it appears he
had sent for her perusal.... Another tells him in playful terms that
his duties as architect of St. Peter's, and her own to the youthful
inmates of the convent of St. Catherine at Viterbo, admit not of their
frequently exchanging letters. This must have been written just a
year before her death, which occurred in 1547. Michael Angelo became
architect of St. Peter's in 1546. These letters are written with the
most perfect ease, in a firm, strong hand; but there is not a syllable
in any of them approaching to tenderness."

The period of Vittoria's stay in Rome on this occasion must have been a
pleasant one. The acknowledged leader of the best and most intellectual
society in that city; surrounded by a company of gifted and high-minded
men, bound to her and to each other by that most intimate and ennobling
of all ties, the common profession of a higher, nobler, purer theory
of life than that which prevailed around them, and a common membership
of what might almost be called a select church within a church, whose
principles and teaching its disciples hoped to see rapidly spreading
and beneficially triumphant; dividing her time between her religious
duties, her literary occupations, and conversation with well-loved and
well-understood friends;—Vittoria can hardly have been still tormented
by temptations to commit suicide. Yet in a medal struck in her honour
at this period of her life, the last of the series engraved for
Visconti's edition of her works, the reverse represents a phœnix on
her funeral pile gazing on the sun, while the flames are rising around
her. The obverse has a bust of the poetess, showing the features a
good deal changed in the course of the six or seven years which had
elapsed since the execution of that silly Pyramus and Thisbe medal
mentioned in a previous chapter, though still regular and well formed.
The tendency to fatness and to a comfortable-looking double chin is
considerably increased. She wears a singularly unbecoming head-dress of
plaited linen, sitting close to and covering the entire head, with long
pendants at the sides falling over the shoulders.


These pleasant Roman days were, however, destined to be of brief
duration. They were cut short, strange as the statement may seem,
by the imposition of an increased tax upon salt. For when Paul III.
resorted, in 1539, to that always odious and cruel means of pillaging
his people, Ascanio Colonna maintained that, by virtue of some ancient
privilege, the new tax could not be levied on his estates. The
pontifical tax-gatherers imprisoned certain of his vassals for refusing
to pay; whereupon Ascanio assembled his retainers, made a raid into the
Campagna, and drove off a large number of cattle.[205] The Pope lost no
time in gathering an army of ten thousand men, and "war was declared"
between the sovereign and the Colonna. The varying fortunes of this
"war" have been narrated in detail by more than one historian.[206]
Much mischief was done, and a great deal of misery occasioned by both
the contending parties. But at length the forces of the Sovereign got
the better of those of his vassal, and the principal fortresses of the
Colonna were taken, and their fortifications ordered to be razed.

It was in consequence of these misfortunes, and of that remarkable
"solidarity" which, as has been before observed, united in those days
the members of a family in their fortunes and reverses, that Vittoria
quitted Rome, probably towards the end of 1540, and retired to Orvieto.
But the loss of their brightest ornament was a misfortune which the
higher circles of Roman society could not submit to patiently. Many
of the most influential personages at Paul III.'s court visited the
celebrated exile at Orvieto, and succeeded ere long in obtaining her
return to Rome after a very short absence.[207] And we accordingly find
her again in the eternal city in the August of 1541.

There is a letter written by Luca Contile,[208] the Sienese historian,
dramatist and poet, in which he speaks of a visit he had paid to
Vittoria in Rome in that month. She asked him, he writes, for news of
Fra Bernardino (Ochino), and on his replying that he had left behind
him at Milan the highest reputation for virtue and holiness, she
answered, "God grant that he so persevere!"


On this passage of Luca Contile's letter, Visconti and others have
built a long argument in proof of Vittoria's orthodoxy. It is quite
clear, they say, that she already suspected and lamented Ochino's
progress towards heresy, and thus indicates her own aversion to aught
that might lead to separation from the church of Rome. It would
be difficult, however, to show that the simple phrase in question
had necessarily any such meaning. But any dispute on this point is
altogether nugatory; for it may be at once admitted that Vittoria did
not quit, and in all probability would not under any circumstances
have quitted, the communion of the Church. And if this is all that her
Romanist biographers wish to maintain, they unquestionably are correct
in their statements. She acted in this respect in conformity with
the conduct of the majority of those eminent men whose disciple and
friend she was during so many years. And the final extinction of the
reformatory movement in Italy was in great measure due precisely to the
fact that conformity to Rome was dearer to most Italian minds than the
independent assertion of their own opinions. It may be freely granted
that there is every reason to suppose that it would have been so to
Vittoria, had she not been so fortunate as to die before her peculiar
tenets were so definitively condemned as to make it necessary for her
to choose between abandoning them or abandoning Rome. But surely all
the interest which belongs to the question of her religious opinions
consists in the fact that she, like the majority of the best minds of
her country and age, assuredly held doctrines which Rome discovered and
declared to be incompatible with her creed.

A more agreeable record of Vittoria's presence in Rome at this time,
and an interesting glimpse of the manner in which many of her hours
were passed, is to be found in the papers left by one Francesco
d'Olanda,[209] a Portuguese painter, who was then in the eternal
city. He had been introduced, he tells us, by the kindness of Messer
Lattanzio Tolemei of Siena to the Marchesa de Pescara, and also to
Michael Angelo; and he has recorded at length several conversations
between these and two or three other members of their society in which
he took part. The object of his notes appears to have been chiefly to
preserve the opinions expressed by the great Florentine on subjects
connected with the arts. And it must be admitted, that the conversation
of the eminent personages mentioned, as recorded by the Portuguese
painter, appears, if judged by the standard of nineteenth century
notions, to have been wonderfully dull and flat.

The record is a very curious one even in this point of view. It is
interesting to measure the distance between what was considered
first-rate conversation in 1540, and what would be tolerated among
intelligent people in 1850. The good-old-times admirers, who would
have us believe that the ponderous erudition of past generations
is distasteful to us, only by reason of the touch-and-go butterfly
frivolousness of the modern mind, are in error. The long discourses
which charmed a sixteenth century audience, are to us intolerably
boring, because they are filled with platitudes;—with facts,
inferences, and speculations, that is, which have passed and repassed
through the popular mind, till they have assumed the appearance of
self-evident truths and fundamental axioms, which it is loss of time to
spend words on. And time has so wonderfully risen in value! And though
there are more than ever men whose discourse might be instructive
and profitable to their associates, the universality of the habit of
reading prevents conversation from being turned into a lecture. Those
who have matter worth communicating, can do so more effectually and
to a larger audience by means of the pen; and those willing to be
instructed, can make themselves masters of the thoughts of others far
more satisfactorily by the medium of a book.

But the external circumstances of these conversations, noted down for
us by Francesco d'Olanda, give us an amusing peep into the literary
life of the Roman world three hundred years ago.

[Sidenote: CONVERSATION IN 1540.]

It was one Sunday afternoon that the Portuguese artist went to call
on Messer Lattanzio Tolemei, nephew of the cardinal of that name.
The servants told him, that their master was in the church of San
Silvestro, at Monte Cavallo, in company with the Marchesa di Pescara,
for the purpose of hearing a lecture on the Epistles of St. Paul,
from a certain Friar Ambrose of Siena. Maestro Francesco lost no time
in following his friend thither. And "as soon as the reading and the
interpretations of it were over," the Marchesa turning to the stranger,
and inviting him to sit beside her, said; "If I am not mistaken,
Francesco d'Olanda would better like to hear Michael Angelo preach on
painting, than to listen to Friar Ambrose's lecture."

Whereupon the painter, "feeling himself piqued," assures the lady that
he can take interest in other matters than painting, and that however
willingly he would listen to Michael Angelo on art, he would prefer to
hear Friar Ambrose when St. Paul's epistles were in question.

"Do not be angry, Messer Francesco," said Signor Lattanzio, thereupon.
"The Marchesa is far from doubting that the man capable of painting
may be capable of aught else. We, in Italy, have too high an estimate
of art for that. But, perhaps, we should gather from the remark of
the Signora Marchesa the intention of adding to the pleasure you have
already had, that of hearing Michael Angelo."

"In that case, said I, her Excellence would do only as is her
wont;—that is, to accord greater favours than one would have dared to
ask of her."

So Vittoria calls to a servant, and bids him go to the house of Michael
Angelo, and tell him, "that I and Messer Lattanzio are here in this
cool chapel, that the church is shut, and very pleasant, and ask him if
he will come and spend a part of the day with us, that we may put it to
profit in his company. But do not tell him that Francesco d'Olanda the
Spaniard is here."

Then there is some very mild raillery about how Michael Angelo was to
be led to speak of painting;—it being, it seems, very questionable
whether he could be induced to do so; and a little bickering follows
between Maestro Francesco and Friar Ambrose, who feels convinced that
Michael will not be got to talk before the Portuguese, while the latter
boasts of his intimacy with the great man.

Presently there is a knock at the church door. It is Michael Angelo,
who has been met by the servant as he was going towards the baths,
talking with Orbino, his colour-grinder.

"The Marchesa rose to receive him, and remained standing a good while,
before making him sit down between her and Messer Lattanzio." Then,
"with an art, which I can neither describe nor imitate, she began to
talk of various matters with infinite wit and grace, without ever
touching the subject of painting, the better to make sure of the great

"One is sure enough," she says at last, "to be completely beaten, as
often as one ventures to attack Michael Angelo on his own ground, which
is that of wit and raillery. You will see, Messer Lattanzio, that to
put him down and reduce him to silence, we must talk to him of briefs,
law processes, or painting."

By which subtle and deep-laid plot the great man is set off into a long
discourse on painters and painting.


"His Holiness," said the Marchesa, after a while, "has granted me the
favour of authorising me to build a new convent, near this spot, on the
slope of Monte Cavallo, where there is the ruined portico, from the top
of which, it is said, that Nero looked on while Rome was burning; so
that virtuous women may efface the trace of so wicked a man. I do not
know, Michael Angelo, what form or proportions to give the building,
or on which side to make the entrance. Would it not be possible to
join together some parts of the ancient constructions, and make them
available towards the new building?"

"Yes," said Michael Angelo; "the ruined portico might serve for a

This repartee, says our Portuguese reporter, was uttered with so much
seriousness and _aplomb_, that Messer Lattanzio could not forbear from
remarking it.

From which we are led to infer, that the great Michael was understood
to have made a joke. He added, however, more seriously; "I think, that
your Excellence may build the proposed convent without difficulty; and
when we go out, we can, if your Excellence so please, have a look at
the spot, and suggest to you some ideas."

Then, after a complimentary speech from Vittoria, in which she declares
that the public, who know Michael Angelo's works only without being
acquainted with his character, are ignorant of the best part of him,
the lecture, to which all this is introductory begins. And when the
company part at its close, an appointment is made to meet again another
Sunday in the same church.

A painter in search of an unhackneyed subject might easily choose a
worse one than that suggested by this notable group, making the cool
and quiet church their Sunday afternoon drawing-room.

The few remaining years of Vittoria's life were spent between Rome and
Viterbo, an episcopal city some thirty miles to the north of it. In
this latter her home was in the convent of the nuns of St. Catherine.
Her society there consisted chiefly of Cardinal Pole, the governor of
Viterbo, her old friend Marco Antonio Flaminio, and Archbishop Soranzo.


During these years the rapidly increasing consciousness on the part of
the Church of the danger of the doctrines held by the reforming party,
was speedily making it unsafe to profess those opinions, which, as we
have seen, gave the colour to so large a portion of Vittoria's poetry,
and which had formed her spiritual character. And these friends, in the
closest intimacy with whom she lived at Viterbo, were not the sort of
men calculated to support her in any daring reliance on the dictates of
her own soul, when these chanced to be in opposition to the views of
the Church. Pole appears to have been at this time the special director
of her conscience. And we know but too well, from the lamentable sequel
of his own career, the sort of counsel he would be likely to give her
under the circumstances. There is an extremely interesting letter
extant, written by her from Viterbo to the Cardinal Cervino, who was
afterwards Pope Marcellus II., which proves clearly enough, to the
great delight of her orthodox admirers, that let her opinions have been
what they might, she was ready to "submit" them to the censureship of
Rome. We have seen how closely her opinions agreed with those which
drove Bernardino Ochino to separate himself from the Church, and fly
from its vengeance. Yet under Pole's tutelage she writes as follows:—

 "Most Illustrious and most Reverend Sir,

 "The more opportunity I have had of observing the actions of his
 Eminence the Cardinal of England (Pole), the more clear has it
 seemed to me that he is a true and sincere servant of God. Whenever,
 therefore, he charitably condescends to give me his opinion on any
 point, I conceive myself safe from error in following his advice.
 And he told me that, in his opinion, I ought, in case any letter or
 other matter should reach me from Fra Bernardino, to send the same to
 your most Reverend Lordship, and return no answer, unless I should
 be directed to do so. I send you therefore the enclosed, which I
 have this day received, together with the little book attached. The
 whole was in a packet, which came to the post here by a courier from
 Bologna, without any other writing inside. And I have thought it best
 not to make use of any other means of sending it, than by a servant of
 my own." * * *

She adds in a postscript:

"It grieves me much that the more he tries to excuse himself the
more he accuses himself; and the more he thinks to save others from
shipwreck, the more he exposes himself to the flood, being himself out
of the ark which saves and secures."[210]

Poor Ochino little thought probably that his letter to his former
admiring and fervent disciple, would be passed on with such a remark to
the hands of his enemies! He ought, however, to have been aware that
princesses and cardinals, whatever speculations they may have indulged
in, do not easily become heretics.

She returned once more from Viterbo to Rome towards the end of the
year 1544, and took up her residence in the convent of Benedictines
of St Anne. While there she composed the latin prayer, printed in
the note,[211] which has been much admired, and which, though not
so Ciceronian in its diction as Bembo might have written, will bear
comparison with similar compositions by many more celebrated persons.
Several of the latest of her poems were also written at this time. But
her health began to fail so rapidly as to give great uneasiness to her
friends. Several letters are extant from Tolomei to her physician,
anxiously inquiring after her health, urging him to neglect no
resources of his art, and bidding him remember that "the lives of many,
who continually receive from her their food—some that of the body, and
others that of the mind—are bound up in hers."[212] The celebrated
physician and poet Fracastoro, was written to in Verona. In his reply,
after suggesting medical remedies, he says, "Would that a physician
for her mind could be found! Otherwise the fairest light in this world
will, from causes by no means clear (_a non so che strano modo_) be
extinguished and taken from our eyes."[213]

The medical opinion of Fracastoro, writing from a distance, may not be
of much value. But it is certain that many circumstances combined to
render these declining years of Vittoria's life unhappy. The fortunes
of her family were under a cloud; and it is probable that she was as
much grieved by her brother's conduct, as by the consequences of it.
The death also of the Marchese del Vasto, in the flower of his age,
about this time, was a severe blow to her. Ever since those happy early
days in Ischia, when she had been to him, as she said, morally and
intellectually a mother, the closest ties of affection had united them;
and his loss was to Vittoria like that of a son. Then again, though she
had perfectly made up her mind as to the line of conduct it behoved
her to take in regard to any difficulties of religious opinion, yet
it cannot be doubted that the necessity of separating herself from so
many whom she had loved and venerated, deserting them, as it were, in
their falling fortunes, must have been acutely painful to her. Possibly
also conscience was not wholly at rest with her on this matter. It
may be that the still voice of inward conviction would sometimes make
obstinate murmur against blindfold submission to a priesthood, who
ought not, according to the once expressed opinion of the poetess, to
come between the creature and his creator.

[Sidenote: HER LAST HOURS.]

As she became gradually worse and weaker, she was removed from the
convent of St. Anne, to the neighbouring house of Giuliano Cesarini,
the husband of Giulia Colonna, the only one of her kindred then left
in Rome. And there she breathed her last towards the end of February,
1547, in the 57th year of her age.

In her last hours she was visited by her faithful and devotedly
attached friend Michael Angelo, who watched the departure of the spirit
from her frame; and who declared,[214] years afterwards, that he had
never ceased to regret that in that solemn moment he had not ventured
to press his lips for the first and last time, to the marble forehead
of the dead.

She had directed that her funeral should be in all respects like that
of one of the sisters of the convent in which she last resided. And so
completely were her behests attended to, that no memorial of any kind
remains to tell the place of her sepulture.




Carissimo padre in Cristo dolce Jesù. Io Catarina, schiava de' servi
di Jesù Cristo, scrivo a voi nel prezioso sangue suo, con desiderio
di vedere in voi uno vero e perfettissimo lume, acciò che cognosciate
le verità di quello che v'è necessario per la vostra salute. Senza
questo lume andaremmo in tenebre, la qual tenebre non lascia discernere
quello che ci è nocivo all'anima e al corpo, e quello che ci è utile;
e per questo guasta il gusto dell'anima, che le cose buone le fanno
parer cattive e le cattive buone, cioè il vizio; e quelle cose che ci
conducono a peccato, ci pajono buone e dilettevoli; e le virtù e quello
che ci induce alla virtù ci pajono amare e di grande malagevolezza: ma
chi ha lume cognosce bene la verità: e però ama la virtù, e Dio, che è
la cagione di ogni virtù, ed odia il vizio e la propria sensualità, che
è cagione d'ogni vizio. Chi ci tolle questo vero e dolce lume? L'amor
proprio che l'uomo ha a sè medesimo, il quale è una nuvola che offusca
l'occhio dell'intelletto e ricopre la pupilla del lume della santissima
fede; e però va come cieco ed ignorante seguitando la fragilità sua,
tutto passionato senza lume di ragione, si come animale che, perchè non
ha ragione, si lassa guidare al proprio sentimento. Grande miseria e
dell'uomo, il quale Dio ha creato all'imagine e similitudine sua, che
egli voluntariamente per suo difetto si facci peggio che animale bruto,
come ingrato ed ignorante non cognosce, nè ricognosce li benefizj da
Dio, ma ritribuisceli a sè medesimo. Dall'amor proprio procede ogni
male. Unde vengono le ingiustizie e tutti gli altri difetti? dall'amore
proprio. Egli commette ingiustizia contra Dio, contra sè e contra al
prossimo suo, e contra la santa Chiesa. Contra Dio la commette, che non
rende gloria e loda al nome suo come egli è obbligato; a sè non rende
odio e dispiacimento del vizio, ed amore delle virtù; nè al prossimo
la benivolenza; e se egli è signore non gli tiene giustizia, perchè
non la fa se non secondo il piacere delle creature o per proprio suo
piacere umano. Nè alla Chiesa rende l'obbedienzia e non la sovviene, ma
continuamente la perseguita: di tutto è cagione l'amor proprio, che non
il lassa cognoscere la Verità, perchè è privato del lume. Questo ci è
molto manifesto, e tutto dì il vediamo e proviamo in noi medesimi, che
egli è così.

Non vorrei, carrissimo padre, che questa nuvola vi tollesse il lume; ma
voglio che in voi sia quel lume che vi faccia cognoscere e discernere
la Verità. Parmi secondo che io intendo, che cominciate a lassarvi
guidare al consiglio de' tenebrosi, e voi sapete, che se l'uno cieco
guida l'altro, ambidue caggiono nella fossa. Così diverrà a voi, se
voi non ci ponete altro remedio che quello che io sento. Honne grande
ammirazione che uomo cattolico che voglià temere Dio ed esser virile,
si lassi guidare come fanciullo, e che non vegga come metta sè e altrui
in tanta ruina, quanta è di contaminare il lume della santissima fede
per consiglio e detto di coloro che noi vediamo esser membri del
demonio, arbori corrotti, dei quali ci sono manifesti i diffetti loro
per l'ultimo veleno che hanno seminato della eresia: dicendo che papa
Urbano VI. non sia veramente papa. Aprite l'occhio dell'intelletto, e
riguardate che essi mentono sopra il capo loro, per loro medesimi si
possono confondere, e veggonsi degni di grande supplicio da qualunque
lato noi ci volliamo. Se noi ci volliamo a quelli che essi dicono, che
l'elessero per paura della furia del populo, essi non dicono la verità,
perocchè prima l'avevano eletto con elezione canonica ed ordinata sì
come fosse eletto mai verun altro sommo pontifice. Essi si spacciarono
ben di fare la elezione per lo timore che il populo no si levasse, ma
non che per timore elli non elegessero misser Bartolomeo arcivescovo
di Bari, il quale è oggi papa Urbano VI., e così confesso in verità,
e non lo niego. Quello che essi elessero per paura, ciò fu missere
di Santo Pietro, apparbe evidente a ciascuno, ma la elezione di papa
Urbano era fatta ordinamente come detto è. Questo annunziarono a voi e
a noi, ed agli altri signori del mondo, manifestando per opera quello
che ci dicevano con parole, cioè facendoli riverenzia, adorandolo come
Cristo in terra, e coronandolo con tanta solennità; rifacendo di nuovo
l'elezione con grande concordia: a lui come sommo pontifice chiesero le
grazie, ed usaronle; e se non fusse stato vero, che papa Urbano fusse
papa, ma che lo avessoro eletto per paura, e non sarebbero essi degni
eternalmente di confusione? Che le colonne della santa Chiesa poste
per dilatare la fede, per timore della morte corporale volessero dare
a loro ed a noi morte eternale? Mostrando ci per padre quello che non
fussi? E non sarebbero essi ladri, tollendo ed usando quello, che non
potessero usare? Sì ben; se vero fusse quello che ora dicono che non
è, anco è veramente papa Urbano VI., ma come stolti e matti accecati
dal proprio amore, hanno mostrata e data a noi questa verità, e per
loro tengono la bugia: tanto la confessarono questa verità, quanto
la Santità sua indugiò a voler correggere i vizi loro: ma come egli
cominciò a monderli ed a mostrare, che lo scellerato viver loro li era
spiacevole e che egli voleva ponervi il rimedio, subito levarono il
capo. E contra chi l'hanno levato? contra la santa fede. Fatto hanno
peggio che cristiani rinnegati.

O miseri uomini! Essi non cognosceno la loro ruina, nè chi gli sequita,
che se la cognoscessero, essi chiederebbero l'adiutorio divino;
ricognoscerebbero le colpe loro, e non sarebbero ostinati come dimonia,
che drittamente pajono dimonj, e preso hanno l'ufficio loro. L'ufficio
delle dimonia è di pervertire l'anime da Cristo crocifisso, sottrarle
dalla via della verità, e inducierle alla bugia e recarle a sè, che è
padre delle bugie per pena e per supplicio, dando a loro, quello che
egli ha per sè. Così questi vanno sovvertendo la verità, la quel verità
essi medesimi ci hanno data, e riducendo alla bugia, hanno messo tutto
il mondo in divisione; e di quel male che essi hanno in loro, di quello
porgono a noi. Voliamo noi ben conoscere questa verità? Or ragguardiamo
e consideriamo la vita e costumi loro, e che sèquito essi hanno pure
di loro medesimi, che seguitano le vestigie delle iniquità, perocchè
l'uno dimonio non è contrario all'altro, anco s'accordano insieme. E
perdonatemi, carissimo padre: padre vi terrò in quanto io vi vegga
amatore della verità e confonditore della bugia: perchè io dico così,
perochè 'l dolore della dannazione loro e d'altrui me n'è cagione, e
l'amore ch'io porto alla salute loro. Questo non dico in dispregio
loro in quanto creature, ma in dispregio del vizio e dell'eresia che
esci hanno seminata per tutto il mondo, e della crudeltà che essi
usano a loro e all'anime tapinelle che per loro periscono; delle quali
li converrà render ragione dinanzi al sommo giudice: che se fussero
stati uomini che avessero temuto Dio o la vergogna del mondo, se Dio
non volevano temere: se papa Urbano gli avessi fatto il peggio, che
egli l'avesse potuto fare, e maggiore vituperio averebbe pazientemente
portato ed eletto innanzi mille morti, che fare quello che hanno
fatto, che a maggior vergogna e danno non possono venire, che apparire
agli occhi delle creature scismatici ed eretici contaminatori della
santa fede. Se io veggi il danno dell'anima e del corpo, si mostrano
per l'eresia privati di Dio per grazia, e corporalmente privati
della dignità loro di ragione, ed essi medesimi l'hanno fatto. Se io
ragguardo il divino giudizio, elli si vede presso a loro, se non si
levano di questa tenebre, perocchè ogni colpa è punita e ogni bene
è rimunerato. Duro li sarà a ricalcitrare a Dio, se tutto lo sforzo
umano avessero. Dio è somma fortezza che fortifica i debili che ci
confidano e sperano in lui. Ed è verità. E la verità è quella cosa
che ci delibera. Noi vediamo, che solo la verità de' servi di Dio
seguitano e tengono questa verità di papa Urbano VI., confessandolo
veramente papa, come egli è; non trovarete un servo di Dio che tenga
il contrario, che sia servo di Dio; non dico di quelli che portono
di fuore il vestimento della pecora, e dentro sono lupi rapaci. E
credete voi, che se questa non fusse verità che Dio sostenesse, che
i servi suoi andassero in tanta tenebre? Non il sosterrebbe. Se egli
il sostiene all'iniqui uomini del mondo, non sostiene a loro, e però
l'ha dato lume di questa verità, perchè non è spregiatore de' santi
desiderj, anco ne è accettatore come padre benigno e pietoso che
gli è. Questi vorrei che voi chiamaste a voi, a farvi dichiarare di
questa verità, e non voliate andare sì ignorantemente. Non vi muova
la passione propria che ella sarà peggio a voi che a persona. Abbiate
compassione a tante anime, quante mettete nelle mani delle dimonia. Se
non volete fare il bene, almeno non fate male, ch'el male spessi volte
torna più sopra colui che'l fa, che sopra colui a chi vuole essere
fatto; tanto male n'esce, che ne perdiamo Dio per grazia, consumansi
e beni temporali, e seguitane la morte degli uomini. Doimè! e non par
che noi vediamo lume, che la nuvola dell'amor propio ci ha tolto il
lume, e non ci lassa vedere; per questo siamo atti a recevere ogni male
informazione che ci fusse data contra la verità dagli amatori di loro
medesimi: ma se averemo il lume non sarà così ma con grande prudenzia
e timore santo di Dio, vorrete cognoscere ed investigare questa verità
per uomini di conscienzia e di scienzia. Se voi vorrete, in voi non
cadrà ignoranzia, perchè avete costà la fontana della scienzia, la
quale temo che non perdiate, se voi terrete questi modi, e sapete bene
come ne starà il reame vostro, se saranno uomini di buona coscienzia,
che non vogliono seguitare il piacere umano con timore servile, ma la
verità; essi vi dichiareranno e porranno in pace la mente e l'anima
vostra. Or non più così, carissimo padre, recatevi la mente al petto,
pensate che voi dovete morire e non sapete quando; ponetevi dinanzi
all'occhio dell'intelletto Dio e la verità sua, e non la passione nè
l'amore della patria, che quanto a Dio non doviamo fare differenzia
più d'uno che d'un altro, perchè tutti siamo esciti dalla sua santa
mente, creati all'imagine e similitudine sua, e ricomprati nel prezioza
sangue dell'unigenito suo Figliuolo. So' certa, che se averete il lume
voi il farete, e non aspetterete il tempo, perchè il tempo non aspetta
voi, ed invitarete loro a tornare alla santa e vera obbedienzia, ma
altrimenti no. E però dissi che io desideraro di vedere in voi un
vero e perfettissimo lume, acciocchè col lume cognosciate, amiate e
temiate la verità. Sarà allora beata l'anima mia per la salute vostra,
di vedervi escire di tanto errore. Altro non vi dico. Permanete nella
santa e dolce dilezioni di Dio. Perdonatemi, se troppo v' ho gravato di
parole. L'amore della vostra salute mi costrigne a più tosto dirvele
a bocca con la presenzia che per scritta. Dio vi riempia della sua
dolcissima grazia. Jesù dolce, Jesù amore.



Note 1.—Page 5.

Although I have, since writing the passage in the text, been convinced
by the letter of Dr. H. C. Barlow in the _Athenæum_ of July the 3rd,
1858, that the Fontebranda at Siena was not alluded to by Dante in the
well-known passage referred to, yet as the error, in which I shared,
is so general, that every "Dantescan pilgrim" _does_, as stated in
the text, hurry to visit the Sienese fountain, solely for the sake of
that one line of the great poet, I have not thought it necessary to
alter the passage; contenting myself with providing against further
propagation of the mistake by this note. I have again visited Romena
in the Casentino, since reading Dr. Barlow's convincing letter; and
have no doubt whatever, that Adam the coiner, was thinking of the
well-remembered waters of the Casentino, the scene of his crime,—a
locality with which the poet also was, as we know, familiar,—and not
of the distant and _nihil-ad-rem_ Siena fountain; which will henceforth
be deposed from its Dantescan honours by the verdict of all save
Sienese students of the Inferno. These Dr. Barlow must not expect to


1.—Page 100.

MS. _Priorista_ of Buoudelmonte. This important chronicle, forming a
very large folio volume, is the property of Signore Pietro Bigazzi,
Secretary of the Academia della Crusca; a gentleman, whose accurate
and extensive knowledge of Italian history is as remarkable as the
liberality with which he is ever ready to put the stores of his
erudition at the service of students.

2.—Page 106.

The diarist Stefano Infessura, in his valuable chronicle of the events
which occurred at Rome from A.D. 1294 to A.D. 1494, the latter years of
which period are recorded with great and most amusing detail, says that
the viands on the occasion of this memorable festival were gilt! He
especially notes that sugar was lavishly used: a special indication of
reckless extravagance.

In recording another equally magnificent festival given by the Cardinal
to Leonora, daughter of King Ferrante, who passed through Rome on her
way northwards to be married to the Duke of Ferrara, Infessura tells us
that this Franciscan mendicant turned Cardinal caused the bedchamber of
the princess and those of all the ladies of her court to be furnished
with certain implements of a kind generally deemed more useful than
ornamental, made of gold! "Oh! guarda," cries the historian, as he well
might, "in quale cosa bisogna che si adoperi lo tesauro della Chiesa!"
_Rer. Ital. Script._ Tom III. Pars. II. p. 1144.

3.—Page 108.

Some discrepancies in the accounts of these transactions and the dates
of them in the contemporary historians have led Burriel into supposing
that the Cardinal Riario made two journeys to Milan, the first in
1472, and the second in 1473, and that on both occasions he arrived
there on the 12th of September. The first journey however is, as far
as I can find from a careful examination of the authorities, wholly
imaginary. The difficulty seems to have been, that Corio represents
Girolamo Riario, the proposed bridegroom, to have been invested with
the County of Imola on the 6th of November, 1472. And it is difficult
to suppose that this could have been done before all the conditions
of the marriage were finally arranged, which they certainly were
not till after the Cardinal's journey to Milan. But Corio is a very
untrustworthy guide as far as dates are concerned. Another blunder of
his in the very passage, in which he tells of Imola having been given
to Girolamo Riario as Catherine's dower, might have put Burriel on his
guard. When the marriage was determined on, he says, the Duke "gave her
Imola for her dower.... After that—_dipoi_—on the 20th of August,
Borso of Este, Marquis of Ferrara, died." Now that prince died on the
27th of May, 1471.

Muratori (ad ann. 1473), quoting Platina assigns the true date of 1473
to Girolamo's investiture of the County of Imola; but supposed that
that principality was purchased by the Cardinal of the Manfredi family
for forty thousand ducats, and given by him to his brother. But as to
this point of the story Burriel must be considered to be correct. For
he says, that the conditions of the marriage, including the giving
Imola as the bride's dower, "are proved by Catherine's last Will and
Testament, which we have before us, and by Filippo of Bergamo in his
life of the Count, and by Andrea Bernardi in his chronicle, both
of whom were contemporary writers." The notion of the sum of forty
thousand ducats having been paid by the Riarios for Imola seems to
have arisen from the fact, that that sum was by the marriage contract
stipulated to be paid down by the Pope.[215]

It is remarkable that the two most notable historians of Milan in
recent times, Verri and Rosmini, are both wholly silent as to the
marriage of Catherine, the negociations with the Cardinal Riario on
that subject, and the acquisition of Imola.

Count Pietro Verri died in 1797, leaving his History of Milan
incomplete. It has been often reprinted, and has been always highly
esteemed by his fellow countrymen.

The four bulky and handsome 4to. volumes of the Cavaliere Carlo de'
Rosmini on the History of Milan were printed in 1820; and have taken
the rank of a standard work.

Bernardino Corio, "gentleman of Milan," was one of Duke Maria
Galeazzo's pages and chamberlains; and in that part of his history,
therefore, which touches our subject, is an eye-witness of what he
relates. Should any reader have the curiosity to refer to the amusing
pages of this old writer, he must take care to look at the edition
printed at Padua, in one vol. 4to, 1646. That printed at Venice in
the same form about half a century earlier is grossly incomplete.
For instance, the whole of the interesting description of the Duke's
gorgeous cavalcade, from which the text is taken, is omitted in the
Venice edition.

4.—Page 115.

The original text of this Roman lampoon is given here from Corio, that
the classical reader may see more specifically what were the vices
attributed to this pillar of the Church, than an English page can
venture to catalogue them.

  "Omne scelus fugiat Latia modo procul aburbe,
    Et virtus, probitas, imperet atque pudor.
  Fur, scortum, leno, mechus, pedica, cynedus,
    Et scurra, et phidicen cedat ab Italia.
  Namque illa Ausonii pestis scelerata Senatus
    Petrus ad infernas est modo raptus aquas."

The original of the eulogistic epitaph given by Burriel, which has at
least the merit of brevity, runs thus:—

  "Ante annos scivisse nocet; nam maxima virtus
    Persuasit morti, ut crederit esse senem."

5.—Page 120.

A curious example of the audacious cynicism of this Milanese
despot—and, to be just, we must add, to a great degree, of the time
in which he lived—is to be found in certain documents of that period
printed by Rossini in the appendices to his history. The following
condition, which we must be permitted to leave in its original Latin,
is found in a deed of gift to a lady named Lucia Marliana, wife of
Ambrogio dei Reverti. It was duly and formally executed before a notary
public, and then preserved among the other state papers and archives of
the Duchy.

"Quamquidem donationem," it runs: "Valere volumus ut supra dummodo
prædicta Lucia cum marito suo per carnalem copulam se non commisceat
_sine nostra speciali licenciâ in scriptis_, nec cum alio viro rem
habeat, exceptâ personâ nostrâ, si forte cum eâ coire aliquando
libuerit. * * * * Speramus tamen ipsam ita victuram et sese habituram
in devotione et hac monitione nostra promerito ab omni suspicione de
concubitu mariti sine nostrâ licenciâ."

Rosmini intimates that it appears that these conditions were duly
observed. Perhaps he means only that we may conclude them to have been
so from the fact that the deed of gift was not disturbed. It was indeed
followed by many others of the most preposterous prodigality, to such
an extent that the Lady Lucia Marliana became one of the wealthiest
individuals in all Lombardy.

6.—Page 124.

The particulars of female costume mentioned in the text are taken from
a very valuable and curious chronicle, printed by Muratori in the 16th
vol. of his collection. See _Rer. Ital. Scrip. T. 16. p. 50 et seq._
It is the Chronicon Placentinum by Johannes de Mussis, citizen of
Placentia. He is a vehement _laudator temporis acti_; and laments the
degeneracy and increasing luxury of his day in the well known tone of
the moralists of any age. The passage is so curious that I am tempted
to translate a considerable portion for the amusement of those who are
not likely to seek the original in the vast treasure-house of Muratori.

"In the good old time," says John de Mussis, "man and wife at supper
eat out of one dish. The use of carved wooden utensils at table was
unknown. One or two cups for drinking served the whole family. Those
who supped at night lighted the table with torches held in the hand
of a boy or servant; for candles of tallow or of wax were not in use.
The men wore cloaks of skin, or of wool, or of hemp. Women at their
marriage wore tunics of hemp. Coarse were then the fashions both for
men and women. Of gold or silver little or none was seen in the dress.
There was no luxury in food. Men of the people eat fresh meat thrice
a-week. Then for dinner they eat herbs and garden produce, which had
been boiled with the meat; and made their supper of the meat put by
for that purpose. The use of wine in the summer was not general.
Men deemed themselves rich with a small amount of money. Small were
the cellars in those days; and the larders no bigger. Women were
content to marry with a small dower, because their mode of life was
excessively frugal. Virgins before their marriage were content with a
hempen tunic, which was called a 'sotana,' (the modern Italian word
for a petticoat) and a linen[216] garment called a 'socca.' Virgins
wore no costly head-dresses. Matrons bound their temples, cheeks, and
chin with broad fillets. * * * * Now the old customs are superseded by
many indecorous usages. But especially for the destruction of souls
has parsimony been changed for luxury. Clothes are seen of exquisite
material and workmanship, and ornamented to excess. We have silver
and gold and pearls in cunning devices; fringes of wonderful breadth,
linings of silk varied with foreign and costly skins. Incitements to
gluttony are not wanting. Foreign wines are drunk. Drinking is almost
universal. Sumptuous dishes are publicly used. Cooks are held in high
honour. Every sort of provocative to gluttony and greed is in request.
And avarice is called into play for the purpose of supplying the means
for all this. Hence come usury, frauds, rapaciousness, robbery, exiles,
domestic broils, unlawful profits, oppression of the innocent, the
extermination of families, and banishment of the rich. We say 'our
God is our belly,' We return to the pomps which we have renounced in
our baptism, and are deserters from God to the devil. And were it not
that the clergy edify us by their pure examples, there would soon be
no limit to our luxury and ambition. * * * * Our ladies wear long
and large robes of crimson silk velvet, or of cloth of silk, brocaded
with gold, or of cloth of gold, or of simple cloth of silk, of cloth
of scarlet or crimson wool, or other costly cloths. And these cloths
of purple stuff, or of velvet, or of cloth of gold or brocade cost for
a mantle or gown from 25 up to 40 golden florins or ducats. * * * *
And on some of these dresses there are large and deep fringes of gold
around the collar, which encircles the throat, for all the world like
the spiked collar round the neck of a dog. On others there are put from
three to five ounces of pearls, worth ten golden florins an ounce. And
they wear small hoods with large golden fringes, or with rows of pearls
around the said hoods. And they go girt about the waist with handsome
girdles of gilt silver, or of pearls, worth about 25 golden florins the
girdle. Sometimes no girdle is worn. And every lady has trinkets of
gold and precious stones to the value of from 30 to 50 golden florins.

"Some, however, of these dresses are decorous, because they do not
expose the bosom. But they have other indecent dresses, which are
called Ciprians; these are made extremely large towards the feet, and
close-fitting from the waist upwards, with long and large sleeves, like
those described above. They are of similar cost also, and are adorned
with jewels of equal value. And they are ornamented in front, from the
neck to the feet, with bosses of silver-gilt or of pearls. And these
Ciprians have the opening around the neck so large that they show the
bosom, et videtur, quod dictæ mamillæ velint exire de sinu earum. Which
dresses would be magnificent, if they did not expose the bosom, and if
the collar was so decently close that at least the breast should not
be visible to every body. These ladies also wear in their head-dresses
jewels of great price. For instance, some wear coronets of silver-gilt,
or of pure gold, adorned with pearls and precious stones, to the value
of from 70 to 100 golden florins. And others wear '_terzollas_' of
large pearls, worth from 100 to 125 golden florins. Which '_terzollas_'
are so called, because they are made of 300 great pearls, and because
they are made and ranged in three tiers. These ladies, too, in the
place of the chaplets of gold or of silk, which they used to wear
twined in the hair of their head, now wear supports for the hair,
'bugulos,' as they are called, which they cover with their hair tied
over the said 'bugulos,' with braiding of silk or of gold, or with
silver braiding covered with pearls."

The chronicler then describes the dress of grave matrons and that of
widows. The fashions of the young men give as much, or more, offence to
the writer as those of the ladies, for reasons, which the curious must
seek in the very plain speaking and exceedingly barbarous Latin of John
de Mussis' own pages.

One or two other particulars, however, are worth noting. All persons
of both sexes, both in summer and in winter, wear shoes, and sometimes
hose with soles, or shoes having points three inches long beyond the
feet. Ladies and young men wear chains of silver-gilt, or pearls
or coral, around their necks. The said youths—these exquisites of
Placentia, who have been dust these four hundred years—used to shave
their beard, and their hair below the ears, wearing it above that line
frizzed and puffed out to as large a circumference as possible. "And
some keep one horse, and some two, and some five, et aliqui nullum
tenent,"—which naïf-ly lame conclusion puts one in mind of the French
bard's description of Marlborough's funeral cortège:

  "L'un portait se cuirasse;—L'autre son bouclier;
  L'un portait son grand sabre;—L'autre ne portait rien!"

The Placentian youths, who kept horses, our author goes on to tell
us, kept grooms also, whose wages were twelve golden florins a-year.
Maid-servants had seven golden florins and their food, but not their

The citizens, too, we are told, make very good cheer. At festivals,
especially at marriage feasts, they drink good wine, both white and
red. The beginning of the banquet always consists of confections of
sugar. The first course is generally formed of one or two capons, and
"on each trencher a large piece of meat stewed with almonds and sugar,
and spices and other good things." Then boiled meat is served "in magnâ
quantitate;" capons, chickens, pheasants, partridges, hares, wild
boars, kids, and other meat, according to the time of year. After that,
tarts and cakes, with spun sugar on them, are set forth. A copious
description of supper, as distinguished from dinner, follows, in which
the principal peculiarity seems to be the prevalence of various meats
in the form of "gelatine." Supper always ends with fruit,—written
always "fluges," indicating a mode of pronunciation still common among
the Italian peasantry, who, to the present day, rhyme "molta" to
"porta." After the "fluges" comes the following conclusion, several
times repeated by the methodical old chronicler, in the same words: "Et
post lotis manibus, antequam tabulæ levantur, dant bibere, et confectum
zuchari, et post bibere." In Lent they begin with the same formulary,
minus the hand-washing; then come figs and peeled almonds; then large
fishes, "à la poivrade,"—"_ad piperatum_;" then rice soup with milk
of almonds, and sugar and spices, and salted eels. After these, boiled
pike are served with vinegar sauce, or mustard sauce, or cooked with
wine and spices. Then nuts and other fruit; to end with "Et post lotis
manibus," &c., _da capo_.

It will be observed, that these luxurious citizens of Placenza had no
sea fish to help out their Lenten diet. Communications were too slow
and difficult.

A curious description of household furniture follows, which I am
deterred from giving only by the fear of increasing this already long
note to a wholly unconscionable bulk. The curious will do well to refer
to it. The construction of fire-places in the houses is noted as an
especial sign of increasing luxury. They have linen curtains, too,
around their beds. Many even are so luxuriously magnificent, that they
"faciunt duas ignes, unum in caminata, et alium in coquina. Et multi
tenent bonas confectiones in domibus eorum de zucharo et de melle. Quæ
omnia sunt magnarum expensarum."

These are the causes, concludes this admirer of the good old times,
why dowers must needs be given to daughters of four or five hundred
golden florins and more; which are then all expended by the bridegroom
in dressing the bride, and in nuptial festivities. "And he, who married
the said bride, spends, besides the dower, some hundred of golden
florins in renovating some of the bride's clothes."

And to meet all these expenses, he says, it must needs be that men seek
to make money by unlawful means. Thus are reduced to poverty many, who
strive to do what is incompatible with their means.

All very bad certainly; and though the author does not tell us whether
any of these extravagant fifteenth-century gentry were directors of
Placenza banks, it is probable enough that they were something of the
sort. But then all this was four hundred years ago: and the world must
have grown wiser since then!

7.—Page 132.

I find this characteristic fact stated in a curious and rare volume
on "the History of the Pontificial golden Rose." "La Rosa d'oro
Pontificia. Raconto Storico. 1 Vol. 4to. In Roma, 1681." There is
a chronological index of all the personages and churches to whom
the Rose has been presented, from which I gather that this mark of
Apostolic favour has fallen to the lot of England five times in the
course of ages. The first was given to Henry IV., by Eugenius IV. The
second to Henry VIII., by Leo X. The third to Henry VIII., by Clement
VII. The fourth to Queen Mary, by Julius III. The fifth was sent to
Queen Henrietta, by Urban VIII., with a message to the effect, that
"since that kingdom had fallen from the faith by means of a woman[217]
meretriciously adorned with roses incarnadined by the polluted blood
of Venus, it might now be recalled and restored to the faith by a
royal lady of infinite piety, holily ornamented with this rose grown in
the odoriferous gardens of Holy Church, and watered by dews and streams
of the fructifying blood of martyrs!!"

It is strange that the only individual to whom the golden rose was ever
given a second time, was the most fatal enemy of the Church, Henry VIII.

8.—Page 133.

Crimson, scarlet, and purple were the favorite colours. Any fabric dyed
with these cost in the proportion of eighteen to twelve for stuffs
of other colours. Ducange ad voc. "Granum;" where he cites Rymer for
the above fact. Granum is the French "cramoisi;" Angl. "crimson;" but
Ducange seems uncertain whether the dye in question were cochineal, or
a vegetable product.

9.—Page 151.

Among the smaller punishments incurred by some of those more or
less implicated in these conspiracies, it is worth noting that one
well-to-do citizen was fined ninety lire, and all his household
furniture, estimated at fifty lire more. This sum may be probably
considered as equivalent to about £20 sterling at the present day, and
does not give a very favourable idea of the amount of domestic comfort
existing among the citizens. Another conspirator was fined an hundred
lire, and "all his rich and precious furniture was confiscated." In
this case the estimated value is not mentioned. But as the amount of
the fine is nearly the same, it is probable that the culprit belonged
to about the same sphere of society.

10.—Page 159.

The classical reader may, if curious in such matters, turn to
Muratori's columns for the strangely cynical, and wholly unreproducible
language, in which Infessura relates the incident. I have written
"classical," which is generally understood to mean Latin or Greek
readers. And a large portion of Infessura's chronicle is written in
very barbarous Latin. But portions, without any apparent reason for the
change, are written in Italian. And the passage in question occurs in
one of those portions.

11.—Page 190.

The narrative in the text follows the statement of Bonoli and Burriel,
which has also all the probabilities of the case to support it.
Other historians represent Catherine herself to have come out on the
ramparts, and to have turned a deaf ear to the piteous entreaties of
her children, that she would give up the fortress, and so save their
lives. Some of these writers also recount a tale, which suited as it
is to the taste of the vulgar for what is striking, coarsely coloured,
and gross, has become the most popularly known incident of Catherine's
career. When threatened with the immediate destruction of her children
before her eyes, she is said to have replied, in terms more coarse than
can be repeated here, that others might come whence those had come, and
to have accompanied the assertion by gestures yet more undescribable on
an English page.

There is every reason to believe that the whole of this story is an
invention. But it is an invention nearly contemporaneous with the
events; and, given as it is by its inventors by no means as a blameable
trait in the heroine's character, but rather as a proof of commendable
energy and vigorous courage, it is curious as an indication of the
prevailing manners and feelings of the period.

12.—Page 223.

"Pantaloons does not probably properly express the meaning of 'calze.'"
The chronicler means those elastic-knitted garments of silk or wool for
the lower half of the person, trowsers and stockings in one, which sat
tight to the limb, and the appearance of which is familiar to the eyes
of those acquainted with the pictures of the time, especially the great
festival paintings of the Venetian school.

13.—Page 264.

This very curious and interesting volume is the property of Signore
Pietro Bigazzi, mentioned in a previous note. It was written by
Lucantonio Cuppano, secretary to Catherine's son, Giovanni delle
Bandenere, who assures us that he copied it from the MS. in Catherine's
own hand.


1.—Page 293.

Guiliano Passeri, the author of the diary quoted in the text, was an
honest weaver, living by his art at Naples, in the time of Ferdinand of
Spain and Charles V. His work appears to have been composed wholly for
his own satisfaction and amusement. The entire work is written in the
form of a diary. But as the first entry records the coming of Alphonso
I. to Naples, on "this day the 26th February, 1443;" and the last
describes the funeral of the Marchese di Pescara, Vittoria's husband,
on the 12th May, 1526, it is difficult to suppose that these could have
been the daily jottings of one and the same individual, extending over
a period of 83 years, although it is _possible_ that they may have been
so. As the work ends quite abruptly, it seems reasonable to suppose
that it was carried on till the death of the writer. The probability
is, that the memorials of the earlier years are due to another pen. The
work is written in Neapolitan dialect, and concerns itself very little
with aught that passed out of Naples. It has all the marks of being
written by an eye-witness of the circumstances recorded. The accounts
especially of all public ceremonies, gala-doings, etc., are given in
great detail, and with all the gusto of a regular sight-seer. And the
book is interesting as a rare specimen of the writing and ideas of an
artisan of the 16th century.

It was printed in a 4to volume at Naples in 1785, and is rather rare.

2.—Page 319.

These false ducats gave rise, we are told, to the king's saying, that
his wife had brought him three gifts:—

  Faciem pictam,
  Monetam fictam,

to which the ungallant and brutal royal husband added another, the
statement of which ending in "strictam," is so grossly coarse, that
it cannot be repeated here, even with the partial veil of its Latin

3.—Page 332.

The translations of the sonnets in the text have been given solely with
the view of enabling those, who do not read Italian, to form some
idea of the subject-matter and mode of thought of the author, and
not with any hope or pretension of presenting anything that might be
accepted as a tolerable English sonnet. In many instances the required
continuation of the rhyme has not even been attempted. If it be asked,
why then were the translations not given in simple prose, which would
have admitted a yet greater accuracy of literal rendering?—it is
answered, that a translation so made would be so intolerably bald,
flat, and silly-sounding, that a still more unfavourable conception
of the original would remain in the English reader's mind than that,
which it is hoped may be produced by the more or less poetically cast
translations given. The originals, printed in every instance, will do
justice (if not more) to our poetess in the eyes of those acquainted
with her language, for the specimens chosen may be relied on as being
not unfavourable specimens. And many readers, probably, who might
not take the trouble to understand the original in a language they
imperfectly understand, may yet, by the help of the translation, if
they think it worth while, obtain a tolerable accurate notion of
Vittoria's poetical style.

4.—Page 379.

When Mr. Harford heard these letters read, the exceedingly valuable
and interesting museum of papers, pictures, drawings, etc. of Michael
Angelo, was the property of his lineal descendant, the late minister
of public instruction in Tuscany. When dying, he bequeathed this
exceedingly important collection to the "Communità," or corporation of
Florence. The Tuscan law requires that the notary who draws a will,
should do so _in the presence of the testator_. Unfortunately, on the
sick man complaining of the heat of the room, the notary employed to
draw this important instrument, retired, it seems, into the next room,
which, as a door was open between the two chambers, he conceived was
equivalent to being in presence of the testator, as required by law.
It has been decided, however, by the tribunals of Florence, that the
will was thus vitiated, and that the property must pass to the heirs at
law. An appeal still pending (September 1858) lies to a higher court;
but there is every reason to believe that the original judgment must be
confirmed. In the mean time, the papers, etc., are under the inviolable
seal of the law.

5.—Page 383.

The MS. of François de Holland, containing the notices of Vittoria
Colonna, given in the text, is to be found translated into French, and
printed in a volume entitled, "Les Arts en Portugal, par le Comte A.
Raczynski. Paris, 1846."

My attention was directed to the notices of Vittoria to be found in
this volume, by a review of M. Deumier's book on our poetess, by Signor
A. Reumont, inserted in the fifth volume of the new series of the
"Archivio Storico Italiano, Firenze, 1857," p. 138.

6.—Page 390.

The prayer written by Vittoria Colonna is as follows:—

"Da, precor, Domine, ut eâ animi depressione, quæ humilitati meæ
convenit, eâque mentis elatione, quam tua postulat celsitudo, te semper
adorem; ac in timore, quem tua incutit justitia, et in spe, quam tua
clementia permittit, vivam continue, meque tibi uti potentissimo
subjiciam, tanquam sapientissimo disponam, et ad te ut perfectissimum
et optimum convertar. Obsecro, Pater Pientissime, ut me ignis tuus
vivacissimus depuret, lux tua clarissima illustret, et amor tuus ille
sincerissimus ita proficiat ut ad te nullo mortalium rerum obice
detenta, felix redeam et secura."



  Ages of Faith,85

  Alexander VI., election of, 214
    receives Catherine as a prisoner courteously, 256
    accuses her of conspiring to poison him, 257
    his death, 262

  Alphonso of Naples abdicates,273

  Ammirato, the historian, his mention of Catherine, 27
    his account of Sforza's visit to Florence, 99

  Antonio, the painter, anecdote of, 159

  Apennines, travelling in, in the fifteenth century, 98

  Auditor of Forlì, his doubts, 224

  Avignon, restoration of the papacy from, 25


  Balatrone, C., servant of the Riarii, 257

  Bargello of Imola, 232
    his bargain with Catherine, _ib._

  Barlow, Dr. H. C., his letter on Fontebranda, 398

  Bassi Antonio, scene at his death–bed, 129

  Beatification, 9

  Benincasa Giacomo, 6

  Bentivoglio, Lord of Bologna, threatens the Forlivesi, 192

  Bigazzi, Signor Pietro, 398–407

  Biographer's duty, 269

  Bona, Duchess of Milan, 92

  Bona Sforza, Duchess, her trousseau, 317

  Bonaventura, Catherine of Siena's sister, miraculously punished, 36

  Borghese family refuse to admit the relationship to them of St.
  Catherine, 88

  Burlamacchi, father F., 18


  Calza, Compagnia della, at Venice, 113

  Candles, blessed by the Pope, as a safeguard in travelling, 134

  Cardona, Don Raymond di, reviews his army, 307

  Carnesecchi, the martyr, 361

  Carpi, Tommaso, Pope Alexander's chamberlain, 258

  "Carte de tendre," in the sixteenth century, 340

  Castellano, duties of, 208

  Cataleptic nature of Catherine's ecstasies, 23

  Catherine of Siena, her story puzzling, specially so from the
  recentness of its date, 2;
    her home described, 7;
    her bedchamber, 8;
    her family, 19;
    not well–looking, 20;
    her travels, 24
    her letters to Pope Urban, 27
    her brothers made citizens of Florence, 29
    did really restore the papacy to Rome, 30
    legendary nature of her biography, 32
    at five years old, 33
    her early austerities, 34
    her confessions, _ib._
    her fasting, 37
    her communications with our Saviour, 38
    earns to read by miracle, _ib._
    her marriage, 39
    her renewed heart, _ib._
    her visions, 40
    she is joked with by our Saviour, _ib._
    her charity to Christ in the disguise of a beggarman, 41
    she converts sinners, 43
    receives the stigmata, 47
    ministers to the sick, 49
    literary phase of her character, 51
    her Dialogue of Divine Doctrine, _ib._
    her prayers, 54
    her letters, 55
    miraculously taught to write, 58
    prayer by her in Tuscan verse, 62
    writes reproof to the Pope, 65
    her letter to Charles V. of France, 67
    how far was she sincere, 77
    her moral standard, 80
    her great value to the Dominicans, 82
    her influence still operative, 83
    her strength of character, 85
    her ambition, 86

  Cervino, Cardinal, Vittoria Colonna's letter to, 389

  Cesare Borgia, 241
    appears before Imola, 247
    makes triumphal entry into Forlì, 250
    parleys with Catherine, 251
    visits Catherine his prisoner, 254

  Cesena, troops brought from, against Forlì, 192

  Charles VIII. of France invades Italy, 217
    abandons Naples, 274
    death, 276

  Charles V. visits Vittoria Colonna, 351
    short–sighted in the matter of the Interim, 136
    anecdote of his reception by the Fuggers, 143
    in winter quarters at Innspruck, 169
    escapes to Villach, 170

  Chattel property, importance of, in fifteenth century, 140

  Christ appears to St. Catherine as a beggarman, 41

  Clan, solidarity in medieval Italy, 227

  Clare St., convent fire at, 297

  Cobelli Leon, the chronicler,144

  Codronchi Innocenzio; the seneschal seizes the fort Ravaldino, 177
    his strange conduct, 178

  Colonna, protonotary, persecution of, 161
    his tortures and death, 162

  Colonna, Cardinal, plundered, 161

  Colonna family, power, and wealth of, 279
    persecuted by Alexander VI., 285
    grants of land to them, 292
    at war with Pope Clement, 330
    Fabrizio, his political conduct, 290
    his death, 319

  Colonna Vittoria; her parents, 277
    eldest child, and not youngest, as the biographers say, 278
    betrothed to Pescara, 283
    educated by Duchessa di Francavilla, _ib._
    her beauty, 288
    presents received from, and made to her husband, 299
    her marriage, 300
    her honeymoon in Ischia, 301
    her epistle to her husband, 304
    continues childless, 306
    educates the Marchese del Vasto, _ib._
    her life in Ischia, 312
    sees her husband for the last time, 319
    Varchi's character of her, 323
    no trace of patriotic sentiment in her writings, 325
    her widowhood, 328
    retires to the convent of San Silvestro in Capite, 329
    returns to Ischia, 330
    character of her sonnets, 331
    specimens of them, 332
    her desire to die, 337
    her idea of her husband's goodness, 338
    what was the real nature of her sentiments towards her husband's
    memory, 339
    her purity of character, 340
    in Rome in 1530, 346
    her rambles in Rome, _ib._
    her intimacies, 350
    her religious poetry, 351
    visited by Charles V., _ib._
    visits Lucca and Ferrara, _ib._
    her protestant tendencies, 352
    welcomed to Ferrara by Ercole d'Este, _ib._
    thinks of visiting the Holy Land, 354
    returns to Rome, _ib._
    submissive to the church, 361
    her devotional sonnets, 369, _et seq._
    no moral sentiments in her poetry, 372
    absence of all patriotic feeling in her sonnets, 376
    arrives in Rome from Ferrara, 377
    opinions of her poetry by contemporary critics, _ib._
    her influence with Paul III., 378
    her friendship with Michael Angelo, _ib._
    goes to Orvieto, and returns to Rome, 382
    question of her orthodoxy, 383
    conversation with Michael Angelo, 387
    at Viterbo, 388
    her letter to Cervino, 389
    returns for the last time to Rome, 390
    Fracastoro consulted on her health, _ib._
    sorrows in her last days, 391
    her death, _ib._

  Colours, favourite, in fifteenth century, 406

  Confessional, Vittoria Colonna on, 365

  Contarini, his mission, and hopes of reconciliation, 354
    dedicates his work on Free Will to Vittoria Colonna, 378

  Contile, Luca, his visit to Vittoria Colonna, 382

  Convent–building, investment in, 172

  Conversation in the fifteenth century, 384

  Conversions operated by St. Catherine, 43

  Corio, his history of Milan, 400

  Corsi, Rinaldo, his commentary on Vittoria Colonna's poetry, 348

  Costume, female, in fifteenth century, 401

  Costume at Venice in the end of fifteenth century, 113

  Crucifixion, sonnet on, by Vittoria Colonna, 374

  Cuppani, L., copyist of Catherine's book of secrets, 264

  Cynicism of Catherine, 267

  Cynicism, singular instance of, 401

  Cyprian dresses, 124


  Della Crusca, Academy of, approves of St. Catherine's style, 64

  Despotism in Italy, its results, 239

  Divine doctrine, book of, by St. Catherine, 51
    specimen of, 53

  Dominican Order, St. Catherine devoted to, 80
    of important value to, 82, 87

  Dominican monks, Catherine of Siena's special reverence for, 34


  Ecstasies of St. Catherine, 21

  Ercolani Ludovico, Riano's butler, his faithful services after his
  master's murder, 182, _et seq._

  Ercole d'Este welcomes Vitt. Colonna to Ferrara, 352

  Ernest of Saxony arrives in Rome, 131
    honours shown him, 132

  Executions in Forlì, 201


  Faith, justification by, doctrine of, why obnoxious to the Catholic
  Church, 359

  Falsehood, St. Catherine guilty of, 79

  Famine at Rome, A.D. 1482, 155

  Felony in ermine, 147

  Feo, Tommaso, made Castellano of Ravaldino, 179
    his speech to the insurgents, 190
    turned out of his place, 209

  Feo, Giacomo, 207
    his marriage with Catherine, 210
    made Castellano, _ib._
    honours heaped on him, 211
    made Baron by the French King, 220
    his assassination, 221

  Ferdinand of Naples, death, 273

  Ferdinand II. of Naples, 274
    his death, 293

  Ferdinand of Spain, 275
    his entry into Naples, 295

  Ferrara, Court of, 351
    under its old Dukes, 33, _et seq._
    increase of, 35
    noted for its learned men, 37
    famine and pestilence in, 49
    Calvin at, 72
    Paul III's. visit to, 94
    curious alteration in the level of the soil, 97

  Finance difficulties of Catherine, 213

  Fleet, Roman, blessing of the, 139

  Florence employs Catherine as a negotiator, 26
    Galeazzo Sforza'sjourney to, 97
    at war with Pisa,240

  Fontebranda fountain, 5

  Forlì, city of, 127
    gala on the arrival of the new sovereigns, 143
    situated between two armies, 217
    importance of the belligerents, 219

  Forlivesi, maltreated by Borgia's soldiers, 251

  Fortresses in Italian mediæval cities, their importance, 196

  Fracastoro, his letter on Vittoria Colonna's health, 390

  Francavilla, Duchessa di, 283

  Franciscans claim monopoly of the miracle of the stigmata, 48

  Frederick of Aragon in Ischia, 294

  Funeral of Giacomo Feo, 229

  Furniture, household, value of, in fifteenth century, 406


  Gambara, Veronica, her estimate of Vittoria Colonna, 377

  Gianantonio di Parma, anecdote of, 157

  Giberto, Cardinal, invites Vitt. Colonna to Verona, 353
    his letter to Cardinal Bembo, _ib._

  Giovanna d'Aragona, 346

  Giovanni de' Medici, 235
    his death, 237

  Guicciardini, on the state of Italy in 1494, 90
    his estimate of good times in Italy, 216


  Harford, Mr., his account of Vitt. Colonna's letter to Michael Angelo,

  Haters, the Italians great, 238

  Heart, Catherine of Siena's change of, 39

  Hunting party near Rome, 133


  Imola, city of, 95

  Influence, the secret, of St. Catherine, 83

  Infessura Stefano, his chronicle, 399

  Innocent VIII., will have nothing to do with the Forlì insurgents,
    simoniacal election of, 170

  Ischia, Isle of, early home of Vitt. Colonna, 286
    Vitt. Colonna's life in, 312
    knot of poets there, _ib._


  Jesting, between our Saviour and St. Catherine, 40

  Jew invited to settle in Forlì, 214

  Journey, day for, indicated by the planets, 139
    in the fifteenth century, 140

  Jubilee at Forlì, 215
    proceeds of, 216

  Jubilee year, 1500, 293

  Jurisprudence, mediæval, specimen of, 259


  Knighthood inimical to patriotism, 291


  Lampugnani, G. A., assassin of the Duke, 117

  Landriano, John Peter, 91

  Lapa, St. Catherine's mother, her death, 45

  Leon Cobelli, his fault and imprisonment, 207
    his lamentations over the body of G. Feo, 223

  Letters of St. Catherine, 55
    no originals of them extant, 56
    written during trance, 62
    high reputation of these letters, 63
    to Charles V. of France, 67
    subject of that letter, 75

  Literature, safe, for the millions, 17

  Litta, his opinion of Catherine, 225

  Litters for crossing the Apennines, 97

  Lord of misrule in Forlì, 252

  Lorenzo de' Medici, his reply to the insurgent Forlivesi, 193

  Louis XII. of France, his proposal to Ferdinand of Spain, 276

  Love–poetry of the sixteenth century, 344

  Love, woman's, should not survive esteem, 342

  Lucca, Protestant tendencies of, 352

  Ludovico il Moro, 272

  Luxury, increase of, 229


  Macchiavelli in Forlì, 244

  Magnani, Bishop, his rule at Forlì, 154

  Maimbourg's testimony to Catherine's influence in restoring the papacy
  to Rome, 29

  Malatesta, Robert, death of, 155
    suspicions respecting it, 156

  Manfredi, Tadeo, lord of Imola, 95
    Guidazzo, his son,96

  Mansion family, an Italian noble's feeling about, 202

  Mantellate of St. Domenico, 19

  Mantua, Marchioness of, visits the Spanish army, 308

  Manual for confessors, 49

  Marino, description of, 280

  Medals of Vitt. Colonna, 328
    the last struck in her lifetime, 381

  Michael Angelo, his friendship with Vitt. Colonna, 378
    his disposition and temperament, _ib._
    influenced by Vitt. Colonna, 379
    in the church of San Silvestro, 386
    with Vitt. Colonna in her last moments, 391
    present fate of papers and memorials left by, 409

  Milan, wealth of, 90

  Ministry to the sick, St. Catherine's, 49

  Miracles recorded of St. Catherine, specimens only can be given, 33
    miraculous conversions wrought by her, 45
    of the stigmata, 47
    many may be explained, 79

  Molza, the poet, 346

  Montano Cola and his pupils, 99

  Morality of some of St. Catherine's actions, 49
    low, in Vitt. Colonna's poetry, 373

  Morone, minister of the Duke of Milan, 321
    entrapped by Pescara, 324

  Murate convent, 263

  Muratori's testimony to her influence in restoring the papacy to Rome,

  Mussis de Johannes, his curious chronicle of ancient Placentian manners,


  Naldi, Dionigi; Castellano at Imola, 247

  Naples, cause of quarrel with Milan, 273
    rapid changes of government, 275
    finally falls under power of Spain, 277

  New year's eve festival, 252

  Nitre, bought for Florence in Pesaro, 246


  Ochino, Bernardino, 316

  Olanda di Francesco, his record of conversations with Vitt. Colonna,
  383, _et seq._

  Olgiato, G., assassin of the Duke, 117
    his execution, 118

  Oratory of divine love, 356

  Ordelaffi, family of the, 127
    conspiracies in favour of, 151
    favoured by the Forlivesi, 152

  Orsi, Ludovico, accomplice in Riario's murder, 183

  Orsi, the father of the above, his experience of revolutions, 191
    his palace razed, 201
    he is put to death, 202

  Orsi, Checco, his quarrel with Riario, 180
    he murders Riario, 181
    his reply to the Duke of Milan, 195
    determines to murder Catherine's children, 198
    fails, and quits Forlì, _ib._

  Orthodoxy of Vitt. Colonna, 375

  Ottaviano Riario, general in the service of Florence, 244

  Oudin, Father Casimir, his doubts as to St. Catherine's authorship, 52


  Pace, Pietro de, his adventure, 296

  Pansecco, L., assassin of Riario, 182

  Papal infallibility, doctrine of, dear to Italian minds, 367

  Papire Masson, his high estimate of St. Catherine's letters, 65

  Paradise, Catherine Sforza's, 231
    difficulty of paying for it, _ib._

  Pasquinades on Cardinal Riario, 400

  Passeri, the weaver, Neapolitan diarist, 408

  Patriotism has no place in Vitt. Colonna's poetry, 376

  Paul II., Pope, 102

  Paul III. Pope, 349
    creates several good cardinals, 350
    makes war on the Colonnas, 381
    his conduct respecting his son, ii. 42
    his character, 79
    waits in vain near Canossa for Charles V., 93
    visits Ferrara, 94
    his death, 114

  Pazzi conspiracy,135

  Pescara, Ferdinand, Marquis of, 287
    joins the army, 301
    made prisoner, 303
    complimented by Isabella of Aragon, _ib._
    his Dialogo d'amore, 304
    his character, 309
    anecdote of his cruelty, 310
    last interview with his wife, 319
    his cruelty, 320
    his treachery and infamy, 321
    his Spanish predilections, 325
    rewarded for his infamy, 327
    his death, _ib._

  Petrarchism in the sixteenth century, 343

  Phœnix burning in Italy, 271

  Piccolomini, Don Alfonso, his marriage, 315

  Pio Nono, anecdote of, 89

  Platonism of the sixteenth century, 339

  Poland, King of, marriage festivities of, in Naples, 313

  Pole, Cardinal, his influence on Vitt. Colonna, 388

  Political intrigues in Italy, 1481, 146

  Politics, Italian, in the fifteenth century, 93

  Popes, good and bad, succeed in sets, 103

  Pozzuoli, caverns of, 296

  Prayers by St. Catherine, 54

  Protestant tendencies of Vitt. Colonna, 352

  Pyramus and Thisbe medal, 348


  Ravaldino, fortress of, at Forlì, 172

  Ravenna, rout of, 303

  Raymond of Capua, 9
    becomes General of the Dominicans, 10
    his Life of St. Catherine, 11
    specimens of that work, 14
    his proof of Catherine's miraculous powers, 22
    his assertion of a miracle, 31
    bequeathes two volumes of Catherine's letters, 57
    his insincerity, 81

  Reading, learned by Catherine of Siena, by miracle, 38

  Reformers in Italy, 357

  Renaissance, women of the, vi
    little available as models for imitation, vii
    wars of the, in Italy, ignoble in their nature, 291

  Revolution, striking proneness to, in mediæval Italian cities, 226

  Riario, Girolamo, 106
    made citizen of Rome, 127
    invested with lordship of Forlì, _ib._
    made general of the Roman forces, 128
    contriver of the Pazzi conspiracy, 136
    his wealth, 141
    his reasons for quitting Rome, 142
    remits tax on corn, 144
    his extensive architectural undertakings, 145, 172
    his visit to Venice, 146
    is dissatisfied with the results of it, 150
    returns to Imola, 150
    returns to Rome, 152
    marches against the Neapolitans, 153
    his savage conduct to the Protonotary Colonna, 161
    in difficulty after the Pope's death, 167
    returns to Forlì, 169
    confirmed in his possessions and offices by Innocent VIII., 170
    his difficult position, 171
    finds himself a poor man, 172
    has a hard life, 174
    his dangerous illness, 176
    his death, 181

  Riario, Peter, Cardinal, his preferments, 105
    his pomp, 107
    his rivalry with Galeazzo Sforza, 107
    his visit to Milan, 108
    his visit to Venice, 112
    his death, 114
    his epitaph, 115

  Riario family is founded, 166
    present family, ancestor of, 173

  Rohan, Cardinal de, anecdote of his death and burial, 156

  Roman history, dangerous reading, 99, 117

  Rome, life in, A.D. 1480–90, 128, 130
    hunting party near, 133
    life in, A.D. 1482, 155
    riots in, 160
    anarchy in, at the death of Pope Sixtus, 168

  Rome's feudal dues, 241

  Ronchi, G., assassin of Riario, 182
    threatens Catherine, 187

  Rose, Golden, to what English sovereigns sent, 405

  Rosmini, his history of Milan, 400


  Sadoleto obtains a bull to prevent Vitt. Colonna from taking the veil,

  St. Angelo, castle of, anecdote of an escape from, 157

  Salt–tax occasions war between the Colonna and Paul III., 381

  Salviati, Archbishop, hung at Florence, 135

  Santi, Gismondo, murder of, 322

  Santo Spirito, church of, burned down, 101

  Savelli, Cardinal, invited to Forlì by the insurgents, 185
    his interview with Catherine, 186
    is duped by Catherine, 190
    his reply to the Lord of Bologna, 192
    finds himself in difficulty, 194
    forges a bull, _ib._

  Schismatic Pope, important consequences of, 75

  Secrets, Catherine's volume of wonderful, 264

  Sforza, Galeazzo Maria, 91
    his journey to Florence, 97
    his pleasures, 109
    his death, 117
    his character, 119

  Sforza, Catherine, born 91
    legitimation of her, 95
    projects of marriage, 95
    accompanies her father to Florence, 97
    negotiations for her marriage with Girolamo Sforza, 111
    her marriage in danger, 116
    her marriage, 121
    her entry into Rome, 123
    her personal appearance, _ib._
    her residence in Rome, 125
    her influence with Sixtus IV., 126
    whether guilty of the Pazzi conspiracy, 137
    her three elder children, 138
    her entry into Forlì, 142
    her questionable happiness, 154
    her energetic conduct after the Pope's death, 167
    her younger children, 173
    a helpful wife to her husband, 175
    her character, 176
    visits Milan, _ib._
    nurses her husband in his illness, 177
    her night–ride to Forlì, 178
    recovers possession of Ravaldino, 179
    birth of her sixth child, 180
    her first steps on learning the murder of her husband, 185
    is imprisoned by the Orsi, 186
    is threatened by the insurgents, 187
    succeeds in obtaining permission to enter the castle, 189
    her clemency, 199
    her graciousness in the hour of triumph, 200
    her virile energy, 204
    marriage projected for her, 205
    her anger thereat, 206
    lures the Castellano out of Ravaldino, 209
    orders a man to the rack for speaking of her marriage with Feo, 210
    conduct to her children, 211
    decides on allying herself with Naples, 219
    breaks that alliance, _ib._
    conduct after the murder of Feo, 224
    doubts as to her innocence of Feo's murder, 225
    what she thanked God for, 226
    her vengeance, 227
    builds a new palace and gardens, 230
    how she finds the money to pay for them, 232
    her third marriage, 234
    her posterity by this marriage, 236
    her trade in soldiers, 240
    deposed by Alexander VI., 241
    her recruiting, 242
    negotiations with Macchiavelli, 245
    her conference with her subjects, 248
    batters Forlì, 249
    is taken prisoner, 253
    taken to Rome, 255
    accused of conspiracy to poison the Pope, 257
    confined in St. Angelo, 260
    released by interference of French king, 262
    goes to Florence, _ib._
    retires to the Murate, _ib._
    her volume of wonderful secrets, 264
    her moral and intellectual condition, 268
    her death, 270
    apocryphal story of, 407

  Siena, description of, 3

  Silvestro San, in Capite, Vitt. Colonna retires thither,329
    church of, party in, 385

  Sixtus IV., Pope, 102
    his lineage, 103
    his character, 104
    whether guilty of the Pazzi conspiracy, 136
    his designs on Ferrara, 153
    his fraudulent granaries, 155
    his violence to the court of the Rota, 158
    condemns a painter to death, 159
    implacability towards the Colonna, 161
    his despair at the conclusion of peace, 164
    and death, 165

  Sleep, St. Catherine's abstinence from, 78

  Soldiers, trade in, by little princes of Italy, 240

  Sonnets, theological, of Vitt. Colonna, 362, _et seq._
    character of, 332
    specimen of Vitt. Colonna's, 333, _et seq._

  Stella, Catherine's sister, her marriage, 193

  Stigmata, miracle of the, 47


  Tapestry belonging to Ferdinand I., 297

  Tasso, Bernardo, his sonnet on the society in Ischia, 313

  Taxation, unequal, 231
    applied to give alms to ruined taxpayers, 233

  Tiraboschi, his opinion of Vittoria's orthodoxy, 361

  Tolentino, Francesco, governor of Forlì, 151

  Toll–bars, Catherine's, 212
    failure of them, 213

  Torelli, Onorato, 95

  Trissino, Giangiorgio, letter to him from Vitt. Colonna, 353
  Tyrants, occasional impotence of, 158


  Ughelli, Abate, his testimony to Catherine's influence, 29


  Valdez, Juan, reformer, 357

  Varchi, Bened., his character of Vitt. Colonna, 323

  Vasto, Marchese del, educated by Vitt. Colonna, 306
    death of, 391

  Venice, festivities at, 148

  Verri, his history of Milan, 400
    his sentiments on the assassination of Duke Sforza, 119

  Vigne, delle, Pietro, 10

  Virgin, sonnet to, by Vitt. Colonna, 375

  Virgin della Bruna, carried from Naples to Rome, 294

  Visconti, extinction of, in Milan, 91

  Visconti, C., assassin of the Duke, 117

  Visconti, Pietro, recent editor of Vitt. Colonna's works, 278


  Woman, her social position a test of civilisation, v
    woman's love should not outlive esteem, 342

  Works, good; what sort the church requires, 360

  Writing, art of, miraculously acquired by St. Catherine, 58


  Zocchejo, Melchior, Castellano of Ravaldino, his character, 177
    his death, _ib._

                      END OF VOLUME I.



  [1] See Note.

  [2] Quetif et Echard, Script. Ord. Præd., tom. i. p. 679.

  [3] "Eique cœlitus datus est a confessionibus et
  divinorum secretorum conscius."—Quetif et Echard, Script.
  Ord. Præd., tom. i. p. 679.

  [4] Among others, the writer refers to a life of St.
  Catherine, by Pietro Aretino. That most versatile of
  literary scamps did, indeed, write such a work; but it is
  the life of an altogether different St. Catherine!

  [5] Vita di Cat., vol. i. p. 19.

  [6] It may be noted for the unlearned reader, that, though
  _catholic_ signifies _universal_, _catha_ has no such sense.

  [7] Vita di Cat., vol. i. p. 46.

  [8] "Vi contentiate di farmi una grazia si grande."

  [9] It may be just mentioned, for the benefit of the
  English reader, that the name Catherine, as may be seen
  from any dictionary, is derived from the Greek adjective
  signifying "pure."

  [10] Vita di Cat., vol. i. p. 81.

  [11] Vita di Cat., vol. i. p. 114.

  [12] _Ibid._, vol. i. p. 153.

  [13] That is, by the hand of her secretary; of which more

  [14] There is a letter from her to the war commissioners
  in Florence, written from Avignon, 28th of June, 1376, ten
  days after her arrival there, in which she speaks of an
  interview she had had with the Pope on this subject. It is
  the 197th letter of the collection.

  [15] Ammirato, Istorie Fiorentine, vol. v. p. 130. Edit.
  Florence, 1824.

  [16] The "otto della guerra;" a committee of eight,
  appointed to carry on the war.

  [17] Ammirato, vol. v. p. 133.

  [18] Muratori, Annali, ad ann. 1376.

  [19] Hist. du grand Schis. d'Occid., lib. i. p. 11.

  [20] Ughelli, Ital. Sacra, vol. i. col. 45.

  [21] Burlamacchi, Epis., vol. i. p. 92.

  [22] That is, not only of such things as have occurred
  since the last confession, but of all the sins of a

  [23] Supplement. di Script. Eccl., p. 649. Paris, 1686.

  [24] Dialogo, etc. Op. di Son Cat., vol. iv. p. 30.

  [25] The report of the investigation, which took place on
  occasion of her canonization, in 1411. This Caffarini was
  one of her disciples.

  [26] This was the Beato Stefano Maconi, one of the
  amanuenses of the Saint.

  [27] The Dialogue, of which an account has been given.

  [28] The original is also printed at the end of the volume,
  for the examination of those who might think that the
  translation unfairly represented its merits.

  [29] This phrase, "with the desire to see in you," occurs
  in the same position and construction in nearly every

  [30] I translate literally. The sense would seem to be, "or
  if it does so, it does so only," &c.

  [31] It is curious to observe the mind perverted by the
  church doctrine of self-abnegation to such a point as to
  become incapable of seeing that human nature cannot be more
  Godlike than when it does justice "for its own natural

  [32] This phrase, "open the eye of your mind," occurs with
  wearisome repetition in Catherine's writings.

  [33] The expression in the original is, "lie over their

  [34] That is to say, whom they pretended to have elected,
  in order to quiet the populace, who insisted on having a
  Roman Pope. They _did_ elect the Archbishop of Bari; but
  gave out that they had elected the Cardinal of St. Peter,
  intending that to be believed only till they could leave
  the Conclave and get into safety.

  [35] The favours, that is to say, begged of Urban, who of
  course could grant none such, if he were not Pope. It is
  in truth clear enough, that the excuses of those Cardinals
  who deserted the party of Urban, were mere afterthoughts.
  They deemed him truly enough elected, till they found that
  they had given themselves a severer master than they had
  reckoned on.

  [36] The construction of this sentence is defective in the
  original; "truth" in the singular being the nominative case
  to the two verbs, which are in the plural, as if governed
  by "servants of God."

  [37] The Saint is wrong here, in matter of fact. More
  than one recognised saint was of the party of Clement,
  afterwards definitively judged by the Church to have been
  an anti-Pope. Burlamacchi is sadly gravelled by this
  awkward fact, and labours hard in his note on the passage
  to show that the saints of Clement's party were not warm
  partisans in his favour; but if _our_ saint is right, they
  must have been damned.

  [38] The context would seem to require "ye" in place of
  "we" here. I translate the phrase as I find it. Burlamacchi
  has no remark on the passage.

  [39] She alludes to the Sorbonne.

  [40] That is, the French cardinals, who took part against
  Urban. It should seem as if some such phrase as "tolerate
  them" were left out after the words "otherwise not."

  [41] Burlamacchi remarks, that this passage seems to
  indicate that Catherine had an intention of going to Paris.

  [42] This last phrase forms the conclusion of every one of
  the Saint's letters.

  [43] Lib. i. cap. i.

  [44] Vita di Caterina Sforza, dall'Abate Antonio Burriel,
  3 vols. 4to. Bologna, 1795. Burriel was a Spanish priest;
  and his work, which I shall frequently have occasion to
  quote, is not deficient in research and painstaking, though
  it is the production of a thorough-going partisan, and one
  perfectly imbued with the opinion, that not only kings, but
  all royal and noble persons, whether mitred or coroneted,
  can do no wrong.

  [45] Guicciardini, lib. i. cap. i.

  [46] Burriel, lib. i. cap. i.

  [47] Corio, Historia di Milano, ad ann. 1471.

  [48] Verri, Storia di Milano, cap. xviii. Corio, all'anno
  1471. Rosmini, Istoria di Milano, vol. iii. p. 19. This
  learned, accurate, and trustworthy History of Milan, was
  printed in that city in four vols. 4to, 1820.

  [49] Burriel, vol. i. p. 27.

  [50] Ammirato, Istorie Fiorentine, lib. xxiii., Gonf. 1079.

  [51] Ammirato, lib. xxiii., Gonf. 1006.

  [52] Note 1.

  [53] Du Plessis Mornai, Mystère d'Iniquité, p. 555, _et

  [54] Article sixte iv.

  [55] Corio, the contemporary annalist of Milan, writes:
  "_Hebbe due che egli chiamava Nipoti._"—Istor. Mil.
  p. 974. "Secundo che ciascuno credeva, erano suoi
  figliúoli."—Machiavelli, St. lib. vii.

  [56] Papiensis Cardinalis Epis., 548. Diario di Ste.
  Infissura, p. 1144.

  [57] See Note 2.

  [58] Note 3.

  [59] Gioviano Pontano, in the first chapter of his book,
  "De Splendore."

  [60] Burriel, lib. i. cap. iii. p. 21.

  [61] Vitæ Pontif. et Card. in vita Petri, "sublimes
  spiritus et imperio idoneos induit."

  [62] Ferrario, Costumiere, vol. viii. p. 314.

  [63] Infessura says, without intimating any doubt, "fu
  atossicato,"—"he was poisoned," but he does not say by
  whom. Rer. Ital. Script., tom. iii. par. 2, p. 1144.

  [64] Ist. Mil., p. 976.

  [65] See note 4.

  [66] Rosmini, vol. iii. p. 34.

  [67] Verri, Ist. Mil., chap. xviii.

  [68] Note 5.

  [69] "Questo mondo è dei solleciti."

  [70] Filippo da Bergamo: "Est quippe hæc Catarina inter
  mulieres nostri sæculi formosissima, et eleganti aspectu,
  ac per omnes corporis artus mirificè ornata est." Bernardi,
  her personal attendant for many years, writes that she was
  "molto formosa del suo corpo."

  [71] Paolo Bonoli, Storia di Forlì, 2 vols. 1826; vol. ii.
  p. 211.

  [72] Cardinal Bibbiena to Giuliano de Medici.

  [73] Note 6.

  [74] Clement XII., A.D. 1730.

  [75] Paul III., A.D. 1534.

  [76] Vita di Catarina, lib. i. chap. iv. p. 31.

  [77] Bernardi. p. 429.

  [78] Infessura, apud Muratori, tom. iii. part ii. p. 1146.

  [79] Rer. Ital. Scrip. Muratori, tom. xxiii. p. 111.

  [80] Ap. Muratori, Rer. Ital. Scrip., tom. xxiii. p. 112.

  [81] Jacobus Volaterranus, Rer. Ital. Scrip., tom. xxiii.
  p. 109.

  [82] Jac. Volat, Rer. Ital. Scrip., tom. xxiii. p. 104.

  [83] Note 7.

  [84] Note 8.

  [85] Rer. Ital. Scrip., tom. iii. par. ii. p. 1146.

  [86] Rer. Ital. Scrip., tom, xxiii. p. 137.

  [87] Bonoli, p. 213.

  [88] Jac. Volter., Rer. Ital. Scrip., tom. xxiii. p. 140.

  [89] Burriel, p. 50.

  [90] Jac. Volter., Rer. Ital. Scrip., tom. xxiii. p. 140.

  [91] Burriel, p. 51.

  [92] Vecchiazzani, Historia di Forlimpopoli (Rimini, 1647),
  vol. ii. p. 153; Bonoli, Storia di Forlì, p. 210.

  [93] Bonoli, p. 213; Burriel, p. 54.

  [94] Burriel, p. 52.

  [95] Alberghetti, Storia della Città d'Imola, p. 251.

  [96] Burriel, p. 55.

  [97] Burriel, p. 75.

  [98] Rer. Ital. Script., tom., xxiii. p. 242.

  [99] Printed by Fabroni, in his life of Lorenzo, from the
  original in the Florentine archives.

  [100] Note 9.

  [101] Burriel, p. 103.

  [102] Il Notario di Nantiporto. Ap. Rer. Ital. Script.,
  tom. iii. par. 2, p. 1183.

  [103] Rer. Ital. Script., tom. iii. par. 2, p. 1183.

  [104] Not. di Nantiporto. Ap. Rer. Ital. Script., tom. iii.
  par. 2, p. 1183.

  [105] Notario di Nantiporto. Rer. Ital. Script., tom. iii.
  par. 2, p. 1087.—Infessura, same volume, p. 1178.

  [106] Note 10.

  [107] Notario di Nantiporto. Rer. Ital. Script., tom. iii
  p. 2, p. 1084.

  [108] Infessura, tom. iii., por. ii. p. 1163.

  [109] Tom. iii. por. ii. p. 1170.

  [110] 12th of August, 1484.

  [111] Infessura, tom. iii. por. ii. p. 1185.

  [112] Burriel, p. 121.

  [113] Burriel, p. 137.

  [114] Burriel, p. 169.

  [115] Marchesi, Storia di Forlì, lib. ix. p. 554.

  [116] Bernardi, Lastri Forlìvesi, p. 117.

  [117] Burriel, p. 174.

  [118] Burriel, p. 239; Bonoli, p. 235; Vecchiazzani, vol.
  ii. p. 164; Alberghetti, p. 254; Infessura apud Murat.,
  tom. iii. por. ii. p. 1219.

  [119] For the account of the following interesting passages
  of Catherine's life, the authorities are Burriel, lib.
  ii. cap. v. vi. vii.; Alberghetti, p. 255, _et seq._;
  Vecchiazzani, vol. ii. p. 164, _et seq._; and Bonoli, lib.
  x. The last is on this occasion the best, and has been
  chiefly followed in the text.

  [120] Note 11.

  [121] Burriel, p. 430; Bonoli, vol. ii. p. 260.

  [122] Burriel, p. 431.

  [123] Burriel, p. 450.

  [124] Burriel, p. 446.

  [125] Burriel, lib. ii. cap. xviii.

  [126] Burriel, p. 492.

  [127] Guicciardini, lib. i.; Bonoli, vol. ii. p. 270.

  [128] Burriel, p. 579.

  [129] Bonoli, vol. ii. p. 274; Burriel, p. 579;
  Vecchiazzani, vol. ii. p. 187.

  [130] Cobelli, p. 277.

  [131] Note 12.

  [132] Burriel, p. 582.

  [133] Litta. Famig. de' Medici.

  [134] Burriel, lib. iii. chap. ii.

  [135] Burriel, p. 629.

  [136] Bonoli, vol. ii. p. 277.

  [137] Burriel, p. 673.

  [138] Opere di Macchiavelli. Italia. 1813, vol. vi. p. 7.

  [139] Burriel, p. 725.

  [140] Burriel, p. 760.

  [141] Bernardi, p. 410.

  [142] Burriel, p. 783.

  [143] Burriel, p. 817.

  [144] Fabio Oliva.

  [145] Vecchiazzani, vol. ii. p. 203.

  [146] Burriel, p. 823.

  [147] Girlhood of Cat. de' Medici, cap. 10.

  [148] Note 13.

  [149] Storia di Nap., lib, i. cap. 1.

  [150] He speaks, indeed, (p. 236) of Sciarra as a brother
  of Ascanio: adding, that he was illegitimate.

  [151] Coppi, Mem. Col., p. 269.

  [152] Which is the truly wonderful assertion of M. le Fevre
  Deumier, in his little volume entitled "Vittoria Colonna;"
  Paris, 1856, p. 7.

  [153] As it would appear they must have been, from the
  dates given above to show that Vittoria must have been
  their first child.

  [154] Coppi Mem. Col., p. 228.

  [155] Coppi. Mem. Col., p. 243.

  [156] Book v. chap. ii.

  [157] Book xvii. chaps. iii. and iv.

  [158] Giovio, Vita del Mar. di Pescara, Venice, 1557, p. 14.

  [159] Visconti, Rimi di Vit. Col., p. 39. See portrait
  prefixed to this volume.

  [160] Coppi, Mem. Col., p. 249.

  [161] Note 1.

  [162] Passeri, p. 122.

  [163] Passeri, p. 126.

  [164] Passeri, p. 146.

  [165] Passeri, p. 151.

  [166] Passeri, p. 152.

  [167] Passeri, p. 162.

  [168] Giovio, Bp. of Como, Life of Pescara, book i.

  [169] Filocalo, MS. Life of Pescara, cited by Visconti, p.

  [170] Giovio, lib. i.

  [171] Visconti, p. 77.

  [172] Passeri, p. 197.

  [173] Passeri, p. 326.

  [174] Passeri, p. 234.

  [175] See Note 2.

  [176] Ist. Ital., lib. xvi. cap. 4.

  [177] Varchi, Storia Fiorentina, vol. i. p. 88, edit.
  Firenze, 1843.

  [178] Varchi, p. 89.

  [179] Lettere de Principi, vol. i. p. 87. See Letters from
  Giberto to Gismondo Santo, and to Domenico Sanli.

  [180] Storia, lib. xvii. chap. iv.

  [181] Guicciardini, lib. xvii. chap. iv.

  [182] Vita, lib. i.

  [183] Contemporary copy of the Act of Accusation, cited by
  Visconti, p. ci.

  [184] See Note 3.

  [185] See advertisement "ai lettori" of Rinaldo's Corso's
  edition of the sonnet. Venice, 1558.

  [186] Madame Lamaze, Études sur Trois Femmes Celèbres;
  Paris, 1848, p. 41.

  [187] Lettere di Bembo vol. i. p. 115, ed. 1560.

  [188] Edit., Serassi pp. 14, 15, 37, 40.

  [189] Mem. per la St. di Ferrara. di Antonio Frizzi, vol.
  iv. p. 333.

  [190] Vita., p. cxiii.

  [191] Letter dated 11th September 1537, from Bembo's
  Correspondence cited by Visconti, p. cxv.

  [192] Visconti, p. cxiv.

  [193] Visconti, p. cxvi.

  [194] He left Rome 11th November, 1538. Letter from
  Contarini to Pole, cited by Ranke. Austin's transl., vol.
  i. p. 152.

  [195] Caracciolo, Vita di Paolo 4, MS. Ranke, Popes, vol.
  i. p. 136, edit. cit.

  [196] Ranke. ed. cit., vol. i. p. 217.

  [197] Ed. cit., vol. i. p. 138.

  [198] Bembo, Opere, vol. iii. p. 65.

  [199] Opere, ed. Ven., p. 164.

  [200] Annales, ad. ann. 1540.

  [201] Visconti, p. 123.

  [202] See Harford's Michael Angelo, vol. ii. p. 148, _et

  [203] Note 4.

  [204] Harford's Michael Angelo, vol. ii. p. 158.

  [205] Coppi. Mem. Col., p. 306.

  [206] Especially Adriani, Storia di suoi tempi.

  [207] Visconti, p. cxxvii.

  [208] Contile, Lettere, p. 19; Venice, 1564.

  [209] Note 5.

  [210] Visconti, p. cxxxi. Printed also by Tiraboschi, vol.

  [211] Note 6.

  [212] Lettere del Tolomei. Venezia, 1578.

  [213] Visconti, p. cxxxiv.

  [214] Condivi. Vita.

  [215] See also, in support of the view taken in the text,
  "Historia di Forlimpopoli, di Matteo Vecchiazzani."
  Forlimpopoli, 1647. Page 140. Also, "Compendio della Storia
  della Città d'Imola; da Giuseppe Alberghetti." Imola, 1810.
  Page 248-9.

  [216] The words in the original are "paludamentum" and
  "soccam" on neither of which does Ducange throw any
  satisfactory light.

  [217] Anne Boleyn, whom Rome always deems to have been the
  sole cause of England's heresy.

                          TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES

-Plain text and punctuation errors fixed.

-The index in this e-book was not present in the original book, it has
 been copied from the second volume.

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