« PredošláPokračovať »
See,” said the old man,
or rather in the
betrayed Him.” At this the Greek visibly winced, then paled and flushed, and said, “Well, what is the next
SARCOPHAGUS NOW IN LATERAN MUSEUM.
"That is part of the same," said the sculptor, with evideut pride in his work. “It represents our Lord, guarded by a Roman soldier, witnessing a good confession before Pontius Pilate. In the central niche are two soldiers, types of the Chris
tian warriors, whose only place of safety is beneath the cross; while above are the wreath of victory, the doves of peace, and the sacred monogram, made up, I need not tell you, who are a Greek, of the two first letters of the word Christos. To the left you observe a Roman soldier, putting on Jesus the crown of thorns, and in the last, Simon the Cyrenian, guarded by a soldier, bearing His cross.
“And for whom are all these funeral tablets," suid Isidorus, pointing to a number of slabs partly executed—some with the engraved outline of a dove, or fish, or anchor, or olive branch upon them-leaning against the wall.
"For whom God pleases," said the old man, devoutly. “I keep them ready to suit purchasers, and then I have only to fill the name and age, or date.”
“But see here,” said the Greek, touching with his foot one on which were effigies of Castor and Pollux, the "great twin brethren” of the Roman mythology, and the letters, “DIS MANIBVS---To the Divine Spirits ;” “this is a pagan inscription. How come you to use that ?”
“Oh, we turn up such slabs by scores, in
* This sarcophagus, with many others resembling it the writer studied minutely in the Lateran Museum at Rome.
ploughing the fields hereabout. They may be hundreds of years old, for aught I know. We just turn that side to the wall, or deface it with a few strokes of the chisel."
“It was a prentice hand that made that, I'll be bound," said the Greek, pointing to one on which was rudely painted in black pigment, the sprawling inscription that follows, no two letters being the same size
LOCVSA VGVSTIsv ToRis.
“The Place of Augustus, the Shoemaker.”
“Oh, that is the epitaph of a poor cobbler. I iet my boys do that for nothing. They will soon be able to do better. Here now is one by my oldest son, of which I would not be ashamed myself;" and he pointed to a neatly-cut inscription, the letters coloured with a bright vermillion pigment, which ran thus,
BENIGNISSIMAE ET INCOMPARABILI FEMINAE
“ Aurelius Optatus, to his most innocent wise, Aurelia Theudosia, a most gracious and incomparable woman.”
“We will now, if you are sufficiently cool,". he went on, “enter the catacomb. It is not well to make too sudden a transition from this sultry heat to their chilly depths."
“Thanks," said the young man, “I shall find the change from this sultry air, I doubt not, very agreeable;" and they crossed a vineyard under a blazing sun, that made the cool crypts exceedingly grateful. Descending the stairway, the guide took from a niche a small terra-cotta lamp, which he carefully trimmed and lit at another, which was always kept burning there.*
“Is there not danger of losing one's way in this labyrinth ?” asked the Greek, feeling no small degree of the terror of his late adventure returning
“Very great danger, indeed,” replied Hilarus, “unless you know the clue and marks by which we steer, almost like ships at sea. But knowing these, the way may become as familiar as the streets of Rome. You may, perhaps, have heard of Cæcilia, a blind girl, who acted as guide to tliese subterranean places of assembly, because to her accustomed feet the path was as easy as the Aj pian Way to those who see.”
* The writer has some of these earthen lamps which once did service in the Catacombs. They bear Christian symbols, inscribed before baking-a dove, anchor, olive branch, fish, and the like.
“How many Greek epitaplıs there are,” said Isidorus, deeply interested in scanning the inscriptions as he passed.
“ Yes," said the fossor, “there are a-many of your countryfolk buried here, and even who are not like to have their epitaplis written in the language in which holy Paulus wrote his epistle to the Church in Rome."
“But what wretched scrawls the most of thein are," said the Greek, with something like a sneer; "and see, here is one even upside down.”
“Yes, noble sir," continued the old man, “not many mighty, not many noble are called-most of those who sleep around us are God's great family of the poor. Indeed, most of them were slaves. That poor fellow was a martyr in the last persecution. I mind it well, though it is years agone. We buried him by stealth at dead of night, and did not notice that the hastily written inscription was reversed.”
The dim rays of their lamp and taper made but a faint ring of light about their feet. Their steps, as they walked over the rocky floor, echoed strangely down the long-drawn corridors and hollow vaults, dying gradually away in the solemn stillness of this valley of the shadow of death. The sudden transition from the brilliant Italian sunlight to this sepulchral gloom, from the busy city of the living to this silent city of the dead,