Sayfadaki görseller
[ocr errors]

with many other towns, it can boast of possessing one of the noblest monuments of Roman magnificence now existing; I mean its amphitheatre, inferior in size, but equal in materials and in solidity to the Coliseum. Almost immediately upon our arrival, we hastened to this celebrated monument, and passed the greater part of the morning in climbing its seats and ranging over its spacious arena. The external circumference, forming the ornamental part, has been destroyed long ago; with the exception of one piece of wall containing three stories of four arches, rising to the height of more than eighty feet. The pilasters and decorations of the outside were Tuscan, an order well adapted by its simplicity to such vast fabrics. Forty-five ranges of seats, rising from the arena to the top of the second story of outward arches, remain entire, with the different vomitoria, and their respective staircases and galleries of communication. The whole is formed of blocks of marble, and presents such a mass of compact solidity, as might have defied the influence of time, had not its powers been aided by the more active operations of barbarian destruction. The arena is not, as in Addison's time, filled up and level with the first row of seats, but a few feet lower; though still somewhat higher than it was in its original state. As it is not my intention to give an architectural account of this celebrated edifice, I shall merely inform the reader, in order to give him a general idea of its vastness, that the outward circumference is 1290 feet, the length of the arena 218, and its breadth 129: the seats are capable of containing 22,000 spectators.

At each end of the amphitheatre is a great gate, and over each a modern balustrade with an inscription, informing the traveller, that two exhibitions of a very different nature took place in it some years ago. The one was a bull-baiting exhibited in honour of the Emperor Joseph then at Verona, by the governor and the


people. The seats were crowded, as may be imagined, on this occasion; and a Roman Emperor was once more hailed in a Roman amphitheatre with the titles of Cæsar and Augustus, by spectators who pretend and almost deserve to be Romans. The other exhibition, though of a very different nature, was perhaps equally interesting: the late Pope in his German excursion passed through Verona, and was requested by the magistrates to give the people a public opportunity of testifying their veneration. He accordingly appeared in the amphitheatre, selected on account of its capacity as the properest place, and when the shouts of acclaim had subsided, poured forth his benediction on the prostrate multitude collected from all the neighbouring provinces to receive it. The thoughtful spectator might have amused himself with the singular contrast, which this ceremony must have presented, to the shows and the pomps exhibited in the same place in ancient times. A multitude in both cases equally numerous, then assembled for purposes of cruel and bloody amusements, now collected by motives of piety and brotherhood: then all noise, agitation, and uproar; now all silence and tranquil expectation: then all eyes

fixed on the arena, or perhaps on the Emperor, an arena crowded with human victims, an Emperor, Gallienus for instance, frowning on his trembling slaves: now all looks rivetted on the venerable person of a Christian Pontiff, who, with eyes and hands uplifted to Heaven, implored for the prostrate crowd peace and happiness.

The French applied the amphitheatre to a very

different purpose. Shortly after their entrance into Verona, they erected a wooden theatre near one of the grand portals, and caused several farces and pantomimes to be acted in it for the amusement of the army. The sheds and scaffolding that composed this miserable edifice were standing in the year 1802, and looked as if intended by the builder for a satire upon the taste of the Great Nation, that could

[ocr errors]

disfigure so noble an arena. The Veronese beheld this characteristic absurdity with indignation ; and compared the French, not without reason, to the Huns and the Lombards.

In reality, the inhabitants of Verona have always distinguished themselves by an unusual attachment to their ancient monuments, and have endeavoured, as well as the misery of the times, and the general impoverishment of Italy would allow them, to preserve and repair their public buildings. From an early period in the thirteenth century (1228) we find that there were sums appropriated to the repara- ~ tion of the amphitheatre; and that afterwards public orders were issued for its preservation and ornament, and respectable citizens appointed to enforce them. This latter custom continued till the French invasion, and two persons, entitled Presidenti alla arena, were intrusted with its inspection and guardianship. Such zeal and attention, to which the world owes one of the noblest monuments of antiquity, are highly creditable to the taste and the public spirit of the Veronese, and afford an honourable proof that they not only boast of Roman extraction, but retain some features of the Roman character,

But the amphitheatre is not the only monument of antiquity that distinguishes Verona. In the middle of a street, called the Corso, stands a gate inscribed with the name of Gallienus, on account of his having rebuilt the city walls. It consists of two gateways, according to the ancient custom, one for those who enter, the other for those who go out: each gateway is ornamented with Corinthian half pillars, supporting a light pediment; above are two stories with six small arched windows each. The whole is of marble, and does not seem to have suffered any detriment from time or violence. The gate, though not without beauty in its size, proportions, and materials, yet by its supernumerary ornaments proves, that at its erection, the taste for pure simple architecture

[blocks in formation]

was on the decline. The remains of another gate, of a similar though chaster form, may be seen in the Via Leoni, where it stands as a front to an insignificant house; and within that house, in the upper story, a few feet behind the first gate, there exist some beautiful remnants of the Doric ornaments of the inner front of the gate : remnants much admired by modern architects, and said to present one of the best specimens of that order to be found in Italy. This double gate is supposed to have been the entrance into the Forum Judiciale, and ought to be cleared, if possible, of the miserable pile that encumbers it, and buries its beauty.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

From the first-mentioned gate, which formed the principal entrance into the town, as appears from some remains of the wall or rampart, which ran on each side of it, and was repaired by Gallienus, we may conclude that Verona was anciently of no great extent, as it was confined to the space that lies between this wall and the river. This observation, apparently improbable, considering that Verona was an ancient Roman colony, the native country or the residence of many illustrious persons mentioned by historians and celebrated by poets, is founded on the authority of Silius and of Servius; if indeed the descriptions of the former can,

like Homer's, be considered as geographical authority* However, it may be presumed, that the suburbs of the town extended into the neighbouring plain ; a conjecture favoured by the situation of the amphitheatre, which, though standing at some distance from the ancient gate, was probably erected in or near some populous quarter. At all events, the modern Verona is of

* Athesis Verona circumflua.Sil. VIII. Athesis Venetiæ fluvius est Veronum civitatem ambiens.---Servius in Virg. VIII.

much greater magnitude, and spreading into the plain to a considerable distance beyond the old wall on the one side, and on the other covering the opposite banks of the river, encloses the ancient town as its centre, and occupies a spacious area of about five 'miles in circumference. Many parts of it, particularly the square called Piazza della Bra, near the amphitheatre, are airy and splendid. Some of its palaces, and several of its churches, merit particular attention : among the latter, the beautiful chapel of S. Bernardino, in the church of the Franciscan Friars, and S. Zeno*, with its painted cloister and vast vase of porphyry, may perhaps claim the precedency.

Among public edifices, the Gran-Guardia and the Museo Lapidario are the most conspicuous: the portico of the latter is Ionic: its court surrounded with a gallery of light Doric, contains a vast collection of antiquities f of various kinds, such as altars, tombs, sepulchral vases, inscriptions, &c., formed and arranged principally by the celebrated Maffei, a nobleman whose learning and taste (two qualities not always united) reflect great honour on Italy, and particularly on Verona, the place of his birth and his usual residence.

The garden of the Giusti family, alluded to by Addison, is still shewn to travellers, though it has little to recommend it to attention

* This church suffered considerably from the brutality of the French soldiery, some of whom amused themselves, as might have done the Huns of Attila, or the Goths of Radagaisus, in breaking porphyry pillars and vases, ransacking tombs, and disfiguring paintings.

+ The French visited this collection, and carried off some of the most valuable articles,

« ÖncekiDevam »