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but the Christian monuments, the churches, which rose above the Catacombs, perhaps the more accessible parts of the Catacombs, were exposed to insult, ravage, destruction. It was even worse with Christian invaders. The relics or supposed relics of saints and martyrs became a sort of spolia opima, which the victorious foe searched out with the keenest avarice, and carried off with the most devout triumph. If we remember right, the hated and heretical Lombards were most covetous of that pious plunder. Rome must now perforce submit to the desuetude, to the tacit abrogation of her ancient and venerable laws against intramural burial. The insulted or coveted saints and martyrs must retreat for security within the walls. Accordingly, at different periods, the more precious and sacred remains, those of St. Peter and St. Paul, for the second and third time, were transplanted to more secure sanctuaries. In intervals of peace the suburban and extramural sites of churches, built over the Catacombs, maintained the names of their, alas ! no longer, tutelar saints. They were pointed out to and visited by a succession of pilgrims, M. de Rossi's friends, whose records he has made use of to so much advantage in his industrious inquiries.
We have left but narrow, we fear much too narrow, space for that most interesting subject, Christian Art, as preserved and exhibited in the Catacombs. Unhappily these investigations have, especially in late years, been conducted in a spirit which seems to us sadly polemic and controversial. For ourselves we must confess, though, as we trust, firmly attached to our own doctrines, that we look upon the results which have yet been obtained with utter indifference, on any which may transpire, with the calmest confidence. That member of a Reformed Church must be deplorably ill-instructed in the distinctive grounds of his faith who can feel the slightest jealousy and alarm. If indeed we were to discover genuine documents concerning Papal infallibility, or even Papal supremacy; if we were to read in distinct letters of that age any of the false Decretals; if the title-deeds to the temporal possessions of the Pope were to come to light ; if any of the mediæval, or approximately mediæval doctrines which separate Rome from us, were to be announced as fully developed, and resting on irrefragable evidence,—we might be disposed to part from our friendly company with M. de Rossi, and to withdraw ourselves from his excellent and courteous guidance in these explorations.
We are bound, however, to justify our confidence, and are thus forced to enter upon one or two subjects, which we would willingly have avoided. We have read with care the very learned and remarkable Essay, addressed by M. de Rossi to Dom Pitra, the editor of the Spicilegium Solesmense' (now for his erudition and character justly promoted to the Cardinalate), on the famous symbol or emblem, the IXOTE_'Inooûs Xplotos Okoû Tiòs Ewrrp, pp. 545–584.
In this Essay (pp. 560, et seqq.) M. de Rossi describes some very curious pictures discovered in the cemetery of Callistus (of the age, he states, of the middle of the third century), evidently relating to the Holy Eucharist. We have ourselves seen, too hastily perhaps, these pictures. If M. de Rossi had not warned us (p. 360) that he was about to adduce something fatal to the new views on this subject, advanced in the 16th century, we should have read in unsuspecting innocence, and accepted the whole as a pleasing testimony to the profound reverence in which the Holy Eucharist was held by the earliest Christians. We have again read this part of the Essay with great care, and, for the life of us, can detect nothing, not the most remote allusion in the pictures themselves, or even in the interpretation of M. de Rossi, to which, we will not say, any high Anglican might not assent, but even all those likewise who in any way acknowledge any presence of Christ, spiritual or symbolical, in the Lord's Supper. The Fish, the divine Saviour, is in more than one way represented in juxtaposition to, or in a sort of parallelism with, the sacred elements. Here he is supporting a basket (canistrum) containing the bread, of a peculiar shape and colour, with what M. de Rossi supposes, with some subtlety, to signify or represent the wine. There the Fish appears with the bread and wine on a table. In another (a pendant, let us observe, to a painting clearly representing the Sacrament of Baptism) there is what seems a priest or bishop in the act of consecrating the elements, with a kneeling female, doubtless representing the Church. We must cite, though Latin, M. de Rossi's own words :
Jam quis dubitare possit ixoúr, sive ille panem et vinum dorso sustinet, sive in mensâ cum pane positus, sive sub ipsâ consecrantis sacerdotis manu depictus est, Christum esse in eucharistiâ.
Here we pause, for M. de Rossi cannot, or will not perceive, that as to the litigated question of the nature of Christ's presence, it stands precisely as it stood, in the mysterious vagueness in which it was left by our Saviour's words. Of the two main points of difference between our Churches, the iteration of the sacrifice, which we hold to have been made once for all, as 6a sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction :' and the absolute transmutation of the elements, so that the bread and wine cease to exist,—of this materialistic change there is total silence, there is neither word nor hint. Indeed the symbolic character throughout would seem to favour those who interpret the whole symbolically. We must decline to follow M. de Rossi in some of his further speculations about the Supper of Emmaus, into which, we think, that the more cautious divines of his own Church would hardly follow him.
The last publication on our list will perhaps still more have alarmed some of our readers; it has not in the least disturbed our equanimity. In this we must indeed express our regret that M. de Rossi again appears, and more avowedly, no longer as the calm and sober inquirer, and the candid and.conscientious archæologist, but rather as a thorough going controversialist. We had rather meet him in amity in the former character; we cannot think that he is equally successful in the latter. He may convince those who are determined to be convinced, or are already convinced; we do not think that he will be held to have made out his case by a single sober or dispassionate inquirer. Though his preface is more peaceful, M. de Rossi's almost ostentatious object, in his few pages (illustrated by very beautiful chromo-lithographic engravings, which do great credit to Roman art, but which seem to us almost, like the French work, too beautiful to be quite true), is to show that the worship of the Virgin, in general supposed, even by the most learned in his own Church, as he himself admits, hardly to reach earlier than the second Council of Nicæa, is to be found in initiate, if not in full development, in the Catacombs of Rome ; M. de Rossi would persuade us nearly in Apostolic times. We confess that we look on this question with greater indifference than may be pardoned by some of our more jealous brethren. At what time that holiest, most winning of human feelings, maternal love, appealed to the heart of the believer, kindled the imagination of the artist, and induced him to bring to life, as far as he could, in his speaking colours, or even to express in marble, the Virgin Mother and the Divine Child; at what particular period the solemn and devout affection, which hallowed every passage in the early Evangelic History, everything relating to the birth as well as the life of the Saviour,—how soon, and by what slower or more rapid degrees, respect, reverence, tender and devout interest, passed, imperceptibly no doubt, into adoration, worship, idolatry, till it culminated in merging as it were the Redeemer in his more powerful and more merciful mother, “jure matris impera filio;' till it added, literally, a fourth person to the Trinity:
Ante adventum Mariæ regnabant in cælo tres persona,
Alterum thronum addidit Homo Deus;
-all this we hold it absolutely impossible to define with precise accuracy. Bolder steps may have been taken, at an earlier period, in certain times, certain places, by certain persons of more fervent religious passion. We are silent on the greater change in our own days; when a revelation has been made to the holiness and wisdom of our contemporaries which was not
vouchsafed to the piety of St. Bernard, or the angelic theology of Thomas Aquinas. .
But as to the works of art now before us, the few early pictorial representations of the Virgin, as dwelt upon by M. Rossi, they are of two kinds; one of the Virgin Mother with her Child in her lap, or on her bosom; the other as a female in the attitude of supplication, or as M. de Rossi would fondly believe, of intercession. As to the latter M. de Rossi is obliged, by that natural candour which he cannot shake off, to acknowledge that it may be no more than what it appears to our profane eyes, a female, possibly a martyr, or one of the faithful women in the attitude and act of adoration; or still more probably, an impersonation, by no means uncommon in the earliest periods, of the Church. But though M. de Rossi fairly admits all this, by some strange process of reasoning, because in some passages of the most poetical or metaphorloving of the Fathers, the Church was represented as a Virgin, and by others an analogy drawn between the Virgin Mother and the Virgin Church, therefore he would assume that these are premature representations of the Virgin herself. So bold a conclusion from such scanty premises we have rarely known.
The former, the Virgin with the Child, are in truth simple Bible illustrations of the first chapters in the Evangelic History. In almost all it is the adoration of the Magi; it is the worship of the Child not of the mother. In one of these, that from the cemetery of Domitilla, the worshipping Magi are four. The theory that they were three, though M. de Rossi cites many earlier instances, does not appear to have been rigorously established. The number, as we know, is not declared in the Gospels. Is it not probable that the three were settled in conformity with the three oblations? One, as we often see, bears the gold, another the incense, the third the myrrh, as the tribute of different Eastern nations. After all, may not the four be here, as M. de Rossi suggests, to balance and give symmetry to the design. On some sarcophagi, it may be