Book: A Traveller in Rome
Author: H.V. Morton
Dodd, Mead and Co., New York, pp. 374
Excerpt from Book:
Men of all nations climb about the House of Vestal Virgins, where for eleven centuries the presence of a male would have been punished with death. It is the only place in the ruins where you do not have to think of Horace or Juvenal to evoke the shades of the past, and here, no matter how Christian you may be, you cannot be unaware oft he nobler, gentler side of paganism, almost as though one of those beautiful little fauns in the Capitoline Museum had frisked in the sunlight ans was nestling his head against you, asking to be scratched.
I like to imagine that the Early Fathers felt that way too, otherwise surely they would not have allowed the atrium to become, as it did, the architectural prototype of the Christian nunnery: neither, I imagine, would they have married their daughters to the Church with much the same rites which admitted a novice to the sacred order.
. . . . .And who were the Vestals and what did they do?
In primitive times fire was a magic element which could be created by rubbing together two dry sticks. In such communities a hut was sensibly set apart where a fire was always burning from which the people could take precious element. While the men were at war, or hunting, and the married women were looking after their homes and children, the care of the fire naturally fell to the charge of young maidens with no other responsibilities. As the Romans became civilized, what had in tribal days been a matter of commonsense became a religious cult an the care of the fire was a symbolic rite which involved the safety and welfare of the state. In the days of Rome's greatness the thought that the sacred fire might be extinguished was horrifying, and the curl of smoke from the top of the Temple of Vesta was a daily sign to Rome that all was well with the Empire.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: From a Roman balcony the noise of Rome walking about Rome breakfast near St. Peter's the Fontana di Trevi
Chapter 2: The Capitoline Hill the tragedy of Rienzi S. Maria in Aracoeli the Santo Bambino a diplomatic party American Rome the Borghese Gardens and the Pincio
Chapter 3: A ticket for the Forum the Roman Toga the Senate House the Vestal Virgins where Caesar was murdered Cleopatra in Rome
Chapter 4: The Pope at a window the Papal Farm a day on the Palatine Hill Caesarian palaces the writer in Ancient Rome Nero's Golden House the Colosseum
Chapter 5: A visit to the Catacombs on the Via Appia Early Christians and the Sacrament St. John Lateran a hermit Pope Westminster Abbey's link with the Forum S. Clemente A Mithraic temple below a church
Chapter 6: A visit to Lake Nemi an audience at Castel Gandolfo Cats of Trajan's Market Roman palaces the English in Rome Fountains of the Villa d'Este Hadrian's Villa
Chapter 7: The Quirinal Palace Pauline Bonaparte and her American sister-in-law the price of a Cardinal's hat the Piazza Navona the Pantheon the Hospital of San Spirito
Chapter 8: St. Peter's in the early morning the history of the Vatican Hill the tomb of St. Peter the Roman cemetery under the church Santo Spirito in Sassia Saxon pilgrims to Rome Janiculum Hill
Chapter 9: A visit to the Vatican the Vatican State the Pope's motor car and chariots' Vatican Radio the Pope's Garden an exquisite summer house a forgotten relic of the Stuarts
Chapter 10: Rome in rain a pilgrim's hostel the Castel S. Angelo Trastevere the game of Morra' how the Pallia are made the island in the Tiber an English Cardinal goodbye to Rome