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The Huet narrative of the trip to Rome

A companion of the Martins who concentrates his narrative on architecture and art

 

Diocesan Pilgrimage to Rome

Letters of Rev. Father Huet, Vicar of Saint Etienne of Caen,

At the direction of the

Religious Weekly [Periodical] of Bayeux.

Translation and photos by Juan Marrero.

 


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First letter

Second letter

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Fourth letter

Last echo

 

First letter

 

Tuesday, November 8th, midday

Mister Director,

I will not wait until our arrival in Rome, and I hasten to keep the promise that I made to you. [Here are] various notes, written daily from the day we took the train and thereafter [containing] impressions of the moment, [they] will allow the readers of the Religious Weekly to unite themselves with our pilgrimage.

Left Saturday and Sunday from Coutances and Caen via the morning express trains. The pilgrims would arrive in Paris, the first under the direction of His Excellency the Bishop of Coutances, the others under the direction of the Reverend Reverony, the vicar general.

Sunday 6. – Meeting Point has been established for Sunday Morning forthe first group of Pilgrims at the Church of the National Vow [Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre]. Each of among a hundred squeezed themselves around the altar, while Reverend Germain began the 9 A.M. Mass. After having given out Holy Communion, he turned towards the people, demonstrating, with the zeal and ardor that characterizes him, the type of spirit that should accompany us on the voyage to the tombs of the Holy Apostles. Faith, Penitence and Love, he has said, are the three great thoughts that should animate us.

After the discourse, following the benediction, the pilgrims have visited the crypt of the Basilica in order of procession chanting the Magnificat, and Monsignor has blessed a stone commemorating the pilgrimage to Rome.

Monday.—Having been so placed under the care of the Sacred Heart, we happily departed via a special train at 6:35 [A.M.] The rainy weather lifted at the time of departure and the sun appeared from time to time so that we could attempt to enjoy the vast plains that we were crossing. We sang and recited the rosary before our arrival at Royes.

From this city to Bar-sur-Aube, of which the location is charming at the feet of wooded hills, the scenery is pleasant and becomes more and more beautiful all the way to Chaumont, where we awaited the most magnificent spectacle. From atop the viaduct (600 meters long and 50 meters high) constructed over a Swiss valley, the panorama was splendid.

At Yesoul, a group of pilgrims profited from a few minutes stop to walk through the village and visit the church.

Needless to say that during the trajectory, piety has its place in the life of the pilgrims. Each of them possesses a small manual of prayers and meditations for their personal voyage, and chants are heard throughout the compartments.

Towards 5:00 [P.M.], we found ourselves in front of Belfort, the city of courage and heroism, and we gladly saluted this city of forts. An hour later, we were on Swiss territory.

Unfortunately, the night was falling, hiding from us the magnificence of the country. In many train stations, groups of curious people had come to await our passage. At Delemont at the moment of departure, they cried out to us adieu.

At Basel, the dinner was prepared as a buffet at the station near where we arrived at 8:30 [P.M.]. That morning, we had breakfast in the coach wagon. At 12:30 [A.M.], we were in Lucerne, the hour of rest had arrived.

Tuesday 8. – At 6 [A.M.], general wake-up time. During the three-quarter hour that preceded breakfast, we walked through the city, visiting the collegiate church of Saint-Leger with its magnificent wood paneling, the Lion of Lucerne with such a noble expression and above it the inscription: Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti

[meaning “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss” commemorating the Swiss guards massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution], the History Museum (exterior), the wooden bridge that traverses the lake and under the ducal roof [there] is painted the civil and religious history of Switzerland.

We left Lucerne at 8 [A.M.]. This time, we could enjoy the splendors of Switzerland.

At 8:30 [A.M.], the lake of Lowers. At this moment, we perceived the snow for the first time. The peaks of the mountains that surrounded the lake were snow covered. Underneath, the big white clouds rendered a most picturesque effect.

From both sides of the train, the views succeeded one another with infinite variety; each valley, each village with chalets having different characteristics.

Some additional kilometers farther, towards Steinen, the snow covered the mountains, the edges of the lake were frozen. The two great peaks of Mythen, with a height of 1,900 meters, render the location of Schyz exceptionally beautiful.

At 9:00 [A.M.], we are on the edges of the Lake of Uri. Between a series of small tunnels that we crossed, we admired the boulders made illustrious by the presence of William Tell escaping the barque of Gessler. Close to de Burglen, where the liberator of the Swiss was born, the summit of the mountain disappears into the clouds at the height of 3,000 meters.

I pause in all my descriptions since I will not know what terms will suffice. From one end of the wagon to the other, there is but one cry, “Oh, it is so beautiful!” We could not take all the beauty in with our eyes. Thanks to the arrangements of the wagons, we could go from one side to another, regretting that we could not see all and then regretting that we could not recall all.

At 10:00 [A.M.], we begin to climb the ramps of St. Gothard.

There is nothing as grand as the spectacle we had upon leaving Amsteg, which is already 600 meters beneath our feet. The more we advanced, the more untouched nature delighted us: the waterfalls that split the mountains to the steep sides, the immense precipes that were an obstacle at around a hundred meters over us; the gorges, the torrents in front of us we could not take them [all] except as a sign. Mirabilis in altis de minus!

The train is hanging on to the side of the mountain that we skirted, At the station in Gurtuellen, we reached 700 meters in altitude; at the following station (Wasen) 931 meters. Between these two points, we passed three tunnels in a spiral that made the line climb 25, 30 and 35 meters: below us the line that we had taken half an hour before; above our heads and, in front, the huts of shepherds, some goats hanging from the boulders.

At Wasen, one train passed ours; we saw at a hundred meters or less above us the line that we would wait for; in leaving the station, we crossed a precipice, we always climbed and we had, soon after, two lines above us. In the background, the charming village of Wasen, with its church sitting atop a boulder in the midst of houses.

At 11:00 [A.M.], we arrived at Goeschenen, at the entrance of Saint-Gothard. We had snow within our reach. For curiosity, we had the pleasure of gathering some of it in our hands.

During the 22 to 23 minutes that it took to traverse the tunnel of Saint-Gothard, the generally felt admiration was sufficiently suspended to allow for an instant of rest and calm and to prepare for our new transportation.

Exiting the tunnel, we were surrounded by snow—the earth was completely covered; there was from 10 to 15 centimeters. We had gone to reach an altitude of 1,200 meters.

In descending, nature was a bit less wild. We saw a church at the summit of an immense boulder; who could live at such a great height! Is it a monastery or a little parish? We don’t know.

After the gorges of Tessin and a series of tunnels between which there would be an opening of the most charming openings, we arrived at Faido, where I set out to send you the first notes.

All the pilgrims are delighted and behave marvelously.

I will send you my second letter upon arriving in Rome.

Yours all devotedly in Our Lord.

L. Huet, Vicar of Saint-Etienne of Caen.

 

 

Second letter

 

Mr. Director:

Tuesday 8, Mid-day –From Lavorzo, I entrusted to the head of the station the first letter that I addressed to you, and that I had finished since the preceding station. We have arrived at Giornico with its old church and its Lombardian bell tower. The Stations of the Cross are around the cemetery. Farther along, the beautiful chestnut oaks cross through the boulders, beautiful vines are planted in the fields.

Throughout the region that we crossed, the bell towers and churches were similar. But what a difference with the monuments of our Normandy! Low and ugly in Champagne, with a little spire, the churches of Tessin that we left are much taller but generally without style; the bell towers without spires are very severe and each side of the square structure is pierced with two or four windows that are closer to the Roman [style], and are on top of each other one to one or two to two.

From this side of the Alps, the cascades increase in great number from the summit of the mountains. At Claro, the convent of St. Mary is found half-way up a small plateau where the magnificent location cedes place to the magnificence of the site occupied by three chateaux forts that dominate Bellinzona and defend from this side with the entrance to Switzerland. It was in this town that we were served our meal aboard the train.

Up until Lugano, without being so grand, the spectacle did not fail being delightful. At this station, we had the time to go out to the terrace that was in front of the station, and from where we could contemplate this charming city at the depth of the valley on which it is found, completely surrounded by villages and three beautiful chalets, the lake has the same name. All around, of the mountains wash their bases in the waters that come sometimes until touching the [mountain] feet.

In summary, after different, very picturesque villages sitting one and the others on the slope or at the bottom of the valleys, we arrived in Chiasso, where the presence of the customs officials to inspect our luggage informs us that we have left Switzerland and we were now in Italy.

Night found us at the edge of Lake Como, we spent all our time admiring the city and the gracious hills that surround it.   We nevertheless left time to admire the cities and the hills that surround it. The field of the dead, framed by galleries from which the numerous little lamps shone, attesting to the devotion of the inhabitants for their dear deceased.

Milan cathedraleAfter arriving in Milan and the dinner that each group took in the hotel assigned to it, we took this afternoon a promenade along the superb galleries of Victor-Emmanuel, to enjoy the illuminations. The crowds that formed were enormous. We immediately took a tour of the immense Cathedral (photo to the left). The [strongest] impression that we took away was of the simple coup-d’oeil that plunged us into the murals all profoundly sculpted in marble, decorated with bas-relief and statues, we had a lively desire to enter the interior [of these scenes].

 

Wednesday 9. –At 7:00 [A.m.], all the pilgrims joined together in the crypt around the tomb of St. Charles. The Bishop of Coutances celebrated the Holy Mass in the presence of the body of St. Charles, and distributed Communion. After this, we venerated the body of the blessed that we had the happiness to contemplate. The soul is seized with admiration in entering this immense basilica. This forest of columns, the limitless statutes, the magnificent stained glass windows, in sum all the glorious ensemble that we visited in detail, inside and outside, make for St. Charles a monument worthy of him and the gratitude that the people of Milan owed him.

The morning was spent visiting the principal points of interest of the city: the Campo Santo, the Arc of Simplon, the old church of St. Ambrose with the door that the illustrious bishop closed to the Emperor Theodose, the sarcophagus of the saint and the other antiquities conserved in the church and over the old galleries that precede it; lastly, the church of Saint Alexander with the beautiful pictures. – We had to pass in front of the Corinthian columns that precede the atrium of Saint Lorenzo, a remarkable church visited only by certain groups. Very few pilgrims are able to see the amphitheater of the Arene.

It is enough to say that the entire morning has been perfectly filled. We have nothing but praise for the administrator of our pilgrimage.

At three, we left Milan, making tracks towards Venice. The sun that had refused us its brightness in crossing Switzerland, brightened the Alps and we began to see it before arriving in Bergame.

So as not to prolong my narrative, I will say nothing of the well cultivated and fertile vast plains of Lombardy that we crossed. One is never sated in admiring the works of God. It is necessary to thank him. The have set ourselves to prayer before the night overcomes us. I have finished for today: tomorrow more notes.

 

un-gondolierThursday 10. –It was 10:00 A.M. when we arrived in Venice. Immediately, we set out for our respective hotels, in groups of four per gondola. At the end of half an hour, we were at our destinations.

Today, for the first time, we are enjoying the beautiful sky of Italy. The weather, cloudy until today, is now completely clear. The sun is resplendent.

After Mass in the church of St. Mark and breakfast, we visited the part of the city that we could cover by foot, the principal monuments, among these the incomparable palace of the Doges. What magnificence! What a profusion of paintings of the grand Masters, of Tintoretto, Veronese, and the entire Venetian school!

SMarco-piazza-VeniceAfter having a quick view of the city from the height of the tower of St. Mark (photo to the right), we went down to the Basilica of the apostle begun in the 9th century with materials brought from St. Sophia in Constantinople. How many days it would take to enumerate these riches, I will not go into detail . The magnificence of the marbles, the mosaics that decorate the vaults and the five domes, the paintings, I can only suggest.

After the midday meal, we left in groups of 30 persons under the direction of a guide to visit the principal churches and enjoy the spectacle that only Venice can offer us—the stroll on its streets by bark.

We successively saw St. Alexander with the black and white marble and the painting of the disciples of Emmaus, Saint John and Saint Paul, the Pantheon of Venice with all its mausoleum; the ruins of the chapel of the Rosary built after the battle of Lepanto; the church of the Jesuits with its very beautiful mosaics but a little heavy and overloaded, his pulpit decorated with marble draperies with a finesse of incomparable work, and the paintings of Tintoretto (Assumption) and of Titian (martyrdom of Saint Lauren); the church of Saint Mary of the Friars, containing the tombs of Ganova and Titian and many doges and governors of Venice, and above all the choir stalls of the XIV century on three rows from each side of the choir of admirable fine work. Returning to Santa Maria della Salute [Health], erected in the XVI century as an act of thanksgiving for the cessation of the plague by the Venetians who come every year, November 21, to visit it in in large numbers; we entered a glass factory.

Astrological-clock-on-S.-Marco-piazza-interesting-for-LouisIn the afternoon, before dinner, we have enjoyed the magnificent spectacle of the Plaza San Marco where the store fronts recall a bit those of the Royal Palace in Paris. [Left, astrological clock on the piazza, interesting for Louis Martin].

 

Friday 11. –The departure from Venice effected at 9:00 [A.M.] from the hotels. Boarded a tourist boat, we have been able to admire for the last time, during half an hour, the magnificent palaces that border the Canal San Marco. After a visit to the church overloaded with marble of the Carmelite Fathers that is near the station, we left on a pilgrimage to Padua.

Our arrival to this city of 50,000 inhabitants has been quite an event. An enormous and sympathetic crowd pressed against the gates that are found on each side of the streets, in order to see the passing of the 50 carriages that would take us to the hotel and the churches.

The first visit that we have made was on behalf of Saint Anthony. After having walked the length of this vast church, admiring the bas-relief representing the principal miracles of the life of the saint and his portrait, we were admitted to kiss the reliquary that contains the tongue of the blessed.

From there, we went in pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Justine that is found under the main alter in the church of his name. His martyrdom has been painted by Veronese on a painting placed at the apse. In the transepts, the sarcophagus of the apostles Saint Matthew and Saint Luke. This church that is—at three naves with the chapels in all its length, possesses equally choir stalls of very rich sculpturing on which are represented the principal scenes of the Old and New Testament.

At 3:00, railroad train takes us towards Bologna. At our arrival, an enormous crowd awaits us at the gate and witnesses our departure in omnibus.

 

Saturday 12. –we have three houses to stay in the city from where to make our pilgrimages. After having celebrated the Holy Mass in the Churches closest to our hotels, we reunited in the immense Church of San Patroneo to go [then] visit the Church of St. Catherine.

We were admitted to venerate the body of the saint Catherine and to kiss her feet and her hands. The Blessed is seated in an armchair in the little oratory consecrated to her. Her body is admirably conserved, her limbs are flexible, her blood still flowed while she laid in her tomb, sixteen days after her death, so as to locate her in the place that she occupies without any support, and so remains liquid. That she may pray for us during our voyage, and that she may give to each of us a little of the love that she had for the Infant Jesus who deigned to give her a kiss that still leaves a mark on the face of this saint.

We did not [all] have the time to go to the tomb of Saint Dominic.   A group gathered there, whereas the others went to the tombs of St. Petrone, patron of the city, St. Vital and St. Agricole that are found in the old church of St. Etienne, made up of seven churches united one and the other by the galleries built atop the temple of Isis whose columns serve the original church.

All these walks allowed us to catch a glimpse of the city whose streets and galleries are much more vast than those of Padua with the beautiful districts. As far as churches, I cannot cite any but that of Saint Bartholomew, close to leaning towers, of which the ornamentation and paintings leave nothing to desire as far as luxuriousness, taste and ornamentation.

Our departure to Loreto was effected around 11:00. The duration of the journey is 6 hours. Everywhere, we saw, as in the time of Virgil, the vines together with the elms. The fields are rich, the horizon is varied. We paid tribute in passing Imola, the old bishopric of Pius IX, Rimini, the land of St. Francis, along the Adriatic coast, Ancona and Castelfidardo or Lamoriciere and the brave soldiers carrying out prodigies of valor to conserve for the Supreme Pontiff his temporal powers.

At 5:00. We climbed the hill of Loreto. With what happiness we entered the Casa Santa and recited the Ave of the rosary in this blessed house of Nazareth where the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin and which the angels transported to this fortunate place on earth. Yes, it is with all our hearts that before taking our rest, we have sung the Magnificat and the Invocation to each member of the Holy Family.

 

Sunday 13. –At 4:00 [A.M.], the Masses commenced in the Basilica. Destiny has designated those fortunate ones who could celebrate in the Santa Casa or even at the great altar at the back of the Holy House. The others consoled themselves in knowing that they were under the roof that shelters it, and it was with the greatest consolation that they displayed to the Blessed Virgin all their requests for the numerous persons that were recommended to them. Monseigneur the Bishop of Coutances celebrated at 8:00 the Communion Mass.

The first part of our morning should be dedicated to our pilgrimage. During all this time, we followed each other to the feet of the miraculous statue sculpted by St. Luke, wanting to bless our pious objects, depositing them in the bowl of the Most Holy Virgin. He have but one regret: it was to cede too quickly our place to the crowd that commenced to arrive from the neighboring countryside.

In leaving Loreto, we travelled towards Rome. The sky was is without clouds, the temperature is warm while we crossed Umbria with the little fortified cities, sitting atop the hills like those in Romagne, the beautiful valleys formed by the Apennines of which the highest peaks were covered with snow. Night surprised us in arriving in Spoleto and proceeded with our attempts to see the Roman countryside and to admire it at length before our arrival in the Eternal City.

 

Monday 14. – At last, the first day of our stay in Rome. I do not know how to render for you an account of our times [here] without being long or boring for those who have travelled along these [same] tracks. We have made a true race against the clock. Firstly, Monseigneur celebrated a Mass at St. Louis of the French for all the pilgrims. The great organ did not cease to play during the entire time of the Mass and during  Communion.

For the visit to the monuments, the pilgrims were divided into five groups. The ones [who stayed] in the Hotel of Milan, composed of fifty persons, did not have today any of the marvels of Rome to see.

From Santa Maria in Via Lata [now Via del Corso] where St Paul was thrown into prison and made a source of bubbly water spring forward—which we had the good fortune to drink—to baptize the family of Saint Martial, we went forth to the Church of the Holy Apostles, constructed by Constantine. We invoked the holy Apostles Philip and James the Greater whom are buried there. The relics of the first are preserved in the subterranean church open before the sanctuary.

Passing near the Column if Trajan and the excessively celebrated Tower of Nero, near there can be found ruins dating to Romulus; we arrive at the Quirinale, ancient summer palace of the popes, usurped by the king of Italy.

The two nearest churches were closed when we passed by, we could therefore not visit them. We regretted vividly the practice in Italy that prevents entering holy places but for a little while after the celebration of Masses.

After a visit to St. Susana, we arrived at Saint Mary of the Angels, built on top of the ancients baths of Diocletian. The vast library hall of this building serves presently as the transversal [part running from east to west] church, the apse and the entrance are the work of Michelangelo.

Crossing next the Porta Pia [a gate in the Aurelian Walls], we headed towards the church of St. Agnes [outside the Walls], work of Constantine in its entirety.

After a prayer to this courageous youth who reposes in the altar, we climbed back up to the church that is 8 meters underneath the present ground level in order to pray at the tomb of Saint Constanza in the neighboring baptistery that the first Christian emperor built for the baptism of his daughter and that he chose as the tomb of his family.

At Santa Maria della Vittoria, served by the Franciscan Fathers [the Carmelite Fathers were driven out by the Italian government in 1873 and came back only in 1927], we venerated the body of Saint Victoria, and admired in passing the “Dream of St. Joseph” by [Domenico] Guidi and the “ecstasy of St. Teresa” by Bernini. In the vault are suspended the flags that were raised by the Christians [before] the Muslims in different battles.

We could not help but deplore the bad taste that presides over the ornamentation of churches for the solemnities. In Santa Maria della Vittoria, as in so many others, the marble and other masterpieces are hidden by flying draperies without value that hang on the pillars that divide the beginning of the vaults.

At the Capuchin convent, if we venerated with respect the absolutely intact body of the blessed Crispini and if we admired in the Church the [painting of] St. Michael by Guidi, we were far from being filled with enthusiasm for the immense ossuary that we then visited.

From [the Church of] Trinita dei Monti [the famous Spanish Steps lead to this Church], near where the Villa Medici is to be found, meeting place of French artists who come to Rome to perfect themselves in the beaus arts, we went on a walk to the [Monte] Pincio to enjoy a panorama of Rome, and we descended to the Piazza dei Popolo to contemplate the magnificent obelisque that one finds at the center and to visit Santa Maria dei Popolo where the Roman Pontiffs come each year, September 8, to venerate the miraculous Madonna.

From this Church that contains the oldest stained glass window in Rome and many masterpieces of sculpture due to the chisel of Raphael, we returned to Saint Charles. Unfortunately, we were unable to venerate the heart of the blessed, conserved in this church, nor even to see the celebrated portrait, hidden by wall hangings of which we have spoken.

Finally, our journey ends with a pilgrimage to Saint Laurent and to Sant’Andre delle Fratte. At the first, we venerated the grill on which Saint Lawrence suffered martyrdom and admired the beautiful Christ of Guidi, and we prostrated ourselves at the second before the miraculous painting where the Virgin made the faith descend into the soul of R.P. Ratisbonne.

Before night completely fell, we returned on foot [and visited] in passing the obelisque raised by Pius IX in memory of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and before the immense and imposing Trevi Fountain.

We are at the end of our first week of pilgrimage. All proceeds well, our health is excellent.

We do not know yet the day of the pontifical audience. The pilgrims who accompany Mgr. Le Coq will join us for the circumstance.

Most sincerely, my dear Mr. Director, in the assurance of my entire devotion in Our Lord.

L. Huet, Vicar of Saint-Etienne of Caen.


 

Third letter

 

Rome, 20 November 1887

Mister Director,

Before recommencing my little journal, I cannot restrain myself from making one or two reflections and to establish a comparison between Rome and other cities in Italy that we have crossed.  It seems that one feels more at home in the Eternal City.  The people do not seem at all surprised to see us.  There is, it seems to me, something of a rapport [shown] in their behavior while we travel through the city.  Is it real?  I will leave it to others to think otherwise.

What a difference as well in the type of people and their costumes!  The general tone is very serious and in the best of taste.  Ordinary people are not unkempt as they are in Milan, in Bologna and above all in Venice.  In this class of society, women are sometimes dressed in their gracious, national costumes, much more so than those women who presented themselves at our departure from the Basilica of Loreto.

As far as the city itself, except for certain newly opened quarters, the streets in the interior of Rome are of ordinary length like in our provincial cities but without sidewalks. With well maintained proportions, the narrow streets are very numerous.  From all sides, outside the walls, on new streets, immense houses are under construction.

Let us return then to the daily narrative of our peregrinations.

 

Tuesday 15 November. – Rainy weather upon departure that is hardly favorable to travel in open coach.  We left nevertheless, one sitting near the coach man under his large green or brown umbrella, and the others harbored under the hood of the vehicle.  The rain lasted but around an hour.  Yesterday’s visit was a bit tiring, not having some of the great monuments of Rome to visit.  Today, we were completely recuperated.  What holy emotions produced to look upon these remarkable relics that not all the world can see, and that we were admitted to venerate thanks to the steps taken by Mgr. of Countances and to our title as pilgrims!

interior-of-the-coliseum-with-the-stepsWe began at St. Peter in Chains.  [San Pietro in Vincoli]  We descended to the Confession of St Peter  to contemplate the chains of the Apostle, the tomb containing the ashes of the seven Maccabee brothers, and afterwards a quick glimpse of paintings in the apse and the sacristy recalling the miracle of the deliverance of the Head of the Apostles, afterwards a few minutes of admiration before the Moses of Michelangelo before descending to the Coliseum (photo to the left).

What a spectacle again these grandiose ruins where so many thousands of martyrs died confessing the faith!  Why, therefore, was there a need for the invaders to remove the Cross and the religious marks that the Popes had imprinted in the stations of the Via Crucis, in order to return to their pagan stamps?  For us the memories cannot be erased; a ground embedded with the blood of Christians cannot but augment the faith while one kneels there.

From the Arch of Constantine, which is very close by, we went to St. John Lateran.  This time we were on pontifical soil.  After the visit to the places and to the museums, we went on to the Holy Stairs.  With what religious joy, we climbed on our knees the twenty-eight steps taken by Our Lord to go to the Praetorium of Pontius Pilate!  With what joy we kissed the three places where there still remain traces of his divine blood!

We soon entered into the large and superb Basilica, passing by the walled-off door that is called the Holy Door and that is open only in the epoch of Jubilees.  There is conserved and venerated [a section of the wooden] table of the [Last] Supper, the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul.  Very nearby a very charming cloister in the Byzantine style of the XIII century, a true Christian museum at the center of which one can find the well that is said to be the one pertaining to the Samaritan woman.

All to the side of the church, the baptistery of Constantine, in octagonal form, with the beautiful mosaics of the IV century.  Only pilgrims visit the small chapel  of St. John the Baptist; ladies cannot enter because, say the guides, of the crime of Herod demanded [by Salome] of the head of the Precursor [John the Baptist].

From there, via an awful street, going along the interior of the city walls, we were directed towards the Basilica of Santa Croce [Holy Cross] in Jerusalem (this basilica takes its name from the soil brought from Jerusalem and placed at the foundations).  As its name indicates, all there recalls the Passion of the Savior.  We were therefore admitted to venerate three pieces of considerable size of the true Cross, one of the nails that fixed Jesus to the wood of His torture and two of the thorns that tore his forehead.  The step of the altar contains the transversal wood of the cross of the good thief that measures close to two meters on length.  In sum, after viewing the finger that Thomas placed in the wounds of the Savior, we prayed to Saint Cesaire and Saint Anastase, whose remains are contained in the main altar, to intercede for us.  The entrance to the subterranean chapel, constructed by St. Helen, is also prohibited to women, under pain of excommunication.

Crossing the Porta Maggiore, after travelling two kilometers in the country, we arrived at Saint Lawrence-Beyond-the-Walls.  There is buried Pius IX of holy and illustrious memory.  His sarcophagus is simple; but the faithful still adorn today with magnificent mosaics the chapel where he is entombed.  In front of his tomb can be found the rock on which is fixed the grill where St. Lawrence was roasted.  His history and that of St. Etienne are painted on the walls of the nave.

I have not spoken about the ancient columns that serve as pillars for almost the whole totality of churches.  Almost all of them come from temples or baths of ancient Rome.  Each day disappear little by little the traces of the city of Romulus.  We could only spot two or three specimens on our way to Saint Mary Major.

The night began to fall preventing us from admiring in detail the riches of the basilica.  The greater clarity of the transepts permitted us only to contemplate the chapel of the Holy Sacrament with its immense tabernacle sustained by four angels, and the tombs of Pius V and Sixtus V.  We were obliged to put off for later the veneration of the Creche and the painting that recalls the miracle of the occasion for which was constructed the basilica of Our Lady of the Snow.

In leaving, we passed by the little church of St. Prasede, so rich in memories.  It is not there, in effect, that the body of the saint is preserved, [rather] the well in which she deposited the blood of the martyrs that she was able to collect with St. Prudentia from the Coliseum and the marble table upon which she reposed?  Is it not also in one of the chapels that is conserved the column to which the Savior was attached during the flagellation?

The darkness would not permit us to distinguish at all St. Martin-des-Monts [San Martino ai Monti is about five or six blocks from Santa Maria Maggiore].  At Ste. Marie-des-Monts [Santa Maria ai Monti], we proposed to end our pilgrimage for the day in visiting the relics of St. Benedict [Joseph] Labre, the great pilgrim of France, the sermon [being] given prevented us from realizing our project.  At 5:00 [PM], we returned to the hotel.

At dinner this evening, we learned with happiness that the Holy Father would admit us to his Sunday Mass, and that the audience would follow.

 

Wednesday 16.—Today, to place the reentry of the Italian Chamber.  The Parliament is situated on the same plaza as the hotel.  [Apparently, the pilgrims were divided her between two hotels].  We saw, before leaving, the preparations for the reception of the King, the place is occupied by the gendarmerie to control the crowds. Because we did not come to Rome to see its sovereign, we left at the accorded time.

The greatest variety possible is found in the program that has been assigned to us.  One thing nevertheless does not vary: the bad state of the paths we follow during all our trajectory.  Consequently, we have not been able to visit St. Paul at the Three Fountains [San Paolo alle Tre Fontane].

ancienne-statue-romaineThe first part of the day was to visit secular monuments [to the left - one old Roman statue], except for the little stop that we made at St. Etienne the Round, an original and curious church, made with a round ton as its name indicates, in the altar of which is found the bodies of St. Prime and St. Felicite.  All around are painted different types of martyrdom endured by Christians.

At some distance, the colossal ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, more considerable than those of the Coliseum.  How well these represent the power of the genius of the Romans!

Later, we entered into a “columbarium”, small building in which the Ancients placed urns containing the ashes of their dead.  Four or five hundred rounded nooks like the holes of the dovecots indicate the spaces where they are deposited.

Passing quickly by the Porta San Sebastian, flanked by two big square towers and without descending to the chapel where St Peter said to Our Lord:  “Domine, quo vadis? Lord, where are you going?”—we arrived at the Catacombs of St. Calixtus.

A child of the diocese, the Rev. Fr. Marie-Bernard, extended to us there a most gracious reception.  We were divided in two groups in order to have a better look, and we visited successively the most important galleries.  It would take hours to walk through the five or six levels of which the length is a total of 16 kilometers and we had but one hour to dedicate here.  With what rapidity this hour passed!  How we sang with love:  “Omnes sancti Martyres, orate pronobis”  [All the Holy Martyrs, pray for us] in leaving the chapel of St. Cecilia, of the martyred popes and of all those generous Christians who died for Christ!  How the faith is affirmed in contemplating the sacraments and the mysteries painted on walls of the subterranean walls from the origin of Chrstianity!...But, let us move on.

From the Catacombs, we went to St. Sebastian to venerate the saint at his tomb, one of the arrows that gave him death and the column to which he was attached.  Also, there is conserved the stone on which Our Lord left the imprint of his feet, from his apparition to the chief of the Apostles and the cross before which St. Philip de Neri came often to pray.  In this papal chapel, in descending twenty steps, is found the well where the first Christians hid the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the place of the seat on which the pope St. Etienne was placed to die.

Finally to end our pilgrimage, the most marvelous of surprises awaited us.  Saint Paul Outside the Walls, with its five naves, its immense columns, its splendid mosaics in the apse, its superb altars in malachite, its portraits of popes also in mosaic and its colossal statues of St, Peter and St. Paul, made in all our spirits the most profound impression.   The heart and piety find equally their fill in this visit:  is it not there where the remarkable relics of two great Apostles and the chains of St. Paul are?  When the portal is finished, the exterior will not be less imposing than the interior, to judge by the atrium and the incomparable mosaics that serve as tapestries for the walls of the portal.

For the first time, after being in Rome, we discovered the Tiber [River] with its salty and muddy water when we returned our domicile.

 

dome-st-pierreThursday 17 –We have our free morning.  Each employed according to his good pleasure.  For my part, despite the use of rhetoric employed by our guide to convince us that it was worth more to finish at St. Peter (photo to the right), I went [straight] to the Basilica, and I am again well convinced that it is not two or three visits that are needed but a hundred times that.

At midday, our group visits recommenced.  Flanked by eight police agents in civil [attire], two at the head and two in the back and the others spaced along the group in order to spare us any disagreeable manifestation (during our coach rides, we ordinarily have no more than two or three agents.  We never had the need for their intervention, we took our course by foot today, the monuments that we visited were not very far one from the other.

Walking along the imposing ruins of the theater of Marcellus that served as a model for the Coliseum, we arrived at the portico of Octavius, and we found ourselves in the Ghetto where the Jewish people live, amidst the rubble of a section that has been destroyed.

Through excessively narrow and tortuous streets, we came out next to the ancient temples of the Fortuna Virile (today St. Mary of Egypt) of Vesta (circular temple dedicated to St. Etienne, patron of coach drivers of Rome), and we found ourselves facing the temple of Ceres that has become the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin or the Beauty which deserves to be seen.  Under the portico, the “mouth of truth” in which the Romans place their hands to affirm the truth.  If they lie, the mouth will close, so they say, but one may also add that there may be more culpable hands than there are ones cut in the circumstance.  The columns of the church derive in part from an ancient temple; at the back of the apse, one finds the chair where St. Augustine had sat.  At the very end, the room of Blessed J.B. de Rossi which we did not visit.

roman-forumThe Palatine Hill with all its memories and its ruins kept us almost through two hours.  Of the grotto where says history, the she-wolf nourished Romulus and Remus, and passing before the temple of Vesta, built at the place of the fig tree under which she had nursed them and which today serves as the sepulcher of St. Theodore, we walked the immense ruins of the palace of Caligula, the charming house of Livia, mother of Tiberius, with its frescoes of incredible freshness, the basilicas and tribunals of the emperors, after we descended to the arc of Titus, to the forum of the emperors (photo to the left), to the one of the Romans, to the college of the Vestals.  We made a true course of Roman history that ended in the place of the Capitol and the Tarpeian Rock.

We reentered immediately into the heart of the most touching Christian remembrances.  What horrible dungeon that was the Mamertine prison where were enclosed St. Peter and St. Paul and 47 other prisoners!  With what joy we drank his miraculous water that the chief of the Apostles made come out of a rock to baptize his jailors Processe and Matinien!  There still we found the column where the Apostle was attached.  In the superior chapel, the people did not cease coming to pray before the miraculous Crucifix that is found there.

Climbing immediately to the church of Ara Coeli, we venerated the ashes of St. Helen and the Bambino or miraculous statue of the Child Jesus, so dear to the Romans.

In finishing, we directed ourselves to the church of Gesu, one of the richest [decorated] in Rome.  For us, they lowered the canvas that covered the marvelous group of sumptuousness and beauty that represents the apotheosis of St. Ignatius, which is not uncovered except on great feast days, and we venerated his remains.  Opposite, we went to pray to St. Francis Xavier,  apostle of the Indies of whom the arm and hand are exposed to receive or homage.  A visit to the room of St. Ignatius was the complement to the pilgrimages of the day.

 

interieur-de-st-pierreFriday 18. –It is the day of artists.  What a magnificent solemnity was celebrated today for the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Peter!  Having the good fortune of finding ourselves in Rome, we could not allow it to escape (photo to the left).

Cardinal Howard presided at the High Mass, and an archbishop at vespers.  The great choral was heard in the Clementine chapel.  What powerful and harmonious voices like bass, tenor or soprano!  One was riveted to the sound of the artists singing solo or in a duo.  The soul was seized when the choir or the two organs [performed].  Blaring in a forte manner, filling the entire basilica with sublime harmony.  At the end of Mass and vespers, from above the tribune where there are conserved the major Relics, three benedictions with the true Cross, the lance and the linen that Veronica used to wipe the face of the Savior, are preserved for the good of all.

Between [religious] services, our time was consecrated for visiting the Vatican Museums;  the one where you have just a few paintings but from the great masters, and the one for sculptures, the most beautiful and most precious in the entire world; at last, the Sistine Chapel. Decorated by Michelangelo, and the superb library, particularly called the Great Room, where are exposed some of the magnificent objects offered to recent popes by different monarchs. 

Don’t I have a reason to call this day the day of artists in music, in painting and statuary?

 

Saturday 19 –We were not able, Tuesday, to venerate the Creche of the Child Jesus at Santa Maria Maggiore.  This favor is today accorded us in six groups of pilgrims who disperse to the four corners of the city.

We made different stops on the way to returning to St. Peter that should be studied in detail.  The first was at Santa Maria in Transtevere built in 224 by Pope St. Callixtus and reconstructed like almost all the churches of Rome in the XVII century, and restored by Pius IX.  A multitude of relics, coming from the cemetery carrying the name of the sainted pope [Callixtus I] are preserved there, such as the stone that was thrown at his neck when he was thrown down a well, and the fountain of oil that flows since the birth of the Savior.

What can be said about the church of St Cecilia?  The memory of the saint that fills with fragrance the sanctuary that she still occupies and in which she still reposes cannot help but rejoice the hearts of Christians.  Are not her virtues also perpetuated by the two communities of Clares and Benedictines that repeat after her the glory of the Most High?  Next Tuesday, the feast of the saint, all the artists of Rome will gather together around her glorious sepulcher.

Passing near the convent where St. Francis of Assisi stayed, we could not omit visiting his room and the honored relics of all the blesseds of the Seraphic order that are conserved there.

We climbed next the Janiculum Hill.  On this hill, St. Peter was crucified.  We prostrated ourselves close to the open hole where his cross was planted, and after a quick look over the magnificent panorama of Rome and a visit to the superb Pauline fountain, near which is found the Porta S. Pancrazio through which the French entered Rome in 1849, we arrived at St. Peter’s.

I will not go into detail.  All the world knows the premiere church of the Catholic world.  We stopped for a few minutes at each masterpiece that it contains, and we descended to the Confession to render to the Apostles Peter and Paul the homage that they are due by each Christian soul.  Who are always our guides in the faith, and our models in virtue!

After St. Peter, we had nothing to do but to finish our courses.  We contented ourselves, therefore, after having walked along the chateau [Castel Sant’Angelo] and the Sant’Angello Bridge, to enter into the convent of the church of Sant’ Onofrio to visit the bedroom and tomb of [Italian poet Torquato Tasso (1544-1595)].  [We] rapidly saw the superb square court of the Roman chancery where [Pellegrino Rossi, an Italian politician (1787-1848)] was assassinated, the Farnese Palace inhabited by the French Ambassador near the Quirinal and by our consul and we returned.  Our visits with interpreters have ended.  Each shall continue according to their taste.

 

ds-salle-audience-Leon-13Sunday 20—It was with souls filled with the most lively emotions that we entered into the audience of the Holy Father.  What precious moments we passed during the unforgettable morning of November 20, 1887! [to the left: painting in the room of the audience].

At 7:30, we were all in the pontifical chapel.  [The Bishops and Monsignors of] Coutances, Nantes, Seez and de Vannes had taken their places in the sanctuary.  When at 8:00, Leo XIII made his entrance, we fell to our knees and he blessed us.  How beautiful to see this saintly old man, making his preparations in the sanctuary!  And when he had climbed the altar steps, with what piety he celebrated the Holy Mass, and above all with what penetrating [holiness] he recited the prayers that followed!  Yes, it was with affection that we, a small part of his troops, listened to him recite the Gospel:  Nolite timere, pussilus grex [“Fear not little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’.  Luke 12:32]. –What fear can one have, when one leans on the Rock of St. Peter, and when one is guided by the pontiff of Rome?

After the Thanksgiving Mass, the audience began with the pilgrims from Coutances.  Those from Bayeux followed, and we were followed by the pilgrims from Nantes.

Tears came to our eyes in thinking of the kindly warmth with which the Holy Father received us.  He spoke to all, and not content with allowing us to kiss his feet, he took our hands, and said to each a paternal word, after we left after his benediction and carrying with us a medal that he immediately asked us to wear.

In introducing us, Rev. Abbot Reverony had given to the Sovereign Pontiff the diocesan offering ,and expressed the regret that Bishop Hugonin has felt in not having, because of his health, come with his diocesan members to present to the successor of St. Peter his homage, those of his Chapter, of the clergy and of all the faithful that are entrusted to him.  In the name of His highness [the Bishop],the Vicar General had asked the Holy Father to extend his benedictions to all those absent who [nevertheless] accompany us through their devotion, and particularly above all the children who attend Christian schools.

Upon seeing the [gift of a] Rochet [an outer garment usually made with lace worn over the soutane], Leo XIII took it into his hands, to examine one after the other the coat of arms of the [represented] cities, and he turned to [each group] that surrounded him.  Three times, he recommended that this magnificent work of art have a place of honor in the Vatican Exposition and to reserve a special display case for it.

When the file of ladies and of clergy had finished, Monsieur Felix Benoit, elderly magistrate and president of the Workers’ Handicrafts, approached the pontifical throne.

 “Most Holy Father,” he said, “the Worker’s Handicrafts of the city of Caen, of the diocese of Bayeux, have confided in me the pious mission to deposit at the feet of Your Holiness these modest presents that are the fruit of the labor of different occupational groups.

 “Among these humble offerings of Christian industry, our workers ask you, Most Holy Father, to deign to accept the homage of a book printed by the corporation of typographers and dedicated to Your Holiness.

 “This book contains an account of the state of our Workers’ handicrafts and the text of a Conference made in Caen by Monsieur Chenelong, senator, to support the development of free Catholic Schools and corporative Institutions established in our Diocese after some years.

“Our Workers in Education and Labor are united, they prostrate themselves at the feet of Your Holiness and, humbly, they beg to solicit for their efforts a blessing for their enterprises.”

After leafing through the superb volume (this volume came from the presses of the printing enterprise of Mme Widow of Domin, it is a typographical masterpiece) that was offered to him, the Sovereign Pontiff has responded that it was very much touched by the offering of the workers, and above all the choice that had been made of a speech by M. Chenelong, that he blessed the Handicrafts and all those who participated in them.

There our audience was finished at which the Bishops of whom we spoke participated.

 

To close worthily this never to be forgotten day, the Bishop of Coutances gathered us all this evening in the Church of St. Eustache.  The moment is not propitious to repeat all he said [but here are a few words]“such ardent faith we should have in a pontiff so kind and so zealous—what confidence[we should have] in his wisdom and his good authority—what love for the one whose kindness appears to us so great, and whose sanctity should lead us to behave well”  The Rev. Bishop of Seez gave then a benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament, in the presence of Mgr. Becel, who attended this touching reunion.

Only one thing was lacking for the ceremony this morning: a beautiful sun to celebrate our entry into the Vatican.  The rain did not cease falling until 12:00 PM.  But we deem, nevertheless, ourselves as being  fortunate,  All the other days of the week we have had relatively beautiful weather, with a little heat and humidity, but without rain.

NaplesTomorrow, we leave for Pompeii and Naples (photo to the left) – the number who stayed in Rome during these two days is very small.  No one has been sick; the health is excellent.

 

Please accept, dear Mister Director, the assurance of my entire devotion.


 

 

Fourth letter

 

Nice, November 28, 1887

Dear Mr. Director,

 

Monday 21—Upon leaving today, Monday, we began to count down the days of our pilgrimage.

Yesterday, we were at the summit of this holy mountain that leads to the Vatican.  We have had 13 days to climb it, without ever taking our eyes off this new Tabor.  During these 13 days that remain to us, often with our thoughts, we will return ourselves there, not having been able like the Apostles to fix our tent.

We are crossing at his moment the country of St. Thomas.  We are in Aquino country when I began my accounting of the day.  We do not stop, and several minutes later, at the feet of Mt. Cassini, we had just the time to contemplate the immense monastery of St. Benedict, the beautiful ruins of the amphitheater, the superb countryside that represent the city and neighboring mountains.

The more we go down into the middle of Italy the colder and rainier the weather. Good to know that we are in the land of almond trees and orange groves, [otherwise] we would believe it was an autumn day in Normandy.

pompei-streetsUnder a battering rain, we walked during two hours the very curious streets of Pompeii (photo to the left), visiting the recovered houses there and the emblems and utensils of diverse professions of sculptors, bakers, wine merchants, pharmacies of this destroyed city.  The columns of the temples and palaces, the numerous and well preserved frescoes, the comfortable thermals or bathrooms, the amphitheater attesting to the opulence of the ancient inhabitants.  The museum that is found at the entrance is equally curious to see (photo to the right).

Pompei-archeological-findsAt around 3:00, the sky began to clear up.  Vesuvius sent its smoke in our direction.  At this time, our guide promised us beautiful weather for tomorrow.  Is it just to console us?  We would love to think the contrary and, confident in his prognosis, we direct ourselves towards Naples.

 

Tuesday 22.  At the start of the day, we have believed that our Cicero is right.  With warmth of 18 degrees, we were en route at 10 in the morning.

We should consider as virtually nothing our visit consisting of two or three minutes in front of the royal palace and the church of St. Francis de Paul, with its columns copied from St Peter’s in Rome, and a course that is too long in the beautiful and commercial street [named] Rome, rendered so picturesque by all the horses and carriages with all the silver or golden hardware.  We arrived through diverse paths through other small streets to the church cathedral of S. Genaro with its ogival style.

All the groups are reunited, the great number of visitors reduce in great part the interest that we could find to venerate in tranquility the relics of the Saint and to contemplate the chapels or the paintings.  It is the same in the monastery of San Marino, so admirably placed on top of a tall hill that dominates the town.

What a beautiful glimpse we also had in climbing down the zig-zags of this mountain!  We experienced with delight the view of the gulf and of the city built [next to an] amphitheater when the rain again made its appearance.  It was not able to prevent us to go to the grottoes of the Posillipo [a residential suburb on the hills boarding the sea] before having the meal that preceded our departure.  At this minute, we are on our way back to Rome, not very edified by the propriety of the Neapolitans.

 

Wednesday 23.  Our last day in Rome is blessed with a radiant sun.  We are having a real summer day with 15 and 16 degrees of warmth to make our individual promenades.  The only general visit was to the Galleria Borghese, so rich in old master paintings.

Free with my time, I have the desire to make two pilgrimages dear to all French and Christian hearts and that we were obliged to omit.  Many together, we set ourselves to the Madonna ai Monti, at the tomb of St. [Benedict Joseph] Labre and the room so filled with souvenirs and relics, where he rendered to God the soul that he had received.

At the start of the afternoon, we were in San Paolo alle Tre Fontane, where we were received with open arms by one of our compatriots the good Father Ernest, better known to those from Caen under the last name of Liegard.  He himself is become our Cicero at three sanctuaries of the abbey: at the Scala Coeli where St. Bernard saw during the Holy Mass the souls in Purgatory rise to heaven; (there is also found the last prison to St. Paul and the entry of the catacomb filled with the bodies of St. Zenon and 10,000 Christians put to death under Diocletian)--at the Church of San Paolo alle Tre Fontane where the great Apostle was decapitated on the milliary rock left at the same place and at its feet would spring three fountains at the places where his head bounced three times--finally, at the church of the monastery, so simple in its architecture, but offering also for the veneration of the pilgrims the bodies of St. Vincent and of St, Anastasias, and the miraculous portrait of the head of the latter that confounded the iconoclasts at the second Council of Nicea in making miracles.  After a short visit to the Chapter, formerly presided by the celebrated Abbot of Clairvaux, and the old cloister and refectory, we returned to Rome to pass our last night [in that city.]

[The city] has been charming.  We have been invited to pass by the home of Mgr. Marini, the intimate and secret camerier [attendant in papal apartments] of the Sovereign Pontiff.  Roman artists and a choir of young girls performed many excerpts of the great works, and we have been given the presages of a hymn to the Holy Father that we applauded strongly.

Thus far, Leo XIII has treated us as preferred children.  Before we separated, he showed tenderness to the point of indulgence.  Not content to send us his [best] wishes and blessings, he sent to us at this moment a platter of cake and wine.  A thousand thanks were sent to him.

 

Regarding Mgr. German, who caused all these attentions and procured so many sweet emotion, we sent to him this letter followed by all our signatures.

To His Grandeur Monseigneur Abel Germain, Bishop of Coutances and Avranches

MONSEIGNEUR:

At the point of leaving Rome, the pilgrims of the dioceses of Coutances and of Bayeux experience the need to express to Your Grandeur their profound gratitude.

Thanks to you they were able, on the occasion of the sacerdotal Jubilee of His Holiness Leo XIII, to place at the feet of the illustrious Pontiff who so gloriously governs the Church, the homage of their veneration and of their filial love and to receive from the Vicar of Jesus Christ favors so rarely accorded.

It is thanks to you that they have been given the opportunity to renew their faith and their piety, upon seeing these places watered with the blood of so many martyrs, in the august sanctuaries of Rome, second crib of Christianity, and in that blessed house in Loreto where the mystery of the Incarnation was accomplished.

All, priests and faithful, will guard the precious memories of these happy days, passed so quickly, during which you have been their guide and their example.

Deign to accept, Monseigneur, the homage of their respectful and unalterable thanks.

Rome, 23 November 1887.

 

oliviers-autour-AssiseThursday 24—We left Rome at 10 o’clock in the morning.  How many things we were not able to see and how many others we desired to see again!  But we will never know here below perfect happiness.  We set off again this day for our beautiful country of Normandy.

Our first pilgrimage on the return has been to the Assisi (photo to the left) of St. Francis and St. Clare, we climbed by coach the picturesque hill on which the city is built, in order to successively visit the three superimposed churches of the Conventual [Franciscan Friars] and to venerate the tomb of St. Francis, the blessing written in his hands and the linen that he used during his last illness, as well as the veil of the Most Holy Virgin and the cross given by St. Louis to St. Bonaventure.

couvent-St-ChiaraContinuing by foot our climb, we set out for the tomb of the founder of the Clares (photo to the right).  Like St. Catherine of Bologna, she is exposed to the view of visitors; only the glass case prevents contact [Today, her face and hands are covered with a silver mask].

Retracing our steps then, [we went to] to the church built above the house of St. Francis, we prayed in the sanctuary where was his room and, traversing a small chapel having for doors those of the home of the blessed, we came to prostrate ourselves near the grotto where his father locked him up after the vision of Our Lord. 

eglise-hebergeant-celle-reparee-par-FrNear the train station, the vast church of the Portioncule [actually a small, highly decorated chapel within the large Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli located about 4 kms. downhill from Assisi - photo to the left], we remembered the great stages of the life of the saintly Patriarch; his vision of Our Lady of the Angels, in the small chapel conserved under the new dome; his temptation in the rose garden still conserved, his death in the room also to be found within the church.

From the architectural point of view, the most remarkable of the different sanctuaries is without a doubt the first basilica, in beautiful XIII century style, with the frescoes on the walls recalling all the life of St. Francis.  Another souvenir is there to be found; there can be found the seat from which preached St Bernardine of Sienna.

All very moved by these memories, we re-boarded the train to arrive in Florence at 9:45.  Dinner awaited us and it is time then to take a well deserved rest.

 

Flo-panoramaFriday 25—Despite detestable weather, Florence the Beautiful appears to us (photo to the left), compared to other cities of Italy, to justify its name.  Its cleanliness; its well-paved streets, its sidewalks, the good dress of the inhabitants made for our spirits a contrast that no one could prevent from noticing.

Like always, the visit to churches occupies the greatest part of the different stations of the voyage.  It is not more of the same style that we had already found.  The ogive [a diagonal arch or rib across a Gothic vault] pleases the Florentines a great deal.  Without the Annunciation, the marbles, the gold decorations are relegated to second place.  All together [the impression] is very severe and magnifies more the beauty of our Norman Gothic churches.  The same at Santa Maria Novella, the Cathedral of Santa Croce, the same idea with noticeable architectural modifications.  While one, the Cathedral may have a vault like ours, with a rose window to shed light on the nave.  Santa Croce allows to be seen the cross beans and rafters of the structure; the windows of the nave are in the form of lancets. There is another marvel that we have only found in Florence:  they are the immense bronze doors with fine work with subjects that are admirably presented.  At San Lorenzo, they give us the entire life of St. Laurent, the octagonal baptistery (photo to the left) of St John the Baptist that Michelangelo called the Doors of Paradise (photo to the right), as they have been named, remembering the scenes of the Old Testament; another, the life of the Savior, a third one with a superb bronze frame is that of St. John the Baptist.

Door-of-paradise-in-Baptistry-of-DuomoFew cities have as many ancient and so well preserved stain glass windows—the four windows below the Cathedral are of a glass mosaic of very recent work.  The effect is striking when one faces the doorway of this latest monument.  The richness and the variety of the marbles, the mosaics that decorate the façade dazzle the eyes, and procure in the visitor a sort of disappointment when one penetrates the interior as sober as the exterior is brilliant.  We cannot nevertheless prevent ourselves from admiring the superb copula of which Michelangelo said: “it is difficult to make it as well; it is impossible to make it better.”  It is octagonal and preceded immediately by the apse.  There is no choir.

tombe galileo-ltAs highlights of Santa Croce which is the Pantheon of Florence, we will only signal out the monuments raised to Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli, Donatello, the celebrated Florentine sculptor, the tomb of Galileo and the beautiful marble XIV century pulpit.

At San Lorenzo, the place of burial of the Medicis, we could not visit the new sacristy containing their tombs; could be tomorrow, we would be very happy.  Two magnificent bronze pulpits also sculpted by Donatello, representing the life of Our Lord, are found in the church.  The portal without windows of this monument is very ancient.  The arches are en plein cintre [a type of Roman arch that corresponds to a semi-circle] with the flat vaults.

After these visits, and despite the rain, each one went off to different neighborhoods of the city to enjoy its panorama, the others dispersed among the museums.  Tomorrow, we will talk again.

 

Saturday 26—The museums of Florence are without doubt the most beautiful of Italy.  We are not departing until 2:00 PM; our morning has been consecrated to the Uffizi and Pitti Palaces. Impossible to depict all the marvels of painting exposed in these museums.  All the great artists of the nations of Europe are there worthily represented.  Each School has its one or two particular galleries.

plafond-adjacent-AcademiaThus, there and also in the Academy of Beaux-Arts (photo to the right), which many of the pilgrims visited, in order to admire the religious paintings which make up the greatest majority.  Fra  Angelico has there selected his domicile, like Raphael, Michelangelo, Veronese, Rubens and a multitude of others in the Pitti museum. The national museum, although it is much less rich that the one in the Vatican, does not lack great interest.  They are mutually complimentary.  The magnificent collection of arms, earthenware, ivories and tapestries demand a very prolonged study that we were not able to consecrate to them.

Our last visit was to the chapel of the Medicis and the tombs sculpted by Michelangelo.  Those are found in unfinished states, being instead the first flower of a reputation that he had for judging the richness and the variety of the marble.

In leaving Florence, the horizon that is developing before the eyes of those who were not able to go on the favorite Promenade of the Florentines and the Michelangelo Piazza [this is a lookout point from where one can have a panoramic view of the city of Florence] makes them forget their disappointment a little.

At 4:30 we are in Pisa, having just enough time to traverse the city by foot or tramway to have an idea of the city.  The impression has not been bad.  Because this evening the pilgrims of Bayeux are lodged in the same hotel, we took advantage of the occasion to offer the venerable president, M. Reverony, a little souvenir of our pilgrimage.  In handing over a mosaic representing St. Peter of Rome, Monsieur the president Hain, spoke on behalf of all our sentiments of great gratitude. After having responded with simplicity, appropriately and heartfelt in character, M. le Doyen made a toast to the Supreme Pontiff, to Rev. Bishop of Bayeux, to all those present, to their families and to their parishes, and we separated happy in this union of spirits and hearts that did not cease to move us.

pise

Sunday 27—Yesterday and today, we have had two magnificent summer days.—The weather very clear allowing us to enjoy a superb view from high on the leaning tower of Pisa (left).

Monsieur [Bishop] of Coutances has celebrated the holy Mass at the cathedral, the most beautiful religious monument that he have come across along with St. Peter’s in Rome and the cathedrals of Milan and Venice.

Situated at the extreme end of the city opposite the train station, along fortifications, it forms with the baptistery that is found facing the doorway and the celebrated Campanile situated at the apse, all together very remarkable because of the harmony that reigns in the style and proportions.  We will point out only from the baptistery the XIII century pulpit by Nicholas of Pisa, and at the Cathedral the magnificent bronze doors, the mosaics in the apse, the altar, the marquetry of the stalls, the numerous bronzes by J. of Bologna and the paintings of Andrea del Sarto, and finally the marches in marble so finely sculpted in the pulpit.

Very close to these monuments, the Campo Santo, consecrated by the people of Pisa to the great men of their city, is very remarkable because of its galleries, themselves so elegant, as are the pictures, very deteriorated, and the tombs or the statues placed down the porticos.

the-Arno-riverThe Arno (photo to the left), which crosses the city, ran yesterday up to the banks; this morning it was less elevated.  Certain country sides were nevertheless covered with water when we traversed them in reaching Genoa.  After nearly two months, it seems that the rain does not cease from falling.

What a singular train trajectory we have made past mid-day, after Spezia until Geneva!  During more than two hours, we have not ceased from passing one tunnel after another with short but charming escapes towards the Mediterranean.  They [the tunnels] are nevertheless far from the worth of those in Switzerland, nor do they procure the same emotion.

Finally, to finish the narrative for today, the impression that remains of the manner of how Sunday is sanctified in Italy is this: our French and Bayeux services carry one infinitely more towards piety and also recollection and are also more frequent, if they are not more.  On the other hand, we have remarked, fewer workers and above all much more seriousness that in our country of Normandy.

 

Monday 28.—The two great curiosities of Genoa are the Campo Santo and the Promenade di Circonvallazione [a Monte].  We could not resist making our pilgrimage to the first, to take account of its reputation.  Assuredly, it is deserved.  The statuary is spread in all its beauty.  But is there not a bit ostentatiousness to demand to be in this way arranged under the corridors that require the superb mausoleums?  The simplicity in which the magnificent funeral monuments were dispersed in Milan throughout the cemetery seemed to me to carry the seal of more real sorrow.

The cathedral has nothing remarkable, no more than other churches.  There are numerous beautiful palaces.  The via Roma, Victor Emmauel Piazza are interesting to see; but it was a greater satisfaction that from the height of the Avenue that dominates the city, we contemplated the numerous vessels docked in its port.

During all these Promenades the time ran very rapidly, we had time only to go back to our hotels to take our baggage and leave. The same series of tunnels awaits us, to the great despair of readers and writers.  Nevertheless, the long and numerous  stretches of  sunlight above the mountains and the villages with their raised steeples uniformly crowned with domes, produce in us a joy much greater than yesterday.  The orange groves covered with their fruit, the olive trees with the verdure that splashes out over the country. To the left of the tracks, the blue sea, the barks, the sailboats come to find harbor in the numerous small ports of the coast that we cross and to which we give a quick glance.

 

At 4:30 PM we are in France.  Customs makes an inspection of our bags at Vintimille and we are directed towards Nice.

Between the two stations, the beach that we do not leave for even an instant has a magical aspect.  All the lights that lay out in tiers along the hills or above the edge of the sea at Menton, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, are charming to see.  In leaving this last station, an accident that could have had serious consequences [took place] in connection with the controller of tickets.  While he was going from one car to the other and the train was running, the car door in which he was stationed opened and brusquely closed, and he broke his arm.

By a superb evening and a magnificent moonlight, we took walks through the city with its wharfs and boulevards.  If all the amenities imaginable sufficed to restore the health of all the sick who come here to spend a season during winter, there would be no mourning in any of the families because this is a veritable paradise of delights.  Tomorrow morning, we leave at 7:00.

Because we will be on our return the moment our train appears, it is pointless to continue more correspondence that could not have any interest except for the [friends or relatives] of known or beloved persons who make part of the this far-off pilgrimage  They will be able to complete in person the information that I have certainly omitted in great amount.  I have made a summary of my impressions, they will consign theirs.  In comparing them, a very great light will flow in their spirits, and will permit them better to make known [their experiences] than I have, to those who surround them, the joys of such a voyage so rich in memories and so consoling to all Christian souls.

 

I finish, Dear Mister Director, in telling you the news that circulates in the train, M. Abbot Reverony has been named canon of the basilica of Loreto.

Tomorrow, we will be in Marseille.  Wednesday, we will pray at Our Lady of Fourvieres, at Lyon to bless us ad to bless France.  We will return Saturday to our loved ones.

 

Awaiting the pleasure of seeing you again, I ask, dear Mister Director, to believe that I am yours in spirit and heart.

L. Huet, Vicar of Saint-Etienne of Caen.

 

 

A last dernier echo of the Pilgrimage of Bayeux to Rome

 

I think that I will finish my narrative of the pilgrimage from when we placed our feet on the soil of France.  How many kindly requests have I received to continue since our definitive separation.  I will do so briefly, after a clarification and two responses to questions posed by persons who were not on the pilgrimage. First of all, it was a mistake to have given the title of saint, in the first letter, to Frances of Rimini.  The immortality to which she is indebted to the poem of Dante and to the tragedy of Silvio Pellico is more than sufficient.

Someone has asked us if it was possible for 70 or 80 priests of the pilgrimage to celebrate each day the Holy Mass? In travelling, when the departure was not too early, they always had the joy [of celebrating the Mass privately.]  In Rome, they had all the means to offer the Holy Sacrifice in one of the churches that are so numerous around the hotels where they are dropped off.  We did not say anything in our letters of the churches in the center of the city that we saw each day but which we did not visit in groups.  Among these were: the Minerva, St. Augustine, St. Sylvester, St. Maria in Aquiro, etc.  The Pantheon is also one of the monuments in front of which we passed every day.   Almost all have also gone, at least one time, to celebrate Mass at St Peter’s, and in the most honored sanctuaries, as are the tombs or the rooms of St. Ignatius, of St. Louis of Gonzague, of St. S.B. Labre and the Blessed Berchmans, etc.  [Ignatius' room is adjacent to a chapel where St. Ignatius asked to be taken to await death. Nearby, there is the principal Jesuit house where is kept today a prie-Dieu that is venerated as one that Thérèse used for confession.  It makes one wonder if Therese might have gone to the Ignatian chapel and also perhaps visited the Jesuit house. Both happen to be near the hotel where she stayed].

The last question that is posed to us is this: what is the state of the bodies of St. Charles, St. Catherine, St. Clare, and the Blessed Crispini that you contemplated?—With the exception of the last, who has [only] been dead for a century and a half and whose skin has maintained its whiteness, the others are somewhat mummified, with a color almost black.  Only, as we have already said, the Bolognese saint bears a white spot on her face, the place where the divine Infant Jesus gave her a kiss.

We will hasten now to finish the narrative of our pilgrimage.

We do not believe that we will find again more charming shores than the lakes of Switzerland.  The bay of Antibes, the city of Cannes and the other winter resorts that presented after Nice up until Frejus on the coast of the Mediterranean procured in us a very lively satisfaction, [even if] one has acquired a bit of a blasé [attitude] towards the marvels of nature.  The joy, nevertheless, is great. 

At Marseille, we made a rendez vous of three and a half hours at Notre Dame de la Garde.  By a rising path, gravelly, experiencing weakness and faintness, making little stops to rest ourselves and to enjoy the splendid panorama of the city, we reached the blessed sanctuary.

May the Virgin protect us, as her title indicates, that she may guard Our Supreme Pontiff, the Church, France with its glories and character, Normandy with its traditions of faith, such were the allocutions of His Greatness Mgs. Germain, before the solemn blessing of the Most Blessed Sacrament.  Sustained and protected by Her whom we saluted from our different dioceses under the invocation of  Notre Dame de la Delivrand-sur-Vire and the Immaculate Conception, may our our lives be holy, our path without pitfalls, and Jesus to be our share in time and eternity.  The Canebiere [the historic high street in the old quarter of Marseille] was with all its radiance as we descended down the hill.  Faithful to their tradition, the people of Marseilles blocked the streets and the vast sidewalks, enjoying only in the city the privilege of lighting and electricity.

At 6:00 in the morning, Wednesday, we left Marseilles under weather as poor as in almost the totality of the countries that we crossed.  The palaces of the Popes in Avignon and the chateau of King Rene at Tarascon are the two principal curiosities that we were able to glimpse in passing from the train.

For the last time, the pilgrims of Bayeux found themselves reunited, that evening, at the large Hotel Continental Collet, to share a fraternal banquet and to take their rests.  The moment had come to celebrate M. the Abbot Legoux, Vicar general of Coutances, who made himself completely available, for many months, to organize the pilgrimage and to give him our sincere gratitude.

It is with the applause of all that M. the Abbot Reverony gave us a lecture on the Speech that we are all to sign, and from which I will only detach one phrase summarizing our thoughts:

 

“May it be allowed of the pilgrims of the diocese of Bayeux, Monsieur and venerable Director, to tell you that among the memories of the pilgrimage in which His Grace of Coutances has given His gracious welcome, they conserve among the most precious, the one of the kindly devotion up to the point of indefatigability, of delicate zeal to the point of generosity that that has procured for them so much that is charming, and of so many pious joys.—May God conserve you for a long time with a strength that will be used for His glory!...

 

There was nothing more to do than to sing the Thanksgiving Magnificat.  It was at Fourvieres that Mgr. the Bishop of Coutances borrowed the words of the Virgin Mary, to glorify God for the particular assistance that He has not ceased in according us.  Glory to God who has led us by the hand, to the church of Sacre-Coeur, to the tomb of St. Charles and St Ambrose in Milan, to St. Marc in Venice, to St. Anthony at Padua, then to the feet of St. Catherine of Bologna, at last to the blessed House of Loreto, witness to the Incarnation of the Verb!—Glory to God who permitted us to tour the Eternal city, its sanctuaries, its Coliseum, and to allow us to prostrate ourselves at the feet of the Pontiff who reigns in the Vatican!--In sum, glory to God whom from Rome reunited us at Fourvieres after having venerated St. Francis and St. Catherine, St. Magdalen and the Virgin of the Guard [Vierge de la Garde]!  Thanksgiving and love.  We are Christians and Catholics; all can be found in those words.

After having been admitted to visit the new chapel of Fourvieres and the crypt of which the sculptures and the paintings already allow to foresee its future magnificence, we took the funicular train again to return to the city.

Why is it that time has to be so short, and it prevents us from going on pilgrimages so dear to those from Lyon: to St-Irenee, to the vineyards and to St. Blandine?  The only memories that will stand out in our spirits of our passing through Lyon shall be the splendid panorama of the city, the Cathedral, the Bellecour plaza and two or three beautiful streets that we have had the occasion to cross.

Around, 10:30, we set en route to Paris.  The beautiful fecund plains along the Saone, the most renowned vineyards of the Bourgogne passed successively and rapidly before our eyes.  We crossed the stations and the cities; at 6:30, we dined buffet style in Tonnerre.  Around, one in the morning, we finally arrived in Paris.

Beginning at that moment, the dispersal of pilgrims commenced.  Some, more pressed to return, left on Friday.  The others waited for the departure of the group fixed for Saturday to enjoy the discount promised by the Company “de l’Ouest”, and to satisfy their piety.  Friday morning; without a word of instruction being given, a large group of priests and lay from the pilgrimage were reunited at the feet of Sacre-Couer at Montmartre: the first to celebrate there the Holy Mass and the second to receive Communion there; all of them to give themselves to Jesus and to confide in Him the needs of their most beloved.

How, after midday, could we not also go to Notre-Dame des Victoires [Our Lady of Victories]!  As in the two preceding sanctuaries of the Blessed Virgin, we were there reunited together, but we also formed a guard of honor renewed hour by hour.  May we always be good and loyal servants!

Today Saturday, the express train from Paris rendered all the pilgrims to their parishes or their families.  During one month, they have been separated in order to live a new life, and to go to plant their tent from here to there, as once did the patriarchs, where the soul could find some nourishment to reanimate the faith.  The time has come to rest.  Upon returning to their homes, the 125 pilgrims from Coutances and the 73 from Bayeux will never forget the happy moments during these days that so quickly ran.  The heart, the spirit and the memory will always conserve the souvenirs, the freshness and the sweetness of the first impressions.  It is at least the dream, which has ended, that we are pleased to cherish.


L. Huet, Vicar of Saint-Etienne of Caen

 

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THIRD LETTER

 

Rome, 20 November 1887

 

Mister Director,

 

Before recommencing my little journal, I cannot restrain myself from making one or two reflections and to establish a comparison between Rome and other cities in Italy that we have crossed.  It seems that one feels more at home in the Eternal City.  The people do not seem at all surprised to see us.  There is, it seems to me, something of a rapport [shown] in their behavior while we travel through the city.  Is it real?  I will leave it to others to think otherwise.

 

What a difference as well in the type of people and their costumes!  The general tone is very serious and in the best of taste.  Ordinary people are not unkempt as they are in Milan, in Bologna and above all in Venice.  In this class of society, women are sometimes dressed in their gracious, national costumes, much more so than those women who presented themselves at our departure from the Basilica of Loreto.

 

As far as the city itself, except for certain newly opened quarters, the streets in the interior of Rome are of ordinary length like in our provincial cities but without sidewalks. With well maintained proportions, the narrow streets are very numerous.  From all sides, outside the walls, on new streets, immense houses are under construction.

 

Let us return then to the daily narrative of our peregrinations.

 

Tuesday 15 November. – Rainy weather upon departure that is hardly favorable to travel in open coach.  We left nevertheless, one sitting near the coach man under his large green or brown umbrella, and the others harbored under the hood of the vehicle.  The rain lasted but around an hour.  Yesterday’s visit was a bit tiring, not having some of the great monuments of Rome to visit.  Today, we were completely recuperated.  What holy emotions produced to look upon these remarkable relics that not all the world can see, and that we were admitted to venerate thanks to the steps taken by Mgr. of Countances and to our title as pilgrims!

 

We began at St. Peter in Chains.  [San Pietro in Vincoli]  We descended to the Confession to contemplate the chains of the Apostle, the tomb containing the ashes of the seven Maccabee brothers, and afterwards a quick glimpse of paintings in the apse and the sacristy recalling the miracle of the deliverance of the Head of the Apostles, afterwards a few minutes of admiration before the Moses of Michelangelo before descending to the Coliseum.

 

What a spectacle again these grandiose ruins where so many thousands of martyrs died confessing the faith!  Why, therefore, was there a need for the invaders to remove the Cross and the religious marks that the Popes had imprinted in the stations of the Via Crucis, in order to return to their pagan stamps?  [S.C.:  I wonder if perhaps, Fr. Huet is referringto some then recent  historical event wherein these religious markers were removed by an invader.  Not sure.]   For us the memories cannot be erased; a ground embedded with the blood of Christians cannot but augment the faith while one kneels there.

 

From the Arch of Constantine, which is very close by, we went to St. John Lateran.  This time we were on pontifical soil.  After the visit to the places and to the museums, we went on to the Holy Stairs.  With what religious joy, we climbed on our knees the twenty-eight steps taken by Our Lord to go to the Praetorium of Pontius Pilate!  With what joy we kissed the three places where there still remain traces of his divine blood!

 

We soon entered into the large and superb Basilica, passing by the walled-off door that is called the Holy Door and that is open only in the epoch of Jubilees.  There is conserved and venerated [a section of the wooden] table of the [Last] Supper, the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul.  Very nearby a very charming cloister in the Byzantine style of the XIII century, a true Christian museum at the center of which one can find the well that is said to be the one pertaining to the Samaritan woman.

 

All to the side of the church, the baptistery of Constantine, in octagonal form, with the beautiful mosaics of the IV century.  Only pilgrims visit the small chapel  of St. John the Baptist; ladies cannot enter because, say the guides, of the crime of Herod demanded [by Salome] of the head of the Precursor [John the Baptist].

 

From there, via an awful street, going along the interior of the city walls, we were directed towards the Basilica of Santa Croce [Holy Cross] in Jerusalem (this basilica takes its name from the soil brought from Jerusalem and placed at the foundations.).  As its name indicates, all there recalls the Passion of the Savior.  We were therefore admitted to venerate three pieces of considerable size of the true Cross, one of the nails that fixed Jesus to the wood of His torture and two of the thorns that tore his forehead.  The step of the altar contains the transversal wood of the cross of the good thief that measures close to two meters on length.  In sum, after viewing the finger that Thomas placed in the wounds of the Savior, we prayed to Saint Cesaire and Saint Anastase, whose remains are contained in the main altar, to intercede for us.  The entrance to the subterranean chapel, constructed by St. Helen, is also prohibited to women, under pain of excommunication.

 

Crossing the Porta Maggiore, after travelling two kilometers in the country, we arrived at Saint Lawrence-Beyond-the-Walls.  There is buried Pius IX of holy and illustrious memory.  His sarcophagus is simple; but the faithful still adorn today with magnificent mosaics the chapel where he is entombed.  In front of his tomb can be found the rock on which is fixed the grill where St. Lawrence was roasted.  His history and that of St. Etienne are painted on the walls of the nave.

 

I have not spoken about the ancient columns that serve as pillars for almost the whole totality of churches.  Almost all of them come from temples or baths of ancient Rome.  Each day disappear little by little the traces of the city of Romulus.  We could only spot two or three specimens on our way to Saint Mary Major.

 

The night began to fall preventing us from admiring in detail the riches of the basilica.  The greater clarity of the transepts permitted us only to contemplate the chapel of the Holy Sacrament with its immense tabernacle sustained by four angels, and the tombs of Pius V and Sixtus V.  We were obliged to put off for later the veneration of the Creche and the painting that recalls the miracle of the occasion for which was constructed the basilica of Our Lady of the Snow.

 

In leaving, we passed by the little church of St. Prasede, so rich in memories.  It is not there, in effect, that the body of the saint is preserved, [rather] the well in which she deposited the blood of the martyrs that she was able to collect with St. Prudentia from the Coliseum and the marble table upon which she reposed?  Is it not also in one of the chapels that is conserved the column to which the Savior was attached during the flagellation?

 

The darkness would not permit us to distinguish at all St. Martin-des-Monts [San Martino ai Monti about five or six blocks from Santa Maria Maggiore].  At Ste. Marie-des-Monts [Santa Maria ai Monti], we proposed to end our pilgrimage for the day in visiting the relics of St. Benedict [Joseph] Labre, the great pilgrim of France, the sermon [being] given prevented us from realizing our project.  At 5:00 [PM], we returned to the hotel.

 

At dinner this evening, we learned with happiness that the Holy Father would admit us to his Sunday Mass, and that the audience would follow.

 

Wednesday 16.—Today, to place the reentry of the Italian Chamber.  The Parliament is situated on the same plaza as the hotel.  [But not, I believe, TH’s hotel that is much closer to the Spanish steps.  Apparently, the pilgrims were divided between two hotels. I could be wrong].  We saw, before leaving, the preparations for the reception of the King, the place is occupied by the gendarmerie to control the crowds. Because we did not come to Rome to see its sovereign, we left at the accorded time.

 

The greatest variety possible is found in the program that has been assigned to us.  One thing nevertheless does not vary: the bad state of the paths we follow during all our trajectory.  Consequently, we have not been able to visit St. Paul at the Three Fountains [San Paolo alle Tre Fontane].

 

The first part of the day was to visit secular monuments, except for the little stop that we made at St. Etienne the Round, an original and curious church, with a round ton [I am not sure this makes sense—why mention the weight] as its name indicates, in the altar of which is found the bodies of St. Prime and St. Felicite.  All around are painted different types of martyrdom endured by Christians.

 

At some distance, the colossal ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, more considerable than those of the Coliseum.  How well these represent the power of the genius of the Romans!

 

Later, we entered into a “columbarium”, small building in which the Ancients placed urns containing the ashes of their dead.  Four or five hundred rounded nooks like the holes of the dovecots indicate the spaces where they are deposited.

 

Passing quickly by the Porta San Sebastian, flanked by two big square towers and without descending to the chapel where St Peter said to Our Lord:  “Domine, quo vadis? Lord, where are you going?”—we arrived at the Catacombs of St. Calixtus.

 

A child of the diocese, the Rev. Fr. Marie-Bernard, extended to us there a most gracious reception.  We were divided in two groups in order to have a better look, and we visited successively the most important galleries.  It would take hours to walk through the five or six levels of which the length is a total of 16 kilometers and we had but one hour to dedicate here.  With what rapidity this hour passed!  How we sang with love:  “Omnes sancti Martyres, orate pronobis”  [All the Holy Martyrs, pray for us] in leaving the chapel of St. Cecilia, of the martyred popes and of all those generous Christians who died for Christ!  How the faith is affirmed in contemplating the sacraments and the mysteries painted on walls of the subterranean walls from the origin of Chrstianity!...But, let us move on.

 

From the Catacombs, we went to St. Sebastian to venerate the saint at his tomb, one of the arrows that gave him death and the column to which he was attached.  Also, there is conserved the stone on which Our Lord left the imprint of his feet, from his apparition to the chief of the Apostles and the cross before which St. Philip de Neri came often to pray.  In this papal chapel, in descending twenty steps, is found the well where the first Christians hid the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the place of the seat on which the pope St. Etienne was placed to die.

 

Finally to end our pilgrimage, the most marvelous of surprises awaited us.  Saint Paul Outside the Walls, with its five naves, its immense columns, its splendid mosaics in the apse, its superb altars in malachite, its portraits of popes also in mosaic and its colossal statues of St, Peter and St. Paul, made in all our spirits the most profound impression.   The heart and piety find equally their fill in this visit:  is it not there where the remarkable relics of two great Apostles and the chains of St. Paul are?  When the portal is finished, the exterior will not be less imposing than the interior, to judge by the atrium and the incomparable mosaics that serve as tapestries for the walls of the portal.

 

For the first time, after being in Rome, we discovered the Tiber [River] with its salty and muddy water when we returned our domicile.

 

Thursday 17 –We have our free morning.  Each employed according to his good pleasure.  For my part, despite the use of rhetoric employed by our guide to convince us that it was worth more to finish at St. Peter, I went [straight] to the Basilica, and I am again well convinced that it is not two or three visits that are needed but a hundred times that.

 

At midday, our group visits recommenced.  Flanked by eight police agents in civil [attire], two at the head and two in the back and the others spaced along the group in order to spare us any disagreeable manifestation (during our coach rides, we ordinarily have no more than two or three agents.  We never had the need for their intervention, we took our course by foot today, the monuments that we visited were not very far one from the other.

 

Walking along the imposing ruins of the theater of Marcellus that served as a model for the Coliseum, we arrived at the portico of Octavius, and we found ourselves in the Ghetto where the Jewish people live, amidst the rubble of a section that has been destroyed.

 

Through excessively narrow and tortuous streets, we came out next to the ancient temples of the Fortuna Virile (today St. Mary of Egypt) of Vesta (circular temple dedicated to St. Etienne, patron of coach drivers of Rome), and we found ourselves facing the temple of Ceres that has become the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin or the Beauty which deserves to be seen.  Under the portico, the “mouth of truth” in which the Romans place their hands to affirm the truth.  If they lie, the mouth will close, so they say, but one may also add that there may be more culpable hands than there are ones that are cut in the circumstance.  The columns of the church derive in part from an ancient temple; at the back of the apse, one finds the chair where St. Augustine had sat.  At the very end, the room of Blessed J.B. de Rossi which we did not visit.

 

The Palatine Hill with all its memories and its ruins kept us almost through two hours.  Of the grotto where says history, the she-wolf nourished Romulus and Remus, and passing before the temple of Vesta, built at the place of the fig tree under which she had nursed them and which today serves as the sepulcher of St. Theodore, we walked the immense ruins of the palace of Caligula, the charming house of Livia, mother of Tiberius, with its frescoes of incredible freshness, the basilicas and tribunals of the emperors, after we descended to the arc of Titus, to the forum of the emperors, to the one of the Romans, to the college of the Vestals.  We made a true course of Roman history that ended in the place of the Capitol and the Tarpeian Rock.

 

We reentered immediately into the heart of the most touching Christian remembrances.  What horrible dungeon that was the Mamertine prison where were enclosed St. Peter and St. Paul and 47 other prisoners!  With what joy we drank his miraculous water that the chief of the Apostles made come out of a rock to baptize his jailors Processe and Matinien!  There still we found the column where the Apostle was attached.  In the superior chapel, the people did not cease coming to pray before the miraculous Crucifix that is found there.

 

Climbing immediately to the church of Ara Coeli, we venerated the ashes of St. Helen and the Bambino or miraculous statue of the Child Jesus, so dear to the Romans.

 

In finishing, we directed ourselves to the church of Gesu, one of the richest [decorated] in Rome.  For us, they lowered the canvas that covered the marvelous group of sumptuousness and beauty that represents the apotheosis of St. Ignatius, which is not uncovered except on great feast days, and we venerated his remains.  Opposite, we went to pray to St. Francis Xavier, [S.C.: interesting detail: the two patron saints of missionaries together for an instant in Rome.] apostle of the Indies of whom the arm and hand are exposed to receive or homage.  A visit to the room of St. Ignatius was the complement to the pilgrimages of the day.

 

Friday 18. –It is the day of artists.  What a magnificent solemnity was celebrated today for the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Peter!  Having the good fortune of finding ourselves in Rome, we could not allow it to escape.

 

Cardinal Howard presided at the High Mass, and an archbishop at vespers.  The great choir was heard in the Clementine chapel.  What powerful and harmonious voices like bass, tenor or soprano!  One was riveted to the sound of the artists singing solo or in a duo.  The soul was seized when the choir or the two organs [performed].  Blaring in a forte manner, filling the entire basilica with sublime harmony.  At the end of Mass and vespers, from above the tribune where there are conserved the major Relics, three benedictions with the true Cross, the lance and the linen that Veronica used to wipe the face of the Savior, are preserved for the good of all.

 

Between [religious] services, our time was consecrated for visiting the Vatican Museums;  there was too much to see but we chose the paintings of the great masters  [S. C.,I did not understand the expression “celui peu] and their sculptures, the most beautiful and most precious in the entire world; at last, the Sistine Chapel. Decorated by Michelangelo, and the superb library, particularly called the Great Room, where are exposed some of the magnificent objects offered to recent popes by different monarchs.  [S. Camille:  as an aside, a Vatican guard told us that the room where TH met Leo XIII was near here.  That was as close as we got.] 

 

Don’t I have a reason to call this day the day of artists in music, in painting and statuary?

 

Saturday 19 –We were not able, Tuesday, to venerate the Creche of the Child Jesus at Santa Maria Maggiore.  This favor is today accorded us in six groups of pilgrims who disperse to the four corners of the city.

 

We made different stops on the way to returning to St. Peter that should be studied in detail.  The first was at Santa Maria in Transtevere built in 224 by Pope St. Callixtus [I] and reconstructed like almost all the churches of Rome in the XVII century, and restored by Pius IX.  A multitude of relics, coming from the cemetery carrying the name of the sainted pope [Callixtus I] are preserved there, such as the stone that was thrown at his neck when he was thrown down a well, and the fountain of oil that flows since the birth of the Savior.

 

What can be said about the church of St Cecilia?  The memory of the saint that fills with fragrance the sanctuary that she still occupies and in which she still reposes cannot help but rejoice the hearts of Christians.  Are not her virtues also perpetuated by the two communities of Clares and Benedictines that repeat after her the glory of the Most High?  Next Tuesday, the feast of the saint, all the artists of Rome will gather together around her glorious sepulcher.

 

Passing near the convent where St. Francis of Assisi stayed, we could not omit visiting his room and the honored relics of all the blesseds of the Seraphic order that are conserved there.

 

We climbed next the Janiculum Hill.  On this hill, St. Peter was crucified.  We prostrated ourselves close to the open hole where his cross was planted, and after a quick look over the magnificent panorama of Rome and a visit to the superb Pauline fountain, near which is found the Porta S. Pancrazio through which the French entered Rome in 1849, we arrived at St. Peter’s.

 

I will not go into detail.  All the world knows the premiere church of the Catholic world.  We stopped for a few minutes at each masterpiece that it contains, and we descended to the Confession to render to the Apostles Peter and Paul the homage that they are due by each Christian soul.  Who are always our guides in the faith, and our models in virtue!

 

After St. Peter, we had nothing to do but to finish our courses.  We contented ourselves, therefore, after having walked along the chateau [Castel Sant’Angelo] and the Sant’Angello Bridge, to enter into the convent of the church of Sant’ Onofrio to visit the bedroom and tomb of [Italian poet Torquato Tasso (1544-1595)].  [S.C.:  is there anything that they didn’t see? ;)]  [We] rapidly saw the superb square court of the Roman chancery where [Pellegrino Rossi, an Italian politician (1787-1848)] was assassinated, the Farnese Palace inhabited by the French Ambassador near the Quirinal and by our consul and we returned.  Our visits with interpreters have ended.  Each shall continue according to their taste.

 

Sunday 20—It was with souls filled with the most lively emotions that we entered into the audience of the Holy Father,  What precious moments we passed during the unforgettable morning of November 20, 1887!

 

At 7:30, we were all in the pontifical chapel.  [The Bishops and Monsignors of] Coutances, Nantes, Seez and de Vannes had taken their places in the sanctuary.  When at 8:00, Leo XIII made his entrance, we fell to our knees and he blessed us.  How beautiful to see this saintly old man, making his preparations in the sanctuary!  And when he had climbed the altar steps, with what piety he celebrated the Holy Mass, and above all with what penetrating [holiness] he recited the prayers that followed!  Yes, it was with affection that we, a small part of his troops, listened to him recite the Gospel:  Nolite timere, pussilus grex [“Fear not little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’.  Luke 12:32]. –What fear can one have, when one leans on the Rock of St. Peter, and when one is guided by the pontiff of Rome?

 

After the Thanksgiving Mass, the audience began with the pilgrims from Coutances.  Those from Bayeux followed, and we were followed by the pilgrims from Nantes.

 

Tears came to our eyes in thinking of the kindly warmth with which the Holy Father received us.  He spoke to all, and not content with allowing us to kiss his feet, he took our hands, and said to each a paternal word, after we left after his benediction and carrying with us a medal that he immediately asked us to wear.

 

In introducing us, Rev. Abbot Reverony had given to the Sovereign Pontiff the diocesan offering ,and expressed the regret that Bishop Hugonin has felt in not having, because of his health, come with his diocesan members to present to the successor of St. Peter his homage, those of his Chapter, of the clergy and of all the faithful that are entrusted to him.  In the name of His highness [the Bishop],the Vicar General had asked the Holy Father to extend his benedictions to all those absent who [nevertheless] accompany us through their devotion, and particularly above all the children who attend Christian schools.

 

Upon seeing the [gift of a] Rochet [an outer garment usually made with lace worn outside the soutane], Leo XIII took it into his hands, to examine one after the other the coat of arms of the [represented] cities, and he turned to [each group] that surrounded him.  Three times, he recommended that this magnificent work of art have a place of honor in the Vatican Exposition and to reserve a special display case for it.

 

When the file of ladies and of clergy had finished, Monsieur Felix Benoit, elderly magistrate and president of the Workers’ Handicrafts, approached the pontifical throne.

 

“Most Holy Father,” he said, “the Worker’s Handicrafts of the city of Caen, of the diocese of Bayeux, have confided in me the pious mission to deposit at the feet of Your Holiness these modest presents that are the fruit of the labor of different occupational groups.

 

“Among these humble offerings of Christian industry, our workers ask you, Most Holy Father, to deign to accept the homage of a book printed by the corporation of typographers and dedicated to Your Holiness.

 

“This book contains an account of the state of our Workers’ handicrafts and the text of a Conference made in Caen by Monsieur Chenelong, senator, to support the development of free Catholic Schools and corporative Institutions established in our Diocese after some years.

 

“Our Workers in Education and Labor are united, they prostrate themselves at the feet of Your Holiness and, humbly, they beg to solicit for their efforts a blessing for their enterprises.”

 

After leafing through the superb volume (this volume came from the presses of the printing enterprise of Mme Widow of Domin, it is a typographical masterpiece) that was offered to him, the Sovereign Pontiff has responded that it was very much touched by the offering of the workers, and above all the choice that had been made of a speech by M. Chenelong, that he blessed the Handicrafts and all those who participated in them.

 

 

There our audience was finished at which the Bishops of whom we spoke participated.

 

To close worthily this never to be forgotten day, the Bishop of Coutances  gathered us all this evening in the Church of St. Eustache.  The moment is not propitious to repeat all he said [but here are a few words]“such ardent faith we should have in a pontiff so kind and so zealous—what confidence[we should have] in his wisdom and his good authority—what love for the one whose kindness appears to us so great, and whose sanctity should lead us to behave well”  The Rev. Bishop of Seez gave then a benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament, in the presence of Mgr. Becel, who attended this touching reunion.

 

Only one thing was lacking for the ceremony this morning: a beautiful sun to celebrate our entry into the Vatican.  The rain did not cease falling until 12:00 PM.  But we deem, nevertheless, ourselves as being  fortunate,  All the other days of the week we have had relatively beautiful weather, with a little heat and humidity, but without rain.

 

Tomorrow, we leave for Pompeii and Naples –the number who stayed in Rome during these two days is very small.  No one has been sick; the health is excellent.

 

Please accept, dear Mister Director, the assurance of my entire devotion.

 

 

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