vol II date / index
Holiday at the Public Offices, except Excise, Stamp, and Custom.
St. Peter, the Apostle. St. Hemma, A.D. 1045.
From this apostle the Romish church assumes to derive her authority, and appoints this his anniversary, which she splendidly celebrates. The illuminations at Rome on this day would astonish the apostle were he alive. From the account of a recent traveller, they appear to be more brilliant than an Englishman can well imagine; he witnessed them, and describes them in these words:—
"At Ave Maria we drove to the piazza of St. Peter's. The lighting of the lanternoni, or large paper lanterns, each of which looks like a globe of etherial fire, had been going on for an hour, and, by the time we arrived there, was nearly completed. As we passed the Ponte San Angelo, the appearance of this magnificent church, glowing in its own brightness—the millions of lights reflected in the calm waters of the Tiber, and mingling with the last golden glow of evening, so as to make the whole building seem covered with burnished gold, had a most striking and magical effect.
"Our progress was slow, being much impeded by the long line of carriages before us; but at length we arrived at the piazza of St. Peter's, and took out station on the right of its farther extremity, so as to lose the deformity of the dark, dingy, Vatican palace. The gathering shades of night rendered the illumination every moment more brilliant. The whole of this immense church—its columns, capitals, cornices, and pediments—the beautiful swell of the lofty dome, towering into heaven, the ribs converging into one point at top, surmounted by the lantern of the church, and crowned by the cross,—all were designed in lines of fire; and the vast sweep of the circling colonnades, in every rib, line, mould, cornice, and column, were resplendent in the same beautiful light.
"While we were gazing upon it, suddenly a bell chimed. On the cross of fire at the top waved a brilliant light, as if wielded by some celestial hand, and instantly ten thousand globes and stars of vivid fire seemed to roll spontaneously along the building, as if by magic; and self-kindled, it blazed in a moment into one dazzling flood of glory. Fancy herself, in her most sportive mood, could scarcely have conceived so wonderful a spectacle as the instantaneous illumination of this magnificent fabric: the agents by whom it was effect were unseen, and it seemed the work of enchantment. In the first instance, the illuminations had appeared to be complete, and one could not dream that thousands and tens of thousands of lamps were still to be illumined. Their vivid blaze harmonized beautifully with the softer, milder light of the lanternoni; while the brillian glow of the whole illumination shed a rosy light upon the fountains, whose silver fall, and ever-playing showers, accorded well with the magic of the scene.
"Viewed from the Trinità de' Monti, its effect was unspeakably beautiful: it seemed to be an enchanted palace hung in air, and called up by the wand of some invisible spirit. We did not, however, drive to the Trinità de' Monti till after the exhibition of the girandola, or great fire-works from the castle of St. Angelo, which commenced by a tremendous explosion that represented the raging eruption of a volcano. Red sheets of fire seemed to blaze upwards into the glowing heavens, and then to pour down their liquid streams upon the earth. This was followed by an incessant and complicated display of every varied device that imagination could figure—one changing into another, and the beauty of the first effaced by that of the last. Hundreds of immense wheels turned round with a velocity that almost seemed as if demons were whirling them, letting fall thousands of hissing dragons, and scorpions, and fiery snakes, whose long convolutions, darting forward as far as the eye could reach in every direction, at length vanished into air. Fountains and jets of fire threw up their blazing cascades into the skies. The whole vault of heaven shone with the vivid fires, and seemed to receive into itself innumerable stars and suns, which, shooting up into it in brightness almost insufferable, vanished, like earth-born hopes. The reflection in the depth of the calm clear waters of the Tiber, was scarcely less beautiful than the spectacle itself; and the whole ended in a tremendous burst of fire, that, while it lasted, almost seemed to threaten conflagration to the world.
"The expense of the illumination of St. Peter's, and of the girandola, when repeated two successive evenings, as they invariably are at the festival of St. Peter, is one thousand crowns; when only exhibited one night they cost seven hundred. Eighty men were employed in the instantaneous illuminations of the lamps, which to us seemed the work of enchantment: they were so posted as to be unseen."* 
Dr. Forster, in certain remarks on the excitement of the imagination, cites some "Verses by a modern poet, on an appearance beheld in the clouds," which may aptly come after the glowing description of the illumination of St. Peter's:—
The appearance, instantaneously disclosed,
Was of a mighty city—boldly say
A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a wondrous depth
Far sinking into splendour, without end!
Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
With alabaster domes and silver spires,
And blazing terrace upon terrace, high
Uplifted; here, serene pavilions bright
In avenues disposed; there, towers begirt
With battlements, that on their restless fronts
Bore stars—illumination of all gems!
By earthly nature had the effect been wrought
Upon the dark materials of the storm
Now pacified; on them, and on the coves,
And mountain steeps and summits, whereunto
The vapours had receded—taking there
Their station under a cerulean sky[.]
363. The emperor Julian died, aged thirty-two. He was denominated the apostate, from having professed Christianity before he ascended the throne, and afterwards relapsing to Paganism. He received his death wound in a battle with the Persians. Dr. Watkins in his "Biographical Dictionary" says, that he was virtuous and modest in his manners, and liberal in his disposition, an enemy to luxury, and averse to public amusements.
Yellow Rattle. Rhinanthus Galli
Dedicated to St. Peter.
Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. Rome in the Nineteenth Century. [return]