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cheap book, with plates or woodcuts explaining what an early Christian Church was; what the ceremonies, ornaments, vestures, and liturgy were at the time when the Church of our LORD was formally established by the Emperor Constantine: for the numerous well-meaning authors who have written on the restoration of our older churches, appear to me to be completely in the dark. Gothic is NOT Christian architecture-it is Roman Catholic architecture: the vestures of English ecclesiastics are not restorations of early simplicity-they are modern inventions taken from German collegiate dresses which have nothing to do with religion."
The argument that "Gothic architecture is NOT Christian architecture," because "it is Roman Catholic architecture,” is about as absurd a statement as we ever met with in any book, and shows an excess of Protestant zeal which the "European dissenters" could scarcely transcend. It were precisely as wise to say that the various styles of classic architecture cannot be Greek, because they are Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian! The truth is, as every tyro knows, that what he calls Gothic architecture is much more properly Christian than the earlier basilica form, which he appears to regard as strictly and exclusively Christian. The Basilica was, in fact, closely imitated from the civil buildings, and only gradually modified, so as to assume a more ecclesiastical character in Christian churches. The remark on the ecclesiastical vestments is equally infelicitous, and shows that the author is completely in the dark" on this point also.
The following notice of a tomb in the Necropolis of Thebes is interesting, as furnishing a parallel to the churches of the catacombs :
Having lit them (the candles), we entered into the doorway of the tomb, and passing through a short passage, found ourselves in a great sepulchral hall. The earth and sand which had been blown into the entrance formed an inclined plane, sloping downwards to another door sculptured with hieroglyphics, through which we passed into a second chamber, on the other side of which was a third doorway, leading into a magnificent subterranean hall, divided into three aisles by four square columns, two on each side. There may have been six columns, but I think there were only four. The walls and columns, or rather square piers which supported the roof, retained the brilliant white which is so much to be admired in the tombs of the kings and other stately sepulchres. On the walls were various hieroglyphics, and on the square piers tall figures of the gods of the infernal regions-Kneph, Khonso, and Osiris-were pourtrayed in brilliant colours, with their immense caps or crowns, and the heads of the jackal and other beasts. At the further end of this chamber was a stone altar, standing upon one or two steps, in an apsis or semicircular recess. As this is not usual in Egyptian tombs, I have since thought that this had probably been altered by the Copts in early times and that, like the Christians of the West in the days of their persecution, they had met in secret in the tombs for the celebration of their rites, and had made use of this hall as a church, in the same way as we see the remains of chapels and places of worship in the catacombs of Rome and Syracuse. The inner court of the Temple of Medinet Habou has also been converted into a Christian church; and the worthy Copts have daubed over the beautifully executed pictures of Rameses II. with a coat of plaster, upon which they have painted the grim figures of S. George, and various old frightful saints and hermits, whose uncouth forms would almost give one the idea of their having served for a system of idolatry much less refined than the worship of the ancient gods of the heathen, whose places they have usurped in these gigantic temples."-pp. 121-123.
We now come to "The White Monastery," also near Thebes, ascribed to S. Helena with as little reason as that of the Pulley. It is one of the most curious and interesting notices in the book.
"The peculiarity of this monastery is, that the interior was once a magnificent basilica, while the exterior was built by the Empress Helena, in the ancient Egyptian style. The walls slope inwards towards the summit, where they are crowned with a deep overhanging cornice. The building is of an oblong shape, about two hundred feet in length by ninety wide, very well built of fine blocks of stone; it has no windows outside larger than loopholes, and these are at a great height from the ground. Of these there are twenty on the south side, and nine at the east end. The monastery stands at the foot of the hill, on the edge of the Libyan desert, where the sand encroaches on the plain. It looks like the sanctuary, or cella, of an ancient temple, and is not unlike the bastion of an old-fashioned fortification; except one solitary doom tree, it stands quite alone, and has a most desolate aspect, backed as it is by the sandy desert, and without any appearance of a garden, either within or outside its walls. The ancient doorway of red granite, on the south side, has been partially closed up, leaving an opening just large enough to admit one person at a time. Passing through the narrow door, I found myself surrounded by piles of ruined buildings of various ages, among which the tall granite columns of the ancient church reared themselves like an avenue on either side of the desecrated nave, which is now open to the sky, and is used as a promenade for a host of chickens...
"There were but three poor Priests. The principal one led us to the upper part of the church, which had lately been repaired and walled off from the open nave; and enclosed the apsis and transepts, which had been restored in some measure, and fitted for the performance of divine service. The half domes of the apsis and two transepts, which were of well-built masonry, were still entire, and the original frescoes remained upon them. Those in the transepts are stiff figures of saints; and in the one over the altar is the great figure of the Redeemer, such as is usually met with in the mosaics of the Italian basilicas. These apsides are above fifty feet from the ground, which gives them a dignity of appearance, and leaves greater cause to regret the destruction of the nave, which, with its clerestory, must have been still higher. There appear to have been fifteen columns on each side of the centre aisle, and two at the end opposite the altar, which in this instance I believe is at the west end. The roof over the part of the east end, which has been fitted up as a church, is supported by four square modern piers of plastered brick or rubble work. On the side walls, above the altar, there are some circular compartments containing paintings of the saints; and near these are two tablets with inscriptions in black on a white ground. That on the left appeared to be in Abyssinian: the one on the other side was either Coptic or uncial Greek; but it was too dark, and the tablet was too high, to enable me to make it out. There is also a long Greek inscription, in red letters, on one of the modern square piers, which looks as if it was of considerable antiquity; and the whole interior of the building bears traces of having been repaired and altered more than once in ancient times. The richly ornamented recesses of the three apsides have been smeared over with plaster, on which some tremendously grim saints have been pourtrayed, whose present threadbare appearance shows that they have disfigured the walls for several centuries. Some comparatively modern capitals, of bad design, have been placed upon two or three of the granite columns of the nave; and others, which were broken, have been patched with brick, plastered and painted to look like granite. The principal entrance was formerly at the west end, where there is a small vestibule; immediately within the door of which, on the left hand, is a small chapel, perhaps the baptistery, about twenty-five feet long, and still in toler
able preservation. It is a splendid specimen of the richest Roman architecture of the latter empire, and is truly an imperial little room. The arched cieling is of stone; and there are three beautifully ornamented niches on each side. The upper end is semicircular, and has been entirely covered with a profusion of sculpture in panels, cornices, and every kind of architectural enrichment. When it was entire, and covered with gilding, painting, or mosaic, it must have been most gorgeous. The altar in such a chapel as this was probably of gold, set full of gems; or if it was the baptistery, as I suppose, it most likely contained a bath of the most precious jasper, or of some of the more rare kinds of marble, for the immersion of the converted heathen, whose entrance into the church was not permitted until they had been purified with the waters of baptism in a building without the door of the house of GOD."
This last remark is another instance of that slovenly carelessness, of which we have seen other instances in this volume. Mr. Curzon can scarcely be ignorant of the practice of the ancient Church with regard to its catechumens. The disposition of the cells closes the description of this remarkable building.
"The habitations of the monks, according to the original design of this very curious building, were contained in a long slip on the south side of the church, where their cells were lit by the small loopholes seen from the outside. Of these cells none now remain: they must have been famously hot, exposed as they were all day long to the rays of the southern sun; but probably the massive thickness of the walls and arched cielings reduced the temperature. There was no court or open space within the convent; the only place where its inhabitants could have walked for exercise in the open air, was upon the flat terrace of the roof, the deck of this ship of S. Peter; for the White Monastery in some respects resembled a dismasted man-of-war, anchored in a sea of burning sand."-(pp. 131-136.)
The notices of Jerusalem and the monastery of S. Sabba furnish nothing to our purpose, and are characterised by the same mixture of cleverness and ignorance, of flippancy and fairness, as distinguishes the other parts of this volume. The appended plan of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a bad copy of an old and inaccurate plan, and is only calculated to mislead. We proceed to the monasteries of the Meteora, a remarkable district at the eastern base of Mount Pindus, near the banks of the Peneus, at which our traveller arrives, after an adventurous journey through Albania.
"The scenery of the Meteora is of a very singular kind. The end of a range of rocky hills seems to have been broken off by some earthquake, or washed away by the Deluge, leaving only a series of twenty or thirty tall, thin, smooth, needle-like rocks, many hundred feet in height; some like gigantic tusks, some shaped like sugar-loaves, and some like vast stalagmites. These rocks surround a beautiful grassy plain, on three sides of which there grow groups of detached trees, like those in an English park. Some of the rocks shoot up quite clean and perpendicularly from the smooth green grass; some are in clusters; some stand alone like obelisks: nothing can be more strange and wonderful than this romantic region, which is unlike anything I have ever seen either before or since. In Switzerland, Saxony, the Tyrol, or any other mountainous region where I have been, there is nothing at all to be compared to these extraordinary peaks.
"On the tops of these rocks, in different directions, there remain seven monasteries out of twenty-four which once crowned their airy heights. How
anything except a bird was to arrive at one which we saw in the distance on a pinnacle of rock, was more than we could divine; but the mystery was soon solved."-(pp. 279-281.)
The principal monastery of this extraordinary group is that called par excellence Meteora, visited, but not particularly described, by Mr. Curzon; but as its church is, according to his account, "in better order" than that of S. Barlaam, which he describes, and "the paintings more brilliant in colour, and more profusely decorated with gold," it is well that we can supply from another traveller this deficiency in the volume under review.
The Meteora was visited by Messieurs Didron and Durand in 1839; and the first volume of the "Annales Archéologiques," edited by the former, contains a very full and lively description of its wonders. Indeed, it must be said that the English writer suffers materially from a comparison with the French ecclesiastical antiquary, who has the further advantage of being free from that levity, bordering on profanity, which so often offends us in the former. A comparison, however, of the two narratives, leads us to suppose that Mr. Curzon had consulted M. Didron's earlier published account of his later visit; for the resemblance is too close to be accidental.
After a general view of the "forest of rocks," more graphic and grander than that which we have given from Mr. Curzon, and an account of his perilous ascent to the monastery of the Meteora, M. Didron describes briefly the monastic buildings, the refectory, kitchen, cellar, the abbat's lodging, and three chapels, dedicated to S. Constantine, the Forerunner, and a S. Athanasius, one of two founders of the Meteora.. A more detailed account of the large church follows, which will repay the perusal. (pp. 175-6.)
The great church is dedicated to the Transfiguration. It has before it a porch or narthex, open at the sides, and not in its western front. It is a kind of exterior church, a large vestibule, three bays deep and three bays broad, like the porch of S. Mary Magdalene at Vezelay. The church consists of a nave, with lateral aisles, transepts, and apse. The intersection of the transepts is surmounted by a large dome. The transepts also have apsidal terminations, like the sanctuary; giving to the building the form of a trefoil, as in the cathedral of Noyon. The whole building, including the narthex, is painted throughout in fresco. In the porch are represented the sufferings of the martyrs; in the church the glorification of the saints and the life of JESUS CHRIST. In the dome is a painting of paradise. In the centre is the Almighty, surrounded by Angels, with the Virgin and the Forerunner. The twelve Prophets adorn the circlet of the dome, and the four Evangelists are represented on the pendentives.
In the sanctuary, in front of the altar, is portrayed the Last Supper, at which the authors of the liturgies are present-SS. Chrysostom, Basil, and Gregory. Opposite is a figure of the heresiarch Arius, being devoured by a shark. S. Peter of Alexandria asks of CHRIST (represented as a beardless boy of about ten years of age, nearly naked, and clothed in a poor mantle) "Who hath taken away Thy robe?" Our LORD replies, Peter, it is this wicked Arius." In the small northern
apse, where the table of prothesis stands, is seen JESUS asleep near His Virgin Mother. An angel brings Him the instruments of the Passion -the spear, the sponge, the cross, the crown of thorns; while S. Mary withdraws the veil that covered His form.
The symbolism of this whole arrangement of the subjects is very beautiful, and justifies the remark of M. Didron, who writes :—" I know nothing more poetical, or better conceived, than the disposition of these paintings." Against the walls of the transepts, nave, and aisles, around the arches, and in the spandrils, is seen the whole life of CHRIST, and all the sacred history, from the Patriarchs of the Old Testament to the Saints of the New. On the piers and columns are painted the warrior-saints—the pillars of the Church-seven feet in height. At the entrance of the nave is a painting of the Transfiguration, to which this church is dedicated; and opposite to this, the two venerable monks, SS. Athanasius and Joseph, founders of the Meteora, holding in their hands a model of the church, which they are offering to JESUS. Against a column in the nave is a rude painting of the Virgin, said to have been executed by S. Luke. This painting is also mentioned by Mr. Curzon as "the most interesting thing in the monastery, which, whatever may be its real history, is evidently a very ancient and curious painting.' (p. 302.) The flesh is painted, but the dress is of gilded copper. The nose is stiff, as though of wood; the forehead low; the cheeks full and high. In short, a vile daub, says M. Didron.
All the aureoles of our LORD and the Virgin, of the angels and apostles, are gilt; those of the other saints are only of yellow colour. The church is paved with precious marbles, forming a byzantine mosaic. The four beautiful columns which carry the great dome are of porphyry, and vert-antique. The masonry of this church is very regular. The stones, cut in a long form, are set in a framework of bricks. A sort of fringing of bricks serves externally as a frieze to the apse. A blind arcade of nine arches runs along the lateral walls; the ninth, which adjoins the transepts, is alone open and pierced with a window. Six other lights, in two rows, light each transept, and three more open into the apse.
To this very full and interesting account of the church of Meteora, we subjoin Mr. Curzon's description of the monastery of Barlaam, to which he effected a perilous ascent by means of a series of ladders.
Arrived at the top of the rock, he plies the old Abbot with spirits, and describes the monastery and its church.
"The monastery of Barlaam stands on the summit of an isolated rock, on a flat, or nearly flat, space of perhaps an acre and a half, of which about one half is occupied by the Church and a smaller chapel, the refectory, the kitchen, the tower of the windlass where you are pulled up, and a number of separate buildings containing offices and the habitations of the monks, of whom there were at this time only fourteen. These various structures surround one tolerably large, irregularly shaped court, the chief part of which is paved; and there are several other small open spaces. All Greek monasteries are built in this irregular way, and the confused mass of disjointed edifices is usually ́encircled by a high bare wall; but in this monastery there is no such enclosing wall, as its position effectually prevents the approach of an enemy. On a portion of the flat space which is not occupied by the buildings, they