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On the cope of bright purple color which the Pope wears on Palm Sunday is a silver plate richly gilt, bearing, in beautiful relief, the figure of the Almighty. This was formerly of pure gold, surrounded by three knobs of costly oriental pearls -, but the cupidity of the enemies of Pius VI. overcame their fear of sacrilege, and they appropriated it to other purposes. Benvenuto Cellini, who was employed by Clement VII. to engrave this plate, says, somewhat blasphemously, though in true artistic spirit, that he endeavored to represent the "Almighty Father in a free and easy position."
His Holiness selects the cardinals, seventy in number, who form the high senate of the Church and the privy council of the Pope. They in turn elect the Pope from their own number. In costume they are a shade less brilliant than the Holy Father, wearing, when in chapel, red cassocks with gold tassels, red stockings, white ermine tippets, and red skull or square caps. On solemn occasions they add red shoes and white damask silk mitres, with other changes of raiment, telling with great effect in a procession, but tedious in description.
Throughout the whole edifice of the Roman hierarchy, costume forms a very important and conspicuous part. It is nicely graduated with decreasing splendor and diversified cut from the pope, cardinals, archbishops, and the inferior clergy, who are almost lost amid richly-laced petticoats and purple skirts, to the laughable attire of the sacristans, choristers, and the dirty and dolorous robes of the monastic orders. Each rank has its mark and number, and it must be confessed that no military display can compete, in variety and brilliancy of colors and costliness of uniform, with one got up by the church. The nomenclature of papal costume is intelligible only to those who pass their lives in wearing it. Each article has its peculiar uses and degree of sanctity.
The etiquette of the papal court, whether in its spiritual or temporal sense, is no light service. To give an idea of the number and variety of officers attached to it, I have given a programme of the Procession for Easter Sunday as it appears in Saint Peter's previous to High Mass and the General Benediction and Excommunication. The engravings given of several of these ecclesiastical personages and their suites, will bear out the assertion that no operatic or theatrical spectacle can pretend to vie with the papal court when it dons its holiday suit. Imagine the surprise of St. Peter were he to be present, upon being told that that sleepy-looking old gentleman, so buried in gold and jewels as scarcely to be discernible, and borne under a magnificent canopy on the shoulders of twelve men clothed in the brightest scarlet, performing the pantomime of turning from one side to another his uplifted thumb and two fingers as illustrative of the blessing of the Holy Trinity, was hit Successor! I question whether at such a sacrilegious libel the old Adam within him would not be more signally displayed than it even was in the garden; for the zealous apostle would least of all forgive humbug. I
speak only of the effect on my own mind, contrasted with what I conceive to be the proper display of that religion which consists in visiting and comforting the fatherless and widows in their affliction. There are others, as we often see, on whom the glitter of a court, or the music and architecture of a church have greater weight than the humility and simplicity of gospel truth. They would be loth to confess that the avenue to their minds and hearts closed with their eyes and ears; but take away the curiously wrought robes, the cunning of the artificer, the genius of the artist, the harmonies of music, and the entire combination of pomp and venerable tradition by which Rome upholds her religion, and how much of faith and conviction would be left to them?
Beside the officers who figureln the above procession, there are a legion of others attached to the court, which swell its bulk to a degree that weighs heavily upon the petty temporal dominions of the Popes, and is out of all proportion to their necessities. There are private gentlemen of the bed-chamber, and among them a secret treasurer, who purveys for the alms and amusement of the Pope. So little bodily exercise does the Roman etiquette allow to the successors of the fisherman, that his present Holiness has been ordered by his physician to play at billiards daily, to counteract his tendency to obesity.
There are one hundred and eight officers and valets, under different titles, attached to the personal service of the Pope; a modest number when the extent ofhis several palaces is considered. No sovereign pays the penalty of greatness more severely than the Holy Father. His sanctity dooms him perpetually to solitary meals, except on extraordinary occasions, there being no one on earth sufficiently elevated to sit as an equal at table with him. This is the rule, but a spiritual Pope no doubt finds means occasionally to reconcile his social instincts and rank at the same time. Then, too, every dish must be previously tasted, for fear of poison; an antiquated custom, which at present no one would conceive to have any foundation in necessity. His chambers are coldly splendid. Marbles, paintings, mosaics, and gilding there are in abundance, but the whole arranged with more than the usual chilling aspect of a state palace. His private rooms, no doubt, are more comfortable; but the whole state and circumstance that surround a Pope, so far as the public eye can judge, is one which makes him, in all the relations of personal freedom and enjoyment, a being little to be envied. Each natural instinct and generous impulse is so hedged in with sacred etiquette or pusillanimous fear as to be a torture rather than a pleasure to its possessor. A bad Pope can be personally free only by being a hypocrite; a good Pope is a martyr to a rank which in its daily duties involves a constant contradiction of the simplest principles of Christianity, and is a standing reproach upon common sense.
All access to the Pope is guarded with mysterious care. He has his private chamber-men —not maids — private cooks, sweepers, and