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M the sanguinary sports of the Holy Inquisi
tion; the slaughter of the Coliseum; and the dismal tombs of the Catacombs, I naturally pass to the picturesque horrors of the Capuchin Convent. We stopped a moment in a small chapel in the church to admire a picture of St. Michael vanquishing Satan
a picture which is so beautiful that I cannot but think it belongs to the reviled “ Renaissance," notwithstanding I believe they told us one of the ancient old masters painted it.- and then we descended into the vast vault underneath.
Here was a spectacle for sensitive nerves! Evidently the old masters had been at work in this place. There were six divisions in the apartment, and each division was ornamented with a style of decoration peculiar to itself — and these decorations were in every instance formed of human bones! There were shapely arches, built wholly of thigh bones; there were startling pyramids, built wholly of grinning skulls; there were quaint architectural structures of various kinds, built of shin bones and the bones of the arm; on the wall were elaborate frescoes, whose curving vines were made of knotted human vertebræ; whose delicate tendrils were made of sinews and tendons; whose flowers were formed of knee-caps and toe-nails. Every lasting portion of the human frame was represented in these intricate designs (they were by Michael Angelo, I think), and there was a careful finish about the work, and an attention to details that betrayed the artist's love of his labors as well as his schooled ability. I asked the good-natured monk who accompanied us, who did this? And he said, “We did it” — meaning himself and his brethren up
stairs. I could see that the old friar took a high pride in his curious show. We made him talkative by exhibiting an interest we never betrayed to guides.
Who were these people?" “We-up stairs —Monks of the Capuchin order
— my brethren."
How many departed monks were required to upholster these six parlors ? '
“These are the bones of four thousand.
“Their different parts are well separated — skulls in one room, legs in another, ribs in another -- there would be stirring times here for a while if the last trump should blow. Some of the brethren might get hold of the wrong leg, in the confusion, and the wrong skull, and find themselves limping, and looking through eyes that were wider apart or closer
together than they were used to. You cannot tell any of these parties apart, I suppose?"
I “Oh, yes, I know many of them."
He put his finger on a skull. “This was Brother Anselmo - dead three hundred years - a good man.'
He touched another. “This was Brother Alexander - dead two hundred and eighty years. This was Brother Carlo — dead about as long."
Then he took a skull and held it in his hand, and looked reflectively upon it, after the manner of the grave-digger when he discourses of Yorick.
“This," he said, “was Brother Thomas. He was a young prince, the scion of a proud house that traced its lineage back to the grand old days of Rome well nigh two thousand years ago. He loved beneath his estate. His family persecuted him; persecuted the girl, as well. They drove her from Rome; he followed; he sought her far and wide; he found no trace of her. He came back and offered his broken heart at our altar and his weary life to the service of God. But look you. Shortly his father died, and likewise his mother. The girl returned, rejoicing. She sought everywhere for him whose eyes had used to look tenderly into hers out of this poor skull, but she could not find him. At last, in this coarse garb we wear, she recognized him in the street. He knew her. It was toc late. He fell where he stood. They took him up and brought him here.
He never spoke afterward. Within the week he died You
can see the color of his hair - faded, somewhatby this thin shred that clings still to the temple. This [taking up a thigh bone] was his. The veins of this leaf in the decorations over your head, were his finger-joints, a hundred and fifty years ago.'
This business-like way of illustrating a touching story of the heart by laying the several fragments of the lover before us and naming them, was as grotesque a performance, and as ghastly, as any I ever witnessed. I hardly knew whether to smile or shudder. There are nerves and muscles in our frames whose functions and whose methods of working it seems a sort of sacrilege to describe by cold physiological names and surgical technicalities, and the monk's talk suggested to me something of this kind. Fancy a surgeon, with his nippers lifting tendons, muscles, and such things into view, out of the complex machinery of a corpse, and observing, “ Now this little nerve quivers — the vibration is imparted to this muscle -- from here it is passed to this fibrous substance; here its ingredients are separated by the chemical action of the blood - one part goes to the heart and thrills it with what is popularly termed emotion, another part follows this nerve to the brain and communicates intelligence of a startling character - the third part glides along this passage and touches the spring connected with the fluid receptacles that lie in the rear of the eye. Thus, by this simple and beautiful process, the party is informed that his mother is dead, and he weeps." Horrible!