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instead of being devoted, through blind ambition, to the subjugation or destruction of the human race, are directed toward those beneficent and generous ends, which amid all his avocations, Leo The Tenth appears to have kept continually in view.
WILLIAM ROSCOE, Life and Pontificate of Leo X.
ST. MARK'S, VENICE.
And well may they fall back, for beyond those troops of ordered arches there rises a vision out of the earth, and all the great square seems to have opened from it in a kind of awe, that we may see it far away; a multitude of pillars and white domes, clustered into a long, low pyramid of colored light; a treasure-heap, it seems, partly of gold, and partly of opal and mother-of-pearl, hollowed beneath into five great vaulted porches, ceiled with fair mosaic, and beset with sculpture of alabaster, clear as amber and delicate as ivory; sculpture fantastic and involved, of palm leaves and lilies, and grapes and pomegranates, and birds clinging and fluttering among the branches, all twined together into an endless network of buds and plumes; and in the midst of it, the solemn forms of angels, sceptred and robed to the feet, and leaning to each other across the gates, their figures indistinct among the gleaming of the golden ground through the leaves beside them, interrupted and dim, like the morning light as it faded back among the branches of Eden, when first its gates were angel-guarded long ago. And round the walls of the porches there are set pillars of variegated stones, jasper and porphyry, and deep-green serpentine, spotted with flakes of snow, and marbles that half refuse and half yield to the sunshine, Cleopatra-like, “their bluest veins to kiss," the shadow, as it steals back from them, revealing line after line of azure undulation, as a receding tide leaves the waved sand; their capitals rich with interwoven tracery, rooted knots of herbage, and drifting leaves of acanthus and vine and mystical signs, all beginning and ending in the Cross; and above them in the broad archivolts, a continuous chain of language and of life angels and the signs of heaven, and the labors of men, each in its appointed season upon the earth; and above these, another range of glittering pinnacles, mixed with white arches edged with scarlet flowers,-a confusion of delight, amidst which the breasts of the Greek horses are seen blazing in their breadth of golden strength, and the St. Mark's Lion lifted on a blue field covered with stars, until at last, as if in ecstasy, the crests of the arches break into a marble foam, and toss themselves into the blue sky, in flashes and wreaths of sculptured spray, as if the breakers on the Lido shore had been frost-bound before they fell, and the sea-nymphs had inlaid them with coral and amethyst.
A large atrium or portico is attached to the two sides of the church, a space which was especially reserved for unbaptized persons and new converts. It was thought right that, before their baptism, these persons should be led to contemplate the great facts of the Old Testament history; the history of the Fall of Man, the lives of the Patriarchs up to the period of the Covenant by Moses; the order of the subjects in this series being very nearly the same as in many Northern churches, but significantly closing with the Fall of the Manna, in order to mark to the catechumen the insufficiency of the Mosaic covenant for salvation,—“Our fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead,”—and to turn his thoughts to the true Bread of which that manna was the type.
Then, when after his baptism he was permitted to enter the church, over its main entrance he saw, on looking back, a mosaic of Christ enthroned, with the Virgin on one side and St. Mark on the other, in attitudes of adoration. Christ is represented as holding a book open upon his knee, on which is written: “I AM THE DOOR ; BY ME IF ANY MAN ENTER IN, HE SHALL BE SAVED. On the red
marble moulding which surrounds the mosaic is written: “I AM THE GATE OF LIFE; LET THOSE WHO ARE MINE ENTER BY ME.” Above on the red marble fillet which forms the cornice of the west end of the church, is written, with reference to the figure of Christ below : “WHO HE WAS, AND FROM WHOM HE CAME, AND AT WHAT PRICE HE REDEEMED THEE, AND WHY HE MADE THEE, AND GAVE THEE ALL THINGS, DO THOU CONSIDER.”
Now observe, this was not to be seen and read only by the catechumen when he first entered the church; every one who at any time entered, was supposed to look back and to read this writing ; their daily entrance into the church was thus made a daily memorial of their first entrance into the spiritual church; and we shall find that the rest of the book which was opened for them upon its walls, continually led them in the same manner to regard the visible temple as in every part a type of the invisible Church of God.
Therefore the mosaic of the first dome, which is over the head of the spectator as soon as he has entered by the great door (that door being the type of baptism), represents the effusion of the Holy Spirit, as the first consequence and seal of the entrance into the Church of God. In the centre of the cupola is the Dove. From the central