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dral of St. Peter's had been commenced more than forty years, and had already engaged the great talents of Bramante, and the subtle mind and exquisite genius of Raphael. The uncle also of San Gallo and Giocondo da Verona had both had a share in the direction of the work; but notwithstanding this union of men of extraordinary ability, the structure was still in a very indifferent state, and had the complicated model by which San Gallo intended to proceed been followed, it would have been one of the edifices least creditable to modern taste. The contrary was the case with the plan drawn out by Bramante; and Michael Angelo always expressed his high opinion of that architect's ability, and of the system which he had intended to follow in the erection of the cathedral.
But the structure which Bramante proposed to raise could only have been paid for out of funds to be obtained from the contributions of two world; and even Leo X. found himself compelled to submit to having the plans of Bramante somewhat abridged of their magnificence. The reasons which occasioned this necessity for economizing were still more numerous in the pontificate of Paul Ill., and he therefore prudently resolved upon having such a plan drawn out as might offer a chance of being speedily executed.
The good taste of Michael Angelo fortunately concurred with these ideas of economy. Putting wholly aside the model of San Gallo, which alone, it is said, cost a thousand pounds, he substituted his own design;—a simple Grecian cross, which, though occupying a much less space than San Gallo's, offered greater advantages in point of securing fine architectural results.
Under the constant superintendence of Michael Angelo the building proceeded with all the expedition possible, and the Pope was so well satisfied with the labours of his architect that he employed him in other quarters of the city, and particularly in completing the Farnese palace, and in erecting another on the Capitoline Hill, which he also allowed him to enrich with the numerous antiques which had been dug up in the city or the adjacent parts.
On the decease of Paul Ill., which took place before the end of the year 1549, Michael Angelo apprehended that his plans, in the execution of which he had begun to take the deepest interest, would be interrupted. If so, he was
agreeably undeceived by the courteous manner in which he was received by the new pontiff Julius III., who refused to listen to any of the insinuations made against him by his enemies, and fully established him in the privileges he had possessed under the late pope. Yet, notwithstanding the favourable disposition manifested by Julius, the detractors of Michael Angelo pursued their measures with the most determined hostility, and even contrived to obtain the pontiff's consent to a committee of architects being held respecting the progress of the cathedral.' The principal persons engaged in this business were the Cardinals Salviati, nephew to Leo X., and Marcello Cervino, afterwards Pope Marcellus H.
At the conference, the chief objection which these dignitaries started was, that not sufficient light was admitted into the church, a defect principally caused by the improper'erection of a wall in front of a recess intended for three chapels, and in which the architect had placed only three windows; and these, it was agreed, were quite insufficient, whether in size or number. The Pope having desired Michael Angelo to explain this apparently strong objection to his proceedings, he observed that he wished to hear the deputies before making any reply. To this remark the cardinals made answer, " That they were themselves the deputies!" "Then," said the architect, " in respect to the parts of the church to which your objection refers, over the three windows already there, are to be placed three others." "You never mentioned that before," was the answer. "No," said the architect, indignantly, " I neither am, nor will be obliged to tell your Eminence, nor any one else, either what I ought or what I intend to do. It is your part to see that money be provided, to guard against thieves, and to leave to me the building of St. Peter's." Then turning to the Pope—" Holy father," said he, "you see what I gain. If the machinations to which I am exposed be not for my spiritual welfare, I am losing both my time and my labour."
Julius, who had sufficient good sense to discern on which side the truth lay, put his hand on Michael Angelo's shoulder, and said, " Be in no fear; you will profit by it, both now and hereafter;" adding to these encouraging expressions fresh assurances of his friendship, and uniformly consulting him in all his future undertakings. One of these was the erection of a bridge over that part of the Tiber which was formerly crossed by the Pons Palatinus. For this work he not only made the necessary designs, but had proceeded a considerable way with the structure, when his adversaries, pretending that such an occupation was too laborious for a person of his age, got his place supplied by Nanni di Baccio Bigio, a man ignorant of his profession, and whose only recommendation was that he could be made more obedient to the cardinals and their associates than his great contemporary. The latter, however, had little ambition to continue superintendent of this work, and willingly yielded to the suggestions of his pretended friends; though he prophesied, on seeing how Messer Nanni di Baecio Bigio was proceeding, that the bridge would tumble in before many years were over, and be washed away; —a prediction fulfilled about five years after it was uttered, and the Ponte Kotto, or broken bridge, as it has been ever since called, still remains as an evidence of Michael Angelo's knowledge, and the ignorance of his rival and of the men who supported him.
Among other designs to which his attention was next directed were monuments which Julius proposed to erect in honour of his uncle and grandfather; and a new chapel in S. Pietro Montorio for their reception. The execution of the designs was entrusted to Vasari, who thereby became a constant and intimate associate of the great artist. The very Boswell of painters, he lost no advantage which this circumstance afforded him to learn the habits, or listen to the remarks of his hero, and his narrative from this period assumes the tone of a man speaking in the company of one whose friendship he is sure of enjoying, but for which he can only be sufficiently grateful by constant and glowing praise. Evidence of this appears m the letters which passed between them, and the manner in which Michael Angelo appears to have received the compliments thus liberally bestowed upon bun was marked with equal good sense and kind feeling.
In one of his replies, he says, "As to the three letters I have received from you, I have not a pen to reply to such lofty things ; but if I had the good fortune to be in any way what you would make it out I am, I should chiefly rejoice at it, because you would then have a friend of some value to you. But I
am not surprised, as you are a resuscitator of dead men', that you should lengthen out the life of living men, or deliver over the badly living to eternal death."
There wag one circumstance in the situation of the celebrated painters and other artists of Rome which in a considerable degree counterbalanced the advantages they otherwise enjoyed. Those great patrons the popes were almost always men far advanced in life before they ascended the pontifical throne. The consequence was, that the painters were repeatedly exposed not merely to individual caprice, but to the caprice of several whoappeared successively asthesupreme arbiters of their fate. Michael Angelo himself had already lived through the reigns of six popes; and great as he was—possessing all the advantages of indisputable popularity, he had experienced not a few annoyances from the different dispositions and rival pretensions of his masters.
Neither the enlightened Leo X., nor any of his successors, as we have shown, would allow the artist quietly to fulfil the promise he had made to his deceased benefactor Julius 1I„ but would all readily have granted him a dispensation for it. In the reign of Leo, moreover, it is seen how he was neglected and left almost unemployed, and in those of Paul and Julius III. he was several times on the point of being sacrificed to the ignorance and jealousy of vulgar pretenders to knowledge. He had hitherto triumphed over all the difficulties with which he had to contend, and it was reserved for his old age to bear the positive and openly ex
Sressed ill will of a Roman pontiff, ulius died in March, 1555, at which time Michael Angelo was in his eightyfirst year. The new pope was the Cardinal Marcello, who had long been his declared opponent, and as the artist knew that his engagement with respect to the cathedral was now terminated, he formed the intention of leaving Rome, and once more taking up his abode at Florence. To this he was principally led by the numerous invitetions he had received from the Grand Duke Cosmo I., and which, on the death of Julius, were repeated, with the strongest assurances of esteem and friendship.
While Michael Angelo was preparing for his departure, the new pontiff was
• See note (6) page 67.
suddenly removed by death, and Paul IV., who was next elected to the vacant dignity, having manifested the most decided disposition in his favour, he saw sufficient reason to change his intention. The letter he wrote on the occasion to Vasari, who anxiously looked for his arrival in Florence, is strongly expressive of his feelings in respect to his present situation. He had some difficulty, at first, in reconciling the grand duke to the change in his intentions; but the plain statement of the circumstances in which he found himself convinced Cosmo that he could scarcely avoid acting as he had done, and he was accordingly allowed to proceed with the cathedral without any material interruption.
Difficulties Michael Angelo had to contend with.
At this period the princes of the Church were exerting their utmost power to crush the spirit of reformation which was daily manifesting itself in the different states of Italy. The means which they employed for that purpose were as contrary to the laws of humanity, as the doctrines which they resisted were agreeable to those of truth. Every government was excited to direct its most severe punishments to the destruction of the unfortunate Lutherans, and scarcely a city was left free from the stain of innocent blood. Divided as the reformers were from each other by the political disunion of the country, they had not been able to make a single stand against their oppressors; and had the latter been disengaged from every other care except that of uprooting the scattered seeds of the reformation in Italy, a very short period would have re-established them in their former security. But all Europe had been thrown into agitation by the changes which had taken place in Germany; the minds of men were prepared for conflict; and when that time arrives with the multitude, it seldom happens that contests of another description do not speedily follow. So marked an influence, in this respect, had the unsettled state of the public mind on the operations of the European potentates, that more than one of them had contrived to lead hosts of men who believed in the infallibility of the pope to attack him in his own dominions, and even in his palace.
The effect of these events was still felt. The Inquisition was yet in full operation, while the authority of the Church itself was shaken to its foundations by the zeal and prosperous situation of the Protestant princes, and by the threatening aspect of Spain. To add to the confusion which prevailed from these circumstances, Paul IV. was bigoted, haughty, and revengeful, and his mind was wholly occupied by the desire of exterminating the party who had incurred his enmity.
It is easy to conceive that a man of this character could possess few feelings in common either with the cultivators or with the real patrons of the liberal arts. Michael Angelo had early proofs of this. Notwithstanding his being continued ohief architect of St. Peter's, Paul deprived him, without giving a reason for so doing, of the chancellorship of Rimini, and seriously proposed to whitewash the walls of the Sistine Chapel. When Michael Angelo heard of the latter intention, he bade the persons who told him inform the pope that his wish to amend the picture of the Last Judgment might be easily accomplished, for if his holiness would only reform the opinions of mankind, the picture would be reformed of itself. Fortunately for the admirers of Michael Angelo's genius, the pope only persisted in his resolution to reform, not wholly to destroy, the picture, and a painter of the name of Daniello da Volterra* was accordingly employed to modify such parts of the picture as were deemed by the holy pontiff and his cardinals objectionable.
The warlike rumours which every day grew louder at Rome, and the unsettled state of the public mind, added to the above causes of complaint, rendered the situation of the artist, at this time, extremely disagreeable; and he resolved upon retiring to the monastery of Spoleto till affairs should have resumed a more tranquil aspect. His temporary residence in this secluded retreat afforded him leisure for study and contemplation; and one of the strongest arguments which can be advanced in justification of monastic establishments is, that they have been the frequent asylum of men of genius, when either their own troubles, the disturbed state of their country, or their over-excited feelings, rendered repose and soli
• An artist who, from having been employed in this and other Instances in clothing the figures uf some of the treat artists, was usually known by the name of Daniel the breeches-maker,
tude a sort of necessity to restore their exhausted spirits.
Among the mountains of Spoleto, Michael Angelo found the tranquillity he desired; he was constantly surrounded by objects which at once elevated and soothed his expansive and contemplative mind; his age also tended to make the uninterrupted enjoyment of devotional meditation doubly pleasing and valuable; and on his return to Rome, he told Vasari in a letter, that he had received great delight from his visit to the monks in the mountains of Spoleto, and that, though he was returned to the capital, he had left his better self behind him;—there being, he says, no happiness in times so unsettled, except what is to be found in such a retirement.
The influence which this seclusion had upon his thoughts appears to have been still more strongly felt after his return to Rome. The contemplation of death, to a man so naturally serious, must have been long habitual, but he now began to look for its rapid approach, and his chief employment on returning home was the execution of a monument for the chapel in which he was to be buried. The design consisted of a representation of Christ taken from the cross, and supported by the Virgin Mary, who is joined in her pious duties by Mary Magdalen and Nicodemus. This work, it is said, occupied his leisure hours for a considerable period; but unfortunately, after expending upon it great labour, he found that the marble was bad: and not willing that what would probably be his last production in his favourite art should appear imperfect, he ceased from prosecuting it m disgust.
Soon after his return also, a circumstance occurred which put his patience to a still further trial. The pope, influenced, it seems probable, by the party opposed to Michael Angelo, engaged an architect, Pietro Ligorio, to assist him in his labours at the Cathedral. This person, however, was altogether a theorist, and the vast field opened to him in St. Peter's offered too great a temptation to a man of his character to be resisted. Scarcely had he entered upon his office when he began to conduct himself towards Michael Angelo with a degree of superciliousness which would have been wholly unwarranted had the venerable old man been indeed in his dotage, but which was the strongest proof Ligorio could have given of his own utter incapacity, when all who
were disinterested and free from envy were looking with equal wonder and delight at the gradual developement of the noble plan on which the painter of the Last Judgment had founded the structure, and which he was now rapidly, and without any diminution of the sublimity of his conceptions, bringing to its completion.
To the last hour that the mind of a great man can take an interest in any thing earthly, such an object as that which Michael Angelo had now in view might surely engage his most anxious attention. But in the present case, the exercise of his genius, and the interest which it was natural and right that he should feel in seeing one of the grandest productions of his intellect perfected, had a degree of sanctity given to them by the principles with which he had commenced the undertaking. As if no earthly rewards could be sufficient to repay him at nearly eighty years of age, for the sacrifice of freedom and repose, he refused, as we have seen, to bear the burden, except as a matter of piety and devotion.
This feeling, combined with the desire of seeing his design secure from the contamination of inferior minds, now made the completion of St. Peter's the constant object of all his thoughts; and he was roused to indignation when he beheld the unwarrantable liberties which Ligorio was preparing to take with his plan. As he found that it would be in vain, to employ the force of argument with such a man, he appealed directly to the Pope, and at once desired him to decide whether he or Ligorio should remain the architect of St. Peter's Cathedral. Paul W. had sufficient discrimination and justice to decide aright in this case ; and the presumptuous Ligorio was dismissed.
Michael Angelo now resumed his occupations with the same steadiness as before; losing, it appears, none of the resolution with which he had begun the undertaking, supported as he was by his high principles of piety and professional enthusiasm. In another letter, written to Vasari about this time, he remarks, that to leave St. Peter's in the state in which it now was, would be to ruin the structure, and thereby be guilty of a great sin; that he hoped he should shortly see the execution of his plans brought to such a point that they could no longer be interfered with, and that this was the prime object of his wishes, "if he did not," he sarcastically observes, "commit a great crime by disappointing the cormorants who were daily hoping to get rid of him." In the same letter he also remarks, " it is God's will that I should still drag through existence, and I know that you will call me an old and silly fellow to wish to make sonnets; but as many people say I am a child again, I like to do childish things. I am convinced by your letter of the love which you feel towards me, and I therefore beg you to know that I should esteem it a most kind office if you would lay these my feeble bones near those of my father."
The state of his mind may be clearly discerned in this short but expressive letter; and the view of such a mind, at all times worthy of the deepest attention, is doubly so when it beginsto anticipate the transition to another state of existence, but retains its faculties in undiminished strength and vigour.
Progress of the Edifice of St. Peter.
This cathedral was by this time so far advanced, that the thoughts of the architect were now engaged in forming plans for the dome; the splendid frieze and row of double columns from which it was to rise being already completed. His friends were not deficient in offering him their congratulations at the admirable manner in which he had succeeded in bringing his plans to so great a state of perfection; and many of them used their utmost influence to persuade him to proceed immediately with the cupola.
But aware of the importance of this part of the edifice to its general effect, and of the difficulties of executing the noble designs which had been floating in his mind, it was several months before he could determine upon commencing this portion of his labours. At length, however, he overcame his reluctance, and began to form a little earthen model of the dome'. By dint of thought
* It is stated that M. Angelo, when he set out from Florence to build the dome of St. Peter's, turned his horse round on the road to contemplate, once more, that of the cathedral, as it rose in the gray of the morning from among the pines and cypresses of the city, and that he said, after a pause, " Come te non voglio, meglio di te non posso," (Like thee I will not build one, better than thee I cannot.) He never spoke of it without admiration, and he desired that his tomb should be so placed in the Santa Croce, as that from it might be seen, when the doors of the church stood open, that noble work of Brunelleschl,
and perseverance, he gradually gave it the appearance which he wished to secure, and then employed an ingenious artist to construct from it another model in wood; all the parts of which were to be formed after the exact measurement he had laid down.
The greatest satisfaction was expressed at the beauty of this model, and Michael Angelo had thus effected another very important step towards the completion of his grand design. His daily declining strength, added to the tardy manner in which the sums necessary for the building were supplied, rendered it hardly probable that he would live to see the cathedral itself perfected. But he had at least the satisfaction to know that the noble idea which had occupied his mind was rightly appreciated by those whose approbation he thought worth his regard; that it had now a real and palpable existence; and that should his plans be put aside after his death, by the envy or bad taste of his enemies, posterity would have the means of doing justice to his conceptions.
Soon after the completion of the model, however, Paul IV. ceased to live, and public affairs underwent another change. The character of the late pontiff had exposed him to almost universal hatred; the zeal with which he had endeavoured to support the church assumed the most terrific forms of private revenge; and while those whom he esteemed his enemies bled under the instruments of torture, the people of his own slates groaned under as heavy yoke as the tyranny of any despot had ever imposed. His death was consequently the signal for the most tumultuous popular rejoicings. In the first excitement, the prisons of the Inquisition were broken open; the intended victims of the holy office set at liberty, and the building itself immediately after burnt to the ground. The people next proceeded to hurl down his statue, which, after rolling with every mark of ignominy through all the principal streets, they cast headlong into the Tiber.
Though he had witnessed many revolutions and strange events, and survived seven pontifical reigns, Michael Angelo had little expected to live to be an eyewitness of scenes like these; so derogatory then to the character of the Catholic church, and which gave to the giantspirit of reformation an almost irresistible impulse. So great was the confusion E