Autobiography, with Letters

By William Lyon Phelps | Go to book overview
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44
LITERARY PILGRIMAGE IN ITALY

ON 21 March 1904 we left Munich for Italy by way of the St. Gothard Tunnel--deep snow giving way to sunshine; after visiting the Lakes, and staying three days at Genoa with our friends the American consul William Henry Bishop and his wife, we visited Rome, Arezzo, Florence, Milan, Asolo, and Venice. I have never understood what Bishop Burnet meant by his comment on Milan cathedral --'The cathedral hath nothing to recommend it in the way of architecture.' We were in St. Peter's on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter; and I can still feel the warmth of the body of the stranger tourist jammed tightly against me for hours as we stood up during the long service on Easter Day. On Thursday the famous Cardinal Rampolla was under the baldachin; it is that baldachin that gave me the feeling of immense space in the church. It is 90 feet high and yet seems no more out of place than a writing-desk in a private library.

We were on a Browning pilgrimage, verifying the places the poet so definitely describes; 'those lancet-windows' jewelled miracle' in the cathedral at Arezzo, and Caponsacchi's church Santa Maria della Pieve; the house where Petrarch was born 20 July 1304 we had all to ourselves. But I wished I might have been there three months later, when delegates came from all over the world to celebrate the six-hundredth anniversary of his birth. My Yale colleague Professor Kenneth McKenzie was delivering his address in fluent Tuscan, when the official souvenir post

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