Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, August 14, 1859

  • Posted on: 10 November 2021
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, August 14, 1859



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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, August 14, 1859

action: sent

sender: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: Rome, Italy

receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1844-12-09  Death: 1866-10-29

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: les 

revision: amr 2021-01-28


Page 1


Editorial Note

William Henry Seward’s series of travel letters in 1859 are organized and listed by the date of each entry.
Sunday morning August 14 th
Off at 5.oclock – to Church at St John ^in^ Lateran, the
real pontifical Church. It has precedence over St Peters,
and ^so^ is considered the Metropolitan Church of the World.
A grand and massive structure, which I have not time
to attempt to describe. It would be a worlds wonder
of the same as St Peters or York Minster or London
St. Pauls. It was founded by Constantine who assisted
in excavating the earth for the foundation. Of its statuary
I can only speak in terms of general admiration. Especially
also did I admired the Chapel of the Curia and
its embellishments. Mass had not yet begun I availed
myself of the Kindness courtesy of a Priest
who knew
much of America – to see the relics, which of course might
be expected to abound in a Church in which Five
of the General Councils known in ecclesiastical history
were held in do Councils in which all the heresies
of the C and schisms of four hundred years were
denounced and condemned. I saw there with my own
eyes two of the columns of Pontius Pilates home
in Jerusalem

, the column of the temple at the
city same city which was split into two from
top to bottom by ^a^ supernatural hand at the moment
when the Jews cast lots over the garment of
Christ , and the identical table at which he
withheld in the society of his apostles the Holy
feast of the Last Supper – I add only one more
I saw a ^marble^ table at which an early Christian Priest

was administering that sacred ordinance while he himself
Page 2

confessed that he entertained doubts of the real
presence of the risen Savior in the sacred bread,
and in that marble table thus standing before
me I saw a hole through from one side to the
other which the wafer deputed by the Priest
while passing that ceremony made for itself and
through which it passed thr and descended
to the floor. If now ^hitherto^ you ^have^ doubted of the relics
I have heretofore described as preserved in the
Churches here and in France, I trust that you will
give up your incredulity in regard to them when
I tell you that I have seen there even more
marvellous ones with my own eyes which
I again affirm. ^The first^ Mass being canceled I
went in to the newly excavated Latin way
another of the great avenues of Ancient Rome.
And my carriage rolled over the very pave-
ment which bore the Generals senators and
emperors of that wonderful state. The stones
were worn into ruts which have been only
just now cleaned of the superincumbent middens
of near two thousand years. There I found outside
of the city walls, mausoleums excavated and
built of precious marbles, of great extent, in
double chambers and adorned with statuary and
paintings in fresco rich rare and beautiful
and with in them Urns in which were found the
remains of the dead of Old Rome who could
Page 3

indulge themselves in such luxurious burial,
and there I found too the ruins of the ancient
Christian Church found nearly entire but buried
beneath the earth. St Stephens, whose history
was preserved though the structure itself was
so long lost to the world. From one of those
costly sepulchers I took a fragment of statuary
delicate as the chisel ever made.
Passing on my return by at the Porta Maggiore
one of the ancient gates whereupon which the ruined aqua-
duct still remains I found a monument which
is as unique in its construction as it is expensive
and magnificent. It is of marble, with columns
pilasters, and bas reliefs and other ornaments
that would seem to indicate the resting place of
an Augustus, or of a Walter Scott – Its fine
statuary is crowned with bas reliefs, showing
the whole process of making bread from the carrying
the wheat to the mill, through the grinding, kneading,
baking and depositing the loaves on the table, while
the most conspicuous figure in the whole mausoleum
or so less there is a sarcophagus in the form of
a bread basket which held ( h yet holds I suppose
the ashes of the deceased. There are several inscriptions
one of which informs us that this costly structure is
the mausoleum of Eurysacis
a baker
and the other was is found on another sarcophagus
Page 4

and announces to their remote generations and to visitors
from all continents that ‘Atistia
’ was the wife
of the self honored baker, that she was the
very best of all wives and that her precious
remains may be found in this latter bread
“Fuit Atistia uxor enihei Femina optima
veixsit, quonsque corporis reliquiem, quod
superant sunt in – hoc panacero.
Do not show this letter to your Latin teacher

because I fear that he will attribute say
that the illustrious dead however he excelled
in baking was not a good well versed
in grammar.
How luxuriant is life. Here among these
moldering wasting monuments of monuments
of the proud – and mighty dead every
thing is animate, lizards, chameleons glide
over broken columns and urns and birds
find houses in the foliage of the capitals.
Verily I saw here the thistle flowering every
where among the ruins, and attached to each
single flower was a fully developed snail
with his house of curious workmanship wrought
by himself without tools or hands.
I must stop to mention one epitaph
more, on a costly tomb. I do it because it has
Page 5

escaped the notice of the Antiquaries whose books
I have seen. It is the record short but sweet of
one Serulius, and states that S ^self contented man
and is in these words
“PT Serulius, extruxit suo aerumma” (P. T. Serulius
built this monument with his own money.)
Just before reentering the city I stopped
and surveyed the very ancient and interesting
Church of St Lawrence, where I saw the
urn that holds the ashes of or remains not only of
St Lawrence , and of

Editorial Note

At the church Seward is referencing there are no remains of a St. Martin but there are remains of a St. Justin.
St Martyn
but also of
St Stephen the Protomartyr – I know what you
will say now. You will say that I told you
that I saw the grave of St Stephen the same
St Stephen in the Church at Paris for I did
tell you so if I told you all I saw in
that great city. Well what if I did? What should
hinder the dead saint from having two resting places
as the ^every^ Pope has at the same time two palaces.
Saints have privileges, I’d have you to know
and not to interrupt me with these childish
objections. At this same Church I looked into
the vaulted arches of the Catacombs in
which the early Christians deposited their dead
they being undisturbed from interest ^as well as from nose^ in the city Pagan
city. My mornings excursion closed with the
Pantheon. Find it in any book of attractions
or any article on that subject in the Encyclopedia.
It is ^at once^ the most simple, the most beautiful, and the
best preserved work of Old Rome. Oh how beautiful.
Page 6

I saw that the tomb of Raphael


. That artist God
is authentically – On my way home I
looked up to the balcony of the chamber in
Lucien Bonapartes
Birth: 1775-05-21 Death: 1840-06-29
palace where Madame Le-
Birth: 1750-08-24 Death: 1836-02-02
the mother of that extraordinary family
lived and died. How
And the evening and the morning
was the Fourth Day in Rome. But how
strange that I have forgotten to tell you that though
I was sadly disappointed in finding that the
Church of St Lawrence had lost the grid iron
on which he was burned alive yet that the
good Capuchin in charge did compensated
me by showing me the identical marble
slab a stone on which the incident of death
^when used^ in that fearful torture, and that although
I saw no s could detect no stains of
smoke or ashes, I did see ^the wide^ deep and
indelible stains of the produced by the
sacred blood blood of the sainted martyr.
Page 7

Sunday, August 14th evening,
My dear Fanny, I begin another day in Rome, I have
just come from visiting the structure, of great intent and
beauty the monumental pyramid 90 feet again
at the base, the base 3 feet high, and the height of the
pyramid 114 feet. All built of blocks of white
marble, began ^&^ completed in 330 days, now 1900 years
for Caius Cestius a praetor & tribune and in accordance
with directions contained in his will, as appears from
the inscriptions on the tomb. In the of 1300
years the ground swallowed up 16 feet of its height
but it has been restored to its ancient level now.
How little he thought that the intent of history would be
concentrated not on him by on the monument that he
appointed to himself and that the world he would
be indebted to an accidental passage in one of Cicero ’s
letters for the information necessary to identify him
with the events of his times. In the center of the monument is
a small chamber containing arabesque paintings on the
ceiling and traces of a bronze statue which has been
Passing from this monument we reached a
hill larger and higher than that which is covered
with our beautiful cemetery, which has been made
altogether by the deposits of the broken earthen and potters
vessels of the Ancient City.
To night they have begun to celebrate
with illuminations the Feast of the Assumption of
Page 8

the blessed Virgin Mary and Rome appears bright
and gay and graceful, although in the day time it
is somber and sorrowful of aspect. We have just
come from "spending" the evening at the home of Dr
Birth: 1818 Death: 1882
, an eminent physician whose accomplished
have entertained us with delicious Italian
music song.