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The Cenci

The Cenci
Should you ever go to Rome and visit the villa Pamphili, no doubt, after having
sought under its tall pines and along its canals the shade and freshness so rare
in the capital of the Christian world, you will descend towards the Janiculum Hill
by a charming road, in the middle of which you will find the Pauline fountain.
Having passed this monument, and having lingered a moment on the terrace of
the church of St. Peter Montorio, which commands the whole of Rome, you will
visit the cloister of Bramante, in the middle of which, sunk a few feet below the
level, is built, on the identical place where St. Peter was crucified, a little temple,
half Greek, half Christian; you will thence ascend by a side door into the church
itself. There, the attentive cicerone will show you, in the first chapel to the right,
the Christ Scourged, by Sebastian del Piombo, and in the third chapel to the left,
an Entombment by Fiammingo; having examined these two masterpieces at
leisure, he will take you to each end of the transverse cross, and will show you--
on one side a picture by Salviati, on slate, and on the other a work by Vasari;
then, pointing out in melancholy tones a copy of Guido's Martyrdom of St. Peter
on the high altar, he will relate to you how for three centuries the divine
Raffaelle's Transfiguration was worshipped in that spot; how it was carried away
by the French in 1809, and restored to the pope by the Allies in 1814. As you
have already in all probability admired this masterpiece in the Vatican, allow him
to expatiate, and search at the foot of the altar for a mortuary slab, which you will
identify by a cross and the single word; Orate; under this gravestone is buried
Beatrice Cenci, whose tragical story cannot but impress you profoundly.
She was the daughter of Francesco Cenci. Whether or not it be true that men are
born in harmony with their epoch, and that some embody its good qualities and
others its bad ones, it may nevertheless interest our readers to cast a rapid
glance over the period which had just passed when the events which we are
about to relate took place. Francesco Cenci will then appear to them as the
diabolical incarnation of his time.
On the 11th of August, 1492, after the lingering death-agony of Innocent VIII,
during which two hundred and twenty murders were committed in the streets of
Rome, Alexander VI ascended the pontifical throne. Son of a sister of Pope
Calixtus III, Roderigo Lenzuoli Borgia, before being created cardinal, had five
children by Rosa Vanozza, whom he afterwards caused to be married to a rich
Roman. These children were:
Francis, Duke of Gandia;
Caesar, bishop and cardinal, afterwards Duke of Valentinois;
Lucrezia, who was married four times: her first husband was Giovanni Sforza,
lord of Pesaro, whom she left owing to his impotence; the second, Alfonso, Duke
of Bisiglia, whom her brother Caesar caused to be assassinated; the third,
Alfonso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, from whom a second divorce separated her;
finally, the fourth, Alfonso of Aragon, who was stabbed to death on the steps of
the basilica of St. Peter, and afterwards, three weeks later, strangled, because
he did not die soon enough from his wounds, which nevertheless were mortal;
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