Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Douglass Visits the Vatican, part 1

During their first week at in Rome, the Douglasses visited the Vatican three times. On their first full day, January 20, 1887, they went to the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica.:

I stood where until recently I never expected to stand, under the Dome of St. Peters, the largest Cathedral in the world, and around which clusters a larger interest perhaps than any other so called Christian edifice. In looking at its splender, one could not help being deeply impressed by its gorgiousness and perfection despite of its utter contradiction to the life and lessons of Jesus. he was meek and lowly, but here was little else than pride and pomp. It is well for the world that the age that could rear this wonderful building so perfect in architectural grace has past. Yet in view of what it speaks of architectural skill of man and of his possibilities we may rejoice that this marvellous building was erected and that it will long stand to pleas the eye of man.

The Baedeker's guide doesn't mention a fee for entering the Basilica at the time, but today here are a number of different ticket packages for self-guided tours, audio tours, and guided tours that include various parts of Vatican City including the Basilica, the Vatican Museum, gardens, palace, and so on. You can also wait in line for hours and hours. Scalpers -- yes, like at rock concerts -- will definitely offer to sell you "jump the line" tickets at highly inflated prices. They wear official looking tags that say "Vatican Information," but have no actual affiliation with the Vatican at all from what I could tell. Douglass seemed not to have encountered any of this. Still, I wonder if he stood in line at all and what the procedure for admittance was. This will take a little more scrutiny of the Baedeker's and more research into the Grand Tour.

Frederick's initial impressions of the contradiction of great worldly beauty and power in celebration of the humility of a carpenter's son who championed the poor and downtrodden continued when he and Helen were able to get a private tour of "the interior treasures of St. Peter's." This tour came through the connections of Mrs. Edmund Quincy Putnam. Mrs. Putnam was Gertrude [Elliston] Putnam, the daughter-in-law of Caroline Putnam. 

Caroline Putnam was born Caroline Remond, and she was the sister of Sarah Parker Remond and Charles Lenox Remond. We'll get back to Sarah Parker Remond, but Charles Lenox Remond was Frederick's first black companion on the antislavery lecturing circuit and Frederick derived quite a bit of courage in standing up to his white allied while travelling with Remond. The American Anti-Slavery Society Collection is filled with letters in which Maria Weston Chapman despairs at their independence and their failure to be what she deemed appropriately deferential. They went their separate ways quite acrimonously in the 1840s, but that was four decades earlier by the time the Douglasses arrived in Italy, and Remond had died in 1873. 

The Putnams also had a very convenient address to the Vatican. They lived at Hotel Palazzo Moroni, 165 Borgo Vecchio. You won't find Borgo Vecchio on the map today, nor its companion Borgo Nuovo. Google Maps turns up neither except as restaurant names. A "Find" search in the Baedeker, however, turns this up:
The Castle S. Angelo is adjoined by the Piazza Pia, whence four streets diverge to the W.: in the centre, on both sides of the fountain, which like the two adjacent facades was erected by Pius IX, are the streets called the Borgo Vecchio (l.) and Borgo Nuovo (r.); to the left, by the river, the Borgo S. Spirito; to the right is the Borgo S. Angelo.....The usual route to the Vatican is by the BORGO NUOVO. 
Using these clues and Google Maps:

I realized that the two have since been merged into the Via della Conciliazione.:

Indeed, they were merged and the layout all designed in the 1930s. Let the date sink in. Yes, by the Fascists; but that lay fifty years in the future. The Putnams' Borgo Vecchio address lay somewhere along the line of buildings on the left. On their second trip back through Rome later in the spring, the Douglasses also stayed there for nearly three weeks.

The day that Gertrude Putnam gave them a private tour of St. Peter's, the Douglasses went to lunch there where they were joined by not only Caroline Putnam but her two sisters, Maritcha Remond, and "she that I knew forty years and more ago as Miss Sarah Remond," now a doctor working in Florence and married to painter Lazzaro Pintor Cabras. On their second trip back through Rome, the Douglasses visited her where she lodged at 6 Piazza Barberini. 

I would not be surprised if she accompanied them on their journey to Florence or at least gave them recommendations on where to stay. 

The last that Frederick had, in fact, seen Sarah Remond, the two had met in England in 1860 as he promoted his second autobiography and lay low after being implicated in the Harpers Ferry raid. They both had hoped to visit France at the time, but both were denied passports under the argument that they were not U.S. citizens under the Dred Scot decision and therefore not entitled to one. Douglass turned back, and then returned to the U.S. after learning of the death of his daughter, Annie. Remond continued on defiantly, never returning to the country that had rejected her. After the Douglasses departed Rome for the last time, she sent along her love, telling Gertrude that "she treasures the pleasant memory of you both."

But, alas, this post is entering the range of TLDR ("too long didn't read") and must leave you hanging for the next entry. What did Douglass see in the Vatican and what did he think of it? 

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