But I must not live longer at Milan without mentioning the Duomo, first in all Europe of the Gothic race; whose solemn sadness and gloomy dignity make it a most magnificent cathedral; while the rich treasures it conceals below exceeded my belief or expectation.
We came here just before the season of commemorating the virtues of the immortal Carlo Borromeo, to whose excellence all Italy bears testimony, and Milan most; while the Lazaretto erected by him remains a standing monument of his piety, charity, and peculiar regard to this city, which he made his residence during the dreadful plague that so devasted it; tenderly giving to its helpless inhabitants the consolation of seeing their priest, provider, and protector, all united under one incomparable character, who fearless of death remained among them, and comforted their sorrows with his constant presence. It would be endless to enumerate the schools, hospitals, infirmaries, erected by this surprising man. The peculiar excellence of his lazaretto, however, depends on each habitation being nicely separated from every other, so as to keep infection aloof; while uniformity of architecture is still preserved, being built in a regular quadrangle, with a chapel in the middle, and a fresh stream flowing round, so as to benefit every particular house, and keep out all necessity of connection between the sick. I am become better acquainted with these matters, as this is the precise time when the immortal Carlo Borromeo’s actions are rehearsed, and his praises celebrated, by people appointed in every church to preach his example and record his excellence.
A statue of solid silver, large as life, and resembling, as they hope, his person, decorated with rings, &c. of immense value, is now exposed in church for people to venerate; and the subterranean chapel, where his body lies, is all wainscoted, as I may say, with silver; every separate compartment chased, like our old-fashioned watch-cases, with some story out of his life, which lasted but forty-seven years, after having done more good than any other person in ninety-four; as a capuchin friar said this morning, who mounted the pulpit to praise him, and seemed to be well thought on by his auditors. The chanting tone in which he spoke displeased me, however, who can be at last no competent judge of eloquence in any language but my own.
There is a national rhetoric in every country, dependant on national manners; and those gesticulations of body, or depressions of voice, which produce pity and commiseration in one place, may, without censure of the orator or of his hearers, excite contempt and oscitancy in another. The sentiments of the preacher I heard were just and vigorous; and if that suffices not to content a foreign ear, woe be to me, who now live among those to whom I am myself a foreigner; and who at best can but be expected to forgive, for the sake of the things said, that accent and manner with which I am obliged to express them.