Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Flight of the Earls (Author: Tadhg Ó Cianáin)

section 108


On Thursday, the twelfth of the same month, Ó Néill and the Earl, and all that were along with them, set out for a pilgrimage of the seven great churches of Rome. They had with them the permission


and authority of the holy Father that they might have exhibited to them all the relics of each church to which they would go. They began and commenced their meritorious pilgrimage in God's name at Santa Maria Maggiore. After having made their confessions and having received the Blessed Sacrament, there were exhibited to them the head of Saint Bibiana, the head of Marcellinus the Pope, one of the hands of Thomas the Apostle, the stole of Saint Girolamo, the stole and maniple, and another portion of the Mass vestments of Saint Thomas, bishop of Canterbury, the cradle in which our Saviour was in Bethlehem of Juda, the first clothes which the Virgin put around Him in His infancy, together with many other splendid relics. Except with the special permission of the Pope they are not usually seen, saving always on each Easter Sunday after midday. And it was in this way the church came first to be built and erected: There was once in Rome a certain venerable, worthy nobleman, Johannes the Patrician was his name, who had a worthy wife, but no child at all was born to them. They possessed much wealth and earthly goods. They decided and determined between themselves to make the holy Virgin Mary their own sole heir to all their wealth and goods, and to offer them all, with all their heart, in her service and in her honour. On one occasion an angelic spirit came to this noble wife in a strange form and in a dream. He told her to order and instruct her husband to rise at the dawn of early morning on the following day, and on whatever high, beautiful, commanding hill he found a place with much ice and snow, that he should build a splendid


church there to Mary. That happened on the fifth day of the month of August. Hot, sunny, injurious weather is usual about that time of the year in all Italy and in Rome especially.

Bitter woe! We have certain information of the harmfulness of the air of Rome; yesterday, the twenty-fourth of September, 1609, the son and proper worthy heir of O Neill, Aodh O Neill, Baron of Dún Geanainn, he who would have been lord of Cenél Eoghain and the northern half of Ireland without contention or opposition, was buried.

The nobleman rose when he heard the story. He hastened to the place where the church is. He found the hill filled and covered with snow and ice. That was strange. He proceeded to the bishop who was superior over that part of the city. It had happened that a similar vision had been revealed to the lord bishop that same night. They both then set out, and a large crowd of other people with them. They came to the place where the snow was. They gathered it and took it away with their own hands. After that a splendid church, wealthy and beautifully constructed, one of the biggest and finest in the world, was erected and built, and it was blessed and consecrated in honour of the holy Virgin in that same place.


After that they came to the church of Saint Laurence, one mile outside the walls of Rome. When they had performed their pilgrimage according to the order of the Church, one of the stones with which Stephen the martyr was stoned, and the broad marble flag on which the body of Saint Laurence was laid after having been roasted on a gridiron, were shown to them. On it portion of his blood and gore is still visible to all, and glass vessels which contain some of his blood and fluid, as also a piece of the iron of the gridiron on which he was baked and roasted. In that same church there are the bodies of Saint Laurence and Stephen the martyr, a holy vessel in which a noble holy maiden named Lucilla was baptized, and many other relics. It was the Emperor Constantine the Great who built and erected that church in honour of these holy martyrs. It was Sylvester the Pope who consecrated it.


The princes came inside the walls of the city again. They went to Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and performed their pilgrimage. There were exhibited to them a certain vessel which contains portion of the Precious Blood of


Jesus Christ; the sponge in which the Jews gave Him the gall of the liver of the dragon and the vinegar when He was on the tree of the Cross; two thorns of the Crown of Thorns (one who had seen them would think that they had not been cut longer than fifteen days); the nail that went through the feet of the Saviour on the Cross, very strong, thick, broad-headed, blunt-pointed, made of fine cast iron, and of at least six inches in length; the inscription of the Cross which Pilate wrote with his own hands in Latin, in Greek, and in Hebrew, Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudacorum, splendidly worked in gold, silver, and wonderful, variegated, precious stones by the famous Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great; one of the thirty talents for which the Saviour, the Almighty Lord, Jesus Christ, was betrayed by Judas Iscariot; three large pieces of the Cross of the Crucifixion; a very large portion of the cross of the thief of the right hand; the forefinger which Thomas the Apostle put into the wound of the side on the eighth day after the Resurrection of the Saviour, together with many other splendid relics. It was Constantine the Younger, the son of Constantine the Great, who built and erected that holy church, at the request and demand of Helena, and it was consecrated by Saint Sylvester the Pope.


Next after that they went to the chief church of the archbishop of Rome, the Pope, Saint John Lateran's is its name. When they had performed their pilgrimage, there were exhibited to them the head of Zacarias, the father of John the Baptist; the head of Saint Pancratius, which continued to shed blood on one occasion for three days and nights when heretics and destroyers of the Catholic faith burned this church, namely, Saint John Lateran's; a part of the relics of Mary Magdalen; a shoulder of Saint Lawrence; a tooth of Peter; the chalice out of which John of the Bosom drank a poisonous draught at the command of the merciless, wicked Emperor Domitianus, which by God's


assistance did him no harm; the rough chain of iron with which the holy, noble, great apostle, John of the Bosom, was bound and fettered on his way from Ephesus to Rome, together with the garment whence he suddenly arose perfect after his being slain, as the Jews and the pagans thought; a very great portion of the blessed relics of John the Baptist; a part of the holy hair and blessed locks of the Blessed Virgin Mary, together with the first undergarment which she made with her own hands for her Almighty, wonderful, only Son, Jesus Christ; the towel which the Saviour rubbed to the feet of the apostles with His own hands immediately after having washed their feet after the last supper before the Passion; the hammer with which the Jews drove the thick spikes and the rough iron nails mercilessly and unsparingly through the feet and hands of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the wood of the Cross, with the crown of thorns about His head, and the purple garment which Pilate ordered to be put around Him; portion of the precious Blood of the Lord; a splinter of the wood of the Cross of the Crucifixion; my loss is Aodh the sudarium, that is, the particular piece of cloth which was laid on the pure, wounded face of the Lord to conceal it when He was put in the tomb; portion of the blood and water which gushed from the wound in the side when the blind Longinus unsparingly wounded the Lord on the wood of the Cross with the broad-bladed spear; the head of Peter and the head of Paul in a stout grate of iron over the chief altar in the church. Every time that they are exhibited, the Popes, one after another, have granted three thousand years of an indulgence for his sins and transgressions to everyone of the natives of Rome who should be then present with devotion and attention; to everyone who comes from other provinces to see them, six thousand years of remission for his sins; to each of those people who


come from other kingdoms and distant countries on pilgrimage to these objects, twelve thousand years of remission for all his sins, and full remission for a third part of his sins and transgressions. There are four very fine columns before the great high altar, made of brass and brightly gilt on the outside, and filled in the interior with holy clay brought from Jerusalem to that place. It was Augustus the Emperor who built these columns for the success which he had upon the sea. Others say they were neptunes. Situated under the high altar is the oratory which John of the Bosom had, at which he worshipped Almighty God when he was imprisoned by the Romans. In that same church is the blessed, holy altar which John the Baptist had when he was in the desert, the rod of Moses and Aaron, and the table from which the Saviour ate the last supper with His apostles and disciples. It was Titus, the eleventh Emperor of Rome, who brought them from Jerusalem to that place in the year eighty-one of the age of the Lord. There remains to-day, fresh, unworn, in its original state, visible to all, the long, stout pillar of red marble which split from its summit to the ground in Jerusalem when the Saviour offered and gave up His life on the wood of the Cross into the hands of the heavenly Father, saying In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum, together with the flag of red marble on which the Jews cast lots for the garments and raiment of Christ, and an image and representation of the dice which they used; also two other splendid flagstones upon which there is the measure of the size and height of Jesus Christ and the holy Virgin Mary when they were in this world, and the large stone trough in which Constantine the Great was baptized by Sylvester the Pope. It is in that same trough that every person from Turkey, and of the Jewish race, and of all pagandom, who is converted in Rome to the


yoke of faith and piety, is baptized. In that church there is a very beautiful chapel which the Emperor Constantine used for a long time as a bed and sleeping apartment, and it is blessed in honour of John the Baptist, who placed in it many splendid relics and a large portion of the Cross of the Crucifixion. In that same church is the stout column of red marble from which the cock crew in Jerusalem after the Passion, and a short time before the Resurrection of the Lord. Near the church there is a great rich hospital which was erected a long time ago by an old noble family of the Romans, namely, the Colonnas. Great mercy, and charity, and cures are bestowed in that hospital on those who suffer from disease and ill health.


On one occasion, when a troublesome malady and a painful, violent sickness seized the Emperor Constantine the Great, he was in trouble and very great distress. The learned doctors and the skilful physicians could not bring him any assistance or relief. His pain and peril were very great. A certain wise, holy, old man, who chanced to be in the city, advised the Emperor to summon Sylvester the Pope, who was concealing himself in secret and pathless places in a great rugged mountain fourteen miles from Rome. This was done. When his Holiness the Pope came into his presence, the Emperor submitted with his whole heart and intention to the faith of Christ according to the Catholic Church, and after his having received baptism in the trough we have spoken of, he became immediately healed of pain, disease, sickness, and weakness. At once he granted to the Pope this palace in which his church was built. It had been his own residence up to that time. He besought his Holiness to bless and consecrate the church in the name and honour of John the Baptist and John of the Bosom. That was done on the tenth day of November following. The age of the Lord then was three hundred and


eighteen years. At the time and moment the consecration was being carried out the holy picture and truly sacred image of Almighty God was manifested plainly and miraculously. It exists today above the high altar. This church was twice burned by pagans and destroyers of the faith of Christ, and the burning did not injure, much or little, the picture, and it is today bright, shining, and splendid.


After that the princes went to Scala Santa, which is named 'the Holy Stair,' near and in proximity to the aforementioned church. There are twenty-eight steps in the length of that stair, and it is constructed of long, broad, bright marble stones. It was in the special, particular palace in which Pilate was, in the city of Jerusalem, that it was first placed and erected. When the Saviour, Jesus Christ, was seized by the unbelieving Jews at the time of His Passion, by that high stair they brought Him, bound and fettered, before and into the presence of the judge Pilate. From the strong, forcible, unsparing, unmerciful dragging which they gave Him, He was knocked down in the middle of the stair, so that portion of His precious blood was spilled. The trace of that precious innocent blood still remains on the stone. There is an iron grate over it to protect it. At the end of the stair there are three doors of uniformly white marble which were in Jerusalem, placed in the palace of that same Pilate. The Lord passed through these three doors before He appeared before Pilate. In front of the stair is a splendid tabernacle which is called Sancta Sanctorum. It is one of the richest chapels in precious relics in all Christendom. In it there is an image and picture of Jesus Christ, which Luke the Evangelist made with his own hands when Christ was in this world, at the age of twelve years, and it is ornamented splendidly, beautifully, and wonderfully with gold and silver and wonderful, variegated precious stones. Nicholas III who was Pope in Rome consecrated that holy chapel under the invocation of Saint Lawrence the martyr. To not many people is the interior


of that holy chapel opened or exhibited. No woman in the world ever enters by its door. All persons who ascend the holy stair do so on their knees. Everyone who ascends with devotion and pure intention has three years' remission for his sins for each individual step, and the third part of all his sins and transgressions are remitted to him. It is expected of all that they repent, pray, and invoke the Almighty God with compunction of heart for all their wickedness, having the love of God and their neighbour, as they ascend that holy, blessed, meritorious stair.


The princes set out afterwards from Scala Santa to the great, remarkable church named San Sebastiano. On their way they went to the wonderful chapel which is named Domine quo vadis. This is how the naming of that chapel first came about: at one time when torture, oppression, and persecution were practised by the pagans and the destroyers of the Church against the prince and head of the holy apostles, namely, Peter, he thought of leaving Rome Alas, alas, the death of Aodh has wrung and pierced our heart. and of going into secret and pathless places, and into wild woods, through fear of being put to death, even though he was Pope. Having come to the place where that church is, alone and unrecognized, he beheld the Saviour approaching him. Peter, when he had recognized Him, said: ‘Domine quo vadis,’ ‘Lord, whither goest Thou.’ The Lord said: ‘I go, to Rome that I may suffer again the Cross and Crucifixion and a bloody Death once more.’ Peter said: ‘O Lord, to cast reproof and reproach upon me Thine honour speaks these words, and I shall return to Rome, and I shall endure death and martyrdom for Thy sake.’ That was true, for Peter returned to Rome. He remained there until he was, put to death as a noble, great, and glorious martyr, as is known to all.



They reached San Sebastiano, a very beautiful church which was built by a noble holy woman of the race of the Romans themselves, namely, Saint Lucina, in honour of Saint Sebastian. There is a splendid chapel in that church where the body of Peter and the body of Paul were for a long time. Everyone who shall enter that place with devotion and compunction of heart has a like amount of indulgence for his sins as if he were to make a pilgrimage of the churches of Peter and Paul. After that, they went into a cave in the ground named Coemeterium Callisti, that is, the cemetery of Callistus. In that cemetery there were buried one hundred and seventy-four thousand martyrs. In that cave the apostles and disciples of the Lord used to remain to avoid and escape the pagans. Eighteen Popes were buried in it after having been put to death as noble, great, and glorious martyrs by unbelieving heretics. Each person who goes through it with devotion and compunction of heart has remission and indulgence for all sins. In that church there is one of the arrows by which Saint Sebastian was put to death, together with the blessed marble stone on which the Saviour stood during the time that He was conversing with Peter the apostle at the chapel mentioned called Domine quo vadis, and the track of His feet is in the rock still. The body of Saint Sebastian and that of the noble, great, holy woman, Saint Lucina, and the body of Stephen the Pope are in that same church, together with many other relics.


After that they proceeded to the Caffarella, a splendid, beautiful spot, having a table of marble, and a large number of streamlets of pure, cool water, skilfully, strangely, and wonderfully carried to the Emperor a long time ago by the Roman people. Having taken their dinner in that place, they went to the church of Mary of the Annunciation, and


after that to another very beautiful, very meritorious church named Tre Fontane, where Paul, the doctor of the Gentiles, was beheaded; and immediately after his being beheaded his head made three successive leaps. Three springs of icy, cold, pure water burst out of the dry earth in each spot where it made these three leaps. In it still are the marble column on which he was beheaded, and the heads of Anastatius and Vincentius the martyrs, and a large number of others. Near that church is the very beautiful monastery named Scala Coeli, that is, the 'Ladder of Heaven.' Under the great altar of the church there is a cave where the relics and tomb of ten thousand martyrs are. Their relics are exhibited to everybody. It is not permitted to touch or remove them. Once, when Saint Bernard was saying Mass, and offering the Body of Christ on the high altar mentioned, he saw with his bodily eyes the angels and archangels of Almighty God conducting souls from the pains of purgatory to the high heavens and the heavenly seat. Since that time the altar has the privilege of releasing a soul out of purgatory every time that Mass is said upon it. The order of Saint Bernard form the community and assembly in that monastery. The head of Saint Zeno who was a commander of ten thousand two hundred soldiers who were all put to death at the same time in Rome for the faith and the holy Church, was shown to them (the Irish), and also many other very beautiful, highly meritorious relics.


From there they went to the church of Saint Paul. They performed the pilgrimage of its seven meritorious chief altars. There were shown to them one of the hands of Saint Anna, the rough iron chain with which Paul was bound and fettered when he was imprisoned by the Romans, the head of the Samaritan woman, one of the fingers of Saint Nicholas, and a great number of other splendid relics. The


body of Saint Timothy, who was a zealous disciple of Paul in this world, is in that church, also the body of Celsus, the body of Julianus, the body of Basilisa, together with those of many of the great, remarkable children who were slain by Herod, son of Antipater, when he was persecuting and seeking for Christ. There is a very beautiful, miraculous crucifix in the church which spoke on one occasion face to face with a noble holy woman named Birgitta, who was then a queen in the kingdom of Suecia, as she prayed before it. Under the great high altar of the church there is one half of the relics of Peter and Paul. It was first built by Constantine the Great in honour and in reverence of Paul the Apostle, because it was in that particular place that the head of Paul was strangely and miraculously discovered after having been separated from his body; and having erected it at once, he gave it for the good of his soul to Pope Sylvester in the same way as he had given the church of Peter and the church of John. Sylvester the Pope consecrated and blessed the church of Peter and the church of Paul on the same day. He left equal and the same indulgences to both, save that if anyone should perform the pilgrimage of the church of Paul on each Sunday during a year, he has as much and as great remission of his sins as if he should perform a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or the great Saint James in Galicia.


After that they went to the church of San Pietro in Vaticano, the chief seat of Peter in Rome. On the way they went to a little chapel named the chapel of Peter and Paul. When Peter and Paul were taken prisoner by the unbelieving Romans they were conducted out of the city to that place. They took leave of each other. Then Paul was brought to be beheaded to Tre Fontane, for the Romans had a law that no one of the Roman people should be put to death except outside the city. Peter, however, who was


a Gallilean, was brought inside the walls of the city to a high hill, one of the seven chief hills of Rome, which was called Janiculum. They conducted him to the eminence on the hill which is called Montorio. They erected a high cross to receive him, with stout, rough, iron nails through his hands and his feet. He himself obtained as a request before death that he should be crucified and put to death feet upwards, that there might be dissimilarity between him and his Lord in martyrdom and death. A very beautiful monastery was built in that place in honour of Peter by Ferdinand, King of Spain, and its name to this time is San Pietro Montorio. It is held today by a community and assembly of revered fathers of the Order of Saint Francis. The holy Father, Pope Paul III, bestowed much indulgences and remission of sins and transgressions to those who visit, make a journey, and travel to this church, as is stated on a marble stone which is over the lintel of the beautiful chapel, in the cloister of the monastery, in the exact spot where Peter was put to death.


When they had made the pilgrimage of the seven chief privileged altars of the church of Saint Peter's, the head of the noble, great Apostle, Saint Andrew, was shown to them, it having been transported to Rome at one time by a prince of the Moors, at the time and period when Pius II was Pope, and he himself came first in person two miles outside the walls of Rome, to Ponte Molle, in a splendid procession to receive the head of the holy, noble Apostle from the prince. After that there were exhibited to them the head of Luke the Evangelist, the head of Saint James the younger, the head of Saint Sebastian, the head of Saint Thomas, bishop of Canterbury, the head of Saint Amandus, the hand of Stephen the martyr, the hand of Saint Christopher the martyr, together with many other relics of saints and holy men. Under the chief high altar of the church there is one half of the relics of Peter and Paul. There is a very beautiful tabernacle over the south corner


of the great high altar where the Volta Santa is, that is, 'the Holy Face,' namely the napkin which the great, noble, holy woman Veronica applied to the pure, wounded face of the Saviour, Jesus Christ, when He was in affliction and martyrdom carrying the Cross of Crucifixion. Manifest and visible to all people is the picture and image of the face and countenance of the Lord in His precious, red blood in the napkin, and also the head of the broad-bladed spear with which the blind Longinus wounded and pierced unsparingly the breast of Christ while He was dead and lifeless on the wood of the Cross. It was the grand Turk who presented these great, wonderful treasures to the Pope, namely, Innocent VIII. They work today miracles and strange remarkable wonders. Each one of the Roman people who is present with attention and devotion when they are exhibited receives three thousand years of remission for his sins, each person from other kingdoms or provinces six thousand years, other outside, distant, foreign nations twelve thousand years, and a third part of his sin is pardoned and remitted to each person of them provided they come with devotion and penitence of heart. In that same church are the bodies of Saint Simon and Saint Jude, two holy venerable Apostles, the body of Saint Chrysostom, the body of Saint Gregory the Pope, and the body of the noble holy woman Saint Patronella. Near the chapel of Peter there are ten circular, massive, beautifully carved pillars of white marble. They were first erected and set up in the temple of Solomon in Jerusalam. On the left hand side of the high altar there is one circular marble column with a grate of iron around it. When the Saviour used to be in Jerusalem before suffering the Passion, preaching, instructing, disputing, and arguing with the Jewish people, He was wont to stand in front of that pillar, and to lay His shoulder or His elbow at times against it. That is manifest from the miracles and wonders which God works by means of it, for of those persons in whom it is believed that there is an attacking evil spirit and a devil, and who are


introduced under the covering of that grating, not many fail to receive health and relief at once. Many other wonderful sights were shown to them. By Constantine the Great this church was first built and erected. He presented it afterwards for the good of his soul to Pope Sylvester, as he had given the church of Paul and the church of John. On the eighteenth day of November it was blessed and consecrated by that same Pope, the age of the Lord at that time being three hundred and twenty-three years. His Holiness the Pope granted and bestowed many favours and indulgences to each person who should perform a visit and a pilgrimage to it with devotion; each person who performs the pilgrimage of the seven chief, meritorious, privileged altars which are in the church of Peter, has an indulgence of six thousand and twenty-eight years, and the third part of all his sins remitted and forgiven, but it is essential for him that he possess the love of God and his neighbour, with contrition for his sins and vices. In this church is the wooden chair in which Peter himself sat, and the cloth which was put over Peter and Paul when they were put to death. A person receives seven years' indulgence for his sins every time that he shall ascend the stair of marble, which is opposite the door of the church, and that he shall enter the chapel of Peter to pray. A tall, four-cornered, long cross, beautifully made of one stone, the highest in all Christendom, is artistically and beautifully placed in front of the great door. Beneath it are four lions of gilt brass set on three marble anvils placed one above the other. On the summit of it there is a brightly gilt cross made of brass. Sixtus V, a friar of the Order of Saint Francis, erected it, and put it standing where it is now. Some of those who live and dwell in Rome say that the erection of it alone cost fifty thousand crowns. It is called 'Peter's Needle'. Each person who recites three Our Fathers and three Ave Marias before it has an indulgence of ten years for his sins. Everyone who makes a visitation or journey with devotion to this great church of Peter from


the feast of Mary of the Annunciation, that is, the twenty-fifth day of the month of March, to the first day of August, that is, the feast of Saint Peter ad Vincula, receives twelve thousand years of indulgence for his sins, and each time that he performs any of these on some special feast of the feasts of the Church itself, he receives double all that indulgence. This is the sole chief church with which it is impossible to compare or liken any church or construction in the world, for it is the greatest, the most beautiful, and best built in the world, with the best marble top and columns, and the most elaborate, highest, and most extensive both above and below the ground. All the high arches of the church inside are entirely gilt, bright, shining, and remarkable. There is a covering of lead on it on the outside. One would imagine that twenty thousand men in arms could stand together on the top of it on the outside. The Pope has the greatest, most beautiful, and most excellent of all the palaces in the world at its northern angle. Pope Paul V is carrying out splendid work at that church every day of the year, and if God should give him a natural span of life according to his constitution and appearance, it is likely that it will surpass all the buildings in the world, though there is no peer of it as it is. There are many other splendid exhibits and meritorious relics in this church besides these, and because it would be tedious to speak of each of them separately, each person who desires to see them will have them all exhibited to him on great, appropriate festivals.


At the end of that highly meritorious pilgrimage, the princes went to their palace. They stayed and rested, recovering from their weariness and fatigue, after their pilgrimage, which was pious for their souls though full of labour for their bodies.