Maria Cockrell Part 10: Maria visits the Vatican and hears of trouble at home

In January 1877 Maria travels from Florence to Rome and stays there until the middle of March. On the 20th January she writes Jimmy a birthday letter from the Hotel de Milan, Florence. Jimmy is now 20 years old and Maria gives him more heartfelt advice:

I am sending you by registered letter a beautiful mosaic pin set in gold for a Birthday present, and also as my present to you from abroad.  I intended to have brought it home, but as I have bought it and we are going on to Rome, I thought I had better send it in case I should get it stolen.

And one thing, my dear Boy, I do hope you will not get sweethearting too soon, but try and save a little money to make a comfortable home and look about and try to find a good wife. But if you fix your affections while you are very young and before you have seen the world, you may repent it all your days, as I have done.

On 25th January she writes a long letter to her mother from the Hotel Molaro, Rome:

arch of titus rome
Arch of Titus, Rome, on the Via Sacra, just to the south-east of the Roman Forum

Does it not seem strange that I should be writing to you from this place? I can hardly believe it myself that I am actually where the Apostle Paul was, and where he wrote his epistle, and actually looking on the arch of Titus that you used to have a picture of in an old Magazine, where the Soldiers are carrying away the 7 branched candlestick and spoiling the temple of Jerusalem. I feel now I should like to travel over Egypt and the Holy Land and then I could rest contented.

We left Florence on Monday and had such a pleasant journey, such blue sky and bright sunshine. We went first to the Anglo American Hotel (in Via delle Quattro Fontane)  but did not like our rooms, so Tuesday we came here. It’s very tiresome moving, but I am very well now thank God, and pretty strong. Only I cannot walk up hill much.

vatican palace
Vatican Palace

Well, yesterday we went to the Vatican. It’s a tremendous large Palace where the Pope resides, and has about two thousand rooms in it and lovely pictures painted by Michael Angelo and Raphael, two of the greatest painters that ever lived. Such wide marble staircases, quite as wide as from your house to Mrs Titt’s garden wall (from near White Hart garage to the wall of Elm Farm), and in the courtyard two beautiful fountains playing, and the sun was shining through them , and there was a rainbow through them both. It was beautiful.

mosaic floor vatican
Mosaic floor, Vatican

Then, the floors are all Mosaics inlaid, and today I have been to see St Paul’s Church (San Paolo fuori le Mura) where St Paul is said to be buried under the high Altar. There was a High Mass today as it’s St Paul’s day, and the chains that he was bound with are exhibited once every year an the 25th Jan.

saint pauls rome
St Paul’s, Rome

It was terrible to see the faithful, and among them so many of my own countrymen and countrywomen, go and kiss those rusty chains, and then the priest touched their forehead with them. They even brought infants to touch them with their foreheads. But the Music and singing was more beautiful than any thing I had ever heard, and the priests and Cardinals in their gorgeous robes, dressing and undressing. If it was all done to the Glory of God, it would be different, but we know that Paul preached against all these superstitions and laid down his life in defence of the truth. And now even his bones and chain, or what are believed to be his bones are worshiped. I hope to go to St Peter’s Cathedral tomorrow, and another day to the Palace of the Caesars (on the Palatine Hill).

And the scenery along the route was magnificent. We came by rail over a part of the Apennines Mountains, 800 feet above the level of the sea. There are magnificent Palm trees growing here and Orange trees laden with fruit.

10 days later Maria has received news from her mother that her husband Isaac Windsor is very ill. In distress she writes a little incoherently to her son Jimmy on the 4th February 1877:

I was very sorry to get a letter last night telling me of Isaac’s illness. I am very I am very sorry for him and for dear Mother. Could you not go over on your Iron horse (his bicycle) one evening; that is, if you don’t go this Saturday, and write and tell me how he is? I shall enclose a few lines in this, which you will please post to Mother if you do not go. It will save the postage to me.

I am glad to tell you I am very well and enjoying myself in Rome, seeing a great many things new every day, but I feel I should much rather be near my dear Mother to help her nurse poor Isaac. I am sure he will be very trying and she is getting on in years now, but I am so far away and fear it will be some time before I am back.

Isaac dies soon after, aged 68 years, and was buried 10th February 1877. Maria continues to worry about her poor 65 year old mother and writes to Jimmy on 15th February:

Your kind letter was a great comfort to me. I feel that it’s such a blessing you are near your dear Grandmother now I am so far away. I feel I want to fly to her, but I can trust you to see she wants for nothing. You and I must do our best to comfort her declining years, for we can never repay her all we owe. If there is any thing she wants which you cannot get, write at once to me, and if she wants in another load of coal, tell her to order Willie to put in one and send the bill to me.

I do feel so thankful you are so nearly out of your time (Jimmy’s apprenticeship is due to end on 21 November 1877) as then we shall be able to work together, and I am sure it will be always a labour of love on your part as well as mine, for every kindness done to your dear Grandmother I shall feel done to me.

I don’t know how much longer we are to remain here but I am just longing to return to England now, as Mrs Hamilton has kindly promised I shall run home before we join the yacht. Mr James (Dennistoun) is expected home from Australia in April to yacht with us all summer. We thought at one time the yacht would come out here for us, but it is thought better we should return as we came, through France.

The following month Maria has reached Naples and writes to Jimmy from the Hotel Nobile on the 18th March 1877:

vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius, Italy

What will you think when you read this and find that I have actually arrived at the foot of the burning mountain Vesuvius. It is lovely here and nice to be so close to the seashore again. The mountain is sending forth huge columns of smoke and another eruption is expected.  I went to the museum yesterday and saw the things that have been dug up out of Pompeii, a city that was overwhelmed with fire, and gold and silver things and crockery look as fresh as if they were in use but yesterday.  But I shall be so glad when all this sightseeing is done, for though it’s very wonderful and it’s not every one gets the chance, still it’s very tiring and the heat is so great, and I do so long to see you and my dear Mother.

And yet, I rather dread the long long journey back, only it will be going home. I cannot tell you what a comfort it is to me that you go home on Sunday. I am sure dear Mother will just look forward to it all the week and all day Sunday I think of you being at home.

There are no letters for a while after this so Maria must have made it home for a visit after her travels. We will pick up her story again later in 1877.

Maria Cockrell Part 10: Maria visits the Vatican and hears of trouble at home