Thursday, August 7, 2008

Arrival in Civitavecchia

Two rattling days by caleche over indifferently maintained roads through the desolate countryside of the Roman campagna brought Cardinal Maximilian and his party to the principal port of the Papal States, Civitavecchia. As in Rome, the passage of time has left a deep stamp on the city, founded in the time of the Good Emperors and enduring, since the silting of the Claudian harbour at Ostia, as the chief port of the Eternal City. Welcoming the bracing salt air as a blessed relief from the malarial vapours of Rome in the summer, the clerics entered the city, stopping briefly at the Church of the Confraternity of Orazione e Morte, famous for its organ-loft balustrade fashioned from the prow of the flagship of the Papal fleet at Lepanto, to render thanks for their successful arrival and to pray for protection from the Barbary pirates on the next leg of the journey.

Proceeding through the archetto, the customs gate separating the city proper from the harbour and waterfront below, the Tradgardlanders could not help but be struck by the contrast of the maritime vitality of the port with the languour of the towns of Latium, fiefs of the Orsini and Odescalchi, through which they had passed. With the conclusion of the papal conclave, the port was even busier than usual, with departing dignitaries of various stripes competing for stevedores with various Venetian gentes expecting to profit from the rumoured favouritism of the new pontiff for his countrymen.

Reaching the customs house, the clerics were set upon immediately by a number of servitori de piazza, offering their services in the argot of Mediterranean watermen with the most disagreeable importunity. As the douanier proceeded through the baggages of the party, Cardinal Maximilian's valet de chambre engaged in a spirited debate with these supplicants, finally inducing most of them to seek other patrons before descending to the waterfront to seek passage on or hire of one of the larger feluccas or chebecs bound for Marseilles.

1 comment:

tradgardmastare said...

Superbly written - I wonder what will happwn next...