Benvenuto Cellini (15001571). Autobiography. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
WHILE he was still lying on the ground, and people were preparing to carry him away, Pompeo the jeweller passed by. The Pope had sent for him to give orders about some jewels. Seeing the fellow in such a miserable plight, he asked who had struck him; on which they told him: Benvenuto did it, but the stupid creature brought it down upon himself. No sooner had Pompeo reached the Pope than he began to speak: Most blessed Father, Benvenuto has this very moment murdered Tobbia; I saw it with my own eyes. On this the Pope in a fury ordered the Governor, who was in the presence, to take and hang me at once in the place where the homicide had been committed, adding that he must do all he could to catch me, and not appear again before him until he had hanged me.
When I saw the unfortunate Benedetto stretched upon the ground, I thought at once of the peril I was in, considering the power of my enemies, and what might ensue from this disaster. Making off, I took refuge in the house of Messer Giovanni Gaddi, clerk of the Camera, with the intention of preparing as soon as possible to escape from Rome. He, however, advised me not to be in such a hurry, for it might turn out perhaps that the evil was not so great as I imagined; and calling Messer Annibal Caro, who lived with him, bade him go for information.
While these arrangements were being made, A Roman gentleman appeared, who belonged to the household of Cardinal de Medici, and had been sent by him.1 Taking Messer Giovanni and me apart, he told us that the Cardinal had reported to him what the Pope said, and that there was no way of helping me out of the scrape; it would be best for me to shun the first fury of the storm by flight, and not to risk myself in any house in Rome. Upon this gentlemans departure, Messer Giovanni looked me in the face as though he were about to cry, and said: Ah me! Ah woe is me! There is nothing I can do to aid you! I replied: By Gods means, I shall aid myself alone; only I request you to put one of your horses at my disposition. They had already saddled a black Turkish horse, the finest and the best in Rome. I mounted with an arquebuse upon the saddle-bow, wound up in readiness to fire, if need were.2 When I reached Ponte Sisto, I found the whole of the Bargellos guard there, both horse and foot. So, making a virtue of necessity, I put my horse boldly to a sharp trot, and with Gods grace, being somehow unperceived by them, passed freely through. Then, with all the speed I could, I took the road to Palombara, a fief of my lord Giovanbatista Savello, whence I sent the horse back to Messer Giovanni, without, however, thinking it well to inform him where I was.3 Lord Giovanbatista, after very kindly entertaining me two days, advised me to remove and go toward Naples till the storm blew over. So, providing me with company, he set me on the way to Naples.
While travelling, I met a sculptor of my acquaintance, who was going to San Germano to finish the tomb of Piero de Medici at Monte Cassino.4 His name was Solosmeo, and he gave me the news that on the very evening of the fray, Pope Clement sent one of his chamberlains to inquire how Tobbia was getting on. Finding him at work, unharmed, and without even knowing anything about the matter, the messenger went back and told the Pope, who turned round to Pompeo and said: You are a good-for-nothing rascal; but I promise you well that you have stirred a snake up which will sting you, and serve you right! Then he addressed himself to Cardinal de Medici, and commissioned him to look after me, adding that he should be very sorry to let me slip through his fingers. And so Solosmeo and I went on our way singing toward Monte Cassino, intending to pursue our journey thence in company toward Naples.
Note 1. Ippolito de Medici was a Cardinal, much against his natural inclination. When he went as Papal Legate to Hungary in 1532, he assumed the airs and style of a Condottiere. His jealousy of his cousin Alessandro led to his untimely death by poison in 1535. [back]
Note 2. The gun was an arquebuso a ruola, which had a wheel to cock it. [back]
Note 3. A village in the Sabina, north of Tivoli. Giov. Battista Savelli, of a great Roman house, was a captain of cavalry in the Papal service after 1530. In 1540 he entered the service of Duke Cosimo, and died in 1553. [back]
Note 4. This sculptor was Antonio Solosmeo of Settignano. The monument erected to Piero de Medici (drowned in the Garigliano, 1504) at Monte Cassino is by no means a brilliant piece of Florentine art. Piero was the exiled son of Lorenzo the Magnificent; and the Medici, when they regained their principality, erected this monument to his memory, employing Antonio da San Gallo, Francesco da San Gallo and a Neapolitan, Matteo de Quaranta. The work was begun in 1532. Solosmeo appears from this passage in Cellini to have taken the execution of it over. [back]