Letters from Turkey, by Mary Wortley Montagu

Letter iv.

From Cologn. — Journey from Nimeguen to Cologn — the Jesuits church — plate — relics — the sculls of the eleven thousand virgins.

To the Lady ——.

Cologn, Aug, 16. O. S. 1716.

IF my lady —— could have any notion of the fatigues that I have suffered these two last days, I am sure she would own it a great proof of regard, that I now sit down to write to her. We hired horses from Nimeguen hither, not having the conveniency of the post, and found but very indifferent accommodations at Reinberg, our first stage; but it was nothing to what I suffered yesterday. We were in hopes to reach Cologn; our horses tired at Stamel, three hours from it, where I was forced to pass the night in my clothes, in a room not at all better than a hovel; for though I have my bed with me, I had no mind to undress, where the wind came from a thousand places. We left this wretched lodging at day-break, and about six this morning came safe here, where I got immediately into bed. I slept so well for three hours, that I found myself perfectly recovered, and have had spirits enough to go and see all that is curious in the town, that is to say, the churches, for here is nothing else worth seeing. This is a very large town, but the most part of it is old built. The Jesuits church, which is the neatest, was shewed me, in a very complaisant manner, by a handsome young Jesuit; who, not knowing who I was, took a liberty in his compliments and railleries, which very much diverted me. Having never before seen any thing of that nature, I could not enough admire the magnificence of the altars, the rich images of the saints (all massy silver) and the enchassures of the relicks; though I could not help murmuring, in my heart, at the profusion of pearls, diamonds, and rubies, bestowed on the adornment of rotten teeth, and dirty rags. I own that I had wickedness enough to covet St Ursula’s pearl necklaces; though perhaps this was no wickedness at all, an image not being certainly one’s neighbour’s; but I went yet farther, and wished the wench herself converted into dressing-plate. I should also gladly see converted into silver, a great St Christopher, which I imagine would look very well in a cistern. These were my pious reflections: though I was very well satisfied to see, piled up to the honour of our nation, the skulls of the eleven thousand virgins. I have seen some hundreds of relicks here of no less, consequence; but I will not imitate the common stile of travellers so far, as to give you a list of them; being persuaded, that you have no manner of curiosity for the titles given to jaw-bones and bits of worm-eaten wood. — Adieu, I am just going to supper, where I shall drink your health in an admirable sort of Lorrain wine, which I am sure is the same you call Burgundy in London, &c. &c.

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