The travels of Sig. Pietro della Valle, a noble Roman, into East-India and Arabia Deserta in which, the several countries, together with the customs, manners, traffique, and rites both religious and civil, of those Oriental princes and nations, are faithfully described : in familiar letters to his friend Signior Mario Schipano : whereunto is added a relation of Sir Thomas Roe's Voyage into the East-Indies.
Della Valle, Pietro, 1586-1652., Roe, Thomas, Sir, 1581?-1644., Havers, G. (George)

LETTER XVII.

From Rome,July 11. 1626.

HAving begun to go abroad, and to perform the respects I [ I] ow to all, on the eighth of April, I first kiss'd the feet of our Lord Pope Vrban VIII, who receiv'd and honor'd me with extraordinary courtesie, holding me in discourse with him∣self almost an hour about several things. I was introduc'd by the Privy Stairs by Card. Magalotti, who menages almost all the affairs of his Holiness, and discours'd with me a long time ex∣ceeding courteously.

April the eleventh being my Birth-day, I dated therewith the Dedicatory Epistle of my Treatise, De Regionibus subjectis recentiori Persarum imperio, which I intended to publish; and on Page  318 the nineteenth of the same Moneth I presented to the Pope, The Information of Georgia written in our own language, to the end to perswade him to send a Mission of Priests thither in order to reduce those people to the union of the Roman Church. The Pope was mightily well pleas'd with it, and upon this occasion I spoke to him, and inform'd him of many other businesses.

April the twentieth, Card. di sant' Onofrio, the Pope's Brother, sent for me to the Palace, and there told me that his Holiness had made me his Chamberlain of honour; which was a thing I never sought, nor thought of. I thank'd him, and profess'd my self ready to serve his Holiness in this and every thing else he should command me.

May the fourth, The Pope having upon my informations spoken of the business of the Georgians in the Congregation de propaganda Fide, a Decree was made in the said Congregation for sending thither a Mission of Theatine Fathers under the care of F. Don Pietro Avitabile of Messina, who had offer'd himself for that purpose, and was propos'd by me, which Fathers were injoyn'd to receive instruction from me concerning what was fit to be done; in regard his Holiness had made a great encomium of me in the Congregation, and ordain'd that nothing should be done, either as to this Mission of the Georgians, or any affairs of the East, without consulting of me first. Of this Decree, a Co∣py was sent me subscrib'd by Sig: Francesco Ingoli, Secretary of the Congregation, which I keep by me: and accordingly I have prepar'd Instructions for the said Fathers.

June the fifth, The Ensign-bearer Caterina d' Arcuso, a Bis∣cainer, being arriv'd at Rome the day before from Spain, came to my house. She was a Lass between thirty five and forty years old, and had in her Childhood been bred up in a Monastery of Biscay her own Country, and, I believe, wore a Nuns Habit when she was grown up. But repenting of this life before she made profession, she went away; and fancying to live like a Man, fled disguis'd from her Father's House, and went to the Court of Spain, where for some time she serv'd in the Habit of a Page. Afterwards she was minded to go to Sevil, and from thence to the West-Indies, where at first she serv'd as a man-ser∣vant to certain Merchants; but within a little time upon occa∣sion of a quarrel which befell her, she was fain to fly, and be∣took her self to the life of a Soldier, being naturally much inclin'd to arms and martial affairs. This course she follow'd a great while in those parts, being ingag'd in several Actions, wherein she always gave good account of her self as a soldier; as also in sun∣dry civil quarrels; so that she got the repute of a gallant man; but because she wanted a beard, they believ'd and call'd her Eunuch. Among other battels, she was in a dangerous one, wherein her Company being routed, and the Ensign left to the enemies, she effected by her valour, that she stay'd her compa∣nions flight, re-encourag'd them against the enemies, and leading Page  319 them on valorously, recover'd the lost Ensign with her own hand, killing him that had taken it; for which service she re∣main'd Ensign-bearer of that Company. At length, suspitions arising that she was a woman, the matter came to be discover'd in a great quarrel which she had, wherein after many proofs of her courage, she was mortally wounded, and to save her self from the Court of justice which persecuted her, she was con∣strain'd to put her self into the Bishop's hands, to whom she confess'd the former passages of her life, saying that she was a Woman, and what she had done was not out of any evil end, but only through an inclination which she had to a military life: and for proof hereof she desir'd the Bishop, he would cause her to be searcht. Which was accordingly done, and the Matrons and Midwives found her a Woman. The Bishop put her into a Monastery; and because 'twas known that she had been a Nun▪ but doubtful whether she was profess'd or not, he kept her there till certainty came from her own Country that she was not: Wherefore being set at liberty, and unwilling to become a Nun, but rather inclin'd to a military life, she return'd into Spain, where petitioning the King for a reward of her military service, (her case being examin'd, as the custom is, in the Councel, and by the way of justice) she obtai'd of the King eight hundred Crowns of yearly Revenue, there in the Indies, being styl'd in the Pa∣tents L Alfiere, or Ensign-bearer, and having liberty given her to live as a man, and to serve in the Wars in any of the King's Dominions without molestation. Hereupon she came into Ita∣lp, running several adventures by the way, to beseech the Pope for some favours in reference to her course of life, which by the mediation of many principal Persons she hath obtain'd. I had heard of her in the East-Indies, whither her fame was arriv'd, and many times desir'd further information concerning her. Wherefore my friend F. Roderiga di San Michele, a Discalcea∣ted Carmelite, being now arriv'd at Rome by the way of Venice, many days before me, and acquainted with my desire, brought her to my house; where she hath related to me many strange acci∣dents befallen her in the course of her life, of which I here men∣tion only the most important and certain, as of an extraordina∣ry person in our times. I have since brought her into the com∣pany of several Ladies and Cavaliers, whose conversation she loves much more then that of women. Sig: Francesco Crescentio, who is well skill'd in painting, hath drawn her picture with his own hand. She is of a large and portly stature for a Woman, and cannot thereby be known for other then a man. Her breast is but like a young Girl's, and she told me she had us'd I know not what kind of Remedy to dry it, and make it almost plain, which Remedy was a Plaister given her by an Italian, which at first put her to much pain, but afterwards without doing her other hurt, or corroding the flesh, produc'd the effect sufficient∣ly well. Her Visage is not deform'd though not fair, but some-what Page  320 worn with age; and her black short hair, cut after the fashion of Men with a little lock, as the mode also is at this day, represents rather an Eunuch then a Woman. She wears Clothes, and a Sword after the Spanish manner; and is well truss'd at the waste, onely she carries her Head somewhat low, and is a little thick shoulder'd: In brief, she rather resembles a weather-beaten Souldier than a fine Amorous Courtier. Nothing but her Hand discovers her a Woman; for it is some-what plump and fleshie, although strong and robust, and she moves it after a womanish manner.

June the eleventh, After dinner F. Don Pietro Avitabile came [ III] to visit me, and to receive instruction from me, according to the command of the Congregation, in order to his sudden Voyage.

June the fourteenth, I visited the said Father in the Church of S. Silvester at Montecavallo, and gave him the said Instruction in writing, of which I also deliver'd another Copy to the Con∣gregation De Propaganda Fide, to the end they might supply the Father with many things which I judg'd necessary, particularly, with Briefs from the Pope to those Princes, and with Letters of Recommendation to such Ambassadors of Catholick Princes as were at Constantinople, through which he was to pass, and to others who might help him upon the way.

June the five and twentieth, F. Avitabile began his Voyage for Georgia, together with one of his Companions, nam'd F. Don Francesco Aprile, intending to take F. Don Giacomo di Stefano, and others, at Messina; five or six Fathers being design'd for this Mission: but, by my advice, they divided into two Companies, be∣cause I thought it best for the others, either to follow these first, after they should be advertis'd by them from Constantinople of the easiness of the passage, or else take another way. Those that went first carri'd his Holiness's Briefs to the four present Georgian Princes, namely, of Imeriti or Basciaive, of Dadian or Odisci, which is Mengrelia, of Guriel, and of Kacheti. They also carry'd Letters from the Congregation to two Metroplitans, to whom because it was not evident that they were Catholicks, but rather suspected Schismaticks, it was not convenient for the Pope to write. Sundry fine things they carry'd likewise to present to the Princes and Metropolitans, and to who-ever else it should be needful. Their allowance from the Congregation was five hun∣dred Crowns, as much more being reserv'd for the other com∣pany of Fathers who were to follow; besides that, they were to collect many Alms for this purpose, both of money and things, to present at Rome, Naples, Messina, and all the way they pass'd. I took leave of them in the Evening at their own Church, with many embraces, and an appointment that they would continu∣ally communicate all Occurrences to me by Letters.

June the eight and twentieth, The Pontifical Vespers being ended at S. Peter's, the Pope in his Cope and Mitre was carry'd Page  321 from the Church in his Chair to the Palace; but before he came out of the Church-Gate, the Spanish Ambassador, Count d' Og∣nate, (who was arriv'd a few dayes before, in place of the Duke of Pastrana) presented himself according to the custom (for of late years this Ceremony ha's been perform'd on S. Peter's Eve, and not on the Feast day it self, as formerly) to give his Holi∣ness a Gennet for the accustom'd Tribute of the Kingdom of Naples. But before the Ambassador came to the Pope, (near whose Chair I stood, and saw all very well) the Treasurer of the Chamber came running to his Holiness, and told him, that the Ambassador brought not a Bill of so many thousand Crowns as use yearly to be presented, together with the Gennet. I know not whether they said, it could not be made timely enough, but should be done afterwards; or whether it was made but not subscrib'd, with those Cautions that were requisite; but, in summ, the money was not ready. And al∣though they alledg'd that this hapned through negligence, by reason of the new arrival of the Ambassador, who was not well inform'd, yet 'twas believ'd, that they design'd onely to try whether the Pope would let the business pass thus, that so by degrees they might introduce a custom of paying no more mo∣ney hereafter. The Pope, as I conceive, apprehending their drift, presently answer'd, that without a good Bill he would not accept of the Gennet, nor do that prejudice to the Apostolical Chamber; wherefore if the Bill were not in order, they should return back with the Gennet, and bring both together the next Morning. The Ambassador made suit to have the Gennet re∣ceiv'd presently, promising that the Bill should be ready speedily. The Pope reply'd, that if Sig: Marcello Sacchetti, Brother of Card: Sachetti, who kept the publick accounts of the Exchequer, and was then near the Pope, would take security from the Am∣bassador, he would be contented; but he neither commanded the said Sig: Marcello to take it, nor would have him take it for his sake; but he might do it, if he pleas'd at the Ambassadors re∣quest. The Spaniards, perceiving there was no other way, pre∣sently desir'd Sig: Marcello to make the security, which he very readily and courteously condescended to; and thereupon, by the Pope's Order, made a publick writing in good form, and his Holiness was contented to receive the Gennet, which the Ambassador presented to him with the usual Ceremonies. I was willing to relate this passage as a thing extraordinary, which hap∣ned in my time and presence. So I humbly kiss your Hands.

From Rome,July 11. 1626.