In the basement, I descended eight wide stone steps, all cut from a single piece of stone, and in the sacristy saw the tomb of the projector of the cathedral, who died four years before its completion, and numerous magnificent and valuable old paintings. One is a picture of the Virgin, which performs miracles daily. Around this picture are hundreds of votive offerings, in the shape of others, illustrating the miracles performed by the Virgin in behalf of the persons offering them. Some of these were ludicrous in the extreme.
Entering the main building, I saw graceful columns in pale green and gold, supporting the fretted arched roof in the same colors, a magnificent altar in marble and silver, a chapel with a shrine of silver, and countless pictures and images, and decorations of barbaric richness. The rich notes of a superb organ resounded through the building, priests in gorgeous vestments mumbled the morning services, and incense filled the air. Gold and silver, satin and gilding, met the eye on every side, and the scene at first glance was one of bewildering beauty.
But I looked around me and saw men and women, barefooted and in rags, come creeping over the wet flagging of the wide yard, and down the long aisle upon their knees, some of them carrying lighted candles to offer at the shrine in fulfillment of vows made when the assistance of the Virgin was greatly needed, or groveling on the flagging at the doors; and I glanced from the sleek priests, who take in sixty thousand dollars per annum from votive offerings, to the poor wretches who toil for it and give it, and I went out with more of bitterness than satisfaction in my heart.
At the door I saw a conspicuously posted list of