By John Ruskin
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THE VAULTED BOOK. As early as may be this morning, let us look for a minute or two into the cathedral: —I was going to say, entering by one of the side doors of the aisles; —but we can’t do anything else, which perhaps might not strike you unless you were thinking specially of it. There are no transept doors; and one never wanders round to the desolate front. From either of the side doors, a few paces will bring you to the middle of the nave, and to the point opposite the middle of the third arch from the west end; where you will find yourself—if well in the mid-wave—standing on a circular slab of green porphyry, which marks the former place of the grave of the bishop Zenobius.
The fame of Cimabue rests, and justly, on a similar charity. He gave the populace of his day something to look at; and satisfied their curiosity with science of something they had long desired to know. We have continually imagined in our carelessness, that his triumph consisted only in a new pictorial skill; recent critical writers, unable to comprehend how any street populace could take pleasure in painting, have ended by denying his triumph altogether, and insisted that he gave no joy to Florence; and that the “Joyful quarter” was accidentally so named—or at least from no other festivity than that of the procession attending Charles of Anjou.
The conception of facts, and the idea of Jewish womanhood, are there, grand and real as a marble statue, —possession for all ages. And you will feel, after you have read this piece of history, or epic poetry, with honourable care, that there is somewhat more to be thought of and pictured in Judith, than painters have mostly found it in them to show you; that she is not merely the Jewish Delilah to the Assyrian Samson; but the mightiest, purest, brightest type of high passion in severe womanhood offered to our human memory.