Mezzofanti died on March 15th, 1849 in Rome. His last words were 'Andiamo, andiamo presto in Paradiso' ('Let's go, let's go
quickly to Heaven') - as good as it gets as far as dying is concerned I
Mezzofanti was buried two days later under the
Roman church of which he was the head, Sant'Onofrio on the Janiculum hill in Rome. This
is a mighty nice church, set in a huge private park on a hill overlooking
Rome. Visitors can only see the church and a tiny bit of park, but they
can enjoy the view. The surrounding are always crowded with Romans
visiting their loved ones in the hospital next door but the church is
surprisingly empty. Good for us.
His good friend Pope Gregory XVI had died a couple years before and the
new Pople was not a friend, and his burial was a speedy affair with only a
few people present. Russell says he was buried under the pavement inside
I set out to find his grave and asked the young lady that was guarding
the inside of the church in a conservative black suit, whether she knew
where it might be. She didn't but helped me look all around the church.
Now you have to understand that there are many, many tombstones in the
church. Actually the entire pavement is made almost exclusively of
tombstones. Many are worn down and barely legible. More than half are
below the pews. The young Roman lady helped move the stools and even the
carpet under the altar the try to find the Mezzofanti tombstone, but after
an hour she had to leave for the lunchbreak and close the church. I had
not found the tombstone. I decided to take some pictures of the exterior
of the church and its lovely view over Rome and saw a plaque about
Chateaubriand, who had made arrangements to be buried there in case he
were to die in Rome. Next to it, on the wall left of the entrance, was
Mezzofanti's tombstone, in the most visible spot ever.
How many people have come to his final resting place to shed a thought
about what he was? How many of the visitors to Sant'Onofrio know that one
of the men buried under their very feet spoke 50 languages? That was my
privilege and it can be yours if ever you visit Rome.