There is a staircase in Rome–the seat of religious harlotry–that, supposedly, people can ascend on their knees and gain some pitiful “indulgence” from the man who sits in a temple as God. Spurgeon wrote about it as he witnessed this atrocity:
WHILE traveling in Italy it was our good fortune to fall in with our esteemed friend, Dr. Jobson, a Wesleyan brother well known to fame as a preacher of the gospel, and known also to his numerous friends as an artist of no mean order. By his kindness we are able to present our readers with a view of the stairs on the north side of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, at Rome, which are superstitiously reputed to be the identical steps which our Savior descended when he left the judgment hall of Pilate. No mention is made of steps in the gospels, but that is of small consequence to the Church of Rome, which recognizes tradition as quite sufficient authority. There are twenty-eight marble steps of considerable breadth, and we are asked to believe that they were transported from Jerusalem to Rome by miraculous agency. We remember a cottage which was so dilapidated that, to our knowledge, the father gathered up the steps of the stairs, and sent his boy with them to the landlord, with the message, “Please, sir, father has sent you our stairs, and would be glad of a new set,” but these marble slabs are in excellent repair and of great weight, and must have required a considerable amount of angelic engineering to remove them to their present site. However, for many a long year doubters concerning the authenticity of the holy stairs have been judged to be rank infidels, and have been considered worthy of the direst pains of perdition.
Our abhorrence of Popery and everything verging upon it rose to a white heat as we saw how it can lower an intelligent nation to the level of fetish worship, and associate the name of the ever-blessed Jesus with a groveling idolatry. If our mild milk-and-water Protestants could see Popery with their own eyes, they might have less to say against [Protestant] bigotry; and if those who play at ornate worship could see whither their symbolism tends, they would start back aghast, and adhere henceforth to the severest simplicity. Perhaps Luther would never have become a Reformer had it not been for his visit to Rome and his ascent of these very stairs. In the city where he expected to find the church of God in all its holiness, he found sin rampant beyond all precedent. “It is almost incredible,” says he, “what infamous actions are committed at Rome; one would require to see it and hear it in order to believe it. It is an ordinary saying that if there is a hell, Rome is built upon it. It is an abyss from whence all sins proceed.” Nor did he speak as an exaggerating enthusiast, for Machiavelli’s witness was that the nearer you came to the capital of Christendom the less you found of the Christian spirit. “We Italians,” said the great historian, “are chiefly indebted to the church and the priests for our having become a set of profane scoundrels.”