Pilgrims to Jerusalem in the Middle Ages

Pilgrims to Jerusalem in the Middle Ages

Nicole Chareyron
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 312
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    Pilgrims to Jerusalem in the Middle Ages
    Book Description:

    "Every man who undertakes the journey to the Our Lord's Sepulcher needs three sacks: a sack of patience, a sack of silver, and a sack of faith." -- Symon Semeonis, an Irish medieval pilgrim

    As medieval pilgrims made their way to the places where Jesus Christ lived and suffered, they experienced, among other things: holy sites, the majesty of the Egyptian pyramids (often referred to as the "Pharaoh's granaries"), dips in the Dead Sea, unfamiliar desert landscapes, the perils of traveling along the Nile, the customs of their Muslim hosts, Barbary pirates, lice, inconsiderate traveling companions, and a variety of difficulties, both great and small. In this richly detailed study, Nicole Chareyron draws on more than one hundred firsthand accounts to consider the journeys and worldviews of medieval pilgrims. Her work brings the reader into vivid, intimate contact with the pilgrims' thoughts and emotions as they made the frequently difficult pilgrimage to the Holy Land and back home again.

    Unlike the knights, princes, and soldiers of the Crusades, who traveled to the Holy Land for the purpose of reclaiming it for Christendom, these subsequent pilgrims of various nationalities, professions, and social classes were motivated by both religious piety and personal curiosity. The travelers not only wrote journals and memoirs for themselves but also to convey to others the majesty and strangeness of distant lands. In their accounts, the pilgrims relate their sense of astonishment, pity, admiration, and disappointment with humor and a touching sincerity and honesty.

    These writings also reveal the complex interactions between Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Holy Land. Throughout their journey, pilgrims confronted occasionally hostile Muslim administrators (who controlled access to many holy sites), Bedouin tribes, Jews, and Turks. Chareyron considers the pilgrims' conflicted, frequently simplistic, views of their Muslim hosts and their social and religious practices.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52961-7
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Pierre-André Sigal

    Jerusalem—the place where Christ lived, was crucified, and entombed—has exerted extraordinary magnetic power over Christians from the fourth century to the present day. Over the centuries, thousands of pilgrims have been eager to confront the difficulties and dangers of the journey in order to pray and meditate in the Holy Land. Many of them remain anonymous, but some—beginning with the Spanish nun Egeria, who made her pilgrimage between 381 and 384—set down the story of their journey for posterity, wishing to transmit an account of their experiences to future pilgrims in order to guide and counsel...

    (pp. ix-XII)
    N. C.
  5. Chronology and Maps
    (pp. XIII-XVIII)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Evagari et Discurrere per Mundum …
    (pp. 1-15)

    Is it the explorerʹs instinct that compels men to travel far from their homeland or is it a nomadic urge they allow to triumph within them?¹ Whatever the nature of the inner compulsion that makes them leave their native soil, it is reinforced by a cultural imperative that endows it with meaning, whether it be the call of spirituality or a thirst for knowledge. This is what makes man human. Unlike the salmon, man chooses to follow the river back to its source. Man desires exile or consents to it.

    In leaving his castle, village, or province to venture over...

  7. CHAPTER 2 All Roads Lead to Venice
    (pp. 16-25)

    If almost all the pilgrimsʹ routes at this period led to Venice, it was because the city of the doges had become established as the most popular gateway to the East, rivaled only by Genoa. Not that there was any shortage of routes; there were others, such as military and caravan routes whose path was determined by their strategic, geographic, and commercial advantages. In the fourth century, before Venice existed as a maritime power and when the network of Roman roads was still in good condition, the Pilgrim from Bordeaux typically traveled overland, counting 110 stages between Bordeaux and Constantinople...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Venice in Splendid Dress
    (pp. 26-46)

    Celebrated for its buildings and relics, Venice was the first window opening onto the East and the final stopping place before boarding ship. It could be reached by navigable and canalized waterways. From Chioggia Santo Brasca reached the lagoon by sea. It was also possible to travel overland, taking a boat to complete the two miles separating the city of the doges from the mainland. On the way, pilgrims took the opportunity to visit Padua, where they venerated the relics of Saint Anthony—a lesser pilgrimage encompassed within a greater one.

    The pilgrimsʹ accounts permit one to determine how the...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Five Weeks in a Galley
    (pp. 47-67)

    Five weeks was the average time required to cross the Mediterranean from Venice to Jaffa or Alexandria. In addition to the already considerable dangers, many from both town and country were discovering the sea for the first time—and it was an awesome experience. No one embarked without some trepidation, and some were not ashamed to admit their apprehension. Some young noblemen were paralyzed with terror on viewing it from a hilltop: ʺLet us climb up there and see the sea, which may well be our grave.ʺ In the pilgrimage accounts the boundless sea—symbol of eternity and the infinite,...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Holy Lond of Promyssion
    (pp. 68-77)

    To enter the Temple of the Lord and worship in the place where he walked:. How could the pilgrimsʹ hearts not be filled with holy joy when, after so many storm-tossed days they finally saw the longed-for Holy Land rise above the horizon? At the very least the people on the galley shared the liturgical repertoire that united them. As for the emotion, it remained the same from century to century. Chateaubriand, wishing to walk in the footsteps of the pilgrims of bygone days, would adopt their style. Is there much difference between these two texts, separated by more than...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Jerusalem and the Holy Places
    (pp. 78-90)

    The road goes up to Jerusalem, for the city is almost three thousand feet above sea level. The climb is a spiritual as much as a physical one, for Jerusalem is the holy place par excellence, the Mount where Heaven and Earth meet. When he began his upward climb four leagues from the city, at the Gate of the Valley, the pilgrim felt he was ascending to a cosmic summit as he drew closer to Golgotha, the Center of the World, according to the picture of the world reflected by the spiritual tradition of late medieval cartography.¹

    The column would...

  12. CHAPTER 7 The Church of the Holy Sepulcher: The Christian World in Miniature
    (pp. 91-101)

    It was only at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher that the pilgrims sensed they had finally reached their destination. It was there that they all united for a procession led by the Franciscans and where they discovered the entire spectrum of the worldʹs churches and the astonishing spectacle of their respective rites. Never again would the Europeans have an opportunity to witness such a collection of the religious expressions of the Latins, Greeks, Jacobites, Armenians, Nestorians, Maronites, and Ethiopians (called ʺPrester Johnʹs Indiansʺ). Their accounts show the keen interest they took in the various manifestations of Eastern Christianity, while...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Pilgrimages and Excursions Round and About Jerusalem
    (pp. 102-110)

    Bethlehem was a little town with a great destiny, according to the prophesy of Mic. 5:2 (ʺBut thou … though thou be little … out of thee shall He come forth … that is to be rulerʺ), echoed in Matt. 2:6. Ernoul (1231?) had confirmed this with his own eyes: ʺBethlehem is a city, but it is not large, having only one street.ʺ¹ Monte di Croce (1288) paraphrased the scripture: ʺcivitatem parvulam ubi natus est parvulus, Ille magnus.ʺ² But whatever the size of other towns, Bethlehem, seen as small by the pilgrims, was made great thanks to its history.

    The pilgrims...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Saracens in the Towns, Arabs in the Desert, and Jews Here and There
    (pp. 111-126)

    Can a culture ever get outside itself? Ethnocentrism, which makes people see other civilizations as aberrations, consists in rejecting the moral, social, religious or esthetic norms of others with a dismissive ʺthatʹs not the way we do things.ʺ The medieval traveler had only the sketchiest notions of ethnography. He came not with a neutral perspective but with one laden with preconceptions. As a reader of fictions, tales, and treatises on Islam, his perceptions were already predetermined by ideology, distorted by the images propagated by learned or popular tradition, and shaped by the portrayals of an Oriens horribilis that had been...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Desert Time, Desert Space
    (pp. 127-145)

    For the less daring or wealthy the pilgrimage ended in Jerusalem. But if you had a few ducats to lose and liked taking risks you could travel the distance to St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, and from there on to the Red Sea and Cairo. What call from deep within attracts people to the desert? According to A. Pasquali, it is an urge that makes people indifferent to suffering: ʺFor the pilgrim, the natural landscape traversed—a tract full of all kinds of perils—separates him from the holy place, but the act of walking is already a kind of...

  16. CHAPTER 11 Sinai and Its Speaking Stones
    (pp. 146-156)

    One day, with a sweep of his arm, the guide made ʺtwo summits like a pair of headsʺ appear. The pilgrims threw themselves off their mounts and knelt down facing the mountain, hands outstretched, to give thanks to God where the memory of Moses is inscribed in the very stones. From the third century onward pilgrims had sought refuge at the foot of the mountain that bears his name. In the fourth century Saint Helena erected a tower refuge dedicated to the Virgin. In the sixth century Justinian ordered the construction of a basilica on the presumed site of the...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Cairo, City of Lights
    (pp. 157-172)

    Attracted by Egypt, that other Holy Land that gave refuge to the fleeing Virgin and was home to the saintly hermits, the pilgrims continued their journey toward the valley of the Nile. They would spend some time in Cairo, a capital with exceptional influence over an immense territory.¹ The image of this city that emerges from the accounts is a varied one. Neither entirely true nor entirely false, it is a patchwork of observations, with their interpretations and garnered information. It was influenced by the version of reality elaborated by some guide for the use of the visitor. A comparative...

  18. CHAPTER 13 Diamonds of the Sands, or Pharaohʹs Granaries
    (pp. 173-178)

    Mystery envelops all unfamiliar forms. We can see the presentiment of an aesthetic of the deserted or crumbling monument emerge, conjured up through cultural memory and the imaginary world associated with it. The travelers awakened to archeology, providing a description or rapid sketch of the obelisks, bas-reliefs, and hieroglyphs. Memphis was devoured by the sands: neglect was to blame, but above all the power of natureʹs perpetual, insidious, destructive action. Yet the ancient site captured the attention, and in the fifteenth century travelers were brought there by their guides. Without identifying the place, Van Ghistele noticed two statues of giants...

  19. CHAPTER 14 The Virginʹs Garden, the Hermitsʹ Desert, and Egyptian Dreams
    (pp. 179-185)

    Egypt, land of fertile waters. Several springs dotted about the Holy Land bore the Virginʹs name. In Nazareth there was one to which the child Jesus often went to fetch water, and at which the women reenacted timeless tableaux of ancient times: ʺThe Virgin often used this spring for the child and washed his swaddling clothes there, as they still do today,ʺ writes Adorno.¹ This, too, was what it meant to be a pilgrim: reading living people as signs and reaching the spirit by way of the flesh. The origin of the veneration of springs can be found in the...

  20. CHAPTER 15 Alexandria, Sentry of the East
    (pp. 186-197)

    It was at the port of Bulaq that the pilgrim boarded the Nile boat to take him to Alexandria, from where he would return to the land of his ancestors. Going downriver could be an enchanting or a frightening experience, depending on the riverʹs mood. In the flood season, from August to October—which was often when the pilgrims were there—the roads became impassible¹ and the only remaining means of transport was by boat. Indeed, even when the overland route was open, the river remained the principal artery, being faster and more comfortable, according to one traveler who describes...

  21. CHAPTER 16 Happy He Who, Like Ulysses …
    (pp. 198-210)

    Those who traveled from Venice in organized groups had a good chance of returning home within five or six weeks along the great trade routes they had followed on the way over: Cyprus, Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, Ragusa, and Venice. But the pilgrimsʹ world also had its share of independent, foolhardy, or unlucky individuals, a reading of whose accounts makes one wonder by what miracle they survived to put them down on paper: the dreamer Jean, the impatient Niccolò, the intrepid Bertrand, and Pierre the journalist. It is with them I shall conclude.

    One mystery of the journey was knowing how...

  22. CHAPTER 17 By Way of an Ending: The Smell of Thyme and the Taste of Honey
    (pp. 211-220)

    It is when the journey as action is completed that its reflection, the mirrored journey, begins—an exercise in composition sometimes justified in a prefatory notice.¹ Meister Thietmar, in a summary sparing of words, expresses how spiritually he has come full circle. Setting out for the forgiveness of his sins and encouraged by a burning desire to see with his own eyes the things he had read of in the Scriptures, he returned home eager to set down his memories for himself and for others. Avoiding all vainglory, he invites the reader to open and enjoy his book—a work...

  23. APPENDIX: Pilgrimsʹ Profiles
    (pp. 221-230)
  24. NOTES
    (pp. 231-270)
    (pp. 271-282)
  26. INDEX
    (pp. 283-290)