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THE TRAVELS OF
BERTRANDON DE LA BROCQUIERE.
A.D. 1432, 1433.
To animate and inflame the hearts of such noble men as may be desirous of seeing the world, and by the order and command of the most high, most powerful, and my most redoubted lord, Philip, by the grace of God duke of Burgundy, Lorraine, Brabant, and Limbourg, count of Flanders, Artois, and Burgundy*, palatine of Hainault, Holland, Zealand, and Namur, marquis of the Holy Empire, lord of Friesland, Salines, and Mechlin, I, Bertrandon de la Brocquière, a native of the duchy of Guienne, lord of Vieux-Chateau, counsellor and first esquire-carver to my aforesaid most redoubted lord, after bringing to my recollection every event, in addition to what I had made an abridgment of in a small book by way of memorandums, have fairly written out this account of my short travels, in order that if any king or Christian prince should wish to make the conquest of Jerusalem, and lead thither an army overland, or if any gentleman should be desirous of travelling thither, they may be made acquainted with all the towns, cities, regions, countries, rivers, mountains, and passes in the different districts, as well as the lords to whom they belong, from the duchy of Burgundy to Jerusalem. The route hence to the holy city of Rome is too well known for me to stop and describe it. I shall pass lightly over this article, and not say much until I come to Syria. I have travelled through the whole country from Gaza, which is the entrance to Egypt, to within a day's journey of Aleppo, a town situated on the north of the frontier, and which we pass in going to Persia.
Having formed a resolution to make a devout pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and being determined to discharge my vow, I
* Burgundy was divided into two parts, the duchy and county. The last, since known under the name of Franche Comté, began, at this period, to take that appellation; and this is the reason why our author styles Philip duke and count of Burgundy.
quitted, in the month of February, 1432, the court of my most redoubted lord, which was then at Ghent. After traversing Picardy, Champagne, and Burgundy, I entered Savoy, crossed the Rhone, and arrived at Chambery by the Mont-duChat. Here commences a long chain of mountains, the highest of which is called Mount Cenis, which forms a dangerous pass for travellers in times of snow. The road is so difficult to find, that a traveller, unless he wish to lose it, must take one of the guides of the country, called Marrons. These people advise you not to make any sort of noise that may shake the atmosphere round the mountain, for in that case the snow is detached, and rolls with impetuosity to the ground. Mount Cenis separates Italy from France.
Having thence descended into Piedmont, a handsome and pleasant country, surrounded on three sides by mountains, I passed through Turin, where I crossed the Po, and proceeded to Asti, which belongs to the duke of Orleans; then to Alexandria, the greater part of the inhabitants of which are said to be usurers-to Piacenza, belonging to the duke of Milanand at last to Bologna la Grassa, which is part of the pope's dominions. The emperor Sigismund was at Piacenza; he had come thither from Milan, where he had received his second crown, and was on his road to Rome in search of the third*. From Bologna I had to pass another chain of mountains (the Appennines) to enter the states of the Florentines. Florence is a large town, where the commonalty govern. Every three months they elect for the government magistrates, called priori, who are taken from different professions; and as long as they remain in office they are honoured, but on the expiration of the three months they return to their former situations. From Florence I went to Monte Pulciano, a castle built on an eminence, and surrounded on three sides by a large lake (Lago di Perugia), thence to Spoleto, Monte Fiascone, and at length to Rome.
Rome is well known. Authors of veracity assure us that for seven hundred years she was mistress of the world. But although their writings should not affirm this, would there not be sufficiency of proof in all the grand edifices now exist
* In 1414, Sigismund, elected emperor, had received the silver crown at Aix-la-Chapelle. In the month of November, 1431, a little before the passage of our traveller, he had received the iron crown at Milan; but it was not until 1443 he received at Rome, from the hands of the pope. that of gold.
ing, in those columns of marble, those statues, and those monuments as marvellous to see as to describe? Add to the above the immense quantities of relics that are there; so many things that our Lord has touched, such numbers of holy bodies of apostles, martyrs, confessors, and virgins; in short, so many churches where the holy pontiffs have granted full indulgences for sin. I saw there Eugenius IV., a Venetian, who had just been elected pope*. The prince of Salernum had declared war against him; he was of the Colonna family, and nephew to pope Martin t.
I quitted Rome the 25th of March, and, passing through a town belonging to count de Thalamoné, a relation to the cardinal des Ursins, arrived at Urbino; thence I proceeded through the lordships of the Malatestas to Rimini, a part of the Venetian dominions. I crossed three branches of the Po, and came to Chiosa, a town of the Venetians, which had formerly a good harbour; but this was destroyed by themselves when the Genoese came to lay siege to Venice. From Chiosa, I landed at Venice, distant twenty-five miles
Venice is a large and handsome town, ancient and commercial, and built in the middle of the sea. Its different quarters being separated by water form so many islands, so that a boat is necessary to go from one to the other. This town possesses the body of St. Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine, as well as many others that I have seen, especially several bodies of the Holy Innocents, which are entire. These last are in an island called Murano, renowned for its manufactories of glass. The government of Venice is full of wisdom. No one can be a member of the council, nor hold any employment, unless he be noble and born in the town. It has a duke, who is bound to have ever with him, during the day, six of the most ancient and celebrated members of the council. When the duke dies, his successor is chosen from
We shall see hereafter, that la Brocquière left Rome on the 25th March, and Eugenius had been elected on the first days of the month. There is some doubt whether his election took place on the 3rd, 4th, or 6th of March; he occupied the papal see till Feb. 23, 1447.
Martin V., predecessor to Eugenius, was a Colonna; and there was a declared enmity between his family and that of the Orsini. Eugenius, when established in the holy chair, took part in this quarrel, and sided with the Orsini against the Colonnas, who were nephews to Martin. The last took up arms, and made war on him.
among those who have shown the greatest knowledge and zeal for the public good..
On the 8th of May I embarked to accomplish my vow, on board a galley, with some other pilgrims. We sailed along the coast of Sclavonia, and successively touched at Pola, Zara, Sebenico, and Corfu. Pola seemed to me to have been formerly a handsome and strong town, with an excellent harbour. We were shown at Zara the body of St. Simeon, to whom our Lord was presented in the Temple. The town is surrounded on three sides by the sea, and its fine port is shut in by an iron chain. Sebenico belongs to the Venetians, as does Corfu, which, with a very handsome harbour, has also two castles.
From Corfu we sailed to Modon, a good and fair town in the Morea, also belonging to the Venetians; thence to Candia, a most fertile island, the inhabitants of which are excellent sailors. The government of Venice nominates a governor, who takes the title of duke, but who holds his place only three years. Thence to Rhodes, where I had but time to see the town; to Baffa, a ruined town in the island of Cyprus; and at length to Jaffa, in the Holy Land of Promise.
At Jaffa, the pardons commence for pilgrims to the Holy Land. It formerly belonged to the Christians, and was then strong; at present it is entirely destroyed, having only a few tents covered with reeds, whither pilgrims retire to shelter themselves from the heat of the sun. The sea enters the town, and forms a bad and shallow harbour; it is dangerous to remain there long for fear of being driven on shore by a gust of wind. There are two springs of fresh water; but one is overflowed by the sea when the westerly wind blows a little strong. When any pilgrims disembark here, interpreters and other officers of the sultan instantly hasten to ascertain their numbers, to serve them as guides, and to receive, in the name of their master, the customary tribute.
Ramlé, the first town we came to from Jaffa, is without walls, but a good and commercial town, seated in an agreeable and fertile district. We went to visit, in the neighbourhood, a village where St. George was martyred; and, on our return to Ramlé, we continued our route, and arrived, after
* The sultans of Egypt are here meant. Palestine and Syria were at that time under their power. The sultan will be often mentioned in the course of the work.
two days, at the holy city of Jerusalem, where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered death for us. After making the customary pilgrimages, we performed those to the mountain where Jesus fasted forty days; to the Jordan, where he was baptized; to the church of St. John, near to that river; to that of St. Martha and St. Mary Magdalene, where our Lord raised Lazarus from the dead; to Bethlehem, where he was born; to the birth-place of St. John the Baptist; to the house of Zachariah; and, lastly, to the holy cross, where the tree grew that formed the real cross, after which we returned to Jerusalem.
The Cordeliers have a church at Bethlehem, in which they perform divine service, but they are under great subjection to the Saracens. The town is only inhabited by Saracens, and some Christians of the girdle*.
At the birth-place of St. John the Baptist, a rock is shown, which, during the time of Herod's persecution of the innocents, opened itself miraculously in two, when St. Elizabeth having therein hid her son, it closed again of itself, and the child remained shut up, as it is said, two whole days.
Jerusalem is situated in a mountainous and strong country, and is at this day a considerable town, although it appears to have been much more so in former times. It is under the dominion of the sultan, to the shame and grief of Christendom. Among the free Christians, there are but two Cordeliers who inhabit the holy sepulchre, and even they are oppressed by the Saracens; I can speak of it from my own knowledge, having been witness of it for two months. In the church of the Holy Sepulchre reside also many other sorts of Christians, Jacobites, Armenians, Abyssinians from the country of Prester John, and Christians of the girdle; but of these the Franks suffer the greatest hardships.
When all these pilgrimages were accomplished, we undertook another, equally customary, that to St. Catherine's on Mount Sinai. For this purpose we formed a party of ten pilgrims, Sir André de Thoulongeon, Sir Michel de Ligne, Guillaume de Ligne, his brother, Sanson de Lalaing, Pierre de Vaudrey, Godefroi de Thoisi, Humbert Buffart, Jean de la Roe, Simonett, and myself.
* See before, p. 189.
The family name of this person is left blank in the original. These names, of which the first five are those of great lords in the states of the duke of Burgundy, show that several persons of the duke's court had formed