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Although this Itinerary has come down to us as a solitary narrative, we learn from the writings of some of the Greek fathers, that pilgrimages to the Holy Land had already, at that period, become so frequent as to lead to many abuses; and the early saints' lives have been the means of preserving to us brief notices of some of the adventures of the pilgrims, which are obscured by the incredible miracles with which those narratives abound. St. Porphyry, a Greek ecclesiastic of the end of the fourth century, after living five years as a hermit in the Thebaid of Egypt, went with his disciple Marcus to Jerusalem, visited the holy places, settled there, and finally became bishop of Gaza. St. Eusebius of Cremona, and his friend St. Jerome, embarked at Porto, in Italy, in June 385, in company with a great number of other pilgrims, and in the midst of tempests passed the Ionian Sea and the Cyclades to Cyprus, where they were received by St. Epiphanius. They went thence to Antioch, where they were welcomed by St. Paulinus, who was bishop of that city, and from thence they proceeded to Jerusalem. After passing some time in the holy city, and visiting the surrounding country, they went to Egypt, to visit the hermits of the Thebaid, and then returning, they took up their abode at Bethlehem, where they founded a monastery. Nearly at the same time, St. Paula, with her daughter, left Rome for Syria, and landed at Sidon, where she visited the tower of Elijah. At Cæsarea she saw the house of the centurion Cornelius, which was changed into a church, and the house of St. Philip, with the chambers of his four daughters. Near Jerusalem she beheld the tomb of Helena, queen of Adiabene. The governor of Palestine, who was acquainted with the family of St. Paula, prepared to receive her in Jerusalem with due honours, but she preferred taking up her abode in a small cell, and she hastened to visit all the holy objects with which she was now surrounded. She went first to the church of the Holy Sepulchre, where she prostrated herself before the true cross, and entered the sepulchre itself, after having kissed the stone which the angels had taken from the entrance. On Mount Sion, she was shown the column to which Christ was bound when scourged, and which then sustained the gallery of a church. She saw also the spot where the Holy Ghost had descended on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. She thence went to Bethlehem, visiting on the way the sepulchre of
Rachel. At Bethlehem she descended into the grotto of the Nativity. She next visited the tower of Ader of the Flocks. At Bethphage, she saw the sepulchre of Lazarus, and the house of Martha and Mary; on Mount Ephraim, she was shown the sepulchre of Joshua, and of the high priest Eleazar; at Sichem, she entered the church built over the well of Jacob, where our Saviour spoke to the Samaritan woman; she next visited the sepulchres of the twelve patriarchs; and, at Sebaste, or Samaria, she saw those of Elisha and Abdias, as well as that of St. John the Baptist. To the latter were brought, from all parts, people possessed with demons, to be cured. St. Paula went subsequently to Egypt, to visit the hermits of the desert, whence she returned to Bethlehem, where she built cells and hospitals for pilgrims, and there she lived in retirement till her death*. St. Antoninus visited the Holy Land early in the seventh century; his life contains some absurd legendary stories relating to the cross, which he saw in the church of Golgotha; and he tells that there stood on one part of Mount Sion an “ idol of the Saracens," made of very white marble (no doubt an ancient sepulchre), which, at the time of the festival of that idol, suddenly became black as pitch, and after the festival was restored to its original colour. At Nazareth, St. Antoninus praises the beauty of the Jewish women who resided there; and he tells us that the land round that place was prodigiously fertile, and that it produced excellent wine, oil, and honey. The millet grew there to a greater height than elsewhere, and the straw was stronger. After visiting all the holy places, St. Antoninus, like all the other pilgrims who went to the east before the conquests of the Saracens, repaired to Egypt, to visit the hermits of the Thebaid. He landed at Alexandria, a very fine city, the people of which were light in disposition, but friendly to the travellers who came thither. He saw there, in the Nile, a multitude of crocodiles, a great number of which were collected together in a pond. Perhaps this was some remnant of the ancient worship of the Egyptians. On his return to Jerusalem, St. Antoninus fell sick, and was received into a
* St. Jerome, in one of his Epistles, has given us the history of the adventures of St. Paula. The lives of the other saints mentioned here will be found in the large collection of the Bollandists. The abstract given here is taken from the Essay on Early Pilgrimages, by the Baron Walckenaer, inserted in Michaud's History of the Crusades.
hospital destined for poor pilgrims; he then went into Mesopotamia, and returned by sea to Italy, his native country.
Soon after this period, the circumstances of the pilgrims who arrived in the Holy Land were entirely changed, in consequence of the conquests of the Saracens, who, under Omar, obtained possession of Jerusalem in 637, by a capitulation, however, which allowed them the use of their churches on payment of a tribute, but forbade them to build new ones. This interdiction could not be in itself a great grievance, for the whole of Palestine must have been literally covered with churches when it passed under the Mohammedan yoke. The conquerors soon saw that greater advantages would be reaped by preserving the holy places, and encouraging pilgrimage, than by destroying them; many of them, indeed their own creed taught them, were to be considered as objects of reverence; and thus for two or three centuries the Christians of the west continued to flock to the Holy Sepulchre as numerously as before, subject, perhaps, to not much greater taxation at the holy places than in former times, but exposed on their way to more or less insult and oppression, according to the political or local circumstances of the moment.
Not many years after it had thus fallen under the power of the Arabs, the Holy Land was visited by a French bishop named ARCULF, whose narrative stands at the head of the present volume. The French antiquaries have not been able to discover of what see Arculf was bishop, or when he lived; and all that is known of him is the statement of Adamnan, who wrote down his narrative, that on his return from the east he was carried by contrary winds to the shores of Britain, and that he was received at Iona. We learn from Bede*, that Adamnan visited the court of the Northumbrian king Aldfrid, and that he then presented to the king his book on the Holy Places, which he had taken down from the dictation of bishop Arculf. The visit to king Aldfrid is generally placed in 703, but by an apparent misunderstanding of the words of Bede, and it is probable that it occurred at least as early as 701t. The pilgrimage of Arculf must thus have taken place in the latter part of the seventh century. In relating a miracle concerning the sudarium or napkin taken from the head of our Saviour (which has not been * Bede, Hist. Eccl. v. 15.
See my Biographia Britannica Literaria, Anglo-Saxon period, p. 202.
thought worth retaining in the present translation), Arculf is made to speak of "Majuvias, king of the Saracens," as having lived in his time*, and the character of the story leaves no doubt that the king referred to was Moawiyah, the first khalif of the dynasty of the Ommiades, who reigned from 661 to 679. I am inclined to think that Arculf's visit to Jerusalem must be placed not long after this khalif's death.
Arculf's travels, having been reduced to a sort of treatise by Adamnan, do not always present the exact form of a personal narrative, and we cannot trace his course from his native land as we do those of most subsequent travellers. He seems to have followed in the steps of the more ancient pilgrims, and his visit to Egypt, with the avowal of his voyages up the Nile, can only be explained on the supposition that he also went to visit the Coptic monks of the Desert, who had been allowed to remain there, tributary to their Arabian conquerors. He either derived little satisfaction from this visit, or Adamnan considered it as having no interest for his countrymen; and we find no allusion to the Egyptian monks in the later pilgrimages. Arculf speaks of no difficulties he had to encounter, and his narrative is of especial interest, from the circumstance of his visiting the country when all the buildings of the Roman age were still standing.
The narrative of bishop Arculf, besides its intrinsic value as a minute and accurate description of localities and monuments at this interesting period, is of especial importance to us, because, through the abridgment made by Bede, it became the text book on this subject among the Anglo-Saxons, and led to that passion for pilgrimages with which they were soon afterwards seized, and which was not uncongenial to the character of that people whose adventurous steps have since been carried into every corner of the world.
Among the Anglo-Saxons who followed the example of Arculf, one of the most remarkable, and the earliest of whose adventures we have any account, was WILLIBALD, a kinsman, it is said, of the great Boniface, and a native of the kingdom of Wessex, probably of Hampshire. His father, who appears to have been of high rank, was honoured with a place in the Roman calendar, under the title of St. Richard. He, with his two sons, Willibald and Wunibald, and a daughter,
* Majuvias, Saracenorum rex, qui nostra ætate fuit, judex postulatus.
afterwards so celebrated under the name of St. Walpurgis, left England probably in the year 718, and travelled through the land of the Franks on their way to Italy. At Lucca, Willibald's father sickened and died; and, having buried him, the three children reached Rome in safety, but there they were seized with a severe fever, on their recovery from which Willibald determined to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I have fixed the date of his departure to the year 721, because that would place his departure from Tyre on his way to Constantinople, in 724; and I have stated on another occasion, that it is in the highest degree probable that the difficulties Willibald and his companions experienced in obtaining a passport, and the troubles they met with in their departure from Syria, were coincident with the persecution of the Christian churches in that country in the year just alluded to, when the khalif Yezid II., at the end of his reign, had been instigated by the Jews to publish an edict against the paintings in the churches of his Christian subjects, in consequence of which many of the latter fled their homes. After the death of Yezid, hostilities recommenced between the Greeks and the Arabs, and continued during many years; and it is evident that the two countries were not yet at war when the pilgrims left. At the same time, the whole tenor of the narrative shows that they quitted Syria on account of some sudden change in the internal state of the country, and that they were anxious to get away, for they came to Tyre at the wrong season of the year for making the voyage to Constantinople, and they sailed in rough and tempestuous weather. In 740 or 741, Willibald was consecrated bishop of Eichstadt, being then forty-one years of age. He died, it is supposed, in the year 786. His life was written before his death, by a nun of Heidenheim, of whose name we are ignorant, but who was his kinswoman, and who took down the account of his travels, as she avows, from his own mouth.
The war with the Greeks did not, however, put a stop to pilgrimages from the west, but the travellers now seem to have been obliged to pass by way of Egypt. The geographer, Dicuil, in his treatise De Mensura Orbis Terra, which he wrote at a very advanced age, in 825, tells us, when speaking of Egypt, that when a youth at school in France, he heard a monk named Fidelis give an account of his travels in Egypt * See the Biographia Britannica Literaria, Anglo-Saxon period, p. 341. 342.