CELT document T300002-001

The Journey of Symon Semeonis from Ireland to the Holy Land

Symon Semeonis (Simon FitzSimon)


The Journey of Symon Semeonis from Ireland to the Holy Land


Having declined the highest honour, and having completely eliminated all the other troublesome sources of delay that make the chain heavy and raise up obstacles, wishing to go forth for the purpose of devotion to meditate with Isaac in the field, from our native land and paternal home [i.e. monastery], as once that famous Abraham, most wealthy of the patriarchs, and to follow and desire the bare Christ on the hearth of poverty, and to run to and fro most religiously after the manner of Asael in the field of the most holy pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we, the brothers bound together in the love of Christ, Symon Semeonis and Hugo Illuminator, members of the order of the Friars Minor, inflamed with seraphic ardour set forth from Ireland towards the Holy Land, which the Son of that unique Queen, Jesus Christ, who descended from the heights of Heaven to the lower regions, for the purpose of redeeming sinners, trod with his own feet, commencing our journey on the 16th of March, a provincial Chapter having been [previously] celebrated at Clonmel on the Feast of our most holy father Francis, in the year of Our Lord 1323, in which year Easter was celebrated on 27 March, sailed across the very stormy and dangerous Irish Sea and landed at Caer Gybi [Holyhead], which is in the principality of Wales.


Continuing our journey by land we passed through the very strongly fortified localities ... of Beaumaris, Conway, Rhuddlan, and Flint, which are in Wales, whose prince is the King of England ... who excels all other kings in Christendom in the number of ships he possesses ...


We reached the city of Chester, which is in England, on Holy Thursday [24 March 1323]. Ships from Ireland arrive continuously at this port. Here we celebrated Easter [27 March], and traversing the cities of Stafford and Lichfield, where there is a most beautiful church in honour of St. Chad, with most lofty stone towers, and splendidly adorned with pictures, sculptures, and other ecclesiastical ornaments,  p.27 and Coventry, most dear and useful to merchants, Dunstable and St. Albans, where there is a monastery of Black Monks, we came to the city of London, which is the most famous and wealthy city under the sun.


Traffic continuously reaches London by the famous river Thames, over which is the well-archbishop and martyr. 1 Towards the centre of the city is the church of St. Paul, 2 of wonderful size, in the middle of which is that incomparable spire said to be 500 feet in height. And in that church, to the east, is a most noble chapel of the Holy Virgin tessellated with stories from the Bible, in which daily the English at the celebration of mass chant sweet and joyous melodies to Mary quite unlike the shouting of Lombards and the howling of Germans. Towards the sea is that famous and inexpugnable fortress ... in the middle of which is the famous and most solid Tower of London ... of wonderful height. Outside the walls at the other end of the city is the monastery of Black Monks known as Westminster, in which the kings of England are buried; and among them lies the body of King Edward, who with St. Louis of France and an army sailed over to the land of the Saracens. 3 In this church are two bells, the most famous in the world for their size and admirable sound. Almost joined on to this monastery is the very famous palace of the kings of England, in which is that renowned chamber on the walls of which are splendidly painted all the warlike stories of the whole Bible furnished with most complete and accurate descriptions in the French language ...  4


After several days we proceeded by way of Rochester to Canterbury where is the shrine containing the body of St. Thomas the martyr, ... in the monastery of the Black Monks, all of gold and adorned with innumerable precious stones and pearls, glittering like a gate of Jerusalem and even crowned with an imperial diadem. According to the  p.29 inhabitants there exists no similar shrine under the moon. In the northern part of the same church lies the body of the worthy theologian John of Peckham of the Friars Minor, the holiness of whose life is proved by miracles, and the profundity of whose intellect by the vast number of books which he wrote. 5 In another monastery of Black Monks in the same town lies among other saints' bodies that of the blessed Augustine, who converted the English people to the catholic faith. He must be distinguished from Augustine, the doctor, and hammer of heretics, who reposes in Lombardy in the city of Pavia, which is distant twenty miles from Milan. 6 Having duly seen these relics we came on to Dover, a most famous fortress protected by ditches and precipices and furnished with other powerful warlike defences, situated on a hill, at the foot of which is the monastery of Black Monks in which reposes the body of the blessed Thomas the monk, martyred by Gallic hands. 7 This is the usual port for crossing the narrow sea to the kingdom of France.


Sailing from Dover we landed at Wissant, which is in France in the kingdom of the peaceful king. Passing through Boulogne, where there is a monastery which possesses a very famous image of the Virgin, called by the people Nostre Dame de Bolonye, and through the fortified city of Montreuil-sur-Mer, we came to Amiens. Here there is a wonderfully beautiful church in honour of the Virgin, in which we saw among other very precious relics of the saints the head of John the Baptist. And in the same city is the gate through which the blessed Martin was passing when he gave a part of his cloak to a beggar. Passing through Beauvais we came to Saint-Denis, where there is a monastery of Black Monks in which all the kings of France are buried. In the church we saw, among other sacred relics, one of the nails of the Holy Cross.


From there we came to the famous city of Paris, which is the most populous of all Christian cities. It is exceedingly wealthy and its walls are admirably built of cut stone and strongly fortified with lofty towers  p.31 and warlike ornaments. Like the city of London, it is provided in a wonderful manner with monasteries and monks and churches, with lofty steeples and bell-towers and other beauties of church architecture. This city is the home and nurse of theological and philosophical science, the mother of the other liberal arts, the mistress of justice, the standard of morals, and in fine the mirror and lamp of all moral and theological virtues. The famous river Seine flows through it and nearly in its centre makes an oblong island, on which is that famous church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the western doors of which are decorated with a great variety of sculptures and furnished with lofty towers. In the same island is the noble palace of the King of France in which is that most beautiful and famous chapel wonderfully adorned with stories from the Bible. Here are preserved many most precious relics: the entire crown of thorns, a large and splendid cross made from the wood of the true cross, two of the nails with which Our Lord was nailed to the cross, the lance, as is said, of the soldier Longinus 8 with which the flank of Our Lord was pierced, milk and hair of the glorious Virgin, and many other venerable relics, all of which are reverently guarded by the king with the greatest care.


Having venerated these relics we passed through the cities of Provins and Troyes, and reached Châtillon-sur-Seine. Here we were unable to take the direct route to Lombardy by way of Dijon, Salins, and Lausanne, cities of Burgundy, owing to the war then being waged by Milan against the Church allied with Robert, King of Jerusalem and Sicily. 9 So we turned aside leaving Dijon on the left, and by way of Beaune 10 reached Chalon-sur-Saône. Sailing down the Saône we reached the city of Lyons, where the Saone unites with the Rhone. Here Pope Gregory X celebrated the famous Council of Lyons.


9. Sailing down the Rhone we reached Valence. Here in the church of the Friars Minor repose the bodies of the brothers of that order, Mellanus of Conflans, an inquisitor, and Paschasius of Saillans, who, in the province of Burgundy, between Crest and Valence, at Montélier, in the cloister of the Black Monks, at night in time of peace, by exceptional privilege solemnly received the palm of martyrdom at the hands of the Paterines or heretics, whom the afore-mentioned  p.33 inquisitor, fearless of death, had on the previous day, the third of March 1321, publicly condemned in the church. 11


Continuing our journey down the Rhone we reached the city of Vienne 12 where the venerable father St. Mamertius ruled who instituted solemn Litanies before Ascension-day; 13 and Pont-Saint-Esprit where there is a famous stone bridge over the Rhone, half a mile in length, the height of which and the breadth of its arches are greatly admired by all those who cross over it. 14


Sailing down the Rhone we came to Avignon, which belongs to the king of Jerusalem, previously mentioned. Here we found Pope John XXII exercising his pastoral office. Thence we came to Tarascon, where reposes the body of Martha, sister of Mary Magdalen. Thence we sailed to the city of Arles, where St. Francis appeared to St. Anthony of Padua whilst the latter was preaching at the Provincial Chapter. After passing through many most prosperous cities situated on the Rhone, the names of which are not written down in this book, we proceeded by land to Salon and thence to Marseilles. Here reposes the body of the blessed Louis, bishop and confessor, of the order of the Friars Minor, son of the king of Sicily and brother of the king of Jerusalem; and a noble church has been built in his name. 15 St. Lazarus, brother of St. Martha, who was resuscitated by Our Lord, was once bishop of this city. 16


Hastening on through Draguignan, Saint-Maximin, and Brignoles we came to the city of Nice, in which was once held that famous Nicene Council at which the holy Nicholas is said to have been present. 17 From Nice we sailed over to the famous and well-fortified city of Genoa, outside which is buried the body of the Venerable Bede. 18 This indeed is the most famous of all the cities in the world, the most powerful and victorious, especially on the sea, since it is most abundantly equipped in  p.35 ships of great size and armed galleys, and is the nurse and mistress of sailors. This city possesses that most noble Riviera, most beautiful in appearance, abounding in magnificent olive trees, and other fruit trees, and is incomparably rich in castles, palaces, wealth, and other imperial beauties.


Traversing mountains, valleys, thick forests, and districts peopled with robbers, we came to the town of Bobbio, where we saw in the monastery of the Monks, in which reposes the body of the blessed Irish abbot Columbanus, one of the stone jars in which Our Lord turned water into wine at the marriage feast. Continuing our journey through Piacenza, Parma, Mantua, Verona, and Vicenza, strongly fortified cities of Lombardy, in which are the bodies of many holy men and women, we came to Padua, a large and fortified city, where lies the body of the blessed Anthony of the Friars Minor, in whose honour a church of wonderful size and solidity has been constructed.


On the eve of the apostles Peter and Paul [28 June] we came by boat to the renowned city of Venice. Although this city is situated entirely in the sea, yet by virtue of its beauty and cleanliness it deserves to be placed between the stars of Arcturus and the shining Pleiades. It is distant two miles from terra firma, and has streets, one-third of which are paved with burnt bricks, the remaining two-thirds consisting of navigable canals through which the sea ebbs and flows. Here repose the entire and undecayed bodies of Mark the Evangelist; of Zacharias the prophet, father of John the Baptist, whose mouth is open even to the present day; 19 of Gregory the Nazarene, 20 of Theodore the martyr, 21 of the holy virgins Lucia and Marina, and of many other martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins. In honour of St. Mark a most sumptuous church has been built, incomparably constructed of marble and other most precious stones, and adorned with wonderful mosaic work reproducing Biblical stories. Opposite to it is that famous Piazza, like which nothing can be found anywhere. Almost adjoining this church is the famous Palace of the Doge of the Venetians, in which living lions are kept for the glory of the Doge and of the citizens. Opposite the Palace, near the port, are two round marble columns, 22 large and lofty, on the top of one of which is a gilt lion shining like Diana or a star of the sea. On the western gate of the same church are two bronze horses, 23  p.37 Outside the city, on an island near the port in the monastery of the [Black] Monks, 24 reposes the body of the blessed bishop Nicholas. 25


Departing from Venice on Thursday, 18 August [1323], we sailed over to Pola, which is in the province of Istria and subject to the Venetians. Here is an exellent port well protected from the wind. Two more days of sailing brought us to Zara, a most wealthy and well fortified city, in which is preserved the body of the blessed Gregory the martyr. 26 It is distant 300 miles from Venice, 27 and is in the province of Dalmatia which also belongs to the Venetians. Here the women are wonderfully adorned; for some wear on their heads a horn-shaped ornament like owls, others an oblong and square one, and others a large and round hat, decorated in the front part with precious stones, tall and well suited as a protection against hail, wind, rain and sun. It is said that as many islands are subject to this province as there are days in the year.


Next we passed through two towns [on islands] of the Venetians, Lesina and Curzola, and sailed to Ragusa, a very wealthy city, well fortified with lofty towers and other warlike apparatus. It is in Dalmatia and is distant 200 miles from Zara. It belongs to Venice and is much frequented by Slav, Barbarian, 28 Paterine, and other schismatic merchants, who are in behaviour, dress and language totally different from the Latins. For the Slavs are in language closely related to the Bohemians, but for the most part differ in religion, because the Bohemians use the Latin rite, the Slavs mostly the Greek. The money current in this city is of bronze or copper, without image or inscription, of which thirty dinars are worth one Venetian grosso, 29 and one Venetian grosso is worth one sterling and an obol. As at Lesina and Curzola it should be noted that bagatini30 are current and of the same value as at Venice. Ragusa is said to possess the head of St. Blasius the martyr. 31 Here falcons are innumerable and many other kinds of well-known birds are found, and are bought and sold in the market for very little. The city's citadel is on a rock overlooking the city, surrounded and well protected by a very deep sea and by terrible precipices.


After a few days spent here, we passed through Dulcigno, which  p.39 belongs to the King of Rassia, 32 and thence by sea to Durazzo, a city once famous and powerful both on land and sea, a possession of the Emperor of the Greeks. But now it is subject to the Prince of Romania, 33 brother of the King of Jerusalem, 34 and is in the province of Albania, which is the province between Slavonia 35 and Romania, having a language of its own, which was recently subjugated and added to his dominions by the aforementioned King of Rassia, a schismatic, for the Albanians are themselves schismatics, using the Greek rite, and closely resembling the Greeks in dress and manners. For the Greeks rarely or never wear a cowl, but a white hat, almost flat, turned downwards in front and upwards behind, so that their hair, of the length and beauty of which they are very proud, may be more clearly seen. The Slavs, however, whom we have mentioned above [c. 16], wear a white hat, oblong and round, to the top of which the nobles affix a long feather in order that they may be more easily distinguished and recognised by the rustics and villeins. This city [Durazzo] is in the circuit of its walls very extensive, but in buildings miserably small, because it was once totally destroyed by an earthquake, 36 during which the wealthy citizens and inhabitants, to the number of 24,000, as is asserted, were buried beneath their own palaces and killed. It is now thinly populated by peoples differing in religion, customs and language, by Latins, Greeks, perfidious Jews, and barbarous Albanians. Small coins called tournois are current here, of which eleven are worth one Venetian grosso, and these are current throughout all Romania. 37 This city is distant 200 miles from Ragusa. 38


Availing ourselves of the favourable winds, we sailed past Valona. A fortress of the Emperor of the Greeks; past the island of Corfu, in which is a town of the same name, which belongs to the previously  p.41 mentioned King of Jerusalem, and is distant 200 miles from Durazzo, 39 and past the islands of Leucadia, Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zante, and the town of Klarentza, which also belongs to the King of Jerusalem and is distant 200 miles from Corfu. 40 Its Governor is the lord Nicholas of Janville, whose citadel is on a hill above the city about five miles distant; 41 and sailing past the localities of Belvedere, Arkadia, and Zonklon, possessions of the Prince of Romania, 42 we reached the city of Methone, which belongs to the Venetians and is 100 miles from Klarentza. 43 In this city, as in the other Venetian dependencies in Romania, live many Greeks.


From Methone we sailed past Corone, a Venetian possession, past Mayna 44 and Compana, a fort of the Greek Emperor, to Porto Quaglio, where so many quails are found 45 that 18 are commonly sold for one Venetian grosso. From here we sailed to the island of Cerigo which belongs to Nicholas Vener, a citizen of Venice. 46 Here there is a very strong citadel, situated on the summit of a hill, and protected on all sides by formidable rocks and precipices; and on the south side it has a very deep port well sheltered from all the winds.


We next reached the island of Crete, of which the poet says: “Saturn came first from the shores of Crete.” 47 The first locality we came to was Conteryn, which is distant 260 miles from the city of Methone. 48 Proceeding thence on foot we came to the town of Canea, surrounded by a magnificent forest of cypress trees, in which forest trees of wonderful height are found, which, like the cedar of Lebanon, surpass in height both towers and steeples. The wood of these trees is specially suitable for the construction of churches and royal palaces by reason of  p.43 its prodigious solidity, never yielding, it is said, under any weight, but remaining always firm. Here the Friars Minor and the other inhabitants commonly burn acacia wood 49 or cypress wood, and the town is almost entirely built of these woods. So great is the perfume issuing from these materials that it seemed to be paradise or an apothecary's preparation.


Sailing along the coast past Byohoru, Retimo, Mylopotamos, we reached the city of Candia, which is surrounded by a very strong wall and by towers and other fortifications. It is distant from Conteryn 230 miles. 50 Here and in all the island the Venetians rule in perfect peace, the Greeks being subdued and deprived of the privilege of freedom. It is inhabited by Latins, Greeks, and perfidious Jews, under the sway of a governor who is responsible to the Doge of Venice. Here the wives of the Latins, like those of the Genoese, are commonly adorned with gold pearls and other brilliant gems. And when one of them becomes a widow, she seldom or never is married again nor is she adorned with a nuptial garment, but wears a black widow's veil; nor does she ever walk with a man, or sit upon the same seat either in church or elsewhere, but with her face veiled and heaving sighs she ever seeks solitary places, and never ceases to avoid the society of men, as she would that of serpents. The wives of the Jews and of the Greeks at Candia adopt a very singular costume, some being dressed in surplices like the choristers of the Latins, others wearing cloaks without hoods, which in front are carefully and curiously embroidered with gold such as are worn by foreign canons. These they wear devoutly during religious processions on the more solemn church festivities. They also usually wear ear-rings of which they are very proud.


This city, like those of Istria, Albania, and Romania through which we passed, abounds in most excellent wine, in cheese, and in fruit. It exports the famous Cretan wine to every country of the world. Here also ships and galleys are loaded with cheese; and also pomegranates, lemons, 51 figs, grapes, melons, water-melons, gourds, and other most excellent kinds of fruit can be bought here for a very small price. 52 To those at sea it presents a beautiful appearance, but it has nasty, dirty, narrow, tortuous, and unpaved streets. 53 This city is renowned for its wealth in galleys, ships, and horses. The body of the blessed bishop Titus, St. Paul's disciple and the patron-saint of the Cretans, who is often mentioned in the Epistles of Paul and in the Acts of the Apostles, is said to be  p.45 preserved here. At Candia we saw a bishop belonging to the order of the Friars Minor, who had formerly been a Jew. 54 We also saw outside this city a tribe of people, who worship according to the Greek rite, and assert themselves to be of the race of Cain. These people rarely or never stop in one place for more than thirty days, but always, as if cursed by God, are nomad and outcast. 55 After the thirtieth day they wander from field to field with small, oblong, black, and low tents, like those of the Arabs, 56 and from cave to cave, because the place inhabited by them becomes after the term of thirty days so full of vermin and other filth that it is impossible to live in their neighbourhood.


The island of Crete is oblong and covered with very lofty mountains, among which is one quite inexpugnable, on the summit of which is a level plain, that can only be reached by a single narrow and almost impassable path. On this plain live at least 10,000 Greeks, and everything necessary for human use is found there with the exception of salt and corn. This settlement is ruled by a certain Greek named Alexius, who holds sway among the rulers of the earth by reason of the exceptional strength of the position. 57 It is also worthy of notice that this island has a circuit of 500 miles according to the mariners who delineate the islands of the sea. 58 It may be further noted that the cities of these regions, i.e. Slavonia, &c., however fertile and well fortified they may be, are, in comparison with the cities of Italy, both small and unimportant.


Leaving this city [Candia] on Monday within the octave of St. Francis [10 October 1323], we sailed past the island of Scarpanto and reached the very famous city of Alexandria, beloved by all classes of traders, on the feast of St. Calixtus [14 October]. This city is in the land of Egypt and is distant 500 miles from Candia. 59 One mile outside the city is the spot where Mark the evangelist and patron-saint of Venice was martyred. Within it is the site of the martyrdom of the glorious virgin Katherine, where there are now two large and tall columns of red  p.47 stone between which runs the public highway. The place is held in no honour. The saint's body was carried off by angelic hands to Mount Sinai, which, according to the inhabitants, is distant a journey of thirteen long days from the city of Alexandria. On our arrival in the port, the vessel, as is the custom, was immediately boarded by a number of Saracen harbour officials, who hauled down the sail, and wrote down the names of everybody on board. Having examined all the merchandise and goods in the ship, and having made a careful list of everything, they returned to the city taking the passengers with them, and leaving two guards on board to investigate. They quartered us within the first and second gates, and went off to report what they had done to the Admiral of the city, without whose presence and permission no foreigner is allowed either to enter or leave the city, and no goods can be imported. The above-mentioned guards did not leave the ship until it had been entirely unloaded. The officials act thus in the case of every ship in order to discover any goods that might not have been written down in the first inventory. For the Admiral receives a fixed tribute on all that is found in the ship and entered in the inventory, and has finally to render an account of it to the Sultan.


The Admiral on learning of the affair, immediately, as the custom is, despatched a message to the Sultan [at Cairo] by means of a carrier pigeon. In Alexandria, as in all the maritime cities of the Sultan, these domestic pigeons are kept, which are fed in the Sultan's castle at Cairo, where they have their home, and are brought in cages by special messengers to the cities on the coast. And whenever the governors wish to inform the Sultan of the arrival of Christians or of some other matter, they liberate a pigeon with a letter tied under its tail, and the bird never rests until it has returned to the castle from which it was brought. And thus the pigeons nourished in the castle are brought to the cities, and the reverse. In this manner the Sultan is kept informed almost every day of anything of importance that takes place throughout his dominions, and his Admirals likewise of the measures he is about to take. 60


Between these gates, as mentioned, from early morning up to the sixth hour 61 we were as Christians spat upon, stoned, and abused by the passers-by. Towards the sixth hour, as is the custom, the aforesaid Admiral came, accompanied by a large escort armed with swords and sticks. Seating himself before the gate, he ordered all merchandise that was to be brought into the city to be weighed in his presence, so that when weighed it might be brought in, and those persons who wished to enter to be presented to him. And so we were introduced along with the  p.49 others by the [resident] Christian merchants and their consuls. Through the medium of an interpreter the Admiral questioned us closely concerning the reason of our arrival in Egypt, and likewise ordered our books and all other belongings to be examined. 62 Finally, at the pressing instance of the consuls we were admitted. While the officials were examining our property they caught sight of certain images of Jesus Christ, of the Virgin Mary, and of John the Evangelist, which we had reverently brought with us from Ireland, and breaking into abuse and spitting upon them they exclaimed in loud voices: “Wach! these are the dogs and most vile pigs, who do not believe that Mahomet is the prophet of God, but in their superstitious prayers continually blaspheme against him and induce others to do likewise, affirming insane fables to the effect that God has a son and that he is Jesus the son of Mary.” Others, Christian renegades, fearing the Saracens, cried out: “These individuals are surely spies and their arrival here will bring us no good. Let them be expelled in shame from the city and let them return to the countries of the Christians or idolaters whence they came.” This they said to the Saracens wishing to please them. Many of these renegades are so only in word, but at heart they still worship the Lord Jesus. To these insults, silence having been reestablished, we replied: “If Mahomet be the true prophet, then remain in peace with him and praise him; but to us there is no other lord than Jesus Christ, whose adopted sons we are and not spies, wishing to visit His glorious tomb, kneel before it, kiss it with our lips, and moisten it with our tears.”


We were then, at the express command of the Governor, brought by the merchants to the fondaco63 belonging to the city of Marseilles, on the way being again exposed as Christians to the insults of the populace. Here for five days we remained in the chapel before we could secure a permit enabling us to proceed, for the Saracens have little desire that poor people, and especially Friars Minor, should traverse their country, as they and the Sultan can make but little money out of them. In Alexandria each Christian maritime state possesses its fondaco and its consul. The fondaco is a building erected for the merchants of some designated state or region. Thus there are the fondaci of Genoa, Venice, Marseilles, of the Catalans 64 and others. Every merchant is obliged to betake himself, along with whatever merchandise he may have brought, to the fondaco of his respective state or region in accordance with the  p.51 directions of his consul, the latter being at the head of the establishment and of all those housed in it. Without his presence and permission no merchant of the state which he represents is admitted into the city along with his wares. He sits before the aforementioned gate with the Admiral, and receives only those merchants of the state he represents, and their goods. Of these he requisitions a certain fixed quantity on their arrival, and on their departure must render an account of this. 65


The Saracens do this for the purpose of protecting their city with the utmost care, especially on Fridays, when during prayer-time Christians of all classes are absolutely forbidden to come forth from their houses, which the Saracens close and bolt from without. When their prayers are over, however, the Christians are free to move about the city and attend to their business. After their prayers some of the Saracens proceed to the cemeteries to pray for the dead, others hurry off to their ordinary occupations. Some indeed never pray and never go to church, but as on ordinary days carry on their business. The Saracens rarely or never fast except when they are celebrating their Ramadan, that is the thirty days during which they assert that the Koran descended upon Mahomet. 66 Then they fast the whole day until they see the first star, and then they eat and drink and go shamefully with women, until it dawns sufficiently to enable a white thread to be distinguished from a black one. And thus did enjoin that most vile pig and lover of women. This is in the Koran [Rodwell, c. ii, 183, p. 357]. They call their churches or oratories keyentes, 67 which are not churches, but synagogues of Satan. Each one of them is furnished outside with a cistern of water in which all without exception wash their hands, feet, shins, and posterior parts before they presume to enter. Each church has also a lofty tower like a bell-tower surrounded by an external platform from which at certain hours priests cry the praise of the prophet, i.e. Mahomet, and summon the people to prayer ...



Their churches are held in the highest respect and kept very clean. No Christian or member of any sect who has not previously renounced Christ the son of Mary and accepted Mahomet as prophet and messenger of God is allowed to enter under penalty of death. Although they admit Christ to have been a pure and most holy prophet, they nevertheless deny his passion and divinity, and on this point they will listen to nothing, in obedience to what is written in their Koran, sura [chapter] x 68: “Great care must be observed lest anything unjust or unworthy of our religion should be uttered by you, nor must you say anything false about God, as for example that Jesus, son of Mary, was God's messenger and his spirit and word, sent from Heaven to Mary, nor must you assert that there are three Gods, for there exists but one only, who is without son and to whom heaven and earth are subject. Nor can the existence of Christ or of the angels of God be denied.” The same Mahomet speaking of the Jews, whom he calls murderers of prophets in his Koran, 69 blames them for blasphemy against Mary when they assert that Christ, her son and God's messenger, was killed on the cross, but they [the Jews] did not kill him, but another man resembling him, for the incomprehensible and omniscient God took him up to heaven. 70 These same scoundrels, who although they deny the divinity and passion of Christ, nevertheless place Him above Moses and all the other prophets with the exception of Mahomet, and respect Him and Mary, calling Him Messiath Ebyn Merian [Masīh ibn Mariam]. 71 and under no circumstances Ebyna Alia [Ibn Allah] that is “son of God”, because they consider it impossible for God to have a son, since He lacks wife and concubine and takes no pleasure in them.


On the subject of paradise and eternal life, they believe what is contained in a book entitled De Doctrina Machometi where it is stated: “Paradise is paved with gold and precious stones. Every kind of fruit tree grows there and there are rivers of milk, of honey and of wine. A day lasts a thousand years and a year forty thousand. Every desire is immediately fulfilled. The inhabitants of Paradise dress in every colour except black, which colour is reserved exclusively for the Prophet. ... All are as tall as Adam and in appearance resemble Jesus Christ. They never grow bigger or smaller. On arrival they are given the liver of a most delicious fish, allehbut [i.e. lib-al-hut, heart of the fish], to eat ...  p.55 and every kind of celestial food and drink, with the exception of the flesh of swine, which they detest and is forbidden. Every imaginable pleasure is immediately available for otherwise happiness would not be complete ... they will also have with them those wives who were faithful, and the number of concubines and maid-servants [in Paradise] will be countless.”


These ribalds call all the western Christians Franks, the Greeks Rūmi, 72 and the Jacobites or Christians of the Girdle Nysrany, that is Nazarenes; monks of all orders are Ruben in the plural and Racheb in the singular, and the Jews are Lihud or also Kelb, that is dogs. 73 The latter are divided into various sects, at variance with one another. Some are called in Hebrew Rabanym, who keep the law according to the glosses of the teachers; others are known as Caraym, who observe the law according to the letter; and others as Cusygym, who do not observe the law in either way. All are held in contempt by the Saracens, and as elsewhere are treated in accordance with the Biblical precept as captives sold by God and outcasts, and beings hateful to everyone ...


The Jacobites mentioned above admit circumcision and believe and affirm that in Christ there is only one will which they prove by that sentence of the Gospel: “My will is not mine, but His who sent me.” They say also that grace is not given to infants in baptism. For which reason they only baptize infants when in danger of death, but [they baptize] adults to whom they give the communion of the body and blood of Christ, in which grace is infused into them. They always cross themselves with one finger, the forefinger. Although they err in many ceremonies according to the present ritual of the Roman Church, in regard  p.57 to other essential articles of faith they are perfectly orthodox, as they themselves admitted during discussions with us in public and in private. As with us, between them and the Greeks there is perpetual controversy over the procession of the Holy Spirit. They believe the Greeks to be infidels who prepare the eucharist badly because they prepare it with fermenting dough. A Jacobite will therefore rarely or never say mass at an altar at which a Greek has officiated, until that altar has been reconsecrated. Their priests, like all those of the Greeks, marry, except in the case of certain monks who live in large numbers in the desert, leading a confined and almost inhuman life according to the rule of St. Macarius. The Jacobite priests celebrate a very lengthy mass and one very different from that of the Roman Church. They read the Epistles and the Gospels in two languages, Egyptian [Coptic] and Arabic. The former is current among them as Latin among us, and its letters much resemble those of the Greeks. Arabic is a language which closely resembles that of the “gutturizing” Jews, 74 though the letters are totally different. They [the Jacobites] consume much bread and wine [during mass] because at every mass there are standing around the altar seven or eight of them, sometimes more, sometimes fewer, and especially on Sundays or feast days when their patriarch or a substitute stands in their midst resembling the figure of Christ. 75 Unworthily they all receive the fresh bread from his hand and eat it, and drink from the Lord's cup, and without doubt will be condemned since they never confess as it is written in James [v, 16]: “Confess your sins to one another.” They also take wives indifferently within the degrees prohibited by the church, and practise many other ceremonies, which we now pass over in silence.


The city of Alexandria is surrounded by a double wall and is well protected by towers, moats and warlike machinery. Within it are two lofty sand hills which the citizens at times ascend, wishing to enjoy the pure air and to contemplate the waves of the sea. The gates are well guarded, especially those three facing the sea, between two of which we were detained, as mentioned above [c. 24], and the one through which one passes when going to Cairo. The city is very rich in most valuable garments of silk, wonderfully woven, and of linen and cotton, since these are made here, and are exported by merchants to all parts of the world. It is situated in a plain above the port, covering a wide area, and has magnificent gardens and orchards, abounding in palm-trees, trees  p.59 producing cassia, bananas, and many other kinds of fruit-trees. Owing to its low situation, as is the case with all Egypt, it is not easily perceived by mariners at sea. The citizens have therefore constructed a very lofty square tower on a rock at the entrance of the harbour in which are stationed watchmen. This tower guides navigators safely to the port. Between this tower and the city is a vast cemetery, in part built over, in which the citizens and all residents are buried. 76


This city is inhabited by Saracens, Christians, Greeks, Schismatics and perfidious Jews, all of whom, with the exception of those Christians called Franks, dress and go about in the same manner. They can only be distinguished by the colour of the cloth they bind around their heads, and by the belts worn by the Christians of the Girdle, who are Greeks and Jacobites, as has been said. The Saracen lower classes usually dress in a suit of linen or cotton, variously woven; the nobles in one of silk adorned with gold. This dress resembles very closely in its sleeves and other details that worn by the Friars Minor, except that it has no cowl and is shorter in length. Instead of cowls they bind around their heads a white cloth of linen or cotton, which in no way covers their necks. Those Jews known as Rabbinists (Rabanym) wear a bluish-grey or scarlet cloth similarly twisted in order that they may be easily recognized, and the Christians who are not Franks wear a blue or red cloth, and a belt of silk or of linen, whence they are termed “of the girdle”.


The Saracens rarely or never wear belts, but bind a towel around their waist, which they lay before them when going to pray; only the nobles and horsemen make use of belts, which are broad like those of ladies and of silk adorned with gold and silver, of which they are very proud. Owing to the very frequent ablutions they perform, instead of high boots, all, including children and old men, wear very wide and creased trousers. For their diabolical religion enjoins upon them to say five prayers every day, not in loud voices but softly, as is ordained in the Koran,sura xxvii. 77 These prayers they say, in my opinion, in a reverent manner, kneeling upon the towels mentioned above and turning towards the temple of their God, that is towards Mecca, which is in the east, where Abraham first founded a temple in honour of God and was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac at God's command, as is stated in the Koran, sura ii. 78 Before each of their prayers they wash their hands, arms, feet  p.61 and posterior parts, being convinced that by these ablutions they receive the remission of all their sins. And when they are in the desert or in some place where water is unobtainable, they sprinkle some clean earth on their heads, in accordance with a precept of the Koran, sura xi. 79 ... The Saracens do not wear boots, but simply red slippers which only cover the foot in front. Only camel-drivers, workmen and poor people wear shoes of the same kind as those worn by Irish boys. The horsemen commonly wear red or white boots reaching to the knees.


Women are not permitted to enter any place of worship, but are almost always kept at home protected from all superfluous intercourse. Especially the wives of the nobility, who never, except in exceptional circumstances, are allowed to leave their houses. All of them adopt a strange and wonderful fashion of dress. They are dressed in linen or cotton mantles whiter than snow, and veiled and covered up to such an extent that their eyes can only be perceived with difficulty through a very narrow veil of black silk. They all wear very short tunics extending only to their knees. Some of these dresses are all of silk, some of linen or cotton, woven in various fashions according to the social status of the wearers. All wear very fine silk trousers adorned with gold, especially noble women, reaching down to the ankles after the fashion of horsemen. The nobility and wealth of the women are judged according to the splendour of their trousers. Some women wear slippers, some red boots, and others white, similar to those worn by horsemen. These trousers, boots and other ornaments give them a close resemblance to the fictitious devils seen in miracle-plays. This mode of hiding their appearance is enjoined upon them in the Koran, sura xxiii, 80 by Mahomet, who proclaims that good women should hide their faces as they do their sexual parts in accordance with God's wish ... and that they should cover their necks and breasts, and conceal their beauty from all, except from their husbands and relatives and from their most trustworthy servants. ... They wear also round their ankles and wrists  p.63 wide rings like fetters, which are usually of gold or silver, on which are engraved words from their accursed law [the Koran], which they hold in the same esteem as we do the Gospel of St. John. They dye the nails of their hands and feet, and wear ear-rings, and some of them even wear rings hanging from their noses. Of all these ornaments and dyes they are very proud. The wives of the Schismatics and of the Jews dress and adorn themselves similarly, except that those of the Schismatics wear black boots in order to be distinguished from the others.


Alexandria shines in outward appearance, but in reality its streets are narrow, ugly, tortuous, and dark, full of dust and dirt and with no pavements. All kinds of provisions are to be found in great abundance, with the exception of wine, which is very dear, because practising Mahometans never under any circumstances drink wine in public, but in private and secretly they indulge in it even to sickness, as we ourselves were witnesses. At the behest of God, Mahomet in the Koran, sura iiii, 81 has not only prohibited his followers from taking wine, but has also prohibited games such as chess, dice, games of chance and others as harmful sins. ... The reason why this pig prohibited wine is set forth by himself in the pamphlet De Doctrina [Machometi]: 82 “There were two angels Baroth and Maroth sent down once upon a time by God from heaven to the earth for the purpose of governing and instructing the human race, three commandments being enjoined upon them: not to kill, not to give unjust judgments and not to drink wine. After travelling all over the world the two judges were finally approached by a very beautiful woman, who, wishing to persuade them to give judgement against her husband, invited them to dinner, and making them drunk, promised everything they desired on condition that they agreed to reveal the words which enabled them to ascend to heaven and likewise to descend ... ”  p.65 Thus said that falsifier of truth, Mahomet, first-born of Satan.


This city enjoys the best and whitest bread of any of the cities and regions through which we passed, for here fourteen most delicious loaves are commonly sold for one grosso. Here the florin was worth 22 Venetian grossi, the gold bezant 26, the gold doublet 28, the false doublet, not of pure gold, 12 grossi, one dirhem and two carub. One Venetian grosso was worth 22 carub, the latter being a small copper or bronze coin, and two milleres, which are not accepted anywhere else, are worth one grosso [5d].


Resuming our journey on Wednesday after the feast of St. Luke [19 October], accompanied by the insults of the populace, we passed through magnificent gardens and orchards full of lofty palms and fruit- trees, and reached the port, distant one mile from the gate of the city, from which boats sailed for Babylon [Old Cairo]. Here we embarked and sailed along the canal, which the Sultan has constructed, 83 the banks of which are lined with palms and fruit-trees, and for a distance of nearly three miles with large and beautiful buildings, and reached a town called Fow. 84 This town is situated on the great and famous river named Gyon, which is one of the four which issue from Paradise, 85 and is to-day named Nile by the Egyptians, as is testified by Josephus. 86 It is distant one great mile from the canal, one day's journey from Alexandria, and three days of very pleasant sailing from Cairo. 87


This town [Fow] is surrounded on all sides by magnificent gardens and orchards in which grow canes from which sugar is made, cotton-trees, which are small and low, throwing out the cotton as a rose does its flowers, 88 most lofty palm-trees, water-melons, orange-trees, and many other fruit-trees. Great indeed is the abundance of fruit, especially of apples of paradise and of figs of Pharaoh. The apples of paradise are in my opinion of incomparable goodness. They are oblong and when ripe of a beautiful green colour, delicious in smell, taste and to the touch. When cut transversely they exhibit most clearly the image of Christ extended on the cross. 89 They do not grow on a tree, but on a tall shrub, which is called musa, 90 whose leaves resemble closely in shape and colour  p.67 those of a certain herb called in English radigche, 91 though they are much larger, for they measure commonly from two to six feet in length, and one or even two in breadth. These leaves protect the fruit from wind and rain. It is also worthy of note that this plant bears fruit once only, and when the fruit has been removed, it dies off at once, and in its place a new plant springs up from the root which bears fruit in the following year. The figs of Pharaoh resemble other figs in shape and colour but are quite different in taste, consistency and in their mode of growing. For they possess a very sweet and almost nauseous taste, and are concave, perforated and black within, and grow on large trees with many branches. These branches never lose their foliage, either in winter or in summer, and have no resemblance whatsoever to other fig-trees and fruit-trees, in that the fruit grows on the large branches and not on the small ones. These figs grow all over Egypt and can be had for a very small price. 92


It may be noted that food cannot be bought in sufficient quantity anywhere between Fow and Cairo. Travellers must therefore lay in a stock either at Alexandria or at Fow itself. Few or none perform the journey by land, as travelling by the river is far more convenient and cheap, the fare being only about three dirhems [about 1s. 5d.] or a little more. The ascent of the river is more difficult than its descent, for though the descending current is not strong it is still a hindrance, and to ascend the boat requires wind and sail or a good crew of rowers. [The Nile] is that famous and interminable river, navigable from the Mediterranean Sea to Upper India where dwells Prester John, 93 at a distance of seventy long days' journey, as it is said. This river is most pleasant for navigating, most beautiful in aspect, most productive in fishes, abounding in birds, and its water is most wholesome and pleasant to drink, never harmful or offensive, but well suited to man's needs. Many other excellent things might be said about it were it not the retreat of a highly noxious animal, resembling the dragon, which devours both horses and men if it catches them in the water or on the banks. This animal is called by the people cocatrix [crocodile]. 94 It may be noted that  p.69 all the streams and rivers of the land of Egypt have their origin in that river [the Nile], wherefore the river which flows out at Damietta is not another river, but merely a part of it. Here St. Louis, King of the French, was captured and imprisoned by the Saracens to the great confusion of the Christians, and the great and eternal glory of the sons of Belial, even to this day. 95 This river is mentioned in the Psalms and in Exodus.


It rarely or never rains in Egypt because that country is by God's Providence without rain-bearing clouds and has a singularly fine climate. With the exception of some low hills, the cultivated land from the coast of the sea as far as the sandy desert near Cairo is so low that it is, for a great part of the year, practically on a level with the water of the river [Nile]. The uncreated Wisdom has therefore arranged that once in the year, in June for about eight days before the feast of St. John the Baptist [June 24] the river should overflow, and begin to return to its level about the feast of Sts. Dionysius, Rusticus, [and Eleutherius, Oct. 9], as is said. As a result of this increase, the whole surface of the land, excepting the hills to which the inhabitants retire, is covered over with water and irrigated in an admirable manner without the falling of rain. When the water has subsided, the peasants draw it from the river and from the canals by means of vessels placed on wheels, which are worked by oxen. 96 In this manner the whole country is irrigated and rendered fruitful.


This is the most beautiful, prosperous and stable country in the whole world. For corn, barley, sugar, cotton, cassia, 97 it is superior to all other lands; yet in apples and pears, which grow in western countries, it is totally deficient. Except during the period of the inundation, the country is made beautiful with herbs and flowers, especially roses, which are delightful to sight, scent, and taste; from them the finest  p.71 rose-water in existence is prepared. The oxen are of a wonderful size and height. The sheep are as large as young bullocks; some of them having semi-rotund tails, very fat, broad and woolly, sometimes weighing seventy pounds; others having thick, fat, woolly and long tails. The wool of all is excellent, though coarse. The inhabitants also rear she-goats, not very big, some of which have short curved horns, and ears sometimes a foot and more in length and very broad at the top, which always hang down like those of hounds, and their heads are curved in the front part like a spade, and excellently suited to gathering up corn and grass from the ground. 98 This is fortunate, for this land possesses few woods or trees except fruit-trees. Therefore the inhabitants can obtain no timber for building houses, except that which is imported by Christian merchants not fearing God, to the grievous injury of equity and justice and alas! to the eternal loss of their souls. Some of the goats, however, are in all respects similar to those of other regions.


Egypt is the home and mother of innumerable camels, by reason of its great flatness, its smoothness and the absence of stones and rain. Stones, indeed, on which they stumble, are rare and occur only in certain fixed localities. The country is rich in very swift horses and asses. The horses are not big, nor strong for carrying arms, but are swift and lively and very similar to those ridden by Irish boys.


Pigeons, hens, river-birds and other kinds of well-known birds abound. Persons of no matter what rank or condition who bring the Sultan a living gerfalcon receive 3000 dirhems, which are worth 150 florins, 99 and for one which has died on the way to him, 1,500 dirhems or 75 florins, in addition to favours and princely gifts of bread and meat granted daily in accordance with their wishes until they are paid to the last farthing; and this has always been the custom of his predecessors and will be that of his successors.


All the quadrupeds of Egypt commonly feed on barley, on dried beans broken up, and on a certain plant called trifolium bestiale, in English cowgrass, 100 which is grown and preserved like corn or any other kind of grain. Its seed is collected and planted and they make hay from it, for they have no meadows, and do not desire to have them. The camels at times live upon the stones or bones which are found in dates.



The peasants of Egypt are a degraded, cowardly, ignoble and bestial race. They live on the hills in houses built entirely of clay and bricks baked in the sunshine. They are protected neither by moats nor other fortifications, and, like the majority of the Saracen people, are unarmed and incapable of attacking an enemy army or of defending their country against attack. They depend entirely on three things for their defence and protection against enemy attacks; firstly, the Sultan's army, which is almost always stationed at Cairo, and numbers at least 30,000 horsemen; 101 secondly, the possibility, owing to the great flatness of the country, of easily flooding any given part of the land with the Nile, and thus rendering it inaccessible; and thirdly, the sandy desert, their main protection, by which the whole country up to the Mediterranean is surrounded. It is thus only possible to enter Egypt by sea, by the desert, or by descending the river [Nile] from India [Ethiopia]. There are no other roads by which to enter the land.


Omitting other matters, we sailed from Fow and reached the immense and very famous city of Cairo. In our opinion, on a modest estimate, Cairo is at least twice as large and four times as populous as Paris. 102 It is in no way fortified except rather weakly about the centre, where it has most excellent gates covered with plates of iron. There is also a wall extending from the citadel, described below [c. 53], to the north for about a mile. Compared with Paris, the city is not built at all, for in their lower part the houses are usually of bricks and mud, and in their upper part of very thin boards, branches of palms and canes and mud. In their interior, nevertheless, they appear to be the house of God and the gate of heaven, for they are excellently decorated with a variety of admirable pictures, and are magnificently paved with marble and other precious stones. They are daily or certainly every second day most carefully swept out with brushes and continually dusted and cleaned. The streets, however, are narrow, winding, dark, and tortuous, full of dust and dirt and unpaved. The principal streets run more in a straight line, and are usually so thronged with barbarous and common people that it is only with the greatest difficulty that one succeeds in getting from one end of the town to another. For this reason the nobles always  p.75 go on horseback, and people of any standing or women, and merchants in a hurry to transact some business, on asses. For this reason there are in the city, as we were informed by men whose information was trustworthy, thirty thousand of these asses kept for hire at the street corners for the use of those who intend to ride within or outside the city, and others in addition are kept for other services. 103


The father of this people was Ishmael, son of Abraham, whom he had by Agar, the handmaid of his wife Sarah, an Egyptian, Genesis, xvi [1, 7, 9]. And to her, fleeing in the wilderness from the face of her mistress Sarah, the angel of the Lord said: “Return to thy mistress” &c. And he said [10]: “Multiplying, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.” And there follows [12]: “He shall be a wild man and his hands [shall be turned] against all men, and the hands of all shall be against him, and he shall fix his tents out of the land of all his brethren.”


The number of camels and of sheep and goats in this city is also countless; the reason for this being that nowhere in Egypt or India [Ethiopia], except in very few places, do the people make use of carts or vehicles such as are used in the western countries, but everything that is required is transported by water or on the backs of camels, oxen or asses. Of the riches of Cairo it is unnecessary to write, for they cannot be enumerated on paper or described in speech. They consist of gold and silver, of cloth of gold and silk, cotton and linen embroidered wares, of gems, pearls and other precious stones, vases of gold, silver and bronze, incomparably decorated in the Saracen style, glass objects most beautifully ornamented, which are commonly made in Damascus, balsam, oil, honey, pepper, sugar, various spices and innumerable jewels of all kinds. 104 It may be added that in Cairo, as in all parts of Egypt, roses and other flowers and fresh fruit can be had at all times of the year, and at the price we have named. We ourselves saw here throughout the whole winter [1323–4] fresh beans among other crops. We saw also fresh and very ripe figs on the first Sunday in Lent [Sunday, 4 March 1324] at the table of the Venetian consul at Alexandria. Figs were even then to be found in great quantity in the town.


Men and women of practically every tribe and nation and language under the sun are to be found in Cairo, and the population is in all respects similar to that of Alexandria. All without exception who profess the Mahometan faith are of perverse morality. ... The Sultan has, as we heard on good authority, sixty wives and a thousand female servants  p.77 waiting upon them, all of whom reside with him in the Citadel described below [c. 53]. The ordinary men possess three or four, many even seven wives, as may be read in Isaiah [iv. 1]: “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man”, and in the Koran, sura vii. 105...


The city of Cairo is situated in a plain at the foot of a sandy and barren hill, beneath which it extends for a long distance, and is surrounded [on three sides] by the desert, which extends on the east towards Jerusalem, for a distance of eight days' journey as will be seen below; 106 on the west for a distance of fifteen days' journey, where it reaches the confines of the province of barbarians known as Barca; and on the south where it extends as far as the kingdom of the Nubians, 107 a twelve days' journey. To the north of Cairo lies that flat and very fertile country described above [cc. 39–43]. To the south is the river [Nile]; and the land of Egypt, measured by the length of the river, extends for a distance of fifteen days' journey. The river [Nile] touches the city only in one place for a length of half a mile, where there are orchards and gardens planted with magnificent trees. Here there is a certain flat and square space surrounded by a low wall, which is called Mida. 108 In this spot the Sultan at times takes recreation with his Admirals and the other officers of his army. The game they play resembles very closely that played by shepherds in Christian lands with a ball and curved sticks, with this exception, that the Sultan and his nobles never strike the ball unless they are on horseback, and they never play in a military manner. Nor are the horses and their riders tested as to agility, bravery, and the other warlike virtues, as is done in the case of the jousts, tournaments, and other military performances of Christian knights. And without doubt in this game many horses and knights are injured, and rendered unfit for active service in the future. In consequence the Sultan rarely permits this game to be played, but exchanges it for hunting or other effeminate games. On this spot is a large and lofty pavilion in which the wives of the Sultan and of the other nobles take their places, protected from the tremendous pressure of the spectators, and watch the game and especially the exploits of the Sultan; and whenever he should strike the ball, the spectators all cheer and praise him, sounding countless trumpets and striking countless harsh kettle-drums, 109 and cheering and raising such a din that they seem to hinder the  p.79 motion of Arcturus, and to crash with the inhabitants of Sodom; and adding the noise of the horses and the collisions of the riders and the rush of spectators from other parts, one might almost believe that the foundations of the earth, its columns and pillars, were taking to flight and overthrowing the order of the universe. 110


Towards the centre of the city, on the summit of the hill mentioned above [c. 52] is the Citadel of the Sultan. It is vast and beautiful and strongly fortified, with dwelling-houses, workshops and other necessary buildings, everything being beautified with due imperial magnificence. It is said to be a mile in circumference, and is distant from the town by the length of a shot from a military engine. Within it are stationed permanently ten thousand most excellent mercenary mounted soldiers, who constitute the Sultan's bodyguard, in addition to those quartered in the town, whom we have already mentioned [c. 47]. All Saracen horsemen ride after the fashion of women, on low saddles and with short stirrups, to the front of which is fixed a ring, in which is placed a club or mace for the defence of the rider. All of these soldiers carry a curved sword, and many of them, especially the Turks, are first rate bowmen. Their bows are of horn, 111 and their arrows triangular like the sharp points inserted in spears as knives are in handles. They rarely or never kill birds except in flight with arrows.


It may be remarked that just as the Indians or Ethiopians differ in colour from the Saracens, so also do the Turks differ in appearance. They have short faces, broad in the upper part and narrow below. Their eyes are very small and very similar to those of that small beast [the weasel], which by instinct hunts rabbits in their warrens and underground holes. Their noses are rather like those of the Indians [Ethiopians], and their beards closely resemble those of cats. The women hardly differ at all from the men in their appearance, but conform to them in every detail. The foundations and walls of the Sultan's castle are wholly of the same building-stone as that used in the construction of the walls surrounding Paris.  112 The fortress is well equipped with engines of war, but it is without water, and its walls, as we were informed, can be broken without much difficulty. Opposite the fortress and within the bounds of the city is a most beautiful lake, which in winter-time is full of ducks and water-birds and is surrounded by trees. It is well stocked with many kinds of fish. Those who fish in it have to pay a heavy tax to the Sultan, and sometimes present him with a portion of what they catch.


It may be remarked that the Sultan, like all Mahometans, always  p.81 eats in a bestial manner, sitting on the ground. The food is never cooked in his palace, but is brought in from the city; and in his dining-room neither table nor seat nor cloth nor napkin is provided, but in place of a dinner table, round tables of gold or silver with artistic designs, raised a little from the ground, are placed in front of those about to dine. On these they rest large bowls of earthenware containing the food. Out of these they eat like dogs or very vile pigs, banishing all forms of decency like the fugitive hare, licking their hands and defiling their beards, and committing all kinds of inexplicable and bestial acts, until they are full up. Then they retire satiated, and others approach and take their places, eating in the same fashion out of the same bowls. This goes on until all are satisfied, when the remaining food is gathered up by the attendants and sold in the market. It is without doubt of great value, for the food provided for the Sultan alone is said to cost 1,000 dirhems [£23] daily, not counting that provided for his retinue.


In Cairo as in all Egypt and India [Ethiopia], the administration of justice and equity is of so high a standard that nobles and peasants, youths and old men, and foreigners of whatever creed or condition, with no possibility of bribery, are subject to the infliction of the same penalties; and this especially when it is a case of capital punishment, death being inflicted by crucifixion, decapitation, or cutting in two with the sword.


Towards the north of the city is a place called Materia, where grows that most famous vine, which is said to have been once in Engaddi, 113 and which distils the balsam. It is diligently guarded by thirty men, for it is a source of great wealth to the Sultan. It is in no way similar to other vines, for it is a small, odoriferous, low and smooth tree, resembling very closely in smoothness and bark the hazel tree, and in its leaves a certain plant called nasturtium aquaticum.  114 Immediately adjoining the vineyard is that inexhaustible spring which the Lord Jesus produced with His foot at the request of His mother, who lived for some time in this spot with her Son owing to the persecution of Herod, and was afflicted with a great thirst.  115 The fountain is surrounded on all sides by a wall, within which are fine chapels in which on Sundays Christians, pilgrims from western countries, Jacobites and other Schismatics, and sometimes also Saracens, pray devoutly to the Virgin, and bathe and wash themselves and their sick relations in  p.83 the waters of the fountain, in a place specially arranged for this purpose. Many cures are performed by the Holy Virgin, and she herself appears at times to the Saracens, as the guardians of the vineyard swore to us, asserting that they very frequently see her walking around the fountain. The vineyard is irrigated with water from this well by oxen, and so great is the virtue of this water that, it is said, the vine will grow nowhere else on earth. The same guardians also swore that the oxen employed in drawing the wheel of the pump could by no means whatever be forced to draw the water on Sundays, but contrary to the wish of everyone, observed that day as a day of rest. 116


This vine, as already mentioned is a small, low tree having a thin and short stalk, usually not more than a foot in length, out of which every year straight branches grow, the old ones having been cut away, which are from two to three feet in length and produce no fruit. The keepers of the vineyard hire Christians, who with knives 117 or with sharp stones break or cut the bark around the tops of the vine in several places, and always in the sign of the cross; and at a fixed time of the year they catch the balsam at once in glass bottles as it drips abundantly through these fractures or cuts. The custodians of this garden assert that the bark emits a more abundant flow of balsam when it is cut in this manner by Christian hands than by those of Saracens. For this reason they hire believers in Jesus to perform this operation, and not circumcised and unclean Mahometans. 118


To the north of this well is the spot on which there was once, it is said, a fort of Pharaoh. Here two square stone pillars have been erected, of which one, in our opinion, is larger than the one erected at Rome and called by the common people the Needle of St. Peter. 119 Near the Sultan's fortress at Cairo is the place in which his elephants are kept. We saw three of these, each of which was tied by the neck and feet with very strong iron chains to wooden posts and stakes. Without doubt these animals, though monstrous and ugly, yet by reason of their excessive bulk and height appear to be possessed of that great strength which the Scriptures testify. 120 Nearby in the same place we saw another animal which is called giraffe, most beautiful and graceful in appearance, having a hide in all respects resembling that of a deer, and an exceedingly long neck, which as it walks it carries most erect. Though it is not bulky it  p.85 exceeds any horse in height, particularly in its fore part, its forelegs being much longer than its hind ones.


About a mile to the south of Cairo is the city of Babylon [Old Cairo], which stretches along the bank of the river [Nile]. Opposite to it, to the west, there is an oblong island in the river, on which there was once the vast and very famous fortress of Pharaoh, totally constructed of baked bricks, the foundations of which with a part of the walls, damaged by the people, can still be seen and are of extraordinary thickness and strength.  121 In the same direction, beyond the island and three miles distant, at the foot of the desert, are the barns of Joseph 122 mentioned in Genesis [xli, 56]. ... They are three in number, of which two are of such size and height that at a distance they look more like the summits of mountains than repositories of corn. The third, though much smaller in size and height than the other two, is in every respect similar in shape and appearance. They are very square and broad at the base, but get more and more narrow as they rise in height so that the summit has the appearance of a narrow point.


Not far off is an underground tunnel, which leads under the river and under the city of Cairo according to the assertion of the inhabitants, as far as the fort of Pharaoh adjoining the vineyard of Engaddi, for a length of ten miles, as is said. To the east of Babylon, about a mile off, is that enormous and celebrated cemetery of the Saracens, in which so many shrines and structures have been built over the tombs of the dead, that to a spectator it appears to be rather a city of excessive size than a cemetery. 123 On the south side of the town is the place where the Lord spoke to Moses concerning the leading forth of the people of Israel from Egypt. In commemoration of this event a tower has been constructed on the spot.


At Babylon all the galleys and ships which sail on the river [Nile] touch and are usually unloaded. The town has no walls and is totally unfortified. In comparison with Cairo it is small; but all that has been said above [c. 48] of Cairo is true of Old Cairo, except that the asses kept for hire, though many, are much fewer in number. It is also worthy of note that though this city is situated at the foot of the same sandy hill and  p.87 extends under it, it is more distant from that hill than Cairo, for the full length of the cemetery stretches between it and the mountain.


In Babylon there exists a most beautiful and artistic church built in honour of the blessed Virgin, and known as Sancta Maria de la Cave. 124 In which under the high altar is that most sacred place where, it is said, the glorious Virgin remained concealed with her most sweet son Jesus for seven years until the death of Herod, when she had fled with Him and Joseph to escape from the persecution directed against her Son. 125 Here also is a stone well in which she used to bathe the infant; and opposite to it, on the left, is an altar in honour of the Virgin, at which I, brother Simon, celebrated mass on the feast of the purification of the Virgin [2 February 1324].


This is the church which the Sultan granted for worship to the Christians at the request of the noble William Bonemayn, a citizen of Montpellier, on the feast of the Nativity of the glorious Virgin [8 September] in the year 1323. For three years previously this church had been closed during the persecution which the Sultan was inflicting on the Christians of the Girdle, many of whom were put to death. At this time also many Jacobites through fear of death were forced to deny outwardly the divinity and passion of Christ and to affirm that the most vile pig Mahomet was the messenger and prophet of God. At the same time the monastery inhabited by nuns living under the rule of St. Macarius was destroyed by the hands of the sons of Belial. It was situated almost midway on the road between Cairo and Babylon, and was consecrated to St. Martin, bishop and confessor. 126 In the church of these nuns under the south wall reposes the body of the friar Hugo Illuminator of happy memory; who, having been afflicted without pause for five weeks with quartan fever and dysentery, died in the city of Cairo on 26 November in the house of a Saracen, in the before-mentioned year [1323].


In Babylon there is also a church in honour of St. Barbara, in which, it is said, her most precious body is preserved. It has, however, remained closed ever since the days of the above-mentioned persecution. 127 During this persecution two Christians of the Girdle, that is Jacobites, were, as we were informed, martyred in the city of Cairo for  p.89 their faith in Christ. The elder of the two was martyred by decapitation; the younger was nailed to a cross and cruelly dragged through the city on a camel for the purpose of terrorizing the Christians. During this performance he did not hesitate to exalt the crucified Christ as Saviour and God in a voice like a trumpet and in the Saracen language, and to blaspheme fearlessly against Mahomet as prince of the devils and firstborn of Satan. This so incensed the sons of the Babylonian confusion that outside the city they dragged the crucified man from the camel and stabbed him to death. During three nights they saw a light descending from heaven and shining over the body, so they burned it lest the Christians might preserve the relics and glorify the Son in them.


In the same city [Babylon] is a church built in honour of St. Michael the Archangel, in which monks of the Greek rite always officiate. Here there is a caloyer or monk, patriarch of the Greeks 128 who makes himself very useful to pilgrims going to Mount Sinai, giving them advice as to the way through the desert, and sometimes also letters of recommendation, which are very useful in case of necessity. For at the foot of the mountain, which is distant thirteen days' journey, 129 is a monastery of Greek monks, in which, it is said, at least one hundred caloyers or monks reside. In their church is very reverently preserved the head of the blessed virgin Katherine, from which, as is said, there distils even to this day a healing oil.


Another glorious church in the same city is that known as Sancta Maria de la Scala, 130 and properly so named because it is approached by a way of steps. In it there is a column of white marble, from which Saint Mary is said to have spoken to a certain beloved Jacobite concerning the liberation of the Christians, who were then suffering from grievous Saracen persecution. This column is still held in veneration by the Christians. In this church there resides a monk, patriarch of the Jacobites, who at times, like the patriarch mentioned above [c. 66], generously extends an alms-giving hand to the poor and to pilgrims.


In the same city, outside the gate, almost immediately on the left of the road leading to Cairo by way of the monastery of the nuns described above [c. 64], is a long and narrow house in which countless numbers of chickens are produced by the help of fire from the eggs of hens, without the presence of the latter or of cocks. In this house on each side the earth is raised for the length of the building to the height of an altar, and ovens or furnaces are arranged in which are placed an innumerable quantity of eggs, to which uniform and temperate heat is continually applied day and night for twenty-two or twenty-three days.  p.91 At the end of this, or of an almost equal period, these eggs give forth chickens in such enormous quantities that they are sold by measure like wheat, and not by number. 131 In proof of this fact we saw in the street between the two cities the owners of these chickens feeding with grain two or three thousand of them, according to our estimate, which had fallen from the loaded camels passing by.


About the centre of Babylon is a place called Gazani, where are kept some of the Sultan's slaves. In this place is a small and venerable chapel in which I, brother Symon, sometimes, as at the chapel in Cairo, 132 celebrated mass for their consolation. Here it may be remarked with regard to these slaves or captive Christians in Babylon, Cairo and throughout the Saracen countries, that no credence is to be attached to those fables of mad women which are repeated in the streets, to the effect that these slaves are harnessed like oxen to the plough, and are employed like beasts in tilling and working the soil. In truth, though deprived of the privilege of liberty, they are fairly well off, principally as masons, carpenters, and other craftsmen for whom the Sultan has a special regard. They, like all the other slaves, according to their merits, are humanely compensated for their labour by the Sultan with a fairly reasonable amount of bread and money for themselves, and also for their wives and children. In our opinion, therefore, many of them, at least as regards the necessaries of life, are better off here than they would be in their own native countries. Yet they grieve that they cannot return home, nor keep the Lord's day, because the Saracens keep Friday, as mentioned above [c. 28], and they are forced to do likewise.


In the Koran, sura lxxi, it is laid down that on Friday at the hour of prayer, all good men must leave the market and their business and go to invoke the Lord's assistance in order that their business may prosper. 133


In the Saracen cities people of all non-Saracen religions, men, women and children, old and young, are exposed for public sale like animals, specially numerous being the schismatic Indians [Ethiopians] and the Nubians who all, irrespective of sex, have the colour of crows  p.93 and coals. The former keep up an incessant warfare with the Arabs and Nubians, and when they are captured are ransomed or sold as slaves. In accordance with the precepts of the Koran, suraslvi and xvii, no believing Mahometan must ever in warfare turn his back to miscreants, and those whom he captures must be killed or ransomed. 134 ...


These Nubians, though in appearance and colour they are not to be distinguished from the Indians [Ethiopians], nevertheless differ from them and are recognised by reason of the long scars which they bear upon their faces. For they burn their ugly faces with hot irons, making long and terrible scars, believing, it is said, that in so doing they are baptizing themselves with flame and cleansing themselves from sin with fire. Since they became Mahometans they are more dangerous to the Christians than the Saracens are, in this respect resembling the renegade Knights of Rhodes ... On the day on which, accompanied by some Jewish boys, 135 we left Cairo on our way to Jerusalem, we were attacked in the desert by groups of these Nubians and most ferocious Egyptians, who repeatedly hit us with stones and attempted to murder us. For these we entreat the merciful God that they may not die, like Haaman the persecutor of the Jews who was hanged, but that their pride may be humbled, their errors condemned, their intelligence illumined, and their inclinations rectified, and that they may be redeemed and saved by the blood of the spirit of Christ. It may also be remarked that these Nubians are found in countless numbers in the cities mentioned above and in all Saracen lands.


These and also many other things we saw in the above-mentioned cities and in different places in Egypt, which are not written down in this book, but there is one thing which cannot be passed over in silence and left unrecorded in writing, namely that in the city of Cairo, in the house of a Saracen, alas! one of us, brother Hugo, mentioned in the beginning of this book [c. 1], succumbed to an attack of dysentery and fever caused by a north wind, as has already been mentioned [c. 64]; and thus his soul left his body, like a ship without a rudder that runs aground on rocks in a storm.



And when I, the afore-mentioned Brother Symon, perceived this and reflected that I was deprived of such a companion, bound to me by the cement of friendship, I commenced to lament and cry out: “Woe! Woe!” I grieved like Magdalen for one who had died on the shore of Egypt, and for that Joseph I desired like Jacob to descend into hell. My bowels were wounded by the shaft of sorrow, and if I may speak the words of the prophet made true, my pains were like unto the pains of childbirth. How bitter and sharp was that storm of grief which broke my mirror in many parts and changed my harp from joy to mourning and caused me to hang my instruments, not like the Jews of old on the lowly willow, but on the lofty tops of the cedars of Lebanon! He has left me alone in an enemy country like a sparrow ... Who could write this without tears? Who could tell this without much bitterness of heart? This [death] is the skilful fashioner of bitter sadness and sorrow beyond all solace of the heart. This whirlwind has teeth to rend and tear and consume all joy. This poisoned arrow has pierced my bowels without pity and wounded me sorely with the sharp point of grief and pain.


O ye who travel to Rome and are pilgrims, who pass this way with me, shed tears like a torrent in the south! ... Alas! Alas! we have found and seen those days we were expecting. My eyes have failed with tears. Our soul has refused to be consoled, and I have been made drunk with bitter sorrow. The Lord has stretched the bow of his anger against me ... He has wounded me deeply, even to my inward parts. Since it was pleasing to Him, it has been so done: may the name of the Lord be blessed! When I began to recover from my grief as from sleep ... I breathed again and was refreshed with the food of consolation. For I considered and read in the book of my mind that man is weighed down by his weakness and is subject to corruption ... that the devotion of supreme pontiffs, the wisdom of philosophers, the majesty of emperors, the lofty state of kings have never hitherto been able to escape the final moment of brief burial. All that is appointed for our troubled exile forebodes this end. ... Nothing is gained for the dead by our grief and lamentation. To labour thus [in grief] is to labour in vain. What I had lost could never, alas! be recovered by me through any effort or toil.



Having passed my time in thoughts such as these, I began to cease from laments and manfully to control my tears, commending the soul of my brother and dearest companion to God Almighty, Who summons those whom He loves and makes those whom He has killed live again. For he is not dead, but changed into a better state, and has exchanged these tearful and fleeting days for happy and eternal days. ... Therefore, my dearest brethren, do not grieve for him who sleeps, like those who have no hope; but let us pray fervently for the soul of him who is dead, and help him with our generous and pious alms. If he has deserved punishment by guilt, do Thou, O Lord, pardon him in Thy mercy and wipe away his guilt, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.


Having buried my companion, as recorded above ... I hastened to visit the Sultan, who was then residing in his fortress, accompanied by four fellow-pilgrims who were travelling on foot. Thanks to the intervention of certain Genoese notables, I obtained the mediation of the Sultan's dragomen or interpreters, who procured from him a permit authorizing me in company with two boys of our own party and one stranger to proceed without tribute to the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to visit all the oratories and other holy places without payment of any tax. And thus we were able to travel freely and in safety throughout all the Holy Land and Egypt. In testimony of this the Sultan handed us a passport adorned with the Sultan's special sign, which was about an arm's length and a half long.


This sign is a very rude picture of the fingers of the hand drawn always by the Sultan himself with a reed and ink, and which he never permits anyone else to draw for him. Wherefore all the Admirals and other persons who inspect this document, baring their necks, do reverence, kissing the sign and opening the passport and folding it in a certain way around their heads and necks in token of obedience, while giving praise to the Sultan who painted it.


The afore-mentioned dragomen are three in number, who, though outwardly renegades, in secret worship Christ devoutly as Saviour of the world. The senior and chief is by nation a Roman and of the true Roman rite, by religious profession a Poor friar, named Brother Assedinus. With him resides a certain brother Peter, a Knight of the order of the Templars, who is a renegade and married. There are also two  p.99 juniors, Italians by nation and of the Jacobite religion. All are very courteous and generous and useful to the poor and to pilgrims. They are very wealthy, possessing abundance of gold, silver, precious stones and costly garments and other wealth, and living in great pomp.


It is necessary for all those who wish to beg favours from the Sultan or to approach him to anoint the hands of these men generously with the oil of florins and to offer them very handsome gifts. In the presence of the Sultan I joined forces with the [four] brothers mentioned above [c. 77] in order that they might be my companions on my journey, and along with them, as will appear below [c. 93], after overcoming many adversities, I finally reached the long-desired haven of Jerusalem ...


Having hired two camels and a Saracen driver at a cost of 85 dirhems [about 39s.] we departed from Cairo on the morrow of the feast of St. Andrew [1 December 1323], like sheep among wolves, and plunged into the vast sandy desert adjoining the city, in which the children of Israel wandered for forty years. Here we encountered the Sultan returning from a hunting expedition, accompanied by a vast and formidable retinue mounted on horses, mules, asses and camels, which covered the desert like locusts for an area of almost five miles. In confirmation of which we heard from numerous persons that whenever the Sultan goes on a hunting expedition, or for a ride outside the city, he is accompanied by 30,000 horsemen 136 and an innumerable multitude of camels, asses and pedestrians, and many animals belonging to the latter, such as are exposed for eating. 137


The camels are loaded with tents, bread, water and other necessaries like the asses. Fresh water and everything necessary for human use can hardly ever be found in the desert. Very rare are trees, which are small and low and provide no shade to travellers, nor any consolation whatever except only to the Arabs or Bedouins, who from these trees and from the dung of the camels and other beasts of burden, dried in the sun, make copious fires, in the ashes of which they bake a kind of bread, which they eat very hot with oil or honey very much like dogs, caring little for other kinds of bread or food.


They live in a bestial fashion in the desert in tribes, in low, black, and oblong tents, in which they can hardly stand up, and can only enter by crawling along the ground like serpents. It is not safe to go among  p.101 them, especially at night, without a strong bodyguard, for they are ever ready, given the opportunity, to inflict harm on travellers, obeying more the laws of wolves than those of men. They possess many camels, which they hire for a large price to Saracen pilgrims, whom they conduct to Mecca, where the body of that most vile pig Mahomet is said to repose, 138 or to merchants or travellers going to Jerusalem, Damascus or other cities. Without camels it is difficult to cross the desert, as we ourselves learned by experience, 139 and other pilgrims testify.


When they move their camps or tents they load everything on to the camels in this manner: the animal prostrates itself on the ground and on its back near the hump they place a large concave saddle, from which they suspend two large oblong cages, one on the right, the other on the left of the saddle; in these they place their wives and children, tents, mills, water, flour, domestic utensils and provisions consisting for the most part of the bread already mentioned [c. 82], of oil and goats' milk. They have three sorts of honey: the common one from bees, and two artificial kinds: one obtained from the fruit of a certain tree called carub; 140 and the third from the canes from which sugar is made. They themselves follow with their goats, armed with swords, which they carry on their backs, with sticks, and with lances, the handles of which consist usually of solid canes. Their nobles dress like those of the Saracens, except that their dress is longer as regards sleeves and other extremities, and is very like the white habit of the Grey Monks [i.e. Cistercians]. The camel-drivers are very similarly dressed, wearing in addition a very coarse striped outer coat made of wool or of camels' hairs, which in appearance closely resembles a sleeveless tunic or tabard, except that it does not close at the sides nor is it anywhere sewn.


Omitting further description of these wolves, we came to a large town or village, named Belbeis, 141 which is a full day's journey from Cairo, and is situated on the outskirts of the desert. Between it and the sea lies a most beautiful tract of country, which is rich in corn and flowers. As everywhere in Egypt, camels and asses for hire and abundance of food are to be found here. It may also be remarked that our two camels carried the four of us [cf. c. 77], our provisions, and their own fodder for the journey, and they could have carried more if necessary, such is the strength with which they are endowed. Between them, I, Brother Symon, with my boy John slept, deprived of all the comforts of a house, amidst the sand and the dung of the animals, with the stars only as a covering, and for companions these and the other beasts, surrounded on all sides  p.103 by enemies, whose personal habits were a source of grave discomfort. 142... If only we had had bundles of vine twigs to lie upon and to place under our head as a cushion instead of heaps of dung and sand, they would without doubt have been worth a French bed.


From Belbeis we hastened through the desert and came to a place called Es-Salahieh. 143 In situation and abundance of provisions it resembles very closely the preceding village, especially in respect of the great numbers of water-birds, especially ducks. Eight ducks can be bought here for only two dirhems [11 d.] and ten geles144 for the same price. It may be here remarked that on windy days it is impossible to travel through the desert, because the sand, on account of its lightness and minuteness, is whirled high into the air to such an extent that travellers are unable to see the way or to enjoy the light of day.


Hastening on, we reached the village named Katîyeh 145 in the very heart of the desert, entirely surrounded by sand, and distant two most tedious days' journey from Es-Salahieh. Here I found a Christian nobleman acting as Admiral, outwardly a renegade and an Armenian by nation. His duty is to guard the route through the desert and to collect the tax on travellers. He is a worthy benefactor to pilgrims and a generous alms-giver. He guards the route in order that no one may pass into Egypt from India [Ethiopia] or vice versa without his authorization. 146 This he accomplishes in a comprehensive and cautious manner. The village, as we have said, is entirely surrounded by the desert and is furnished with neither fortifications nor natural obstacles of any kind that might impede the passage of travellers. Every evening after sunset a straw-mat or carpet is drawn at the tail of a horse, sometimes near the village, sometimes far from it, now in one place, now in another, transversely to the route, for a distance of six or eight miles, more or less, according to the Admiral's orders. This renders the sand so smooth that it is impossible for either man or beast to pass without leaving traces to expose their passage. Every morning before sunrise the plain is scoured in all directions by specially appointed horsemen, and whenever any traces of pedestrians or of horsemen are discovered, the guards hasten in pursuit and those who have passed are arrested as transgressors of the Sultan's regulations and are severely punished.


This village is very rich in provisions of all kinds, especially in  p.105 fish, in fruit, chiefly dates and apples of paradise, of which we have spoken above [c. 40]. It is worthy of mention that between Es-Salahieh and Katîyeh there linger certain dangerous animals which readily attack men and kill them. Though not as large as wolves they are quite equal to them in ferocity and cunning. 147


Having participated in spiritual consolation and rested our bodies with the Admiral, we departed [Katîyeh], and continued our route through the desert, reaching the town named Gaza, which is in the land formerly called the land of the Philistines, and in which Samson perished with their leaders beneath the ruins of a house. This city abounds in all the necessaries of life, and in it dwell many Christians of the Girdle, whom we have mentioned above [c. 34]. All the Frankish [western] pilgrims travelling from Egypt to Jerusalem and vice versa halt at this stage, and rest at its eastern outskirts, having the dome of heaven as a roof.


Here large numbers of camels and asses are found for hire, and we were informed that there is also a garrison of two thousand [Saracen] horsemen in all things like the horsemen aforesaid. The town is surrounded by many gardens and orchards, fig-trees being especially abundant, since the desert practically everywhere comes to an end some six miles before the town is reached, and on all sides the land is most beautiful and fertile. Here there is a custom-house at which all travellers have to pay a road-tax.


We may remark that in the desert, at the end of each day's journey there is found a walled enclosure which is called fondaco, in which all travellers may rest in safety and find water for their animals without paying any fee. The Sultan has provided this for the safety and protection of travellers because of the Bedouins and Arabs mentioned above, who infest the desert and lie in ambush for travellers as a lion in his den for his prey.


From this city [Gaza] we came to a spot about two miles distant where the road bifurcates, the right-hand turning leading to the very ancient city of Hebron, situated in the territory of the Damascenes, and once a city of the Philistines. It was the place in which God fashioned Adam our first father, and in which in two caves are buried our four reverend fathers, Adam, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with their wives, Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah [cf. Gen. xlix, 29-31]. Leaving this on one side, we reached the base of the mountains of Israel, a most beautiful country, as is all the land that once belonged to the Philistines, whose memory is now buried in oblivion. Proceeding over very beautiful mountains and through the very fertile valleys of Israel, we came to a certain monastery in which reside schismatic monks called Cumani. Under the  p.107 high altar of their church is the spot where the most precious wood of the cross was hewn. This monastery is distant one mile from Jerusalem.


Having visited this place with due reverence, we came to the holy city of Jerusalem. Once the queen of nations and provinces, the city of the Law and of the priesthood, it lies now enslaved and oppressed beneath Saracen domination, to the great disgrace of the Christians, and to the glory and honour of the sons of Belial. Its walls are now destroyed and its temple overthrown from its foundations in accordance with the Lord's prediction: “There shall not be left one stone upon another”, and the saying of Zacharias: “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as a town without a wall”, &c. “Alas! Among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her.”


This city was once situated for the greater part on Mount Sion, a mountain which though not large is nevertheless very strong, especially on the south side, and dominates the city. It is to a large extent surrounded by the valley of Josaphat, and where the valley ends there were once broad and very deep ditches excavated in the rocks, traces of which can be seen even to this day, and they testify most clearly to the solidity and strength of the old city. This mountain extends for a long distance to the south and to the north. On the southern side, where the strength of the valley is less, there was built for the protection and defence of the city that most famous and imperial Tower of David, which has now been rebuilt by the Saracens as a fortress of the Sultan, and is distant obliquely from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by about the length of a bowshot.


On the northern side of this tower is a gate through which we entered and came to the church just mentioned, praising the Lord who in this place redeemed us by His precious blood. This church is large and beautiful, its nave being spherical and closely resembling a pigeon-house, except that it is built upon columns and has all round it an ambulatory. In the centre there is a small chapel of marble in which is the Sepulchre of our Lord, which is only nine palms in length. 148 It is entirely covered over with a slab of white marble in such a manner that it can nowhere be touched nor seen except through three small holes which are on its southern side. 149 Outside on the northern side of the tomb, which is contiguous to the wall of the chapel itself, is placed a lamp, which is always lit by a caloyer150 or Cuman monk, who always resides there with a companion. Opposite to it on the south side, within the said chapel, is a lamp which on every Holy Saturday is without fail lit by a flame sent down from heaven to the glory of the risen Christ, who liveth for ever. Amen. 151 The doors of this church are on the south side, of which the most easterly one is closed by a stone wall. Opposite  p.109 these doors on the outside is a very beautiful quadrangle entirely paved with white marble, towards the centre of which is the spot where our Lord, suffering for us, rested while the cross was being carried up the mountain. 152


To the east of these doors, within the church itself, is Mount Calvary. Eighteen steps lead to its summit, where there is a round hole in which the cross of Christ was fixed. From the uppermost of these steps to the hole are ten feet, where some of the Lord's blood is seen to have run through the fissures of the mountain. To the south of this hole are the clearest traces of the manner in which the rocks were split equally from the summit downwards on the day of the Passion of Christ; and here is the spot, it is said, where the head of Adam was found. Very near that fissure an altar has been piously consecrated. From the foot of the steps just mentioned, towards the east, as far as the door of the subterranean church which leads down to the spot where Helena, mother of Constantine, discovered the wood of the cross, there are eleven paces, and from that door to the first step are seven feet, whence twenty-nine steps go down. At the foot of these steps there is a beautiful church built upon four columns of marble, in which there is a high altar on the eastern side, and another altar on the northern side.


From the foot of those steps to another flight of eleven steps, are six paces; and from the foot of these eleven steps to the place where the holy cross was found, there are five full paces, and in this place there is a consecrated altar of stone. From the foot of those steps, which lead up to Mount Calvary, as far as the place where Nicodemus and Joseph washed the body of the Lord Jesus, which is right opposite the gate of the church, are four paces; and from the same spot, in the same direction to the Sepulchre of our Lord, are thirty-one paces. From the Sepulchre to the place where the Lord appeared to Mary Magdalen, which is towards the north of the tomb, there are seven paces.


From the foot of the above-mentioned steps, crossing the choir towards the north, in the direction of the column to which, it is said, our Lord was bound and beaten, are thirty-six paces. This column lies under an altar, and near by is a large fragment of the principal column, the remaining part of which is at Rome. From our Lord's Sepulchre to the spot where the blessed Virgin Mary grieved for her Son hanging upon the cross, which is opposite the Mount, to the north of the church, are eighteen paces. From the Sepulchre eastwards within the door of the choir to the round hole into which Christ placed his finger saying: “Here is the middle of the world”, are fourteen paces, and from the door of the choir to the major altar are fifteen paces.


The tower already mentioned [c. 94] is situated on Mount Sion, towards the southern part of which is the monastery of the Schismatics,  p.111 which is now served by them. In their church is preserved, as is said, the head of the blessed James the Apostle. Beyond, in the same direction, is a church in which, in place of an altar, is that stone slab, supported on four columns, of which the women said: “Who shall roll back this stone for us?” 153 On the same Mount are many holy oratories, which are now almost entirely destroyed, as will appear more clearly lower down in the Locarium.154


Opposite the aforementioned tower, to the east, is the place on which was once the fortress [of David], which was so far distant that it could in no way have been protected or defended by that tower, except perhaps by means of military engines. The opposite view is to be found in the book De Proprietatibus Rerum. On this spot there is now a Saracen church, 155 which is of spherical shape, and which they permit no Christian to approach.

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Title (uniform): The Journey of Symon Semeonis from Ireland to the Holy Land

Author: Symon Semeonis (Simon FitzSimon)

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Electronic edition compiled by: Natasha Dukelow and Beatrix Färber

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Editions and literature

  1. Theodor Bibliander, Machumetis saracenorum principis eiusque successorum vitae, doctrina ac ipse alcoran (Basle 1543).
  2. James Nasmith, (ed.), Itinerarium Symonis Simeonis, et Hugonis Illuminatoris ad Terram Sanctam 1322. In Itineraria Symonis Simeonis et Willelmi de Worcestre. Quibus accedit Tractatus de metro, in quo traduntur regulæ a scriptoribus mediiaevi in versibus Leoninis observatae. E codicibus mss. in bibliotheca Coll. Corp. Christi Cantab. 1–73. (Cambridge: J. Archdeacon 1778).
  3. Carl Hermann Friedrich Johann Hopf, Chroniques Gréco-Romanes (Berlin 1873).
  4. Mario Esposito, "The Pilgrimage of Symon Semeonis: A Contribution to the History of Mediaeval Travel", in Geographical Journal vol. 50 (1917) pp. 335–352, vol. 51 (1918) pp. 77–96.
  5. Girolamo Golubovich (ed.), Itinerarium fratrum Symonis Semeonis et Hugonis illuminatoris Ordinis fratrum Minorum professorum ad Terram Sanctam A.D.1322. (Ex Cod. Biblioth. Collegii Corporis Christi Cantabrigiae, n.147). In Biblioteca bio-bibliografica della Terra Santa e dell'Oriente francescano. vol. 3: 237–282. (Florence: Quaracchi, 1919).
  6. Eugene Hoade, Western Pilgrims: The Itineraries of Fr. Simon Fitzsimons, OFM (1322–23), A Certain Englishman (1344–45), Thomas Brygg (1392), and Notes on other Authors and Pilgrims. Publications of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, n. 18 (Jerusalem: Franciscan Press 1952, reprinted 1970), 81–86.
  7. Acta Sanctorum, ed. Johannes Bollandus (Antwerpen: Joannes Mevrsius 1675).
  8. Simone Sigoli, Viaggio al Monte Sinai de Simone Sigole, testo di lingua pubblicato dal Poggi in Firenze nell'anno 1829 e di nuovo messo a stampa per cura di basilio Puoti (1839).
  9. Ibn Batuta, Voyages d'Ibn Batoutah, Texte Arabe, accompagné d'une traduction, written AD 1350; eds. Charles Defrémery, Beniamino Raffaello Sanguinetti (Paris 1853).
  10. Georgius Pachymeres, Historia; ed. Jacques Paul Migne, Patrologia Graeca 143 (1865).
  11. Pius Bonifacius Gams, Series episcoporum Ecclesiae catholicae (Ratisbonae [Regensburg] 1873).
  12. Paul Edouard Didier Riant, Des dépouilles religieuses enlevées à Constantinople au XIIIe siècle (Paris 1875).
  13. Seigneur d'Anglure, Le Saint Voyage de Jherusalem, written AD c. 1396; eds. Francois Bonnardot, Auguste Longnon (Paris 1878).
  14. Wilhem von Heyd, Histoire du commerce du Levant au Moyen-Age (Leipzig 1885).
  15. Abbot Daniel, Charles William Wilson, The Pilgrimage of Abbot Daniel, ed. Charles William Wilson (London 1888).
  16. Louis De Mas Latrie, Trésor de chronologie (Paris 1889).
  17. Augustus J. Hare, Venice (London 1891).
  18. Ludolph von Suchem, Ludolph von Suchem's Description of the Holy land, and of the way Thither, written AD 1350; trans. Aubery Stewart, (London 1895).
  19. Adomnán, De Locis Sanctis, written c. 680; ed. Paul Geyer, Itinera Hierosolymitana (Vienna 1898).
  20. Vivien de Saint-Martin, Nouveau Dictionnaire de Géographie Universelle, 1900).
  21. Henry Charles Lea-Reinach, Histoire de l'Inquisition au Moyen Age, vol. 2 (Paris 1901).
  22. Henry Yule, The Book of Ser Marco Polo;, new ed Henri Cordier (London 1903).
  23. The Texts and Versions of John de Plano Caprini and William de Rubruquis, ed. Charles Raymond Beazley (London 1903).
  24. Ernest Renan, Málanges religieux et historiques (Paris 1904).
  25. Rennell Rodd, The Princes of Achaia (London 1907).
  26. John Medows Rodwell, The Koran (London 1909).
  27. Pietro Casola, The Pilgrimage of Pietro Casola, written c. 1494; ed. Mary Margaret Newett (Manchester 1907).
  28. Montague Rhodes James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford 1924).
  29. Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325–1354 written AD 1345; ed. Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb (London 1929).
  30. Emmanuel Piloti, Traité Piloti sur le Passage en Terre Sainte, written AD 1420, ed. Pierre-Herman Dopp (Louvain 1958).
  31. Niccolò da Poggibonsi, A Voyage Beyond the Seas, 1346–1350 written AD 1350; eds., Theophilus Bellorini and Eugene Hoade (Jerusalem 1994).
  32. Girolamo Golubovich, Biblioteca bio-bibliografica della Terra Santa e dell Oriente Francescano, 3 Quaracchi (1919) vii–496.
  33. Achille Patricolo, Ugo Monneret de Villard, Henri Munier, La Chiesa di Santa Barbara al Vecchio Cairo (Florence 1922).
  34. Cambridge Medieval History 4 (1923), ed. Joseph Rabson Tanner (1923).
  35. André Callebaut, 'Jean Pecham et l'Augustinisme: apercus historiques', Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 18 (1925) 441–472.
  36. Martijn Theodoor Houstma, Arent Jen Wensinck, Thomas Walker Arnold eds., Encyclopaedia de l'Islam, 2 (1927).
  37. Louis Mercier, La Chasse et les sports chez les Arabes (Paris 1927).
  38. N. Riscani, Firmani arabici (Jerusalem 1930).
  39. Alberto Magnaghi, 'Nautiche Carte', Enciclopedia Italiana 24 (1934) 323–31.
  40. Florence Edler, Glossary of Medieval Terms of Business (Cambridge, Mass 1934).
  41. Romulus Caggese 'Robert of Anjou, King of Sicily', Enciclopedia Italiana 29 (1936) 512–513.
  42. André Callebaut, Le Moyen Âge, 60 (1954) 204–210.
  43. Paul Grosjean, 'Thomas de La Hale, moine et martyr à Douvres en 1295' Analecta Bollandiana 72 (1954) 167–91.
  44. Danielle Régnier-Bohler (ed.), "Le voyage de Symon Semeonis d'Irlande en Terre sainte", In Croisades et pèlerinages: récits, chroniques et voyages en Terre sainte XIIe–XVIe siècle. 959–995 (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1997).
  45. Conn Murphy, "An Early Irish Visitor to the Island of Crete: The journey of Symon Semeonis from Ireland to the Holy Land", in Classics Ireland 10 (2003) 54–63 (online at JSTOR).
  46. M. Krasnodębska-D'Aughton 'Inflamed with seraphic ardor: Franciscan learning and spirituality in the fourteenth-century Irish pilgrimage account', Franciscan Studies 70 (2012) 283–312.
  47. M. Krasnodębska-D'Aughton, 'Relics and riches: familiarising the unknown in a fourteenth-century pilgrimage account from Ireland', in M. Boulton, J. Hawkes and M. Herman, ed., The art, literature and material culture of the medieval world. Transition, transformation and taxonomy (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2015), 111–124.
  48. M. Krasnodębska-D'Aughton , 'Simon Semeonis', in B. Leehy and S. Ryan, ed., Treasures of Irish Christianity, vol. 3 (Dublin: Veritas, 2015), 42–45.
  49. Rudolf von Framensberg [Rudolphus de Frameinsperg], Itinerarum nobilis viri Rudolphi de Frameynsperg in Palestinam ad Montem Sinai et in Aegyptum (1346). In Thesaurus Monumentorum Ecclesiasticorum et Historicorum. Vol. 4 (Antwerp 1725) 358–60.

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Semeonis, Symon (1960). Itinerarium Symonis Semeonis ab Hybernia ad Terram Sanctam‍. 1st ed. ix + 127pp. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

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  title 	 = {Itinerarium Symonis Semeonis ab Hybernia ad Terram Sanctam},
  author 	 = {Symon Semeonis},
  edition 	 = {1},
  note 	 = {ix + 127pp.},
  publisher 	 = {Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies},
  address 	 = {Dublin },
  date 	 = {1960 },
  UNKNOWN 	 = {seriesStmt}


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Creation: Latin text by Symon Semeonis; English translation by Mario Esposito

Date: 1960

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  • The text is in English. (en)
  • Some quotes from poetry and occasional short phrases are in Latin. (la)
  • A few words are in French. (fr)
  • A few words are in Italian. (it)
  • A few words are in Hebrew. (iw)
  • A few words are in Arabic. (ar)

Keywords: prose; 14c; Christianity; Pilgrimage; Europe; Middle East; Holy Land; Latin; translation

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L300002-001: The journey of Symon Semeonis from Ireland to the Holy Land (in Latin)

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  1. The Chapel of St. Thomas on London Bridge (cf. The Victoria History of London, i (1905), p. 572). 🢀

  2. In 1315 Old St. Paul's had been furnished with a timber spire covered with lead, 520 ft. in total height. 🢀

  3. In 1268 Edward (afterwards Edward I) took the cross, hoping to join the new crusade of St. Louis, but he was unable to depart until 1270, by which time St. Louis was dead and so he was able to accomplish nothing. 🢀

  4. These inscriptions were destroyed in the disastrous fire of 1834. 🢀

  5. On John Peckham, the Franciscan Archbishop of Canterbury (1279–92), see Callebaut in Arch. Franc. Hist, xviii (1925), pp. 441–72, and Le Moyen Âge, lx (1954), pp. 204–10. 🢀

  6. Symon has somewhat exaggerated the distance between Pavia and Milan which is about 25 km. This specific reference to Pavia and Milan suggests that he may have visited these towns on his return journey. 🢀

  7. St. Thomas of Dover, martyred in 1925; cf. P. Grosjean in Analecta Bollandiana, lxxii (1954), pp.167–91. 🢀

  8. The famous lance was seen by Arculf at Jerusalem about 680 (Adamnan, De Locis Sanctis, ed. P. Geyer, Itinera Hierosolymitana (Vienna, 1898), p. 235). The name of the soldier, Longinus, occurs for the first time in the Gospel of Nicodemus (fourth century), cf. M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford, 1924), p. 113, and Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina, ii (Brussels, 1901), No. 4965. The Gospel of Nicodemus was widely diffused in Symon's time in Latin and French versions. 🢀

  9. For the history of the war between Matteo Visconti, Podestà of Milan, and Robert the Good, King of Naples (1309–43) allied with Pope John XXII, see R. Caggese in Enciclopedia Italiana, xxix (Rome, 1936), pp. 512–13. Matteo died in 1322, but the war was continued for some years by his son Galeazzo. 🢀

  10. The MS. has Geun or perhaps Seun, but the locality is evidently Beaune (Belna or Belnum🢀

  11. This tragic event is narrated by Symon from information obtained on the spot. The date 3–4 March 1321, given by Symon, is not mentioned in the Pope's Letter. The prior of Montélier was accused of complicity in this murder and was arrested along with the assassins; cf. above, p. 6, and E. Arnaud in Bulletin de la Societe d'histoire vaudoise, xii (Torre Pellice, 1895), p. 26; Lea-Reinach,Histoire, ii (1901), p. 177. 🢀

  12. Symon has here made a mistake, for he must have reached Vienne before Valence. 🢀

  13. St. Mamertus was Bishop of Vienne in 474. 🢀

  14. This bridge is 800 metres in length, with twenty-six arches; it was commenced in 1265 and terminated in 1309. Symon's estimate of half a mile is fairly accurate. The medieval mile of 1,000 paces was equal to 1,485 metres. 🢀

  15. St. Louis of Toulouse (d. 1297). 🢀

  16. The legend that Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha, converted Provence and became Bishop of Marseilles dates from the eleventh or twelfth century; (cf. Gallia Christiana, i (1715), p. 631; and Bibl. Hag. Lat., No. 4802). 🢀

  17. Here again Symon has inverted the order. The itinerary was: Marseilles, Gardanne, Saint-Maximin, Brignoles, Draguignan, Grasse, Nice. Symon's confusion of Nice with Nicaea in Bithynia is surprising, for his historical allusions are, in general, accurate. 🢀

  18. Symon is here once again at fault. The Genoese Bede was Beda Junior, who died in 883 at Gavello near Rovigo, and whose body was translated to Genoa about 1230; cf. Acta Sanctorum, ed. Boll., Aprilis t. i (1675), pp. 867–73. 🢀

  19. Cf. Luc. i, 64 🢀

  20. Symon is here alluding to St. Gregory of Samos (cf. P. Riant, Des dépouilles religieuses enlevées à Constantinople au XIIIe siècle (1875), p. 204). 🢀

  21. Theodore of Amasea, martyred c. 306. The Venetians claimed to have got possession of his body c. 1267, and to have preserved it in the church which bears his name; cf. A. J. Hare, Venice, 3rd ed. (London, 1891), p. 20. 🢀

  22. A reference to the two granite columns brought from Syria and erected here in 1180; one of them bears a winged Lion of St. Mark (cf. Hare, op. cit., pp. 20, 26–27, where the story of the translation of the body of St. Mark to Venice is told). 🢀

  23. Symon's memory has failed him here. There are in reality four bronze horses glittering equally in all directions. 🢀

  24. For the Monastery of San Nicolò del Lido, cf. Hare, op. cit., pp. 200–1. 🢀

  25. Most of his relics came to Bari in 1087, the rest to Venice in 1098. 🢀

  26. The identity of this Gregory is not certain. 🢀

  27. This estimate is somewhat exaggerated. During his voyage down the coasts of Istria, Dalmatia, and Greece to Crete and Alexandria, our friar seems to have had the use of a coast-chart or portolano on which the names of the towns and islands and perhaps also rough estimates of the distances were entered, cf. below, c. 23. 🢀

  28. Symon applies the term Barbari to the Albanians (cf. also c. 17). Ragusa was subject to Venice from 1205 to 1358. 🢀

  29. The Venetian grosso or groat was worth a little less than 5d. (cf. H. Yule, The Book of Ser Marco Polo, new ed. by H. Cordier (London, 1903), ii, p. 591). 🢀

  30. For the value of this coin cf. The Pilgrimage of Pietro Casola, trans, by M. Newett (Manchester, 1907), p. 177. 🢀

  31. Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, c. 346, and patron saint of Ragusa. 🢀

  32. The term Rassia or Rascia designated the eastern part of Serbia (cf. De Mas Latrie, Trésor de chronologie (Paris, 1889), col. 1759). In 1323 the King of Rascia was Stephen Ourosch III, who reigned from 1322 to 1333 (ibid., col. 1761). 🢀

  33. John, Count of Gravina, who in 1316 became Prince of the Morea and died in 1335. He was the seventh son of Charles II, King of Sicily, Naples, and Jerusalem (1285–1309); cf. Cambridge Medieval History, iv (1923), pp. 452–3. In the Middle Ages the term Romania signified Greece (more especially the Morea), and, in general, possessions of the Greek emperors. The Greek emperor in 1323 was Andronicus II (De Mas Latrie, op. cit., col. 1758). 🢀

  34. Robert the Good, who reigned from 1309 to 1343, see above, p. 31. St. Louis of Toulouse (d. 1297) was a brother of his (cf. Golubovich, op. cit., iv (1923), p. 40). There was a governor or Count of Albania, named William, from 1318 to 1328 (De Mas Latrie, op. cit., col. 1771). 🢀

  35. Slavonia (i.e. Croatia and Dalmatia). 🢀

  36. This earthquake occurred at the beginning of March 1273. There is a vivid account of it in the Historia (v, 7 and vi, 32) of the Byzantine historian, Georgius Pachymeres (Migne, P.G. 143, cols. 806–10, 971). Pachymeres does not state the number of victims. 🢀

  37. The French coin tournois, known at Venice as tornese, was worth about three farthings. Eleven of these coins would thus be equivalent to 8d., considerably more than the grosso (5d.). For XI we should perhaps read VI (cf. above, pp. 15, 30). 🢀

  38. The correct distance is 120 miles. 🢀

  39. The distance is 140 miles. 🢀

  40. The distance is 150 miles. 🢀

  41. This citadel is identified by Rennell Rodd (Geog. J., li (1918), pp. 58–59) with the Castle of Castle of Chloumontzi or Chlemoutsi (Clairmont or Castel Tornese), on the promontory of Chelonatas. 🢀

  42. John, Count of Gravina (cf. above, p. 39 n.). On the Castle of Belvedere or Beauvoir, now Pontikokastro, between Pyrgos and Katakolo, cf. the Catalan Chronicle of Ramon Muntaner (trad. ital. di F. Moisè (Firenze, 1844), p. 588, and G. Finlay, History of Mediaeval Greece and Trebizond (Edinburgh, 1851), p. 221). 🢀

  43. The distance indicated is accurate. 🢀

  44. On the Castle of Maina, above Porto Quaglio, see Finlay, op. cit., p. 231; and Rennell Rodd, The Princes of Achaia (London, 1907), ii, p. 277. The latter (in Geog.J. li (1918), p. 59) suggests that Symon by Mayna and Compana possibly meant to designate the peninsula of Cape Matapan. 🢀

  45. On Porto Quaglio see the Chronicle of Muntaner (trad. Moisè, p. 528) and Golubovich (op. cit., iii, p. 253). V. de Saint-Martin writes (Dict, de G;eacute;ographie, art. “Porto Quaglio”): “Le nom de Porto Quaglio, le Port aux Cailles, lui vient de ce qu'il est la dernière station de ces oiseaux avant leur migration en Afrique”. 🢀

  46. After the fourth Crusade a branch of the Venetian patrician family Venier obtained the lordship of the island of Cerigo, the ancient Cythera; cf. Camb. Med. Hist, iv, pp. 421, 436, 457. For Nicolò Venier (d. 1351) see C. Hopf, Chroniques gréco-romanes (Berlin, 1873), p. 526. 🢀

  47. For this quotation from the supposed poet Theodulus, see above, p. 5. 🢀

  48. Conteryn would seem to have been some Venetian outpost named after the Doge Contarini. The distance, 260 miles from Methone or Modon, is much exaggerated. 🢀

  49. Shittim wood, the wood of the shittah-tree or acacia; cf. O.E.D. viii, p. 716. 🢀

  50. The distance is here again exaggerated. 🢀

  51. Also termed 'poma Adami'. 🢀

  52. On Cretan trade at this epoch, see the great work of W. Heyd, Histoire du commerce du Levant au Moyen-Âge, éd. française par Furcy Raynaud, i (Leipzig, 1885), pp. 99–103. 🢀

  53. This observation, repeated below (cc. 37, 48) for Alexandria and Cairo — still holds good for practically every city in the Levant. 🢀

  54. He cannot have been the Bishop of Candia who, from 1307–25, was Leonardo Falieri, neither an ex-Jew nor a Franciscan (Gams, Series episcoporum (Ratisbonae, 1873), p. 401). Presumably, as pointed out by Rev. Prof. A. Gwynn S.J., this Franciscan bishop was merely a visitor at Candia in 1323. 🢀

  55. Symon is thinking of the curse of Cain: vagus et profugus eris super terram (Gen. iv, 12). 🢀

  56. The tents of the Bedouin Arabs are mentioned below (c. 83). Here Symon is describing Gypsies (cf. above, p. 7). 🢀

  57. The locality here described appears to have been the Kampos tēs Nidas, a plateau on the slopes of Mount Ida, more than two miles in length from east to west, and watered by several springs. The chieftain Alexius, mentioned by Symon, was Alexis Kalergis who headed an insurrection against the Venetians which lasted from 1283 to 1299. Afterwards he became a staunch supporter of the Venetian government (cf. Heyd, op. cit., i, p. 471). 🢀

  58. Symon is clearly referring here to the portolani or coasting-charts in use among the sailors of the Mediterranean republics (cf. Enciclopedia Italiana, xxiv (1934), pp. 323–31, and above, p. 7). 🢀

  59. The distance is correctly given. 🢀

  60. On the art of corresponding by means of carrier-pigeons, cf. above, p. 10, and Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, Zweite Reihe, iv (1932), col. 2493. 🢀

  61. A little after midday. The day was divided into 12 hours, reckoning from sunrise to sunset. 🢀

  62. There is an interesting record of the interrogatory of Angelo of Spoleto and four other Franciscans by the Sultan's Admiral at Babylon (Old Cairo) in 1303 (cf. Golubovich, op. cit., iii, p. 70). 🢀

  63. On this term, cf. above, p. 10, and also Encyclop. Ital. xv. (1932), pp. 610–11, and F. Edler, Glossary of Medieval Terms of Business, 1934, p. 127–8. On the institution of consuls in Saracen cities, cf. Encyclop. de l'Islam, ii (1927), pp. 124, 573; Golubovich, op. cit., iii, p. 209 n. 🢀

  64. For the Catalan fondaco, cf. Golubovich, ibid., p. 74. 🢀

  65. The meaning of the Latin is here not quite clear. 🢀

  66. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Mahometan year, observed as a thirty days' fast during the hours of daylight (cf. O.E.D., viii (1914), p. 128). 🢀

  67. Apparently a corruption of kanāyis, plural of kanisah, a church, oratory. 🢀

  68. Rodwell, The Koran (1909), c. iv, 169–70, p. 429. 🢀

  69. iv, 155-6, p. 427. 🢀

  70. For this belief see William of Tripoli, c. 43, ed. Prutz, p. 594; cf. above, p. 13 n. 🢀

  71. Masīh ibn Mariam (i.e. Messias son of Mary); on the respect shown by Mahomet for Christ, cf. E. Renan, Mélanges religieux et historiques (Paris, 1904), p. 213 🢀

  72. On this term, cf. Wiistenfeld, loc. cit., p. 47 n. 🢀

  73. The Arabic Kelb is singular, dog🢀

  74. Symon probably means that when the Jews speak they emphasize the rough Semitic gutturals more than the Arabs do. 🢀

  75. The phrase Christi typum gerens means, according to Rev. Prof. A. Gwynn S.J., that the patriarch, in the middle of his priests, is like Christ at the Last Supper. 🢀

  76. Ibn Batuta visited the cemetery and lighthouse in 1326. Returning in 1349 he found the tower in ruins (Voyages, i (1853), pp. 29–30). 🢀

  77. Cf. Rodwell, The Koran, c. xvii, no, p. 173. 🢀

  78. Ibid., c. ii, 139, p. 353. 🢀

  79. Rodwell, The Koran, c. v, 8–9, p. 486; cf. also c. iv, 46, p. 416. 🢀

  80. Cf. ibid., c. xxiv, 31, p. 446. 🢀

  81. Rodwell, The Koran, c. ii, 216, p. 361. 🢀

  82. This story is not told in full in the Koran, but the two angels Harūt and Marūt are mentioned in c. ii, 96, p. 348. Mahomet appears to have adapted the tale from certain Rabbinic traditions and not from a Persian original as once believed (Rodwell, ibid.) 🢀

  83. The Mahmudiya Canal. 🢀

  84. Fua or Fouah, on the right bank of the Rosetta arm of the Nile, about 45 miles from Alexandria by the Canal, and 130 north of Cairo. 🢀

  85. For the rivers of Paradise, Gyon, Phison, Tigris, and Euphrates, cf. Beazley, op. cit., iii, pp. 194, 305. 🢀

  86. Antiquitates Judaicae, 1, i, 3. Symon made use of the Latin translation made by, or for, Cassiodorus. 🢀

  87. Thus from Alexandria to Cairo was four days' journey. 🢀

  88. For the trade in cotton and sugar, cf. Heyd, op. cit., ii, pp. 611–14 680–93. 🢀

  89. This fanciful detail is recorded by most medieval pilgrims. 🢀

  90. Musa is the Arabic mōzeh. Symon is here describing the plantain or musa paradisiaca, which is very closely allied to the banana (musa sapientum). These poma paradise are mentioned in enthusiastic terms by most western pilgrims 🢀

  91. Symon's description of the plantain is very accurate, though the likeness to a radish is hardly convincing. A writer has suggested (Geog. J., li (1918), p. 272) that the reference may be to the horse-radish🢀

  92. The ficus Pharaonis is the ficus sycomorus L. or sycomorus antiquorum, the sycomore or sycamore, a species of fig-tree common in Egypt and Syria, and having leaves somewhat resembling those of the mulberry. This fruit is called by Simone Sigoli (ed. cit., p. 176), musa o fico d'Adamo. 🢀

  93. In ancient and medieval times India and Abyssinia or Ethiopia were often confused (cf. Beazley, op. cit., iii, pp. 151, 563; and for Prester John, pp. 403, 619). 🢀

  94. Symon uses the French word cocatrix (cf. the coquatrix of d'Anglure, c. 277, ed. cit., p. 75). These crocodiles of the Nile are mentioned by most of the pilgrims who passed through Egypt (cf. Beazley, op. cit., iii, p. 404 n.). 🢀

  95. The date of this disaster which occurred at Mansurah was 5–6 April 1250. 🢀

  96. This machine, the native sakīyeh, is still in use. 🢀

  97. Cannafistula seems to designate Cassia fistula L.; the tree itself is known as Cinnamomum cassia L. (cf. Heyd, op. cit., ii, pp. 602–3); O.E.D., ii (1893), p. 151. 🢀

  98. Symon appears to be here describing the antelope or the gazelle. 🢀

  99. Equivalent to £68. 15s. For gerfalcons, see O.E.D. iv (1901), p. 129. 🢀

  100. For cowigrays see O.E.D. ii (1893), p. 1113. Cow-grass is a wild species of trefoil, Trifolium medium🢀

  101. Antonio de' Reboldi, who visited Cairo in 1330, states that the Sultan had 10,000 soldiers in his Citadel, and 14,000 stationed in the towns of Cairo and Babylon (cf. Golubovich, op. cit., iii, p. 336). 🢀

  102. According to the estimate of Ludolph von Suchem (1350) Cairo was seven times as big as Paris (Travels, English trans, by A. Stewart (London, 1895), p. 67). 🢀

  103. Ibn Batuta (ed. cit., i, p. 69) estimates the number of men who kept asses and camels for hire in Cairo in 1326 as 30,000, and the number of water-carriers with camels as 12,000. Twenty years later Niccolò da Poggibonsi (ed. cit., ii, pp. 62-63) speaks of 130,000 mules and asses and 50,000 camels. 🢀

  104. An excellent account of the trade in all these objects has been given by Heyd (op. cit., ii, pp. 611–711). 🢀

  105. Koran, trans. Rodwell, iv, 3, pp. 410-11. The text of Robert's Latin translation is here practically incomprehensible. As for the Sultan's sixty wives, Symon's “good authority” was doubtless idle gossip. 🢀

  106. This is nowhere explicitly repeated below. Rudolph of Frameinsberg (1346) gives the distance as eleven days' journey (ed. Canisius-Basnage, Thesaurus, iv, p. 360). 🢀

  107. Regnum Dannubianorum: Nubians, sometimes confused with the Abyssinian Christians. 🢀

  108. Midan, field, arena. This locality does not seem to be specifically indicated elsewhere. 🢀

  109. For the nakara, nakkārah, cf. Yule-Cordier, Marco Polo, i, p. 339; Beazley, op. cit., iii, p. 283 n. 🢀

  110. This is a spirited description of the Sultan's game of polo. A somewhat similar game was played by the Byzantines (cf. Finlay, op. cit., 1851, p. 391; Louis Mercier La Chasse et les sports chez les Arabes, Paris, 1927). 🢀

  111. Cf. Virgil, Aen. vii, 497: Ascanius curvo direxit spicula cornu🢀

  112. For the old Roman fortress reconstructed by the Saracens, cf. Encyclop. de l'Islam, i (1913), pp. 836–45. 🢀

  113. Cf. Cant, i, 13. Materia or Mataria (the Arabic el-Matariyeh) is a small village north-east of Cairo, where formerly there was to be seen a famous sycamore tree venerated as that beneath which the members of the Holy Family were believed to have rested on their flight from Egypt. 🢀

  114. Watercress, still called nasturtium aquaticum🢀

  115. The story of this miraculous spring and of the balsam is found in an Egyptian interpolation, not earlier than the twelfth century, in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy (c. 24, cf. M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford, 1924), p. 81). The Well of the Virgin is still shown to tourists who visit Mataria. 🢀

  116. Most of the western pilgrims who passed through Egypt have left accounts of the Sultan's wonderful balsam-garden. 🢀

  117. The meaning of culcitra is cushion, pillow, bed. Symon here uses it by mistake for culter or cultellus, which means a knife. 🢀

  118. An account of the trade in this balsam and of the method employed for collecting it may be seen in Heyd (op. cit., ii, pp. 575–80). The use of iron or steel was believed to injure the balsam. 🢀

  119. Symon is alluding here to the obelisk now standing in front of St. Peter's. It is evident that he visited Rome on his return journey. 🢀

  120. Elephants are mentioned in the Book of Maccabees, 1, vi, 30; viii, 6; 11, xi, 4; xiii, 5. 🢀

  121. The island of Rōda opposite Babylon (Old Cairo or al-Fustāt), where according to Arab tradition Pharaoh's daughter found Moses. It contains the famous Nilometer. The Sultan's fortress was joined to the island by a bridge (cf. Encyclop. de l'Islam, i (1913), pp. 560–1, 836, 840–1). 🢀

  122. Cf. p. 16, and Studies, iii, p. 667. 🢀

  123. A description of this cemetery is given by Ibn Batuta (ed. cit., i, pp. 74–76). 🢀

  124. For this famous church see Golubovich, op. cit., iii, p. 271. Symon writes de la Cave in French, but below (c. 67) de la Scala in Italian. 🢀

  125. A twelfth-century Egyptian interpolation into the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy (c. 25), cf. James, The Apocryphal New Testament (1924), p. 81, states that the Holy Family lived for three years at Cairo and saw Pharaoh. Various traditions seem to have been current at Cairo in Symon's time among the Christians there. In 1330 Antonio de' Reboldi (ed. cit., p. 336) tells us that the Holy Virgin remained for eight years in this church, or secundum quosdam vero tantum una nocte🢀

  126. For the Monastery of St. Macarius and the Church of St. Martin, see Golubovich, op. cit., iii, pp. 272–3. 🢀

  127. In 1330 Antonio de' Reboldi (ed. cit., p. 337) found this church open and was able to touch and kiss the body of St. Barbara (see further A. Patricolo e V. Monneret de Villard, La Chiesa di Santa Barbara al Vecchio Cairo, Firenze, 1922). 🢀

  128. Casola (ed. cit., p. 202) mentions that he saw at Candia “Greek priests whom they called calogeri”; see also Golubovich, op. cit., iii, p. 68. 🢀

  129. Cf. above, p. 87 n. 🢀

  130. The distance from Babylon to Mount Sinai is 480km. 🢀

  131. These incubators for chickens aroused no small amount of interest among Western visitors to Cairo and Alexandria; cf. Boldensel, ed. cit., p. 342; Ludolph von Suchem, trans. Stewart, 1895, p. 67, and Niccolò de' Martoni (1394) ap. Sarton, op. cit., iii (1948), p. 1596; Piloti, ed. Dopp, Louvain, 1958, pp. 95–97. 🢀

  132. The chapel in Cairo here alluded to is not referred to in the account of that city (above, cc. 48–59). I cannot discover any mention of a place called Gazani in Babylon or Old Cairo; but Symon, as elsewhere, is very probably accurate. 🢀

  133. The Koran, trans. Rodwell, lxii, 9, p. 374. 🢀

  134. The Koran, xlvii, 4, 5, p. 382, and viii, 15, 16, p. 376. By “Arabs” Symon means here the nomadic desert tribes; cf. below, cc. 82–84. 🢀

  135. The date is given (c. 81) as 1 December. In c. 77 Symon mentions three boys — two of his own party and one stranger — but in c. 85 one only, named John, whom he calls “my boy”. 🢀

  136. According to Antonio de' Reboldi (ed. cit., iii, p. 336) the Sultan hunted with a retinue of 40,000 men; cf. Sigoli, p. 204. 🢀

  137. The meaning is not quite clear. 🢀

  138. Here Symon falls into the usual medieval Christian error. The tomb of Mahomet is at Medina (cf. Beazley, op. cit., iii. pp. 201 n., 375, 396). 🢀

  139. Perhaps on the return journey. 🢀

  140. The Arabic kharrūba, the carob-tree or locust-tree, Ceratonia silique I. 🢀

  141. Belbeis (Belbes), thirty-five miles north-east of Cairo. 🢀

  142. For these details, cf. what is said by an anonymous English pilgrim in 1345 (Golubovich, op. cit., iv, p. 451). 🢀

  143. Or Es-Salihieh, thirty-seven miles north-east of Belbeis. For these two localities cf. Ibn Batuta, ed. cit., i, p. 111. 🢀

  144. The reading of the MS. is perfectly clear. Geles is perhaps the French geline, gelinotte, chicken; cf. Piloti, ed. Dopp, Louvain, 1958, p. 272. 🢀

  145. About fifty miles north-east of Es-Salahieh. 🢀

  146. Symon has, of course, blundered here. It was not the route from Ethiopia, but that to and from Syria that was blocked at Katîyeh. Ibn Batuta (ed. cit., i, p. 113) describes the guards as smoothing the sand with their hands! 🢀

  147. Symon is apparently referring here to the jackal, but he gives no name to the animal. The classical word, thos, does not appear to have been in use during the Middle Ages. 🢀

  148. About 6 ft. The palm (palmus, rarely palma) was about 8 to 10 inches. 🢀

  149. On these three holes, see C. W. Wilson, The Pilgrimage of Abbot Daniel (London, 1888), p. 91. 🢀

  150. Cf. above, cc. 66, 92. 🢀

  151. The animated scenes to which this event gives rise have been described by many modern travellers. 🢀

  152. Symon here refers to the piazza of the Holy Cross, which is also described by the anonymous English pilgrim in 1345 (Golubovich, op. cit., iv, p. 451). 🢀

  153. Mark xvi, 3. 🢀

  154. Cf. above, p. 21. 🢀

  155. The Mosque of Omar, cf. above, p. 21. 🢀


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