The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the Old City of Jerusalem is one of the most important resources for understanding the religious history of the Holy Land: in the Patriarchal Library are gathered the ancient manuscript treasures of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and several other monasteries in the region.
The Library’s main holdings comprise the Greek manuscripts previously held at Mar Saba near Bethlehem and the unique Greek and Georgian manuscript holdings of the Monastery of the Holy Cross (a Georgian foundation which is now a Greek house) in west Jerusalem.
In my work tracing the manuscripts held at the now-vanished medieval Franciscan monastery at Mount Zion, I had wondered if any pilgrims’ books might have found their way to a Greek monastery in the region. I was thus intrigued to find that amongst the Patriarchal Library’s holdings – which are overwhelmingly Greek and Georgian in origin – there is one Latin manuscript: MS Taphou 27.
Thanks to the assistance of Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, I was recently able to examine MS Taphou 27, to see if the book could be more securely associated with its medieval owners. What follows is very much a preliminary account of the manuscript, a starting-point for plotting the biography of a manuscript that seems to be ‘out of place’.
Taphou 27 is a copy of Eutropius, a Classical chronicle dealing with Roman history. It was a very widely-read work, in both humanist circles and as a school text-book. Taphou 27 dates from the later fifteenth century, and includes some exceptionally beautiful illustrations and fine decorated lettering. The manuscript was almost certainly made in Italy, perhaps in Milan or Naples. It has a post-medieval binding, apparently British of c. 1800, and some of the book’s folios have been clipped.
There are a few clues in the book about its history and its journey from Italy to Jerusalem and the Greek Patriarchate. First, on the book’s first folio, are two Greek inscriptions, in different hands. The first, hard to decipher, suggests that the book was at Constantinople, at the Metochion of the Holy Sepulchre, by the year 1677. The second says that the book comes from “the belongings of Panayotis…which are useful to him” – it’s not clear exactly who or what this refers to. Over the coming months I hope to explore the possible meanings of these inscriptions with members of the Pilgrim Libraries project who are more familiar with Greek materials.
As Christopher Wright has shown, the manuscript was part of a large number of ancient books that were taken from the Ottoman empire to England, c. 1801, by Joseph Dacre Carlyle, Professor of Arabic at Cambridge, via the British embassy in Constantinople. Carlyle certainly took at least six books from Mar Saba, as a surviving receipt shows (now The National Archives, FO 78/81, f. 56r), and a number of manuscripts from the Metochion, lent by the Patriarch of Jerusalem Anthimos, who at that time resided in Constantinople. The manuscript passed to Carlyle’s sister Maria in 1804, and she retained it as a memento, having given the bulk of her brother’s collection to Lambeth Palace Library. The manuscript was returned by Maria Carlyle to the Greek Patriarchate around 1813, via the Patriarch Polycarpus. A Greek note on the front of MS Taphou 27 confirms the return of the book from England.
An important though previously overlooked aspect of MS Taphou 27 is that it contains the name of its scribe. On f. 138v, the final folio of the text, the scribe has written in his beautiful humanistic hand
I A C O B U S Laurentianus scripsit.
This Iacobus Laurentianus was the scribe of the whole volume. Laurentianus is by no means an unknown scribe: on the contrary, he was evidently a prestigious and highly-productive scribe in late fifteenth-century Italy, his work including commissions for the Aragonese court in Naples and the Sforza family in Milan. My preliminary research shows that a group of surviving Laurentianus manuscripts can be traced, now in collections around the world (given in a working hand-list below).
MS Taphou 27 can therefore be added to the known works written by Jacobus Laurentianus. It is not clear from the book however if it was written to commission – in my inspection of the book, I did not see any heraldic devices or similar evidence that would point to a medieval patron. As W. S. Monroe has shown, Laurentianus’ manuscripts were sometimes copied from printed texts, and MS Taphou 27 was likely copied from the printed edition of Eutropius (Rome, 1471); Laurentianus copied another manuscript of this text, now in the Escorial in Madrid.
This still doesn’t get us any closer to establishing how the book got from Italy to the Middle East, although the Greek inscriptions suggest that it was there by the mid-seventeenth century. The library of the Dukes of Aragon, based at Naples, shows that it held three books by Jacobus Laurentianus, including the copy of Eutropius, now in the Escorial, dedicated to Ferdinand/Ferrando of Aragon and, as Tammaro de Marinis shows, written at some point between 1471 and 1480. The Jerusalem manuscript is therefore almost certainly closely connected to this prestigious commission, although as I have not yet inspected the Escorial manuscript I cannot be sure of the relationship between the two. The Aragonese library at Naples was broken up in the later fifteenth century.
I am not at present in a position to make any firmer or larger conclusions about the book’s history but it is clear that Taphou 27 presents an intriguing piece of evidence in our attempts to understand the movement of books in the late medieval and early modern Eastern Mediterranean.
A provisional hand-list of manuscripts written by the scribe Jacobus Laurentianus
Florence, Biblioteca Marucelliana MS ACB.IX.83
Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana MS 1569.s.15 (“Iacobus de s. Laurentio”)
Jerusalem, Greek Orthodox Patriarchal Library MS Taphou 27
Madrid, Escorial MS H.II.2; produced for the Aragonese court at Naples
Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli MS XI.AA.51
Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli MS XIII.C.76
I would like to thank the following for the help in drafting this blogpost: William S. Monroe, Marina Tompouri, Kostya Tsolakis, Nickiphoros Tsougarakis, and Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, Elder Secretary-General of the Greek Patriarchate, Jerusalem.
Pilgrims vs Venetians: a history of hidden truths. The inspections of the galleys and the “visits” to the Arsenal.
Since the thirteenth century, each pilgrim who departed from Venice towards the Holy Land was involved in that social and economic process seen by Venetians as the “normal administration” of business. The transportation of pilgrims, initially treated as an occasional form of income linked to Mediterranean trade, became a permanent activity after its official regulation by the Doge Jacopo Tiepolo in 1233. From that moment onwards, the Venetian government needed to organize pilgrims’ arrivals and departures according to official laws as well as to handle unexpected problems such as the curiosity of pilgrims not only towards the “religious side” of Venice, but also towards its naval industry.
Because of the length of the journey and the dangers of the sea-crossing from Venice, pilgrims often raised concerns about the construction of the galleys, their safety and the sailing experience of the crew, asking to check the means of transport with their own eyes. For that reason, the Venetian government formalised a double inspection of the galleys intended for the Holy Land. Indeed, by the end of the fourteenth century pilgrims were authorised by the Venetian senate to inspect the allocated pilgrims’ galleys and choose the one they retained as “trustable” not only according to the physical appearance of the vessel, but also to the condition of travel offered by the Venetian patron (e.g. route followed, number of meals on board etc.). Prior to this inspection, officials of the Venetian government checked that each galley was bona et sufficientia pro peregrinis. Nevertheless, the legislation does not specify whether the Arsenal was considered as the location where the inspections were to be carried out and, in this regard, no information is given about the authorisation of pilgrims to visit the Arsenal either as part of a touristic visit, or as part of the galleys’ inspection process. However, some of the most famous fifteenth-century pilgrims such as William Wey, Bernard von Breydenbach and Pietro Casola stated they were able to visit the Arsenal. In fact, this was only partially true. Indeed, while the entire Venetian lagoon ran into open waters, the Venetian Arsenal was the only part of the city protected by walls and military personnel.
During the Middle Ages, it was considered the heart of the Venetian military industry and commercial sea power; guided visits within were usually strictly forbidden, and granted, with permission, only to illustrious and trustworthy personages. Furthermore, due to a huge expansion of the Arsenal in the late fifteenth century, Venetians became even more protective of their “construction secrets” and the government did not trust even its own merchants and craftsmen. As proof of this distrust, at the end of fifteenth century the Senate enacted different laws to avoid the construction of “foreign Arsenals” even in places under the same Venetian control such as Candia or Cyprus. The legislation was addressed to those families of merchant and Arsenal workers who went in terre et luoghi alieni per guadagnare […] a grandissimo danno della signoria nostra (in foreign places to make money to the detriment of Venice). The punishment for revealing the Arsenal’s secrets or for construction of vessels out of Venice was banishment from the city and a fine of 500 ducats. Therefore, due to these restrictions, visits to the Arsenal were rare for common pilgrims who were likely authorised to explore only the zone just beyond the Arsenal’ s monumental “land door” that operated the passage of people and vessels since the mid-fifteenth century (Fig. 1).
It is likely that the Venetians, in order to satisfy the curiosity and needs of pilgrims, organised the inspections of the galleys as well as “visits” to certain more accessible areas of the Arsenal. For instance, the English pilgrim William Wey wrote, “In the city they have a large area where they build the galleys to defend our Faith. I saw eighty galleys there, either completed or still under construction. Below that place, they have huge buildings for stores of all types. These are full of the various kind of equipment needed to defend our Faith”. William Wey’s description gives the idea of a panoramic tour of the Arsenal rather than a detailed visit of the various pavilions. Similarly, Pietro Casola, who gave a more precise description of his visit, described seeing in the Arsenal “three large sheds […] where the galleys are placed all together” and “a great crowd of masters and workmen who do nothing but build galleys or other ships of every kind”.
Vague descriptions of the Arsenal in such fifteenth-century narratives confirm that what pilgrims described as “visits” were actually basic tours of the “less military” Arsenal’s areas, probably the ones with the production warehouses and disposition of the galleys scheduled for departures. This emerges clearly from the description made by Breydenbach, who states that he experienced in the Arsenal “the power and circumspection of Venice” conveying to his readers that despite being allowed to witness a measure of its inner working, Venetians were too prudent to reveal their military secrets to foreigners such himself. Indeed, until now, the Arsenal’s military zone remains a separate, inaccessibile and patrolled area despite its proximity to the public area (Fig. 3-4).
Blog-post author, Dr Merav Mack, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, IL.
Some reflections following a visit in December 2016 to the exhibition “Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA (26 September 2016– 8 January 2017).
“What is Jerusalem? Or where is Jerusalem?” are the opening words of art critic Jason Farago when reviewing the exhibition: “The real city and its eternal image bleed into each other“ he explains. Suitably, he entitled his article Jerusalem Rebuilt in New York’s Green and Pleasant Land.
The exhibition is overwhelming in its scale and achievement, a project that takes place once in a life time. Over a period of several years the curators painstakingly selected and assembled in New York a great number of items, borrowed from all Jerusalem’s communities, and thus telling a story of cultural richness; a history of multiple narratives, told from as many angles as possible.
When I entered the exhibition hall I found the iconic images of Jerusalem displayed all around. Photographs of the Dome of the Rock projected on great screens. There were no modern maps to guide the visitors to the city or its various parts. I couldn’t help thinking that this was intentional as the subject of the exhibition was not just the physical city but its image.
The thousand-year-old question resurfaces; what matters more, Earthly Jerusalem or Heavenly Jerusalem. The eschatological city of the end of days and the temporal city are blurred in the Jerusalem Exhibition. While the city is represented with numerous archaeological artefacts, books, maps and images, many are fantastic and have little to do with the real city.
As I walked through the exhibition I wondered how many thousands of people made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem through the Met in New York City. Complementing our discussions in London I thought that a visit to the museum’s exhibition is a little bit like the medieval, arm-chair pilgrimage.
The first room of the exhibition was dedicated almost exactly to our subject, the travellers to Jerusalem: “The Pulse of Trade and Tourism”. The focus of the room instead of crusade, repentance, pilgrimage or devotion was merchants’ travels, their monies, commodities and souvenirs, as well as a few maps and charts. A recently discovered hoard of golden coins from Caesarea stood right the entrance.
Matthew Paris, Marino Sanudo and William of Tyre are the three wonderful manuscripts selected for this room, as well as a traveller map in Arabic, with no distinction between real travellers and armchair ones (e.g. Matthew Paris). In another room I found the beautiful bird’s eye-view of Jerusalem by Bernhard von Breydenbach (The Metropolitan Museum, 19.49.3), next to a Muslim pilgrimage certificate from the year 1433, combining Persian inscriptions and iconographical representation of the holy sites. A beautiful pictorial circular maps of Jerusalem was included – this copy from the Hague manuscript of the Gesta Francorum is probably the most famous among them.
In the catalogue (but sadly not at the exhibition) was the image from Liber peregrinationis by Riccoldo da Monte Croce (BNF MS Fr. 2810) of pilgrims at the (imagined) Holy Sepulchre.
The catalogue’s articles, like the exhibition, focused primarily on souvenirs and relics, tourist experience and the material aspect of their journey – specifically on items the travellers brought back home. The question of what knowledge pilgrims brought with them (in the form of books, drawings or maps), what libraries they encountered along the way and what they acquired in the East remain for us to explore.
The second hall focused on The Diversity of Peoples and included a large number of manuscripts, “a little unusual for a Met exhibition”, remarked one critic. Visitors queued to look and study the manuscripts carefully. I found this room particularly inspiring.
The emphasis of this hall (and the exhibition as a whole) is the richness of Jerusalem’s population, its languages and traditions. Here I found manuscripts that learned travellers could have found in medieval Jerusalem at one point or another (if allowed into the monasteries were they were kept, and if indeed they possessed knowledge of the locally spoken and written languages).
Karaites and Rabbinical Jewish manuscripts, Samaritan, Georgian, Syriac, Greek and Arabic, alongside manuscripts in Ge’ez and Armenian. Copies of the Gospels and the Qur’an were included as well as non-religious texts.
Let me conclude by listing these items, which may be of particular interest to visitors to this blog.
Georgian Menologion – written by the founder of the Holy Cross George Prokhorus 1038-1040 at the monastery of the Holy Cross. Before founding the monastery he was a monk at the Great Laura of Mar Saba. (Bodleian Library).
Four Gospels from Mar Saba (Princeton).
Syriac Breviary from St Mary Magdalene & St Simon the Pharisee, 1138 Jerusalem.
Armenian canon tables written after 1187 with a scribe’s note of his sadness of the fall of J-m to Saladin and prayer for its recovery. (Walters Art Museum).
Latin and mixed communities
Missal of the Holy Sepulchre ca. 1135-1140 (BNF, Paris), with a mixture of Latin and Armenian pagination, demonstrating cooperation between a Frankish calligrapher and an Armenian-speaking illuminator.
Karaite and Rabbinical manuscripts in Jerusalem before the crusades
After the bloody conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 Jewish survivors were ransomed and exiled to Ascalon then Cairo (Fustat). Manuscripts were ransomed too, including the famous Aleppo Codex.
A page from the Aleppo Codex.
Daniel al-Qumisi, Commentary on Psalms (late 9th, early 10th century). JTS New York. Cat. 36a, p. 94. Hebrew.
Abraham al-Basir – Responsa, 11th century. Arabic. JTS (MS 3448).
Yefet ben ‘Ali translation and commentary (10th century). A prolific writer, translator (Hebrew to Arabic) and biblical commentator, his manuscripts were copied numerous times.
Jewish travelers in the Middle Ages
Maimonides Plan of the Temple (Bodleian, MS Poc. 295).
Letter requesting funds to ransom captives (JTS MS 8254).
Yehuda Halevi (JTS).
Al-Ghazali’s Ihya (Revival of the Islamic Sciences) from the museum of Islamic art in Doha (this copy was not copied in Jm). Cat. No. 43, p. 100.
Al-Busiri’s Qasidat al-Burda (Ode to the Mantle) copied in Jerusalem by a Persian calligrapher Muhammad al-Fruzabadi al-Shirazi in 1361. He lived and taught in Jeruusalem between 1358 and 1368. (NLI Yah. Ar. 784).
A few copies of the Qur’an were included in the exhibition. One by Muhammad ibn al-Bulaybil al-Hijazi was copied in Jerusalem in 1390 (British Library).
Nur al-Din’s qur’an: a beautiful copy whose pages can found in various museums. The Met had 2 pages from Dallas (Dallas Museum of Art – ex. Keir collection VII 3 and 4).
Professor Anthony Bale shared a strong vision for our joint project on Medieval Pilgrims Libraries when we met in London December 9-10, 2016. We’re all grateful for his leadership and helpful push in new directions and especially for bringing together researchers from such diverse fields. Here are some reflections based on our initial conversations.
Many medieval pilgrims belonged to lively lectoral communities. They carried their libraries with them on their way to Jerusalem, Rome or Santiago even when there were no books at hand. Memories of books read before leaving home were fondly rehearsed aloud among bands of sacred sojourners, texts that scripted the experience even while walking and sailing to distant shores. Some deliberately bade farewell to their books for a while as a personal discipline or as part of the acetic rigor of the trip, somewhat like foregoing bathing or haircuts. At opportune stops along the way they may have read or listened to the recitations of unfamiliar writings, purchased souvenir texts, or either made or commissioned copies of admired works to take home. Not a few pilgrims eventually composed their own travelogues as itineraries, diaries and guidebooks for subsequent travelers.
Complementing those who enjoyed full agency as readers – the ones who were personally literate – almost all pilgrims participated in ever rotating communities of secondary literacy. Many who could not read for themselves because of lack of education or failing eyesight listened to texts being read aloud and participated in their interpretation. Throughout Antiquity and the Middle Ages almost all reading was done aloud and routinely by young adults whose eyes were better suited for the task. Pilgrims probably carried few books with them and in any case one literate reader among any given travelers’ band would be enough.
Most importantly there was the internal library shared equally among the literate and illiterate, the vast oral stream they all grew up with. Medieval sojourners carried a rich imaginary of their journey spun out of their memory hoard stocked by prior reading plus all their accustomed folk genres as they moved through their newly fluid discursive landscape. Some of their more pious texts they accessed “from within”: a common stock of Latin prayers and rituals, hymnody in Latin reliably re-encountered at hosting institutions, and vernacular devotional songs learned by heart back home and happily belted out along the trail or on arrival. To lift their spirits and anticipate possible spiritual adventures there was the reverent recounting of hagiography and miracle stories associated with the shrine sites they visited.
On the secular side were ballads and ordinary walking songs, and epic stories in prose or verse. Some medieval travelers had their recollections of itineraries or topographical plans, but even without them all had mental maps that constituted a “consensus cartography” that fused sites and anticipated encounters. When their accounts of physical geography seem defective, they are probably reporting a traveler’s topography of significance and holiness.
Much of their remaining common oral culture was plainly utilitarian: medical knowledge and techniques (as distinct from miraculous cures), guesstimates of diverse monetary exchange, knowledge of equivalents for local weights and measures, calculation of distances, seasons, climate, and folk tales and games to pass the time. Any of these could end up in written records but the bulk of it churned through the living oral stream, the cultural “soup” everyone swims in without recognizing one’s conceptual environment always known from within.
The accounts that most attract our attention now – what pilgrims who made it home again wrote down and left unsystematically among family papers and local archives – are their own compositions in the form of itineraries and daybooks. Most are middle brow, repetitive in their sequence of places and sights, and doggedly anonymous. This is probably not because generally poor writers took up the task. It would have been hard to actually compose anything serious while traveling in the Middle Ages. Toting reliable supplies of ink, quills and parchment or paper – much less wax tablets – is pretty much ruled out by the tiny satchels shown in most contemporary painting and sculpture.
Medieval travel accounts were likely put together after a return to a writerly environment and perhaps before the pilgrim company disbanded. For pilgrims returning from Jerusalem, the logic site would be on disembarking at Venice. A troop which had shared the journey could share the reminiscing and the most able scribe among them could stitch together what each individual agreed was true. That would help explain the depersonalized and often pedestrian accounts that come down to us. The stationers’ shops in Venice could also supply enough raw materials to make multiple copies for as many of the companions who wanted a set of reliable notes to embellish orally for family, friends and fellow parishioners. Producing a “corporate report” from a whole group of travelers usually makes for dull reading but would lend a certain weight and credence to the narrative.
Bands returning from Jerusalem enjoyed the advantage of a fairly stable party from start to finish, or at least from departure from Venice until their return there. Venice would have also marked a psychological “homecoming” even if individuals had started out from more distant parts of Christendom, and no other pilgrim node along the thousands of sacred routes in medieval Europe provided the same urban nexus of launch point, site of return and time to linger. There are points of convergence along the trails to Santiago (Ostabat and St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the eastern slopes of French Pyrenees) and to Rome (certain Alpine passes on the descent into Italy) but none in an urban center that invited potential writers to linger and compose. Of course, Rome was the most heavenly and best provisioned writers’ environment of all, but writers in residence on the Tiber did not routinely overlap with visiting pilgrims and they produce different sorts of works.
All these factors would have favored greater numbers of travelogues about the Holy Land, somewhat less so for Rome and relatively few for Santiago and other pilgrim shrines, and extant archival witnesses seem to corroborate this scenario.
Herbers, Klaus. “Peregrinaciones a Roma, Santiago y Jerusalén.” El mundo de las peregrinaciones. Roma, Santiago, Jerusalén. Ed. Paolo Caucci von Sauken. Barcelona/Madrid, 1999. 103-34. Subsection on “Relatos de los peregrinos en el medievo tardío,” 128-34]
Herbers, Klaus, y Robert Plötz. Caminaron a Santiago. Relatos de peregrinaciones al »fin del mundo«. Santiago de Compostela: Xunta de Galicia, 1998.
Howard, Donald R. Writers and Pilgrims. Medieval Pilgrimage Narratives and Their Posterity. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1980.
Plötz, Robert. “Santiago de Compostela en la literatura odepórica.” Santiago de Compostela: ciudad y peregrino. Actas del V Congreso Internacional de Estudios Xacobeos. Eds. María A, Antón Vilasánchez; José Luis Tato Castiñeira. Santiago de Compostela: Xunta de Galicia, 2000. 33-99. [on mapmaking and the concept of space]
Reynolds, Roger E. “A Precious Ancient Souvenir Given to the First Pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela.” Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture 4.3 (Spring, 2014): 1-30.
Stones, Alison. “Medieval Pilgrimage Writing and its Manuscript Sources.” Encyclopedia of Medieval Pilgrimage, ed. L.J. Taylor, et al. Leiden: Brill, 395-413. [see bibliography 411-12 for list of travel narratives]
Stones, Alison, & Jeanne Krochalis. “Qui a lu le Guide du pèlerin ?” Pèlerinages et croisades. Ed. L. Pressouyre. Paris: CTHS, 1995. 11-36.
Linguistic anthropologists working in Chiapas, Mexico have observed how leaders of base Christian communities (comunidades de base) could be illiterate yet function as the most insightful and trusted commentators of scriptural and inspirational texts. (As reported by Vincent Barletta, now at Stanford, from field work in the 1990s during doctoral studies at UCLA. Personal communication.)
The phrase was coined by Mary Carruthers in her classic The Book of Memory. A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge, 1990).
The “Pilgrims Guide” in the Codex Calixtinus describes how various nationalities, clustered together in their respective corners of the tribune level of the cathedral in Santiago, would loudly compete as they sang hymns in their native tongues.
The earliest and one of the most intriguing prose epics about the adventures of Charlemagne and Roland in Spain is consecrated in the “Historia Turpini” of the Codex Calixtinus, the twelfth-century master compilation on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The connection to Charlemagne’s supposed devotion to St. James and the saint’s instructions to have the French secure the pilgrimage route against the Muslim foe is tenuous in the narrative, entirely fictional in terms of history.
Folk tales contain many stories about the intervention of saints on behalf of their devotees. A version of hopscotch became the pilgrim game of Juego de la Oca or Goose’s Game, a modern version of which has been laid in the paving outside the church of Santiago the Elder in Logroño along the main route to Compostela.
Anxiously sincere personal narratives of travel along the Camino de Santiago have repopulated this genre in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, most of them just as artless as their medieval forerunners if more heartfelt.