English translation by Denis Meehan
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Created: Written by Adamnan, ninth abbot of Iona (679704) possibly in the summer of 686 (estimated by Meehan) when the Columban monastery at Iona received a bishop from Gaul called Arculf who had travelled extensively in Palestine and the Holy Land. Adamnan wrote an account of Arculf's journey to the Holy Land; the account is divided into three books. (686)
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p.37IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, SON, AND HOLY GHOST, I BEGIN TO WRITE A BOOK CONCERNING THE HOLY PLACES:
THE CHAPTERS OF THE SECOND BOOK FOLLOW FROM HERE
THE CHAPTERS OF THE THIRD BOOK
I now propose to write a little of what the holy Arculf told me concerning
5] the site of Jerusalem, omitting the matter that is contained in the books of others about the position of that city. In the great compass of its walls Arculf counted eighty-four towers and six gates, their order in the circuit of the city being thus. The gate of David at the west side of Mount Sion is the first, the second the gate of the fuller's house, the
10] third the gate of the holy Stephen, the fourth the gate of Benjamin: the fifth is a portula (a little gate, that is) from which steps lead down to the valley of Josaphat, and the sixth is the gate of Tecua. That is the order then when you make the circuit from the above-mentioned gate of David, northwards and then eastwards, through the spaces between the various
15] gates and towers. But though the number of gates in the walls is six, nevertheless of these, (three) entrances are in common use, one on the west side, the second on the north, the third on the east. That portion of the walls then, with towers at intervals, which extends from the gate of David described above, over the northern summit of mount Sion
20] (which dominates the city from the south), as far as that side of the mountain where a cliff looks out eastwards, is certainly without gates.
This item too which the holy Arculf related to us concerning the special
honour in Christ of this city ought not, it seems, to be passed over. On
the twelfth day of the month of September, he says, there is an annual
25] custom whereby a huge concourse of people from various nations everywhere is wont to come together in Jerusalem to do business by mutual buying and selling. Consequently it happens inevitably that crowds of different peoples are lodged in this hospitable city for some days. Owing to the very great number of their camels, horses, asses, and oxen, all
30] carriers of divers merchandise, filth from their discharges spreads everywhere throughout the city streets, the stench proving no little annoyance to the citizens, and walking being impeded. Wonderful to relate, on the night of the day on which the said bands depart with their various beasts of burden, there is released from the clouds an immense downpour of
35] rain, which descends on the city, and renders it clean of dirt by purging away all the abominable filth from the streets. For the site itself of Jerusalem is so arranged by God, its founder, on a gentle incline, falling
p.43away from the northern summit of mount Sion to the low-lying regions at the northern and eastern walls, that this great flood of rain cannot by any means lie stagnant on the streets, but flows like torrents from the higher regions to the low-lying. The flood of heavenly waters, then, pouring through the eastern gates, and bearing all the filth and nuisance
However, in the celebrated place where once the temple (situated
15] towards the east near the wall) arose in its magnificence, the Saracens now have a quadrangular prayer house. They built it roughly by erecting upright boards and great beams on some ruined remains. The building, it is said, can accommodate three thousand people at once.
Arculf then, when we questioned him about the dwellings of the city
itself, said in reply: I recall seeing and visiting many buildings in the
25] city, and often studying several great stone mansions built with wondrous skill throughout the whole great city within the surrounding walls. But I think we must now pass over all these, except for those structures which have been wondrously raised in the holy places, the places that is of the cross and resurrection. We questioned the holy Arculf carefully concerning
30] these, especially concerning the sepulchre of the Lord and the church built over it, the shape of which Arculf himself depicted for me on a waxed tablet.
Well, this extremely large church, all of stone, and shaped to wondrous
roundness on every side, rises up from its foundations in three walls.
35] Between each two walls there is a broad passage, and three altars too are in three skilfully constructed places of the centre wall. Twelve stone
p.45columns of wondrous magnitude support this round and lofty church, where are the altars mentioned, one looking south, the second north, the third towards the west. There are two fourfold portals ([four] entrances that is), which cut across the three solid walls facing one another with
Centrally placed in the interior of this round building is a round domed
structure, carved out of one and the same rock, in which it is possible
for thrice three men to pray standing, and from the top of a fairly tall
10] man's head, when standing, to the roof of the domed structure there is a space measuring a foot and a half. The entrance of this domed structure faces east. Outside, it is completely covered with choice marble, and its summit, adorned on the outside with gold, supports a fairly large golden cross. The sepulchre of the Lord is in the northern part of the domed
15] structure, carved out of one and the same rock, but the floor of the domed covering is lower than the place of the sepulchre. For from its floor to the side-edge of the sepulchre one can perceive a space of about three hands' height. Arculf, who used often to visit the sepulchre of the Lord, and made the measurement, told me this definitely.
At this juncture, one should note the propriety, or rather the discrepancy
of nomenclature, as between monumentum and sepulchrum. That
round domed structure that has been often mentioned above, the
evangelists call by another name, monumentum, to the door of which
they state the stone was rolled and rolled away from its door when the
25] Lord arose. The sepulchrum properly so called is the place inside the domed structure, in the northern portion of the monumentum that is, in which was laid the body of the Lord, wrapped in linen cloths. The length of this, as Arculf measured it with his own hand, made seven feet. The sepulchrum then is not, as some people wrongly think, a double
30] structure, with a kind of border cut out of the rock itself to separate and divide the two legs and the two thighs: it is undivided from head to foot, providing a pallet large enough for one man lying on his back. It is in the shape of a cave, with the entrance on the side, directly facing the southern portion of the monumentum, and with a low, man-made vault
p.47rising above. Now in this sepulchrum, according to the number of the twelve holy apostles, twelve burning lamps shine always day and night. Four of them are placed low down at the bottom of the sepulchral bed: the other eight are placed higher up above the margin towards the righthand
It seems noteworthy moreover that the mausoleum of the Saviour,
the domed structure that has often been mentioned above, might correctly
be called a cavern or cave; and doubtless the prophet prophesies
concerning the burial of the Lord Jesus Christ in it when he says he
10] shall dwell in a high cave of the strongest rock, and shortly afterwards (concerning the resurrection of the same Lord), in order to make the apostles rejoice, he adds: you shall see the king with glory.
This drawing appended indicates the shape of the round church
mentioned above, with the round domed structure placed in the centre
15] of it, in the northern portion of which is the Lord's sepulchre. It exhibits also plans of three other churches, of which there will be an account below. We have drawn these plans of the four churches after the model which (as already stated) the holy Arculf sketched for me on a wax surface. Not that it is possible to exhibit their likeness in a drawing,
20] but in order that the monumentum of the Lord might be shown, placed as it is in the middle of the round church, albeit in a rough sketch, or that it might be made clear which church is situated near or far away from it.
At this juncture a brief account seems desirable of the stone (mentioned
above), which was rolled to the door of the Lord's monumentum with
the assistance of many men, after his crucifixion and burial. According
to Arculf it is split and divided into two parts. The smaller portion,
30] dressed by tools and set up as a square altar, can be seen standing in the round church mentioned above: the larger portion of the stone, similarly dressed on all sides, forms another quadrangular altar covered by linens in the eastern part of the same church.
Then, concerning the colouring of the rock, in which is the domed
35] structure often mentioned, hollowed out inside by the chisels of the dressers, and containing in its northern portion the Lord's sepulchrum
p.49(which is cut out of the very same rock as the monumentum, that is the domed structure itself), Arculf when questioned by me said: That domed structure which constitutes the Lord's monumentum is devoid of ornament on the inside, and up to this day shows the traces of the tools which the
Some few remarks, however, should be added concerning the buildings
of the holy places. On the right-hand side adjoining the round church
often mentioned above, which is also called Anastasis (that is, resurrection),
15] and which is built in the place of the Lord's resurrection, there is a quadrangular church of the holy Mary, mother of the Lord.
Towards the east, in the place that is called in Hebrew Golgotha,
20] another very large church has been erected. In the upper regions of this a great round bronze chandelier with lamps is suspended by ropes and underneath it is placed a large cross of silver, erected in the selfsame place where once the wooden cross stood embedded, on which suffered the Saviour of the human race.
Now in this church, beneath the place of the Lord's cross, there is a grotto cut out of the rock where sacrifice is offered on an altar for the souls of certain privileged persons. Meanwhile their remains are laid out in the court before the door of this church of Golgotha, until such time as the holy mysteries for the deceased are completed.
On the eastern side, adjoining this church in the place of Calvary (which is built of stone in quadrangular shape) there is the neighbouring
p.51basilica, constructed with great elegance by king Constantine. It is called the Martyrium, and is said to be built in the spot where, after the lapse of two hundred and thirty-three years, by the favour of the Lord himself the cross of the Lord, with the crosses of the two thieves, was
Also, between the basilica of Golgotha and the Martyrium, there is
20] a chapel in which is the chalice of the Lord, which he himself blessed with his own hand and gave to the apostles when reclining with them at supper the day before he suffered. The chalice is silver, has the measure of a Gaulish pint, and has two handles fashioned on either side. It contains the sponge which was soaked in vinegar, placed on hyssop by those
25] who crucified the Lord, and put to his lips. After the resurrection the Lord drank from this same chalice, according to the story, when supping with the apostles. The holy Arculf saw it, and through an opening of the perforated lid of the reliquary where it reposes, he touched it with his own hand which he had kissed. All the people of the city flock to it
30] with great veneration.
Arculf saw the soldier's lance as well, with which he pierced the side
of the Lord when he was hanging on the cross. This lance is in the porch
35] of the basilica of Constantine, inserted in a wooden cross, and its haft
p.53is split in two parts. To it too in like fashion the whole city of Jerusalem flocks to kiss and venerate it.
Concerning the holy shroud of the Lord also, which was placed over
his head in the sepulchre, we learned from the holy Arculf (who saw it
with his own eyes) the following account which we now set forth, and
which all the people of Jerusalem assert to be true. For the holy Arculf
got this statement on the testimony of very many of the faithful of Jerusalem,
10] who often told it to him in these terms while he listened intently: The holy cloth, which a decent believing Jew had stolen from the Lord's sepulchre immediately after the resurrrection and hidden at home, about three years ago, by favour of the Lord himself, was discovered after the passage of many years, and came to the knowledge of
15] the whole people. For when he was in his last extremity that fortunate and believing thief summoned his two sons, showed them the Lord's shroud that he had originally stolen, and offered it to them saying: My sons, you now have a choice. Let each one of you say then what his wish is, so that I can know for certain to which one of you, according to his
20] wish, I ought to bequeath either all the substance I have or just this sacred shroud of the Lord. On hearing these words from the lips of his father, one, whose wish it was to get all his father's wealth, took this from his brother, his father bequeathing it to him by will according to his promise. Wonderful to relate, from that day forward all his wealth and
25] patrimony for which he had bartered the Lord's shroud began to dwindle, and everything that he had was dissipated in one way or another and reduced to nothing. The other, however, blessed son of the abovementioned blessed thief, who preferred the shroud of the Lord to all the patrimony, from the day that he received it from the hand of his
30] dying father, by God's favour grew more and more prosperous, and was enriched even with earthly goods while not being deprived of heavenly ones. And so fathers born of the seed of this thrice-blessed man kept handing on the Lord's shroud faithfully to their sons, from one believing custodian to another up to the fifth generation, by a sort of hereditary
p.55right according to the sequence of their line. But after the time of the fifth generation when, with the passage of many years, believing heirs of this line began to fail, the sacred shroud came into the hands of some Jewish unbelievers. They too indeed, however unworthy of such an
In the same city of Jerusalem Arculf saw another larger cloth too,
5] which it is said the holy Mary wove, and which for that reason is kept with great reverence in the church, venerated by all the people. Now in this cloth likenesses of the twelve apostles are interwoven, and the image of the Lord himself is depicted. One side of this cloth is red in colour, and the other part, on the opposite side, is green like green plants.
A summary account must be given of a very high column which stands
15] in the centre of the city to the north of the holy places facing the passersby. It is remarkable how this column (which is situated in the place where the dead youth came to life when the cross of the Lord was placed upon him) fails to cast a shadow at midday during the Summer solstice, when the sun reaches the centre of the heavens. When the solstice is
20] passed, however (that is the 8th day before the kalends of July), after an interval of three days, as the day gradually grows shorter it casts a brief shadow at first, then as the days pass a longer one. And so this column, which the sunlight surrounds on all sides blazing directly down on it during the midday hours (when at the Summer solstice the sun
25] stands in the centre of the heavens), proves Jerusalem to be situated at the centre of the world. Hence the psalmist, because of the holy places of the passion and resurrection, which are contained within Helia itself, / prophesying sings: God our king before the ages hath wrought our salvation in the centre of the earth, that is Jerusalem, which is said to
30] be in the centre of the earth and its navel.
A sedulous frequenter of the holy places, the holy Arculf used to visit
35] the church of the holy Mary in the valley of Josaphat. It is two-storied,
p.59and the lower story, which has a stone ceiling, is built with wondrous roundness. In the eastern portion of it is an altar, and at the right-hand side of the altar is the empty stone sepulchre of the holy Mary, where she was once laid to rest. But how, or when, or by what persons her holy
In the same valley mentioned above, not far from the church of the
holy Mary, the tower of Josaphat is pointed out, in which his sepulchre
can be seen.
Adjoining this tower, on the right-hand side, is a stone chamber cut out
of the rock of mount Olivet and severed from it. It is vaulted with chisels
on the interior, and two unadorned sepulchres are on view there. One
of them is that of Symeon, the just man who held the Lord Jesus in his
25] arms as a little infant and prophesied concerning him. The other is that of the equally just Joseph, spouse of the holy Mary, and foster-father of the Lord Jesus.
There is a grotto in the slope of mount Olivet, not far from the church
5] of the holy Mary, situated on high ground opposite the valley of Josaphat, and there are two very deep wells in it. One of them stretches into a depth of infinite extent beneath the mountain: the other is in the floor of the grotto, and it is said that its immense shaft sinks down dead straight into the depths. Both wells are always closed over. Then in the
10] grotto too there are 4 stone tables, one of which is that of the Lord Jesus (situated near the entrance to the grotto on the interior), and his own seat actually adjoins the little table, where once he used often recline at meals with the twelve apostles, all sitting at the other tables in the same place. The closed well-mouth, the one in the floor of the grotto that we
15] have described above, is closer, it will be observed, to the apostles' tables. According to the account of the holy Arculf, who often visited this grotto of the Lord, its opening is covered by a wooden hatch.
Close by the gradual slope of mount Sion, on its western side, is the
20] gate of David. As one emerges by it from the city, keeping mount Sion nearby on the left, one is confronted by a stone bridge, propped high upon arches and running directly south through the valley.
Half-way along this, hard by on the west, is the place where Judas Scariothis perished when, driven by despair, he hanged himself with a halter. In that spot even today a huge fig tree is pointed out, from the top of which, according to the story, he hung in a noose. As the poet-priest Juvencus sang concerning this same Judas:
He snatched a monstrous death from the top of a fig tree.
As mention has occurred a little previously of mount Sion, some summary
5] information ought to be given about a huge basilica built on it. This sketch shows its structure. Here is pointed out the rock on which Stephen died by stoning outside the city. Outside this great basilica, described above, which includes such holy places on the inside, there is (on its western side)
10] another memorable rock, on which according to the story the Lord was scourged. This apostolic church then, built as stated above on the upper level plateau of mount Sion, is a stone structure.
Our friend Arculf was a frequent visitor to this small plot which is situated towards the southern area of mount Sion. It has an enclosure of stone. A good many pilgrims receive careful burial here; but others are carelessly left lying on the face of the earth in a state of putrefaction, covered by mere rags or skins.
Northwards from Helia as far as the city of Samuhel, which is named
25] Armathem, one sees at intervals rough and stony country, with thorny valleys that spread as far as the region of Tamnis. Towards the west however of the above-mentioned Helia and mount Sion, as far as Caesarea in Palestine, one sees country of a different character. Now and again indeed there are some rugged defiles, short and narrow, but for the most
30] part one sees broad level plains, enriched here and there by olive groves.
As the holy Arculf relates, it is rare to find any other tree on mount
Olivet except vines and olives; but there is an exceedingly luxuriant
growth of corn and barley, for the character of the soil is evidently
5] grassy and full of flowers, not covered with brushwood.
Its altitude appears to be equal to that of mount Sion, although in the
dimensions of geometry (that is in length and breadth) mount Sion in
10] comparison with mount Olivet seems small and narrow. The valley of Josaphat, of which we have spoken above, lies in the centre between these two mountains running north to south.
On all mount Olivet no place appears to be higher than that from
which the Lord is said to have ascended to heaven. A great round church
stands there, which has within its circuit three arched porticos roofed
in over. Now of this round church the central area lies wide open to
heaven under the clear air without roof or vaulting, and in its eastern
20] portion an altar is erected which is sheltered by a narrow covering. The reason the central area has no vaulting placed over it is this: so that, from the place where the divine feet rested for the last time when the Lord was raised up to heaven in a cloud, there should always be an open passage leading to the ethereal regions for the eyes of those who
25] pray there. Because, when this basilica (of which a few details are now being recorded) was being built, the place of the Lord's footprints (as is found written in another source) could not be incorporated in a pavement with the rest of the floor. For the ground (unwont to bear anything human) would reject whatever was laid upon it, casting the
30] marble into the faces of those who were laying it. Nay more, so lasting is the proof that the dust was trodden by God that the imprints of the
p.67feet are visible; and, though crowds of the faithful daily plunder the earth trodden by the Lord, still the spot suffers no perceptible damage, and the ground goes on keeping the semblance as it were of footprints.
Thus, in this spot, as the holy Arculf (a sedulous visitor of it) relates,
5] a huge bronze circular structure has been set up, levelled out on top, the height of which measures up to the chin. In the middle of it is quite a large perforation, and when this is open the footprints of the Lord are pointed out plainly and clearly stamped on the dust. Also, at the western side of the structure, there is a sort of door always open, so that
10] people entering by it can easily approach the place of the sacred dust, and take particles of it by stretching in their hands through the open perforation in the circular structure.
Our friend Arculf's account then of the place of the footprints of the
Lord is perfectly in accordance with the writings of others, to the effect
15] that the area can by no means be covered over by a roof or by any special covering lower down and nearer, with the result that there is a clear view for all the people who frequent it, and the footprints of the Lord impressed in the dust of the place can be clearly pointed out. For these footprints of the Lord are illuminated by the light of a huge lamp which
20] hangs above the circular structure on pulleys, burning day and night.
Then, on the western side of the above-mentioned round church
there are eight windows, constructed high up, with glass shutters. Now
near these windows and straight opposite them on the inside, there burn
eight lamps hanging by ropes. The lamps are so placed that each lamp
25] hangs, not above or below, but so as to seem fastened to the particular window, opposite to which it is hung at close quarters, one observes, on the inside. So radiant is the brightness of the lamps, that as their light pours out copiously through the glass from the high vantage point on mount Olivet, not alone that area of the mountain which adjoins the
30] round stone basilica on the western side, but the stairway mounting steeply up to the city of Jerusalem from the valley of Josaphat, is illuminated with a wondrous clarity on nights however dark. Indeed the greater portion of the city, the portion in the foreground straight opposite, is likewise illuminated with equal clarity. The bright and remarkable
35] glow from the eight great lamps shining by night from the holy mount and the place of the Lord's ascension, as Arculf relates, pours into the hearts of the faithful who behold it greater eagerness for divine love and imbues them with a sense of awe coupled with great interior compunction.
This item too, we think, ought not to be suppressed. The oft-mentioned
Arculf told it to me when I questioned him carefully about this round
church. He said: On the anniversary solemnity of the day of the Lord's
ascension, after the celebration of mass in the basilica, at midday every
5] year a blast of the strongest wind is wont to burst in with such force, that no one can manage to stand or even sit in the church or in places adjacent to it, but all lie stretched face downward on the ground until the terrible tempest passes. It is because of this terrific blast that part of the structure cannot have a roof, the part over the place of the Lord's
10] footprints (visible through the perforation in the open circular structure mentioned above) which appears always open to heaven. For whenever the skill of human hands attempted to lay any sort of material as roofing over it, the intensity of that divinely sent wind, mentioned above, destroyed it. Concerning this formidable tempest then the narrative
15] of the holy Arculf was thus. He himself was actually present in the church on mount Olivet at the very hour when that intense blast rushed in on the day of the Lord's ascension. The structure of the round church is displayed in a drawing, albeit a rough representation, and the character of the circular bronze structure situated in its centre is shown too in the
20] little diagram appended.
This too we learned from the account of the holy Arculf. In the
round church, to the customary (light) of the eight lamps, which, as
mentioned above, shine in the interior by night, on the night of the
feast of the Lord's ascension it is usual to add innumerable other lamps;
25] and under the terrible and wondrous gleaming of these, pouring out copiously through the glass shutters of the windows, all mount Olivet seems not alone to be illuminated, but even to be on fire, and the whole city, situated on the lower ground nearby, seems to be lit up.
Arculf, a frequenter of the above-mentioned holy places, visited a
field in Bethany surrounded by a great grove of olive trees. There is a
great monastery there, and a great basilica is erected over the grotto
35] from which the Lord raised Lazarus, who had been dead for four days.
We think we ought to write briefly about another notable church
towards the southern part of Bethany, founded in the spot on mount
5] Olivet where the Lord is said to have given a discourse to the disciples. Hence careful inquiry should be made concerning the character of the discourse, its time, and to what special persons among the disciples the Lord spoke. These three things become quite clear for us if we are willing to open the gospels of the three writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who
10] speak in harmony concerning the character of the discourse. Concerning the place of meeting itself, or concerning the form of the discourse, no one who reads the gospel of Matthew can have any hesitation, where the evangelist makes mention of the Lord saying: As he was sitting on mount Olivet, the disciples came to him saying: tell us when shall these
15] things be and what is the sign of thy coming and of the consummation of the world. Matthew at this point made no mention of the persons who asked the question, but Mark does, who writes thus saying: Peter and James and John and Andrew were asking him separately. Replying to these questioners he shows the character of the discourse given
20] (according to the three evangelists mentioned above) by speaking thus: 'See to it that no one seduce you. For many will come in my name saying I am Christ' and the rest that follows concerning the last things and the consummation of the world, which Matthew sets forth in copious language, as far as the place where the same evangelist clearly shows
25] from the words of the Lord also the time of this long discourse. He speaks thus: And when Jesus had finished all these words, it so happened that he said to his disciples: you know that after two days it will be the pasch, and the son of man will be handed over to be crucified and so on. Therefore it is clearly shown that the Lord spoke the long discourse mentioned
30] above in answer to the question of the 4 above-mentioned disciples, on the day of the fourth feria, there being yet two days before the first day of the azimi, which is called the pasch. Thus in the spot where that discourse was held the above-mentioned church was founded in remembrance, and it is held in great honour.
Thus far let it suffice to have written concerning the holy places of the city of Jerusalem, of mount Olivet, and of the valley of Josaphat which lies between, according to the accurate account of the holy Arculf, a visitor of these places.
In the beginning of this our second book some few things should be
set down briefly concerning the site of the city of Bethlem, in which our
5] Saviour deigned to be born of a holy virgin. Now this city, according to the account of Arculf, who frequented it, is not so notable by reason of its site, as it is celebrated by report spread throughout the churches of all nations. It is situated on a narrow ridge, which is surrounded by valleys on every side, and from west to east this ridge of earth stretches
10] for about a mile. On the level plateau on top a low wall without towers has been constructed right round the very edge of the hill. It overlooks the little valleys which lie here and there round about, and the houses of the citizens are scattered in a lengthwise direction within its circuit.
In the extreme eastern corner of that city is what seems to be a natural
half-grotto. The very innermost portion is called the manger of the Lord
in which the mother laid the child when he was born; another spot,
however, close by the above-mentioned manger, but nearer the entrance,
is the traditional place of the actual nativity of the Lord. Accordingly the
20] whole of that cave of Bethlem, with the Lord's manger, is completely covered on the interior with precious marble in honour of the Saviour; and the half-grotto, covered by the stone cenacle,1 is surmounted by the church of the holy Mary, a magnificent structure built exactly over the spot where the Lord is said to have been born.
I think that brief mention should be made of the rock situated outside
the wall, over which the water of the first ablution of the Lord's little
30] body after the nativity was poured from the vessel in which it was, which was tilted over from the top of the wall. This water of the sacred washing,
p.77when poured from the wall, found a sort of channel hollowed out by nature in the rock lying beneath; which channel, filled by that flow on the first birthday of the Lord, from that very day up to our time through the cycles of many centuries one sees to be full without any failing or
Arculf, when questioned by me about the sepulchre of David, gave
us this answer saying: Seeking diligently I myself used to visit the
sepulchre of king David buried in the earth. It is in the centre of the
pavement of the church without any ornament superimposed. There is
a low stone coping around it, and it has a brightly shining lamp always
20] placed above it. This church is erected outside the walls of the city in a valley nearby which adjoins the hill of Bethlem on the northern side.
About the sepulchre of the holy Jerome also, when we inquired with
25] like anxiety, Arculf spoke thus: I saw the sepulchre of the holy Jerome of which you inquire. It is in a church which is built in a valley outside the little town, the valley that is which situated on the south side is coterminous with the ridge of the above-mentioned hill of Bethlem. The sepulchre of Jerome is constructed in the same style as
30] the tomb of David, without any ornament.
Concerning the tombs of the shepherds around whom the heavenly
5] brightness shone on the night of the Lord's nativity, Arculf gave us as brief account saying: I visited the three tombs of those three shepherds (who are buried beside the tower of Gader) in a church. They are about a mile distant from Bethlem, towards the east. It is in this very place, near the tower of the flock, where the church containing the sepulchres
10] of the shepherds is built, that, at the Lord's nativity, the brightness of angelic light surrounded them.
The book of Genesis states that Rachel was laid to rest in Effrata,
that is in the region of Bethlem, and according to the Liber Locorum also
15] Rachel is buried in this region beside the road. When I asked about this road Arculf said in answer: There is a royal road which leads from Helia southwards to Chebron. Bethlem, 6 miles distant from Jerusalem, adjoins this road on the eastern side. Now the sepulchre of Rachel is at the end of this road on the western (that is the right-hand) side, close by
20] as one goes to Chebron. It is of crude workmanship, without any adornment, surrounded by a stone coping. The title of her name too, which her husband Jacob erected over it, is pointed out even today.
Chebron, which is also Mambre, once the metropolis of the Philistines
25] and the dwelling place of giants, and in which David reigned for seven years, nowadays, as the holy Arculf relates, has no surrounding walls; and amongst the ruined remains a few vestiges only are to be seen of the city long ago destroyed. There are, however, some crudely constructed streets and detached houses too, some inside and some outside
30] the broken-down walls, all along the level ground. These streets and houses provide dwellings for a great number of people.
East of Chebron, looking towards Mambre, one finds the field of the
double cave, which Abraham bought from Effrom the Hethite for the
5] possession of a double sepulchre. (10) In the valley in this field the holy Arculf visited Arbe, the site of the sepulchres, of the 4 patriarchs that is, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Adam the first man. In burial their feet are not turned towards the east as is customary in other regions of the world, but towards the south, and their heads are turned northwards.
10] The site of the sepulchres is surrounded by a low square wall. Adam, the first man, to whom when he sinned God the creator spoke this word immediately after the sin was committed: Earth thou art and to earth shalt thou go, is at a small distance from the other three towards the extreme northern end of the square stone enclosure. He does not rest,
15] like the other honoured men of his seed, in a stone sepulchre hollowed out in the rock above the earth's surface; but is buried in the earth, covered by the turf, and dust that he is, to dust returned, he rests awaiting the resurrection with all his seed. And thus is fulfilled the divine sentence about him pronounced to himself concerning the character
20] of his sepulchre. And according to the example of the sepulchre of the first parent, the other three patriarchs, covered too in vile dust, rest sleeping. Their four sepulchres have small memorials placed over them, dressed and shaped from single stones, and constructed rather after the fashion of a basilica according to the measure lengthwise and
25] crosswise of each sepulchre. The three sepulchres of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which adjoin one another, are protected, as was said above, by three white stones placed over them, which are shaped according to the pattern we described. The sepulchre of Adam is likewise protected by a stone, but of darker colour, and the work is cruder. There too
30] Arculf saw the smaller, and cruder, memorials of three women, Sarra that is, and Rebecca and Lia, who are buried in the earth. One finds the burial field of those patriarchs to be at a distance of one stade east of the wall of the most ancient city of Chebron. Chebron indeed, it is said, was founded not only before all the cities of Palestine: it preceded even all
35] the Egyptian cities in its foundation the city that one now sees in miserable ruin.
Let that amount of writing suffice about the sepulchres of the patriarchs.
Now concerning the hill of Mambre. The hill of Mambre is towards
the north, separated by a distance of a mile from the tombs described
above. It is very grassy and flowery and looks towards Chebron which
5] faces it from the south-west. This little mount called Mambre has a level plateau on top, and at the northern extremity of the summit a large stone church is erected. At the southern side of this, between the two walls of the great basilica, wonderful to relate, there stands rooted in the earth the oak of Mambre, which is also called the oak of Abraham, because
10] once upon a time he entertained angels under it. The holy Jerome tells elsewhere that it remained from the beginning of the world up to the reign of Constantine. It was for this reason perhaps that he did not say it had perished completely, because at that time, though the whole huge oak was no longer on view (as it was formerly), yet a portion of it remained
15] fixed in the site. Of this, as Arculf relates, who saw it with his own eyes, there still remains a truncated spur1 rooted in the earth. It is protected under the roof of the church, and its measure is about the size of two men. Now this cropped spur is hewn about on every side by axes, little splinters being carried away to the divers provinces of the
20] world, out of veneration and remembrance for the oak, under which, as was mentioned above, the famous and noteworthy meeting with the angels was once vouchsafed to Abraham the patriarch. Round about the church which is built there out of veneration for the place, one may view a few dwellings which have been set up for nuns. But let that
25] suffice about these: let us hasten to other things.
On leaving Chebron, on the level expanse situated towards the north,
30] on the left, not far from the roadside, one comes upon a fair-sized pine-clad hill at three miles distance from Chebron. From this pine grove pines for firewood are transported by means of camels as far as Jerusalem. Camels I say, for in all Judea, as Arculf relates, wagons, or chariots even, are rarely found.
Our holy Arculf saw the site of the city of Hiericho, destroyed by
Jesus when he killed the king after the crossing of the Jordan. Oza of
Bethel, of the tribe of Effraim, raised another city in its place which our
5] Saviour deigned to visit with his presence. Because of the perfidy of its citizens it was taken and destroyed at the same time as the Romans attacked and besieged Jerusalem. In place of this a third city was built, which was also destroyed after a considerable interval, and of which, as Arculf relates, some ruined remains are now to be seen. After the
10] destruction of three cities on the same site, wonderful to relate, the house of Raab alone remained, the woman who hid the two spies that were sent over by Iesu Ben Nun in the upper room of her house by means of linen straw. Its roofless stone walls are extant. Crops and vineyards cover the site of the whole city, which is bare of human habitation and
15] without a single dwelling. Large palm groves lie between the site of the ruined city and the river Jordan, and in the midst of them, at intervals, are little clearings in which some miserable folk of Canaanite stock have very numerous houses.
The oft-mentioned Arculf saw a great church in Galgal. It is built in
the place where the sons of Israel first pitched their tent and dwelt in the
25] land of Canaan when they had crossed the Jordan. (15) Now in this church the same holy Arculf inspected the twelve stones concerning which the Lord spoke to Josue after the passage of the Jordan saying: Choose twelve men, one from each tribe, and tell them to take twelve very hard stones from the centre of the bed of the Jordan, where the feet
30] of the priests have rested, and these do you place in the camping ground where this night you will have pitched your tents. These, I say, Arculf noted, six of them in the southern portion of the church lying on the floor, and the other six he noted in the northern portion, all unpolished and rough. Each one of them, as Arculf himself relates, two strong young
35] men of the present day could scarcely lift from the earth. One of them
p.87(it is unknown by what mischance) was broken in two, but was clamped by iron and joined again artificially. Galgal, then, the site of the church mentioned above, is east of the ancient Hiericho, on this side of the Jordan, in the portion of the tribe of Iuda, at the fifth milestone from
The sacred and honoured spot in which the Lord was baptized by
John is always covered by the waters of the river Jordan; and, as Arculf
relates, who reached the actual spot and swam to and fro across the
15] stream, in this sacred spot a tall wooden cross is implanted. Beside it the water comes up as far as the neck of a very tall man standing, or, at other times of great drought, to his breast. When a greater flood comes, however, the whole of the cross is covered by the increased waters. The site of the cross then, where, as has been said above, the Lord was
20] baptized, is on the near side of the river bed. It is possible for a strong man to cast a stone with a sling from there to the other bank on the Arabian side. And a stone bridge supported on arches stretches from the site of the cross mentioned above as far as the dry land. People approaching the cross by means of it come down a slope and climb up
25] again to the shore. At the brink of the river there is a small square church, founded, according to tradition, in the place where the Lord's clothes were kept at the hour in which he was baptized. Supported on 4 stone piles this stands at a habitable level above the water, because the waters slide in under it from either side. It is covered with a tiled roof, but
30] underneath, as has been said, it is supported on arches and piles. That is the kind of church then which stands in the lower part of the valley through which the Jordan flows, but on the higher ground there is a great monastery of monks. It is built exactly above, on the brow of the hill, and overlooks the church already described. There is a church in
35] honour of John the Baptist too in the same place. It is built with square stones and is embraced in the circuit of the monastery wall.
The colour of the Jordan river, as Arculf informed us, seems white
like milk on the top; and, as it enters the salt sea, for a considerable
5] stretch along the bed one can easily distinguish this particular colour from that of the Dead Sea.
During great storms, by reason of the beating of waves against the
land, the Dead Sea strews salt abundantly throughout the surrounding
area, and this, when it is sufficiently dried by the heat of the sun, is of
10] very great benefit not alone to the local people everywhere but even to peoples situated far away. There is another way of getting salt in a mountain in Sicily. The stones of this mountain, when torn away from the earth, are found on tasting to be genuinely the purest natural salt, which is properly called salt of the earth. Thus it is customary to distinguish
15] the names sea salt and salt of the earth. Whence the Lord in the gospel is believed to have said to the apostles by means of a similitude: You are the salt of the earth. Accordingly the holy Arculf told us about this salt of the earth, which is found in a mountain of Sicily. While tarrying for some days in Sicily, by sight and taste and touch he proved
20] it to be genuinely the purest salt. He told us also about the salt of the Dead Sea, which likewise, he asserted, was proved by him by means of the three senses mentioned. He used actually to visit the shore of the lake in question. Its length as far as Zoari in Arabia measures five hundred and eighty stades, and its breadth, as far as the environs of
25] Sodom, one hundred and fifty stades.
Our friend Arculf also reached the place in the province of Phoenicia
where the Jordan seems to emerge from two neighbouring springs at
the foot of Libanus. One is called Ior, and the other Dan. Flowing
30] together they are given the compound name, Jordan. But it should be noted that the rising of the Jordan is not in Panium but in the land of Trachonitis, at a distance of 120 stades from Caesarea Philippi, which is now called Panias, a name derived from mount Panium. The name of the spring in Trachonitis is Fiala: it is always full of water. The Jordan
35] derives from it by means of subterranean wanderings, and breaks forth in Panium in divided jets of water, which, as has been said already,
p.91are wont to be called lor and Dan. It is there also that they emerge, and join together to form one river, which from this point onwards follows its course for 120 stades without any interfusion as far as the city named Iulias. Afterwards it streams through the middle of the lake called
Our holy Arculf, often mentioned, travelled round the greater part
10] of the sea of Galilee, which is also called the lake of Cinereth and the sea of Tiberias. Large woods adjoin its shores. The wide (sweep) of the lake itself, like an expanse of ocean, extends to a length of 140 stades, and spreads to a width of 40. Its waters are sweet and suitable for drinking, in that it has no coarse or muddy deposits from bog or marsh,
15] being surrounded on every side by a sandy shore. Consequently the water is the clearer and sweeter for use. Species of fish too can be found, as handsome and as tasty as in any lake anywhere.
This brief account of the origin of the Jordan and of the lake of
Cinereth we have assembled partly from the third book of the Jewish
20] Captivity, and partly from the experiences of Arculf. According to his own accurate statement, Arculf made a journey of 8 days from the place where the Jordan emerges from the mouth of the sea of Galilee, as far as the place where it enters the Dead Sea. Often too, he tells us, from the vantage point of mount Olivet, the holy Arculf gazed out at that very
25] salt sea.
The holy priest Arculf, traversing the region of Samaria, came to the
city of that province called in Hebrew Sichem, by Greek and Latin
usage Sicima. It is wont to be called Sichar too, though wrongly. Close
30] to this city he saw a church built outside the wall, which is so shaped as to branch into four parts extending towards the 4 cardinal points of the world, in the likeness of a cross as it were. A plan of it is given below. In the interior, as its centre, facing all of the 4 wings, is the fount of Jacob, which is wont to be called a well too. One day at the sixth hour
p.93the Saviour, wearied by the toil of the journey, sat by this well; and the Samaritan woman came at the same noonday hour to the well to draw. Now concerning this well, amongst other things, the woman said in answer to the Lord: Lord, thou hast not wherewith to draw, and the
Sichem then, which is also Sicima, a priestly city at one time and a
10] city of refuge, is in the tribe of Manasse and the mount of Effraim, where also are buried the bones of Joseph.
The oft-mentioned Arculf saw a clear spring in the desert, from
15] which, according to tradition, the holy John the Baptist used to drink. It has a white-washed stone covering. (23) Now concerning this John the evangelists write: His food was locusts and wild honey. In the solitude where John used to live our friend Arculf saw a very small type of locust, the body being thin and short like one's finger. As their
20] range of flight is very short, like the leaping of light frogs, they are easily captured in the grass. When cooked with oil they provide meagre sustenance. Concerning the wild honey we learned this much from Arculf's experience. This is what he said: In that desert I saw certain trees, the broad round leaves of which are of milky colour and have the
25] flavour of honey. Now the nature of these leaves is very fragile, and those who wish to take them as food first grind them in their hands and then eat them. And this is the wild honey which is so found in the woods.
Our friend Arculf, often mentioned, came to this place, a level grassy plain which has never been tilled from the day our Saviour filled five
p.95thousand in it with five loaves and two fishes. There are no buildings to be seen in it. Arculf saw a few stone columns only, lying on the brink of the fountain, the one from which it is said the people drank on the day on which the Lord refreshed them with such a repast. The place is on
Travellers from Jerusalem who wish to go to Capharnaum, as Arculf
relates, take the straight road through Tiberias, then along by the lake
10] of Cinereth, which is also the sea of Tiberias and the sea of Galilee. They use the place of the blessing, mentioned above, as a thoroughfare by means of which, along the brink of the lake already mentioned, they reach Capharnaum by a fairly short circuit. It is on the lake shore, in the territory of Zabulon and Neptalim. As Arculf relates (he saw it from
15] the neighbouring mountain) the city has no wall; but, confined as it is between the mountain and the lake, stretches for a considerable distance along the seashore, and runs from west to east, with the mountain to the north and the lake to the south.
The city of Nazareth, as Arculf who lodged in it tells, is situated on a
mountain, and, like Capharnaum, has no surrounding walls. It has,
however, large stone buildings, and there are two very large churches,
one in the centre of the city raised on two piles, where once upon a time
was the house in which the Lord, our saviour, was brought up. This
25] church then, as has been said above, is supported upon two mounds with arches between, and there is a very clear fountain underneath, between the mounds. The whole community of citizens come to draw water from it, and from the same source vessels of water are raised up to the church above by means of pulleys. The second church is constructed on
30] the site of the house, in which Gabriel the archangel, going in to the holy Mary, talked to her alone as he found her there in that hour. We got this information concerning Nazareth from the holy Arculf, who lodged there for two nights and two days, and was unable to tarry there longer because a soldier of Christ, Peter by name, a native of Burgundy,
p.97who was leading the solitary life and had a good knowledge of the country, urged him to hasten. After the tour Peter returned to the solitary place where he formerly resided.
Mount Thabor is three miles from the lake of Cinereth, and is
gathered into a wondrous roundness on every side. On the north it
looks towards the above-mentioned lake and is exceedingly grassy and
flowery. There is a wide plateau on its beautiful summit surrounded by
a very large wood, and in the central plain of this there is a large monastery
10] with many cells for the monks. The level top of the mountain is not narrowed to a point, but spread to a width of 23 stades, and it stands at an altitude of 30 stades. There are notable churches also of considerable size on this upper plateau, three in number, according to the number of the tabernacles, concerning which Peter on the same holy mount,
15] rejoicing in the heavenly vision and greatly fearing, said to the Lord: It is good for us to be here, and let us make three tabernacles, one for thee and one for Moses and one for Elias. The buildings of the monastery mentioned above, and of the three churches, with the cells of the monks, are all surrounded by a stone wall. The holy Arculf lodged for one night
20] on the lofty summit of that holy mount; for Peter of Burgundy, a follower of Christ and the guide of Arculf's journeys in these parts, in his regard for haste would not allow him to tarry longer in one and the same lodging. At this juncture it should be noted also that the name of that famous
25] mountain ought to be written in Greek letters with Θ and long Ω thus, ΘΑΒΩΡ. Whereas in Latin letters it ought to be written with aspiration and long o: Thabor. The orthography of this word was found in Greek books.
The great royal city of Damascus, as Arculf relates, who lodged for
30] some days in it, is situated on a broad plain, surrounded by an ample circuit of walls, and fortified moreover by several towers, with several
p.99olive orchards in the territory surrounding the walls. Four great rivers too, which flow through it, bless it with happy increase. The king of the Saracens holds the principality and has his court there, and in the same place a great church has been raised in honour of the holy John the
Our friend Arculf, a wanderer over several regions, entered Tyre
too, the metropolis of the province of Phoenicia, which in the Hebrew
10] and Syriac tongue is called Soar. One reads in Greek, Latin, and barbarian histories that it had no entry from the land; but some assert that subsequently mounds were thrown up by Nabuchodonosor, king of the Chaldeans, that a place was prepared for missiles and battering rams with a view to a siege and the island thus made into one stretch of land. It
15] was a beautiful and very noble city, and not without reason is it rendered in Latin narrowness; for the city is commensurate in extent with the narrow island. It is situated in the land of Canaan, whence the Canaanite, or Tyrofoenician, woman in the gospel gained her mention.
It is to be noted then that the narrative of the holy Arculf concerning
20] the site of Tyre corresponds completely with those extracts above which we have taken from the commentaries of the holy Jerome. In like manner what we have written down above concerning the site and shape of Mount Thabor according to the account of the holy Arculf differs in no wise from what the holy Jerome relates concerning the site of this
25] mountain and its wondrous roundness. From this mount Thabor as far as Damascus Arculf's journey took seven days.
That great city, which had once been the metropolis of Egypt, was
30] formerly called in Hebrew No. It is a very populous city, and is called
p.101Alexandria after its famous founder Alexander the Macedonian king, a name known throughout all nations, deriving from him as rebuilder at once its name and its magnitude as a city. Concerning the site of this too the account of Arculf differs in no wise from what we learned
p.103stretching between the sharp rocks and broken moles is of course always rough, and entry becomes hazardous for sailors as they make the choppy passage.
The whole harbour spreads to a width of 30 stades, and no matter how
5] great the storm, by compensation the interior haven is absolutely safe inasmuch as it keeps out the waves by reason of the narrow entrance mentioned above and the shelter afforded by the island. The narrows at the mouth of the port mean that the whole sweep of the bay inside is protected and removed from storms, and it is free from the rough swell
10] that makes the entrance choppy. Indeed, there is good reason both for the size of the port and for protecting it, for all merchandise of use throughout the whole world has to be transported there. The considerable populations of these regions seek the commerce of the whole world for their own use. The area is corn-producing and abounds in
15] the other riches and products of the earth, and it supplies corn and necessary merchandise to the whole world. Such territory of course needs rain, and rain is furnished gratuitously by the overflowings of the Nile. It renders a twofold service there, providing at once fertility of soil and moisture of climate; it waters the ground and enriches the soil, an
20] advantage both to sailor and farmer. The former voyages, the latter sows, sailors move about on boats, farmers carry on their cultivation: there is sowing without a plough, and travel without a carriage. One sees a country studded with canals, while the hulls of boats which serve as dwellings throughout the whole land give the impression of high walls.
25] They adjoin the banks of the river Nile on both sides. For the river is navigable as far as the city of the Elephants, as they call it: the cataracts, that is moving masses of river water, do not allow a ship to proceed farther, not for lack of depth, but by reason of the headlong rush of the whole river and the waste of falling water.
Thus the account of the holy Arculf concerning the site of Alexandria and of the river Nile certainly does not differ from what we learned by reading from the books of others. From these we have inserted some brief extracts in this description, that is concerning the ill-harboured
p.105character of the city, concerning the hazards of the port, concerning the island and the tower built on it, concerning the position of Alexandria bounded by the sea and the delta of the river Nile, and so on. Of course this is the reason why the city, narrowly compressed as it is on two
This Alexandria then, which (as was said above) used to be called No
before it was enlarged and rebuilt by Alexander, adjoins, as said above,
the mouth of the river Nile (which is called Canopicum), which is the
20] boundary between Asia, including Egypt, and Libya. Because of the flooding of the river Nile, the Egyptians build high embankments about its banks; and if by reason of the carelessness of those who tend them or because of an excessive outrush of water these burst, so far from irrigating the underlying plains they devastate and destroy them. For this
25] reason, as the holy Arculf relates who during his wanderings in Egypt often crossed the river by boat, many people who inhabit the: plains of Egypt live in houses that are propped above the waters by transverse beams.
There dwell in the river Nile, as Arculf tells, crocodiles, aquatic
30] four-footed beasts, not very large, but very voracious and so strong that even a single one, if by chance he is able to find a horse or an ass or an ox grazing by the bank of the river, comes out with a sudden rush and falls upon it; and even though he may seize the animal only by one foot, he drags it beneath the water and devours it completely.
Returning from Alexandria the oft-mentioned Arculf lodged in the
island of Crete for some days, and sailed from there for Constantinople,
where he stayed for some months. This is assuredly the metropolis of
the Roman Empire, and it is surrounded everywhere by the sea except
on its northern side. The sea in question, an inlet from the great sea,
15] stretches for 60 miles right up to the wall of the city. And from the wall of Constantinople as far as the mouth of the river Danube is a further stretch of 40 miles by the same sea. A considerable circuit of walls, 12 miles in extent, surrounds this imperial city, with angles constructed to follow the line of the sea coast, like Alexandria or Carthage. Moreover,
20] as in Tyre, the walls are strengthened with several towers, and there are numerous dwelling houses within the city walls, of which many are in stone and arise in wondrous magnitude like the houses in Rome.
Concerning its foundation the following tradition is related by the
25] citizens as proclaimed by their ancestors. The emperor Constantine (they say) collected a countless horde of men and unlimited money from every quarter, practically impoverishing all nations, and began to build a city under his own name on the Asiatic side, that is in Cilicia, beyond the sea which is the boundary in that area between Asia and Europe.
30] Now one night, when throughout the whole camp the huge armies of workers were asleep in their tents, all kinds of tools which the artisans of
p.109the various trades were wont to use were suddenly removed in some unknown way. Early in the morning several worried and harried workers complained to the emperor Constantine himself about the sudden and unexplained disappearance, and the king then asked them saying: Have
However, we must say something about the very celebrated round
stone church in that city. According to the account of the holy Arculf,
who frequented it for a considerable time, it is triple in character,
rising up from the very foundations in three walls, and above them it is
rounded off on high by a single dome, exceedingly round and beautiful.
35] This is borne upon great arches, and between each of the walls mentioned above there is a wide space quite suitable for dwelling in, or even for praying to the Lord. In the interior in the northern part a very large and very beautiful repository is on view. It encloses a wooden chest, and that in turn encloses a wooden reliquary, where the salutary wood of the
40] cross is kept on which our Saviour was suspended and suffered for the
p.111salvation of the human race. Now, according to the holy Arculf, for three consecutive days after the lapse of a complete year this famous chest, together with its precious treasure, is set up on a golden altar. The altar is in the round church, and is two cubits in length and one in breadth.
This fact, however, should be carefully observed. There are three,
not two, short beams, the transverse beam that is, and the long one which
is cut into two equal parts. From these three pieces of honoured wood,
when the chest is opened, there arises the fragrance of a wondrous odour,
as if the marvellous sweetness of all flowers were collected there. It
25] sates and rejoices everyone who has a position in the space within the interior walls of the church, for during this period people enter and take their stand there. The knots in the three beams exude a fragrant liquid somewhat like oil which makes all the crowds inside of various nations perceive the most sweet fragrance that was mentioned. If even a small
30] drop of the liquid be applied to sick people, whatever kind of disease or illness they be troubled with, they recover full health. But let that description of the matter suffice.
The holy man Arculf, who told us all these things about the cross of
35] the Lord, which he saw with his own eyes, and kissed, brought us
p.113another story concerning a confessor, George by name. This he learned in the city of Constantinople from some well-informed citizens, who used to tell it to him in the following terms: In the city of Diospolis, in a certain house, the likeness of the confessor George is depicted set on a
p.115naturally impenetrable, he rendered penetrable by his power, and likewise the lance of the adversary, impenetrable by nature, he wondrously made penetrable, and the fellow's weak fingers he powerfully made to penetrate into that substance by nature impenetrable. At first when the
The holy Arculf gave us another true story also about this confessor
George, which he learned accurately in the above-mentioned city of
Constantinople from some well-informed and quite reliable narrators.
This was the tale they used to tell about the holy confessor: At a time
when many thousands from every quarter were coming together to
20] form an expedition, a certain fellow, a layman, mounted on horseback, entered the city of Diospolis. He approached the house where the abovementioned marble column is, which has depicted on it the likeness of the holy confessor George, and entering it began to address the image as if George were present, saying: I commend myself and my horse
25] to thee, George the confessor, that by virtue of your prayers we may both return safe from the expedition and reach this city, delivered from all dangers of wars and pestilences and waters. And if, according to the prayer of our littleness, the merciful God grant to thee our successful return, I will bestow on thee as a gift this steed of mine, which I love
30] exceedingly, assigning him in the presence of thy image. Speedily terminating these remarks, this fellow left the house, mingled with his other companions in the multitude of the army, and went off with the expedition. Then after many and divers dangers of war, in which thousands of unfortunate people perished, he got back safely to Diospolis
35] mounted on that same beloved horse of his, having by God's grace escaped all evil chances, since he commended himself, as mentioned above, to George the servant of Christ. He joyously entered the house where the image of the holy confessor was, bearing with him gold as the price of his horse, and he addressed the holy George as if he were
p.117present, saying: Holy confessor, I give thanks to the eternal God, who by the steadfast prayer of your loftiness brought me back safe; and because of that I give thee these twenty gold sovereigns as the price of my horse, which thou hast conserved for me to this day since he was first
The oft-mentioned Arculf gave us an accurate rendering also of a
true story about an ikon of the holy Mary, mother of the Lord, which
he learned from some well-informed witnesses in the city of Constantinople.
5] On the wall of a house in the metropolitan city, he said, a picture of the blessed Mary used to hang, painted on a short wooden tablet. A stupid and hardhearted man asked whose picture it was, and was told by someone that it was a likeness of the holy Mary ever virgin. When he heard this that Jewish unbeliever became very angry and, at the instigation
10] of the devil, seized the picture from the wall and ran to a building near by, where it is customary to dispose of the soil from human bodies by means of openings in long planks whereon people sit. There, in order to dishonour Christ, who was born of Mary, he cast the picture of His mother through the opening on the nuisance lying beneath. Then in his
15] stupid folly he sat above himself and evacuated through the opening, is pouring the nuisance of his own person on the ikon of the holy Mary which he had just deposited there. After that disgraceful action the hapless creature went away, and what he did subsequently, how he lived, or what sort of end he had, is unknown. After the scoundrel had gone, one
20] of the Christian community came upon the scene, a fortunate man, zealous for the things of the Lord. Knowing what had happened, he searched for the picture of the holy Mary, found it hidden in the refuse and took it up. He wiped it carefully and cleaned it by washing it in the clearest water, and then set it up in honour by him in his house. Wonderful
25] to relate, there is always an issue of genuine oil from the tablet with as the picture of the blessed Mary, which Arculf, as he is wont to tell, saw with his own eyes. This wondrous oil proclaims the honour of Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus of whom the Father says: With my oil I have anointed him. Likewise the psalmist addresses the Son of God himself
30] when he says: God thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of joy beyond thy companions.
The matter given above concerning the site and foundation of
Constantinople, and concerning the round church too in which the
salutary wood is stored, and the rest, we diligently learned from the
35] lips of the holy priest Arculf, who stayed in the principal city of the Roman empire from Easter until the Lord's nativity, and subsequently took ship from there for Rome.
Towards the east from Sicily, at 12 miles distance, there is an island
in the great sea, in which day and night mount Vulcan gives forth a
5] sort of thunder, with such vehemence that one would think the land of Sicily (which is situated a considerable distance away) was being shaken by a terrific earthquake. But it seems to thunder more on Friday and Saturday. One notices that all the time at night it is blazing, whereas during the day it smokes. Arculf dictated these things to me about the
10] mountain, while I wrote. He beheld it with the sight of his own eyes, fiery by night and smoky by day, and with the hearing of his own ears he heard its thunderous noise when he was lodged for some days in Sicily.
I beseech then those who will read these brief books to implore divine
15] mercy for the holy priest Arculf, who being a frequenter of the holy places, most willingly dictated to us his experiences of them. And I have set them forth, albeit in a lowly style, though daily beset by laborious and almost insupportable ecclesiastical business from every quarter. Thus I admonish the reader of these experiences that he neglect not to
20] pray Christ the judge of generations on behalf of me, the writer, a wretched sinner.