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From The Biographical Writings and Letters of Venerable Bede, translated from the Latin, by J. A. Giles; James Bohn, London, 1845; pp. ix, 159-158.
THE HOLY PLACES.
ABRIDGED FROM THE WORKS OF THE ANCIENTS.
City of Jeru-
salem. THE city of Jerusalem is almost circular in its form, and the compass of its walls is by no means inconsiderable, and formerly included Mount Sion, which is close by, towards the south, and looks like the citadel of the town. The greater part of the city is lower than the mountain, and lies on the plain summit of one of the lower hills in the neighbourhood. After our Lord’s passion it was destroyed by the Emperor Titus; but was restored and enlarged by Ælius Hadrianus Cæsar, from whom it received the name of Ælia. This is the reason why the place where our Lord suffered and was buried is now within the walls, whereas it was at that time without. In the circumference of its walls, which is extensive, there are eighty-four towers and six gates. The first is David’s gate, to the west of Mount Sion: the second is the gate of the Fuller’s Valley: the third is St. Stephen’s gate: the fourth, Benjamin’s: the fifth is the Postern or little gate, through which we go down by steps to the Valley of Jehoshaphat: the sixth gate is called Thecuitis. The most celebrated of these are the three gates of egress; the first towards the west, the second towards the north, and the third towards the east. On the 160 north-west, the brow of Mount Sion appears above the city; and this part of the walls, with the interposing towers, is proved to have had no gates; namely, from David’s gate above-mentioned, to that front of Mount Sion which looks with a rugged precipice towards the east. For the position of the city itself is this: it begins from the northern brow of Mount Sion, and falls with a gentle slope towards the walls on the north-east, where it is lower, so that the rain which falls runs in streams through the eastern gates, and carries with it all the filth of the streets into the brook Cedron, in the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
OF THE SEPULCHRE OF OUR LORD, OF THE CHURCHES OF CONSTANTINE AND GOLGOTHA, AND OF THE OTHER HOLY PLACES IN JERUSALEM.
Holy Places. WHEN you have entered the city on the northern side, first of the Holy Places, as regards the order of the streets, you must turn out of the way to see the Church of Constantine, which is called: The Martyrdom. It was built in the most magnificent and princely style by the Emperor Constantine, to commemorate the finding of our Lord’s cross in this place by his mother Helena. To the west of this is seen the Church of Golgotha, where too may be seen the rock which formerly bore the very cross that was fastened to our Lord’s body; but which now bears a very large silver cross, and a great wheel of brass hangs from above with lamps. Under the place of our Lord’s cross, a vault is hewn out of the rock, in which sacrifice is offered on an altar for honourable persons deceased, their bodies remaining meanwhile in the street. To the westward of this is the Anastasis, that is, the round church of our Saviour’s resurrection, 161 encompassed with three walls, and supported by twelve columns. Between each of the walls is a broad space, containing three altars at three different points of the middle wall, on the north, the south, and the west. It has eight doors or entrances through the three opposite walls; four whereof front to the north-east, and four to the south-east. In the midst of it is the round tomb of our Lord cut out of the rock, the top of which a man standing within can touch; the entrance is on the east; against it is laid that great stone, which to this day bears the marks of the iron tools within, but on the outside it is all covered with marble to the very top of the roof, which is adorned with gold, and bears a large golden cross. In the north part of the monument is the tomb of our Lord, hewn out of the same rock, seven feet in length, and three palms above the floor; the entrance being on the south side, where twelve lamps burn day and night, four within the sepulchre, and eight above on the right-hand side. The stone that was laid at the entrance to the monument, is now cleft in two; the lesser part of it stands as a square altar before the door of the monument; the greater part makes another square altar in the east part of the same church, and appears under the linen cloths. The colour of the said monument and sepulchre appears to be white and red. Attached to this church on the right sides is the square church of the blessed Mother of our Lord. In the street which unites the Martyrdom and the Golgotha is a seat, in which is the cup of our Lord concealed in a casket. It is touched and kissed through a hole in the covering. It is made of silver, has two handles, one on each side, and holds a French quart. In it also is the sponge which was used to minister drink to our Lord. But where Abraham built an altar whereon to sacrifice his son, there is a large wooden table on which the people lay alms for the poor. All these particulars, which I 162 have here mentioned, I have endeavoured to render more intelligible by the following picture
(The drawing is wanting in the Manuscripts.)
The soldier’s lance also is kept inserted in a wooden cross, in the portico of the Martyrdom, and its shaft, which has been broken in two pieces, is an object of veneration to the whole city.
OF MOUNT SION AND THE CHURCH BUILT THEREON, OF BETHSAIDA AND SILOAM.
Bethsaida. NOW all these Holy Places, which we have mentioned, are situated beyond Mount Sion, to which the elevated ground extends as it falls away towards the north. But in the lower part of the city, where there was a temple built in the neighbourhood of the wall, on the eastern side, and joined to the city itself by a bridge which formed a thoroughfare between, the Saracens have now erected there a square building, with upright planks and large beams placed, in the roughest manner, over some ruins of the walls, and they frequent the place for prayer. There is room for three thousand persons. There are a few cisterns there to supply water. In the neighbourhood of the temple is the pool of Bethsaida, marked by its two basins, one of which is generally filled by the rains of winter, the other is discoloured with red water. On that front of Mount Sion, which has a rugged precipice facing the east, the fountain of Siloa bursts forth between the walls at the bottom of the hill. According as it receives an increase of water from time to time, it flows towards the south; therefore, its waters are not sweet, but the day and hour of its springing up are 163 uncertain, and it rushes with much noise amid the hollows in the ground and the hard rocks. Fountain of
Siloa.On the level summit of mount Sion are numerous cells of monks surrounding a large church, built there, as they say, by the Apostles, because they received the Holy Spirit in that place, and Saint Maria died there. The place of our Lord’s holy supper is shown within; and a marble pillar stands in the middle of the church, to which our Lord was tied when he was scourged. The figure of the church is said to have been something like this: —
(The drawing is wanting in the Manuscripts.)
Here is also shown, on the outside of the city, the rock on which the first martyr, Stephen, was stoned: but in the middle of Jerusalem, where the dead man came to life when our Lord’s cross was placed above him, stands a lofty pillar, which at the summer solstice does not throw a shadow, wherefore it is thought that the centre of the earth is in this place; and it has been said in history, “God, ages ago, hath wrought our salvation in the middle of the earth.” According to which opinion Victorinus, Bishop of the church of Pictavia, writing of Golgotha, hath these words: —
“Est locus, ex omni medium quem credimus orbe,
Golgotha Judæi patrio cognomine dicunt.”
“In the Earth’s centre, ’tis believed the place
By Jews called Golgotha, we seek to trace.”
OF ACHELDEMACH, AND THE PLACE WHERE JUDAS HANGED HIMSELF.
mach. AFTER passing out through David’s gate, we come to a fountain which runs through the valley towards the south. Half-way down the stream on the western side, Judas is said to have hanged himself. For there is 164 there a large and very ancient fig-tree, according as Juvencus writes: —
“Informen rapuit ficus de vertice mortem.”
“And met grim death from off the Fig-tree’s bough.”
Moreover, Acheldemach, on the south side of Mount Sion, is still famed for the bodies of foreigners and ignoble people that are brought there, some to be buried in the ground, others to rot upon its surface.
OF THE NAPKIN FROM OUR LORD’S HEAD, AND OF ANOTHER AND LARGER TOWEL MADE BY THE VIRGIN MARY.
napkins. THE napkin from our Lord’s head was stolen after his resurrection by a most good and Christian Jew, who kept it till his death, and left no end of riches. On his death-bed he asked his sons which of them would have the napkin, and which his other treasures. The elder chose the worldly money: the younger took the napkin. In process of time the wealth of the former diminished until he was reduced to poverty; but the riches of the younger increased with his faith, and the napkin continued for five generations in the possession of the faithful. After this, it fell into unholy hands, and increased their wealth as much as it had done in the case of the Jews, and for a very long time; until after long quarrels, the Christian Jews saying they were the heirs of Christ, and the unbelieving ones saying that they ought to inherit what had belonged to their fathers, Majuizas, king of the Saracens, who lived in our own times, was made umpire. He immediately kindled a large fire, and prayed Christ, who had deigned to wear this on his head for our salvation, to decide the question. The napkin was thrown into the fire, but rose out 165 of it again most rapidly, and floated along, as if in sport, through the air; and at last, whilst both parties were looking on, it gently lowered itself into the bosom of one of the Christians, and was the next morning kissed and venerated by all the people. The length of it was eight feet. There is another rather larger in the same church, made by Saint Mary, having figures of the twelve Apostles, and of our Lord himself. One side of it is red, and the other green.
OF THE PLACES NEAR JERUSALEM, AND THE CHURCH IN THE VALLEY OF JEHOSHAPHAT, WHERE SAINT MARY WAS BURIED.
and Valley of
phat. THE country round Jerusalem is rocky and mountainous. The ground on the north, from that city to Arimathæa, is, at intervals, rough and stony. There are open valleys covered with thorns extending all the way to the region of Thanitis; but from Ælia to Cæsarea of Palestine, though some narrow and craggy places are found for a short distance, yet the principle part of the way is a level plain, interspersed with olive-yards: the distance is seventy-five miles. The length of the Land of Promise from Dan over to Beersheba is a hundred and sixty miles, and from Joppa to Bethlehem forty-six miles. Near Jerusalem and the wall of the Temple is Gehennon, which is the Valley of Jehoshaphat, extending from north to south, and through it flows the brook Cedron, when it is swelled by a fall of rain. This valley, forming a small level plain, is well watered and woody, and full of delightful things: formerly there was in it a place dedicated to Baal. Here was the tower of King Jehoshaphat, containing his tomb; on the right side of it was a separate chamber, cut out of the rock of Mount 166 Olivet, containing two hollow sepulchres, one of the old Simeon, the other of Joseph the husband of Saint Mary. In the same valley is the round church of Saint Mary, divided by slabs of stone; in the upper part are four altars; on the eastern side below there is another, and to the right of it an empty tomb, in which Saint Mary is said to have reposed for a time: but who removed her, or when this took place, no one can say. On entering this chamber, you see on the right hand side a stone inserted in the wall, on which Christ knelt when he prayed on the night in which he was betrayed; and the marks of his knees are still seen in the stone, as if it had been as soft as wax.
MOUNT OLIVET, AND THE CHURCH FOUNDED UPON IT, WHERE OUR LORD ASCENDED TO HEAVEN.
of Olives. THE Mount of Olives is five miles distant from Jerusalem, and is equal in height to Mount Sion, but exceeds it in breadth and length; it bears few trees except vines and olive-trees, and is fruitful in wheat and barley, for the nature of that soil is not calculated for bearing things of large or heavy growth, but grass and flowers. On the very top of it, where our Lord ascended into heaven, is a large round church, having about it three vaulted porches. For the inner house could not be vaulted and covered, because of the passage of our Lord’s body; but it has an altar on the east side, covered with a narrow roof. In the midst of it are to be seen the last prints of our Lord’s feet, and the sky appears open above where he ascended; and though the earth is daily carried away by believers, yet still it remains as before, and retains the same impression of the feet. Near this lies a brazen wheel, as high as a man’s 167 neck, having an entrance towards the west, with a great lamp hanging above it on a pulley, and burning night and day. In the western part of the same church are eight windows; and eight lamps, hanging opposite to them by cords, cast their light through the glass as far as Jerusalem; this light is said to strike the hearts of the beholders with a sort of joy and humility. Every year, on the day of the Ascension, when mass is ended, a strong blast of wind is said to come down, and to cast to the ground all that are in the church. The whole of that night lanterns are kept burning there, so that the mountain and the country beneath appear not only lighted up, but actually to be on fire. Of this church, also, I have thought proper to add below a resemblance.
(The drawing is missing.)
The monument of Lazarus is indicated by a church built on the same spot, and a large monastery in a field at Bethany, in the midst of a large grove of olives. Bethany is fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem. There is also a third church on the same mountain, towards the northern side of Bethany, where our Lord spoke to his disciples, before he suffered, concerning the day of judgment.
OF THE SITUATION OF BETHLEHEM, AND THE CHURCH WHERE OUR LORD WAS BORN; AND OF THE TOMBS OF DAVID AND HIERONYMUS, AND THE THREE SHEPHERDS.
and tombs. BETHLEHEM is six miles distant from Jerusalem, towards the south. It is situated on a narrow ridge, surrounded on every side by valleys: it is a mile long from west to east, and has a low wall built along the edge of the brow of the hill. At its eastern angle there is a 168 sort of natural cave, the outer part of which is said to have been the place of our Lord’s birth; the inside is called “Our Lord’s Manger.” The whole of this cave is covered within with beautiful marble, over the place where especially our Lord is said to have been born. It has above it the great church of St. Mary. Near the wall is a hollow stone, which received back from the wall the first water in which our Lord’s body was washed, when it was thrown away, and still retains the same. If by any accident or service it has been emptied, it nevertheless becomes again, in a short time, as full as before. To the north of Bethlehem, in a neighbouring valley, is the tomb of David, in the middle of the church, covered with a low stone, and with a lamp placed above it. In a church which stands in an adjoining valley, to the south, is the tomb of Jerome. Moreover, on the eastern side, in the tower of Ader, that is, of the Flock, at the distance of a thousand paces from the city, is a church, containing monuments of the three shepherds who were present at our Lord’s birth. I have stated these facts on the authority of Bishop Arculph. But Erras writes in plain terms, that David was buried in Jerusalem, in the King’s-way, which leads from Ælia to Cedron; that Bethlehem is to the east of it, and to the west is the tomb of Rachel, having her name inscribed upon it even to this day.
OF THE SITE OF HEBRON, AND OF THE MONUMENTS OF THE FATHERS AND OF ADAM.
Hebron. HEBRON, once a city, and the capital of David’s kingdom, shows only by its ruins what it was formerly. It lies in a broad plain, twenty-two miles distant from 169 Ælia. Tombs of
archs.One furlong to the east of it is a double cave in the valley, where are the tombs of the patriarchs enclosed by a square wall, with their heads lying to the north. Each of the tombs is covered with a single stone, worked like the stones of a church, and of a white colour, for those of the patriarchs. Adam’s is of meaner and more common workmanship, and lies not far from them at the farthest northern extremity. There are also some poorer and smaller monuments of three women. The hill Mamre is a thousand paces from the monuments, and is full of grass and flowers, having a flat plain on the top. In the northern part of it is Abraham’s oak, a stump about twice the height of a man, enclosed in a church. Passing through Hebron towards the north, one sees to the left a mountain of no great size, covered with fir-trees, at a distance of three thousand paces from Hebron. Fir-wood is carried from this place to Jerusalem on camels, for carriages and waggons are seldom seen throughout the whole of Judæa.
OF JERICHO AND THE HOLY PLACES IN THOSE PARTS.
Places. JERICHO lies to the East of Ælia, and is distant from it nineteen thousand paces. It has been three times levelled with the ground; and the house of Rahab, in reward for her faith, is the only one which remains; for its walls are still standing, though without a roof. The place where the city stood now contains corn-fields and vineyards. Between this and the Jordan, which is about five or six miles distant, are large groves of palm-trees, with small plains interspersed, and inhabitants of the race of the Canaanites. The twelve stones, which 170 Joshua Jericho and
its vicinity.ordered to be taken out of the Jordan, lie in the church of Galgatis, against the wall on each side. Each of them is so heavy that two men could hardly lift it: one of them has been by some accident broken in two, but the pieces have been again united by means of iron. Near Jericho is a fountain of plentiful water, good to drink and fit for irrigation, though it formerly was very ill adapted for fertilizing the ground, and very offensive to the taste; but it was purified by Elisha the Prophet, who threw a vessel of salt into it. Around lies a plain, seventy furlongs in length and twenty broad, in which are gardens of extraordinary beauty, with various kinds of palm-trees, and swarms of bees of surpassing excellence. Opobalsam, also, is here produced, which bears this name from the following circumstance: — The countrymen cut narrow channels in the bark with sharp stones, and the sap gradually oozing out through these openings, forms itself into pearl-like drops. Now the Greek word ope signifies a cavern, or opening. They say the cypress and myrobalanum are there produced. The water of the fountains, like other things, is there most excellent; in summer it is cold, in winter lukewarm: the air is so mild that they wear linen garments in the winter. The city itself is built in the plain, which it overlooks, and it is bare of animals; for the soil is sickly and hungry, and therefore abandoned by inhabitants. From the territory of the city Scythopolis to the region of Sodom and Asphaltis, extends an open country. Over against this is a mountain above the river Jordan, extending from the city Julias to Zoar, which borders on Arabia Petræa, where also there is a mountain called the Iron Mountain. Between the two mountains is a plain, which the ancients called the Great Plain: Aulon, or
Plain.its Hebrew name is Aulon. The length of it is two hundred and thirty furlongs; in breadth it is a hundred and twenty: it begins at the village of Gennabara, and ends at the lake Asphaltus. The Jordan 171 divides it in the middle, and the banks are rendered most luxuriant by the deposits of the river; so that the produce of the trees is everywhere most abundant along the margin of the stream, but elsewhere it is rather scanty; for the soil, except where the river runs, is dry and barren.
OF THE RIVER JORDAN AND THE SEA OF GALILEE, OTHERWISE CALLED THE SEA OF TIBERIAS.
Jordan. THE sources of the Jordan itself are commonly thought to be in the province of Phœnicia, at the foot of Mount Libanus, where Panium, or Cæsarea Philippi, is situated. This town, Panium, so called as descriptive of the cave from which the river Jordan flows, is said to have been built up and adorned by King Agrippa, with wonderful magnificence. In the country of Trachonitis, there is a fountain, after the likeness of a wheel, from which it has received the name of Phiale, fifteen miles distant from Cæsarea, full of sweet water, and having this peculiarity, that it never overflows, and yet never can be diminished. Philip, the tetrarch of this district, threw straw into this fountain, which was again cast up by the river in Panium. It is therefore evident that the sources of the Jordan are in Phiale; but that, after passing underground, it resumes its course in Panium, and entering the lake, flows right through its shallows, and from thence proceeds without any break, for the space of fifteen miles, to a city named Julias, and thence divides the lake of Gennesar half-way on its whole course. After this it winds about for a long distance, and as it enters the Asphaltian, i.e. the Dead Sea, it presents a remarkable mass of waters. The colour of it is white, 172 like milk; and for this reason it is distinguished by a long track in the Dead Sea. Sea of Galli-
lee.Now, the Sea of Gennesar, otherwise called the Sea of Galilee, is surrounded by large woods, and is a hundred and forty stadia in length. Its water is sweet and fit to drink; for it receives no mud or other coarse substance from any marshy pools, but is surrounded on all sides by a sandy shore, and has in its neighbourhood many pleasant towns. On the east lie Julias and Hippo; on the west is Tiberias, famous for its salubrious hot springs: the different kinds of fish which it contains are better, both in taste and in appearance, than those which are found in the other lake.
OF THE DEAD SEA, AND THE NATURE OF THE COUNTRY WHICH BORDERS ON IT.
Sea and its
vicinity. THE Dead Sea is five hundred and eighty furlongs in length, and extends as far as the Zoari in Arabia. Its breadth is one hundred and fifty furlongs, as far as the neighbourhood of Sodom. For it is certain that it flowed also out of some salt-pits, after the burning of Sodom and Gomorrha and the adjacent cities. But it appears to those who look at it from the top of Mount Olivet, that the collision of the waves causes salt of a very strong kind to be thrown up, which, when dried in the sun, is collected, and is of considerable service to many of the neighbouring nations. Salt is said to be produced in a different manner from this in a certain mountain of Sicily, where large blocks of the strongest and most useful salt are hewn out of the earth: this is called rock-salt. The name of the Dead Sea is derived from this circumstance — that it does not sustain any kind of living thing; for there are neither fish in its depths, nor water 173 fowl swimming upon its surface. The Dead
Sea, &c.Indeed, if by accident the river Jordan, when swollen by storms, carries down any fish into it, they immediately die, and their dead bodies are seen floating on the languid waters. They say that a lighted candle will float without being upset, and that when the light is put out, it sinks; but that it is difficult for any thing else to be made stop at the bottom; and that every living thing, however different, and with whatever violence thrown in, instantly rises again. Indeed it is recorded that Vespasian ordered some persons who could not swim to be thrown in with their hands tied behind their backs, and all of them rose and floated on the top. The water is bitter and unfertilizing, of a darker colur than other water, and tastes as if had been burnt. It is certain that lumps of bitumen with a black liquor are seen swimming in the water, and the natives go out in boats and collect them. They say that the bitumen sticks together most firmly, and cannot be divided by any instrument of steel,* but dissolves in urine, or in the blood of a woman. It is of use to fasten ships, and is applied medicinally to the human body. The whole region still bears marks of the judgment inflicted upon it. Apples of a most beautiful appearance are produced there, which make the mouths of the beholders water, but when gathered, they rot and moulder to ashes, and send forth smoke, as if still acted on by fire. In summer an excessive vapour floats over the whole plain; by which cause, and the great drought co-operating together, the air becomes corrupted, and the inhabitants are afflicted with dreadful distempers.
OF THE PLACE WHERE OUR LORD WAS BAPTIZED.
St. John the
Baptist. IN the place where our Lord was baptized, stands a wooden cross as high as a man’s neck, and sometimes covered by the water. From it to the further, that is, the eastern bank, is a sling’s cast; and on the nearer bank is a large monastery of St. John the Baptist standing on a rising ground, and famous for a very handsome church, from which they descend to the cross by a bridge supported on arches, to offer up their prayers. In the further part of the river is a quadrangular church, supported on four stone arches, covered with burnt tiles, where our Lord’s clothes are said to have been kept whilst he was baptized. Men do not enter this church, but come together round it from all quarters; from the place where the Jordan leaves the Sea of Galilee, to where it enters the Dead Sea, a journey of eight days.
OF THE LOCUSTS, THE WILD HONEY, AND THE FOUNTAIN OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST.
ain of St. John the
wild honey. IT was the smallest species of locusts which formed the food of John the Baptist, as is clear from the practice of the present day. Their bodies are short and slender, about the size of a finger, and are easily captured on the plants. When boiled in oil, they form a plain and humble kind of food. In the same desert are trees having broad round leaves of a white colour and sweet taste, naturally weak, and easily bruised by the hands for eating. This is said to be what is meant by wood 175 or wild honey. In the same place is shown St. John the Baptist’s fountain of the clearest water, having a stone roof covered with mortar.
OF JACOB‘S FOUNTAIN, NEAR SICHEM.
at Sichem. NEAR the city of Sichem, now called Neapolis, is a church divided in four; that is, made in the form of a cross. In the midst of it is Jacob’s well, forty cubits deep, and as wide as from the side to the ends of the fingers. It was from this well that our Lord vouchsafed to ask water of the Samaritan woman.
OF TIBERIAS, CAPARNAUM, NAZARETH, AND THE HOLY PLACES IN THOSE PARTS.
Nazareth, etc. THE place in which our lord blessed the loaves and fishes on this side of the Sea of Galilee, to the north of the city of Tiberias, is a plain, grassy and level, which has never been ploughed since those times, nor has ever been built upon: but there is the same fountain there from which those persons drank. Those who go from Ælia to Caparnaum, pass through Tiberias, and from thence along the Sea of Galilee to the place where the loaves were blessed, from which it is no great distance to Caparnaum on the borders of Zebulon and Naphtali. The town has no walls, and lies on a narrow piece of ground between a mountain and lake. On the sea-coast towards the east it extends a long way, having the mountain 176 on the north, and lake on the south. Nazareth has no walls, but large houses, and two great churches. One of these is in the midst of the city, built on two arches, where formerly was a house, in which our Lord was nursed when an infant. This church is built on two eminences, with arches connecting them, and has under it between the eminences a clear fountain, from which all the citizens draw water in vessels with pulleys for the use of the church. In the other church was the house in which the Angel came to the blessed Mary.
OF MOUNT TABOR, AND THE THREE CHURCHES THEREON.
Tabor. MOUNT TABOR is situated in the midst of the plain of Galilee, and is three miles distant from Gennesareth, towards the north. It is round on all sides, covered with grass and flowers, and thirty furlongs high. Its top forms a pleasant meadow, twenty-three furlongs wide, whereon is a large monastery, surrounded by a thick wood, and containing three churches, according to the words of Peter, “Let us make here three tabernacles.” The place is surrounded by a wall, and contains some stately edifices.
Damascus. DAMASCUS is situated in a plain, and surrounded by a broad and ample circuit of walls, strengthened with numerous towers, and intersected by four great rivers. 177 The Christians frequent the church of Saint John the Baptist, but the king of the Saracens with his people established and consecrated another. On all sides beyond the walls are numerous groves of olives. From Tabor to Damascus it is a journey of eight days.
OF ALEXANDRIA, THE RIVER NILE, AND THE CHURCH IN WHICH MARK THE EVANGELIST IS BURIED.
and the Nile. ALEXANDRIA extends to a great length from east to west. On the south it is bounded by the mouths of the Nile, and on the north by the Lake Mareotis. Its port is more difficult than the others, and has a resemblance to the human body; for in its head it is sufficiently ample, but when there are waves it is too narrow, because it admits the tide of the sea, together with such ships as run into the port to recover themselves and refit. But when one has passed the narrow neck and mouth of the harbour, the sea, still following the likeness of the human body, spreads itself far and wide. On its right hand side is a small port, in which is the Pharos,1 a large tower, which is every night lighted up with torches, lest sailors might mistake their way in the dark and dash against the rocks, in their attempt to find the entrance, particularly as this is much impeded and disturbed by the waves dashing to and fro. The port, however, is always calm, and in magnitude about thirty furlongs. Towards Egypt, as one enters the city, there is a large church on the right, in which reposes St. Mark the Evangelist. Tomb of
St. Mark.The body is buried in the eastern part of the church before the altar, with a monument over it of squared marble. Along the Nile the Egyptians are in the habit of constructing numerous mounds to prevent the irruption of 178 the water, which, if the mounds were to be broken down by the neglect of the guardians, would not irrigate, but inundate and destroy the lands beneath. The Egyptians who inhabit the plains over the canals, make their houses by laying transverse planks thereon.
OF CONSTANTINOPLE, AND THE CHURCH THEREIN WHICH CONTAINS OUR LORD’S CROSS.
church of St. Sophia. CONSTANTINOPLE is bounded on all sides except the north by the sea, which extends from the great sea to the walls of the city, sixty thousand paces, and from the walls to the mouths of the Danube, forty thousand. The circuit of the walls, which are angular, according to the line of sea, is about twelve thousand paces. Constantine was at first disposed to build it in Cilicia, near the sea which separates Europe and Asia, but on a certain night all the iron tools were carried away, and, when men were sent to fetch them, they were found on the European side: for there it was the will of God that it should be built. In this city is a church of wonderful workmanship, called the church of Saint Sophia, built up from its foundation of a circular shape, domed in, and surrounded by three walls. It is supported to a great height on columns and arches, and has in its inmost part, on the north side, a large and beautiful closet, wherein is a wooden chest with a wooden lid, containing three pieces of our Lord’s cross, that is to say, the long timber cut in two, and the transverse part of the same holy cross. These pieces are exhibited for the adoration of the people three times only in the year, namely, on the day of our Lord’s supper, the day of the preparation, and on the Holy Sabbath. On the first of these, the chest, which 179 is two cubits long and one broad, is set out on a golden altar with the holy cross exposed to view: the Emperor first approaches, and after him all the different ranks of laymen, in order, kiss and worship it: on the following day the Empress and all the married women and virgins do the same; but on the third day the bishops and different orders of the clergy do it, and then the chest is shut and carried back to the closet before mentioned. As long as it remains open on the altar, a wonderful odor spreads through the whole church. For an odoriferous liquor like oil flows from the knots of the holy wood, the least drop of which cures every complaint which a man may be afflicted with.
“Descripsi breviter finesque situsque locorum,
Pagine sacra magis quæ memoranda refert,
Beda, sequens veterum monumenta simulque novorum
Charta magistrorum quæ sonet inspiciens.
Da, Jesu, patriam semper tendamus ad illam,
Quam beat æternum visis summa tui.”
Thus have I sought in these few words to trace
The form and site of every holy place.
For this memorials of past times have brought,
And from each writer new instruction sought.
Grant, Jesus, that in Heaven we all my rest,
And be for ever with Thy presence blest!
THUS much have I written concerning the Holy Places, following, to the best of my knowledge, the truth of history,
referred to. and in particular the dictation of Arculph, Bishop of Gaul, which Adamnan, that priest so learned in Holy Scripture, hath set down in his jagged style, and comprised in three books. For the above-named bishop, 180 from a desire to see the Holy Places, left his native country and went to the Land of Promise, where he stopped two months at Jerusalem, having an old monk, named Peter, for his guide and interpreter. He then with great zeal visited every thing all round, which he had longed to see, and travelled to Alexandria, Damascus, Constantinople, and Sicily. On his way home, the vessel in which he sailed, after much beating about, was carried by contrary winds to our island, that is, to Britain; and Arculph, after certain hazards, came to the above-named venerable man, Adamnan, and explained to him his voyage, and what he had seen. Adamnan was thus enabled to compose a most beautiful history thereof. From this book we have gleaned a little, and having compared it with the books of the ancients, have sent it for your perusal, beseeching you, by all means, to relieve your worldly labours, not by indolence or licentiousness, but by holy reading and earnest prayer.
* The introduction of asphalt pavement into most of the capitals of Europe, will probably render the “accursed plains” of more value to the owners of the land, than it would have realized them, had it been covered with the olive and the vine.
1 The lighthouse, Pharos, was called one of the seven wonders of the world. See Bede, in his work The Seven Wonders of the World, on this site. — Elf.Ed.