Saturday, 27 June 2015

An Englishman's Pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1517 - Week 2 - Zakynthos to Crete

Having left Corfu, the Venetian galley carrying the English priest, Richard Torkington, and other pilgrims (some of them English, but also French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese) sailed on along the Ionian coast of Greece. It was, for most of them, a once in a lifetime opportunity actually to glimpse some of the places they had heard tell of, both in the Bible, and in the works of Virgil and Ovid, by this time widely available as printed editions, fully accessible to a man such as Torkington, who used Latin on a daily basis.

"Saturday the xxvij day of Junij a bowt iiij of the cloke at aftyr Noone we cam to Ganta (Zakynthos) in Grece, and after we went on Londe, and there we taryed Sonnday, whych is under the Dominacion of the Venycians. Also we met with ij galyes of Venys, which went owt of Venys a moneth a for us, which galyes went to the Turk Ambasset. And they caryed with them riches and pleasurs as clothe of gold and crymsyn velvet ... There is the grettest winys and strongest that ever I drank in my lyff."

The Ionian Islands (coloured green) under the Venetian Republic, 1785 (image is in the Public Domain).

The wine in question is likely to have been Malmsey, produced in Croatia, Slovenia and on the Aegean islands. It was exported to England, among other places (George Plantagenet, the 1st Duke of Clarence, had been drowned in a barrel of it), but may have been beyond the means of a parish priest.

Torkington was shown around the island's castle: "the wallys are sore brosyd and brokyn with the earthe quake, which was in Aprill last past, and all the isle is sore troubled with the seyd erthe qwake diffuse times."

"Thursday the Ijde Day of Julii, a bowt xj or xij of the cloke a for non, we came to Candi (modern Heraklion, on Crete, then under Venetian control) ... We found vj or vij Englishe merchaunts, which made us good cher ... In Candia, sine Creta was mashye first founde ... Armyes first founde on horsebake ... There was law first put in writing. Armour was first there devisyd and founde."

Candia (Heraklion) in 1487 (image is in the Public Domain).

The Venetian harbour of Heraklion. Photo: J. Olle (licensed under GNU).

The Venetian arsenal of Heraklion. Photo: Beemwej (licensed under GNU).

 "In Candi also ys the old churche, whereof Titus was Bishoppe, to whom Paul wrote epystyllis. I saw the hede of the seyd Titus coverd with silver and golde ... and this citee of Candi was some time the ... lordshippe of King Minos ... In that londe, xxx mile from Candy, ys an old cittee, which was called Cretina ... In this citee we tarried Ij dayes and an half."

The "broken city" can only have been that of Gortyn, rather than Knossos (which is, in any case, much closer to Heraklion), Phaistos or Mallia: little, if anything, of these Bronze Age cities, is likely to have been visible on the ground prior to the 19th and 20th Century excavations. Gortyn, on the other hand, was a Roman city, parts of which must have been visible. There Torkington would also have visited the 6th Century Basilica of Saint Titus.

Roman remains at Gortyn. Photo: Marc Ryckaert (licensed under CCA).

The Basilica of Saint Titus. Photo: Marc Ryckaert (licensed under CCA).

Although this journey was a pilgrimage, and there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Torkington's religious motivation, it is clear from his account that time was set aside for sightseeing, the sampling of local produce, and other activities that we would think of in terms of "tourism." Certainly it was a very different experience from the 12th Century pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostella that I have discussed in earlier blog-posts.

More next week!

Mark Patton's novels, Undreamed Shores, An Accidental King and Omphalos, are published by Crooked Cat Publications, and can be purchased from Amazon.

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