Saturday, 11 July 2015

An Englishman's Pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1517 - Week 4 - Jaffa to Jerusalem

In his account of his pilgrimage, the English priest, Richard Torkington, makes it clear that the galley on which he travelled to the Holy Land lay at anchor for around a week, whilst someone, presumably one or two of the ship's officers, travelled to Jerusalem to fetch the Prior of Mount Sion.

The Franciscan prior, almost certainly multi-lingual, was selected as much for his diplomatic skills as for his piety, and the Vatican trusted nobody else (certainly not Venetian sea-captains) to negotiate with the Muslim authorities in matters concerning the pilgrimage. The situation was doubly complicated in 1517, since control over the Holy Land had recently passed from the Egyptian Mamelukes to the Ottoman Turks.

"Wedynsday the xvth Day of Julii, the Ffather Warden of Bedelam came to us with Lordis of Jherusalem and Rama, these being Turkys, the Grete Turke having in Dominion all the holl londe ... And thane we were suffered to come on londe ... we lay in the same grotte or cave all nyght upon the stynking stable ground ... ryght evill intretyd by the said Turkes."

Jaffa in 1839, by David Roberts (image is in the Public Domain).

"At this Jaffa begyn the Holy Londe ... At this haven Jonas the prophete tooke the sea, whanne he fledde from the sitte of the lord in Tharsis. And in the same Jaffe, Seynt Peter reysid ffrom Deth Tabitam, the servaunt of the Apostolis. And ffast by is the place where Seynt Peter usyd to ffysh, and our saviour, Christ called him and seyd Sequere Me."

Torkington is wrong on the latter point (Saint Peter fished on the Sea of Galilee, not on the Mediterranean). He says nothing about giving a sermon at this point in time, so, in my novel, Omphalos, I have my own character, Richard Mabon, preaching one, and introducing this error, which Torkington could have heard. It fits my characterisation of Mabon remarkably well!

Jaffa - encampment of Persian pilgrims on route for Mecca, c1900. Although these are Muslim pilgrims of the 20th Century, the nature of the encampment is likely to have been much the same. Whether one slept in a tented pavilion or a filthy cave, and whether one rode a camel or an ass, probably depended on one's social status, and the amount of money paid to the Turkish hosts.

"Thursday the xvj Day of Julii, at iiij of the cloke at aftyer noon, we took 3 assis and rode to Rama (Ramallah) the same nyght, and we were recyved into Duke Phillip's hospitall. We found no thing therein but bar walls and bar floretas, excepte oonly a well of good fresh water which was much to our comfort. Nevertheless, ther came to us Jacobyns (Syriac Christians), that browte us mattes for our mony to lye upon. And also brede ... eggs ... milke, grapys and apyllis."

Rama in 1698, by Cornelius de Bruijin (image is in the Public Domain).

"Satrday erlay in the morning, we took our journey towardys Jherusalem. And a bowt noon we retyd us underneath the olyffe trees, and there refreshyd us with such mete and wyne as we bowght with us from ower ship. And a bowght vj or vij of the cloke and were recyvyd into the Mounte Sion, and ther we supped. And after supper we war lede to our hospitall called Sancto Jacobo, ryght in the way of the holy sepulchre ward."

Prospect of Jerusalem in 1493, by Hartmann Schedel (image is in the Public Domain).

The Priory of Mount Sion, Jerusalem. Photo: Donatus (licensed under CCA).

Richard Torkington was (in common, probably, with all the pilgrims with whom he travelled) a Roman Catholic. In the Holy Land itself, he encountered people who followed various Orthodox forms of Christianity (including the "Jacobyns" mentioned above), people often described by the Catholics as "Heretics." By setting foot in the Holy Land, the Catholic pilgrims won for themselves a "Plenary Indulgence," reducing the time their souls might have to spend in Purgatory. The spiritual highlights of the pilgrimage were, as they had been since the late Roman period, sacramental in nature: Confession at the Priory of Mount Sion; followed by Communion in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

But even as Torkington was making his way to Jerusalem, hundreds of miles away, in Wittenberg, Germany, a monk named Martin Luther may already have been working on the document that he would publish in the autumn of that year, challenging the very ideas on which Torkington's faith was based: indulgences; Purgatory; sacramental confession; the intercession of saints; the spiritual value of relics, and even of pilgrimage itself.

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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