Wednesday, 15 July 2015

An Englishman's Pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1517 - Week 5 - The Sights of Jerusalem

Having arrived in Jerusalem, Richard Torkington and his fellow pilgrims stayed there for a week, sleeping on carpets on the floor of the Hostel of Saint James, which seems to have been located just inside the city's Jaffa Gate.

The Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem (image is in the Public Domain).

"Sunday the xixth day of Julii, we came to Mounte Sion to masse, which was song ther right devowtly ... and whan masse was don we all went to dyn in the place wher we were right honestly servyd. And at melys of the dinner the ffather warden made a ryght holy sermon ... and exortyd every man to confession and repentaunce, and so visit the seyd holy places in clennesse of liff."

The "Cenacle" or "Last Supper Room," formerly part of the Priory of Mount Sion. Tradition holds this as the location of the Last Supper, and other accounts of Early Modern pilgrimages specifically claim that the Prior of Mount Sion held mass here for the pilgrims. None of the surviving architecture dates to the time of Christ, but it is, in large part, the building that Torkington would have seen. Photo: Marco Plassio (licensed under CCA).

"And this sermon done, the ffader warden gaff us warnyng that every man shuld provyd mete for himself and he wold fynd us wyne, and so he did all the time we war ther."

On the Monday the friars led them around the Valley of Jehosephat, pointing out the Tomb of Absalom, continuing on to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemene. The pilgrims were shown the place where Christ was betrayed, and then the houses of Herod and Pilate, following the Via Dolorosa. All would have made this journey, metaphorically, every Easter in their own parish churches ("The Stations of the Cross"), but now they were making it in real time and space.

The Valley of Jehosephat (Valley of Hinom). Photo: Devor Avi (licensed under CCA).

The Garden of Gethsemane. Photo: Chris Yunker (licensed under CCA).

"The Tewysday, at vj of the cloke at after noon ... we were admitted by the lordes, Turkes and Mamoloukes of the citie to entre in to the Temple of the Holy Sepulchre. At the same time the most parte of the ffryers of the Mount Sion entered with us ... they began ther a very solemn procession. And at every station was showd un to us by one of the ffryers, the mysteries and holines of the places wher they made their stations."

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (image is in the Public Domain).

These included the pillar at which Christ was scourged, the socket in which the cross had stood and, finally, the rock-cut tomb in which Christ's body had been placed.

"The same Wednysday ... we taryd all Day and all night in the Temple of the Holy Sepulchre."

The interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (image is in the Public Domain).

There followed an excursion to Bethlehem, and then, the following Monday, they departed, with a large escort of "lordes, Turkes and Saracens," to rejoin their ship at Jaffa. And here we will leave Richard Torkington, for he returned to England by very much the same route along which he had come. His full account does not seem to be available online, as yet, but a printed version was published in 1883 (W.J. Loftie, Ye Oldest Diarie of Englysshe Travell), and is available in many libraries.

Torkington's account was of particular interest to me, as I was writing "Jerusalem," the 16th Century story in my novel, Omphalos. By placing my protagonists, Richard Mabon and Nicholas Ahier (the latter is fictional), on the same ship as Torkington (the historical Mabon might have made the journey any time between 1517 and 1522), I had a precise itinerary around which I could build my story.

I even wondered if I might find a mention of Mabon in Torkington's account, but he says almost nothing about his fellow pilgrims, about his conversations with them, or even, as a priest, about his spiritual response to the places he was experiencing. Other pilgrims who have left written accounts had more to say about these things, and I drew upon these sources, also, in putting together Mabon's fictionalised account. I shall have more to say about these sources in the near future.

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


  1. Mark, thanks so much for sharing this delightful adventure with us. I have enjoyed it very much. Lucky you, getting to use the British Library archives! Maybe there's a copy in the State Library here in Melbourne, must check.

  2. Thanks, Sue, I think there's quite a good chance that you will find it in the State Library. It's reasonably well known among those who research/teach this period of history, and essential reading for higher level students.