Medieval Pilgrimage: an Outline
Scattered testimonies suggest that Christians may have been paying religiously motivated visits to Palestine before 300, or even 200, but there has been debate as to whether their motives identify them as pilgrims in the sense familiar later.1 Eusebius transcribes a letter from Melito of Sardis (d. c.190), who had taken the opportunity of a visit to the Holy Land to compile an authoritative list of the books of the Old Testament for a friend. To Melito this was the place where the biblical events had taken place and the ‘truth’ had been revealed. Any attempt to disentangle ‘devotional’ motives from the more academic quest for information on the part of such visitors may be doomed to frustration. Why, after all, were Christians interested in the scriptures if not for devotional reasons? When describing Holy Land topography Eusebius repeatedly uses language which implies that biblical sites were ‘shown’ to visitors. Clearly the long process of identifying them had begun by the early fourth century.
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