Pilgrims who visited the Holy Land between the IV and VII century
(634-638 A.D.)
Two poems on the Holy City of Jerusalem

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Map of Sophronius' Jerusalem


Map I: Jerusalem

General map
showing the places
mentioned in Sophronius'
Anacreontica 19 and 20

click on any locality name in the map
to view the corresponding
section of the text


Sophronius was born in Damascus (Syria) in 550 A.D. ca. He was about 30, and a rethor by profession, when he went to the Holy Land and joined the monastery of St. Theodosius, near Bethlehem. With his companion John Moschus, he made long journeys through Egypt and North Africa seeking the conversion of different Monophysite communities there.

In 633/4 A.D. he became Patriarch of Jerusalem. His death followed soon the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem in 638 A.D. Both history and tradition speak of the very important part he took in establishing the peace treaty with Ummar Ibn al-Khattab, the general commander of the Arab armies.

Sophronius' writings are of theological, hagiographical and poetical nature. He wrote a collection of poems called Anacreontica. His Anacreontica 19 and 20 seems to be an expression of the longing desire he had of the Holy City, possibly when he was absent from Jerusalem during one of his many journeys. The order of the two poems has to be inverted to establish a correct sequence of the diverse subjects. Arranged in this way, the two poems describe a complete circuit throughout the most important sanctuaries of Jerusalem at the end of 6th century, which is the golden age of Christianity in the Holy Land.

The gates of Jerusalem (or Solyma), the Anastasis, the Rock of the Cross, the Constantinian Basilica, Mount Sion, the Praetorium, St. Mary at the Probatica, Gethsemane are the themes of Anacreonticon 20. The Mount of Olives, Bethany, Bethlehem come next in Anacreonticon 19.

We will try to comment Sophronius' text with images taken from a famous wooden reliquarium (Musei Vaticani - Rome) which is contemporary to Sophronius' work, as well as with photographs from the Holy Places themselves. Numbers in brackets from [19:1-18] to [20:95-102] correspond to the commonly adopted subdivision of the text, and constitute links to a file containing images of the original greek text. A book icon () indicates a link to a file containing biblical texts or to additional sources.

English translation by John Wilkinson (Jerusalem Pilgrims before the Crusades, 1977).

Holy City of God, Jerusalem, how I long to stand
even now at your gates,
and go in, rejoicing!
Panorama of Jerusalem
A divine longing
for holy Solyma
presses upon me insistently.


The Lateran Reliquiarium Top: Panorama of Jerusalem, as seen from
the Mt. of Olives.

Left: Painted cover of a reliquarium (7th cent. A.D.)


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