The Peaceful Liberation of the Holy Places in the XIV Century

II - 10 The Testimony of Contemporary Pilgrims

A) Before the Negotiations of 1333

At the opening of the Fourteenth Century pilgrims arrived in the Holy Land in increasing numbers. This was especially the case from 1310-1320, but even afterward there were many pilgrims. Some wrote reports about their voyages, including many interesting annotations about the condition in which they found the Holy Sites and important indications of the places occupied by the various Eastern Rites. Unfortunately their notes are not scholarly and lack useful and important details. Often the pilgrims did not have a sufficient understanding of the places or of the persons and so their writings are often confused. It is not always easy to determine which clergy was absent or present in the various Holy Places.
We do know that before 1333 no pilgrim mentions the presence of the Latin or other Rites in the Sanctuaries, either for the ordinary liturgy of the day or for the more extraordinary liturgies of the Solemnities. The only exception to this is the mention of the Georgians at the Holy Sepulchre whose presence was noted a dozen years before 1333.
In 1320 a Dominican pilgrim, Francesco Pipino of Bologna, arrived in the Holy Land. His notes are interesting because he lists the Holy Places where he celebrated Mass: near the Holy Sepulchre-at the Chapel of the Angel as well as on the Holy Sepulchre; in Bethlehem he celebrated on the Altar of the Manger and in the Shepherds' Fields; at the Cenacle, on five different altars; at the Tomb of the Madonna; at the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist near Calvary; and on Mt. Sion at the Church of St. James. Both the Chapel of St. John (outside of the Calvary) and the Church of St. James then belonged to the Armenians who were still in union with Rome.(*68)
In 1332 an Irish Franciscan, Simon de Simeonis (Fitzsimmons) and his companion Hugo arrived in Jerusalem. They were the first to observe that in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre there were two religious "Cumani", namely Georgians. They also mention the Church of St. James of the Armenians.(*69)
In 1327 another pilgrim, the Franciscan Antonio de Reboldis, arrived in Jerusalem. He visited the Holy Land two times, first in 1327 and then again from 1330-1331. He observed that the Church of the Cenacle was almost totally destroyed. He celebrated Mass on the Tomb of the Madonna, at the Altar of the Manger and of the Nativity, on Calvary at the Altar of the Crucifixion and in the Chapel of the Magdalen, as well as at the Cenacle. This is practically the same list of places which would be restored to the Latins in only two more years.(*70)
In 1332 the German pilgrim William von Bondelsele visited the Holy Places. He had a priest - companion with him who celebrated Mass at the Altar of the Nativity, on the Holy Sepulchre, and on the Tomb of the Madonna. He notes that the only Catholic church at that time was St. James of the Armenians. Other than the Holy Sepulchre the other churches belonged to the Greeks, the Syrians, the Nestorians, the Jacobites, the Christians of the Girdle, the Nubians, the Ethiopians, the Indians, the followers of the priest Gianni, and to the Georgians. He added that the Church of the Holy Cross and the church of Quarantine (near Jericho) also belonged to the Georgians.(*71)


*68 - The Voyage of Pipino is a very rare work. Only 50 copies of it were printed in 1896. The Franciscan pilgrim Odorico of Forlì arrived in 1320, but he wrote nothing about the Christian clergy stationed at the Holy Places.

*69 - For the text and the critical apparatus, Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, III, 237-282.

*70 - Golubovich, Biblioteca Bio-bibliografica, III, 326-342.

*71 - For the text, see C. L. Grotefend, "Die Edelherren von Boldensele", Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereines für Niedersachsen, Jg. 1852, Hannover 1855, 209-286; the cited text is found on page 265.

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