Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Pilgrims to Jerusalem in the Middle Ages

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Pilgrims to Jerusalem in the Middle Ages

Article excerpt

Medieval Pilgrims to Jerusalem in the Middle Ages. By Nicole Chareyron. Translated by W. Donald Wilson. (New York: Columbia University Press. 2005. Pp. xviii, 287. $45.00.)

For medieval Christians the pilgrimage to Jerusalem was an act of extraordinary devotion. Rich spiritual rewards awaited those who could visit the city sanctified by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet the long, expensive, and dangerous journey from Europe to the Holy Land was itself also an act of penance. Utilizing more than fifty contemporary accounts, Nicole Chareyron opens in this book a fascinating window into the world of these pilgrims. In evocative (although occasionally over-florid) prose, Chareyron creates a composite picture of a typical pilgrimage from its hopeful departure until its uncertain conclusion. Her close familiarity with what she refers to as "our authors" makes this book both interesting and entertaining.

It is important to point out that, title notwithstanding, this is a book about Jerusalem pilgrimages at the end of the Middle Ages-specifically the fourteenth, fifteenth, and early sixteenth centuries. A pilgrim in the twelfth century, for example, would have had a dramatically different experience than what is described here. Chareyron recognizes the diversity of late medieval pilgrimage routes, yet focuses on what she sees as the most common one and then foEows it closely. It begins at home with a ceremony and tearful departure and then moves on to Venice, where ships' captains compete with one another to sell package tours that seem never to go as promised. After experiencing the rich beauty of Venice, the pilgrims then board a cramped vessel where poor food, bad smells, nasty rats, cagey oarsmen, and disease are the norm for the next five weeks. …

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