CELEBRATED TRAVELLERS FROM THE FIRST TO THE NINTH CENTURY

The account of this journey was written by the Abbé de St. Columban at the dictation of the bishop, and not many years afterwards the same journey was undertaken by an English pilgrim, and accomplished in much the same way. The name of this pilgrim was Willibald, a member of a rich family living at Southampton, who, on his recovery from a long illness, dedicated him to God's service. All his early life was spent in holy exercises in the monastery of Woltheim; when he was grown up he had the most intense wish to see St. Peter's at Rome, and was so set upon this, that it induced his father, brother, and young sister to wish to go there also; they embarked at Southampton in the spring of 721, and making their way up the Seine, they landed at Rouen. We have but few details of the journey to Rome, but Willibald mentions that after passing through Cortona and Lucca, at which latter place his father sank under the fatigue of the journey and died, he reached Rome in safety with his brother and sister, and passed the winter there, but they were all in turn attacked with fever. When Willibald regained his health, he determined to continue his journey to the Holy Land. He sent his brother and sister back to England, while he joined some monks who were going in the same direction as himself. They went by Terracina and Gaeta to Naples, and set sail for Reggio in Calabria, and Catania and Syracuse in Sicily, whence they again embarked, and, after touching at Cos and Samos, landed at Ephesus in Asia Minor, where they visited the tombs of St. John the Evangelist, of Mary Magdalene, and of the seven sleepers of Ephesus, that is, seven Christians martyred in the time of the Emperor Decius.

They made some stay at Patara and at Mitylene, and then went to Cyprus and Paphos; we next find the party, seven in number, at Edessa, visiting the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle. Here they were arrested as spies, and thrown into prison by the Saracens, but the king, on the petition of a Spaniard, set them at liberty. As soon as they were set free they left the town in great haste, and from that time their route is almost the same as that of the Bishop Arculphe; they visited Damascus, Nazareth, Cana, where they saw a wonderful amphora on Mount Tabor, where our Lord was transfigured, and the Lake of Tiberias, where St. Peter walked upon the water; Magdala, where Lazarus and his sister dwelt; Capernaum, where our Lord raised to life the son of the nobleman; Bethsaida in Galilee, the native place of St. Peter and St. Andrew; Chorazin, where our Lord cured those possessed with devils; Cæsarea, and the spot where our Lord was baptized, as well as Jericho and Jerusalem.

They also went to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the Mount of Olives, and to Bethlehem, the scene of the murder of the Innocents by Herod, and Gaza. While they were at Gaza, Willibald tells us that he suddenly became blind, while he was in the church of St. Matthias, and only recovered his sight two months afterwards, as he entered the church of the Holy Cross at Jerusalem. He went through the valley of Diospolis or Lydda, ten miles from Jerusalem, and then went to Tyre and Sidon, and thence, by Libanus, Damascus, Cæsarea, and Emmaus, back to Jerusalem, where the travellers spent the winter.

This was not to be the limit of their exploration, for we hear of them at Ptolemais, Emesa, Jerusalem, Damascus, and Samaria, where St. John the Baptist is said to have been buried, and at Tyre, where it must be confessed that Willibald defrauded the revenue of that time by smuggling some balsam that was very celebrated, and on which a duty was levied. On quitting Tyre they went to Constantinople and lived there for two years before returning by Sicily, Calabria, Naples, and Capua. The English pilgrim reached the monastery of Monte Cassino, just ten years after his first setting out on his travels; but his time of rest had not yet come, as he was appointed to a bishopric in Franconia by Pope Gregory III. He was forty-one years of age when he was made bishop, and he lived forty years afterwards. In 938 he was canonized by Leo VII.

We will conclude the list of celebrated travellers living between the first and ninth centuries, by giving a short account of Soleyman, a merchant of Bassorah, who, starting from the Persian Gulf, arrived eventually on the shores of China. This narrative is in two distinct parts, one written in 851, by Soleyman himself, who was the traveller, and the other in 878 by a geographer named Abou-Zeyd Hassan with the view of completing the first. Renaud, the orientalist, is of opinion that this narrative "has thrown quite a new light on the commercial transactions that existed in the ninth century between Egypt, Arabia, and the countries bordering on the Persian Gulf on one side, and the vast provinces of India and China on the other."