Sunday, June 24, 2018

8th to 10th century pilgrimage to the Holy Land

"In the 8th century the numbers increased. Pilgirmage was now promoted as a means of penance. (...) Relations between the west and the Moslems soon improved. When in the 760s Charlemagne entered into an alliance with the Abbasid caliph Härün ar-Rashid from Baghdad, with the apparent objective of cooperating against the Umayyads of Spain, there was a sufficient number of pilgrims coming to Jerusalem tor the emperor to ñnd it worth while to obtain permission to have a hostel set up for them in the holy city. There were women again amongst the pilgrims, and there were Spanish nuns living attached to the Holy Sepulcher.”

There was another slight interruption in the course of the ninth century, owing to the growth of  Moslem power in the Mediterranean and the establishment of Arabs in Crete and Sicily and southern Italy. When (in 870, TN) the Breton Bernard reached Jerusalern he found Charlemagne's establishments still in working order, but they were shabby and the number of visitors had sadly declined.

By the beginning of the 10th century conditions in the Mediterranean had improved. The Moslems had lost their foothold in southeast Italy and were soon to lose their last pirate-nests in southern France. Crete was recovered for Christendom half way through the century; and the Byzantine fleet was already able to provide an effective police force. The Italian rnaritime cities were beginning to open up direct commerce with the Moslem ports.

In the east the Abbasid (...) vice-roys in Palestine were ready to welcome visitors who brought
money into the country and who could be taxed; and when the Ikhshïdids, and after them the Fätímids, succeeded to the possession of Palestine, the appearance of good-will increased. It was now not difficult for a pilgrim to take a boat at Venice or Bari or Amalfi which would take him direct to Alexandria or some Syrian port. Most pilgrirns, however, preferred to sail in an Italian ship to Constantinople and visit the renowned collection of relics there, and then go on by land to Palestine. (...)

That certain holy places endowed the visitor with peculiar spiritual merit was now generally accepted.  (...)  The penitential value of a pilgrimage was also widely recognized. (...) The crime of murder in particular needed such an expiation. "

This blog quotes form Baldwin, M. W. (ed.): The first hundred years (1969); additional text and source illustration Wikipedia, showing Harun al-Rashid receiving a delegation of Charlemagne in Baghdad, a painting by Julius Köckert.

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