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E00417: The Piacenza Pilgrim records his visit to the Baths of *Elijah (Old Testament prophet, S00217) near Gadara (Palestine), where incubation is practised and healings occur. Account of an anonymous pilgrim, written in Latin, probably in Placentia (northern Italy), c. 570.

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posted on 2015-04-25, 00:00 authored by robert
Pilgrim of Piacenza, Itinerarium 7

First recension
In ista parte ciuitate ad milia tria sunt aquas calidas, quae appellantur termas Heliae, ubi leprosi mundantur, qui e xenodochio habent de publicum delicias. Hora uespertina inundantur termae. Ante ipsum clibanum aquae est solius grandis, qui dum impletus fuerit, clauduntur omnia ostia, et per posticum mittuntur intus cum luminaria et incensum et sedent in illo solio tota nocte, et dum soporati fuerint, uidet ille, qui curandus est, aliquam uisionem, et dum eam recitarit, abstinentur ipsae termae septem diebus et intra septem dies mundatur.

'On that side of Jordan, three miles from the city [of Gadara] there are hot springs called the Baths of Elijah. Lepers are cleansed there, and have their meals from the hospice there at public expense. The baths fill in the evening. In front of the basin is a large tank. When it is full, all the gates are closed, and they are sent in through a small door with lights and incense, and sit in the tank all night. They fall asleep, and the person who is going to be cured sees a vision. When he has told it the baths remain closed for a week. In one week he is cleansed.'

The second recension follows the text of the first without important modifications.

Text: Geyer 1898, 163 and 198. Translation: Wilkinson 2002, 133, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Elijah, Old Testament prophet : S00217

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Pilgrim accounts and itineraries


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Piacenza Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Pilgrim of Piacenza

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Censing

Cult activities - Places

Holy spring/well/river

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Other

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Healing diseases and disabilities Miracle after death

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles


This Itinerary was written by an anonymous pilgrim to Palestine who started and finished his journey in Placentia. He visited the East probably not long after the earthquake in 551, since he presents the destruction of Berytus (modern Beirut) in this year as a relatively recent event. He certainly visited Palestine before the Persian invasion in 614, since in his account Jerusalem is under Roman administration. The Itinerary is extant in two recensions. The first one is shorter and generally closer to the original, but sometimes it is the second recension which preserves the original text. Moreover, the additions that can be found in the second recension, unfortunately difficult to date, bear an interesting witness to the development of the cult of saints. The Itinerary can be compared with an earlier pilgrim's diary written in the 380s by another western pilgrim, Egeria. The Piacenza Pilgrim's itinerary is less detailed than her account, but shows the development of the cultic practices and infrastructure which had taken place in the course of two hundred years: there are more places to visit, more objects to see, and more saints to venerate.


These are the famous hot-spring baths at Gadara, used throughout Antiquity and into Umayyad and modern times. The author does not state explicitly that it is Elijah's power that heals the sick, but the baths are named after him (although they are not directly connected with any Old Testament story about him), and the healing, involving incubation and a dream-vision, is explained by the pilgrim in religious, rather than therapeutic, terms. See also the 'baths of Moses' mentioned in E00451.


Edition: Geyer, P. (ed.), Antonini Placentini Itinerarium, in Itineraria et alia geographica (Corpus Chistianorum, series Latina 175; Turnholti: Typographi Brepols editores pontificii, 1965), 129-174. [Essentially a reprinting of Geyer's edition for the Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 39, Wien 1898.] English translations: Stewart, A., Of the Holy Places Visited by Antoninus Martyr (London: Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, 1887). Wilkinson, J., Jerusalem Pilgrims Before the Crusades (2nd ed.; Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 2002).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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