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E00456: The Piacenza Pilgrim records his visit to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem where he saw the tombs of *Pelagia the Penitent (recluse of Jerusalem, 5th c., S00250), *James (the Apostle, son of Zebedee,S00108) or *James ('brother of the Lord', S00058), *Cleophas (pupil of Jesus, S00249), and other unnamed saints. Account of an anonymous pilgrim, written in Latin, probably in Placentia (northern Italy), c. 570.

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posted on 2015-04-30, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Pilgrim of Piacenza, Itinerarium 16

First recension
Et sursum in monte in loco, unde ascendit Dominus, uidimus mirabilia multa et cellula, ubi fuit inclausa uel iacet sancta Pelagia in corpore. In ipso monte iacet Iacobus, Zebedaeus, Cleophas uel multa corpora sanctorum.
'On the summit of the mountain [of Olives] where the Lord ascended, we saw many wonderful things, including the cell where saint Pelagia was enclosed, and her body lies. James, Zebedee, and Cleophas lie buried on this mountain, and also bodies of many other saints.'

Second recension
Et rursum in monte, unde Dominus ascendit ad patrem, ubi et iudicare ueniet, uidimus copiosa et cellula, ubi inclusa fuit uel iacet in corpore sancta Pelagia. Et in ipso monte iacet Iacobus Zebedaei et Cleophas et multa sanctorum corpora.

'And again on the mountain [of Olives] where the Lord ascended to the father, and where he will come in judgement, we saw many things, including the cell where saint Pelagia was enclosed, and her body lies. James, son Zebedee, and Cleophas lie buried on this mountain, and also bodies of many other saints.

Text: Geyer 1898, 170 and 203. Translation: Wilkinson 2002, 138, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

James the Apostle, son of Zebedee, ob. 1st c. : S00108 Cleopas, pupil of Jesus : S00249 Pelagia the Penitent, 5th-century recluse in Jerusalem : S00250 James, 'brother of the Lord', also known as James the Just : S00058

Saint Name in Source

Iacobus Cleophas Pelagia Iacobus

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 - Places

Place associated with saint's life

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


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.


This passage is interesting primarily for its record of our pilgrim visiting the cell and grave of Pelagia, whose story is that of an actress of Antioch who adopted an ascetic life at Jerusalem disguised as a man, and was only revealed to be a woman after her death (see E02571). Whether or not there ever was a real Pelagia, she was certainly real for the pilgrim of Piacenza, and listed first in his list of saints visited on the Mount of Olives. There is uncertainty over which James our pilgrim thought he had found on the Mount of Olives. In the second recension of the text, James is described as Iacobus Zebedaei ('James of Zebedee'), which would make him James the Apostle, the son of Zebedee (S00108); but in the manuscripts of the first recension Zebedaeus is a nominative, not a genitive, making Zebedee a separate saint and the identity of our James uncertain. There is no other evidence of Zebedee attracting cult, which suggests that the text originally read 'James of Zebedee' and so refers to James the Apostle. However, we should note that the grave of another James, James 'brother of the Lord', believed to have been the first bishop of Jerusalem and an early martyr (S00058), is well attested on the Mount of Olives in the sixth century (see $07922 and E00491). It is therefore possible that the grave the Piacenza pilgrim saw was of this James (see Cronnier 2016, 55-68). It is also very possible that the two Jameses were conflated, at least in the mind of our pilgrim - this would not be at all surprising since the identity of the various Jameses in the New Testament remains hotly debated and very uncertain.


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). Further reading (on the tombs of James): Cronnier, A., Les inventions de reliques dans l'Empire romain d'Orient (IVe-VIe S.) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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