University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E00459: The Piacenza Pilgrim records his visit to the basilica of Holy Sion (Jerusalem), formerly the house of *James (almost certainly the 'brother of the Lord', S00058), in which he saw relics of the Passion, stones with which *Stephen (the First Martyr, S00030) was stoned, the stone into which the cross of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036) was set, the chalice of the *Apostles (S00084), and the elaborately encased skull of the martyr *Theodota (possibly Theodote, martyr of Nicaea, S00257), from which he drank. Account of an anonymous pilgrim, written in Latin, probably in Placentia (northern Italy), c. 570.

online resource
posted on 2015-05-04, 00:00 authored by robert
Pilgrim of Piacenza, Itinerarium 22

First recension
Deinde uenimus in basilica sancta Sion, ubi sunt multa mirabilia, inter quibus quod legitur de lapide angulare, qui reprobatus est ab aedificantibus. Ingresso Domino Iesu in ipsa ecclesia, quae fuit domus sancti Iacobi, inuenit lapidem istum deformem in medio iacentem, tenuit eum et posuit in angulum… Ibi sunt et lapides multae, cum quibus lapidatus est Stephanus. Ibi est et columnella, in qua crux posita est beati Petri, in qua crucifixus est Romae. Ibi est et calix apostolorum, in quo post resurrectionem Domini missas faciebant, et multa alia miracula, quae non recolo. Ibi est monasterium feminarum. Vidi testam de homine inclausam in locello aureo ornatam ex gemmis, quae dicunt quia de sancta martyra Theodote esset, in qua multi pro benedictione bibunt et ego bibi.

'From there we went to the basilica of Holy Sion, which contains many remarkable things, including the corner stone which, as the [Bible] says was rejected by the builders. The Lord Jesus entered this church, which used to be the house of saint James, and found this ugly stone lying somewhere, so he took it and placed it in the corner ... There are also many of the stones with which they stoned Stephen, and the small column in which they set the cross on which the blessed Peter was crucified at Rome. The cup of the Apostles is there, with which they celebrated mass after the Lord had risen again, and many other remarkable things which I cannot remember. A monastery for women is there. I saw a human head enclosed in a reliquary of gold adorned with gems, which they say is that of saint Theodota the martyr. Many drink out of it to gain blessing. And so did I.'

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

Text: Geyer 1898, 174 and 205-206. Translation: Wilkinson 2002, 140, lightly modifed.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Apostles (unspecified) : S00084 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030 Theodota, martyr in Nicea, ob. c. 305 : S00257 James the Brother of the Lord, also known as James the Just, ob. 1st c. : S00058

Saint Name in Source

Apostoli Petrus Stephanus Theodota 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

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - head Contact relic - instrument of saint’s martyrdom Touching and kissing relics Eating/drinking/inhaling relics Contact relic - other object closely associated with saint

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Chalices, censers and other liturgical vessels


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.


The mention of drinking from Theodota's skull is a unique attestation of such a practice. The best attested martyr of this name is Theodote of Nicaea; but it is very possible that a local saint is here referred to. The other relics seen here are more predictable, though it is somewhat strange that Jerusalem laid claim to a relic associated with Peter's crucifixion in Rome.


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).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager