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E00492: The Piacenza Pilgrim records his visit to the basilica of *Zechariah (Old Testament prophet, S00283) at Eleutheropolis (Palestine), where the prophet lay buried and where was displayed the saw with which *Isaiah (Old Testament prophet, S00282) had been killed. Account of an anonymous pilgrim, written in Latin, probably in Placentia (northern Italy), c. 570.

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posted on 2015-05-13, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Pilgrim of Piacenza, Itinerarium 32

Extract from the pilgrim's account of his visit to Eleutheropolis:

First recension
Deinde uenimus, in loco, ubi Zacharias occisus est et iacet in corpore; basilica pulchra ornata et serui Dei multi. Inde uenimus in loco, ubi Esaias a serra secatus est uel iacet, quae serra pro testimonium ad sanctum Zachariam posita est.

'We then came to the place where Zachariah was killed and lies buried. There is a lovely basilica there, very well decorated, and many servants of God. Then we came to the place where Isaiah was sawn asunder and lies, and the saw has been put at saint Zachariah's as a testimony.'

Second recension
Dein uenimus inter templum et altare, ubi occisus est Zacharias, et ubi requiescit, est ibi ecclesia ornata; sunt in ea serui Dei multi. Inde uenimus ad locum, ubi Isaias propheta de serra lignea secatus est, et ibidem iacet sub quercu Rogel iuxta aquarum decursu. Et ipsa serra pro testimonio posita est ad sanctum Zachariam.

'We then came to the place between the temple and the altar where Zachariah was killed and lies buried. There is a well decorated church there, and many servants of God. Then we came to the place where Isaiah the prophet was sawn asunder with a wooden saw, and lies there under the oak of Rogel, next to the spring. And this saw has been put at saint Zachariah's as a testimony.'

Text: Geyer 1898, 178 and 210. Translation: Wilkinson 2002, 143, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Isaiah, Old Testament prophet : S00282 Zechariah, father of John the Baptist : S00597 Zechariah, Old Testament prophet : S00283

Saint Name in Source

Isaias Zacharias

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 - entire body Contact relic - instrument of saint’s martyrdom


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 text is somewhat confused here in the second recension. The shrine the pilgrim was visiting was certainly that of Zechariah the Old Testament prophet (S00283), whose body, according to the historian Sozomen, was discovered near Eleutheropolis in the time of the emperor Theodosius II (E04059); but the reference to Zechariah being killed 'between the temple and the altar', from the Gospel of Matthew (23:35), was generally applied by Christians to Zechariah the father of John the Baptist (S00597). For a reference to the tomb of Zechariah on the mosaic map of Madaba, see E02524. The story of Isaiah's martyrdom, by being sawn in half, is not biblical, but talmudic; it had evidently entered the Christian canon, having even acquired a martyrdom relic.


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: Maraval, P., Lieux saints et Pèlerinages d'Orient: Histoire et géographie, des origines à la conquête arabe (Paris: Cerf, 1985), 302.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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