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E00510: The Piacenza Pilgrim mentions his visit to the cave of a hermit *Paul (probably the First Anchorite, S00089), in the eastern desert of Egypt. Account of an anonymous pilgrim, written in Latin, probably in Placentia (northern Italy), c. 570.

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posted on 2015-05-16, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Pilgrim of Piacenza, Itinerarium 43

Extract from the pilgrim's account of his journey through the eastern desert of Egypt, from the Red Sea to the Nile.

First recension
Exinde uenimus per heremum ad speluncam Pauli, hoc est syriace cuba, qui fons usque hactenus rigat.

'From there we travelled through the desert to the cave of Paul, called Qubba in Syriac, and to this day there is a spring there giving water.'

Second recension
Et inde uenimus per heremum ad speluncam beati Pauli heremitae, quae uocatur syracumba.

'And there we travelled through the desert to the cave of the blessed Paul, which is called Syramcuba.'

Text: Geyer 1898, 188 and 216. Translation: Wilkinson 2002, 149.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Paul, the First Anchorite : S00089

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 Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Piacenza Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Pilgrim of Piacenza

Cult activities - Places

Place associated with saint's life

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs



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 Piacenza Pilgrim was interested in places associated with the life of monastic heroes, known from their Lives. He mentions the graves of Hilarion near Gaza (E00506) and, most probably, Antony in Alexandria (E00513). Thus when he mentions Paul, living in the desert, he is probably referring to Paul the Hermit, whose Life by Jerome (E00750), along those of Hilarion and Antony, was widely read in the Latin West. According to his life, Paul was born in the Thebaid (in Upper Egypt, far from where our pilgrim crossed the desert), but Jerome is not specific about where he lived as a hermit, so a shrine in the eastern desert was not impossible.


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), 324.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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