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E00511: The Piacenza Pilgrim records his visit to a church in Memphis (Lower Egypt), formerly a pagan temple, into which *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) stepped with the young Jesus. 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 pnowakowski
Pilgrim of Piacenza, Itinerarium 44

First recension
In Memphi fuit templum, quod est modo ecclesia, cuius una regia se clausit ante Dominum nostrum, quando cum beata Maria illic fuit, et usque hactenus non potest aperiri. Ibi enim uidimus pallium lineum, in quo est effigies Saluatoris, quem dicunt tempore illo tersisset faciem suam in eo et remansisset imago ipsius ibi, quae singulis temporibus adoratur. Quem adorauimus et nos, sed propter splendorem non potueramus intendere, quia, quantum intendebas, inmutabatur in oculis tuis.

'In Memphis was the temple, which is now a church, which has a door which shut before our Lord when he was there with the blessed Mary, and until this day it cannot be opened. We saw there a piece of linen on which is the image of the Saviour. They say he then wiped his face with it, and that his image remained on it. It is venerated at various times and we also venerated it, but because of its splendour, we could not fully comprehend it, since, however hard one tried, it changed before your eyes.'

Second recension
In Nymphy fuit templum, quae est modo ecclesia, cuius una porta se clausit ante dominum nostrum, quando beata Maria cum ipso fuit in Aegyptum, et adhuc non potest aperiri. Ibi uidimus pallium lineum, in quo dicunt illum tempore illo tersisse et idcirco ibi eius remansisse uestigia. Quae imago singulis temporibus adoratur. Sed et nos adorauimus, sed propter splendorem non potuimus in eum intendere.

'In Memphis was the temple, which is now a church, which has a door which shut before the Lord when the blessed Mary was with him in Egypt, and until this day it cannot be opened. We saw there a piece of linen on which they say he then wiped his face, so that his trace remained on it. It is venerated at various times and we also venerated it, but because of its splendour we could not fully comprehend it.'

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

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

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Appropriation of older cult sites


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 place described in this passage, mentioned in apocryphal gospels of the childhood of Jesus, is associated with his cult rather than that of his mother, though it is interesting to remark that in the second recension it is Mary who visited Egypt with Jesus, and not the other way round.


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), 323.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity