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E05227: The pilgrim Egeria, in her Itinerary, writes of the sanctuary of *Thekla (follower of the Apostle Paul, S00092), in Seleucia ad Calycadnum (Isauria, southern Asia Minor), where she prayed and read a passage from the Acts of Thecla. Written in Latin during Egeria's journey to the East, probably in 381-384.

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posted on 2018-03-19, 00:00 authored by robert
Egeria, Itinerary 22.2 - 23.6

22.2 Sed quoniam de Tharso tertia mansione, id est in Hisauria, est martyrium sanctae Teclae, gratum fuit satis ut etiam illuc accedere, presertim cum tam in proximo esset.
23.1 Nam proficiscens de Tharso perueni ad quandam ciuitatem supra mare adhuc Ciliciae, que appellatur Ponpeiopolim. Et inde iam ingressa fines Hisauriae mansi in ciuitate, quae appellatur corico, ac tertia die perueni ad ciuitatem, quae appellatur Seleucia Hisauriae. Vbi cum peruenissem, fui ad episcopum uere sanctum ex monacho, uidi etiam ibi ecclesiam ualde pulchram in eadem ciuitate. (2) Et quoniam inde ad sanctam Teclam, qui locus est ultra ciuitatem in colle sed plano, habebat de ciuitate forsitan mille quingentos passus, malui ergo perexire illuc, ut statiua, quam factura eram, ibi facerem. Ibi autem ad sanctam ecclesiam nichil aliud est nisi monasteria sine numero uirorum ac mulierum. (3) Nam inueni ibi aliquam amicissimam michi, et cui omnes in oriente testimonium ferebant uitae ipsius, sancta diaconissa nomine Marthana, quam ego aput Ierusolimam noueram, ubi illa gratia orationis ascenderat; haec autem monasteria aputactitum seu uirginum regebat. Quae me cum uidisset, quod gaudium illius uel meum esse potuerit, nunquid uel scribere possum?

(4) Sed ut redeam ad rem, monasteria ergo plurima sunt ibi per ipsum collem et in medio murus ingens, qui includet ecclesiam, in qua est martyrium, quod martyrium satis pulchrum est. Propterea autem murus missus est ad custodiendam ecclesiam propter Hisauros, quia satis mali sunt et frequenter latrunculantur, ne forte conentur aliquid facere circa monasterium, quod ibi est deputatum. (5) Ibi ergo cum uenissem in nomine Dei, facta oratione ad martyrium nec non etiam et lectione actus sanctae Teclae, gratias Christo deo nostro egi infinitas, qui mihi dignatus est indignae et non merenti in omnibus desideria complere. (6) Ac sic ergo facto ibi biduo, uisis etiam sanctis monachis uel aputactitis, tam uiris quam feminis, qui ibi erant, et facta oratione et communione, reuersa sum Tharso ad iter meum.

'22.2 But in Isauria, only three staging-posts on from Tarsus, is the martyrium of holy Thecla, and, since it was so close, we were very glad to be able to make the extra journey there.
23.1 Leaving Tarsus, but still in Cilicia, I reached Pompeiopolis, a city by the sea, and from there crossed into Isauria, and spent the night in a city called Corycus. On the third day I arrived at a city called Seleucia of Isauria, and, when I got there, I called on the bishop, a very godly man who had been a monk, and saw the very beautiful church in the city. (2) Holy Thecla's is on a small hill about a mile and a half from the city, so, as I had to stay somewhere, it was best to go straight on and spend the night there. There at the holy church there is only an innumerable number of monasteries for men and women. (3) And that was where I found one of my dearest friends, a holy deaconess called Marthana, about whose life everybody in the East bore witness. I had come to know her in Jerusalem when she was there on pilgrimage. She was the superior of some cells of apotactites or virgins, and I simply cannot tell you how pleased we were to see each other again.

(4) But I must get back to the point: there are many monasteries on that hill, and in the middle a great wall round the martyrium itself, which is very beautiful. The wall was built to protect the church from the Isaurians, who are hostile, and always committing robberies, lest they try anything against the monastery established there. (5) In God's name I arrived at the martyrium, and we had a prayer there, and read the Acts of holy Thecla; and I gave heartfelt thanks to God for his mercy in letting me fulfil all my desires so completely, despite all my unworthiness. (6) For two days I stayed there, visting all the holy monks and apotactites, the men as well as the women; then, after praying and receiving communion, I went back to Tarsus to rejoin my route.'

Text: Franceschini and Weber 1965, 65-66. Translation: Wilkinson 1971, 121-122, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Thekla, follower of the Apostle Paul : S00092

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

Asia Minor

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

Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Foreigners (including Barbarians) Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


Egeria's work survives in a single eleventh-century manuscript, copied probably at Monte Cassino, which lacks both its opening and its close (where she might have told us something about herself). Consequently even her name is a little uncertain, though she was almost certainly 'the most blessed Egeria', whose dedication and devotion on pilgrimage was praised in a letter written in the mid-seventh century by Valerius of Bierzo (or Vierzo, near Léon in north-west Spain). She was unquestionably a woman of some means (given her ability to travel for several years) and she belonged to an association or community of religious women, since her work takes the form of a letter to these women sent from Constantinople during her journey home, and since she addresses them periodically throughout her account: in Itinerary 3.8, for instance, she asks these dominae venerabiles sorores, 'ladies, venerable sisters', to pay particular attention to her description of Mount Sinai. Exactly where she travelled from is unknown, though it was certainly somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean in the far west of Europe: in 18.3 she compares the flow and size of the Euphrates with the Rhône, which she presumably crossed on her journey; in 19.5 she was greeted by the bishop of Edessa as having journeyed de extremis porro terris, 'from the far ends of the earth'; and Valerius of Bierzo (who was certainly better informed than us) describes her as extremo occidui maris Oceani litore exorta, 'coming from the Ocean's western shore' (Gracia 1910, 393-394). It is therefore certain that she came from the western seaboard of the Atlantic; probably from Galicia, since Valerius was from near Galicia and he is likely to have selected her to write about because he saw her as a compatriot. Her work is a detailed, and highly informative, account of her pilgrimage, and it is a great pity that much of it is lost - what survives opens, in mid-sentence, with an account of her visit to the holy sites of Sinai and on to the Egyptian delta, but she tells us that this was her second visit to Egypt (and that on her first visit she had travelled as far south as the Thebaid and as far west as Alexandria), and she had certainly already spent much time in the Holy Land. After reaching Egypt, she headed back to Jerusalem, and from there made two journeys out: the first eastwards to the Jordan and Mount Nebo; the second a long journey up the Jordan valley to Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee), before striking East to Carneas, to visit the grave of the Old Testament patriarch Job. Some time after returning to Jerusalem from this second expedition, 'since it was already three full years since my arrival in Jerusalem, and I had seen all the places which were the object of my pilgrimage' (Itinerary 17.1, Wilkinson 1999, 113), Egeria started for home, but from Antioch took a long detour eastwards into Mesopotamia, to Edessa and Carrhae. Returning to Antioch, she then crossed Asia Minor to Chalcedon (but not before again detouring, to Seleucia and the shrine of Thecla), and so to Constantinople, from which she despatched the account of her travels. Although heading home, she still planned to visit Ephesus and the shrine of John the Apostle and Evangelist at Ephesus. Although much of Egeria's text is missing, it was available in the early twelfth century to Peter the Deacon, a monk at Monte Cassino, when he compiled a work about the Holy Land, and, from Peter's text it is possible reconstruct the parts of her journey that are now lost (see Franceschini and Weber 1965, 93-103; Wilkinson 1999, 179-210). Egeria, whose enthusiasm and energy appear to have been boundless, visited mostly biblical sites, but she was also interested in monasteries and martyr shrines (for instance detouring to visit Thecla's at Seleucia). The second part of her Itinerary contains a description of the Easter liturgy in Jerusalem (which has no references to the cult of saints). Thanks to the places, persons, and buildings which are mentioned by her, her travels can be dated with some confidence to the two last decades of the 4th century. A more exact dating, generally accepted, is based on the observation by Devos (1967) that 384 was the only year in this period in which it was possible to arrive in Carrhae (in Mesopotamia) for the feast of St Helpidius (23 April) having spent Easter in Jerusalem, which Egeria tells us she did on the first leg of her journey home (having already told us that she had spent three years in the Holy Land). As with all the pilgrim texts from the Holy Land, it has been difficult to decide what to include, and what to exclude from our database, focused as it is on the 'cult of saints'. We have necessarily excluded the vast number of sites associated exclusively with the life and miracles of Jesus, and have, of course, included all obvious references to cult sites of Christian saints: their graves, churches, and references to important places in their lives, such as their place of martyrdom. A problem, however, arises when our pilgrims write about sites associated with figures from the Old Testament, since in time many of these certainly acquired Christian cult, but it is generally impossible to tell whether our pilgrims regarded these figures as saints in the Christian tradition, whose power and aid they might invoke, or whether they record the holy sites associated with them through a broader and looser biblical curiosity and veneration. The compromise position we have taken with regard to these Old Testament figures is to include all references to places associated with them where our Christian writers record miraculous occurrences or where there was a church or oratory, and also all references to their graves (though with these latter there is often no explicit reference to Christian cult).


The famous shrine of Thekla in Seleucia is known from several sources, in particular the book of the Miracles of Saint Thekla (E05879). The apocryphal Acts of Thekla are a part of the Acts of Paul, composed in the 2nd century.


Text: Franceschini, A. and Weber, R. (ed.), Itinerarium Egeriae, in Itineraria et alia geographica (Corpus Chistianorum, series Latina 175; Turnholti: Typographi Brepols editores pontificii, 1965), 27-90. Text, French translation and commentary: Maraval, P., Égérie: Journal de Voyage (Itinéraire), Sources Chrétiennes 296 (Paris: Les éditions du cerf, 1982). English translation and commentary: J. Wilkinson, Egeria's Travels (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 3rd edition, 1999). Dating: Devos, P., "La date du voyage d'Égérie", Analecta Bollandiana 85 (1967), 165-194. Hunt, E.D., "The date of the Itinerarium Egeriae", Studia Patristica 38 (Leuven: Peeters, 2001), 410-416. Further reading: Maraval, P., Lieux saints et pèlerinages d'Orient, (Paris: Les éditions du cerf, 1985).

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