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E05245: The pilgrim Egeria, in her Itinerary, records her stay in Constantinople, where she visited martyr shrines (martyria) and churches of Apostles, but does not name them (the latter were probably *Andrew the Apostle S00288, *Luke the Evangelist, S00442, and *Timothy, the disciple of Paul the Apostle, S00466), and expresses her intention to visit the martyr shrine of *John (the Apostle and Evangelist S00042) at Ephesus (western Asia Minor). Written in Latin during Egeria's journey to the East, probably in 381-384.

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posted on 2018-03-20, 00:00 authored by robert
Egeria, Itinerary 23.8

23.8 Ac sic ergo alia die transiens mare perueni Constantinopolim, agens Christo Deo nostro gratias, quod michi indignae et non merenti prestare dignatus est tantam gratiam, id est ut non solum uoluntatem eundi, sed et facultatem perambulandi quae desiderabam dignatus fuerat prestare et reuertendi denuo Constantinopolim. (9) Vbi cum uenissem, per singulas ecclesias uel apostolos nec non et per singula martyria, quae ibi plurima sunt, non cessabam Deo nostro iesu gratias agere, qui ita super me misericordiam suam prestare dignatus fuerat.

(10) De quo loco, domnae, lumen meum, cum haec ad uestram affectionem darem, iam propositi erat in nomine Christi dei nostri ad Asiam accedendi, id est Efesum, propter martyrium sancti et beati apostoli Iohannis gratia orationis. Si autem et post hoc in corpo fuero, si qua preterea loca cognoscere potuero, aut ipsa presens, si deus fuerit prestare dignatus, uestrae affectioni referam aut certe, si aliud animo sederit, scriptis nuntiabo. Vos tantum, dominae, lumen meum, memores mei esse dignamini, siue in corpore, siue iam extra corpus fuero.

'23.8 Next day I crossed the sea and reached Constaintinople, giving thanks to Christ our God for seeing me fit, through no deserving of mine, to grant me the desire to go on this journey, and the strength to visit everything I wanted and now to return again to Constantinople. (9) And at all the churches of Constantinople and [the tombs of] the apostles, and also at the various martyria, of which there are many there, I never ceased to give thanks to Jesus our God for his grace in showing me such mercy.

(10) So, loving ladies, light of my heart, this is where I am writing to you. My present plan is, in the name of Christ our God, to travel to Asia, since I want to make a pilgrimage to Ephesus, and the martyrium of the holy and blessed Apostle John. If after that I am still alive, and able to visit further places, I will either tell you about them face to face (if God so wills), or at any rate write to you about them if my plans change. In any case, ladies, light of my heart, whether I am "in the body" or "out of the body", please do not forget me.'

The rest of the Itinerary contains a long and detailed enumeration of the services held throughout the year in the churches of Jerusalem, particularly at the Anastasis (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre).

Text: Franceschini and Weber 1965, 67. Translation: Wilkinson 1971, 122-123.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042 Andrew, the Apostle : S00288 Luke, the Evangelist : S00442 Timothy, the disciple of Paul the Apostle : S00466 Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060

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 Constantinople and region

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

Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

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 Foreigners (including Barbarians)


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).


Egeria writes of 'churches' of unspecified Apostles in Constantinople, but we know of only one 'Church of the Holy Apostles', in which the relics of Andrew the Apostle, Luke the Evangelist, and Timothy, the disciple of Paul the Apostle, were deposited in the 350s, or possibly even earlier (see E04569). For the complex history of this church, see Mango 1990. We do not know whether Egeria fulfilled her ambition to visit the shrine of John at Ephesus, or whether she got back safely to her sisters in Gaul or Spain.


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). Mango, C., "Constantine’s Mausoleum and the translation of relics", Byzantinische Zeitschrift 83 (1990), 51-62.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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