Marino Sanudo Torsello

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Marino Sanudo Torsello

(c. 1300-21)

Liber Secretorum Fidelium Crucis

A Venetian statesman and geographer.


It is proper to show respect by your mercy towards those other Christians in the Kingdom of Nubia and of other nations who are beyond the lands of the Sultan who are black and who suffer and receive persecution and punishment from the power of the Sultan (book 1, part 5, chap. 2)

[For a Crusade] the land of Egypt can in this manner be conquered: especially because such great help will be brought to them by the black Christians from Nubia and from other countries above Egypt: they will descend upon their enemies from their part... (book 2, , part 1, chap. 3)

From the west, that is from the Kingdom of Tunis, on account of the immensity and roughness of the desert, goods cannot be transported; from the east they are able to have nothing except spices: on the south there is a scarcity of all things; there are also the Christians of Nubia opposed to them (book 2, part 3, chap. 4)

There are also in the Holy Land and other parts of the East some who are very different from the Latins and the Greeks. Some of these are called Jacibites or Jacobins, after their master Jacob, a disciple of that Patriarch of Alexandria. Going back some time they were excommunicated by the Patriarch of Constantinople and expelled from the Greek Church. They live all over the east; some among Saracens, others occupy their own lands, without the presence of infidels, namely, Nubia which borders Egypt and a large part of Ethiopia and all regions up to India which, they say, holds more than 12 kingdoms. For all the kingdoms were converted to the faith by the blessed Apostle Matthew and by other Catholic men [but] the weeds having been sown afterwards by an evil man, they have been blinded by lamentable error for a long time (book 3, part 8, chap. 4)

While the Christians were besieging the city [Damietta in 1218], a certain book written in Arabic script came to the attention of certain Christians. The author denied that he was a Christian, a Jew or a Saracen. In it, it was maintained that Saladin had resisted the Christians and that Damietta must be captured. He also said that a certain king of the Christian Nubians should destroy the city of Mecca and the bones of Mahumet be thrown away. (book 3, part 10, chap. 7)

From Babylon to the city of Sienen, which is the furthest part of Egypt to the south and Ethiopia is 140 miles… The above-mentioned Ethiopia is properly called Nubia. It is completely inhabited by Christians and was converted to Christ by the blessed Matthew. (book 3, part 14, chap. 12)

The source of the Nile cannot be known, except as far as the mountains of Nubia, which are on the left and from which it flows down. Beyond this is an impassible place. The land of Egypt is almost inaccessible apart from the sea. On the west it has a boundary with the province of Barbary, which is called Barca. There is a desert between them of 5 days’ [journey]. On the south is the desert of Ethiopia for 2 days or more to Nubia. On the east is the desert of Thebaydos which reaches the Red Sea in 3 days at a place which is called Beronice and this is the port of Egypt on the shore of the Red Sea. (book 3, part 14, chap. 12)

Selected editions

Marino called Torsello Sanuto, Liber secretorum fidelium crucis super terrae sanctae (1611) (reprint Toronto: 1972).

Marino Sanudo Torsello, The Book of the Secrets of the Faithful of the Cross, trans. P. Lock (Farnham: 2011).