Burchard of Mount Sion

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Burchard of Mount Sion

(c. late 13th century)

Descriptio Terra Sanctae

A German Dominican monk who visited Jerusalem between 1274-84.


Item sunt ibi Armenii, Georgiani, Nestoriani, Nubiani, Iacobini, Chaldei, Medi, Ferse, Ethiopes, Egyptii et multe gentes alie, que sunt Christiani. Quorum est infinita multitudo. Que singule habent patriarchas suos et eis obediunt. Eorum vero prelati dicunt, se romane ecclesie libentissime obedire…

Notandum autem in rei veritate, licet quidam contrarium senciant, qui ea volunt asserere, que non viderunt, quod oriens totus ultra mare usque in Yndiani et Ethiopiam nomen Christi confitetur et predicat, preter solos Sarracenos et quosdam Turcomanos, qui in Cappadocia sedem habent, ita quod pro serto assero, sicut per memet ipsum vidi et ab aliis, quibus notum erat, audivi, quod semper in omni luco et regno preterquam in Egypto et Arabia, ubi plurimum habitant Sarraceni et alii Machometum sequentes pro uno Sarraceno triginta vel amplius invenies Christianos. Verum tamen, quod Christiani omnes transmarini natione sunt orientales, qui licet sint Christiani, quia tamen usum armorum non habent multum, eum impugnantur a Sarracenis, Tartaris vel aliis quibuseunque, subieiuntur eis et tributis pacem et quietem emunt, et Sarraceni sive alii, qui eis dominantur, balivos suos et exactores in terries illis ponunt. Et inde contigit, quod regnum illud dicitur esse Sarracenorum, eum tamen in rei veritate sunt omnes Christiani preter ipsos balivos et exactores et aliquos de familia ipsorum...

In truth, in this city [Jerusalem] so many places are distinguished by the holy events of the Lord’s Passion that a day would not be enough to examine each one of them profitably. Besides, there are certain things which arouse a greater devotion in those places. For who could say how many monks and nuns from Georgia, Greater and Lesser Armenia, Chaldea, Syria, Media, Persia, India, Ethiopia, Nubia, Nabataea and of the Maronite, Jacobite, Nestorian, Greek, Syrian and other communities now roan through each place in troops of one or two hundred more or less, kissing the ground with an eager spirit and venerating the places on which they have heard that Jesus sat, stood or performed some work?


(various regions of the holy land)

[in the Holy Land] there are also the Armenians, Georgians, Nestorians, Nubians, Jacobites, Chaldaeans, Medes, Persians, Ethiopians, Egyptians and many other nations who are Christians. There is an infinite multitude of them. They each have their own patriarchs, to whom they owe obedience. Their prelates say that they would very willingly be subject to the Church of Rome.

... It should be noted as a matter of fact, although some who like to have an opinion about things that they have not seen declare the contrary, that the whole East beyond the sea as far as India and Ethiopia confesses and preaches the name of Christ, except only for the Saracens and some Turkomans who live in Cappadocia, so that I assert as certain, just as I myself have seen and have heard from others by whom it is known, that always in every place and kingdom, except for Egypt and Arabia where many Saracens and other followers of Muḥammad live, for every Saracen you will find thirty or more Christians. It is true, however, that all the Christians beyond the sea are Easterners; and although they are Christians, because they do not have much experience of arms, when they are attacked by Saracens, Tartars or others, whosoever they may be, they are subjected to them and buy peace and tranquility for tribute, and the Saracens and others who dominate them place their bailiffs and tax-collectors in those lands. So it comes about that that kingdom is said to belong to the Saracens, even though in reality they are all Christians except the bailiffs, tax-collectors and other members of their families

Selected editions

J. C. M. Laurent, Peregrinatores medii aevi quatuor. Burchardus de Monte Sion, Ricoldus de Monte Crucis, Odoricus de Foro Julii, Wibrandus de Oldenborg. Quorum duos nunc primum edidit, duos ad fidem librorum manuscriptorum (Lipsiae: 1864), pp. 19-94.

Burchard of Mount Sion, A Description of the Holy Land, trans. A. Stewart (London: 1896)

D. Pringle, Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land 1187-1291 (Farnham: 2012), pp. 241-320.