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.


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.


(various religions)

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, the the whole East beyond the sea as far as India and Ethiopia confesses and preaches the name of Christ,... I assert as certain that , 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 Muhammad 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 in 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.