Egeria: Diary of a Pilgrimage

"Avoid the company of young men. Let long baited youths dandified and wanton never be seen under your roof. Repel a singer as you would some bane. Hurry from your house women who live by playing and singing, the devil’s choir whose songs are the fatal ones of sirens. Do not arrogate to yourself a widow’s license and appear in public preceded by a host of eunuchs. It is a most mischievous thing for those who are weak owing to their sex and youth to misuse their own discretion and to suppose that things are lawful because they are pleasant. 'All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient.' No frizzled steward nor shapely foster brother nor fair and ruddy footman must dangle at your heels. Sometimes the tone of the mistress is inferred from the dress of the maid. Seek the society of holy virgins and widows; and, if need arises for holding converse with men, do not shun having witnesses, and let your conversation be marked with such confidence that the entry of a third person shall neither startle you nor make you blush. The face is the mirror of the mind and a woman’s eyes without a word betray the secrets of her heart. I have lately seen a most miserable scandal traverse the entire East. The lady’s age and style, her dress and mien, the indiscriminate company she kept, her dainty table and her regal appointments bespoke her the bride of a Nero or of a Sardanapallus. The scars of others should teach us caution. ‘When he that causeth trouble is scourged the fool will be wiser.'"
--Letter of Jerome to Furia, ca. 394

Introduction

The text now known as Itinerarium Egeriae, the Travelogue of Egeria, was rediscovered by G.F. Gamurrini in 1884. It is an incomplete text, beginning midway, missing sections in the middle, and likely missing other lacuna along the way. Nonetheless, it is a very revealing work, even as it stands, because it gives insight into Holy Land pilgrimages in the very late 4th century to early 5th century AD.  What is known of the author is based on a scanty evidence in other sources and internal evidence. She was likely from Galicia, of an educated class, and possibly a consecrated virgin writing to other religious women, though not everyone accepts this conjecture. Most scholars date her pilgrimage no earlier than 381 and no later than 417. She references other texts that can be dated to 390 and 404, though again, not everyone agrees on the origins of the citations.

Outline

Part 1 (Chapters 1-23)--Several Pilgrimages

1-9: Journey to Mt. Sinai, the Giving of the Law

10-12: Journey to Mt. Nebo, Moses' Tomb

13-16: Journey to Carneas in Hauran, Job's Tomb

17-19: Journey to Edessa, Thomas the Apostle's Tomb

20-21: Journey to Carrhae, Abraham's House

22-23: Return Journey to Constantinople

Part 2 (Chapters 24-49)--The Liturgy in Jerusalem

24-25: Daily Office & the Sunday Liturgy; Epiphany

26: Feast of the Presentation

27-28: Fasting in Lent

29-38: Lazarus Saturday, Holy Week

39-41: Easter & Eastertide

42: 40th Day After Easter

43-44: Pentecost and after

45-47: Preparation for Baptism

48-49: Feast of the Dedications

Exploratory Questions

  • What does it mean to go on a pilgrimage? Have you ever been on one? Is it a necessary or important experience? Why or why not?
  • Can a special holiness be attached to a place? Why or why not? What about an object?
  • Is a schedule of prayer and worship a necessary element of Christian worship?
  • What would be the advantages of a yearly cycle of Christian observance? What would be the disadvantages?
  • Can one profit spiritually from traveling to meet with and worship with Christians of renown?

General Content Questions

  1. Based on our reading, what would you conclude are the interests and motivations of Egeria?
  2. What is the tone of her itinerarium? 
  3. What does she think her readers will be most interested in?
  4. Why does she include certain details and not others?
  5. What informs her spirituality?
 

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding