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© franciscan cyberspot


  * Introd.
  * Texts
  * Gospels
  * Byzan. 1
  * Byzan. 2
  * Byzan. 3
  * Pilgrims
  * Mid.Ages
  * Modern
  * Conclusion

Bethany in Pilgrims' writings

To get some idea of the traditions which once embellished the shrines of the Holy Land, we must study the writings of those pilgrims who have left more or less detailed records of what they saw and heard during their visits.

The first interesting note is that of Egeria. We have already stressed her importance for a knowledge of the liturgy of the time. According to her Itinerary, at the beginning of the 5th century, the place where Jesus met Martha and Mary was situated between Jerusalem and Bethany. On the vigil of Palm Sunday, the procession which had set out from Jerusalem made a stop at a church built 500 yards distant from the tomb "at that place where Mary, Lazarus sister. met Jesus." There, the faithful listened to a reading of the Gospel narrative of the event.

Thirty years after the Arabs took Jerusalem (c. 670). the Frankish priest Arculf lived for about nine months in Palestine. In connection with his visit to Bethany, he makes mention of a large monastery and basilica "built above the grotto where the Lord had recalled Lazarus to life after he had been dead four days." Actually, the cave took up only the west part of the whole complex of church buildings.

Though the Venerable Bede never visited the Holy Land, information given by him seems accurate enough. In his Martirology he associates the Bethany church with the memory of Lazarus and Martha (PA 94, 1135).

The Anglo-Saxon pilgrim, Saewulf, visited the Holy Land in 1102-1103, during the first years of the Frankish kingdom. He writes that, at Bethany, "there is the church of Saint Lazarus where you can see his tomb and that of many bishops of Jerusalem. The altar stands on the spot where Mary Magdalene washed the Lord's feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed them and anointed them with perfume." We pass over discussion of the problem of the identification of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, with Mary of Magdala, whom Jesus delivered from demoniac possession. Though not now held by the majority of modern scholars, this identification was taken for granted by pilgrims of old and found its way into the liturgy of Bethany. The localising of the house of Simon on the site of the church was probably due to the custom (noted by Egeria) of reading John's story of the anointing on the vigil of Palm Sunday at Bethany. This siting was long lived. It is found again in the lengthy report of the Dominican, Felix Fabri, in the 15th century.

The Russian Abbot Daniel has left a particularly detailed description: "Passing through the gate of the property, you see to the right the grotto where the tomb of Lazarus is. There, too, is the room where he grew sick and died. In the middle of the area, there is a great, high church (or, according to another version, a great church with a golden dome), richly adorned with paintings. The distance from the church to the tomb is about 12 sagena (about 27 metres). This tomb is to be found to the west of the church which is itself turned towards the east." On the Jerusalem side, about a verst (1067 m.) from Bethany, Daniel noted the existence of a tower (or column) which commemorated the meeting of Jesus with Lazarus' sisters.

© franciscan cyberspot - text written by Albert Storme

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Created / Updated Monday, 11 October, 2004 at 12:00:34 am by J. Abela, E. Alliata, E. Bermejo
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