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Fra Giovanni di Fedanzola da Perugia
Descriptio Terrae Sanctae.
Ms. Casanatense 3876

The Descriptio, content of this edition, has been transmitted by a single manuscript conserved in Rome at the library “Casanatense”. It is reproduced in its entirety at the end of this volume, which also represents the first printed publication of the work.
Friar John of Fedanzola from Perugia, introducing himself as the author, declares himself to be one of the Friars Minor (Franciscan), native of Perugia, and Minister of the Province of the Holy Land. We are clearly dealing with a person not unknown to history. Wadding mentions him as inquisitor -- a commission conferred to teachers of theology -- of the Province of Rome in 1327; the following year, as inquisitor at Perugia and of all Umbria. In the same year he was transferred to Avignon, commissioned by the Minister General, Michael of Cesena. Friar John seems to have entered into the grace of the Pope. There is no other way of reading the apostolic letter of 1 March 1329 with which the Pope sought to find out the reasons why “the beloved son John of Fedanzola of the Order of Friars Minor” was removed from his office.
The only attestation of the commission as ‘Minister of the Province of the Holy Land’ exercized by Frian John is provided by he himself in the Descriptio. We must add that he had to be such before 1332-3, because in that time period there came about the settling of the Friars Minor in the holy places of Jerusalem and Bethelehem, but in the Descriptio nothing is said about it.
Friar John perhaps took this opportunity to exercize a new pastoral work with the pilgrims heading to the Holy Land. Towards this end it seems that he had first made a preliminary pilgrimage on his own, preparing himself with special care in reading the Bible and then, turning to the places to observe everything with the maximum diligence, he produced the documentation, asking for historical or literary explanations from experts. He himself narrates having travelled in the company of three Hebrews knowledgeable in biblical questions and traditions, and together with native guides, Christian and Muslim, from which came a knowledge of the Arabic names of the various ancient or modern localities, and of the popular folklore about happenings in places without a historical record. In the Descriptio Friar John claims to have visited the holy places more than once with pilgrims, to have ascended Mt. Tabor many times by foot, and often to have celebrated the Mass in the grotto at Bethlehem.
In writing, the Franciscan made use of numerous other works of a similar genre, both ancient and modern. His principle source, by all the evidence, appears to have been the Liber secretorum fidelium crucis by Marino Sanudo, a voluminous compendium of the history and geography of the Holy Land, presented to the Pope in 1321 with the principle purpose of proposing the military Crusader re-conquest of the territory. In the excellent map of Palestine attached to the Liber secretorum, a coordinate system is used to allow one to locate the individual places with greater ease and certainty. Fedanzola could well have come to know Sanudo’s work in the course of his visit to Avignon.
From analysis of the Descriptio it seems evident the he made ample use of this tractate, organizing his own work around the same scheme and, more than that, very often inserting portions of its text. He amply filled out the arid enumeration of the sites, using the internal references of the same work and by means of the information drawn from numerous other sources. On occasion he specifies and corrects names, positions, and distances, as would allow the personal familiarity with the places which he had matured.
Among ancient writers, his principle teachers were St. Jerome and Josephus. From Jerome he cites, almost always in an explicit way, passages from Letter 108, commonly called Vita Paule by the author, and from the Latin translation of the Onomasticon of Eusebius of Caesarea, to which Fedanzola refers with one of the various names by which the work was known: Liber de distantia locorum (Book of the Distances of Places). It seems that these two works had been systematically picked clean by the author, in view of the composition of the Descriptio.
In the work the influence of a Hebrew expert in history and biblical geography is strongly felt, who was his guide or travel companion. In particular, the literary parallels which can be verified with the Sefer caftor va-pherach of the medieval Hebrew Estori ha-Parchi, a work which could have been found, all or in part, in the hands of Fedanzola or his Hebrew companion, having been finished in 1322.
Judging from the general layout and method employed we can conclude that our Descriptio, though remaining faithful to its proposed purpose of guiding pilgrims in their visits to the holy places, is to be categorized as a presentation of the biblical lands more scientific than devotional. This work has the merited distinction of providing trustworthy information with ample biblical and cultural background, and with wider distribution, would have certainly been able to rival the more well-known works of its genre.

A word about the translation: the English translation was formed so as to facilitate reference to the Latin text, especially for those whose knowledge of Latin is not great, seeing that those who are well-versed will find it superfluous. With this in mind, when at all possible the sentence structure (word order and verb tense, etc) were kept equivalent. Cognate terms were chosen which could be identified in the original language, even when such a choice might stretch the normal usage. When the narrative was repetitious or where there were long, convoluted sentences, so also the translation, to give the sense (as is the case) that one is reading a document from a time and place very different than our own. Because of this, the text will sometimes seem to lack fluidity or be awkward, but the major part of this is due to an attempt to preserve the most of the author’s way of expressing himself and a minimum of the translator’s.


Table of Contents

PART I: From Dan to Beersheba

1. Prologue
2. Space 1 – Ar, Petra
3. Space 2 – Bosra
4. Space 3 – Heshbon
5. Space 4 – Machaerus, Sittim
6. Space 5 – Kedar
7. Space 6 – Sueta, Jordan Sources, Bashan, Jazer
8. Space 7 – Sepulchre of Job, Gadara, Phanuel, Elealeh, Church of St. John the Baptist
9. Space 8 – Pella
10. Space 9 – Corazin, Geresa, Socot, Jericho, Hazazon-tamar
11. Space 10 – Capharnaum, Salim, Galgala, Valley of Acor
12. Space 11 – Entering to Hemath, Mensa, Phaselus, Quarantine
13. Space 12 – Bethsaida, Tiberias, Arbel, Aulon Valley, Ai, Adomim, Masada
14. Space 13 – Magdala, Bethel, Desert of Maon
15. Space 14 – Subba, Kadesh of Naphtali, Bethulia, Bethshean, Tirzah, Ephraim, Tekoa, Engedi, Valley of the Blessing, Monastery of St. Sabas, Church of St. Chariton
16. Space 15 – Effren, Bethany, Bethphage, Tower of Eder
17. Space 16 – Safed, Iussaleb, Cafarbaram, Senanim, Nephtali, Dothaim, Bezek, Dan, Gibeah of Saul, Mambre, Hebron, Beersheba
18. Space 17 – Caesarea Philippi, Sources of the Jordan , Kabul, Abel Mauna, Sebaste, Shechem, Jacob’s Well, Hill of Phinehas, Avarta, Lebna, Al-Birah, Ramah of Benjamin, Bethsura, Ramah of Judah
19. Space18 – Hazor, Naasson, En-Dor, Iezreel, Mount Gilboah, Shunem, Zemin, Mount Gerazim, Mount Ebal, Saint Samuel, Upper Bethoron
20. Space 19 – Capharcane, Mount Tabor, Nain, House of Zechariah, Neescol
21. Space 20 – Shunem, Timnathserah, Kiriathjearim
22. Space 21 – St. George, Nazareth, Fortress of Faba, Nobe, Emmaus, Spring of Philip
23. Space 22 – Toronum, Cana of Galilee, Sepphoris, Saphar, Manathath
24. Space 23 – Megiddo, Tamna
25. Space 24 – Mount Cain, Sarona, Bethshemesh, Modiin, Zorah, Eshtaol
26. Space 25 – The Canaanite Chapel, Ramla
27. Space 26 – The Canaanite Chapel, Lydda
28. Space 27 – The Great Sidon, Zarephath, Mount Carmel, Ekron, Azothus
29. Space 28 – The New Sidon, Tyre, The well of living waters, Scandalium, Casale Lamperti, Acre, Haifa, The Pilgrim’s Castle, Caesarea, Asur, Jaffa, Ashkalon, Gaza


PART II: From Nazareth to Jerusalem and Bethlehem

30. Prologue
31. The places of pilgrimage in Galilee and Samaria
32. In Judea: Jerusalem
33. The Sanctuaries of Jerusalem
34. The Edicula of the Holy Sepulchre and the Calvary
35. Mount Zion
36. The Cenacle and nearby places
37. Places sited to the east of Jerusalem
38. The Mount of Olives
39. Places sited north of Jerusalem
40. Places sited to the west of Jerusalem
41. Places sited south of Jerusalem
42. The road to Bethlehem
43. Bethlehem
44. Conclusion.



Fra Giovanni di Fedanzola da Perugia, Descriptio Terrae Sanctae. Ms. Casanatense 3876, Ed.: U. Nicolini † – R. Nelli, Trad. it. e note: S. De Sandoli † – E. Alliata, Eng. transl. by J. Boettcher, Coord.: A. Bartoli Langeli – A. Niccacci (SBF Collectio Maior 43), Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem 2003. XXX+187 pp.; 77 pl.., 2 maps. U.S. $ 50.00



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