Frair Nicolò of Poggibonsi
Book from Overseas (1346-1350)
Friar Niccolò was an Italian Franciscan who went to the Holy Land in the fourteenth century and wrote one of the most richly detailed travelogues of his time as far as the local geography, culture and folklore. His careful eye caught important details in Nazareth, such as for example the mosaic decoration inside the Grotto and the connection between Mary’s home and the rocky environment.
In addition, his description shows how during this period the memories of the Annunciation were enhanced with details. Referring to a column standing in the Grotto, the Franciscan pilgrim states that Mary was leaning on it when the Angelo entered from a window above.
« The city has declined a lot, and there are no walls around it, and twelve drachmas must one pay to enter; inside is a most beautiful church, standing right where our Lady’s house was, when the angel made his announcement; but now the church has been knocked down, except for our Lady’s room. This room is very small and covered with mosaic work; and it was the house leaning on a rock cave. Inside is the column that Holy Mary circled with her arms to pause, when the angel made his announcement. This column is as big as a man can put his arms around; there is a small stand at the foot of this column, where she would pray; there is a little altar on the side, above the grotto; and above the column is a large window, where the angel entered when he made his announcement. The column is grey in colour; know that it is much too strong, that nothing can have the best of it. Only indulgence, guilt and punishment. »
Alberto Bacchi Della Lega, Libro d'Oltramare (Book from Overseas), Bologna, 1881, Book I, ch. CXXVII