A Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, at Easter (1697)
The Anglican minister Maudrell keeps a diary of his journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, taken on occasion of Easter in 1697. He leaves Aleppo in February together with fifteen men, to return in May. The destination is Jerusalem, and the purpose is to attend the Latin Easter mass. Enriched with practical notes, this diary became a famous travel guide, to be translated into French, Dutch and German.
In Nazareth, Maudrell stays at the Franciscan Monastery, enjoying the hospitality offered to all pilgrims, whether catholic or not.
As well as the accounts of his diary, our pilgrim left an indelible memoir, also by means of his signature, which together with the date of his visit, is to be found scratched into the wall of the cell where he slept, with those of many other pilgrims who over the centuries faced all adversity to take up the Holy Pilgrimage.
« Sunday, April 18. – Nazareth is at present only an inconsiderable village, situate in a kind of round concave valley, on the top of an high hill. We were entertained at the convent built over the place of the Annunciation. At this place are, as it were immured, seven or eight Latin fathers, who live a life truly mortified, being perpetually in fear of the Arabs, who are absolute lords of the country.
We went in the afternoon to visit the sanctuary of this place. The church of Nazareth stands in a cave, supposed to be the place where the blessed Virgin received that joyful message of the Angel, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, &c. Luke 1,28.
It resembles the figure of a cross. The part of it that stands for the tree of the cross is fourteen paces long, and six over; and runs directly into the grot, having no other arch over it at top, but that of the natural rock: the traverse part of the cross is nine paces long and four broad, and is built athwart the mouth of the grot. Just at he section of the cross are arected two granite pillars, each two feet and one inch diameter, and about three feet distance from each other. They are supposed to stand on the very places, one, where the Angel. the othr, where the blessed Virgin stood at the time of the Annunciation.
Of these pillars, the innermost being that of the blessed Virgin, has been broken away by the Turks, in expectation of finding treasure under it; so that eighteen inches length of it is clean gone, between the pillar and its pedestal. Nevertheless it remains erect, though by wath art is sustained, I could not discern. It touches the roof above, and is probably hanged upond that: unless you had rather take the friars’ account of it, viz. that it is supported by a miracle.
After this we went to see the house of Joseph, being the same, as they tell you, in which the Son of God lived, for near thirty yars, in subjection to man, Luke 2,51. Not far distance from hence they shew you the sinagogue, where our blassed Lord preached that Sermon, Luke 4 by which he so exasperated his countrymen. Both these places lie north-west from the convent, and were anciently dignified each with a handsome church; but these monuments of queen Helena’s piety are now in ruins. »
Henry Maundrell, A Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, London 1823, pages 95-96