Itinerarium Burdigalense

The Itinerarium Burdigalense ("Bordeaux Itinerary") — also known as the Itinerarium Hierosolymitanum ("Jerusalem Itinerary") — is the oldest known Christian itinerarium. It was written by the "Pilgrim of Bordeaux", an anonymous pilgrim from Burdigala (present-day Bordeaux, France).[1] It recounts the writer's journey to the Holy Land in the years 333 and 334[2] as he traveled by land through northern Italy and the Danube valley to Constantinople, then through Asia Minor and Syria to Jerusalem, and then back by way of Macedonia, Otranto, Rome, and Milan.

Interpretation and analysis

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The report of his journey outside Palestine is little more than a dry enumeration of the cities through which he passed, and of the places where he stopped or changed horses, with their respective distances. For the Holy Land he also briefly notes the important events which he believes to be connected with the various places. In this he falls into some strange blunders, as when, for instance, he places the Transfiguration on Mount Olivet. Such errors, however, are also found in subsequent writers. His description of Jerusalem, though short, contains information of great value for the topography of the city.

Another reader, Jaś Elsner, notes that, a brief twenty-one years after Constantine institutionalized Christianity, "the Holy Land to which the pilgrim went had to be entirely reinvented in those years, since its main site—ancient Jerusalem—had been sacked under the Emperor Hadrian and refounded as Aelia Capitolina." Elsner found to his surprise "how swiftly a Christian author was willing implicitly to re-arrange and redefine deeply entrenched institutional norms, while none the less writing on an entirely traditional model [i.e., the established Greco-Roman genre of travel writing]."[3]

The compiler of the itinerary was aware at each boundary of crossing from one Roman province to the next, and distinguished carefully between each change of horses (mutatio) and a stopover place (mansio), and the differences between the simplest cluster of habitations (vicus) and the fortress (castellum) or city (civitas). The segments of the journey are summarised; they are delineated by major cities, with major summaries at Rome and Milan, long-established centers of culture and administration, and Constantinople, refounded by Constantine only three years previously, and the "non-city"[4] Jerusalem.

Glenn Bowman engaged in a close textual analysis of the Itinerarium; he argues that in fact it is a carefully structured work relating profoundly to Old and New Biblical dispensations via the medium of water and baptism imagery.[5]


The Itinerarium survives in four manuscripts, all written between the 8th and 10th centuries. Two give only the Judean portion of the trip, which is fullest in topographical glosses on the sites, in a range of landscape detail missing from the other sections, and Christian legend.[6]

Similar itineraries

A well-known pilgrim itinerary of the sixth century, written by someone from Placentia/Piacenza, is attributed incorrectly to "Antoninus of Piacenza".

See also


  1. The basic edition is that edited by P. Geyer and O. Kuntz, Brepols, 1965; general context of early Christian pilgrimage is provided by E.D. Hunt, Holy Land Pilgrimage in the Late Roman Empire AD 312-460 1982.
  2. "We travelled in the Consulate of Dalmatius and Zenophilus, leaving Chalcedonia on 30 May and returned to Constantinople on 26 December in the same Consulate." Quoted in Jaś Elsner, "The Itinerarium Burdigalense: Politics and Salvation in the Geography of Constantine's Empire", The Journal of Roman Studies 90 (2000:181-195) p. 183. On the return journey the pilgrim took another route in order to see Rome. The return trip from Milan to Bordeaux is not repeated.
  3. Elsner 2000:181.
  4. "...the non-city of Jerusalem, which until Constantine's accession was nothing but a provincial backwater, its Jewish and Christian sites utterly destroyed in its Hadrianic refounding." (Elsner 2000:189).
  5. Bowman, "Mapping History's Redemption: Eschatology and Topography in the Itinerarium Burdigalense' in Jerusalem: its Sanctity and Centrality to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (ed. Lee. I. Levine). New York & Jerusalem: Continuum Press and Magness Press. 1998. pp. 163-187 (on-line text in pdf format).
  6. Elsner 2000:190.


Kai Brodersen: Aetheria/Egeria, Reise in das Heilige Land. Lateinisch/deutsch (Sammlung Tusculum). Berlin und Boston: De Gruyter 2016. ISBN 978-3-11-051811-5 (contains a bilingual edition of the Itinerarium Burdigalense)

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 

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