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The early medieval traveler

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 2:30 pm
by Julia
I have been pondering what a traveler of the early medieval period (1066-1215) might take with her/him for an extended trip (such as a pilgrimage). The image that comes to mind is of a traveler with a cloak slung across their back, walking along with a staff. But this begs some questions. Would a pilgrim/traveler of the time go from Inn to Inn? or would they need to be able to make camp along the route? If the later would they need to take at least fire making implements and a pot for dinner? What would a traveler carry on their person?

Thanks

J

Re: The early medieval traveler

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 4:10 pm
by Jack Campin
Pilgrimages were usually done in large groups (the precursor of the bus tour). So resources could be shared.

I guess the most useful thing to take along on your pilgrimage would be a woman.

Re: The early medieval traveler

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:00 pm
by Alan E
Jack Campin wrote:Pilgrimages were usually done in large groups (the precursor of the bus tour). So resources could be shared.

I guess the most useful thing to take along on your pilgrimage would be a woman.

Would that be The Wife of Bath or The Prioress? :P

Re: The early medieval traveler

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:07 pm
by Phil the Grips
Early maps were measured in day's journey between stopping points, not miles, so it strongly suggests people did not "rough it"- after all that's where the bad guys were so you'd either be attacked or arrested if found.

To be on a pilgrimage you'd be sponsored or wealthy so would have the funds to do the trip in the first place, plus permission and justification to be travelling and not just a vagrant (which, again, will get you attacked or arrested), and so could afford hostels. This is exactly why pilgrimages were encouraged and relics sought as the resultant local trade potential and economic benefit was huge.

Re: The early medieval traveler

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:48 pm
by Foxe
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Medieval-Traveller-Norbert-Ohler/dp/184383507X is a not bad book. A bit coffee table-ish in some places, but some good stuff too.

Re: The early medieval traveler

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 6:09 pm
by Alan E
Thanks for the recommendation Foxe, book ordered :D

In addition to what the others have added, pilgrim routes were well established (i.e. standardised) in the MA, so there would have been a string of places along these standard routes that were ideally situated for nightly halts. Of relevance is that religious 'Hospitals' were not just (or sometimes even) places for the sick but places where travelers received hospitality.

Travel along less regulated routes might have been necessary for people sent in response to commissions of array? They too would have been in groups, sponsored by the community tasked to raise them and carrying the necessary paperwork. I would imagine (IMVHO) these would have been sent via pre-arranged routes rather than simply 'making their way' however they chose, but have no evidence for that (comments?).

Sometimes individuals would have needed to come back home or return to garrison/arrayed host alone (e.g. the joderal (sp?) pass?) but again they'd have letters from whoever authorised their journey. Presumably messengers had similar papers.

Re: The early medieval traveler

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 7:39 pm
by Brother Ranulf
I would strongly recommend "The Age of Pilgrimage" by Jonathan Sumption, which explains in detail the many changes in pilgrimage from the 6th century to the 16th. In the 12th century, for example, it was extremely rare for women to make pilgrimages, simply because the officials at many shrines across Europe would not let then enter (some did, notably that of St Thomas Becket).

Poor people certainly did go on pilgrimage and the Church provided encouragement and a a support service for them, insisting that they be given free accommodation, exemption from tolls and charity from every Christian along the route. This did not prevent them being beaten up if they could not pay corrupt toll officers, but they still went in huge numbers. The great Pilgrim Hospital of St John at Jerusalem had space for 2,000 beds occupied by poor pilgrims while more crowded outside the gates, waiting to take the places of those who moved on. Eastbridge Hospital at Canterbury was established around 1190 solely for poor pilgrims. Nobody ever "made camp along the route" if they could help it - that would be asking to be beaten up and robbed.

The term "journey" comes from Anglo-Norman French journee, meaning a day's travel. Starting from London, for example, a pilgrim could expect to cover the 50 kilometres to Rochester in a single day, the roads being well maintained. Crossing the Alps, on the other hand, a day's journey might be only 10 kilometres or less. Monasteries, independent pilgrim hospitals and other stopping places could be found at the end of each "journee", so long as a pilgrim followed the established route. Inns were for people with large amounts of cash, a horse to ride and a train of baggage animals and servants.

As for what was taken, if you were wealthy you took a mattress, furniture and the kitchen sink (slight exaggeration); if you were a bog-standard freeman you took a bowl, sewing kit, maybe spare braies and shirt and you hid a small number of coins as best you could in the seams of the scrip or your cloak. Some of the bandits in France and Spain were previously English pilgrims who knew all the hiding places. Poor pilgrims relied entirely on Christian charity, as set out in the Codex Calixtinus, a guide book written around 1138.

At that time there were no written papers or authorisations for pilgrims - the staff and scrip served as the only identifying features on the outward journey, while a scallop shell, palm frond, veil of Veronica, ampule or one of the newly-introduced badges served the purpose on the return.

Re: The early medieval traveler

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 9:21 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
Sponsoring a poor person's pilgrimage is still encouraged by the Catholic church and is also a feature of Islam.