Anonymous pilgrim of Piacenza

The anonymous pilgrim of Piacenza, sometimes simply called the Piacenza Pilgrim,[1] was a sixth-century Christian pilgrim from Piacenza in northern Italy who travelled to the Holy Land at the height of Byzantine rule in the 570s and wrote a narrative of his pilgrimage. This anonymous pilgrim was erroneously identified as Antoninus of Piacenza[2] or Antoninus Martyr out of confusion with Saint Antoninus of Piacenza, who died in 303 and is venerated as a martyr.

The Piacenza pilgrim's description of sites and traditions are sometimes inaccurate, as he tends to confuse places from the same area, or such which are in Egypt.[3] The travel descriptions of the Piacenza pilgrim are still valued by researchers because they sometimes contain information about local customs and traditions not mentioned in any other text.[3]

The pilgrim's itinerary documents the extent of the sixth-century trade catering to the pious pilgrims in the Holy Land: "We went to Cana, where our Lord was present at the marriage feast," the Piacenza Pilgrim reports, "and we reclined on the very couch." Inspired by such a vivid figuration of Biblical truth, Antoninus indulged the classic tourists' act: "and there, unworthy as I was, I wrote the names of my parents".[4]

Antoninus' descriptions of the chalice of onyx that was venerated in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and of the Holy Lance in the Basilica of Mount Zion are early attestations of the cultus of these two relics.

Of the historical Piacenza pilgrim, F. Bechtel reported in The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910).[5]

"In manuscripts he is sometimes styled Antoninus the Martyr, through ignorant confusion of the writer with the martyr St. Antoninus who is venerated at Piacenza. He is the last writer who saw Palestine before the Moslem conquest. Although he covered in his travels nearly the same extensive territory as the Spanish nun, his work contains but few details not found in other writers; it is, moreover, marred by gross errors and by fabulous tales which betray the most naive credulity."


  1. ^ "Pilgrims who visited the Holy Land between the IV and VII century". Archived from the original on 2013-03-25. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
  2. ^ Avni, Gideon (2014). "A Tale of Two Cities". The Byzantine-Islamic Transition in Palestine: An Archaeological Approach. Oxford Studies in Byzantium. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 9780199684335. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  3. ^ a b Avner, Rina (2016). Leslie Brubaker; Mary B. Cunningham (eds.). The Initial Tradition of the Theotokos at the Kathisma: Earliest Celebrations and the Calendar. The Cult of the Mother of God in Byzantium: Texts and Images. Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Studies. Routledge. ISBN 9781351891974. Retrieved 2019-01-08. The Piacenza pilgrim is known to have a tendency to confuse sites and traditions, especially when the sites are geographically close to each other or if they are located in Egypt. These weaknesses have been pointed out by [John] Wilkinson and [Herbert] Donner, and have been elaborated by [Ora] Limor. In spite of this, the Piacenza pilgrim does have other virtues, for sometimes his report constitutes the only and ultimate source, especially with regard to local traditions and customs unknown from any other text.
  4. ^ A block of marble found at Elateia, inscribed in Byzantine Greek "This stone is from Cana in Galilee, where Our Lord Jesus Christ turned the water into wine" and the further inscription "Antoninus", was identified with Antoninus of Piacenza when the block was moved to the Chapel of Saint Eleutherios near the Cathedral, Athens. ("Archaeological News", The American Journal of Archaeology and of the History of the Fine Arts 1885:230.)
  5. ^ The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Itineraria"


See alsoEdit

Chronological list of early Christian geographers and pilgrims to the Holy Land who wrote about their travels, and other related works

Late Roman and Byzantine period
  • Eusebius of Caesarea (260/65–339/40), Church historian and geographer of the Holy Land
  • Anonymous "Pilgrim of Bordeaux", pilgrim to the Holy Land (333-4) who left travel descriptions
  • Egeria, pilgrim to the Holy Land (c. 381–384) who left a detailed travel account
  • St Jerome (Hieronymus; fl. 386–420), translator of the Bible, brought an important contribution to the topography of the Holy Land
  • Madaba Map, mosaic map of the Holy Land from the second half of the 6th century
Early Muslim period
  • Paschal Chronicle, 7th-century Greek Christian chronicle of the world
  • Arculf, pilgrim to the Holy Land (c. 680) who left a detailed narrative of his travels
Medieval period