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Pilgrimage and Travel in the Middle Ages: An Annotated Bibliography

by Karl Krueger
Web posted at 10:49 PM on 5/3/96 from xtsd0110.it.wsu.edu.

Pilgrimage and Travel in the Middle Ages

Furnivall, J. J. and W.G. Stone, eds. The Tale of Beryn, with A Prologueof the merry Adventure of the Pardoner with a Tapster at Canterbury. EarlyEnglish Text Society no. 105 (1909).

This prologue and tale--noticeably not Chaucer's--appear only in the Duke ofNorthumberland's manuscript of the Canterbury Tales. The prologue is ofparticular interest because we see the pilgrims arrive in Canterbury. A shortperiod of time is spent in the cathedral, where they, "do that they were comfore, & aftir for to dyne." (l. 146). After dinner, when they agree eachto tell a tale on the return trip, they all go out to amuse themselves. TheKnight takes the Squire to see the city's battlements; the Prioress and Wifewalk through gardens; the Monk invites the Parson and Friar to visit a friendof his; the Miller and Summoner (having stole broaches) plan on drinking;others go wandering about the city. The Pardoner plans to seduce a tapster,and his misadventures are the main subject of the Prologue. The next morning(the Pardoner all bruised) the pilgrims leave Canterbury and the Merchant tellsthe Tale of Beryn.

Jusserand, J. J. English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages. Trans.Lucy Toulmin Smith. London: New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1891.

This is an engaging and well researched account of life on the road inChaucer's time. He does not rely on Chaucer (or any poet) for his information,using instead lawbooks, church documents, and sermons to reconstruct wayfaringlife in the fourteenth century. After a detailed account of roads and bridges,he describes the "extinct species" who moved across them: herbalists &minstrels, merchants & peddlers, wandering friars, pardoners, and pilgrims.These wanderers served as vital links, spreading both fables and news. Thepilgrims' motives included healing, travel, and political statement-making.Pilgrim sites were desired by communities for financial reasons (344 ff.);pilgrims themselves were largely pious (349), but widely condemned for theirmerrymaking. Jusserand concludes that the abundance of wanderers ledinevitably to political reform (406 ff.).

Kempe, Margery. The Book of Margery Kempe, Sanford Brown Meech, ed.Early English Text Society no. 212 (1940).

Clearly the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and the vision of Christ which inspiresher weeping on Calvary (70-71), is spiritually meaningful to Kempe. She becamean avid pilgrim taker, visiting Rome, Santiago de Compostela, and Englishsites, having been instructed by God himself to do so. But the level of herdevotion clearly puts her at odds with other pilgrims. On the way to Jerusalemshe is told to "syttyn stylle & makyn mery, as we don, bothin at mete &at soper" (65), and eventually because of her piety they say "thei wold not gowyth hir for an hundryd pownd" (76) because of her seriousness. So too she hastroubles getting to Santiago (108). Thus the picture of the typical pilgrim isone of merrymaking and rejection of Kempe-style severity.

Kendall, Alan. Medieval Pilgrims. London: Wayland Publishers,1970.

This study of pilgrimage has no verbal information that is not better given bySumption, but I mention it for its visual information. The 128 pages haveseventy-seven illustrations: woodcuts, manuscript illuminations, and later-daypaintings of pilgrimage. Look here for good illustrations of medievalpilgrimage.

Mandeville, Sir John. Mandeville's Travels, P. Hamelius, ed. EarlyEnglish Text Society no. 153 (1919) v. 1.

(V. 2 is Hamelius' introduction and notes.)

Details about the fourteenth century author and his source material areunresolved, but this is a fascinating medieval travel book (extant in 32fourteenth century manuscripts). In the Prologue he announces that he willtell of the Holy Land because it is where Christ lived and died, but the pietyof the introduction is soon replaced with wonder at the rich classical (thephoenix, 30) and biblical (spot of burning bush, 39; pyramids as Joseph'sgranaries, 34) histories of the places passed on the way to Jerusalem. At theholy city Mandeville lists the "holy places therabowte" (ch. xi-xii) includingGolgatha, the tomb, the temple housing the "Arke of god with relykes of Iewes."While the first part of the book, which deals with the route pilgrims (andcrusaders) would take to the Holy Land, has an exotic flavor, the second part(chpts. xvii-xxxv), in which Mandeville travels beyond center of the world torelate of the wonders beyond, describes faraway marvels. These include thewomen warriors in the "lond of AMAZOYNE that is the lond of FEMYNYE" (102),cannibals (119), the "grete CHANE of CHATAY" (chpts. xxiv-xxvi), Prester John(ch. xxxi), and finally, paradise (although, he admits, "Of paradys necan I not speken propurly for I was not there" (202).Although he clearly wants to win the lands back from the Saracens, Mandevilledisplays a surprising amount of tolerance toward unfamiliar cultures.

Melczer, William. The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela.New York: Italica Press, 1993.

This is the first English translation of the Codex Calixtinus Liber V(Spain, twelfth century) featuring Melczer's introduction (on medievalpilgrimage, the Cult of St. James, and Iconography), extensive notes, aHagiographical Register, Gazetteer, and Bibliography. The Guide itself is likea medieval Lonely Planet guidebook: it traces routes from Southern France toSantiago, warns pilgrims of the bad waters and unscrupulous ferrymen,highlights "must see" attractions along the way (mainly saintly relics), andends with a detailed description of the Cathedral of Santiago. Throughout, itemphasizes the holiness of the pilgrims and the benefits they accrue from thetrip, and colorfully condemns those who hinder or cheat pilgrims (92; 132-133).

Sumption, Jonathan. Pilgrimage: An Image of Mediaeval Religion.Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1975.

A wealth of information about medieval pilgrimage is given, including routes,expenses, difficulties, shrines, relics, and the rise and fall of pilgrimagepopularity. The popularity of a ritual not required by the church indicatesthe emotional need pilgrimage satisfied, though it was often more directedtoward the spectacle of the scene than spiritual satisfaction (esp. 196-198;211-216).

Thorpe, Sir William. "[On Pilgrimage]." In The Canterbury Tales byGeoffrey Chaucer, V. A. Kolve and Glending Olson, eds. New York: W. W. Norton& Co., 1989, 259-263.

This is Thorpe's trial by the Archbishop for "preching openly inShrewisbery that pilgrimage is not lefull" (259). He had complained about theearthly (rather than spiritual) pleasures pilgrims sought, and the merrimentthat surrounded them. "And if thes men and women be a monethe out in theirpilgrimage, many of them shall be, an halfe yeare after, greate janglers, taletellers, and lyers" (262).

Torkington, Sir Richard. Ye oldest diarie of Englysshe travell : beingthe hitherto unpublished narrative of the pilgrimage of Sir Richard Torkingtonto Jerusalem in 1517, W. J. Loftie, ed. London: Field & Turner,1884.

Torkington gives a largely matter-of-fact account of the route to Jerusalem(including a mileage chart, 68) and relics to see along the way. It is clearthat there is a good deal of merry-making to be had on route (although hedescribes rather passionlessly). He especially admired Venice not only for therelics he lists, but for having attended a dinner hosted by the Duke whichrevealed sumptuous foods, wines and setting, and marvelous entertainment withorgans, dancers, and tumblers, "The forme and manner thereof excedyd all otherthat ever I Saw, so much that I canne nott wryte it" (14). On the return triphe also gives details of the fine costumes worn by the dancers and splendidentertainment a dinner hosted by Jews in "Corfewe," (62-64) highlighting themerriment of travel.

Wey , William (d. 1474). "The Best Mode of Prodeeding on a Pilgrimage." InTravellers and Travelling in the Middle Ages, E. L. Guilford, ed.London: The Sheldon Press, 1924.

Wey was obviously a shrewd traveler, knowing the prices to haggle for andmulti-lingual guides to seek out. He generously passes out his knowledge ofthe route to Jerusalem, paying special attention to Venice and the supplies tobuy there and even providing a brief Italian-English dictionary. His focus isnot on the spiritual benefits of pilgrimage but practical concerns to get oneto the Holy Land.

II. Pilgrimage and the Canterbury Tales

Baldwin, Ralph. The Unity of the Canterbury Tales. Folcroft, PA:The Folcroft Press, Inc., 1955.

Although the Tales are incomplete, lacking a fully developedmiddle, they are not unfinished, for there is a clear beginning and end. Whatthe Prologue, Parson's Tale and Retraction show is thatthe idea of pilgrimage makes the whole poem "unified" and "a dynamic entity."In the Prologue the characters are cast as pilgrims, and Chaucer's"telescoping several time continua and several space continua" in the scene inthe Tabard "gives the illusion of the mobile wayfarer" to pilgrims'characterization" (56). At the ending, the Parson's demand for penitence andthe author's assent (by retracting) reveals the purification of pilgrimage.

Bowden, Muriel. A Commentary on the General Prologue in the CanterburyTales. London: Sovenir Press Ltd., 1967.

Chapter two, "`Thanne Longen Folk to Goon on Pilgrimages'," explains that inthe Middle Ages the folk and noblesse did long (and proceed) to go onpilgrimage. Having noted the onetime pious, devout aspect of pilgrimage, shenotes a change in the late Middle Ages, "By the fourteenth century, then, theperilous journey of extreme hardship taken in austere ardor by the sternlypious had almost vanished from the world, leaving in its stead a journeysimilar in difficulty to the nineteenth-century `trip abroad,' an undertakingwhich, even as late as 1900, still had some hazards and required seriouspreparation, yet was safe enough, sufficiently romantic and exciting to providea never ending topic of interest for later conversations with thestay-at-homes" (24). The "many ills" of this situation, specifically inEngland, are presented by quoting contemporary sermons and poetry which eithercondemn or satirize the merrymaking of pilgrimages. The chapter also toucheson the murder of Becket and information about medieval pilgrimages (relics,broaches, etc.).

Hoffman Arthur W. "Chaucer's Prologue to Pilgrimage: The Two Voices" inDiscussions of the Canterbury Tales, ed. Charles A Owen. Boston: D.C.Heath and Company, 1961, 9-17.

It is both Spring (related by the opening lines to secular love) and the Shrineof St. Thomas (related to love of God) which calls the pilgrims to theirjourney. On the basis of the Canterbury Tales Reiss decides pilgrimageis both, "an event in the calendar of nature, one aspect of the generalspringtime surge of human energy and longing," and "a supernatural kind ofrestoration that knows no season" (10-11). The different kinds of loveassociated with the pilgrims are used to suggest the differing roles charactersplay in the pilgrimage or the narrative.

Holloway, Julia Bolton. "Medieval Pilgrimage." In Approaches toTeaching Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Joseph Gibaldi, ed. New York: ModernLanguage Association of America, 1980, 143-148.

In a brief discussion of a seminar she taught on medieval pilgrimage, Hollowaydescribes her students' reaction to the Canterbury Tales after havingstudied other medieval depictions of pilgrims, "Chaucer's joke became as clearto us as it would have been to his own audience. He was writing satire" (145).This is evident because the pilgrims ride on horseback (which "invalidated themedieval pilgrimage"), wear bright colors (highlighted by the Ellsmereilluminations), and include both "lecherous pilgrims" and a monk and prioresswho should not leave their cloisters.

Howard, Donald R. "Chaucer." In Writers and Pilgrims: MedievalPilgrimage Narratives and Their Posterity. Berkeley: University ofCalifornia Press, 1980, 76-103.

Howard considers the importance of the choice of pilgrimage for the framing ofthe Tales. Since there are not poetic sources for this choice, he turnsto pilgrimage literature to seek an analogue. Noting important differences,especially the language Chaucer employs and his treatment of the narrator, hedoes see similarities with pilgrimage literature. "Chaucer had inherited fromthe tradition of travel and pilgrimage writing a form that had evolvednaturally-one that invited vicarious participation and personal reaction fromthe reader, an open-ended form that allowed the reader to believe or doubt ashe saw fit, to be fascinated or repelled, skeptically `distanced' orimaginatively involved" (100).

Jonassen, Frederick B. "The Inn, the Cathedral, and the Pilgrimage ofThe Canterbury Tales." In Rebels and Rivals: The Contestive Spiritin the Canterbury Tales ed. Susanna Greer Fein. Medieval InstitutePublications, 1991, 1-35.

"The structure of The Canterbury Tales, then, is that of apassage from the worldly state of the Inn to the spiritual state of theCathedral" (3). Jonassen draws on Bahktin's distinction between carnival ("thegrotesque and material aspects of life") represented by the Inn, and Lent("restraint") represented by the Cathedral. The Tales do not favoreither, "the poet mixes, combines, and fuses the tendencies of the Inn and theCathedral so that neither dominates" (3). Further, he draws on anthropologistVictor Turner's treatment of the structure, which limits roles people can play,and anti-structure, which "tends to ignore, reverse, cut across, or occuroutside of structural relationships" of pilgrimage. These elements of"liminality" and "communitas" both appear in Chaucer's poem. The hostencourages the "communitas" and the merriment of both the Inn and storytelling.The Pardoner shows "malevolence to both Inn and Cathedral, the two sides ofChaucer's overarching dichotomy" (21).

Knapp, Daniel. "The Relyk of A Seint: A Gloss on Chaucer's Pilgrimage."Journal of English Literary History 39.1 (March 1972): 1-26.

Beginning with a discussion of Erasmus' 1514 pilgrimage to Canterbury, Knapppoints out the incredulous attitude toward relics. He places special emphasison the absurdity of venerating the holy breeches of St. Thomas. He ties thisto the Host's comment to the pardoner that "Thou wouldst make me kisse thynolde breech" (Pardoner's T 948), as well as other mockery of relics inthe Tales , to conclude Chaucer considered relic kissing absurd, and byextension, the whole pilgrimage. "The point of pilgrimage is nevertheless tovenerate the relics, and when one disdains the relics one disdains also thepilgrimage" (17). (A tenuous link is made my claiming that like the rioterswho seek death without knowing what they're doing, so too pilgrims proceedwithout knowing what they're doing.) The essay concludes by arguing thatChaucer did indeed intend to bring the pilgrims back to Southwark, for thearrival in Canterbury could not be climactic if earthly pilgrimage is a flawedreligious experience. Arriving at the cathedral would be to "encounter parodyas fact," an undesirable ending to the Tales.

Olson, Glending. "Rhetorical Circumstances and the CanterburyStorytelling." Studies in the Age of Chaucer: Proceedings 1 (1984):211-218.

The circumstance in which the Tales are told is a storytellingcontest in the course of pilgrimage. The entertainment would have to followcertain norms of acceptability. The situation changes as the pilgrimageproceeds, and while the Miller's drunkenness at the beginning is funny, theCook's drunkenness in The Manciple's Prologue "leads toinarticulateness, to insult, to cynical placating. . . in fragments H and IChaucer portrays the game as having wound down, degenerated" (218). Thus themovement is from the acceptance of the play of storytelling to more severemoral judgments appropriate for a religious journey.

Owen, Charles A. Pilgrimage and Storytelling: The Dialectic of "ernest"and "game." Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1977.

Pointing out The Canterbury Tales are both a collection of stories and areligious pilgrimage, Owen argues that both the earnestness of piety andplayfulness of storytelling are involved. He finds that although "the `game'dominates" (8), the interplay between the two creates complexity. For example,the game of storytelling builds a community, which then has an earnestness toit; the two elements play off one another. Furthermore, Chaucer himself is atplay as he creates and revises the narratives over the course of fourteenyears.

Reiss, Edmund. "The Pilgrimage Narrative and the Canterbury Tales."Studies in Philology 67 (July 1970): 295-305.

More than merely a framing devise for several stories, Reiss seespilgrimage as central to the tales because it takes on "both an actual and asymbolic existence." It is both the story of a group of pilgrims making theirway to Canterbury and "a microcosmic equivalent of the pilgrimage of lifespoken of so often in medieval theology" (296). He particularly admires theway the pilgrims themselves demonstrate the sins and the acknowledgment of themthat the pilgrimage is undertaken to pardon, "they themselves provide the sinsand also the whips and reins necessary for purification" (300). The problem ofthe ending is considered, with Reiss suggesting it does not matter whether thepilgrims were meant to conclude their journey in Canterbury or Southwark. Moreimportant than the effect of the pilgrimage on the characters ("we do not seethe character of any pilgrim improving or even changing" (303)) is the effecton the readers, "It is rather the audience, those who have been the actualpilgrims of this narrative, who are to act in their worldly existence with newor renewed insight and direction" (303).

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