Of the Desert between the Church of Saint Catherine and Jerusalem. Of the Dry Tree; and how Roses came first into the World
NOW, after that Men have visited those holy Places, then will they turn toward Jerusalem. And then will they take Leave of the Monks, and recommend themselves to their Prayers. And then the Monks give the Pilgrims of their Victuals to pass therewith the Deserts toward Syria. And those Deserts last well a 13 Days Journey.
In that Desert dwell many Arabians, that Men call Bedouins and Ascopards, and they be Folk full of all evil Conditions. And they have no Houses, but Tents, that they make of Skins of Beasts, as of Camels and of other Beasts that they eat; and beneath these they couch them and dwell in any Place where they may find Water, as on the Red Sea or elsewhere: for in that Desert is full great Default of Water, and oftentime it befalleth that where Men find Water at one time in a Place it faileth another time; and for that reason, they make no Habitations there. These Folk that I speak of, they till not the Land, and they labour nought; for they eat no Bread, but and if they be any that dwell nigh a good Town, that go thither and eat Bread sometimes. And they roast their Flesh and their Fish upon hot Stones against the Sun. And they be strong Men and well-fighting; and there so is much Multitude of that Folk, that they be without Number. And they neither reck of anything, nor do anything but chase after Beasts to eat them. And they reck nothing of their Lives, and therefore they fear not the Sultan, nor any other Prince; but they dare well war with them, if they do anything that is a Grievance to them. And they have often-times War with the Sultan, and, to wit, at that Time that I was with him. And they bear but one Shield and one Spear, without other Arms; and they wrap their Heads and their Necks with a great Quantity of white linen Cloth; and they be right felonous and foul, and of cursed Kind.
And when Men pass this Desert, in coming toward Jerusalem, they come to Beersheba, that was wont to be a full fair Town and a delectable of Christian Men; and there be some of their Churches there yet. In that Town dwelled Abraham the Patriarch, a long time. And that Town of Beersheba founded Bathsheba, the Wife of Sir Uriah the Knight, on the which King David begat Solomon the Wise, that was King after David over the 12 Kindreds or Tribes of Jerusalem and reigned 40 Year.
And from thence go Men to the City of Hebron, that is the Amount distant of 12 good Mile. And it was clept sometime the Vale of Mamre, and some-time it was clept the Vale of Tears, because that Adam wept there an 100 Year for the death of Abel his Son, that Cain slew. Hebron was wont to be the principal City of the Philistines, and there dwelled some time the Giants. And that City was also Sacerdotal, that is to say, Sanctuary of the Tribe of Judah; and it was so free, that Men received there all Manner of Fugitives of other Places for their evil Deeds. In Hebron Joshua, Caleb and their Company came first to a-spy, how they might win the Land of Behest. In Hebron reigned first King David 7 Year and a half; and in Jerusalem he reigned 33 Year and a half.
And in Hebron be all the Sepultures of the Patriarchs, Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob; and of their Wives, Eve, Sarah and Rebecca and of Leah; the which Sepultures the Saracens keep full carefully, and have the Place in great Reverence for the holy Fathers, the Patriarchs that lie there. And they suffer no Christian Man to enter into the Place, but if it be of special Grace of the Sultan; for they hold Christian Men and Jews as Dogs, and they say, that they should not enter into so holy a Place. And Men call that Place, where they lie, Double Spelunk (Spelunca Duplex), or Double Cave, or Double Ditch, forasmuch as one lieth above another. And the Saracens call that Place in their Language, Karicarba, that is to say, The Place of Patriarchs. And the Jews call that Place Arboth. And in that same Place was Abrahams House, and there he sat and saw 3 Persons, and worshipped but one; as Holy Writ saith, Tres vidit et unum adoravit, that is to say, He saw 3 and worshipped one: and those same were the Angels that Abraham received into his House.
And right fast by that Place is a Cave in the Rock, where Adam and Eve dwelled when they were put out of Paradise; and there got they their Children. And in that same Place was Adam formed and made, after that, that some Men say: (for Men were wont to call that Place the Field of Damascus, because that it was in the Lordship of Damascus), and from thence was he translated into the Paradise of Delights, as they say; and after he was driven out of Paradise he was left there. And the same Day that he was put in Paradise, the same Day he was put out, for anon he sinned. There beginneth the Vale of Hebron, that endureth nigh to Jerusalem. There the Angel commanded Adam that he should dwell with his Wife Eve, of the which he begat Seth; of the which Tribe, that is to say Kindred, Jesu Christ was born.
In that Valley is a Field, where Men draw out of the Earth a Thing that Men call Cambile, and they eat it instead of Spice, and they bear it away to sell. And Men may not make the Hole or the Cave, where it is taken out of the Earth, so deep or so wide, but that it is, at the Years End, full again up to the Sides, through the Grace of God.
And a little from Hebron is the Mount of Mamre, from the which the Valley taketh his Name. And there is a Tree of Oak, that the Saracens call Dirpe, that is of Abrahams Time: the which Men call the Dry Tree. And they say that it hath been there since the Beginning of the World, and was some-time green and bare Leaves, unto the Time that our Lord died on the Cross, and then it dried: and so did all the Trees that were then in the World. And some say, by their Prophecies, that a Lord, a Prince of the West Side of the World, shall win the Land of Promise that is the Holy Land with Help of Christian Men, and he shall have sung a Mass under that dry Tree; and then the Tree shall wax green and bear both Fruit and Leaves, and through that Miracle many Saracens and Jews shall be turned to Christian Faith: and, therefore, they do great Worship thereto, and guard it full busily. And, albeit so, that it be dry, nevertheless yet it beareth great Virtue, for certainly he that hath a little thereof upon him, it healeth him of the Falling Evil, and his Horse shall not be a-foundered: and many other Virtues it hath, wherefore Men hold it full precious.
From Hebron Men go to Bethlehem in half a Day, for it is but 5 Mile; and it is a full fair Way, by Plains and Woods full delectable. Bethlehem is a little City, long and narrow and well walled, and on each Side enclosed with good Ditches: and it was wont to be clept Ephrata, as Holy Writ saith, Ecce, audimus eum in Ephrata, that is to say, Lo, we heard it in Ephrata. And toward the East End of the City is a full fair Church and a gracious, and it hath many Towers, Pinacles and Corners, full strong and curiously made; and within that Church be 44 Pillars of Marble, great and fair.
And between the City and the Church is the Field Floridus, that is to say, the Field Beflowered. For a fair Maiden was blamed with Wrong, and slandered that she had done Fornication; for which Cause she was condemned to Death, and to be burnt in that Place, to the which she was led. And, as the Fire began to burn about her, she made her Prayers to our Lord, that as certainly as she was not guilty of that Sin, that He would help her and make it to be known to all Men, of His merciful Grace. And when she had thus said, she entered into the Fire, and anon was the Fire quenched and out; and the Brands that were burning became red Rose-trees, and the Brands that were not kindled became white Rose-trees, full of Roses. And these were the first Rose-trees and Roses, both white and red, that ever any Man saw; and thus was the Maiden saved by the Grace of God. And therefore is that Field clept the Field of God Beflowered, for it was full of Roses.
Also beside the Choir of the Church, at the right Side, as Men come downward 16 Steps, is the Place where our Lord was born, that is full well adorned with Marble, and full richly painted with Gold, Silver, Azure and other Colours. And 3 Paces beyond is the Crib of the Ox and the Ass. And beside that is the Place where the Star fell, that led the 3 Kings, Jaspar, Melchior and Balthazar: (but Men of Greece call them thus, Galgalathe, Malgalathe, and Seraphie, and the Jews call them, in this manner, in Hebrew, Appelius, Amerrius, and Damasus.) These 3 Kings offered to our Lord, Gold, Incense and Myrrh, and they met together through Miracle of God; for they met together in a City in Ind, that Men call Cassak, that is a 53 Days Journey from Bethlehem; and they were at Bethlehem the 13th Day; and that was the 4th Day after that they had seen the Star, when they met in that City, and thus they were in 9 Days from that City at Bethlehem, and that was a great Miracle.
Also, under the Cloister of the Church, by 18 Steps at the right Side, is the Charnel-house of the Innocents, where their Bodies lie. And before the Place where our Lord was born is the Tomb of Saint Jerome, that was a Priest and a Cardinal, that translated the Bible and the Psalter from Hebrew into Latin: and without the Minster is the Chair that he sat in when he translated it. And fast beside that Church, at 60 Fathom, is a Church of Saint Nicholas, where our Lady rested her after she was delivered of our Lord; and forasmuch as she had too much Milk in her Paps, that grieved her, she milked them on the red Stones of Marble, so that the Traces may yet be seen, in the Stones, all white.
And there be fair Vines about the City, and great plenty of Wine, that the Christian Men have made. But the Saracens till not the Vines, neither drink they any Wine: for their Books of their Law, that Mohammet gave them, which they call their Al Koran, (and some call it Mesaph, and in another language it is clept Harme,)the same Book forbiddeth them to drink Wine. For in that Book, Mohammet cursed all those that drink Wine and all them that sell it: for some Men say, that he slew once an Hermit in his Drunkenness, that he loved full well; and therefore he cursed Wine and them that drink it. But his Curse be turned on to his own Head, as Holy Writ saith, Et in verticem ipsius iniquitas ejus descendet, that is to say, His Wickedness shall turn and fall on to his own Head.
And also the Saracens breed no Pigs, nor eat they any Swines Flesh, for they say it is Brother to Man, and it was forbidden by the old Law; and they hold him accursed that eateth thereof. Also in the Land of Palestine and in the Land of Egypt, they eat but little or none of Flesh of Veal or of Beef, but if the Beast be so old, that he may no more work for old Age; for it is forbidden, because they have but few of them; therefore they nourish them to till their Lands.
And from Bethlehem unto Jerusalem is but 2 Mile; and in the Way to Jerusalem half a Mile from Bethlehem is a Church, where the Angel said to the Shepherds of the Birth of Christ. And in that Way is the Tomb of Rachel, that was the Mother of Joseph, the Patriarch; and she died anon after that she was delivered of her Son Benjamin. And there she was buried by Jacob her Husband, and he made set 12 great Stones on her, in Token that she had born 12 Children.1 In the same Way, half a Mile from Jerusalem, appeared the Star to the 3 Kings. In that Way also be many Churches of Christian Men, by the which Men go towards the City of Jerusalem.