Égérie, Journal de Voyage (Itinéraire), introduction, texte critique, traduction, notes, index et cartes par P. Maraval, Paris 1982.
This work, which contains a woman’s account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land addressed to certain “sisters,” survives to us in a single manuscript discovered at Arezzo in 1884; owing to mutilation at the front and back of the codex, as well as to two internal lacunae, the text remains anonymous and incomplete. We may infer from its contents that the work’s author came from the west and belonged to a wealthy family, but the author’s name and the work’s title are the result of scholarly subsequent reconstructions. Scholars and editors have given it a title that derives from its contents - variously the Peregrinatio, Peregrinatio ad loca sancta, or Itinerarium. The name given to the author has varied over time. She was at first called Silvia, since G. F. Gamurrini identified her with the 4th c. noblewoman Silvia di Aquitania when he discovered the manuscript of the text. She was subsequently identified with “the blessed nun” whom the 7th c. hermit Valerius of Bierzo (in Galicia, Spain) praised for her pilgrimages to the east in a letter to his fellow brothers; manuscripts of this letter variously provide the name as Aetheria, Etheria, Egeria, etc., and in the last few decades the last of these - i.e. Egeria - has been accepted as the most correct. It has been suspected that Egeria was a Spanish nun, but there have also been some scholars who think that she came from Aquitania (Gallia) due to a significant reference to the Rhone River. More recently, scholars have questioned whether she was a nun (or abbess) at all and whether she actually wrote to fellow sisters: it remains possible that she was a noblewoman addressing a circle of ladies who were fervent students of the Scripture in a manner similar to the Roman circle of the Aventine. Multiple hypotheses have likewise been advanced for a date of composition, with suggestions ranging between the end of the 4th c. and the middle of the 5th, among others. On the basis of datable information within the text (e.g. historical events, bishops, liturgical celebrations), the period of the voyage described has been placed in the period between the end of 383 and the first months of 384, at which time the written report is presumed to have been completed. Even so, the entire voyage took three years (17.1), and must therefore have begun in 381.
The surviving text is divided into two parts. The first comprises a report of four itineraries inspired by the Bible: the ascent to Mount Sinai, with a return to Jerusalem via the Land of Goshen (§1-9); the trip and ascent to Mount Nebo, where Moses died (§10-12); the trip to Carneas in Idumea, the city of Job (§13-16); and during the return-voyage to Constantinople a trip to Mesopotamia with stops at Edessa (at the tomb of Saint Thomas and at the Palace of King Abgar); at Charris, Jacob’s well; and sojourns to Tarsus, to Seleucia, the sanctuary of Thecla; and to Chalcedon, the sanctuary of Saint Euphemia (§16-23). The second part is centered on the liturgical rites that occurred each day of the week in Jerusalem (§24-25), on Epiphany (§25-26), during Lent (§27-29), during the Holy Week (§30-38), from Easter to the Octave of Easter (§39-40), and from the Octave to Pentecost and the period after it (§41-45); it then describes the catechesis prior to and after baptism (§45-47) and the Feast of the Encenie, i.e. the anniversary of the dedication of the churches of the Martyrium and the Anastasis (§48-49), but the text of the manuscript then breaks off. Since the first part has a clear epistolary conclusion, it has been supposed that the second part constitutes an appendix or the contents of another letter. On the basis of hints within the text and with the help of Valerius of Bierzo’s letter and Peter Deacon’s 12th c. Liber de locis sanctis, which made use of the intact Codex Aretinus, Maraval attempted to reconstruct the lost part of the work, which probably described the holy buildings of Jerusalem, a trip to Egypt and Thebes, perhaps another in Samaria and Galilee (with a hike up Mount Tabor), excursions into Judea, and an outward trip to Sinai.
The Peregrinatio Egeriae has garnered much interest for a number of reasons: it provides original information for the ecclesiastical and monastic structures that existed in Jerusalem and in the territories visited, for the liturgy and catechesis, for the organization of pilgrimages and related religious practices, for the person and learning of Egeria, but above all for the language and style that she used, which are entirely peculiar: one finds traces of true “vulgar Latin” as well as evidence of Classical constructions - a true blend of language both as it was spoken and modeled on that of the Bible. [C. Mazzucco; tr. C. L. Caterine].