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E00482: The Piacenza Pilgrim records, on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, the graves of *Rachel (wife of the patriarch Jacob, S00701) and *Benjamin (Old Testament patriarch, S00702), and his visit to the church [of the Kathisma] where *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), rested on the flight into Egypt and brought forth water from the rock. Account of an anonymous pilgrim, written in Latin, probably in Placentia (northern Italy), c. 570.

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posted on 08.05.2015, 00:00 by robert
Pilgrim of Piacenza, Itinerarium 28

First recension
Via, quae ducit Bethlem, ad tertium miliarium de Hierosolima iacet Rachel in corpore, in finis loci, qui uocatur Rama. In ipso loco uidi in media uia de petra exire aquam inmobilem ad arbitratum usque ad sextarios septem, unde conplent omnes et neque minuitur neque ampliatur. Suauitudo ad bibendum innarrabilis, dicentes, eo quod sancta Maria fugiens in Aegyptum in ipso loco sedit et sitiuit, et sic egressa esset ipsa aqua. Ibi et ecclesia modo facta est.

'On the way to Bethlehem, at the third milestone from Jerusalem, lies the body of Rachel, on the edge of the area called Ramah. There I saw still water which came from a rock, of a quantity that could be judged as up to seven sextarii. Everyone has their fill of it, and the water does not become less or more. It is indescribably sweet to drink, and people say that saint Mary on the flight into Egypt seated herself thirsty on this very spot, and so the water immediately flowed. Now a church has been built there.'

Second recension
Via, quae ducit Bethleem, miliario tertio ab Hierusalem iacet Rachel uxor Iacob, mater scilicet Ioseph.
Et Beniamin iacet in finibus Rama. In ipso loco in media uia uidi aquam surgere, quasi sextarios septem. Vnde complent omnes satietatem bibendi, et nec minuitur nec augetur. Et est suauis ad potandum. Et dicunt, quod fugiens beata Maria in Aegyptum et sederit ibi cum puero et sitiens orauit et continuo ipsa aqua emanauit. Et in ipso loco modo ecclesia constructa est.

'On the way to Bethlehem, at the third milestone from Jerusalem, lies the body of Rachel, wife of Jacob, mother of Joseph. And Benjamin lies within the boundaries of Ramah. There I saw water which surged up to seven sextarii in quantity. Everyone has their fill to drink, and the water does not become less or more. It is sweet and good to drink, and they say that blessed Mary on the flight into Egypt seated herself there with her son, and, being thirsty, prayed, and the water immediately appeared. Now a church has been built there.'

Text: Geyer 1898, 177 and 208. Translation: Wilkinson 2002, 142, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033 Benjamin, Old Testament patriarch : S00702 Rachel, wife of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob : S00701

Saint Name in Source

Maria Beniamin Rachel

Type of Evidence

Literary - Pilgrim accounts and itineraries



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Piacenza Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Pilgrim of Piacenza

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money)


This Itinerary was written by an anonymous pilgrim to Palestine who started and finished his journey in Placentia. He visited the East probably not long after the earthquake in 551, since he presents the destruction of Berytus (modern Beirut) in this year as a relatively recent event. He certainly visited Palestine before the Persian invasion in 614, since in his account Jerusalem is under Roman administration. The Itinerary is extant in two recensions. The first one is shorter and generally closer to the original, but sometimes it is the second recension which preserves the original text. Moreover, the additions that can be found in the second recension, unfortunately difficult to date, bear an interesting witness to the development of the cult of saints. The Itinerary can be compared with an earlier pilgrim's diary written in the 380s by another western pilgrim, Egeria. The Piacenza Pilgrim's itinerary is less detailed than her account, but shows the development of the cultic practices and infrastructure which had taken place in the course of two hundred years: there are more places to visit, more objects to see, and more saints to venerate.


Rachel's burial close to Bethlehem is mentioned in Genesis 35:19. There is no evidence from our pilgrim's account of her and Benjamin's graves that they were attracting Christian cult. The church, where Mary sat down and a miraculous flow of water appeared, was, however, a major shrine, known as the Kathisma (where a large centrally-planned fifth/sixth-century church has been excavated). According to Cyril of Scythopolis in his Life of Theodosius, it was built by a certain Hikelia (see E06769).


Edition: Geyer, P. (ed.), Antonini Placentini Itinerarium, in Itineraria et alia geographica (Corpus Chistianorum, series Latina 175; Turnholti: Typographi Brepols editores pontificii, 1965), 129-174. [Essentially a reprinting of Geyer's edition for the Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 39, Wien 1898.] English translations: Stewart, A., Of the Holy Places Visited by Antoninus Martyr (London: Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, 1887). Wilkinson, J., Jerusalem Pilgrims Before the Crusades (2nd ed.; Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 2002).

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