Category: Felix Fabri

The Book of the Wanderings of Felix Fabri (Circa 1480-1483): Botzen

Felix Fabri describes his Botzen, now modern-day Bolzano, Italy, in the accounts of each of his pilgrimages to Jerusalem. His second account, however, describes the town in much more detail. Fabri focuses his second description on the people and culture of Bolzano, mainly on their tendency to be “sinful, given to drunkenness, luxury, and pride beyond measure” and so often overcome with fever symptoms that it ceases to be considered an illness (13). Interested in the ethnic composition of the town as well, Fabri notes that the majority of its citizens, as of a few years prior, were Italian, making the common language Italian, but that Botzen is now a German town. Commenting on the relationship of the people to their buildings, Fabri highlights that the town had recently almost entirely burned, a recurring incident that left many displaced, with more expensive buildings being constructed in the ruins.

Fabri’s group only stayed in Botzen for one night, the 20th of April , before continuing on their journey. They arrived after dinner on the 20th and left after dinner on the 21st. Fabri mentions that Botzen’s wine is “especially good” and “all fruits are sweet” there, but does not mention what they ate at the monastery or elsewhere (13).

To explain the cause of the widespread fever symptoms, Fabri explains that mountains on one side of the town block the “fresh wholesome air” so that the wind only comes from the nearby “pestilent marshes,” thus briefly describing the terrain of Botzen (13).

The climate of Botzen is described through Fabri’s telling of his previous visit with a friend. The friend jokes that the town must be the coldest town in the world to cause such widespread fever symptoms, but Fabri replies that it may be one of the warmest in actuality. A dry and hot climate would explain the widespread fires, too.

Some of the most interesting details of this account are revealed when Fabri describes the religious buildings, such as the monasteries and churches that were not touched by the flames, “as though by a miracle” (12). It is slightly confusing as to why Fabri refrains from directly calling the event a miracle, even though he readily tells the story of how the convent dormitory roof was saved from being devoured by flames when the Prior “called upon the Blessed Virgin for help” and accepts that the fire was caused by the “vengeance of Heaven” on the sinful town (13). Obviously, he fully believes in the interference of divine power in the town, so his reaction is a bit out of character.

It’s interesting to think that the constantly changing ethnic composition of Botzen and how it seems to directly influence which district and nation the town is considered part of. Fabri says that it was initially Italian, then switched to a German town. That shift caused the Botzen’s convent to switch from belonging to the province of St. Dominic to belonging to Fabri’s province. Since Botzen is now part of Italy again, it would be interesting to revisit the religious affiliations of the town.

The Book of the Wanderings of Felix Fabri: Venice

Felix Fabri doesn’t write about his physical surroundings and he only identifies his geographical location by the names of the towns and cities that he visits. Instead, Fabri is focused on the people he meets: who they are, whether they’re traveling, where they’re from, etc. In his section on Venice, Fabri describes the other travelers he meets at the inn of St. George where he’s staying, identifying them by occupation, gender, social position, and which country they’ve traveled from. He is most interested in noting the religious figures he comes across, mentioning the “priests, monks, and laymen, gentle and simple, from Germany, from Gaul, and France, and especially two bishops” (3). He is mostly interested in people who are also embarking on pilgrimages. At one point, he describes six wealthy old women who are planning to embark on their own pilgrimage. He seems to admire them, writing that he ‘was astonished at [their] courage” (3). Fabri also mentions the noblemen he’s traveling with, describing them as “proud” and “haughty” (3-4). The nobles were displeased by the old women embarking on the pilgrimage with them, and refused to share the same ship with them. Fabri disagrees with this sentiment, prompting him to label the nobles “proud” and “haughty”. He goes so far as to write that he hopes the old women’s “holiness would render our voyage safer” (4).

In terms of the practical aspects of Fabri’s journey, he keeps track of how he gets from place to place and what he does there. In this section, Fabri writes that they arrive in Venice by barque, and ask about inns for knights and pilgrims when they arrive at the Fondaco de’ Tedeschi. Fabri never mentions the date or time or how long he resides and any given place. He only briefly mentions the practical details of his journey and doesn’t feel the need to elaborate.

I found Fabri’s reaction to the traveling old women very interesting considering the time and place he inhabits. Whereas other people met these women with scorn and displeasure, Fabri found them to be all the more admirable and holy for their gender and age. He writes about their love for the Holy Land and their courage, impressed with their willingness to go through the trials and hardships of travel despite their age and lack of strength. He is obviously very religious and concerned with his own piety as well as the piety of others. His descriptions of these women seem to say that he finds suffering and the conquering of tribulation to be what makes pilgrimage holy. Fabri also mentions how their “love for the Holy Land” is what allowed these women to “forget their own frailty” and undergo “the labours of strong men” (3). He finds these women holy because they are motivated by love and that love gives them the strength to overcome the labor of travel. Given the way he views these women, we can assume that Fabri is mostly concerned with other people’s motivations to go on a pilgrimage and that he highly values devotion to God and admires people’s ability to overcome hardship in the name of God.

The Travels of Ibn Battutah: Timbuktu (Sample Post)

Here you will write an annotation about the location named in the post’s title, according to the following guidelines:

Guidelines: For each post, you will choose a location featured in your travel narrative. You will then answer two factual questions to the best of your ability (some locations or narratives may not include all of this information):

  • What kinds of things does the author describe there? Is (s)he focused on the buildings, the culture, the people, the environment?
  • What do we learn about the practical or physical aspects of the traveler’s journey (food, lodging, weather, terrain)? When did they arrive, and how long did they stay?

Once you have summarized the factual information about the traveler’s stay, you must also interpret these facts in some way that is interesting to you. Example questions might be:

  • What might we assume about the traveler’s own culture based on the observations noted here?
  • What aspects of this location, or this description of the location, are particularly unusual to you as a modern reader? Which are unusual to the medieval traveler? Are these the same?
  • What do you think is the writer’s purpose in recording this information? To whom is s(he) writing?

You should not attempt to answer all of these questions, and you do not have to choose any of them. The point of this assignment is to move from facts to an interpretation of the facts. What do you find particularly interesting or significant about this stop on the traveler’s journey?