Author: Kara Smith (Page 1 of 2)

The Book of the Wanderings of Felix Fabri: Medieval Travel Map

The hardest part about mapping the section of Fabri’s journey I chose on a medieval map is that his journey, in comparison to the Psalter world map as a whole, only occupies a very small geographic area. Within that limited space, the geographical details included on the Psalter world map only vaguely match up with the descriptions Fabri gives in his account, which are fairly accurate to the modern map and the actual geographies he traveled through.

It was easiest to plot Mestre, Italy and Venice, Italy on the medieval map because Italy is still drawn as a peninsula, albeit very circular and consisting mostly just of Rome. Venice is along the northeast coast of Italy, and Mestre a bit inland from Venice, so their relative locations on the medieval map were the most straightforward.

Plotting the locations in the Alps Mountains was complicated because it’s not made clear which mountain range is which on the Psalter world map, so I just had to make an educated guess based on the location of Greece and the assumption that the Dinaric Alps were included on the map. Within the range that I assumed to be the Alps, there wasn’t much space to plot the multiple stops Fabri made while journeying through them, which is both a function of the scale of the map and of the lower importance placed on that part of the world. Generally, plotting most of the stops I chose from Fabri’s journey was difficult because the Psalter world map’s representation of Europe is condensed. The further north the location, such as those in Germany, the harder it was to plot the town because Europe is not given as much space, as the focus is Jerusalem and the Holy Lands as the center of the world.

The orientation of the Psalter world map complicated my plotting of Fabri’s travels on it because most modern maps are oriented with North on the top, while East is up on the Psalter world map. Given theological views of paradise being in the East, this makes sense, as the Psalter world map is religiously based. The orientation of the Psalter map points to the great importance of religion at the time of its creation, whereas the modern map’s orientation reflects the perceived greater importance of northern hemisphere nations as leaders in politics and economics and the history of countries in the northern hemisphere as colonizers of those in the southern hemisphere.

The Book of the Wanderings of Felix Fabri: Trent

Fabri and his party rode on horses from the village of Nova to Trent on April 21st during the year of his second pilgrimage. They stayed the night and left after Mass and dinner on the 22nd to journey to Persa. In his account of their stay in Trent, Fabri writes about the structure of the city,  in terms of its geography, architecture, and demographics, characteristics of the German people, the religious history of Trent, and the instance of a flutist and singer entertaining his party at supper.

According to Fabri, Trent is “one of those very ancient cities which were founded in these mountains by the Trojans,” and therefore has a rich history (18). The river Adige, which serves as the boundary between Italy and Germany, “runs past its walls,” adding to  its qualifications for being what Fabri calls “in a most beautiful, airy and healthy position” (18). Within the city walls, Fabri notes that Trent is split into an upper city and a lower city “on account of the two races which inhabit it,” with Italians living in the upper city and Germans in the lower (18). Referring to Germans and Italians as races in this section shows that Fabri categorizes people and perceives a difference in their value in accordance with the language they speak or the broad sense of nationality they may adhere to. Fabri distinguishes the Germans and Italians from each other by commenting that “[t]hey are at variance both in language and habits of life, and seldom are at peace with one another; indeed, before our own times the city was often ruined sometimes by the Italians out of hatred for the Germans, and sometimes by the Germans out of hatred for the Italians” (18). From this, we note that language and culture are different between the two groups of people, and that they are as opposed in violence as in nationality. Their equal hatred of the other group, however, is a strong similarity between Germans and Italians in the city of Trent.

In speaking about the presence of Germans in Trent, Fabri highlights the shift in their population over time by noting that “[n]ot many years ago the Germans were but a few strangers in that city; now they are the burghers and rulers of the city,” further predicting that “[the] day will soon come-indeed, has virtually come” when the Duke of Innspruck will add Trent to “his dominions and to Germany” (18).  That Trent can shift from being ‘Italian’ to being ‘German’ so quickly and based on demographics rather than boundaries or territory demonstrates the loose sense of countries, nationality, and borders in the time of Fabri’s travels. Even though he describes the border between Italy and Germany as the river Adige, he has no qualms about absorbing Trent into Germany based on the demographic composition of the city. Fabri muses on why “the number of Germans there increases daily” and “why [the German] race should spread over other people’s countries instead of theirs spreading over [the Germans’],” which he admits that he “[has] never learned” (18). Fabri offers the possibilities that Germans flee Germany “on account of [Germany’s] poverty and sterility” or “on account of the fierceness of the Germans” that drives other peoples out of their own lands, but does not confirm either one, possibly because they go against his view of Germans being superior to all other ‘races’ (18).

Illustrating the religious history of Trent, Fabri writes that in 1475, “the holy child Simeon was martyred by the Jews with great torture” and that “[he himself] beheld [the Jews’] accursed bodies” (19). By labeling the Jews as evil torturers of holy children, Fabri shows his negative view of them. If the situation he writes about is similar to the story of the boy drowning in the cesspool in a Jewish neighborhood in England, it illustrates an inherent bias against Jews and will to blame them without knowing the full story. We would need more information about this occurrence to determine if the situations are similar.

While Fabri and his party were at supper, a flutist and singer entertained them. When his party was unsure whether to pay them or not, as it is a mortal sin “either to give or to receive money in such cases,” they asked Fabri to settle the question, which he did “not without fear” (19). By relying on Fabri, his party asserted his superior knowledge in what is sinful and what is not, although Fabri showed hesitation and an unusual self-doubt when he “searched the writing of learned casuists to see whether [he] had decided rightly” upon returning home (19-20).

The Book of the Wanderings of Felix Fabri: Ower

Felix Fabri describes his party’s journey through Ower, Italy in the account of his second pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In the account, Fabri writes that his party left the previous town, Feltre, in the evening of the 24th of April, crossed a “great river” and passed through a “Venetian guard-house” before stopping for the night in Ower (19). They left Ower for Treviso, Italy after Mass on the 25th of April. Fabri’s account of Ower focuses on the geography around the town, the history of nearby castles and towns, and the festival of St. Mark’s Day. Additionally, the interaction between Fabri and his lords sheds light on their relationship from Fabri’s point of view.

The first thing that Fabri writes about the town of Ower is that it “lay at the foot of a delightful grassy hill,” which Fabri and his party decide to climb in order to see the Mediterranean (19). Fabri notes that the Mediterranean Sea is directly south of them at this point in their journey, beyond mountains and the “plain country” of Italy. In writing about the appearance of the Mediterranean on that day, Fabri highlights that the journey ahead of them is ominous, as most of the Mediterranean in their view is covered by a “lofty, thick black cloud, of the colour of darkling air (19). Their turning away from the ominous omen of the dark sea faces Fabri’s party towards more of the surrounding mountains that encircle the plain Ower is situated in.

In viewing the surrounding mountains, Fabri notes that they can see “many ancient castles in ruins,” and follows with a recounting of the history of the placement of the castles and other ruins (19). According to Fabri, the castles were built in the hills by Antenor the Trojan’s army to defend the city of Padua, which was located on the plain, from the people who lived beyond the surrounding Alps. Fabri highlights that the people who lived beyond the Alps “at that time were still savages, dwelling in the woods like wild beasts” (19).  Fabri’s syntax shows that he supports Antenor the Trojan over the people living beyond the Alps and also hints that the people who live beyond the Alps may no longer be the savages that he depicts them as. At this point, the reader may start to question how Fabri seems to know the history of many of the towns his party passes through, especially because he notes little interaction with the people of the towns.

Fabri’s interactions with his lords in the town of Ower paint him as the guide he is meant to be on this journey. When looking over the Mediterranean Sea, Fabri characterizes his lords as “delicately-nurtured youths” that could only imagine the “dangers which awaited them at sea,” which Fabri, the wizened guide, “was something cast down at the sight of it, albeit [he] had already had a good taste of its bitterness” (19). The syntax Fabri uses when describing his lords in particular both gives them an excuse for being so frightened of the sea and patronizes them a little, although it is probably completely warranted by their lack of experience with travel.

The Book of the Wanderings of Felix Fabri: Valscian

Felix Fabri describes the town of Valscian, also known as In der Burg, in his second pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Fabri’s party rode through Valscian on their way from Trent, Italy to Spiteli, Italy, stopping only for a “short rest” in the town (17). The journey from Trent to Spiteli was only one day’s travel; they left Trent on the 22nd of April after Mass and arrived at Spiteli during the night. Most of Fabri’s account of Valscian is centered on the history of the town’s name and the geography of the surrounding area, with a focus on language.

Fabri describes Valscian as a “long, wide, and fertile valley” with inhabitants that speak both German and Italian (17). In his first mention of the town’s name, Fabri notes that it is only called Valscian in the “vulgar tongue,” which refers to and shows Fabri’s bias against the Italian language. When he finds a resident that speaks German, Fabri asks why Valscian is called as such, which highlights Fabri’s interest in language and the meaning and history behind the name. In telling the history of Valscian, the man from Valscian tells Fabri that the name ‘Valscian’ translates to ‘the dry valley’ and details how the valley had been filled with water in ancient times. The recounting of Valscian’s history reveals that there are iron rings to moor ships on the sides of the mountains surrounding the valley, which illustrates the level of water previously in it and how the culture and uses of the valley have changed over time. Fabri specifically writes that he gains a greater understanding of the local geography from the townsperson’s story, but words it in a way that makes it seem as if he is giving himself all of the credit for discovering this revolutionary fact that the townsperson just told him: “[f]rom this story [Fabri] was able to note that all the valleys in these mountains which trend towards the sea were once full of water, and were channels leading into the Mediterranean Sea, even as now happens in lands close to the sea, as [Fabri had] said before” (17).  By seeming to give himself the credit for making this connection, Fabri places himself above the townsperson in intellect or possibly just ignores the role of the townsperson in general to focus on himself. In the next sentence, Fabri writes that the “Germans call Valscian In der Burg,” reestablishing the role of Germany and the German people in his recount and in the identity of the town, even though Valscian is in Italy and should probably therefore be called by its Italian name (17-18). Including a brief statement about why Germans call the town In der Burg, Fabri reasserts his interest in the histories and names of places. Alternatively, it could be argued that Fabri is comparing the history and relevancy of each name, although the connotation of his descriptive phrase about the history of the German name In der Burg comes off as fairly neutral. From his added tangent of the reason behind Germans calling Valscian In der Burg, Fabri includes more geographic information about the Vascian: “there are two castles overlooking the town, and the town lies within the castle wall,” which highlights his interest in the physical and geographic aspects of location (18).

« Older posts

© 2024 Mapping the Global Middle Ages

Academic Technology services: GIS | Media Center | Language Exchange

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑