Category: Felix Fabri (Page 3 of 6)

The Book of Wanderings of Felix Fabri: The Holy Land (Jerusalem)

In his description of his second pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Felix Fabri focuses primarily on the landscape and its correlation to events detailed in the Holy Bible. Fabri says that he and the other pilgrims on the ship “began to see peaks and mountain-tops rising as it were out of the sea.” He recognizes Mount Carmel, which he associates with the prophet Elisha from the Bible who “prayed to God upon that mountain for rain, when it had not rained for three years and six months and how, while he prayed, there arose a little cloud like the print of a man’s foot from this sea, whence there came forth a great rain, as we read in the Third Book of Kings, chapter 18.” Fabri continues to describe the significance of Mount Carmel to biblical history, and he mentions other important historical landmarks that ultimately relate to the Bible, God, or Jesus Christ. Felix Fabri is clearly writing this narrative for an audience that is interested in understanding the landscape of Jerusalem from a religious perspective. While some Christians from medieval Europe had been exposed to the Bible to some capacity, most had not traveled to the land in which the setting of the New Testament is based. Felix Fabri’s description of the mountainous terrain of Jerusalem does not serve as an illustration of recreational beauty, but rather sacred landmarks that mark the life of Jesus Christ. For Fabri and his audience, landmarks like Mount Carmel and Mount Sinai are demonstrative of the physical paths that Jesus Christ and other saints of the New Testament took during their lifetimes.

Felix Fabri describes a fantastical encounter with abnormal fish: “…the fishes swam on the top of the sea and showed themselves on the surface more than their wont. There we beheld wondrous fishes. Some were large and quite round, like a winnowing-fan. Some had heads like dogs, with long ears hanging down, and we saw many dolphins that morning, and saw them more plainly them ever before.” The fish that “had heads like dogs” were probably from a group whose name is unbeknownst to him or the other European pilgrims. I believe that Felix Fabri included this excerpt about the fish in his narrative because of the importance of fish to the narrative of Jesus Christ. In the Bible, Jesus goes fishing with some of his disciples on several occasions, and he feeds fish to a large group of civilians. Fabri’s encounter with this particular fish probably allowed him to feel a physical connection to Jesus Christ, and he wanted to impart this experience to his audience so they could witness the powerful nature of such a parallel.

Felix Fabri’s subscription to the Christian faith and its values is stark, allowing for very little tolerance or acceptance of ideologies from other faiths. When he and the other pilgrims meet Moorish inhabitants of the land who express their belief in Prophet Muhammad’s divine connection, Fabri calls it a “falsehood,” discrediting the accounts known to those who subscribe to the Islamic faith. Fabri’s tone-deaf response to such an account further proves that he did not take this pilgrimage to learn about other faiths or practices in other parts of the world but to further affirm his own belief and loyalty to Christianity as a minister.

The Wanderings of Felix Fabri: Venice

Felix Fabri stopped on his journey to Jerusalem with twelve other pilgrims, in Venice. During their stay in Venice, they stayed in an inn. Fabri primarily describes the people of Venice more so than the food or the weather and climate. I assume this is because he states that he has been there before and these aspects of Venice were not new or surprising to him. When describing the inn in Venice that he and the other pilgrims stay at from the twenty-seventh to the thirtieth of the month, Fabri starts by describing the host and the people who run the inn and then focuses on the guard dog of the inn. When describing the hostess of the inn he describes her as being a kind and good woman whom he already knew. He also states that no one within the inn was Italian but were all German. Fabri then goes on to speak about the guard dog of the inn. This guard dog is said to be large and black and has a love of the German people. This love is to the extent where the dog becomes violent with anyone who is not German who attempts to enter the inn as well as with other dogs but is sweet and lovable with anyone who is German. Fabri then tells of how he asked his fellow pilgrims if he could stay in the local convent or in the boat because he did not want to stay with secular people. While the men he had asked denied his request, he did visit the convents and his fellow religious men every day of their stay. Fabri also takes the time to describe the other pilgrims he sees in Venice who are also making their way to Jerusalem. Fabri also states several times that they had to pay off the people whom they asked to aid in their journey to protect them from being robbed, beaten, and molested. Overall, Fabri primarily discusses and brings up the characters of the people he is around or in the land of as well as the religious aspects of the lands in which he sees and his fears of the people he is not traveling with. 

Fabri’s constant focus of the religious aspects of the areas in which he travels as well as his constant reasoning of why he and the other pilgrims do aid in showing just how devoted Fabri is toward his religion. Fabri also speaks of his fears of the of the people who live within the areas that they are traveling through. Fabri mainly focuses on the negative things that these people could do to him and the other pilgrims. Fabri mainly focuses on the religions of the people of those areas and attributes their violence and the negative aspects that he associates with them to being a result of their religion. Fabri speaks very negatively of other religions as well as Christians of different regions of the world then where he is from. This shows that he does hold a prejudice against not only other religions but also other people groups in general. He also seems to view himself as better than them as a result of his belief that he is both more devout and a Christian then any of the other people in the other lands. This shows that he is not only used to the belief that there is a class system within religion bast on how devote an individual is, but also that there is turmoil and conflict between the different sects of religions. Something that I found unusual but also very helpful was that he was describing the countries of Germany and Italy in a way that seemed somewhat close to that of modern time. This caught me off guard because I was never fully sure when the borders between countries were erected but I thought they were more recent than the Middle Ages. I felt that Fabri’s purpose behind telling of these things was to not only give the readers a better understanding of where he was and what was going on but also that he was catering to the religious reader. I also am of the opinion that part of the reason that he was so focused on the religious aspects of the region was because he was possibly only expecting his work to be read by the religious or people who belong to the church, i.e.. Monks, priests, and popes.  

The Book of the Wanderings of Felix Fabri: The Alps

Felix Fabri was a Swiss theologian of the Dominican Order, a Catholic society of traveling ministers whose ultimate goal was to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout Europe and its surrounding areas. Fabri’s recounts of his multiple pilgrimages to The Holy Land include a plethora of information about the terrain through which he traveled and the religious figures whom he encountered on the way. Fabri began each discussion of his pilgrimages with Ulm, Germany as a starting point, and he travels south to Italy, covering the lands of Austria and Switzerland along. the way.

His acute focus on the terrain of The Alps indicates that much of his pilgrimage was spent in the mountainous area. Fabri describes the land of the Rhaetic Alps, as “very bad for traveling” after rainy weather (58). The Rhaetic Triangle includes the regions of what we know today as Austria, Italy, and Switzerland, so Felix Fabri seemed to be traveling south from Germany towards Italy in hopes of getting access to Jerusalem, presumably via boat. Fabri’s journey was evidently no walk in the park, as he had to travel through dry, cold, rainy, and mountainous conditions to reach the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

The Alps is not necessarily a “stop” that Felix Fabri makes, but rather a continuous landscape that he must travel through to get to Italy. I find it interesting that Fabri travels south in Europe instead of traveling East to Asia, where he would have more immediate access to The Holy Land. In addition, he could share Jesus Christ and the Christian faith with non-believers in the area instead of feasting and praying with other Europeans who already identify with the Christian doctrine. His failure to do so makes me wonder if traveling east posed more danger to Europeans. If so, how?

Fabri dedicates much of his recounting to the time he spent partaking in religious practices throughout his pilgrimage. He gives a very specific description of the monasteries in which he prayed as well as the people with whom he prayed and offered alms. His food and drink are only mentioned briefly throughout the entire book; he makes passing mentions of food and red wine that he ingests on the journey, but he specifically recalls figures such as Father Nicolaus Munchberger and other religious officials. Felix Fabri’s goal on this journey is beyond clear–he wants to share his intimate religious experiences with like-minded individuals from other regions of Europe under the guise of ‘spreading the word of the Bible’.

Felix Fabri’s culture is evidently parallel with those of the people whom he encountered while traveling south of Germany to Italy. He comes from a very strict religious background and is able to relate to other religious figures of the Christian faith in different regions of Europe because of the shared experience of Catholicism.

What I found most interesting about Felix Fabri’s recount of the pilgrimage is his brief description of people who behaved in violation of the Christian code of conduct. Fabri calls Mameluke an “accursed brute” for being drunk and passing out, not just because it’s unflattering, but also because his behavior is “contrary to the law of Mahomet”, an Arab-Muslim religious figure.

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.

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