BMCR 2021.11.48

Egeria, journey to the Holy Land

, , Egeria, journey to the Holy Land. Brepols Library of Christian Sources (BLCS), 1. Turnhout: Brepols, 2020. Pp. 124. ISBN 9782503592817. €45,00.

The Brepols Library of Christian Sources now numbers six volumes. Paul Bradshaw’s Egeria was the first in this new series of facing texts and English translations. Although Professor Bradshaw is credited as editor, the Latin text is essentially that presented by A. Franceschini and R. Weber in Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 175 (1965), excluding the apparatus criticus. The facing English translation is “adapted” from that published in 2018 by McGowan and Bradshaw in The Pilgrimage of Egeria: A New Translation of the Itinerarium Egeriae with Introduction and Commentary (Collegeville: Liturgical Press Academic). At that time, McGowan and Bradshaw noted that their translation was “rather more literal” than most previous translations to capture the idiosyncrasies of Egeria’s style. In this it succeeds nicely.

The volume under review here is handsomely produced but spare. Beyond text and translation, it contains only three pages of introduction focused on the manuscript evidence and the author’s identity; footnotes identifying Biblical references and allusions; three pages of brief endnotes largely devoted to philological, historical, and topographical elucidations; bibliography; and several indices. Also on offer are two appendices. The first appendix presents texts and translations of several brief fragments of the Itinerarium recovered in the early twentieth and early twenty-first centuries that preserve excerpts from the text, which is otherwise nearly complete in a single eleventh-century manuscript, Codex Aretinus 405. The great value of these excerpts is to provide some sense of what was present in one (between 16.4 and 16.5) of the two primary lacunae of the Aretinus text, which is missing two folios (four pages). The second appendix provides the text and a translation of a letter sent by Valerius of Bierzo to his fellow Gallician monks in the late seventh century. The letter is, for most commentators, the key to unlocking the identity of the author of the Itinerarium as “the most blessed Egeria.”

The Itinerarium enjoys significant and well-deserved modern repute. It preserves a first-hand account of both late antique (Christian) religious travel or pilgrimage, giving the text a place of prominence alongside the Bordeaux itinerary in many modern studies of the phenomenon. It also provides an autopsy of the Jerusalem liturgy and several Holy Land churches of the later fourth century. Moreover, it is a premier example of late imperial vernacular Latin and as such a model text for assessing the language’s evolution in this period. Incidentally, the Itinerarium is also that rare item: an ancient Latin text written by a woman. For these reasons alone, the Itinerarium is at home in a wide variety of classroom settings and scholarly enterprises. It is an engaging text at several levels and deserves its wide readership. But will this volume help spread the word? McGowan and Bradshaw’s Liturgical Press monograph will serve well most students and Latin-less scholars looking for access. That work contains a far-ranging introduction (101 pages), fulsome commentary, select bibliography, and maps and plans. The brevity of the commentary in the Brepols volume means much goes unexplained, e.g., Egeria’s unusual use of missa, which is fully treated by McGowan and Bradshaw in The Pilgrimage of Egeria.  Moreover, the latter is about half the price of the Brepols volume. What The Pilgrimage of Egeria lacks, of course, is the Latin text that the volume under review provides. This will be its primary allure for those who do wish to heed the call ad fontes. Otherwise, they can turn to Franceschini and Weber’s CCSL edition or Pierre Maraval’s Source chrétiennes edition of 1982 (reissued in 1997 and 2002).