Mauritius

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by Lars Boje Mortensen

Mauritius was a Franciscan friar of the convent in Bergen in the second half of the thirteenth century. He was envoy to Scotland for the Norwegian kings Magnus the Law-mender (1263-1280) in 1264 and Erik Magnusson (1280-1299) in 1281 (STORM 1880, XXXXIX) and participated as chaplain in the nobleman Anders Nikolassons (Andreas Nicholai, d. 1273) pilgrimage to the Holy Land 1270-1273.

Brother Mauritius is only known for one literary work, the Itinerarium he wrote on return from the Holy Land (ca. 1275). The Itinerary describes the sea voyage of a Norwegian party of pilgrims travelling in 1270 all the way round Western Europe, through the Mediterranean to their goal in one of the cities remaining in Christian power, Acre. It has been suggested that Mauritius could be the author of the wedding-song Ex te lux oritur (Carmen gratulatorium) composed for the wedding of Erik Magnusson and the Scottish princess Margaret, celebrated in Bergen in 1281.

Itinerarium in terram sanctam

Title

We have no manuscript evidence for a title of the work (see Medieval reception and transmission), but in the last paragraph the author calls his report itinerarium, whereas STORM printed it under the title Itinerarium in terram sanctam.

Incipit

The text is mutile at the beginning: ...dicitur Tarfalgurfa.

Explicit

...fratrem Mauritium nihilominus divinæ pietati devotius recommendet.

Size

As we know it, the text comprises four modern printed pages, but it must have been at least twice as long originally.

Editions

  • • STORM 1880, xxxxvii-xxxxix & 165-168.
  • DE SANDOLI 1974, vol. 4, 85-94 [reprint of STORM’s edition].

Translation

(Italian) DE SANDOLI 1974, vol. 4, 85-94.

Commentaries

STORM 1880 and DE SANDOLI 1974 offer various brief explanatory notes, especially to the toponomastic material.

Date and place

In the text itself one date is mentioned, namely the capture of the crusader’s castle Crac by the Mameluk sultan Baibar in 1271. As is clear from the final paragraph of the nobleman in charge of the pilgrimage, Anders Nikolassøn, had passed away by the time of writing. From Icelandic annals (Storm 1880, XXXXVIII) we learn that he died on “the Jerusalem sea” in 1273. Although the return voyage is not described, it is reasonable from the textual transmission to assume that Mauritius composed the itinerary at home in Bergen soon after returning, i.e. around 1275.

Summary of contents

Unfortunately, the beginning of the text is missing. Here we would probably have learnt about the composition of the crusading group, their motives for going on the pilgrimage, and the first part of their journey from western Norway down to Portugal. If STORM is right in assuming (from other sources, see Medieval reception and transmission) 17 January 1270 as the day of departure, it is highly likely that the pilgrims were heeding the general call of a crusade to rebut the recent victories of the Mameluk Sultan, Baibar – i.e. the Crusade meeting in summer 1270 at Marseille under the leadership of the French king Louis IX (who died in Tunis on this campaign) – traditionally called the Eighth Crusade. This was perhaps also explained in the lost introduction.

We join the voyagers at the Cape of St. Vincent in southern Portugal when they turn eastward to the Strait of Gibraltar. A number of Spanish and African sites are listed, and the recent Christian capture of Cadiz (1263) is highlighted. The journey goes on to Cartagena, past Mallorca and up to Marseille. From there the pilgrims proceed to Sardinia. Here follows a lacuna of several pages, and the last piece of the text (approximately one page) deals with Syria. The missing part must have described the sea voyage from Sardinia to the eastern Mediterranean.

The text resumes by referring to the Sultan’s (soldanus) seizure of Crac in 1271. The party must have stayed in Antrodus, present-day Tartus on the Syrian coast, a place that receives much attention on the part of Mauritius. We hear about Saint Mary’s church there, small but extremely beautiful and only open to foreign celebration for bishops and mendicants (episcopis et fratribus minoribus et prædicatoribus). It is blessed with numerous miracles and hence attracts many pilgrims. This site also elicits Mauritius’s only explicit learned reference, namely the Itinerary of Clemens (of Alexandria) (i.e. Pseudo-Clemens, Recognitiones) – whose family was miraculously saved at the island (now Arwad) off the coast of Antrodus.

The concluding paragraph exhorts readers – who may “take some comfort” from the Itinirary when travelling the same route or just from reading it – to pray for the soul of Anders Nikolasson and the author himself.

Composition and style

The narrative is composed in the first person plural and is “signed” in the last paragraph by “pauper frater Mauritius”. It is mostly written in a straightforward and simple style with very little hypotaxis. The logbook style is occasionally spiced up with information on the inhabitants or on events and political allegiances related to the places in question, but there are no rhetorical variations in such paragraphs. The most interesting linguistic feature is no doubt the numerous place-names which are sometimes written in Latinised form, sometimes in transcriptions from Arabic and other languages. The distances are measured over sea by days and nights and by estimated miles (miliaria) and over land by leucae.

Sources

The main source for the itinerary is no doubt notes taken on the voyage by Mauritius and/or others on board. The genre allowed both for the minimal style chosen here and more elaborate and rhetorical expositions. As mentioned, the only explicit reference to a specimen of the genre is to the late antique Pseudo-Clementine Recognitiones, very different in style and complexity, but perceived here as another itinerarium.

Purpose and audience

The purpose of the author seems to have been to furnish potential pilgrims in Norway with precise information on routes and distances. In the fragmentary form we know the work, there are no signs of a grander rhetoric to place the voyage within God’s plan or the like, nor does the author try to justify the results of the crusade or to give general information on the situation in the Near East.

Medieval reception and transmission

The text is only known through a fragment of five leaves which had belonged to a document registry book copied around 1300 in Bergen. Of the five leaves, now in Oslo, National Archives, Old n. fragm. 29 (this may now have a new signature), two contain the known parts of Mauritius’s Itinerary, while the other provide some context for it as they contain copies of episcopal correspondence related to Bergen from the years 1281, 1283 and 1286 (cf. STORM 1880, XXXXVII-XXXXVIII). The Itinerary must have been copied into the book probably in the 1280s and was consequently regarded as an official document of the bishopric. This codicological context as well as some obvious errors in the manuscript tell us that we are dealing with a copy, but one rather close to the slightly older original. The Bergen humanist Absalon Pedersen (1528-1575) had access to the complete copy book and wrote in his Description of Norway that Anders Nikolasson left for the Holy Land 1270 on St. Anthony confessor’s day, i.e. 17 January. This information Absalon Pedersen must have drawn from the now lost introduction by Mauritius. There are no signs of knowledge of the text outside Bergen.

Bibliography

  • KOLSRUD, O. & REISS, R. 1913: Tvo norrøne latinske kvæde med melodiar, utgjevne fraa Codex Upsalensis C 233 (Videnskabs-selskabets Skrifter. II. H.-F. Kl. 1912. No 5), Kristiania.
  • LAMPEN, W. 1957: Frater Mauritius de Dacia, O. Min. (Collectanea Franciscana 27), 324-26.
  • MUNCH, P.A.: Langes Tidsskrift I, 143-46 (Saml. Afh. I, 287-90).
  • • STORM, G. 1880: MHN, Kristiania (Oslo), XXXXVII-XXXXIX & 165-168.
  • RIANT, P. 1865: Expéditions et pèlerinages des Scandinaves en Terre Sainte au temps des Croisades, Paris, 72 & 357-58.
  • DE SANDOLI, S. 1974: Corpus Inscriptionum Crucesignatorum Terrae Sanctae. Anthology of Crusader Inscriptions in the Holy Land (1099-1291). Testo, tradizione e annotazioni, Jerusalem, vol. 4, 85-94.