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Burchard of Mt. Sion, Description of the Holy Land 10.1-5


Burchard of Mt. Sion was a Dominican friar from Magdeburg in Lower Saxony who wrote the the most important description of the Holy Land from the 13th century. The earliest and longest account of his pilgrimage, which grew particularly popular during the 14th-18th centuries, described his journey from northern Germany to the Levant, where he stayed from 1274 to 1284, shortly before the fall of Acre, the last Crusader stronghold in the Holy Land, in 1291. The content of his description is based upon personal experience, research into ancient writings and earlier itineraries, and close study of scripture. In this passage, Burchard describes the historical geography and sites between Haifa and Arsuf.


(1) Ρrima divisio quarte australis incipit ab Accon, sicut omnes alie. In quo primo IIII leucis de Acco occurrit civitas Cayphas sub pede montis Carmeli. (2) De Caypha III leucis contra austrum est Castrum Peregrinorum, fratrum milicie templi, munitum pre omnibus locis, que unquam possederunt Christiani. Et est situm in corde maris, munitum muris et antemuralibus et barbicanus ita fortibus et turribus, quod non deberet expugnare totus mundus. (3) De Caypha ad unam leucam, ad sinistram, que ducit ad Castrum perigrinorum supra montem Carmeli est spelunca Helie et mansio Helisei et fons, ubi habitabant filii prophetarum in Carmelo et inhabitant hodie fratres de Carmelo. Et fui cum ipsis ibidem. (4) De Castro Peregrinoruιn ad quinque leucas est Cesarea, Palestine metropolis, que fuit sedes archiepiscopalis. Hec prima dicibatur Dora, postea Pyrgus Stratonis, sed Herodes Magnus eam instauravit et Cesaream apellavit. De cuius structura et munitione Iosephus multa scribit. Cingitur ab occidente mari magno, ab oriente palude quadam dulci et profunda, in qua est multitudo cocodrillorum. Et incideram ibi in periculum valde magnum, nisi Dominus misericorditer abstulisset. Situm quidem habet firmum sed hodie penitus est destructa. Mansionem habuit in ea Philippus et filie eius. Petrust eciam in ea baptizavit Cornelium centurionem, qui primus in ea fuit episcopus. Paulus eciam in ea coram rege Agrippa et Felice preside contra Tertullum oratorem elegantissime disputavit. (5) De Cesarea ΙΙΙ leucis contra austrum est villa Αssur dicta: quondam tamen Antipatrida dicebatur ab Antipatre, patre Herodis Magni. Que fuit fratrum de hospitali sancti Iohannis, qui licet eam perdiderunt, tamen solvunt domino de Assur et heredibus eius XXVIII milia bysantinorum aureorum singulis annis.1

Textual Note

Ed. Laurent 1873


(1) The first division of the southern quarter begins from Acre, like all the others. First, four leagues from Acre comes the city of Cayphas at the foot of Mount Carmel. (2) Three leagues southward from Cayphas is Pilgrims’ Castle belonging to the Militia of the Temple, the best defended of all places ever held by the Christians. It is located in the deep sea and is defended with walls, outworks, barbicans, and towers so strong that the entire world ought not be able to storm it. (3) One league from Caypha, on the left of the road to Pilgrims’ Castle, on Mount Carmel is Elijah’s cave and Elisha’s dwelling and spring, where the sons of the Prophets used to lived and the Carmelite friars do today. Ι stayed with them there. (4) Five leagues from Pilgrims’ Castle is Caesarea, capital of Palestine, which once was the seat of an archbishop. This place was first called Dora, and after that Pyrgus Stratonis, but Herod the Great rebuilt it and named it Caesarea. Josephus writes at length about its buildings and fortifications. It is bounded on the west by the Great Sea and on the east by a deep, freshwater marsh in which there is a great number of crocodiles. There Ι would have fallen into very great danger if the Lord in His mercy had not saved me. The city has a strong position, but today it is completely destroyed. Philip and his daughters had a dwelling here. There also Peter baptized Cornelius the centurion, who was its first bishop. Moreover, it was here that Paul disputed with great eloquence against the orator Tertullus, in the presence of King Agrippa and the governor Felix. (5) Three leagues south of Caesarea is a town called Assur, but once it was called Antipatris after Antipater, Herod the Great's father. It belonged to the brothers of the Hospital of St. John, who, although they have lost it, still pay 28,000 gold bezants a year to the Lord of Assur and his heirs.2

Translation Note

Adapted from Pringle 2018

Works Cited

  • 1 Burchard of Mt. Sion, Burchardi de Monte Sion descriptio terrae sanctae, in Peregrinatores Medii Aevi Quatuor: Burchardus de Monte Sion, Ricoldus de Monte Crucis, Odoricus de Foro Julii, Wilbrandus de Oldenborg… Editio Secunda accessit Mag. Thietmari Peregrinatio, ed. J. M. C. Laurent, 2nd ed. (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1873), 1–100, ch: 10.1-5, p: 82-83.Link to Zotero Bibliographic RecordLink to Worldcat Bibliographic record
  • 2 Burchard of Mt. Sion, Burchard of Mt. Sion OP: Description of the Holy Land (1274-85), in Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land, 1187-1291, trans. Denys Pringle, Crusade Texts in Translation 23 (London: Routledge, 2018), 241–320, ch: 10.1-5, p: 307-308.Link to Zotero Bibliographic RecordLink to Worldcat Bibliographic record

How to Cite This Entry

Joseph L. Rife, “Burchard of Mt. Sion, Description of the Holy Land 10.1-5,” in Caesarea Maritima: A Collection of Testimonia, entry published October 19, 2022,


Joseph L. Rife, “Burchard of Mt. Sion, Description of the Holy Land 10.1-5.” In Caesarea Maritima: A Collection of Testimonia, edited by Joseph L. Rife., edited by Joseph L. Rife. Caesarea City and Port Exploration Project, 2022. Entry published October 19, 2022.

About this Entry

Entry Title: Burchard of Mt. Sion, Description of the Holy Land 10.1-5

Authorial and Editorial Responsibility:

  • Joseph L. Rife, general editor, Vanderbilt University
  • Joseph L. Rife, editor, Caesarea Maritima: A Collection of Testimonia
  • David A. Michelson, Daniel L. Schwartz, and William L. Potter, technical editor, “Burchard of Mt. Sion, Description of the Holy Land 10.1-5
  • Joseph L. Rife, entry contributor, “Burchard of Mt. Sion, Description of the Holy Land 10.1-5

Additional Credit:

  • TEI encoding by William L. Potter
  • Electronic text added by Joseph L. Rife
  • Testimonia identified by Joseph L. Rife
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