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Egeria the Pilgrim

V Century
Little is known, but much has been speculated about the author of The Pilgrimage of Egeria. She lived in the early V Century. Many believe she as from Galicia in western Spain, but some believe she was from the area around Marseilles and Arles. Her Latin, which has been called an idiolect, is more consistent with the Latin of Iberia. She may have been a nun; her reception by officials suggests she may have been an abbess. She may have been, instead, a noble woman educated in the Scriptures, similar to Paula of Bethlehem or St. Macrina, Egeria may have been a member of a circle of devout women who took no formal vows.

G.F. Gamurini discovered the manuscript of The Pilgrimage in an XI Century codex once housed at Monte Cassino at the library of the Brotherhood of St. Mary's in Arezzo. When he published the work in 1887, three years after its discovery, he attributed it to St. Silvia of Aquitaine, who may have had connections to the court of Emperor Theodosius the Great. In 1903, that attribution was challenged. Dom Férotin argued that the author is Egeria, a Spanish woman mentioned in a letter by Valerius, a Spanish monk. Valerius praises Egeria and says she has travelled in the East and had related her tale. Manuscripts of the letter exist in several places, and the name of the woman is spelled in various ways. Several monastic library catalogues also refer to the book, and a few list episodes not found in extant versions.

The Pilgrimage describes an extended trip to the Holy Land in which the author travels to many Old Testament sites and describes the liturgical practices at the churches of Jerusalem. This work is one of the few surviving contemporary expositions of early liturical customs.

Karen Rae Keck


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