In 333 C.E., a pilgrim from the city of Bordeaux, in Gaul (modern France), wrote a personal account of a journey to the Holy Land. Today, this text is the earliest extant pilgrimage account by a Christian. Unfortunately, the pilgrim failed to sign the account, so he (or she, as some scholars suggest) is remembered only as the Pilgrim of Bordeaux.

The journal lists 300 places where the pilgrim stopped on the way to and from Jerusalem. At first, the pilgrim records the journey simply, giving only the name of each site, its distance from the previous stop, and a brief note about whether it is a city or an inn or just a place to change horses.

The account begins:

The city of Bordigala [Bordeaux], where is the river Garonne, in which the ocean ebbs and flows for one hundred leagues, more or less.

Change at Stomatae [Castres]—

7 leagues.

Change at Senone [Sirio, Pont de Ciron]—9 leagues.

City of Vasates [Cossio, Bazas]—

8 leagues.

Change at Three Trees—5 leagues.

Change at Oscineium [Houeilles?]—

7 leagues.

Very occasionally the traveler adds a comment on the significance of a site. We learn about the river in Bordeaux, for example, and that Tarsus is the home of Paul.

When the pilgrim finally enters the Holy Land, the tone changes dramatically. Here the Bordeaux Pilgrim eagerly notes any biblical events connected with the sites and inserts colorful tidbits from local lore.

Traveling south along the Mediterranean coast, the pilgrim first arrives at Caesarea, writing:

City of Caesarea Palaestinae, that is, Judea—8 miles. Total from Tyre to Caesarea Palaestina 73 miles, 2 changes, 3 halts. Here is the bath of Cornelius the centurion who gave many alms [a reference to Acts 10:2, 47–48].

At the third milestone from thence is the mountain Syna, where there is a fountain, in which, if a woman bathes, she becomes pregnant.

City of Maximianopolis—18 miles.

City of Stradela [Jezreel]—10 miles. Here reigned King Ahab, and here Elijah prophesied. Here is the field in which David slew Goliath.

City of Scythopolis [Beth-Shean, Beisan]—12 miles.

Aser [Teyasir], where was the house

of Job—6 miles.

City of Neapolis [Nablus]—15 miles.

Here is the Mount Gerizim. Here the Samaritans say that Abraham offered sacrifice [Mount Moriah], and one reaches the top of the mountain by steps, 300 in number. Beyond this, at the foot of the mountain itself, is a place called Sichem [Shechem]. Here is a tomb in which Joseph is laid, in the “parcel of ground” which Jacob his father gave to him [Genesis 48:22]. From thence Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, was carried off by the children of the Amorites [Genesis 34:1–31]. A mile from thence is a place named Sichar, from which the woman of Samaria came down to the same place in which Jacob dug the well, to draw water from it, and our Lord Jesus Christ talked with her [John 4:1–42]; in which place are plane-trees, which Jacob planted, and a bath [baptistery], which is supplied with water from the well…

Jerusalem, the pilgrim’s destination, receives the most detailed description of all:

There are in Jerusalem two large pools at the side of the Temple, that is, one upon the right hand, and one upon the left, which were made by Solomon; and further in the city are twin pools, with five porticoes, which are called Bethsaida [John 5:2–18]. There persons who have been sick for many years are cured; the pools contain water which is red when it is disturbed. There is also here a crypt, in which Solomon used to torture devils.

Here is also the corner of an exceeding high tower, where our Lord ascended and the tempter said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down from here.” And the Lord answered, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God, but him only shall thou serve” [Matthew 4:1–11]. There is a great corner-stone, of which it was said, “The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner.” [Matthew 21:42; quoting Psalm 118:22]. Under the pinnacle of the tower are many rooms, and here was Solomon’s palace. There also is the chamber in which he sat and wrote the [Book of] Wisdom; this chamber is covered with a single stone. There are also large subterranean reservoirs for water and pools constructed with great labor. And in the building itself, where stood the Temple which Solomon built, they say that the blood of Zacharias [Matthew 23:35] which was shed upon the stone pavement before the altar remains to this day. There are also to be seen the marks of the nails in the shoes of the soldiers who slew him, throughout the whole enclosure, so plain that you would think they were impressed upon wax. There are two statues of Hadrian, and not far from the statues there is a perforated stone, to which the Jews come every year and anoint it, bewail themselves with groans, rend their garments, and so depart. There also is the house of Hezekiah King of Judah.

Also as you come out of Jerusalem to go up Mount Sion, on the left hand, below in the valley, beside the wall, is a pool which is called Siloe [Siloam] [John 9:1–11] and has four porticoes; and there is another large pool outside it. This spring runs for six days and nights, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, it does not run at all, either by day or by night. On this side one goes up Sion, and sees where the house of Caiaphas the priest was [Matthew 26:57–68], and there still stands a column against which Christ was beaten with rods. Within, however, inside the wall of Sion, is seen the place where was David’s palace. Of seven synagogues which once were there, one alone remains; the rest are ploughed over and sown upon, as said Isaiah the prophet [Isaiah 1:2, 4–8; Micah 3:9–12].

From thence as you go out of the wall of Sion, as you walk towards the gate of Neapolis, towards the right, below in the valley, are walls, where was the house or praetorium of Pontius Pilate [Matthew 27:11–33]. Here our Lord was tried before His passion. On the left hand is the little hill of Golgotha where the Lord was crucified [Matthew 27:33–37]. About a stone’s throw from thence is a vault wherein His body was laid, and rose again on the third day [Matthew 27:57–60, 28:1–10]. There, at present, by the command of the Emperor Constantine, has been built a basilica, that is to say, a church of wondrous beauty, having at the side reservoirs from which water is raised, and a bath behind in which infants are washed [baptized].

Also as one goes from Jerusalem to the gate which is to the eastward, in order to ascend the Mount of Olives, is the valley called that of Josaphat. Towards the left, where are vineyards, is a stone at the place where Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ [Matthew 26:36–50]; on the right is a palm-tree, branches of which the children carried off and strewed in the way when Christ came [Matthew 31:8]. Not far from thence, about a stone’s throw, are two notable tombs of wondrous beauty; in the one, which is a true monolith, lies Isaiah the prophet, and in the other Hezekiah, King of the Jews [today popularly misidentified as the tombs of Zechariah and Absalom].

From thence you ascend to the Mount of Olives, where before the Passion, the Lord taught His disciples [Matthew 24–25]. There by the orders of Constantine a basilica of wondrous beauty has been built. Not far from thence is the little hill which the Lord ascended to pray, when he took Peter and John with Him, and Moses and Elias were beheld [Matthew 17:1–8].

A mile and a half to the eastward is the village called Bethany. There is a vault in which Lazarus, whom the Lord raised, was laid [John 11:1–44].

As the pilgrim leaves Jerusalem and returns home, he includes fewer and fewer details until the text becomes once again a simple list.

Based on The Itinerary from Bordeaux to Jerusalem, trans. Aubrey Stewart (London: Palestine Pilgrims’ Text Society, 1887).