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Travelling in the Middle Ages: By Sea
Reisen, Morgen

It’s been a while, since I posted something about a class I taught, but this interesting source (from my last class of the semester) adds nicely to the other travelogues I posted before (which can be found by the tag: travelogues). Unlike the individual rapports of the different travellers, this is rather a sparse list of places on the way from Danmark to Akkon, i. e. the Middle East, with the distances and directions. It’s a margin to manuscripts of the History of the Bishops of Hamburg by Adam of Bremen, from the “Description of the Northern Islands”. This margin can be dated between after 1090 (after the first and the second version of the work) and the beginning of the 13th century. The final destination Akkon indicates the creation in the time of the Crusades. The first existing manuscript, containing this margin, is dated between 1200 and 1225, and has probably been created in Germany

 The source is the earliest existing description of sea routes, the next written source of this kind, a so-called “Seebuch”, dates from the 15th century, and from the late 14th century, you can also find the first Portulan Maps with the coastlines of England, Holland, Western France, Spain etc..  But for a very long time, this litte text is really the only notice.

Latin text from the MGH-edition, S. 228/229:

Schol. 99 (96). De Ripa in Flandriam ad Cincfall velificari potest duobus diebus et totidem noctibus. De Cincfal ad Prol in Angliam II diebus et I nocte. Illud est ultimum caput Anglie versus austrum, et est processus illuc de Ripa angulosus inter austrum et occidentem. De Prol in Britanniam ad Sanctum Mathiam uno die. Inde ad Far iuxta Sanctum Iacobum tribus diebus et tribus noctibus. Inde ad Leskebone duobus diebus et duabus noctibus, et est processus iste angularis totus inter austrum et occidentem. De Leskebone ad Narvese tribus diebus et tribus noctibus, angulariter inter orientem et austrum. De Narvese ad Arragun IIIIor diebus et IIIIor noctibus, angulariter inter aquilonem et orientem. De Arragun ad Barzalun uno die similiter inter aquilonem et orientem. De Barzalun ad Marsiliam uno die et una nocte, fere versus orientem, declinando tamen parum ad plagam australem. De Marsilia ad Mezcin in Sicilia IIIIor diebus et IIIIor noctibus, angulariter inter orientem et austrum. De Mezcin ad Accharon XIIII diebus et totidem noctibus inter orientem et austrum, magis appropiando ad orientem ( C) .


From Ribe to the Sinkfal[1] in Flanders, one can seal within two days and the same number of nights. From the Sinkfal in Flanders to Prawle[2] in England within two days and one night. This is the farthest cap of England to the south, and one proceeds from Ribe by travelling (in angles) between south and west. From Prawle in England to Sanctum Mathiam [3] (it is) one day. From there to Ferrol near Santiago (de Compostella), (it is) three days and three nights. From there to Lisbon, (it is) two days and two nights, and one proceeds always angularly between east and south. De Lisbon to the Street of Gibraltar[4], (it is) three days and three nights, angularly between east and south. From the Street of Gibraltar to Tarragona [5], (it is) four days and four nights, angularly between north and east. De Tarragona to Barcelona, it is an entire day between north and east. From Barcelona to Marseilla, it is one day and one nights, always to the east, but by drifting a little to the South. From Marseille to Messina in Sicily, it is four days and four nights, angularly between east and south. From Messina to Akko, it is 14 days and the same number of nights between east and south, most of time approaching to the East.


[1] The Sinkfal is first a small river near Brugge. Today, the beach area of the town/village Cadzand (a couple of km from Brugge) has this name.

[2] East Prawle is one of the caps of Cornwall. It is, however, not the southest. This honor goes to Lizard’s Point and Landsend, which form the two little caps at the very end of Cornwall.

[3] Sanctum Mathiam: This is the only place I could not identify. First, I thought, it might be Saint-Malo, but the other name appearing for Saint-Malo is Saint Martin. Anyway, it must be a place in the Bretagne, according to the other parts of the description.

[4] The latin name “Narvese” is derived from Niörvasund, which is a Scandinavian name for the street of Gibraltar. It’s very interesting to note that the monk who made the first margin (maybe the writer of the manuscript from 1200-1225) used a Northern name, probably known from travelers, and not a possible name from the geographical tradition.

[5] The latin text has probably blended together the city of Taragona and the kingdom of Aragon (to which the city belonged).

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Yes, I really love sources that give insight in the practical side of the Middle Ages.

I love those gorgeous manuscripts. And true, firsthand accounts. All cool stuff.

gorgeous manuscripts

That collection of Latin manuscripts from the Danish National Library is a real treasure. (It's the first link in my link collection.) I have used it several times to find teaching material.

Yeah, it's real lovely stuff. I used to enjoy the manuscript exhibition in Trinity college a lot when I was a tour guide. i haven't visited it in a long while now, though.

Спасибо за информацию

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