THEODERICH’S Guide to the Holy Land is one of the best known and most widely used of the medieval pilgrim’s guides to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Written around 1172 by the German monk Theoderich of Würzburg, it offers a complete guide to the city’s sacred sites and history, as well as to the legends and places of historical interest in the medieval kingdom of Jerusalem only fifteen years before its destruction by Saladin.
THE SITES are so accurately drawn that Theoderich has become a major source for medieval knowledge of the region and for Jerusalems topography. He gives detailed descriptions of its art and architecture, especially for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, with precise notations of architectural elements, building materials, and housing styles, as well as accurate comparisons to buildings in Europe.
HIS WORK offers valuable descriptions of fields full of ripe barely and roses, groves of palm and olive, orchards, natural features and various stone and soil types. He also offers a dispassionate picture of a multi-cultural society, of Moslems living side-by-side with Christians, carrying on their agriculture and trade with their customary work routines and traditions.
BUT THEODERICH also explores a geography of the imagination: of Jerusalem as the center of the universe, a cosmological fact so clear to him that he shows us proof marked clearly in its stones and pavements. In Theoderichs Guide mythology and travel narrative combine to offer a Holy Land of miracle and natural wonder. Here are rivers that run underground, here the Dead Sea casts up the stone and wood of Sodom and Gomorra every year on the anniversary of their destruction, here also still stands the pillar of salt that was once Lots wife. The Guide to the Holy Land is thus a valuable resource for the travel lore and the sacred geography of the Middle Ages.