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       europe of pilgrimages
 
  pilgrim's knighthood  
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Leaving for a long time implies time, a time that was not at the disposal of the immense majority of people. Long-way pilgrims were generally nobles or merchants who, on the roads, requested, observed, questioned, fought, traded, all this implying close connections with local populations. If pilgrimage was asceticism for some, for others it meant a beautiful adventure in the countries of Europe, during which they both received a lot and gained a lot.

burgundians, germans, savoyards... "returned, full of service and reason...", to bring to fruition the fruits gathered on european ways

Photo of a miniature of the book of the brotherhood of Burgos, facsimile from BN

A book of pedagogy, The Imagination of True Nobility, written at the beginning of the fifteenth century advises Burgundian young people: "It is proper in times of peace that young men of noble descent go on pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Saint-Catherine, Santiago, that they travel in the Christian kingdoms, and that they fight Muslims and non-believers, because a young man can nowhere else better learn the ways of the world than through pilgrimages and the exercise of weapons". One of these young people explains that, if he goes to the Holy Sepulcher, it is "for his own redemption, to serve the military cause... and with an aim of acquiring honors".

Another one leaves for the kingdom of Grenade "to see the synagogues". Another one goes, in the company of his father, to Jerusalem, to Saint-Patrick in Ireland, then to Compostella and finally "embarked on the fleet of the king of Castille, he leads a great number of valorous nobles in fighting the Infidels". Another one still, after having gone to Jerusalem, travels through Germany, Italy, France and Spain up to Compostella. Finally, another one, Arnold von Harff, leaves Cologne in 1496 for Rome, the convent of Saint-Catherine on mount Sinai, the tomb of Saint Thomas in Canterbury, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostella and Mount Saint-Michel. He walks in the company of merchants, to benefit from their experience, their knowledge of languages, currencies and roads. He returns to Cologne three years later and writes an account of his voyage according to the notes taken on the road, shaped while making use of accounts of former voyages.

They are Burgundians, Germans, Savoyards... They "returned, full of service and reason...", to bring to fruition at home the fruits of their experience, gathered along European ways.

in the fifteenth century, a project of european construction.

On November 25, 1465, Leon de Rosmital, Czech lord, leaves Prague "to visit all the Christian kingdoms as well as all religious and civil principalities on German and Roman soil and particularly the Holy Sepulcher and the tomb of the beloved apostle John". A great very pious lord? Admittedly, but he adds that he wishes this voyage "to bring profits and advantages for his own life", and that he wishes to benefit from it "in the exertion of military art" and "in the study of the practices of various countries".

These official motivations hide a diplomatic mission, essentially secret. He leaves as an ambassador of the king of Bohemia, George Podiebrad, in order to convince the kings and princes of the countries he will visit to adhere to a great project, a European federation of various kingdoms and principalities, independent of the pope and the Germanic Emperor (two powers that obstructed his politics). The king of France, Louis XI, is seduced by this project that placed France at the head of this organistion. In order to convince the other sovereigns, George Podiebrad offered to help them fight against Turkish advance in the Christian world by mobilisng this federation of States. Moreover, he proposed a permanent council in charge with regulating the reciprocal litigations of the princes. Thus Leon de Rosmital met, in addition to Louis XI, the duke of Burgundy, Philippe le Bon, the king of England, Edward IV, the king of Castille, Henri IV, the king of Portugal, Alphonse V, and the king of Aragon, Jean II. Each one of his hosts filled him up while making him visit the most famous sanctuaries of the kingdom, inviting him to great dinners, balls, several tournaments, bull fighting on horses. Even if the project of Europe did not succeed, such a journey revealed to this ambassador and his country all the richness and complexity of Southern and Western Europe.

throughout europe, the military marches of knight-pilgrims

Avid of freedom and space, the young knights of the fifteenth century took part in tournaments while placing them within the framework of fictions mixing Courtly Love and the Grail Quest. A challenge is launched in the name of a cause, sometimes on the occasion of pilgrimages.

The challenger is either a knight-errant who fights all those presenting themselves along his pilgrim road, or he is placed on a road, in a strategic point (hence the term military march, which means passage where one uses weapons). He often chooses a jubilee year, Compostella or Rome, in a place arranged like a luxurious Olympic village. The fights are held over several weeks, in front of witnesses of great quality, dressed sumptuously. The winners receive precious stones and jewels, given by princesses lost in admiration.

In 1402, the knight Jean de Werchin chooses the first formula, on a route that takes him from Coucy (Aisne) to "holy master James in Galicia". On both sides of the way, it is impossible to deviate more than twenty miles. He is engaged in seven combats.

Antoine de La Salle, in The History of Little Jehan de Saintré, reports the passage at the Court of France of a Polish knight, himself on the way to Compostella. He carried, for the love of his lady, "two circles of gold, one above the elbow of the left arm, and the other at the ankle, bound by a chain of gold". Goal of the game: to fight until a knight rids him of this cumbersome accessory.

In 1434, Suero de Quinones, on the bridge of Orbigo (between Leon and Astorga), carried a money chain symbolising the captivity into which the love of his lady had plunged him. He organises a March to be delivered in order to marry another one! It is said that it is this chain that decorates the neck of the reliquary of the head of Saint James in Compostella. In 1448, close to Saint-Omer, Jean of Luxembourg becomes a knight serving the Beautiful Pilgrim in tears, on her way to Rome. In 1450, also on the road to Rome, Jacques de Lalain holds in the Châlons-sur-Saone the March of The Fountain of Tears (tears of the Virgin falling into a fountain from which an unicorn drank).

Reliquary of the treasury of the cathedral in Compostella, where the necklace of Suero de Quinones is

 
 
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