The Road to Jerusalem
Pilgrimage and Travel in the Age of Discovery
F. Thomas Noonan
"An important contribution to the current discussion of the relation between the Middle Ages and the early modern world."—James Muldoon, Rutgers University
"Noonan argues that before the Age of Discovery, pilgrimage was the preeminent form of travel in the medieval West. . . . This interesting study surveys a large, important, but neglected category of early modern travel literature and provides many convincing insights. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice
The history of early modern travel is captured in its volatile and evolving literature. From the middle of the 1400s, what had been for centuries a travel literature of pilgrimage to the Holy Land underwent two "modernizations" in rapid succession. The first, in the wake of Gutenberg, was the casting or recasting of pilgrims' accounts in the new medium of print. By the waning of the fifteenth century, such printed literature had reconfirmed and enhanced long-distance pilgrimage as the primary narrative of European travel. The second, forged by the great discoveries and reformations of the sixteenth century, reworked and enlarged, again in the revolutionary medium of print, the very content of European travel. Travel and its literature ceased to be simply, or even largely, a matter of pilgrimage to the Levant. The labors of Columbus, Cortés, and Magellan, but also of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, had altered the appearance, complicated the ambitions, and shifted the focus of much European travel.
The Road to Jerusalem traces the survival of the literature of pilgrimage as part of the literature of travel from the late fifteenth to the eighteenth century, when powerful forces ranging from navigation to theology were redefining what it meant to go abroad. Accounts of discovery, exploration, scientific expeditions, tours, and other species of travel crowded a field that had once been dominated by accounts of pilgrimage. Yet pilgrimage did not disappear or retreat to the margins under pressure from these new forms of travel. Its survival and development, as a rendition of travel and not only as an expression of piety, are documented by a massive body of printed literature largely overlooked by modern scholarship that, in its turn, chronicles continuity and change across centuries of not just European travel but European history and culture in general.
Published in association with the Library of Congress.
F. Thomas Noonan is European History Specialist, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, at the Library of Congress. He is the author of Houghton Library: The Collection and Reading Room and The Dark Side of the Enlightenment.