The Road to Jerusalem: Pilgrimage and Travel in the Age of Discovery.
Love's Pilgrimage: The Holy Journey in English Renaissance Literature. By Grace Tiffany. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2006. ISBN: 0-87413-948-1. Pp. 217. $43.50.
The Road to Jerusalem and Love's Pilgrimage provide two accounts of the literature of religious pilgrimage in early modern Europe. From both perspectives, the tradition of religious pilgrimage and its literature were transformed by the voyages of discovery and the Protestant Reformation. Before the voyages of discovery, pilgrimage literature was the singular literature of "travel," offering description of pilgrimage sites, advice on travel arrangements, and, of course, reflections on the sacred journey. Texts that had circulated widely in manuscript during the late middle ages were among the earliest printed books. In Catholic Europe pilgrimage, especially to the Holy Land, Rome, or Santiago de Compostela in Spain merited a plenary indulgence, moving the penitent pilgrim closer to heaven. With the voyages of discovery, worldly pilgrimage occupied a more vital place in the European imagination than religious pilgrimage. Religious reformers likewise dealt a blow to religious pilgrimage. John Calvin's disdain for Catholic veneration of saints cast aspersions on journey to sacred sites, and Martin Luther contended that the only true pilgrimage was the pilgrimage of faith--the sacred journey in scripture. Although E Thomas Noonan and Grace Tiffany concur about these challenges posed to the tradition and literature of pilgrimage, each book takes the reader in a very different direction. Noonan's fare is Continental non-fictional (or sometimes partially fictionalized) accounts of pilgrimage to the Holy Land, most often by Roman Catholic pilgrims for whom the journey remained penitential. Tiffany considers post-Reformation English imaginative literature in which the trope of pilgrim journey is appropriated, transformed, or inverted.
The Road to Jerusalem, part descriptive bibliography, part historical analysis, seeks to categorize the literature of early modern pilgrimage in the collection of the Library of Congress. Noonan approaches his study as a historian of the book seeking to establish the "contour of pilgrimage as a printed reality." From this perspective, the number and dates of editions provide fruitful evidence to dispute the tendency among modern historians to "view pilgrimage to Jerusalem as so thoroughly medieval as to be forgotten as a vital form of travel" (11-12). Noonan begins his study by establishing the continuity between fifteenth-century printed books and medieval pilgrimage. The earliest printed books were from medieval manuscripts of the writings of John Mandeville, Rudolfus de Suchem, and Johannes de Hese, among others. Once these established pilgrimage literature as a genre with strong reader appeal, contemporary pilgrim accounts followed. Among the most influential of these were Bernard von Breydenbach's Opusculum sanctarum peregrinationum ad sepulcrum Christi (1486) and Die heyligen Reyssen gen Iherusalem zu dem heiligen Grab und furbass zu der hochgelobten Iungfrauwen und Mertreryn Sant Katheryn (1486), a book translated into six languages that emphasized both the primacy of pilgrimage and its "cosmopolitan popularity." In terms of print history, Breydenback's book realized the visual potential of print by using woodcuts that depicted both pilgrim and place.
In the second part of Noonan's study, the focus shifts from the traditional literature of pilgrimage that appeared in the first decades of printing to the historical challenges posed to religious pilgrimage: the voyages of discovery and the Protestant Reformation. According to Noonan, "European travel began to be transformed in the aftermath of Columbus ... Europe's explosion planetaire was accompanied by a literary implosion, the caving in of the idea of European travel as previously understood" (54). Beginning with the publication of accounts of Columbus's first voyage, the news of discovery "amplified by the new technology of print, became part of the general subject matter of European interests" (60). Even so, pilgrimage literature did not cease. Instead it was transformed since "the spiritual weight of pilgrimage was being transferred, at least in some Catholic minds, to the enterprise of missions which had been given great impetus by the new discoveries" (63). Furthermore, printed voyage literature offered an unusual connection between the new literature of discovery and the old literature of pilgrimage--woodcuts that had appeared in accounts of pilgrimage to the Holy Land appeared in accounts of new worlds. Within a few decades, however, a work appeared that would be the first to place the new travel "in a fully modern context" (65)--the immensely popular and widely dispersed Novis Orbis (1532), which was a travel collection that offered accounts of all known travel, including one of a medieval pilgrimage to the Holy Land. By 1707, however, this would not be the case. Jean Baptiste Morvan de Bellegarde's Histoire universelle des voyages, which appeared anonymously that year, developed after the Novis Orbis, "a new European travel that was the travel of discovery" marked by "two constants--the preeminence of Columbus, the reduced status of pilgrimage" (68).
The Protestant Reformation provided the second impetus to pilgrimage's "reduced status," and a result of this was a "polemics of travel," in which reformers condemned the places and practices of Catholic pilgrimage and Catholics condemned the reformers. Noonan notes, however, that Sigismund Feyerabend's Reyssbuch dess heyligen Lands (1584), "a collection of seventeen pilgrimages ... that reached back as far as the Crusades ... into the sixteenth century" contained accounts of "both Catholic and Reformed pilgrimages" to the Holy Land (86), although it essentially strengthened the Catholic estimation of pilgrimage "as a continuing and vital part of life" (88). In 1581 Leonhard Rauwolf published an account of Protestant pilgrimage, Aigentliche Beschreibung der Raiss, and in 1586 Balthasar Menz offered his Itinera Sex, which sought to defend the ideals of the Reformation at that same time that it celebrated the history of German pilgrimages over the Alps. The importance of Menz, according to Noonan, is that he does not disguise the role pilgrimage played in the tradition of German travel, even though he recasts these journeys in the classical model of Homer. Despite Protestant efforts to find some kind of spiritual value in travel, Jacobus Gretser ("a Counter-Reformation fox" ) in 1606 brought out his erudite history of Christian pilgrimage, De sacris et religiosis peregrinationibus libri quattuor, which clearly distinguishes "between Reformed travelers (antiquarians, tourists, cut-ups) and Catholic travelers (pilgrims)" for whom the journey to the Levant was an act of devotion. Gretser would not be the last to insist on the vitality of Catholic spiritual travel.
Once Noonan has identified the challenges discovery and Reformation posed to pilgrimage literature as the central form of travel literature, he provides a history of the three forms in which the pilgrimage literature survived: first in accounts of pilgrimages to locations outside of the Holy Land, particularly Rome and Loreto; wide ranging travel collections that included "inter alia" accounts of trips to the Holy Land having a spiritual dimension; and accounts of journeys to the Holy Land from post-Reformation Catholic pilgrims who sought to vindicate pilgrimage as a religious act and inspire others to perform such pilgrimages. The material on "inter alia" pilgrimage accounts in the sixteenth- to eighteenth-century resembles that found in the earlier travel literature Noonan described; the titles and authors are different. The "new" pilgrimage accounts that appeared between 1600 and 1800, however, offered transformations in the genre. While most of them shared the goal of revitalizing Catholic devotional and penitential practice, they cast about for new ways to overcome the burden of what Andre Thevet described as "the suffocating weight of a long tradition of travel to the Levant and the Holy Land in particular" and their attendant literature (164). Noonan considers or mentions more than twenty accounts of pilgrimage to the Holy Land that appeared between 1590 and 1798. Among the most innovative (and most fully considered) were those by Juan Cerverio de Vera, Heinrich Btinting, lean Zuallart and Johannes Cotovicus. Cerverio's Viaje de la Terra Sancta (1596) sought to revive the practice of pilgrimage to the Holy Land both by showing that the journey was safe, and by connecting new world voyages to pilgrimages. Btinting's Itinerarium sacrae scripturae (1581) emphasized the devout character of travel to the Holy Land for arm-chair pilgrims, who, like himself would never make the journey. He did so by linking scripture to pilgrimage sites. Zuallart's Le tresdevot voyage de Ierusalem (1587) included extensive illustrations that represented the act of pilgrimage. Cotovicus' Itinerarium hiersolymitanum et syriacum (1619) admits the problems pilgrimage to the Holy Land encountered with Ottoman expansion into the area, but offers a practical "how-to" book for the modern pilgrim to cope with this. Other writers in the period responded to the challenge of reviving pilgrimage by enhancing descriptions of place and pilgrim enhanced with illustrations, by focusing on the personal devotional character of their journey, and by underscoring the missionary aspect of the journey.
The Road to Jerusalem offers a valuable and learned account of travel literature from 1470 to 1798 (though its principal focus is on books printed before 1700). The sheer volume of titles it considers (123 titles in 192 editions) testifies to the persistence of pilgrimage after the middle ages. Learned as it is--Noonan describes books he has read in Latin, German, French, Italian, and Spanish--The Road to Jerusalem does not fully resolve some of the issues it raises. From the perspective of book history, I cannot help but wonder how fully the collection in the Library of Congress represents the genre. (I know, for example, of English books that were not mentioned.) Noonan admits that he has gone elsewhere for a copy of Cerverio's Viaje de la Terra Sancta, one of his most important examples. Directly addressing the relative scope of the collection would make this book bibliographically more useful. Also, I had some problem moving between his narrative and the handlist he provides for the "Chronological Bibliography of Early Modern Printed Pilgrimages to the Holy Land in the Collections of the Library of Congress" that appears at the end. Noonan sometimes mentions the first date of publication in his narrative, although the Library holds a different edition, which appears in the "Bibliography" under that date. Secondly, Noonan contends that the witness of printed books testifies to the vitality of the pilgrimage tradition even as he admits a decline in pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His discussion of one of his examples, Cotovicus' Itinerarium hiersolymitanum et syricum, brings up the matter of the problems Ottoman expansion posed to the early modern pilgrim. Besides his weighty consideration of new world expansion and the Protestant Reformation, some attention to the impact political conditions in the Levant had on pilgrimage would have contributed to the useful contextual frame Noonan provides. Finally, I am somewhat uncomfortable with the theological underpinnings of the study; the line between pious travel and pilgrimage waivers. For most of the Catholic writers Noonan considers, pilgrimage was far more than a pious journey; it was a penitential act that brought the pilgrim closer to salvation. I would find it interesting to know the degree to which this dimension appeared in some of the more problematic writers, like Jean Thevenot, of whom Noonan says "the reality of his pilgrimage tends to evaporate as an actual presence in the finished text" (147). In short, I find terms like "devout travel," "a form of pious travel," "archaeologia sancta," "a pilgrim through and through" rather bewildering. Noonan sees the problem inherent in this when he admits that allowing a Protestant component to pilgrimage can lead to interpretative problems and when he reminds us that there were both various sorts of pilgrimages and various sorts of Protestants in early modernity. The Road to Jerusalem would have been a somewhat better book if Noonan had more clearly drawn these distinctions. Their collapse produces another problem--the categories Noonan imposes on the materials are not sufficiently defined. When this combines with his very loose use of chronology, his narrative becomes repetitive and, in places, contradictory. As a reader, I found that the prose does not do as good a service as it should to the subject's excellence.
While Noonan discovers an abundance of pilgrimage literature, even among Protestants, Grace Tiffany studies its absence. Love's Pilgrimage: The Holy Journey in English Renaissance Literature begins with the premise argued by Eamon Duffy in The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional religion in England 1400-1580 (1992) that government proscriptions against images, relics, and shrines during the English Reformation denied English people "a ritual enactment and consecration of their whole lives" that allowed them to understand their lives in terms of a "journey towards the sacred" (qtd. in Tiffany 22). Rather than disappearing altogether, the idea of pilgrimage became transformed in the English Protestant imagination--sometimes into worldly commercial venturing, sometimes into tourism, and sometimes into blatant mockery or ironic inversion of Catholic peregrination. According to Tiffany, "the Protestant pilgrimage in English Renaissance literature is either desacralized--transformed to erotic, military, or commercial adventure--or turned back on itself, so it becomes an inward spiritual struggle against our own alienation from God, who is our home" (43). When pilgrimage retained this religious dimension in the English imagination, it survived only as the inward journey to one's own heart. Even though Tiffany concedes that the inward journey did have Catholic roots, her study relies on an absolute distinction between the ends of Catholic and Protestant pilgrimage. "Pre-Reformation Christians believed that through prayer, meditation, or other spiritual work--done in the cloister, on the road, or in some posthumous middle ground between earth and Heaven--one might incrementally approach God" (35). English Protestants, heavily influenced by John Calvin, understood that grace was imposed by God on the passive elect Christian, whose role was to accept rather than effect salvation. The journey inward is a journey of submission rather than action.
Love's Pilgrimage considers the ways in which five major English Renaissance authors--Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, John Donne, John Milton, and John Bunyan--appropriated the idea of pilgrimage. The study begins with Book I of The Faerie Queene, in which, Tiffany contends, pilgrimage poses an irresolvable interpretative problem--on the one hand, the poem repudiates the vestiges of Catholic pilgrimage in its depictions of Archimago and Duessa, replacing them with the Protestant journey inward of Redcrosse Knight that culminates in the House of Holiness; on the other, the book ends with Redcrosse's "profane" journey outward to Cleopolis (London), which allegorically becomes a shrine to Elizabeth I's worldly power, thus pilgrimage becomes an "imperial endeavor" (66).
Tiffany finds another manifestation of pilgrimage as imperialism in Shakespeare's history plays where "royal warriors" replace traditional saints, and the language of hagiography is appropriated to describe the monarch--especially Henry V, a kind of Christ-figure for whom scars replace stigmata. In Shakespeare's history plays, not only do English monarchs become saints but England itself becomes holy ground--in Richard II alternatively Gaunt's "other Eden, demi-paradise" or the bishop of Carlisle's Calvary where a war torn land is the "field of Golgotha." War becomes the new journey. "Chief among England's saints are kings who have appropriated the Holy Land's sanctity for their own country by successful acts of war performed abroad" (80).
Shakespeare not only comingles pilgrimage and war; Tiffany contends that in All's Well That Ends Well, Cymbeline, and Othello he "sends also his characters on love pilgrimages to joyful or destructive ends" (87). These plays also reflect Shakespeare's "interest" in Santiago, Spain's patron saint. The Apostle James was said to have preached in Spain before he returned to Jerusalem, where he was beheaded. After his execution his followers reattached the head and returned his body to Spain, and during the Reconquista legends arose that Saint James appeared to encourage Christian warriors in their fights against the Moors--hence the name "Santiago Matamoros." According to Tiffany, the most common associations in the English mind with Catholic pilgrimage were those made to James's (Santiago's) burial place, Compostela. The three plays Tiffany considers dramatize the ill effects of saint worship through allusions to the "myth" of Santiago. In All's Well, Helena disguises herself as a Saint Jaques pilgrim to cover her own erotic pilgrimage to entrap Bertram. Tiffany rejects any readings of the play that favorably associate Helena's curative powers with saintliness or miracles to argue that at the play's end "Miracles are left pending" (95). In Cymbeline, Imogen's journey to Milford Haven, like Helena's to Italy, is an erotic pilgrimage "which she undertakes, in order to approach Posthumus, her secular saint" (99). The play's use of Santiago de Compostela, however, appears elsewhere. Like the pilgrims to Compostela, Imogen encounters warm hospitality and medical care from her brothers. Furthermore, her "encounter with the corpse of Cloten ... is a comic-erotic version of the myth of James's disciples' encounter with the apostle's headless body outside the walls of Jerusalem ... and believing Cloten's body to be Posthumus ... she sees Posthumus's head figuratively reattached (when she discovers it was never really off)" (99). In Othello the characters sail "to an island where sexual passion will govern their actions" and where theology and religious practice are subordinated to "eros" (101). In this drama, according to Tiffany, "the name of the chief saint of Catholic pilgrimage, Iago of Compostela, is given to the protagonist, himself partly driven by lust, who inflames Othello's sexual jealousy, and the 'unconsummated pilgrimage' that Othello's Cyprian journey becomes is a failed erotic journey" (101). Shakespeare transformed Santiago Matamoros, into the "de-sacralized" Iago, who destroys only one Moor, and this for sexual and not religious reasons. In all of these plays, says Tiffany, "Shakespeare exploited the [Santiago] legend's appeal to fantasy ... in ways that fulfilled comic, romance, and tragic conventions" (109). The secularized miracles, saints, and pilgrimages offered in these plays "are such stuff as erotic dreams--and nightmares--are made on" (109).
In her consideration of John Donne's poetry, Tiffany notes how Donne uses references not just to pilgrimage but to Catholic practices and rituals. She demonstrates that in some of his poems empty rituals are signs of the lover's falseness or the courtier's superficiality. In others, like "The Canonization" or "The Ecstasy," by presenting lovers as faithful saints, "whose shrines and relics merit veneration," Donne redeems "Catholic pilgrimage for profane ends" (120). These poems celebrate the union of lovers and the sacrament becomes erotic. Donne's sacred poems, however, totally repudiate these rituals and are "straightforward and even conventional in their condemnation of place or shrine pilgrimage and saints' idolatry" (122). Journeys for Donne are distractions from God. According to Tiffany, "it is because Donne sees Christ as the annihilator of geographies, and travel as something God halts in order to unite himself to the sinner, that his sacred poems more often present the Christian as a stationary city than an errant pilgrim. As a city, the beleaguered Christian stays put, waiting for God to come to him" (130). In all of his religious poetry, Tiffany sees "Donne's Calvinist view that even initiating (prevenient) grade was bestowed, not earned, and that salvation was thus not to be achieved through personal works" (123).
If Donne finds travel as a distraction for the Calvinist Christian, Tiffany contends that Milton finds it diabolical. The principal traveler in Paradise Lost is Satan, who is linked metaphorically to Catholic pilgrimage, in his voyage through chaos. Tiffany parallels the confusion of Satan's voyage both to the endless soliloquizing attendant on the Fall and to non-progressive and circular conversations between Adam and Eve and among the fallen spirits--what she calls "fruitless intellectual travel" (146). This she juxtaposes against fruitful travel proposed in Aeropagitica: "For Milton reason is the pilgrim's walking staff. With it the Christian accomplishes his redemptive journey, which is intellectual work" (149). The guide on that journey is Milton himself, illuminated "to justify the ways of God to men." Although this would appear to be similar to the journey inward envisioned by Luther and Calvin, Tiffany insists that it is communal; "Through the labor of Milton and others of the intellectual elect, 'God shakes a kingdom with strong and faithful commotions to general reforming'"(160).
The concluding chapter, titled "Coda: The Pilgrim's Progress in English Renaissance Literature" treats John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress less as an individual work but as a culmination of the notions of Protestant pilgrimage already considered. Christian's pilgrimage, however, unlike his predecessors, is divorced from political and worldly concerns. Even so, it shares with the other works the quintessential Protestant pilgrimage experience:
All Protestant pilgrims begin the true celestial journey "already there," redeemed a priori by God ... Christian, though such an "arrived" pilgrim, still walks, both helping others find the way and finding aids to his humility (and Bunyan means to stress humility's value) in the many spiritual trials of his journey. His task is to preserve his own awareness of his salvation, yet to do so humbly. The good works he performs are the fruit of that salvation rather than the means to obtain it.... (169)
Since God is with and "has already redeemed Christian," the focus of his journey is through death returning home. This is distinct from the Catholic pilgrimage:
Bunyan's work does not show its pilgrims moving steadily toward Paradise, like the penitents in Dante's Purgatorio, or like palmers who in their earthly journeys approach saints, holy places, Purgatory, and Heaven. Instead, they fall off the road and are graciously returned to it by God, who has already rescued them. Death, in the form of access to the Celestial City, provides the visible proof of their accomplished salvation. (169)
The holy journey, thus, in English Protestant literature, expresses a longing for home.
In the agenda it sets for itself--treating pilgrimage in the writings of Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, and Bunyan--Love's Pilgrimage is an ambitious book, particularly since it brings to bear on most of its analyses a solid knowledge of Calvinist theology. Love's Pilgrimage is most successful in those parts of the book where Tiffany captures the essence of the Protestant pilgrimage for these writers as an inward spiritual journey--the response to the gift (the Love) already given. Her considerations of Redcrosse Knight's spiritual journey culminating in the House of Holiness, of Donne's religious poetry, of Milton, and of Bunyan are subtle and mostly persuasive. She also does well with Milton's diabolical inversion of pilgrimage in Satan's wandering. However, when she tries to show some of these writers' appropriations of the sacred journey, her use of pilgrimage is too loose. Pilgrimage becomes the same thing as veneration or worship. While pilgrimages were made to holy sites, shrines that contained relics of the saints, not all veneration of saints required travel (holy or otherwise). Thus, while her treatment of Donne's love poetry usefully shows his appropriation of Catholic ritual for erotic purposes, referring to this as an appropriation of pilgrimage is imprecise. The redirection of worshipping saints to worshipping Queen Elizabeth in Redcrosse's journey to Cleopolis is somewhat more successful. The chapters on Shakespeare are far less successful. When royal warriors like Henry V become saints--indeed, even Christ figures--who precisely is making a pilgrimage becomes unclear, and I have some difficulty with statements like, "The sanctity of English purposes blesses the place from which soldiers start" (79). The journeys of Helena, Imogen, and Othello from point A to point B only barely qualify as an appropriation of pilgrimage, Helena's pilgrim disguise being the best. I am not persuaded that either Imogen or Othello may be properly called a pilgrim, ironic or otherwise. It seems that Tiffany includes Shakespeare in her study primarily to counter recent critical claims that his plays contain favorable vestiges of interest in Roman Catholic practice, perhaps because Shakespeare himself was a closet Catholic. Introducing the legends of Santiago de Compostela and having Shakespeare repudiate them is the means by which Tiffany seeks to free Shakespeare from his Catholic yearnings. The Santiago material might be more persuasive if Tiffany had provided contemporary evidence that Shakespeare's audience would have been conversant in the lore of the Spanish saint. Unfortunately, in the case of Othello the Santiago de Compostela material interferes with a nice moral reading of the errors of Othello and Iago based on the New Testament book of James. The biblical material, although quite relevant to her reading of the play, is unconnected to pilgrimage, which creates a dissonance between the moral Biblical reading and the ironic Catholic reading.
While Love's Pilgrimage does provide insights into how major writers in Protestant England creatively responded to the loss of a pre-Reformation spiritual tradition, the book has flaws. Better use of historical and critical sources would have strengthened the book's argument. Tiffany sometimes relies on sources without questioning them. Certainly Eamon Duffy's Stripping of the Altars has effectively argued that the English Reformation robbed the people of a significant means of interpreting their life experiences. On the other hand, Christopher Haigh has repeatedly demonstrated how deeply-rooted and persistent Catholic thought and practice were in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries--an argument Tiffany should have taken into consideration. Likewise, her equation of English Protestantism with Calvinism does not admit the ongoing debate among historians, particularly in the work of Nicholas Tyacke and Peter White. John Donne is not one of the Church of England clergy either associates with the Calvinist party. Rather than address an interpretative crux that might arise from scholarly differences, Tiffany selects as truth any position another scholar has made that builds her case. This is most dangerous, as with Duffy / Haigh, when the assumptions form the basis for her study. It is less so when she marshals evidence to make a less significant point--as, for example, when she uses the example of Philip Sidney's presence at Zutphen "trying to secure the Lowlands for English rule" as part of her argument that Redcrosse Knight's journey to Cleopolis rewrites pilgrimage as "imperial endeavor." (English forces fought in the Netherlands on the side of the Dutch in their revolt against Spanish rule and not as an act of English conquest.) Sometimes material from sources is merely irrelevant. Iago as a Spanish Jew contributes nothing to an argument about pilgrimage. Sometimes, too, the book is careless. While John Penry has been proposed as the writer of the Martin Marprelate pamphlets, nothing conclusive has been established, and most students of Shakespeare would have some difficulty seeing Iago as Othello's "protagonist."
Love's Pilgrimage and The Road to Jerusalem, even with their flaws, demonstrate the resonance of Christian pilgrimage well beyond the middle ages. Their difference in focus makes them complementary, and, as such, they should be read together by anyone seeking to understand pilgrimage as both a spiritual and a literary practice.
Cyndia Susan Clegg
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|Author:||Clegg, Cyndia Susan|
|Publication:||Christianity and Literature|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2009|
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