Advice from the sixteenth century on what to bring on a pilgrimage

In 1481 the Cavalier Santo Brasca had just returned home in Milan from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Like most travelers, he liked to give advice to those embarking on their journeys. Here’s what he suggested that future pilgrims take:

  • The right attitude: He wrote that the sole purpose should be “contemplating and adoring the Holy Mysteries . . . and not with the intention of seeing the world and being able to boast ‘I have been there.’” What did we bring? A little bit of both! We hope to contemplate spiritual truths and see the world all in one journey.
  • Two bags: One should be full of patience. The other should contain 200 Venetian ducats, which might sustain the habits of those accustomed “to living delicately at home.” What did we bring? A lot of patience (hopefully enough for three–almost four–teenagers). Brought a lot less cash than 220 x $149.31, the modern-day value of a Venetian gold ducat, but we did bring a credit card and a debit card.
  • An overcoat reaching down to the ground to wear when sleeping in the open air. What did we bring? We hope not to sleep in the open air, but we did pack light jackets. The weather forecast looks absolutely delightful—highs mostly in the mid-70s.
  • Two barrels (one for water and one for wine). What did we bring? No barrels and no wine. Just six plastic water bottles.
  • A night-stool or covered pail. What did we bring? Bladders strong enough to get us back to our Airbnb each night.
  • Provisions: “a great deal of fruit syrup, because that is what keeps a man alive in the great heat, and also syrup of ginger to settle his stomach.” What did we bring? Three boxes of granola bars and six bags of almonds from the Aldi in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • “Be humble in behaviour and in dress” and avoid arguing about the faith with Saracens “because it is a waste of time and productive of trouble.” What did we bring? Hopefully we embody a faith that is invitational, not coercive.


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