Itinerarium Sancti Willibaldi, 723-726 A.D.

One of the most fascinating pilgrimage “Itineraria” from the Early Middle Ages is that of the Saxon oblate Willibald of Eichstätt, who provides an interesting account of the Holy Places. His text, dictated to a nun from Heidenheim, represents one of the principal sources describing for us the site of Bethlehem, the state of the Holy Grotto and the altars inside it.

Pozzo dei Magi

Then he [Willibald] came to Bethlehem, where the ox knew his owner and the donkey the manger of his Lord. Approaching the well there, which previously he had been amazed to hear about, he saw on the surface of the water, moving from side to side, the figure of the star that had appeared to the Magi when our Lord was born and had led them to Bethlehem on the thirteenth day following our Lord’s Nativity.

Itinerarium of St. Willibald, Chap. 12

Il Campo dei Pastori

Then he [Willibald] went to the place where the angel appeared to the shepherds, saying “I announce to you with great joy…”.

From there he came to Bethlehem, where the Lord was born, seven miles from Jerusalem. The place where Christ was born was at one time an underground cave and now is a quadrangular house cut out of the rock, and the surrounding earth has been dug out and thrown aside. And there above it a church has now been built. And above where the Lord was born there now stands an altar. And another smaller altar has been made, so that when they wish to celebrate Mass inside the cave they take the smaller altar and carry it inside during the time that Mass is celebrated, and afterwards they carry it out again.

That church, which is above the place where the Lord was born, is a glorious house [of God] built in the form of a cross.

Itinerarium of St. Willibald, Chap. 22

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