François-René de Chateaubriand

François-René de Chateaubriand

Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem, 1811

This French nobleman, whose life straddled the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, undertook his journey from Paris to Jerusalem in the first decade of the nineteenth century. During the course of his journey he also made stops in Greece and Egypt, and he provides us with a large amount of descriptive material relating to the Holy Places. Reproduced below is a detailed description of the state of the Grotto of the Nativity at the time of Chateaubriand’s visit, when the walls were still completely covered with marble.

Church embellished with marble

It is hewn out of the rock: the walls of the rock are covered with precious marble, and the floor is of the same material. These embellishments are attributed to St. Helena. The church receives no light from outside, and the only illumination is provided by thirty-two lamps, sent by different Christian princes.

Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem, Julliard, 1964, p. 274.

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