VI. Travels through Europe and Purgatory

Soon they were riding through Nuremburg, Donauworth, Augsburg, Nörlingen, Ulm, Constance, Basle, Strasbourg, Mainz and Cologne, and much could be written about this, for there are more than 100 cities in the German lands subject to one Emperor, from which you realise that it would take an age to survey them all. The travellers headed for the most famous ones, the diocesal centres, and viewed all the sights, Fortunatus taking down exact notes all the while. The shortest road from Nuremburg to Cologne is no more than 270 miles, or eight days on horseback; but it took our travellers a season, what with the time they spent riding from one city to another; and they travelled in this fashion through other Kingdoms, spending more time here, and less there, according to the greatness of the city.

From Cologne, they rode the 225 miles to Bruges in Flanders, then embarked on a four-day journey by land and sea to London, the capital of the English King. Nine days later they were in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, from which it was six days’ travelling to Lupoldus’s hometown in Hibernia. He requested that Fortunatus ride there with him, and his wish was granted. Arriving in his hometown of Waldrick, Lupoldus found his wife and children as he had left them, but a son had taken a wife, and a daughter a husband; all were delighted at his return. Ah God, but they were not rich; and Fortunatus marking this, he gave Lupoldus 100 nobles to make sumptuous preparations, stating that he would come along and share their merriment. Lupoldus then arranged a splendid feast and invited his children, in-laws and good friends; and Fortunatus held lavish court, extending his generosity to all the townsfolk. He made merry with them and, when he had done eating, he called Lupoldus over and informed him: “It is time to be taking leave of your wife and children. Take these three bags, each of which contains 500 nobles [one noble is worth more than two-and-a-half Rhenish guilders], and give one to your wife, to your son, and to your daughter, as a parting-gift, so that they do not lack provision.” Lupoldus was glad at heart and praised his generosity; and you may rest assured that his wife and children were highly delighted, and that their farewells to Fortunatus and Lupoldus, as they rode away, were all the fonder.

Now Fortunatus had heard that the town with St Patrick’s Purgatory1 was two days’ ride away, so he said: “If it be no further than that, we shall go there.” And he began to place real faith in the powers of his purse, which showed no lack, no matter how lavishly he disbursed. So it was that they rode with light hearts to the town of Pettigo, which has a large abbey; and inside this building, behind the main altar, is the door admitting entrance to the dark cave known as St Patrick’s Purgatory. As no one is allowed inside without the Abbot’s leave, Lupoldus visited him to request permission, and it was granted. The Abbot asked where the master was from. “Cyprus,” came the reply, and the Abbot understanding that Fortunatus came from a distant land, he invited him and his men to table. Fortunatus accepted this invitation as a mark of great honour, and he arrived with a barrel of the best wine he could find, which he presented to the Abbot; it was received with heartfelt gratitude, for wine is extremely expensive in those parts, and little of it found its way to the Abbey, except what was used in the divine service. When they had finished eating, Fortunatus began: “My dear sir, if it does not run counter to your dignity, I would wish to know the reason why people say that St Patrick’s Purgatory is to be found here.”

“The story is this,” said the Abbot. “Many hundreds of years ago, this area, now home to a town and a House of God, was a wild and desert land. Not far from here there lived a monk called Patrick, a truly holy man, who would walk into that wilderness to practise penance. One day, he discovered this cave, which is especially long and deep; and he wandered so far inside that he lost the way back out. So he fell down on his knees and besought God, if it did not go against His divine will, to help him out of the cave. And while he was imploring God with deep reverence, he heard a miserable yammering some distance behind him, as of a great company of people, which frightened the living daylights out of him; but with God’s direction, he found the way out. So he gave heartfelt thanks to Heaven, and made his way back to his monastery; and his piety was more fervent than before. And whenever he wished to do penance, he would go to this cave. He then built a chapel beside the cave face, providing the holy with a place of refuge; and with time the Abbey, and then the town, followed.”

“The pilgrims who come here, whom you allow to enter the cave, what do they say when they come out?” asked Fortunatus.

“I do not ask anything, of any of them,” said the Abbot. “But some say they have heard cries of misery, while others heard and saw nothing but felt themselves shaking all over.”

“I have come a long way,” said Fortunatus, “and if I do not visit this cave, I shall lay myself open to reproach: so I will not hence without having entered Purgatory.”

“As you wish to enter, do not go too far in; there are many side-passages, making it all too easy to lose your way. I can remember this happening to some people, whom we did not find until the fourth day.”

Fortunatus asked Lupoldus if he wished to accompany him. “Yes, I shall go with you, and I shall stay by you for as long as the Lord lends me life,” was the reply; and Fortunatus was gratified.

So early the next morning, the two of them went to Confession and received the Holy Sacrament, necessary preliminaries to entering the cave; for it has been consecrated by St. Patrick, and whoever spends a night inside is granted remission for his sins. Then the monks opened the doors to the cave for them, and they entered, walking down as into a cellar; and the moment that anyone steps inside, the priests give him their blessing and close the door, which they do not open again until the same time on the following day.


After descending sharply for some time, Fortunatus and Lupoldus reached a point where the ground levelled off. Taking each other’s hand, so as not to be separated, they advanced through the darkness, thinking to reach the end of the cave and then return. After a while, they found a steep declivity before them; so they decided to retrace their steps and head for the cave-doors. But they could not find them, and they walked until they grew weary; then they sat down to rest, and waited for the monks to call from the doors, hoping to find their way out by following the sound. They felt distinctly uneasy; they could not tell whether they had been inside for an hour or a year. Now when the time came to open the doors, the monks called out – but the two adventurers were too deep inside the cave to hear, and the doors were closed. Fortunatus and Lupoldus wandered here and there, not knowing how to help themselves. They felt quite weak with hunger and, falling into utter despondency, began to compose themselves for the visit of death.

“Oh Almighty God,” said Fortunatus, “now come and grant us Thy aid, for gold and silver are worthless here.” And they sat down in desperation, hearing and seeing nothing. On the third morning, the priests opened the doors and called out; receiving no reply, they closed them, went to the Abbot, and told him the sorrowful news – sorrowful with especial regard to Fortunatus, who had gifted them such excellent wine. The strangers’ servants were running around in distraction, heavily agitated for their missing masters. Now the Abbot knew an old man who, many years before, had measured the caves with string; so he sent for him and asked him if he could bring the men out. Fortunatus’s servants promised him 100 nobles.

He said, “If they are still alive, I’ll bring them out.” And he gathered up his equipment and entered the cave.

Now you may be wondering, “Why didn’t anyone go in with a light or a lantern?” Well, you must know that the cave would admit no kind of light at all. So the old man fastened one end of his string to the wall, then searched one cave after another until he found them. They were delighted to see him, for by this time they were almost fainting with weakness. He instructed them to hold on to him, like the blind holding on to the seeing, and then he followed the string back. So with the help of God and the old man, they returned to the land of the living, to the Abbot’s great relief; he would have been most reluctant to lose these travellers, for fear that no more pilgrims would come, and he and his house-of-God would lose this revenue. Fortunatus’s servants informed him of their promise to the old man, whereupon he paid the 100 nobles – and more – and thanked him warmly. Then he had a sumptuous meal prepared at his inn and invited the Abbot and the entire Brethren; and praising God that he had escaped such dire peril, he gave the Abbot and the monastery 100 nobles to pray for the weal of his soul.

So they took their leave of the Abbot and embarked on the homeward leg of their journey. The lands beyond Hibernia being too wild to permit further travel in that direction, they rode back to Calais, then on to Saint-Josse-sur-Mer in Picardy. The next stop was Paris, and then it was on to Bayonne, Pamplona (the seat of the King of Navarre), Saragossa, the capital of the Kingdom of Aragon, Burgos and the Shrine of St. James at Compostella. After this they passed through Cape Finisterre, Lisbon, Seville, the heathen kingdom of Granada, Cordoba, and back through Burgos and Saragossa to Barcelona. Thirty miles from Barcelona there lies a nunnery on a high mountain, called Montserrat, where our dear Lady lies in grace2; and many scribes could be employed to write a full account of the miracles that have occurred there. From Barcelona their road led to Toulouse in Languedoc, where four of the Apostles lie at rest – a place of abounding grace – and then to Perpignan (the capital of Rousillon), Montpellier, and Avignon, a huge city that belongs to the Pope and houses the most beautiful palace and castle in the world. Nearby is the port of Marseille, with its King; and four miles from this town St. Mary Magdalene rests in peace. Aix-en-Provence was the next port of call, then the road led to Geneva, Genoa, Rome, the Kingdom and city of Naples, and over the sea to Palermo, the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily. Then the travellers tracked back to Rome and made for Venice, their sights set on Jerusalem. From Venice they took in Dubrovnik, Corfu, Methóni, Heraklion, and Rhodes, and so on to Nicosia. And then they entered the Holy Land, riding through Jaffa on their way to Jerusalem, before visiting the Convent of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai. A six-day journey through the desert led to Cairo, the seat of the Sultan; from here they journeyed up the Nile for four days to Alexandria, and so arrived in Venice.

CHAPTER 7, Death in Constantinople

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