2021 April A journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem

Henry Maundrell, A journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter, A.D. 1697 (London, 1714)


Fig. 1: Henry Maundrell, A journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter, A.D. 1697 (London, 1714), The Prospect of Aleppo


The Edward Worth Library holds a copy of the third edition of Henry Maundrell ‘s A journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter, A.D. 1697 that was published in London in 1714. Henry Maundrell (bap. 1665 – d.1701) was born in Compton Bassett near Calne in Wiltshire and commenced his studies at Exeter College, Oxford in 1682 aged sixteen, graduating BA in 1685 and MA 1688. He was elected Sarum fellow at Exeter College in 1685 and became a full fellow of the college in 1697 on the same day he graduated BD by decree.


Maundrell and the Levant Company


Maundrell served as Church of England curate of Brompton in Kent between 1689 and 1695. He preached a sermon to a congregation of merchants from the Levant Company of London on 15 December 1695 at the church of St Peter-le-Poer in London, which was subsequently published in 1696. He was elected on 20 December 1695 by the general court of the Levant Company as chaplain to one of it’s main trading centres, known as a ‘factory’, at Aleppo in present-day Syria, then part of the Ottoman Empire, which accommodated a community of forty merchants.


The Levant Company of London was chartered in 1581 during the reign of Elizabeth I as a joint-trading company to monopolize England’s trade with the Ottoman Empire.  Maundrell arrived in Aleppo in 1696 and died there of fever in early 1701 aged thirty-six. He is best remembered for his memoir of his journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem and back in 1697, which was published posthumously two years after his death in Oxford in 1703. His narrative is presented chronologically as a diary and includes geographical information about roads, rivers and bridges as well as the length of time travelled between settlements each day. He describes the landscape he encounters along with the agricultural practices, archaeological ruins, and historic sites. Maundrell refers to relevant passages in the Bible whenever the place or site he mentions has some Biblical significance and he gives detailed descriptions of the holy sites in Jerusalem.


Fig. 2: Henry Maundrell, A journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter, A.D. 1697 (London, 1714), Mount Carmel


Maundrell and fourteen other Englishmen departed from Aleppo on an Easter pilgrimage to Jerusalem on 26 February. They travelled to Jableh on the Mediterranean coast, proceeding south along the Syrian and Lebanese coasts as far as Acre, thence inland to Jerusalem arriving on 25 March. The Roman Catholics and the Anglicans celebrated Easter on different dates at this time because Catholic Europe had adopted the reformed Gregorian calendar, whereas the English were still using the Julian calendar. In 1697 the Catholic Easter Sunday fell on 28 March, while the Church of England observed Easter Sunday on 4 April on the same day as the Eastern Orthodox churches. Maundrell attended the Roman Catholic liturgy on Good Friday and mass on Easter Sunday at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He left Jerusalem briefly on 29 March and travelled inland to the shores of the Dead Sea and then to Bethlehem before returning to Jerusalem on 2 April. He witnessed the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic ceremony of the miracle of the Holy Fire at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 3 April and observed Easter on 4 April. During their time in Jerusalem the Franciscans acted as his group’s guides to the holy sites within and outside the walls of the city. Maundrell’s party left Jerusalem on 15 April and travelled via Nazareth to Acre and along the coast to Sidon on their return journey to Aleppo. They made a detour to Damascus where he saw the annual pilgrimage caravan setting out from Damascus to Mecca.


Pilgrimage caravan from Damascus to Mecca


Maundrell’s party hired a shop in one of the bazaars to witness the caravan as it passed through the city on 29 April. He writes the following description of a Mahmal, a ceremonial palanquin carried by camel that represented the authority of the Ottoman sultan over Islam’s sacred sites. The Mahmal seen by Maundrell sheltered a Quran and one of the textiles that formed part of the Kiswah, which are renewed annually and cover the cuboid-shaped structure known as the Kaaba in the centre of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

‘This is a large Pavilion of black Silk, pitch’d upon the back of a very great Camel, and spreading its Curtains all round about the Beast down to the ground. The Pavilion is adorn’d at top with a Gold Ball, and with Gold Fringes around about. The Camel that carries it wants also his Ornaments of large Ropes of Beads, Fish-shells, Fox-tails, and other such fantastical finery hang’d upon his Head, Neck and Legs. All this is design’d for the State of the Alcoran [Quran], which is placed with great reverence under the Pavilion, where it rides in State both to and from Mecca. The Alcoran [Quran] is accompanied with a rich new Carpet which the Grand Signieur [Seigneur] sends every year for the covering of Mahomet’s [Muhammad] Tomb, having the old one brought back in return for it, which is esteem’d of an inestimable value.’[1]


Fig. 3: Henry Maundrell, A journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter, A.D. 1697 (London, 1714), The Prospect of Balbeck.


The party then made a visit to the Roman ruins of the temple complex at Baalbek in Lebanon, known in ancient times as Heliopolis. Maundrell provides the following description of the interior of the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek:

‘The measure of the Temple within is forty yards in length, and twenty in breadth. In its Walls all round are two rows of Pilasters, one above the other; and between the Pilasters are Niches, which seem to have been design’d for the reception of Idols. Of these Pilasters, there are eight in a row, on each side; and of the Niches nine.

About eight yards distance from the upper end of the Temple stands part of two fine channel’d Pillars; which seem to have made a partition in that place, and to have supported a Canopy over the Throne of the chief Idol; whose Station appears to have been in a large Nich[e] at this end. On that part of the partition which remains, are to be seen Carvings in Relievo representing Neptune, Tritons, Fishes, Sea-Gods, Arion and his Dolphin, and other Marine Figures. The covering of the whole Fabric is totally broken down: But yet this I must say of the whole, as it now stands, that it strikes the Mind with an Air of Greatness beyond any thing that I ever saw before, and is an eminent proof of the Magnificence of the ancient Architecture’.[2]

The Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek is discussed briefly in the ‘Temples’ page of the Architecture at the Edward Worth Library exhibition. Upon leaving Baalbek, the group travelled back to the coast at Tripoli and thence to Aleppo by the same route that they had used on their outward journey arriving on 18 May 1697.


No less than seven editions of A Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem were published at the Oxford University Press by 1749 with further editions published in Dublin (1749), London (1810), and Edinburgh (1812). Later compendia of travel accounts on the Levant and the Holy Land contained it either in full or in condensed form. His account was translated into French and Dutch in 1705; and into German in 1706.[3] The third 1714 edition includes a short account of another voyage that Maundrell made in 1699 to north-eastern Syria and across the Euphrates to Mesopotamia.


Fig. 4: Henry Maundrell, A journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter, A.D. 1697 (London, 1714), Mount Tabor




Butlin, Robin A. (2004) ‘Maundrell, Henry (bap. 1665, d. 1701)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


Hamilton, Bernard (2016) ‘An Anglican account of the Holy Land in 1697 : Henry Maundrell’s journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem’, in: Micaela Sinibaldi et al., eds., Crusader Landscapes in the Medieval Levant : The archaeology and history of the Latin East, Cardiff : University of Wales Press, pp 415-426.


Mills, Simon (2019) ‘Reading Henry Maundrell’s Sacred Geography in Eighteenth-Century England and Germany’, in: Tessa Whitehouse and N. H. Keeble, eds., Textual Transformations : Purposing and Repurposing Books from Richard Baxter to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Oxford : Oxford University Press, pp 210-226.


Nassar, Issam (2000) ‘Maundrell in Jerusalem : Reflections on the Writing of an Early European Tourist’, Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 9, Summer 2000, 62-64.


Texts by Mr Antoine Mac Gaoithín (Library Assistant of the Edward Worth Library).


[1] Henry Maundrell, A journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter, A.D. 1697 (London, 1714), pp 127-8.

[2] Ibid., p. 137.

[3] Mills, Simon (2019) ‘Reading Henry Maundrell’s Sacred Geography in Eighteenth-Century England and Germany’, Footnote 4, p. 210 & Footnote 56, p. 221 lists the following French, Dutch and German language editions: Henri Maundrell, Voyage d’Alep à Jérusalem, à Pâques en l’année 1697 … (Utrecht, 1705; 2nd ed.: Orléans, 1706); Henry Maundrell, Reize van Aleppo naar Jeruzalem, op paasschen, in ‘t jaar 1698 … (Utrecht, 1705; 2nd ed.: Utrecht 1713); a third edition of the Dutch text was later reprinted as part of Kanaän en d’omleggende landen, vertoont in een Woordenboek … (Leeuwarden, 1717), 455-518; Henrich Maundrell, Gantz Neue Reise-Beschreibung nach dem Gelobten Lande (Hamburg, 1706; 2nd ed.: Hamburg, 1737).


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