Dr. Albrecht Classen

title.none: Die Sionspilger (Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.9911.006 99.11.06

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Dr. Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1999

identifier.citation: Fabri, Felix. Texte des spaäten Mittelalters und der fruühen Neuzeit, 39. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1999. Pp. xi, 596. DM 98. ISBN: 3-503-03799-3.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 99.11.06

Fabri, Felix. Texte des spaäten Mittelalters und der fruühen Neuzeit, 39. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1999. Pp. xi, 596. DM 98. ISBN: 3-503-03799-3.

Reviewed by:

Dr. Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

Felix Schmid, or Felix Fabri, as he also called himself, was born in Zurich sometime around 1437/38. His father died early in one of the battles of the Zurich War in 1443. In 1452 Felix entered the Basel convent of the Dominicans and rose to the rank of Prior in 1468. Both due to his high-ranking position and also out of personal interest, he traveled much throughout his life, for instance, to Rome (1476), Colmar (1482), Nuremberg (1485 or 86), and Venice (1486 and 1487). He also went on pilgrimages to Aachen in 1467, and to Palestine in 1480 and 1483/84. Felix died on March 14, 1502, in Ulm, Germany. He was a prolific religious writer and quite famous as the author of several important travelogues for pilgrims. He contributed to a number of books produced by the Ulm printer Johannes Zainer, wrote many sermons of which, however, only few have survived, several religious tracts, and especially his travelogues. In 1480 he composed his rhymed pilgrimage account, today known as Bruder Felix Fabers gereimtes Pilgerbuechlein, followed by a Latin travel report, Evagatorium in Terrae Sanctae, Arabiae et Egypti peregrinationem, completed in the years 1484 to 1488, then a Pilgerbuch, first copied in 1494, and first printed in 1556 and 1557, and finally his Sionpilger from 1492. The latter has come down to us only in copies made of the holograph, that is, from 1493, 1494, and 1495. Fabri also drafted a description of the geography and history of Swabia and especially the city of Ulm as the last part of his Evagatorium, but subsequently made it into a separate publication.

Die Sionpilger appears here for the first time in a modern, historical-critical edition, which indicates, once again, how much research in late-medieval literature, religion, and history still remains to be done. Wieland Carls needed ten years to complete his editorial work, but the result justifies the enormous effort with this spiritual travelogue. It is not simply a detailed description of the individual stations on this pilgrimage seen from Fabri's personal perspective to serve as a guide for other future travelers. Instead, the author specifically intended to reach out to the vast readership which was not able to go on such a travel and yet desired to see the holy places at least in spirit. Whereas Fabri's Evagatorium and his Pilgerbuch appealed to the clergy and laity who wanted to follow his footsteps in concreto, Die Sionpilger fulfilled a different function, that is, as a proxy with which the pious person could, either alone or in a group, go on a pilgrimage without ever leaving the hometown or the home monastery. Even though the editor assumes that such an arduous and dangerous travel to the holy sites in Palestine and Egypt was impossible for women, hence the Sionpilger would have appealed to them most (23), the examples of Margery Kempe and many other women pilgrims refute this opinion (see my study "Die Mystikerin als Peregrina: Margery Kempe," Studies in Spirituality 5 [1995]:127-45, with more references). It would be more appropriate to look for a mixed readership which was either not willing or financially and physically not able to go on such a long journey.

This spiritual pilgrimage account begins with detailed rules how to prepare for the intellectual and religious enterprise. The total time of such a pilgrimage which was to imitate the real travel as much as possible was, of course, much shorter and only required 208 days, and the reader was also able to visit, apart from Jerusalem, also Rome and Santiago de Compostella which are here credited with the same sanctity, and hence degree of indulgence which a pilgrim could earn, as the first location.

Felix Fabri was not the first and not the only author of such a spiritual pilgrimage account, as the editor points out. He discusses a number of parallel cases and convincingly establishes that here we are dealing with a literary and religious genre of great importance. Some of these texts were even written by women, which Carls only mentions in passing without realizing the significance of this observation. These include, for instance, the Geistliche Meerfahrt by the prioress Margareta Ursula von Masmuenster (early fifteenth century), and Eyn geistliche bilger fahrdt / zu dem heiligen Land by a member of the Dominican women's convent of Unterlinden near Colmar from ca. 1600. Fabri's text, however, was often copied and obviously proved to be a considerable success among the religious readership.

Carls introduces the Sionpilger with extensive historical, biographical, and manuscript investigations. The edition is based on the Ulm manuscript from 1493 as it was a direct copy of the author's original, as we can tell on the basis of a number of scribal errors and corrections. The apparatus contains the variants of the two other known manuscripts. The editor has left the text almost in its original form applying emendations or conjectures as little as possible. Even the somewhat erratic system of capitalization is preserved as it served the author to structure the text and to emphasize individual words. Red letters and initials are here reproduced through bold print, and all abbreviated words are written out, not to mention a number of other editorial decisions.

At the end we find an index with all names of saints, persons, and locations, an index for all Latin incipits, a listing of all headings in the text, an edition of the prologues to the manuscripts not used as a basis here, additional texts in the other manuscripts, and an edition of the Innsbruck short version of the Sionpilger. We also find illustrations of the various manuscripts providing us with an impression of their scripts.

With this excellent edition a curious desideratum has been filled, and it is to be expected that research on late-medieval travel literature, pilgrimage, and also on convent literature will be considerably stimulated. There is much information to be gleaned from Fabri's work in which we gain a picture of the late-medieval worldview.