Russian Pilgrims in Constantinople

Russian Pilgrims in Constantinople    

George Majeska

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C. (2003)


In anno domini 1200, Dobrinia Iadreikovich, scion of a wealthy Novgorod merchant family (and soon to be archbishop of Novgorod under his new monastic name, Anthony), visited Constantinople, as he puts it, “by the grace of God and with the aid of St. Sophia, that is to say, of Wisdom, the ever-existent Word” (so states his record of his visit to the city). His detailed record of his pilgrimage fills thirty-nine printed pages and records his visits to some seventy-six shrines in the “city guarded by God,” as well as another twenty-one in the city’s suburbs. His list of relics preserved in and around the city rivals in size the lists of sacred booty exported to the West in the wake of the Fourth Crusade, which saw the looting of the city just four years later. Although it is quite possible that Anthony’s trip to Constantinople was not purely for spiritual refreshment (his subsequent appointment as archbishop of Novgorod, the second see of the Church of Rus’, sug- gests that he was probably involved in some ecclesiastical politics at the Patriarchate), his notes de visite are clearly of a pilgrim nature, and, indeed, the work he authored has come down to us under the title Kniga Palomnik, “Pilgrim Book.”

In fact, Anthony’s description of the shrines of the Byzantine capital is the most complete such medieval work preserved. Unfortunately for those interested in the topography of Byzantine Constantinople, however, Anthony’s notes seem to be in no recognizable order, suggesting that the author made only brief on-site notes and wrote up his “Pilgrim Book” later, perhaps after re- turning to Russia (leading at least one scholar who has studied this text to suggest that the pages of the prototype manuscript must have somehow gotten out of order).

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