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Collapse (?) of the Tomb of the Patriarchs

1119/1120 CE

by Jefferson Williams

Introduction & Summary

Muslim authors provide several similar but apparently embellished stories about the discovery of the bodies of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Cave or Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in A.H. 513 (14 April 1119 CE - 1 April 1120 CE) while the city was under Crusader control. In some accounts, the corpses which, in A.H. 513, could have been deceased for up to ~3000 years, had not suffered bodily decay. Gold and Silver lamps were also found or placed next to the bodies in some accounts. One author (Ali of Herat as quoted by Yaqut) relates that the cave collapsed thus exposing the corpses. The cause of the collapse was not specified. Other authors did not specify how the corpses were discovered but perhaps the most likely scenario is that some probing of the area outside the caves led to the discovery of cavities with human remains which was then embellished into a story about the discovery of undecayed remains of the Biblical Patriarchs. All the accounts, with the possible exception of one, cite their sources as second hand information from Jerusalem and/or Hebron. An article by Kohler (1896) may provide account(s) from the Western or Crusader perspective(s) which appears to describe a deliberate excavation rather than a discovery stemming from a collapse.

Textual Evidence

Text (with hotlink) Original Language >Biographical Info Religion Date of Composition Location Composed Notes
Ibn al-Qalanisi Arabic

Muslim 12th century CE Damascus In Ibn al-Qalanisi's account, second hand information from someone from Jerusalem relates that the tombs of the patriarchs were "discovered" in A.H. 513 (14 April 1119 CE - 1 April 1120 CE). There is no mention of cave or tomb collapse. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though long dead (perhaps up to 3000 years dead), "miraculously" appear as if they were living with no bodily decay. Lamps of gold and silver were reported to have been found suspended over them. The graves were then reported to have been restored to their former condition.
Ibn al-Athir Arabic

Sunni Muslim ~ 1200 - 1231 CE Mosul Ibn al-Athir relates that in A.H. 513 (14 April 1119 CE - 1 April 1120 CE), the tomb of Abraham was opened and his corpse was found along with that of Isaac and Jacob. How the tomb/cave was opened was not specified. Body parts of the corpses were described as undisturbed and lamps of gold and silver were placed next to the bodies.
Ali of Herat quoted by Yaqut Arabic
Ali of Herat


Muslim Ali of Herat - before 1215 CE - possibly in 1173 CE (according to wikipedia)
Yaqut - between 1224 and 1228 CE
Mosul, Alexandria, and Aleppo Ali of Herat as quoted by Yaqut states that in A.H. 513 (14 April 1119 CE - 1 April 1120 CE), a certain part over the Cave of Abraham had given way or collapsed after which several Crusaders entered and discovered the bodies of the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As the story goes, King Baldwin II supplied new shrouds to the corpses of the patriarchs and closed up the cave. The cause of the cave "giving way" or collapsing was not specified. The story was relayed to Ali by some Sheikhs he met in Jerusalem and Hebron.
Article by Kohler (1896) French n/a n/a 1896 CE
  • not the best translation but included here in case there is a desire to investigate these accounts further
  • Kohler's (1896) article does not mention any collapse or seismically induced damage. Hence it adds no new information for our purposes.
  • Kohler's (1896) article does examine additional materials which enables an exploration of the "discovery" in 1119/1120 CE of the remains and/or relics of the biblical patriarchs in Hebron
Text (with hotlink) Original Language Biographical Info Religion Date of Composition Location Composed Notes
Continuation of the Chronicle of Damascus (the Dhail or Mudhayyal Ta'rikh Dimash) by Ibn al-Qalanisi

the Dhail or Mudhayyal Ta'rikh Dimash by ابو يعلى حمزة ابن الاسد ابن القلانسي


Aliases Arabic
Ibn al-Qalanisi
Abū Yaʿlā Ḥamzah ibn al-Asad ibn al-Qalānisī ابو يعلى حمزة ابن الاسد ابن القلانسي
Background and Biography
Background and Biography

English from Gibb (1932, 2002)

A.H. 513

... In this year also some who came from Jerusalem told of the discovery of the tombs of the prophets al-Khalil (Abraham) and his two sons Isaac and Jacob, may blessing from God be upon them and peace. They related that they were all together in a cave in the land of Jerusalem, and that they were as if alive, no part of their bodies having decayed, and no bones rotted, and that suspended over them in the cave were lamps of gold and silver. The graves were then restored to their former condition. This is the story precisely as it was told, but God is more knowing of the truth than any other.

English from Gibb (1932) - embedded

  • see bottom paragraph of page 161 starting with In this year also some who came from Jerusalem
  • A.H. 513
  • from Gibb (1932:161)
  • from archive.org
  • This 1932 edition does not need to be borrowed from archive.org

English from Gibb (1932, 2002) - embedded

  • see bottom paragraph of page 161 starting with In this year also some who came from Jerusalem
  • A.H. 513
  • from Gibb (1932, 2002:161)
  • from archive.org
  • This 2002 edition needs to be borrowed from archive.org

Year Reference Corrections Notes
14 April 1119 CE - 1 April 1120 CE A.H. 513 none Calculated using CHRONOS.
Effects Locations Online Versions and Further Reading

The Complete History by Ibn al-Athir

الكامل في التاريخ by علي عز الدین بن الاثیر الجزري


Aliases Arabic
Ibn al-Athir
Ali 'Izz al-Din Ibn al-Athir al-Jazari علي عز الدین بن الاثیر الجزري
Abu al-Hassan Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ash-Shaybani
Background and Biography
Background and Biography

English from Le Strange (1890)

In confirmation of 'Ali's account of the opening of the Cave of Machpelah, the following note is to be found in Ibn al Athir's Chronicle under the year 513 (1119), that is, in the very year mentioned by 'Ali :

In this year was opened the tomb of Abraham, and those of his two sons Isaac and Jacob, at a place near the Holy City. Many people saw the Patriarchs. Their limbs had nowise been disturbed, and beside them were placed lamps of gold and of silver.*

* All the extant notices of visits to the sepulchres of the Patriarchs of Hebron are brought together and discussed by Comte Riant, in a paper in vol. ii., p. 411, of the Archives de l'Orient Latin, 1884. On Hebron in general, the note given by M. Quatremere in the Appendix (p. 239) in vol. i., part 2, of his Histoire des Sultans Mamlouks (one of the most useful of the Oriental Translation Fund publications), may with advantage be consulted.

English from Le Strange (1890) - embedded

  • see 3rd paragraph of page 318 starting with "In this year was opened the tomb of Abraham
  • from Le Strange (1890:318)
  • from archive.org

Original Document

  • not bookmarked

Year Reference Corrections Notes
14 April 1119 CE - 1 April 1120 CE A.H. 513 none Calculated using CHRONOS.
Effects Locations Sources

Online Versions and Further Reading

Ali of Herat quoted in Dictionary of Countries (Mu‘jam al-buldan) by Yaqut

معجم البلدان by ياقوت الحموي الرومي


Aliases Arabic
Yaqut al-Hamawi
Yāqūt Shihāb al-Dīn[1] ibn-ʿAbdullāh al-Rūmī al-Ḥamawī ياقوت الحموي الرومي
Ali of Herat
Aliases Arabic
Ali of Herat
Ali ibn Abi Bakr al-Harawi
Abu al-Hasan
Background and Biography
Background and Biography - Ali of Herat

Background and Biography - Yaqut al-Hamawi

English from Le Strange (1890)

Ali of Herat, writing in 1173, fifteen years before Hebron was retaken by Saladin, gives the following account of what he himself saw at Hebron some years before, while the town was still in the hands of the Crusaders. 'Ali's account has been copied by Yakut (Yak., ii. 468) ; the present translation is made from the text of the Oxford Manuscript of 'Ali's work (folios 43-45).
... And I, 'Ali of Herat — may Allah pardon me my sins ! — do relate the following of my own experience :

I went to Jerusalem in the year 567 (1172), and both there and at Hebron I made the acquaintance of certain Shaikhs, who informed me that [in the year 513 (1119)]* during the reign of King Bardawil (Baldwin II.) a certain part over the Cave of Abraham had given way, and that a number of the Franks had, by the King's permission, made their entrance therein. And they discovered (the bodies of) Abraham and Isaac and Jacob— peace be upon them ! — their shrouds having fallen to pieces, lying propped up against a wall. Over each of their heads were napkins [or lamps], and their heads were uncovered. Then the King, after providing new shrouds, caused the place to be closed once more. And this was in the year 513 (1119).

* The words in square brackets [ ] are inserted from Yakut's text, and are not found in the Oxford MS.

English from Ambraseys (2009)

Al-Hrawi says,
“I went to Jerusalem in the year 567 and I met some Mashaykh of the city of Khalil who told me that in 513, the day of King Baldwin, there was a collapse in the caves of Khalil. A group of Franks had gone in there and they had found inside Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, peace be on them, clad in used shrouds; they were leaning against the wall and above them there were lamps; they were bare-headed. The king replaced their shrouds and left the cave. ‘Abu Ya’ila al-Qalanisi gives the same report (Dhayl 202).”.’ (Yaqut, Mu’jam 2/468)

English from Le Strange (1890) - embedded

  • see 3rd paragraph of page 317 starting with "And I, 'Ali of Herat —
  • from Le Strange (1890:317)
  • from archive.org

Dictionary of Countries (Mu‘jam al-buldan) in Arabic - embedded

  • not bookmarked

German and Arabic of Dictionary of Countries from Wustenfeld (1866-1873) - 6 volumes embedded

Geographisches Worterbuch Vol.1

  • not bookmarked

Geographisches Worterbuch Vol.2

  • not bookmarked

Geographisches Worterbuch Vol.3

  • not bookmarked

Geographisches Worterbuch Vol.4

  • not bookmarked

Geographisches Worterbuch Vol.5

  • not bookmarked

Geographisches Worterbuch Vol.6

  • not bookmarked

Year Reference Corrections Notes
14 April 1119 CE - 1 April 1120 CE A.H. 513 none Calculated using CHRONOS.
Effects Locations Online Versions and Further Reading

Article by Kohler (1896)

Background and Biography

Background and Biography - Ali of Herat

Background and Biography - Hamza ben Assad el-Tamini

English from Kohler (1896)

  • from Kohler (1896:477-496)
  • not the best translation but included here in case there is a desire to investigate these accounts further
  • Kohler's (1896) article does not mention any collapse or seismically induced damage. Hence it adds no new information for our purposes.
  • Kohler's (1896) article does examine additional materials which enables an exploration of the "discovery" in 1119/1120 CE of the remains and/or relics of the biblical patriarchs in Hebron
  • footnotes are not properly placed in English translation - see original French for their proper placement.
In the year 1119 or 1120, at Hebron or Cariath-Arbea, in Palestine, the monks of a Latin priory of a regular canons, established on the very spot where tradition placed the burial of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, searched the ground of their church. There they found many bones and three bodies which they did not hesitate to recognize as being those of the three patriarchs.

This fact, reported in the year 513 of the Hegira (April 14 , 1119 - April 2, 1120 AD) by two Arab writers2 of which one, Hamza bin Assad al- Tamini, is contemporaneous, and the other, Aly-el- Herewy [aka Ali of Herat], whose account is based on eyewitness reports. This has been completely overlooked by the western historians of the Crusades. But we have a very circumstantial Latin relationship, forming a document apart from the manuscripts which it served. Fragments were published in 1780 by PP. Bollandists from a manuscript of Saint-Martin de Tournai, who did not find himself1t. In 1882, Count Riant discovered a second copy in a manuscript in the Library of Leiden, from the fifteenth century. It contained (?) two notices2t. It was published in-extenso, in volume V of the Western Historians of the Crusades3t, from (?) the Leyden manuscript, collated with the copy of the manuscript of Tburnai what had used Bollandistes for their partial edition.

The appearance full of this text excited a certain curiosity. If follow the learned editor in the somewhat risky opinion that the skeletons discovered in Hebron were indeed those of the venerable, but hypothetical, patriarchs, it is impossible not to recognize the very great historical and archaeological interest in this piece. We found ourselves in the presence of a writing written certainly in Palestine, possibly even in the priory of Hebron, according to the accounts of the two characters who participated in the discovery, stringing together all points with what we knew of the state of the Holy Land at that time, bearing definitely the brands of a very large candor on the part of the narrator, but providing none index of nature to make suspect its good faith, and reproducing, it seemed, all the information that he could bring together on the various incidents of the invent. Thought to have been written at least seventeen years after the event, he created the impression and we could assign it all the value of a report.

Considering the quasi-official character of this document, one would not have hardly expected to encounter in the western literature another telling of the same event, offering little assumptions, close equals, of truth, while straying so much notably from the first by the data of the narrative. Such East however the case: To second relationship, latin also, only one brief catalog mention had only reported up to that here we are provided by manuscript no. 130 of the Library of d'Avranches, which seems to date from the first half of the thirteenth century. She deserves to hold our attention, not, as we shall see, for its value as document shut p , goal because what about elucidating the questions she raises, we will bring an element to the study others problems of a more general interest and whose solution would be in vain dear cherished by others lanes.

The origin and nature of this new, narrative that cannot be determined only by a comparison of the text with the relation contained in the Leiden and Tournai manuscripts, it should be remembered that what is this relationship already known.

The author is not named; he was probably a monk of Palestine, doing probably go of one congregation of cannons normal other than that of Hebron2u. He writes at community request of Hebron, desirous of perpetuating the relic (?). But he was not an eyewitness. What he wrote, he heard from the mouths of two religious people (?) of Hebron, Eudes and Arnoul, witnesses of the discovery and having even took a significant part. These two characters have told him the following:

One day, in the month of June of the 21st year of the reign of the Franks in Palestine, a monk, fleeing the heat, entered the prior church to take a nap. Lying at the foot of the column said of Isaac, he noticed a stream of fresh air was coming out of the gap of two neighboring slabs. He probed this interstice and noticed that a deep cavity of 15 cubits existed below. His colleagues, to whom he shared his discovery, were greatly impressed. They had long been looking for the entrance to the graves. They thought that this newly discovered cavity would lead there. With the authorization of Baudouin [de Saint- Abraham], who was then lord of the place, of excavations commenced (?). The raised slabs enabled access to a spacious cave, where the eldest of the monks, the one named Eudes, came down with help of a rope. This one not having Nothing seen, otherwise the room was hermetically sealed off from all sides. Another monk, Arnoul, was lowered the next day. He peered with a hammer at the walls of this room underground and found on the western side a place rings key. Workers were introduced, and, at the end of four days cleared away an entrance to a wide corridor of one cubit, eleven high and seventeen long, having the appearance of an aqueduct, but appearing former cul-de-sac. This, during Arnoul, in swinging his hammer again on the walls of this construction, ended up discovering To opening thoroughly walled up. The works were immediately resumed, and, after four new days, weekends has a second room, round, in form of a basilica, of an appasee remarkable and can hold about thirty people sound. A third vault, of which the entrance was near the door of this aedicule, was further explored by the religious Arnold. He dug the earth with his stick and discovered the first skeleton, which we thought be that of Jacob, Then, continuing his investigations, he found at the (?) bottom of this vault, the existence of one fourth excavation closed by a slab where he found two other bodies, those of Abraham and Isaac. This was on June 2G. Some weeks later, on July 27 , religious descended in the crypt to pray there, saw, to the right of the entrance, an entry* including they were born decipher the characters, then , left, right in front of this inscription and dissimulated behind the wall, a cavity little considerable containing fifteen full vases of bones, which were also respected as being those of the first her of Israel. Meanwhile, the prior of the place had traveled to Jerusalem to deask the patriarch Guermond to come proceed to the elevation of bodies; aim this one, although having promised promised several times to comply with this invitation, was so long in fulfilling her promise that the community decided to do without his competition. On October 6, in the middle of a great crowd hastened from Jerusalem and the regions neighbours, the relics were extracted from the crypt and Pronrienées in big pump in the cloister, all the clerics singing the Te, Deum, laudamus.

This account of the excavations and the invention of the relics East pre-yielded from a prologue where the author describes the circumstances which took him to the pen, then of a long introduction in which, after having described the sanctuary of Hebron, such as existed at the time, and summarized the history of this city, going back to the time of Abraham, he recounts with great detail a failed attempt made by envoys of the emperor Theodosius II (?) to enter the grave of the patriarchs and bring back relics; then he mentions the invasion Arab of the century, the efforts of the Infidels to discover the entrance to the crypts, which the Christian population had caused to be walled up before fleeing and that the local Jews end up their reveal subject to the grant of a synagogue; finally reverence of which newcomers surrounded the sanctuary, although not having been able make sure that the remains of the patriarchs were still buried there.

He is - none of the parts of the story where the personality of the author takes shape, that he it is for him to report This that he saw or to hide behind the authorities which he quotes. The second relation, on the contrary, that of Avranches, is quite impersonal; we realize immediately it depends on an older narration; aim nothing allows to decide immediately on the value of the information it contains.

If we examine it only from the point of view of the form, we have some hard to define the character. by some sides, She takes from these homilies composed on occasion birthday - wages clerics. The emphasis of the style seems well dece first a work of oratory, and the last sentence is to formula almost constant in this class of documents’. Aim it is clearly distinguished from the homiletical genre by the abundance and the precision of the details in the narratives, by the care which brings the author in the indication of the dates, by the almost total absence of moral thoughts. Under the aspect that he give thesis latest particularities, it would approach instead of one lesson liturgical commemorative, and we would be tempted to believe that the author simply amplified a text of this nature, when seen put his story under the cover of the church of Hebron : "... ut Ebronica will ecclesia ”. As, in his narration, appears here and there To sort of rhythm with assonances, one might surmise again that he followed no dot simple prose, aim a complete pantry with parts notated for singing.

If we experience a certain difficulty in classifying the work perspective literary, embarrassment is no less great, when he it is a question of concluding from the confrontation of the two stories to the degree of credit that he is possible to grant to whoever occupy us. Between the two relations, we will undoubtedly find many points of contact; but the contradictions formelles are equally frequent and data even differs; because, while the Leiden-Tournai relationship, very explicit as for the description of the excavations, hardly knows close nothing of religious to which To circumstance fortuitous Revealed access for vaults, in the. relation of Avranches, all the interest is concentrated on this character and on the various incidents that led to the discovery of the burials.

It was, we are told in this second relationship, a cleric of the region of Tours, which, moved by devotion and hope of redeeming his faults, undertook, towards the year 1118, a pilgrimage to Holy Land. He first went to Jerusalem in order to go to the sepulcher of Jesus Christ, then to Hebron, to implore the intercession of the patriarchs, that their faith and their merits returned strong with God. After a stay of 7 (?) years in Palestine, the thought of having accomplished his vow of pilgrimage and the desire to see one's family committed him to return to his country; he returned so to bear. Hey was there arrived Since little, when an event ,that it considers like a prodigy, came to disturb his tranquility. One night, in the Saint-Martin church where he had fallen asleep while praying, he saw appearing, in the midst of a multitude of saints, a old man imposing who him grabs his hand and he said, "I am Abraham, the father of many nations, the one you went to seek in Hebron and whom you have honored with your orations and praise. Raise --t6i and return in this place, where I am buried. My protection there will follow and I will converse with you. Impressed by this vision, our clerk summarized of the the next day the pilgrim 's staff; he won Jerusalem, then Hebron, and was received there member of the community. AT Sunday, after mornings, it was stay alone in the church and is silent drowsy in chanting, when Abraham presented himself again in front him and the apostropha in these words : "Leve you, brother; go find King Baudouin and the Patriarch Guer - world ; invite them to come here and discover the paving of the church . Below, we will see the tombs of the patriarchs and their wives, concealed by an ingenious apparatus of stones. The time is came Gold their bodies must be dreamed- _ strips, so that the Christian people find in them a support wecalf against the Infidels. Since the day when our bodies have summer deposited in this place, many men of various nations, Greeks, Turks, Syrians, and Saracens, have tempted to parlike up to us. We never have agreed that they us screw.»

The clerk , as one can believe , was extremely troubled by this second appearance. However , he feared to be the plaything of his own imagination, and, instead of obeying . the order received, he was satisfied of in refer to the boss of the place, the Lord Baudouin. The case in stayed there. But, at the time of Easter, a third apparition of the patriarch came to the same religious asleep again in the church. Abraham, this times, is more pressing; he berates the incredulous and threatens him with his anger, if he continue to remain silent. The poor man, more and more moved, decides then to put some of his colleagues in confidence; but, as he cannot provide no precise indication on the entrance to the graves, we disdain his words, and himself don’t dare Nothing undertake. Some weeks flow, during which it doubles fervor in worship which he returns to the patriarchs: he passes his time in fasts, in orations, in psalmodies. arrive there Ember Day in the week of Pentecost, in the army 1120. Our clerk, an incorrigible sleeper, decided lie, left himself again invade by sleep in praying in the church. Abraham shows himself to him for the fourth time, accompanied by other patriarchs and a procession of saints. He calls out to her severely, he reproaches his inaction and is surprised to see him bear witness whether little zeal in the service of those that he invoke constantly in his prayers. The link gious apologize; he says that he did not dare to take steps with the heads of the kingdom, for a matter of so big consequence, without their provide proof of his veracity, and this for fear of the punishments that await him if the search for relics might be fruitless for them ace She there summer for their predecessors. So Abraham takes him to the eastern corner of the church; he raises The slab and, followed by his procession, descends into the basement. After having crossed seven gates of marble, it reaches a kind of basilica. There, near the entrance to the aedicula, an opening hidden by a block of stone given access in a second room, where find finally the bodies of the patriarchs and a multitude of saints. Abraham disappears at this time, and the religious wake up. Her first treatment East to go check on the spot the accuracy of his new vision. With an iron bar, he easily lifts the slab that the patriarch wanted him gene; he explores using of a light the vault that he sees coitus below and find it in all points similar to that that he saw in his sleep. So his doubts disappear; he goes look for the other religious, who come running immediately .

Some of between they lower themselves into the vault, which is five cubits deep. Overlooking this vault, they discover a corridor masked by a marble slab including seals, barely noticeable, are still filled with mortar. The corridor itself, over all its surface is lined with mortar; it is so small that explorers can only walk on it by bowing his head. From there, after having unsealed successively five other blocks of marble, also intact and closing the openings as much neck - dormice, they reach the basilica; they note what East built with twenty-nine stones, with a single block as a ceiling, and that it can hold a hundred people. Towards the entrance, on the floor, we lift To slab some little prominent and two tombs appear, that an inscription -- Hebrew means ace being those of Isaac and Jacob. A last room, of which access was also obstructed by a block of marble, contained the tomb of Abraham. The invention took place on August 14, eve of the Assumption. We decided to transfer the relics out of the crypt. The King and the Patriarch of Jerusalem were invited to the ceremony. Of all sides, regions distant even, the people, warned by fame, came to Hebron. Christians and Gentiles showed To equal curiosity. When all arrangements were taken on October 6, the three bodies were taken out of their tombs and they were put in shrines who were go up to the upper church, to be there exposed henceforth to the veneration of the faithful. While we proceeded to this translation, three prelates intoned the Te, Deum, laudamus, which the assistants took up in choir with them.

Although the reader have could already go account, by the double analysis put under its eyes, that both relations, while based on a common tradition, diverging on a number of points, it is appropriate denote here these differences, on which I will have coming back soon.

Avranches relationship, minus detailed, less precise, contains on the other hand some information that provides Leiden-Tournai relationship. While this latest, ignoring the dated exact discovery, by the monk of Hebron, from the entrance to the tombs, indicates approximately the beginning of June, the relation of Avranches places without hesitation the event on Ember Day, in the week of Pentecost, which, for the year 1120, what given ace being that of the invention, corresponds to June 9. The Leiden-Tournai relationship does not say expressly what became of bodies after the invention and walk that we made them do it in the cloister; that d'Avranches teaches us that they were placed definitely in the building outside, and his attestation on this point is found at least confirmed in part, by testimony of which we cannot think about contesting the value. I pass quickly we have few peculiarities of the Avranches relationship, including we wouldn't dare really state to tie this relationship has a separate document from the Leiden-Tournai text; such as are for example the indication of the number of stones forming the basilica interior, the mention of King Baudouin II among the characters invited to the translation ceremony, the note that the inscription placed on the tombs was in letters Hebrews. But two should be noted - others who, putting in formal contradiction the heavens stories about capital points, will appear infinitely more significant this look. The Avranches report places August 14 as the date of the invention, set for June 26 by the relation of Leiden-Tower-born. According to this even relationship, the bodies of Isaac and Jacob would have summer found the first in the same vault, while the one of Abraham was alone in another; the relationship of Leiden-Tournai, on the contrary, wants us to has found first of all a single body , that of Jacob, then , in a last- nth hall, Abraham with Isaac.

we are in presence of a set of facts from which we would be attempted to conclude that the two relationships did not no direct report; that they do not drift not even from one common source, which moreover excludes what we know of the composition of the Leiden-Tournai text. But you have to take a closer look, and we will discover certain clues putting to affirm, on the contrary, that the two narratives are not absolutely independent each other . We will notice for example that the two narrators emit about some facts of observations. almost identical and whose coincidence cannot hardly pass for fortuitous; we will see that if they are in disagreement on circumstances importance, they agree on the other hand on tiny details. All heavens indicate in cubits the measure of the first vault and measure the extent of the second by the number of men that he can contain. They meet also to apply to this last aedicule, which was not in sum than a round room, the quite special denomination of basilica; they in only form the ceiling of said Basilica was formed of a single block of stone; they note with a equal insistence the state perfect assembly of materials in construction underground and designer the hour of none like being that where the community from Hebron learned the discovery of the entrance burials by the cleric author of this discovery. The re Leiden-Tournai region contains a description of the excavations executed in Hebron prior to the establishment of Franks in Palestine, very detailed description, but which is not there than an appetizer; the Avranches relationship remind them same facts in a few words, and, in both texts, the even purpose manifests itself whore highlights the failure of research tempted Before the era of Latin domination.

These connections, tenuous as they are, are enough to make obvious the dependence of one story on the other. Like the Avranches relationship, unlike that of Leiden-Tournai, presents itself to us with the very precis and elsewhere confessed to a second testimony hand; as, in same time, she contains various information that we would seek in vain in the other tell and repeat more Gold less explicitly all those who are in that here, the natural conclusion would be to assume that the author, while following generally a separate document Leiden-Tournai relationship, had nevertheless this last-deny under the eyes and that it don’t care East inspired by places.

Goal, barely did we come to this conclusion, that serious objections arise. Indeed, if we don’t care is due to text of the Leyden-Tournai relationship and to that nothing he would not have existed, when She was written, none testimony writing of the invention and the translation of patriarchs. We should admitted while the source princapital of the Avranches relationship East appeared on a date less old; because, the author of this relation, by referring to a testimony emanated from the church of Hebron, forbids us to assume that he have could follow a story compound outside of this community, a story due for example to some connect gious returned from Palestine to Europe shortly thereafter the invention. Aim so how to explain that he have been over completely informed to some respect that the editor Leiden-Tournai relationship, and this on facts of which this one would not have failed to mention if he had them known ? Above all, how can we explain the significant contradictions ? listed above between two stories restful each other on the tradition of the church of Hebron, on a tradition which had no little time to pervert, since, from 1187, the community nautical disappeared following the conquest of the city by Saladin ?

Is it permissible for the church from Hebron would have accredited two systems as to the attribution of relics. each of the three patriarchs; than at may cast doubt on the authenticity of the bones gathered, she have confessed could not do the distinction between the three bodies ? A similar hypothesis that we would hardly dare formulate When none testimony not there would contradict, would otherwise reversed in the case present by later descriptions of burials, descriptions made on the spot themselves and which show us the bodies not reunited pell-mell in the same tomb, goal clearly distinguished, and by oral tradition and by inscriptions Votives 1.

A second objection, more serious if possible, comes from the difference between the two stories in regarding today's date of the invention. Discoveries of relics were in general the object of one commemoration annual, at least in the church that they most directly interested, and this commemoration was fixed by a rule strictly on the anniversary of the event. The diary date in was always noted with care, When She was known, and, if not, determine - undermined by whatever reasons, on which was based then an immutable tradition x. the church of Hebron, in do health write either a new narrative or a commemorative office of the invention and the translation of the relics, could well not have scruples about modifying something little the physiognomy of these events, give it a little more room for the element miraculous, add from here to there any details more or less whimsical, light even of all pieces the story of the clerk who made the discovery. But , as for the date of the day of the invention, except for special reasons which do not appear here, it would have preserved like him had transmitted the testimony of contemporaries. Assume what have derogation on this point from the rules canonical and lean on nothing this supposition would be to pass from the realm of criticism into that of pure fantasy.

In the presence of this double difficulty, serious enough to prevent us from solution that seemed to offer oneself to us with a sufficient set of probabilities, should we give up solving the various problems raised by the coexistence of the two stories ? I don't believe it, and it's here what happens To last conjecture, able this one of resisting all objections, but of which he does we weren't allowed to use without having tried beforehand to arrive by means more rational. It consists in not seeing in the Avranches relation just a single stylistic exercise, sort of development of rhetoric, made on the theme of relationship of Leiden-Tournai, and on this theme alone, by a schoolboy — probably a student of some seminar ecclesiastical — whose least concern was to preserve to his work a character historical and which had no else stain Gold else pretension than to demonstrate virtuosity literary. His model, very detailed on the various incidents of the invention, left almost completely overshadowed the personality of the cleric, first author of the discovery. He got seized of this circumstance, and, by a story of pure imagination, he filled the gap.

For convenient as she or, a similar hypothesis would be certainly without scope, it would amount on the part of the critic to an admission helplessness, and at most she had deserved that we indicate it by the way, if, to justify it, one could not whore in line no positive arguments. Aim such is not the case here, as I will try to show.

That the reader please refer first to what we have said above of the form even storytelling. The default of a character sliced (pie we have there noticed, and who made us hesitate to determined the object, is self-explanatory, as long as he is of a work such as we conceive it - let's now. He adapted even so well at work present, that, without great effort, the rapprochement takes place, the relationship cause and effect establishes itself.

Our presumed novice receives or propose itself as duty a narrative whose plot him East provided by the text of Leiden-Tournai. Gold will he look for his inspirations, otherwise in these homilies commemorative that he often heard, in those liturgical offices which are the daily bread of his mind? From the former, he borrows, besides To formula characteristic, their phraseology oratory; to the seconds, this rhythmic cadence, of which it seems to know enough imperfectment the mechanism, but whose monotony has more than one time perhaps, rocked his drowsiness. By means of these literary reminiscences, it dresses the style of historical narration that he has before his eyes; but his inexperience does not succeed what to produce a hybrid work, of which, at first sight, the improvisation prayer disconcerts.

So here it is a first reason which is not without contributing a foundation seriously to our guess. Maybe in find are we laughing second in certain incorrectness of the relation d'Avranches, on which we have not yet drawn reader's attention and that he worth pointing out now. We have says the author stared at the discovery of the entrance burials on Ember Day in the week of Pentecost, that is to say, for the year 1120, in June 9. As soon as the discovery known, the monks come running in the church; some of between they descend clans the vaults, that they explore. The excavations, guided by the revelations of the patriarch, are made without trial and error, without stop, and, the same day, if we don’t care is holding strictly to the text of the relationship, they are going arrive at the place Gold lie the three body. The narrator follows this part of his story of one second date indication which contradicts formally the premiere: “Revelatio vero aunt exultationis contiguity in " Vigilia beatissime virginis Mary assumptionis».

what to think of one such a chronological discrepancy ? Certainly we could explain it by this fact that the author would have abbreviated too summarily a story in which the various incidents of the excavations were spread over a period time of about two months. Aim isn't it a lot more natural to attribute it to the inadvertence of a writer writing without any guide other than his fancy ? Our author drawing inspiration from the Leiden-Tournai relationship, which makes last the excavations from the beginning of June to the 26th of the same months, our author, I say, had the idea to enclose between two dates the consecutive incidents of exploration of the vaults; but ,first of all, with a thoughtlessness that smells terribly his schoolboy, he did not think of ordering his narrative in consequences; then, it replaced the date of June 26 by that of August 14 because this last him provided the material of a beautiful period. He adds, in effect : “In qua [ vigilia Assumptionis ], adveniens de celo Jerosolimis rutilans ignis effulsit in Templo ac super sanctissimum redemptionis bear sepulchrum. 0 admiranda Dei dispensatio ! inenarranda Dei exultatio, in qua in celum bear Hello to watch assumitur, gloriosus in terris patriarcharum thesau rush aperitur, in qua celitus adveniens ruffians ignis decla crossed out.” And, if we are still asked to prove only one concerned of order literary alone presided over the choice of this date, we will refer the reader to another passage which applies to a analogous circumstance and in which the even concern is shown in all his naivety the author, after having indicated on October 6 as the date of translation of the bodies into the upper church, forwards This information of reflection following : “Ut qui luctuosus [dies] exitate exequiis fathers Abraham depositionis gloriosus appearance compendio ejusdem translationis.» However, the date that the Church assigned to the commemoration of the death of Abraham was not the 6th, but the 9th of October. The narrator, anxious above all to place his figure of speech, there is did not look so pres.

I don't want 'to finish without going to the front of the few objections that can raise My hypothesis. They drifting all of this because the author of the Avranches report seems possess information on certain points . unknown to its predecessor. In fact, most of these objections are of very little gravity. We will admit without trouble, for example, that our schoolboy have summer enough educated to know that the 21st year of the Frankish reign in Palestine corresponded to the year 1120 and that that time the jerusalem throne was occupied by a Baudouin. We don't no more refuses to believe than his imagination alone have. could him provide the indication of the number of stones forming the small basilica interior, nor that he have drawn from the same source this that he add about registration characters appearing on the tombs, nor even what about bringing, on the translation of the bodies in the building superior, an inform is lying confirmed by others texts, he has merely interpret happy the data enough relationship waves Leiden-Tournai. The only more serious difficulty like of the mention, by the relation of Avranches, of the date of day ( June 9 ) when was unveiled the entrance to the graves. This mention agrees by completing it with the data less detail of the Leiden-Tournai relationship, which assign to beginning of June the date of the event, and it would seem GOOD a priori that she was based on testimony independent. We will be able however, not without apparent reason, he assign To other origin. It is impossible, in effect, not to to notice in our author the concern to make coin identify the main incidents of the invention with the times major religious festivals. One of Abraham's appearances takes place around Easter; the invention even of the relics East placed on the eve of the Assumption. To fix the date of the discovery of the entrance to the vaults, it probably ably obey this even fantasy, all the more natural in this box that he was not without knowing that the first days of june are included in the period Gold can drop the party of Pentecost.

In summary then , I believe that, of all the solutions to which it is allowed to think when looking for the origin and value history of the Avranches relationship, that which consists in seeing in this document a simple amplification of rhetoric, not only is the least attackable, goal present to us with securities enough big so that he not there have really not reckless to accommodate. We will find maybe this little question of history literary, because of its very restricted interest, did not deserve to be treated with such development. I would subscribe willingly to this feeling, if the result, considered ace acquired, should not be considered what about himself. But we can, it seems to me, put it in value, attaching it to a set of similar facts, suspected rather than known of which the study will reveal to us maybe some day a branch important in literature medieval.

Without going too far, we can admitted that the exercise of rhetoric, stylistics, held a notable place in the pro middle school grams age. Are we to believe that the countless rantings from institutes lay people and seminars clerics have disappeared without almost let tracks ? Is it not lawful to suppose that many of between they have summer preserved by authors, who, proud of their work, have them copied for example on the whites of their study books; that these copies have could be transcribed to their turn in other volumes or even used like authentic documents by compilers ignorant of their origin ?

Hagiography properly so-called and lipsanography, offering well-defined subjects, lent themselves admirably to this kind of compositions. I can cite in the literature lipsanographic two more texts which most likely in are, they also, specimens; because, it does not seem that we must assimilate them to these kinds of narratives, fictional equals bind , goal intended to authenticate relics existing. Both recount the translations of relics to Cluny, in 1112 and in 1119, and we have summer preserved by manuscripts Latins 12603 and 17716 from the Library National, in Paris. In the oldest of these manuscripts, both texts form a separate piece copied at the end of the volume. In the more recent , they are part from a historical compilation relative at Cluny Abbey. They have always summer considered as referring to an event real, and that 's what title that they have summer published in the first place by Dom Marier and André Duchesne in the Bibliotheca Cluniacensis 1, then Dar M. Riant in volume y des Historiens of the Crusades Yet there are good reasons to believe that they rest on nothing 3.

The Avranches relation, like the two Cluny texts, seems to have been put to profit in the sequel by an anonymous for the development of a more general work. From this relationship, in effect, not story genuine Leyden and Tournai manuscripts derive, I believe, the only western mention of the invention of the patriarchs existing to my knowledge apart from these two stories. It figures among interpolations made to the Martyrology. d'Usuard, in a manuscript Florentine of the fifteenth century, which P. Du Solfier used for his edition of this Martyrology4. The hint which it contains to lb. divine revelation of relics applies better at text of Avranches, Gold intervention celestial plays the main role, which has that of Leiden-Tournai, in which the discovery of the relics East assigned to a circumstance all fortuitous.

The meeting, in a domain very special literary, of these some samples of fictional narratives, probably school, allow to believe that there would be there a mine rich enough to merit being scientifically explored, and nothing nevertheless to admit that he in would be the same in the domains surrounding areas.

As for determined with a satisfactory approximation the time Gold was composed the Avranches relation, I must give up my opinion. If one takes for granted the hypothesis issued above on the origin of this relationship, writing would be later than the year 1136, before which the account of the Leyden and Tournai manuscripts did not exist. It would be prior to mye century and probably even at the second half of the xme whether we don’t care related to characters palaeographic manuscript that gave it to us preserved. This manuscript, moreover, it doesn't be considered ace year original. The faults of grammar and writing of which it is full denote the work of a scribe working with a distressing neglect Gold perfect unable to understand the meaning of the text that he was copying.


2s. For the accounts of these two authors, see. Arch. gold. latin, t. I, p. 606; t. 1I, i, pp. 412-414.

1t. Acta Sanctorum, Oct. 117, pp. 688-691.

2t. Acad. of Reg. and B.-L., Proceedings, 1883 (26 Jan.), pp. 2G-35. — Arch. gold. latin, t. II, 1, pp. 411-421; 11, II, pp. 512-513.

3t. Pp. 302-314.

4t. M. H. Guthe (Die Untersuchung des Patriarchengrabes in Hebron, im Jahre 1119 [Zeitschr. d. deutschen Paliestina Vereins, 1894, t. XVII, pp. 238-250]) has shown that the substructures of the sanctuary of Hebron date back at most to the Byzantine period and that the indications furnished by the relation mss. of Leiden and Tournai, on the tombs and their contents, could hardly be applied except to Christian burials.

1u. The author of the catalog in-4a of this library, M. I'aranne, neglected to indicate this piece (Catal. général des mss. des biblioth. des departments, t. IV, published in 1872, p. 491). It was reported for the first time by M. H. °mont, in the catalog in-80, t. X, p. 59 (Paris, Pawn, 1889), with the following mention: “it is an older and more complete text than that which Count P. Riant has analysed, according to the ms. Voss. lat. 40, No. 125, of Leiden, in the Archives of the Latin East, t. He, t, p. 411." The piece appears, in the manuscript, between a collection of homilies and a copy of the Annales de Flodoard, and it is separated from one and the other of these texts only by simple rubrics (title of the Invention and title of the Annales), attached without paragraph or blank to the pieces that precede them.

2u. M. Riant took him for a canon of Hebron, but without saying on what he founded this opinion. Ours is based on the following two arguments: 1° the narrator, speaking of the priory of Hebron, always expresses himself in an impersonal and detached way which does not allow us to suppose that there is clemeuràt and considered him his own; 20 Addressing the Hebron community, he says Fratres karissimi qui Cariat-Arbe estis. »

1v. “Quorum [patriarcharutn] nos translacionis sacra celebrantes sollempnia, aci ea quo precessere gaudia corum nos perdcant suffragia, performing domino Jliesu Christo cui honor and gloria in eternum and ultra. Amen. »

1w. 11 is a note on the pilgrimage of Count Rodolphe de Pfilllendorf, attorney of the Abbey of Saint-Gall, who, in 1180, went to Hebron and obtained relics of the three patriarchs. The notice was written in the margin of a manuscript of the Casus S. Galli, in the year 1180 (Mon. Gernz. Script., t. He, p. 71). It says: “Ille auteur [horns]...ad quoddam cenobium perrexit, quod Acl S. Abbra-“ham nominatur, illicque decein marcas auri obtulit, deine pro cantata reli-“quias petit. Illi, honorifice eum tractare volentes, duxerunt eum ad allure. pubticum quod in honore patriarcharum erat consecratum, et, altare aperientes, dovote sihi reliquias Abralie, et Ysaac, et Jacot) ostendernnt, et, quia 'liourn reliquias supra modum petit, licet renitendo, tamen ei particulas ex 'ipsis dederunt. — By this allure publicum, it is necessary without doubt to hear an altar built in the outer church and not in the crypt. It is probable however that one had placed in this furnace bridge only fragments of the three bodies, the greater part having been reintegrated into the crypt. Cf. the reports of the visits made to Hebron, by Benjamin of Tudela (between 1160 and 11'73) and Rabbi Petachja (between 1175 and 1180), who both attest to the existence of burials in the part underground of the building (H. Guthe, art. quoted, pp. 216-217, where there is a German version of the accounts of these two travelers on their visit to Hebron).

1x. In the same order of arguments, it would perhaps be appropriate to invoke a discrepancy - hypothetical moreover - between the two accounts as to on the year date of the invention. The report of Avranches indicates the year 1120. That of Leyde-Tournai says that the thing took place the 21st year of the reign of the Franks in Palestine, which would correspond to the year 1119, if the author took his period of 21 years from the beginning (January 1 or Easter) of the year 1099 and not of the very date of the election of Godfrey of Bouillon (July 23, 1099). She would find herself in agreement in this case with the Arab historians fixing the discovery in the year 513 of the Hegira. However, as the discrepancy in question may come, if need be, from a faulty interpretation, by one of the relations, of the chronological data provided by the other, I refrain from taking it into account.

1y. Benjamin of Tudela, /oc. cit.; — Rabbi Petachja, loc. cit.; - A1y el Herewy, Indications having for object the knowledge of the leagues of pilgrimage (excerpts translated by M. Ch. Schefer, in the Arch. de l'Or. lat., t. I, p. 606). 'en-dorf in Hebron, can also be invoked in this regard. — It has been assumed that the canons of Hebron must not have been certain of the respective identity of the three body, because in the donations, made later, of fragments of these relics, the three patriarchs always appear together (Arch. de l'Or. lat., t. II, ii, p. 512). But this deduction is by no means rigorous; because, first of all, it may well be that we used to designate together the relics as forming a block, of which a single fragment represented the whole; then, even supposing that we have always given a parcel of the three body, it would come rather, in my opinion, from some theological or religious conception. preventing them from being separated. Be that as it may, the rest, de this question, the divergence of the two accounts with regard to the burial of the bodies loses none of its significance for the special point which concerns us.

2y. It is easy, by reading some accounts of inventions and translations, to notice the care with which the diaries are marked there. An example of arbitrary fixing, the real date being unknown, is furnished to us by the account of the translation to Genoa of the relics of S. John the Baptist (May 6, 1098). see Hist. occl. of the crus., t. V, p. 229.

1z. Pp. 561 to 564 and 565 to 568.

2z. Pp. 295 to 298 and 317 to 320.

3z. See. what is said in the preface to vol. V of Hist. west. believers sades, pp. LIV-LIx.

4z. Here is the text of this addition: “VI oct., in Juda3a, civitate Ebron metropoli, depositio SS. pgriarcharum, Abrahœ, Isaac and Jacob; quorum cor 'pora, in eadem ecclesia, in spelunca duplici, divines revelatione inventa sunt xi a latinis canonicis ejusdem ecclesiae, anno Domini MCXX” (Martyrologium Usuardi monachi..., opera et studio J. B. Sollerii; Antverpiœ 1714, in-fol., p. 582; cf. AA. SS. Boit., June, t. VI, 2nd ed., p. 526; Oct. 4. IV, 1st ed:, p. 691).

French from Kohler (1896)

  • from Kohler (1896:477-496)
  • included here in case there is a desire to investigate these accounts further
En l'année 1119 ou 1120, à. Hébron ou Cariath-Arbea, en Palestine, les religieux d'un prieuré latin de chanoines réguliers, établi sur le lieu même où la tradition plaçait la sépulture d'Abraharn, d'Isaac et de Jacob, fouillèrent le sol de leur église; ils y trouvèrent beaucoup d'ossements et trois corps qu'ils n'hésitèrent pas à reconnaître comme étant ceux des trois patriarches.

Ce fait, rapporté à l'année 513 de l'hégire (14 avril 1119 - 2 avril 1120 de J.-C.) par deux écrivains arabes2s dont l'un, Hamza ben Assad el-Tamini, put en être contemporain, et dont l'autre, Aly-el-Herewy, s'appuie sur les récits de' témoins oculaires, ce fait, dis-je, avait été complètement passé sous silence par les historiens occidentaux des croisades. Mais on en possédait une relation latine très circonstanciée, formant un document à part clans les manuscrits qui nous l'ont con- servée. Des fragments en avaient été publiés, en 1780, par les PP. Bollandistes d'après un manuscrit de Saint-Martin de Tournai, qui ne s'est pas retrouvé.1t En 1882, le comte Riant en découvrit un second exemplaire dans un manuscrit de la bibliothèque de Leyde, du xve siècle. Il lui consacra succes- sivement deux notices2t; puis il le publia in-extenso, clans le tome V des Historiens occidentaux des croisades3t, d'apOs- le manuscrit de Leyde, collationné avec la copie du manuscrit de Tburnai qu'avaient utilisée les Bollandistes pour lçur édition partielle.

L'apparition intégrale de ce texte ne fut pas sans exciter une certaine curiosité. Si l'on n'osait suivre le savant éditeur clans l'opinion un peu hasardée que les squelettes découverts a Hébron étaient bien ceux des vénérables, mais hypothétiques, patriarches4t,, il était impossible du moins de ne pas reconnaître, sous d'autres rapports, le très grand intérêt historique et archéologique de cette pièce. On se trouvait là en présence d'un écrit rédigé certainement en Palestine, peut- être dans le prieuré même d'Hébron, d'après les récits de deux personnages qui avaient participé à la découverte, s'ac- cordant en tous points avec ce que l'on savait de l'état de la Terre-Sainte à cette époque, portant assurément les marques d'une très grande candeur de la part du narrateur, mais ne fournissant aucun indice de nature a faire suspecter sa bonne foi, et reproduisant, semblait-il, tous les renseignements qu'il avait été possible de réunir sur les divers incidents de l'invention. Quoique rédigé dix-sept ans au moins après l'événement, il donnait l'impression et on pouvait lui attribuer toute la valeur d'un procès-verbal.

A considérer le caractère quasi-officiel de ce document, on ne se serait guère attendu à rencontrer dans la littérature occidentale une autre relation du même événement, offrant des présomptions à peu près égales.-de vérité, tout en s'écartant notablement de la première par les données du récit. Tel est pourtant le cas : une seconde relation, latine également, qu'une brève mention de catalogue avait seule signalée jus- qu'ici, nous est fournie par le manuscrit n° 130 de la bibliothèque d'Avranches, lequel parait dater de la première moitié du xIII0 siècle1u,. Elle mérite de retenir un instant notre attention, non point, comme on le verra, pour sa valeur documentaire, mais parce qu'en élucidant les questions qu'elle soulève, on apportera un élément à l'étude d'autres problèmes d'un intérêt plus général et dont la solution serait vainement cherchée par d'autres voies.

L'origine et la nature de ce nouveau, récit ne pouvant être déterminées que par une comparaison du texte avec la relation contenue dans les manuscrits de Leyde et de Tournai, il convient de rappeler ce qu'est cette relation déjà connue.

L'auteur ne se nomme pas; c'était sans doute un religieux de Palestine, faisant probablement partie d'une congrégation de chanoines réguliers autre que celle d'Hébron2u. Il écrit à la requête de la communauté d'Hébron, désireuse de perpé- tuer le souvenir de l'invention. Mais il n'y a pas assisté en personne. Ce qu'il en dit, il l'a entendu de la bouche de deux religieux d'Hébron, Eudes et Arnoul, témoins de la découverte et y ayant même pris une part importante. Ces deux personnages lui ont raconté la chose de la façon suivante :

Un jour, au mois de juin de la 21me année du règne des Fraacs en Palestine, un religieux, qui fuyait la chaleur estivale, était entré dans l'église du prieuré pour y faire sa sieste. S'étant couché au pied de la colonne dite d'Isaac, il remarqua qu'un courant d'air frais sortait de l'interstice de deux dalles voisines. Il sonda cet interstice et constata qu'une cavité profonde de 15 coudées existait au dessous. Ses confrères, auxquels il fit part de sa découverte en furent grandement impressionnés. Depuis longtemps, ils cherchaient l'entrée des sépultures; ils pensèrent que la cavité révélée y conduirait. Avec l'autorisation de Baudouin [de Saint Abraham], qui était alors seigneur du lieu, des fouilles furent entreprises. Les dalles soulevées donnèrent accès dans une spacieuse caverne, où le plus âgé des religieux, le nommé Eudes, fut descendu à l'aide d'une corde. Celui-ci n'ayant rien vu, sinon que la salle était hermétiquement close de tous côtés, un autre religieux, Arnoul, s'y fit descendre le lendemain. Il scruta avec un marteau les murs de cette chambre souterraine et trouva du côté de l'occident un endroit sonnant lé creux. Des ouvriers furent alors introduil.s, et, au bout de quatre jours de travail, on déblaya .I'entrée d'un couloir large d'une coudée, haut de onze et long de dix-sept, ayant l'apparence d'un aqueduc, mais paraissant for.mer cul-de-sac. Ce pendant Arnoul, en proinenant de nouveau son marteau sur les parois de cette construction, finit par y découvrir une ouverture soigneus'ement murée. Les travaux furent immédiatement repris, et, après quatre nouvelles journées, on aboutit a une seconde salle, ronde, en forme de basilique, d'un appa- reil remarquable et pouvant contenir environ trente per- sonnes. Un troisième caveau, dont l'entrée se trouvait tout près de la porte de cet édicule, fut encore exploré par le religieux Arnoul. Il creusa la terre avec son bâton et mit à découvert un premier squelette, que l'on pensa être celui de Jacob ; puis, ayant continué ses investigations, il constata, au fond de ce caveau, l'existence d'une quatrième excavation fermée par une dalle et où il trouva deux autres corps, ceux d'Abraham et d'Isaac. Cela se passait le 2G juin. Quelques semaines plus tard, le 27 juillet, des religieux, descendus dans la crypte pour y prier, aperçurent, à droite de l'entrée, une inscription *dont ils né purent déchiffer les caractères, puis, à gauche, juste en face de cette inscription et dissi- mulée derrière le mur, une cavité peu considérable contenant quinze vases pleins d'ossements, qui furent également res- pectés comme étant ceux des premiers fils d'Israël. Entre temps, le prieur du lieu s'était rendu à Jérusalem pour demander au patriarche Guermond de venir procéder à l'élévation des corps; mais celui-ci, quoiqu'ayant promis plusieurs fois de se rendre à cette invitation, différa tant de remplir sa promesse que la communauté décida de se passer de son concours. Le 6 octobre, au milieu d'une grande multitude accourue de Jérusalem et des régions voisines, les reliques furent extraites de la crypte et Pronrienées en grande pompe. dans le cloître, tous les clercs chantant le Te, Deum, laudamus.

Ce récit des fouilles et de l'invention des reliques est pré- cédé d'un prologue où l'auteur expose les circonstances qui lui ont fait prendre la plume, puis d'une longue intruduction dans laquelle, après avoir décrit le sanctuaire d' Hébron, tel qu'il existait de son temps, et résumé l'histoire de cette ville, en remontant à l'époque d'Abraham, il raconte avec grand détail une tentative infructueuse faite par des envoyés de l'empereur Théodose i I pour pénétrer dans la sépulture des patriarches et en rapporter des reliques; ensuite, il mentionne l'invasion arabe du vue siècle, les efforts des Infidèles pour découvrir l'entrée des cryptes, que la population chrétienne avait fait murer avant de fuir et que les Juifs de la localité finirent par leur révéler moyennant la concession d'une synagogue; enfin la vénération dont les nouveaux concnièrants entourèrent le sanctuaire, quoique n'ayant point pu s'assurer que les restes des patriarches y étaient encore enfouis.

Il n'est- aucune des parties du récit où la personnalité de l'auteur ne prenne corps, qu'il s'agisse pour lui de rapporter ce qu'il a vu ou de s'abriter derrière les autorités qu'il cite.

La seconde relation, au contraire, celle d'Avranches, est tout à fait impersonnelle ; on s'aperçoit immédiatement qu'elle dépend d'une narration plus ancienne; mais rien ne permet de se prononcer d'emblée sur la valeur des renseignements qu'elle contient.

Si on l'examine au seul point de vue de la forme, on aura quelque peine à en définir le caractère. Par certains côtés, elle tient de ces homélies composées a l'occasion d'anniversaires ecclésiastiques. L'emphase du style semble bien déce- ler une oeuvre oratoire, et la dernière phrase est une formule presque constante dans cette catégorie de documents1v,. Mais elle se distingue nettement du genre homilétique par l'abon- dance et la précision des détails narratifs, par le soin qu'apporte l'auteur dans l'indication des dates, par l'absence presque complète de réflexions morales. Sous l'aspect que lui donnent ces dernières particularités, elle se rapprocherait plutôt d'une leçon liturgique commémorative, et l'on serait tenté de croire que l'atiteur a simplement amplifié un texte de cette nature, quand on le voit mettre son récit sous le couvert de l'église d'Hébron : « ...ut Ebronica testatur ecclesia ». Comme, dans sa narration, apparaît de ci de là une sorte de rythme avec assonances, on pourrait conjecturer encore )qu'il a suivi non point une simple prose, mais un office complet avec parties notées pour le chant.

Si l'on éprouve une certaine difficulté â classer l'oeuvre au point de vue littéraire, l'embarras n'est pas moins grand, lorsqu'il s'agit de conclure de la confrontation des deux récits au degré de créance qu'il est possible d'accorder à celui qui nous occupe. Entre les deux relations, on trouvera sans doute de nombreux points de contact ; mais les contradictions formelles sont tout aussi fréquentes et la donnée même diffère ; car, tandis que la relation de Leyde-Tournai, très explicite quant à la description des fouilles, ne sait à peu près rien du religieux auquel une circonstance fortuite révéla l'acc€s des caveaux, dans la. relation d'Avranches, tout l'intérêt se concentre sur ce personnage et sur les divers incidents qui le conduisirent à la découverte des sépultures.

C'était, nous est-il dit dans cette seconde relation, un clerc de la région de Tours, qui, mû par la dévotion et l'espoir de racheter ses fautes, entreprit, vers l'an 1118, le pèlerinage de Terre-Sainte. Il se rendit tout d'abord à Jérusalem afin d'adorer le sépulcre de Jésus-Christ, puis â Hébron, pour implorer l'intercession des patriarches, que leur foi et leurs mérites rendaient puiss.ants auprès de Dieu. Après un séjour de cieux ans en Palestine, la pensée d'avoir accompli son voeu de pèlerinage et le désiF de revoir les siens l'engagèrent à reprendre le chemin de son pays ; il rentra donc à d'ours. Il y était arrivé depuis peu, quand un événement, qu'il considéra comme un prodige, vint troubler sa quiétude. Une nuit, dans l'église Saint-Martin où il s'était endormi en priant, il vit apparaître, au milieu d'une multitude de saints, un vieillard imposant qui lui saisit la main et lui dit : « Je suis Abraham, le père d'un grand nombre de nations, celui que tu es allé chercher à Hébron et que tu as honoré par tes orai- sons et tes louanges. Léve--t6i et retourne en ce lieu, où je suis enseveli. Ma protection t'y suivra et j'y converserai avec toi. » Impressionné par cette vision, notre clerc reprit dès le lendemain le• bâton du pèlerin ; il gagna Jérusalem, puis Hébron, et s'y fit recevoir membre de la communauté. Un dimanche, après matines, il était resté seul clans l'église et s'était assoupi en psalmodiant, quand Abraham se présenta de nouveau devant lui et l'apostropha en ces termes : « Lévetoi, frère ; va trouver le roi Baudouin et le patriarche Guermond; invite-les à venir ici et à faire découvriÉ le dallage de l'église. Au dessous, on vérra les tombeaux des patriarches et de leurs femmes, dissimulés par un ingénieux appareil de pierres. Le temps est venu où leurs corps doivent être révélés, pour que le peuple chrétien trouve en eux un appui nouveau contre les Infidèles. Depuis le jour où nos corps ont été déposés en cet endroit, bien des hommes de diverses nations, Grecs, Turcs, Syriens et Sarrasins, ont tenté de parvenir jusqu'à nous. Jamais nous n'avons consenti qu'ils nous vissent. »

Le clerc, comme on peut croire, fut extrêmement troublé par cette seconde apparition. Cependant, il craignit d'être le jouet de sa propre imagination, et, au lieu d'obtempérer à. l'ordre reçu, il se contenta d'en référer au patron du lieu, le seigneur Baudouin. L'affaire en resta là. Mais, à l'époque de Pâques, troisième apparition du patriarche au même religieux endormi de nouveau dans l'église. Abraham, cette fois, est plus pressant ; il morigène l'incrédule et le menace de sa colère, s'il persiste à garder le silence. Le pauvre homme, de plus en plus ému, se décide alors à mettre quelques-uns de ses confrères dans la confidence ; mais, comme il ne peut fournir aucune indication précise sur l'entrée des sépultures, on dédaigne ses paroles, et lui-même n'ose rien entreprendre. Quelques semaines s'écoulent, pendant lesquelles il redouble de ferveur dans le culte qu'il rend aux patriarches : il passe son temps en jeûnes, en oraisons, en psalmodies. Arrive la fête des Quatre-Temps dans la semaine de Pentecôte, en l'armée 1120. Notre clerc, un incorrigible dormeur, décidément, s'est encore laissé envahir par le sommeil en priant dans l'église. Abraham se montre à lui pour la quatrième fois, accompagné des autres patriarches et d'un cortège de saints. Il l'interpelle sévèrement, lui reproche son inaction et s'étonne de le voir témoigner si peu de zèle au service de ceux qu'il invoque constamment dans ses prières. Le religieux s'excuse; il dit qu'il n'a point osé faire de démarche auprès des chefs du royaume, pour une affaire de si grande conséquence, sans leur apporter la preuve de sa véracité, et cela par crainte des châtiments qui l'attendent si la recherche des reliques doit être infructueuse pour eux comme elle l'a été pour leurs devanciers. Alors, Abraham l'emmène dans l'angle oriental de l'église; il soulève une dalle et, suivi de son cortège, il descend dans le sous-sol. Après avoir franchi sept portes de' marbre, il atteint une sorte de basilique. Là, près de l'entrée de l'édicule, une ouverture masquée par un bloc de pierre donne accès dans une seconde salle, ou se trouvent enfin les corps des patriarches et d'une multitude de saints. Abraham disparaît à ce moment, et le religieux s'éveille. Son premier soin est d'aller vérifier sur place l'exactitude de sa nouvelle vision. Avec une barre de fer, il soulève, sans peine la dalle que le patriarche lui a désignée ; il explore à l'aide d'une lumière le caveau qu'il aperçoit en dessous et le trouve en tous points semblable à celui qu'il a vu dans son sommeil. Alors, ses doutes disparaissent; il va chercher les autres religieux, qui accourent aussitôt.

Quelques-uns d'entre eux se font descendre dans le caveau, profond de cinq coudées. Donnant sur ce caveau, ils décou¬vrent un corridor masqué par une dalle de marbre dont les joints, à peine perceptibles, sont encore remplis de mortier,. Le corridor, lui-même, sur toute sa surface, est garni de mortier ; il est de si petites dimensions que les explorateurs ne peuvent y marcher qu'en courbant la tête. De là, après avoir descellé successivement cinq autres blocs de marbre, également intacts et fermant les ouvertures d'autant de couloirs, ils parviennent dans la basilique; ils constatent qu'elle est bâtie au moyen de vingt-neuf pierres, avec un seul bloc comme plafond, et qu'elle peut contenir cent personnes. Vers l'entrée, sur le sol, on soulève une dalle quelque peu proé¬minente et deux tombeaux apparaissent, qu'une inscription -- l'hébraïque désigne comme étant ceux d' Isaac et de Jacob. Une dernière salle, dont l'accès était également obstrué par un bloc de marbre, contenait le tombeau d'Abraham. L'in¬vention eut lieu le 14 août, veille de l'Assomption. On décida de transférer les reliques hors de la crypte. Le roi et le patriarche de Jérusalem furent invités à la cérémonie. De tous côtés, de régions lointaines même, les peuples, avertis par la renommée, arrivèrent à Hébron. Chrétiens et gentils montraient une égale curiosité. Quand toutes les dispositions furent prises, le 6 octobre, on sortit les trois corps de leurs tombeaux et on les mit en des châsses qui furent remontées dans l'église supérieure, pour y être exposées dorénavant à la vénération des fidèles. Tandis que l'on procédait à cette translàtion, trois prélats entonnèrent le Te, Deum, laudamus, que les assistants reprirent en choeur avec eux.

Bien que le lecteur ait pu déjà se rendre compte, par la double analyse mise sous ses yeux, que les déux relatiohs, tout en reposant sur une tradition commune, divergent sur nombre de points, il convient dé noter ici ces divergences, sur lesquelles j'aurai bientôt à revenir.

La relation d'Avranches, moins détaillée, moins précise, contient en revanche certains renseignements que ne fournit pas la relation de Leyde-Tournai. Tandis que cette dernière, ignorant .la daté exacte de la découverte, par le religieux d'Hébron, de l'entrée des sépultures, indique approximativement le début de juin, la relation d'Avranches place sans hésitation l'événement au jour de la fête des Quatre-Temps, dans, la semaine de Pentecôte, ce qui, pour l'année 1120, qu'elle donne comme étant celle de l'invention, correspond au 9 juin. La relation de Leyde-Tournai ne dit .pas expressément ce que devinrent les corps après l'invention et la promenade qu'on leur fit faire dans le cloître ; celle d'Avranches nous apprend qu'ils furent placés définitivement dans l'édifice extérieur, et son attestation sur ce point se trouve confirmée, au moins en partie, par un témoignage dont on ne peut songer à contester la valeur1w,. Je passe rapidement sur quelques particularités de la relation d'Avranches, dont l'on n'oserait vraiment faire état pour rattacher cette relation a un document distinct du texte de Leyde-Tournai; telles sont par exemple l'indication du nombre de pierres formant la basiliqiie intérieure, la mention du roi Baudouin II parmiles personnages invités à la cérémbnie de la translation, la remarque que l'inscription placée sur' les tombeaux était en lettres hébraïques. Mais il en faut noter deux -autres qui, mettant en contradiction formelle les cieux récits sur des points capitaux, paraîtront infiniment plus significatives à cet égard. La relation d'Avranches place au 14 août la date de l'invention, fixée au 26 juin par la relation de Leyde-Tour-nai. D'après cette même relatiôn, les corps d'Isaac et de Jacob auraient été trouvés les premiers dans le même caveau, tandis que celui d'Abraham était seul dans un autre ; la relation de Leyde-Tournai, au contraire, veut que l'on ait trouvé tout d'abord un seul corps, celui de Jacob, puis, en une dernière salle, Abraham avec Isaac1x,

Nous voici donc en présence d'un ensemble de faits d'où l'on serait tenté de conclure que les deux relations n'ont aucun rapport direct; qu'elles ne dérivent même pas d'une source commune, qu'exclut au surplus ce que nous savons de la composition du texte de Leyde-Tournai. Mais il faut y regarder de plus prés, et l'on découvrira certains indices permettant d'affirmer .au contraire que les deux récits ne sont pas absolument indépendants l'un de l'autre. On remarquera par exemple que les deux narrateurs émettent à propos de certains faits des observations .presque identiques et dont la coïncidence ne peut guère passer pour fortuite ; on constatera que, s'ils sont en désaccord sur 'des circonstances importantes, ils s'accordent en revanche sur d'infimes détails. Tous cieux indiquent en coudées la mesure du premier caveau et mesurent l'étendue du second par le nombre d'hommes qu'il peut contenir. Ils se rencontrent également pour appliquer à ce dernier édicule, qui n'était en somme qu'une salle ronde, la dénomination tout a fait spéciale de basilique; ils nous informent que le plafond de ladite basilique était formé d'un seul bloc de pierre ; ils notent avec une égale insistance l'état parfait de l'assemblage des matériaux dans la construction souterraine et désignent l'heure de none comme étant celle où la communauté d'Hébron apprit la découverte de l'entrée des sépultures par le clerc auteur de celé découverte. La relation de Leyde-Tournai contient une description des fouilles exécutées à Hébron antérieurement à l'è.tablissement des Francs en Palestine, description très détaillée, mais qui n'est là qu'un hors-d'oeuvre; la relation d'Avranches rappelle les mêmes faits en quelques mots, et, dans les deux textes, le même dessein se manifeste mettre en relief l'insuccès des recherches tentées avant l'époque de la domination latine.

Ces rapprochements, si ténus soient-ils, suffisent a rendre évidente la dépendance de l'un des récits à l'égard de l'autre. Comme la relation d'Avranches, au contraire de celle de Leyde-Tournai, se présente à nous avec le caractère très précis et d'ailleurs avoué d'un témoignage de seconde main; comme, en même temps, elle contient divers renseignements que l'on chercherait en vain dans l'autre récit et répète plus ou moins explicitement tous çeux qui se trouvent dans celuici, la conclusion naturelle serait de supposer que l'auteur, tout en suivant d'une manière générale un document distinct de la relation de Leyde-Tournai, avait néanmoins cette dernière sous les yeux et qu'il s'en est inspiré par endroits.

Mais, à peine s'est-on arrêté à cette conclusion, que de graves objections surgissent. En effet, si l'on s'en tient au texte de la relation de Leyde-Tournai — et a cela rien ne s'oppose il n'aurait existé, au moment où elle fut rédigée, aucun témoignage écrit de l'invenbion et de la translation des patriarches. On devrait admettre alors que la source principale de la relation d'Avranches est apparue à une date moins ancienne ; car, l'auteur de cette relation, en se référant à un témoignage émané de l'église d'Hébron, nous interdit de supposer qu'il ait pu suivre un récit composé en dehors de cette communauté, un récit dû par exemple a quelque religieux revenu de Palestine en Europe peu de temps après l'invention. Mais alors comment expliquer qu'il ait été plus complètement renseigné à certains égards que le rédacteur de la relation de Leyde-Tournai, et cela sur des faits dont celui-ci n'eût pas manqué de faire mention s'il les avait connus? Comment expliquer surtout les contradictions signalées ci-dessuà entre deux récits reposant l'un et l'autre sur la tradition de l'église d'Hébron, sur une tradition qui n'eut guère le temps de se pervertir, puisque, dès 1187, la communauté disparut à la suite de la conquête de la ville par Saladin ?

Est-il admissible que l'église d'Hébron eût accrédité deux systèmes quant à l'attribution des reliques i. chacun des trois patriarches ; qu'au risque de jeter le doute sur l'authenticité des. ossements recueillis, elle ait avoué n'avoir pas pu faire la distinction entre les trois corps? Une semblable hypothèse qu'on oserait à peine formuler quand aucun témoignage n'y contredirait, serait au reste infirmée dans le cas présent par les descriptions ultérieures des sépultures, descriptions faites sur les lieux mêmes et qui nous montrent les corps non pas réunis pêle-mêle dans un même tômbeau, mais nettement distingués, et par 'la tradition orale et par des inscriptions votives1y.

Une seconde objection, plus grave si possible, vient de la divergence des deux récits en ce qui concerne la date de jour de l'invention. Les découvertes de reliques étaient en général l'objet d'une commémoration annuelle, au moins dans l'église qu'elles intéressaient le plus directement, et cette commémoration était fixée par une règle stricte au jour anniversaire de l'événement. La date diaire en était donc toujours notée avec soin quand elle était connue, et, dans le cas contraire, déterminée par des raisons quelconques, sur lesquelles se fondait ensuite une tradition immuable2y. L'église d'Hébron, en faisant rédiger soit un nouveau récit, soit un office commémonatif de l'invention et de la translation des reliques, pouvait bien ne point éprouver de scrupule à modifier quelque peu la physionomie de ces événements, y donner une place un peu plus grande à l'élément miraculeux, ajouter de ci de là quel-ques détails plus ou moins fantaisistes, lbrger même de toutes pièces l'histoire du clerc auteur de la découverte. Mais, quant à la date du jour de l'invention, à moins de raisons spéciales qui n'apparaissent point ici, elle l'eût conservée telle que la lui avait transmise l'attestation des contemporains. Supposer qu'elle ait dérogé sur ce point aux règles canoniques et n'ap¬puyer sur rien cette supposition serait passer du domaine de la critique dans celui de la pure fantaisie.

En présence de cette double difficulté, assez grave pour nous interdire la seule solution qui parût s'offrir à. nous avec un ensemble suffisant de probabilités, devons-nous renoncer à résoudre les problèmes divers suscités par la coexistence des deux récits? Je ne le crois pas, et c'est ici que se présente une dernière conjecture, capable celle-là de résister à toutes les objections, mais dont il ne nous était point permis d'user sans avoir tenté au préalable d'aboutir par des voies plus ration¬nelles. Elle consiste à ne voir dans la relation d'Avranches qu'un simple exercice de style, une sorte de développement de rhétorique, fait sur le thème de la relation de Leyde-Tournai, et sur ce thème seul, par un écolier — vraisemblablement un élève de quelque séminaire ecclésiastique —, dont le moindre souci était de conserver à son oeuvre un caractère historique et qui n'avait d'autre tâche ou d'autre prétention que de faire montre de virtuosité littéraire. Son modèle, très détaillé sur les divers incidents de l'invention, laissait presque complètement dans l'ombre la personnalité du clerc, premier auteur de la découverte. Il s'est emparé de cette circonstance, et, par un récit de pure imagination, il a comblé la lacune.

Pour commode qu'elle soit, une semblable hypothèse serait assurément sans portée, elle équivaudrait de la part du critique à un aveu d'impuissance, et tout au plus eût-elle mérité qu'on l'indiquât en passant, si, pour la justifier, on ne pouvait mettre en ligne aucun argument positif. Mais tel n'est point le cas ici, comme je vais essayer de le montrer.

Que le lecteur veuille bien se reporter tout d'abord à ce que nous avons dit ci-dessus de la forme même du récit. Le défaut d'un caractère tranché (pie nous y avons remarqué, et qui nous faisait hésiter à en déterminer l'objet, s'explique de soi, du moment qu'il s'agit d'une oeuvre telle que nous la concevons maintenant. Il s'adapte même si bien à l'oeuvre présente, que, sans grand effort, le rapprochement s'opère, la relation de cause à effet s'établit.

Notre novice présumé reçoit ou se propose comme devoir une narration dont la trame lui est fournie par le texte de Leyde-Tournai. Où va-t-il chercher ses inspirations, sinon dans ces homélies commémoratives qu'il a souvent entendues, dans ces offices liturgiques qui sont le pain quotidien de son esprit? Aux premières, il emprunte, outre une formule caractéristique, leur phraséologie oratoire; aux seconds, cette cadence rythmée, dont il semble connaître assez imparfaitement le mécanisme, mais dont la monotonie a, plus d'une fois peut-titre, bercé ses somnolences. Au moyen de ces réminis- cences littéraires, il habille le style de la narration historique qu'il a sous les yeux ; mais son inexpérience ne réussit qu'à produire une oeuvre hybride, dont, à première vue, l'impropriété déconcerte.

Voilà donc une première raison qui n'est pas sans apporter un fondement sérieux à notre conjecture. Peut-être en trouverions-nous une seconde dans certaine incorrection de la relation d'Avranches, sur laquelle nous n'avons point encore attiré l'attention du lecteur et qu'il convient de signaler maintenant. Nous avons dit que l'auteur fixait la découverte de l'entrée des sépultures au jour de la fête des Quatre-Temps dans la semaine de Pentecôte, c'est-à-dire, pour l'année 1120, au 9 juin. Sitôt la découverte connue, les religieux accourent dans l'église; quelques-uns d'entre eux descendent clans les caveaux, qu'ils explorent. Les fouilles, guidées par les révélations du patriarche, se font sans tâtonnement, sans arrêt, et, le jour même, si l'on s'en tient strictement au texte de la relation, elles vont aboutir à l'endroit où gisent les trois corps. Le narrateur fait suivre cette partie de son récit d'une seconde indication de date qui contredit formellement la première : « Revelatio vero tante exultationis contigit in « vigilia beatissime virginis Marie assumptionis. »

Que penser d'une pareille discordance chronologique? Assurément on pourrait l'expliquer par ce fait que l'auteur aurait abrégé d'une façon trop sommaire un récit dans lequel les divers incidents des fouilles se répartissaient sur un laps de temps d'environ deux mois. Mais n'est-il pas beaucoup .plus naturel de l'attribuer a l'inadvertance d'un écrivain rédigeant sans autre guide que sa fantaisie? Notre auteur s'inspirant de la relation de Leyde-Tournai, laquelle fait durer les fouilles du commencement de juin au 26 du même mois, notre auteur, dis-je, avait bien l'idée d'enclore entre deux dates les 'incidents consécutifs de l'exploration des caveaux; mais, tout d'abord, avec une étourderie qui sent terriblement son écolier, il n'a pas songé à ordonner son récit en conséquence; puis, il a remplacé la date du 26 juin par celle du 14 août parce que cette .dernière lui fournissait la matière d'une belle période. Il ajoute, en effet : « In qua « [vigilia Assumptionis], adveniens de celo Jerosolimis ruti- « lans ignis effulsit in Templo àc super sanctissimum redemp- « tionis nostre sepulcrum. 0 admiranda Dei dispensatio! « inenarranda Dei exultatio, in qua in celum nostre salutis « mater assumitur, gloriosus in terris patriarcharum thesau« rus aperitur, in qua celitus adveniens ruffians ignis declaratura » Et, si l'on nous demande encore de prouver qu'une préoccupation d'ordre littéraire a seule présidé au choix de cette date, nous renverrons le lecteur a un autre passage qui s'applique à une circonstance analogue et dans lequel la même préoccupation se montre dans toute sa naïveté l'auteur, après avoir indiqué le 6 octobre comme date de la translation des corps dans l'église supérieure, fait suivre ce renseignement de la réflexion suivante : « Ut qui luctuosus « [dies] extiterat exequiis patris Abrahe depositionis gloriosus « appareret compendio ejusdem translationis. » Or, la date que l'Église assignait à la commémoration de la mort d'Abraham était non le 6, mais le 9 octobre. Le narrateur, soucieux avant tout de placer sà figure de rhétorique, n'y a pas regardé de si prés.

Je ne veux pas' terminer sans aller au devant des quelques objections que peut soulever mon hypothèse. Elles dérivent toutes de ce fait que l'auteur de la relation d'Avranches semble posséder sur certains points des renseignements. inconnus à son devancier. A vrai dire, la plupart de ces objections sont de bien peu de gravité. On admettra sans peine, par exemple, que notre écolier ait été assez instruit pour savoir qUe la 21e année du règne des Francs en Palestine correspondait à l'année 1120 et qu'à cette époque le trône de Jérusalem était occupé par un Baudouin. On ne se refusera pas davantage à croire que son imagination seule ait .pu lui fournir l'indication du nombre de pierres formant la petite basilique intérieure, ni qu'il ait puisé à la même source ce qu'il ajoute au sujet des caractères de l'inscription figurant sur les tombeaux, ni même qu'en apportant, sur la translation des corps dans l'édifice supérieur, un renseignement confirmé par d'autres textes, il ait simplement interprété avec bonheur les données assez vagues de la relation de Leyde-Tournai. La seule difficulté un peu plus sérieuse vient de la mention, par la relation d'Avranches, de la date du jour (9 juin) où fut dévoilée l'entrée des sépultures. Cette mention s'accorde en la complétant avec la donnée moins précise de la relation de Leyde-Tournai, laquelle assigne au début de juin la date de l'événement, et il semblerait bien a priori qu'elle reposât sur un témoignage indépendant. On pourra toutefois, non sans apparence de raison, lui attribuer une autre origine. Il est impossible, en effet, de ne pas remarquer chez notre auteur la préoccupation de faire coïncider les incidents principaux de l'invention avec l'époque de grandes fêtes religieuses. L'une des apparitions d'Abraham a lieu aux environs de Pâques; l'invention même des reliques est placée à la veille de l'Assomption. Pour fixer la date de la découverte de l'entrée des caveaux, il a probablement obéi à cette même fantaisie, d'autant plus naturelle dans ce cas qu'il n'était pas sans savoir que les premiers jours de juin sont compris dans la période où peut tomber la fête de Pentecôte.

En résumé donc, j'estime que, de toutes les solutions auxquelles il est permis de songer quand on recherche l'origine et la valeur historique de la relation d'Avranches, celle qui consiste à voir dans ce document une simple amplification de rhétorique, non seulement est la moins attaquable, mais se présente à nous avec des sécurités assez grandes pour qu'il n'y ait .vraiment pas imprudence à s'en accommoder. On trouvera peut-être que cette -petite question d'histoire littéraire, en raison de son intérêt très restreint, ne méritait pas d'être traitée avec un pareil développement. Je souscrirais volontiers à ce sentiment, si le résultat,-considéré comme acquis, ne devait être envisagé qu'en lui-même. Mais on peut, ce me semble, le mettre en valeur, en le rattachant à un ensemble de faits analogues, soupçonnés plutôt que connus, dont l'étude nous révélera peut-être quelque jour une branche importante de la littérature médiévale.

Sans trop s'avancer, on peut admettre qué l'exercice de rhétorique, la stylistique, tint une place notable dans les programmes des écoles du moyen âge. Faut-il croire que les innombrables élucubrations sorties des instituts laïques et des séminaires ecclésiastiques aient disparu sans presque laisser de traces? N'est-il pas licite de supposer que bon nombre d'entres elles ont été conservées par des auteurs, qui, fiers de leur oeuvre, les ont copiées par exemple sur les blancs de leurs livres d'études ; que ces copies ont pu être transcrites à leur tour dans d'autres volumes ou, même utilisées comme des documents authentiques par des compilateurs ignorants de leur provenance ?

L'hagiographie proprement dite et la lipsanographie, offrant des sujets bien délimités, se prêtaient admirablement à ce genre dé compositions. Je puis citer dans la littérature lipsanographique deux autres textes qui très probablement en sont, eux aussi, des spécimens ; car, il ne semble pas qu'on doive les assimiler à ces sortes de narrations, fictives également, mais destinées à authentiquer des reliques existantes. Tous deux relatent des translations de reliques à Cluny, en 1112 et en 1119, et nous ont été conservés par les manuscrits latins 12603 et 17716 de la Bibliothèque nationale, à Paris. Dans le plus ancien de ces manuscrits, les deux textes forment un morceau à part copié à la, fin du volume. Dans le plus récent, ils font partie d'une compilation historique relative à l'abbaye de Cluny. Ils ont toujours été considérés comme se rapportant à un événement réel, et c'est à ce titre qu'ils ont été publiés en premier lieu par Dom Marier et André Duchesne dans la .Bibliotheca Cluniacensis1z, puis Dar M. Riant dans le tome y des Historiens occidentaux des croisades2z Pourtant il y a de bonnes raisons de croire qu'ils ne reposentsur rien3z.

La relation d'Avranches, comme les deux textes de Cluny, .semble avoir été mise à. profit dans la suite par un anonyme pour l'élaboration d'une oeuvre plus générale. De cette rela¬tion, en effet, et non point du récit authentique des manuscrits de Leyde et de Tournai dérive, je crois, la seule mention occidentale de l'invention des patriarches existant à ma connais¬sance en dehors de ces deux récits. Elle figure parmi des interpolations faites au martyrologe. d'Usuard, clans un manus¬crit florentin du xve siècle, que le P. Du Solfier a utilisé pour son édition de ce Martyrologe4z. L'allusion qu'elle, contient à lb. révélation divine des reliques s'applique mieux au texte d'Avranches, où l'intervention céleste joue le rôle principal, qu'a celui de Leyde-Tournai, dans lequel la découverte des reliques est attribuée à une circonstance toute fortuite.

La rencontre, clans un domaine littéraire très spécial, de ces quelques échantillons de narrations fictives, probablement scolaires, autorise à croire qu'il y aurait là une mine assez riche pour mériter d'être scientifiquement explorée, et rien n'empêche d'admettre qu'il en serait de même clans les domaines avoisinants.

Quant à. déterminer avec une approximation satisfaisante l'ép•oque où fut composée la relation d'Avranches, il y faut _renoncer à mon avis.. Si l'on tient pour fondée l'hypothèse émise ci-dessus. sur l'origine de cette relation, l'écrit serait pos-_térieur à l'année 1136, avant laquelle le récit des manuscrits de Leyde et de Tournai n'existait pas. Il serait antérieur au mye siècle et probablement même à la seconde moitié du xme si l'on s'en rapporte aux caractères paléographiques du manuscrit qui nous l'a conservé. Ce manuscrit, au surplus, ne saurait être considéré comme un original. Les fautes de grammaire et d'écriture dont il est plein dénotent l'oeuvre d'un scribe travaillant avec une affligeante négligence ou parfaitement incapable de comprendre le sens du texte qu'il copiait.

2s. Pour les récits de ces deux auteurs, voy. Arch. de l'Or. latin, t. I, p. 606 ; t. 1I, i, pp. 412-414.

1t. Acta Sanctorum, oct. 117, pp. 688-691.

2t. Acad. des Inscr. et B.-L., Comptes rendus, 1883 (26 janv.), pp. 2G-35. — Arch. de l'Or. latin, t. II, 1, pp. 411-421; 11, Ii, pp. 512-513.

3t. Pp. 302-314.

4t. M. H. Guthe (Die Untersuchung des Patriarchengrabes in Hebron, im Jahre 1119 [Zeitschr. d. deutschen Paliestina Vereins, 1894, t. XVII, pp. 238-250]) a montré que les substructions du sanctuaire d'Hébron remontaient tout au plus à l'époque byzantine et que .les indications fournies par la relation des mss. de Leyde et de Tournai, sur les tombeaux et leur contenu, ne pou¬vaient guère s'appliquer qu'à des sépultures chrétiennes.

1u. L'auteur du catalogue in-4a de cette bibliothèque, M. i'aranne, a négligé d'indiquer cette pièce (Catal. général des mss. des biblioth. des départements, t. IV, paru en 1872, p. 491). Elle a été signalée pour la première fois par M. H. °mont, dans le catalogue in-80, t. X, p. 59 (Paris, Pion, 1889), avec la mention suivante : « c'est un texte plus ancien et plus complet que celui que M. le comte P. Riant a analysé, d'après le ms. Voss. lat. 40, n° 125, de Leyde, dans les Archives de l'Orient latin, t. Il, t, p. 411. » La pièce figure, dans le ma¬nuscrit, entre un recueil d'homélies et une copie des Annales de Flodoard, et elle n'est séparée de l'un et de l'autre de ces textes que par de simples ru-briques (titre de l'Invention et titre des Annales), accolées sans alinéa ni blanc aux morceaux qui les précèdent.

2u. M. Riant le tenait pour un chanoine d'Hébron, mais sans dire sur quoi il fondait cette opinion. La nôtre s'appuie sur les deux arguments suivants : 1° le narrateur, en parlant du prieuré d'Hébron, s'exprime toujours d'une façon impersonnelle et détachée ne permettant pas de supposer qu'il y clemeuràt et le considéràt comme sien ; 20 en s'adressant à la communauté d'Hébron, il dit Fratres karissimi qui Cariat-Arbe estis. »

1v. « Quorum [patriarcharutn] nos translacionis sacra celebrantes sollempnia, aci ea quo precessere gaudia corum nos perducant suffragia, prestante domino Jliesu Christo cui honor et gloria in eternum et ultra. Amen. »

1w. 11 s'agit d'une notice sur le pèlerinage du comte Rodolphe de Pfilllendorf, avoué de l'abbaye de Saint-Gall, qui, en 1180, se rendit à Hébron et obtint des reliques des trois patriarches. La notice a été écrite en marge d'un manuscrit des Casus S. Galli, à l'année 1180 (Mon. Gernz. Script., t. Il, p. 71). 11 y est dit : « Ille auteur [cornes]... ad quoddam cenobium perrexit, quod Acl S. Abbra-« ham nominatur, illicque decein marcas auri obtulit, deine pro cantate reli-« quias petiit. Illi, honorifice eum tractare volentes, duxerunt eum ad allure. pubticum quod in honore patriarcharum erat consecratum, et, altare ape-« rientes, dovote sihi reliquias Abralie, et Ysaac, et Jacot) ostendernnt, et, quia « liorurn reliquias supra modum petiit, licet renitendo, tamen ei particulas ex « ipsis dederunt. » — Par cet allure publicum, il faut sans doute entendre un autel construit clans l'église extérieure et non dans la crypte. Il est probable toutefois qu'on n'avait placé dans cet autel que des fragments des trois corps, la plus grande partie ayant été réintégrée dans la crypte. Cf. les relations des visites faites à Hébron, par Benjamin de Tudèle (entre 1160 et 11'73) et rabbi Petachja (entre 1175 et 1180), qui l'un et l'autre attestent l'existence des sépul¬tures dans la partie souterraine de l'édifice (H. Guthe, art. cité, pp. 216-217, où se trouve une version allemande des récits de ces deux voyageurs sur leur visite à Hébron).

1x. Dans le .même ordre d'arguments, il ,y aurait lieu peut-être d'invoquer une discordance — hypothétique d'ailleurs — entre les deux récits quant à la date d'année de l'invention. La relation d'Avranches indique l'année 1120. Celle de Leyde-Tournai dit que la chose eut lieu la 21e année du règne des Francs en Palestine, ce qui correspondrait à l'année 1119, si l'auteur a fait par-tir sa période de 21 ans du commencement (ler janvier ou Pâques) de l'ann-;e 1099 et non de la date môme de l'élection de Godefroy de Bouillon (23 juillet 1099). Elle se trouverait d'accord dans ce cas avec les historiens arabes fixant la découverte à l'année 513 de l'hégire. Cependant, comme la discordance en question peut provenir à la rigueur d'une interprétation fautive, par l'une des relations, de la donnée chronologique fournie par l'autre, je m'abstiens de la faire entrer en ligne de compte.

1y. Benjamin de Tudèle, /oc. cit.; — Rabbi Petachja, loc. cit.; - A1y el Herewy, Indications ayant pour objet la connaissance des lieue de pèlerinage (extraits traduits par M. Ch. Schefer, dans les Arch. de l'Or. lat., t. I, p. 606}. — Le passage, cité ci-dessus, touchant la'visite du comte de 14i:d'en-dorf à Hébron, peut également être invoqué à cet égard. — On a supposé que les chanoines d'Hébron ne devaient pas être certains de l'identité respective des trois corps, parce que, dans les donations, faites .postérieurement, de fragments de ces reliques, les trois patriarches figurent toujours ensemble (Arch. de l'Or. lat., t. II, ii, p. 512). Mais cette déduction n'est nullement rigou¬reuse ; car, tout d'abord, il se peut parfaitement qu'on ait eu l'habitude de désigner ensemble les reliques comme formant un bloc, dont un seul frag¬ment représentait le tout; puis, à supposer même qu'on ait toujours donné une parcelle des trois corps, cela proviendrait plutôt, à mon avis, de quelque conception théologique ou religieuse. interdisant de les séparer. Quoi qu'il en soit, au reste, dé cette question, la divergence des deux récits en ce qui con-cerne la sépulture des corps ne perd rien de sa signification pour le point spécial qui nous occupe.

2y. Il est facile, en lisant quelques récits d'inventions et de translations, de constater le soin avec lequel les dates diaires y sont marquées. Un exemple de fixation arbitraire, la date réelle étant inconnue, nous est fourni par le récit de la translation à Gênes des reliques de S. Jean-Baptiste (6 mai 1098). Cf. Hist. occicl. des crois., t. V, p. 229.

1z. Pp. 561 à 564 et 565 à 568.

2z. Pp. 295 à 298 et 317 à 320.

3z. Voy. ce qui en est dit dans la préface du t. V des Hist. occid. des croi- sades, pp. LIV-LIx.

4z. Voici le texte de cette addition : « VI oct., in Juda3a, civitate Ebron metropoli, depositio SS. pgriarcharum, Abrahœ, Isaac et Jacob; quorum cor « pora, in eadem ecclesia, in spelunca duplici, divines revelatione inventa sunt xi a latinis canonicis ejusdem ecclesiœ, anno Domini MCXX » (Martyrologium Usuardi monachi..., opera et studio J. B. Sollerii; Antverpiœ 1714, in-fol., p. 582; cf. AA. SS. Boit., juin, t. VI, 2e éd., p. 526 ; oct. 4. IV, ire éd:, p. 691).

Latin Document from Kohler (1896)


[Biblioth. d'Avranches, ms. n° 130, fol. 79 b-81 1).]

Incipit translatio beatorum palriarcharu?n Abrahe, l'saac et Jacob.

Gloriosissimorum patriarcharum Abrahe, Ysaac atque Iacob veteris Testamenti obumbrata2 inter catholicos in terris ebesce-ret memoria ; quare3 renatos sancta veneratur ac corn4 Eccle-sia, imo ut ad eorum merita inenarrabilia, typum rostre re-deuptiouis preflgurantia, excelsi Pains declarentur magnalia, apud quem nulla transmutatio vicissituditis5 seu oblivionis obumbratio.

Anno incarnationis Domini nostri Jhesu Christi W. CC°. XX°, eorum dignatus est [Deus] revelare corpora, multimoda virtutum prodigia in eorum laudibus divina cooperante gratia, ut Ebronica testatur ecclesia, in qua rerum quas prelibavimus manifeste6 prepollet historia, revelatione precipua, ut in sequentibus repe-rietur, sic habita.

Contigit clericum quemdam Gallie parciurn Turouice regionis igdigenam, compunctione salutifera a sinistra clecl inando ad dexteram, quibus habunde pollebat spretis opibus rerum temporalium atque tluxarum et fragilium, sui sectalores ad ima tra hentium, gloriosissimum Domini nostri Jhesu Christi adisse1b sepulcrurn. Ubi, cum humillima devotione suorum implorando veniam delictorum, habita oratione, Ebron gressum direxit, ut sanctos invocaret patriarchas sue peticionis intercessores, quos apud Deum fide ac mentis noverat prestantiores. His vero in lotis venerabilibus biennio conversatus, quin etiam, inspectis ac perfectis que optaverat exhilaratus2b, tam affinium quam pa- rentum visitatione titillatus, utque, [quos] mestos devotus eius liguerai, abscessus, opido optatus refoveret accessus, ad natale solum Turonice regionis regressus est. Hic autem, dum, non multo post reditum, in ecclesia beati Martini, antistitis Turonice civitatis, ex consuetudine conlinuis orationibus, psalmorum inflexis modulationibus, nocte quadam incomberet, prolixe noc- Lis vigiliis paulisper afflictus, inter verba orationis paulum3b obdormisset, innumerabilium sanctorum multitudinem contem- .platur coram se pretereuntem. Quorum quedam veneranda effigies, cui prelucida inerat canities, manu eum apprehendens paululum excussit, atque quis esset cum taliter inibi obdormisset scrutatus est. Ille autem, terribili visione tremefactus, miserum atque peccatorem se confessus ac pre nimia inbecillitate corporis vim inferente vigiliis sic se temere obdormisse ibidem, tandem exorsus est : Quis es, domine, qui me miserum tam inepto sopori deditum ac tante visionis illustratione indignum excitando allo- queris? Cui reverenda effigies inquit : Ego sum Abraham, pater multitudinis gentium, quem, in Ebron peregre profectus, requi- sisti, cuique famulatum orationibus continuisque laudibus per- pensius exhibuisti. Surge ergo nunc celerius ad eundem depositionis mee locum rediturus, ibidêm mei patrocinii ac consolationis alloquium habiturus. His dictis, veneranda effigies cum multitudine precedentium nusquam comparuit. Surgens autem quantotius, quasi in extasi positus, utpote tante visionis illustratione attonitus, certus tamen ex his que4b fuerat ammo- nitus, primo diei, qui jam aderat, noctis abeunte caligine, immi- nente crepusculo, nullorum propinquorum fultus solatio, ut fuerat edoctus in sompno iter arripuit, solo comitante baculo, quem secum tulerat pro sustentaculo, valedictis tamen amicis quos obviam tulerat casus itineris.

Adveniens autem Ierosolimam, rerum necessariarum quarnplu- rimam passus est inediam. Adorato reparationis nostre sepul- Cro, progrediens sanclum repetiit Abraham. Ubi a priore eius- dem ecclesie, supramemorato commemorationis eius aditu ac precipue religionis optentu, prius agnitus, digne ac laudabiliter receptus est, ceteris fratribus confaventibus, quibus plurimum eius placebat adventus multo ampliusque quam innotuerat inibi remansionis affectus. Professus autem, cum aliis canonicam sor- titus est vitam. Quid muftis moror? Sanctorum patriarcharum patrocinia obnixius implorabat. Orationi nunquam vacabat, nisi quando rarus ac brevis sompnus occupabat, vigiliis indefessus hanelabat, pauperum inedias quibus poterat elemosinis subie- vabat. Ecclesie vero, nisi cum necessitas inevitabilis evocaret, Taro aberat. Clerus eum diligebat pro reverentia et equitate ; populos autem collaudabat pro maxima caritate. Nocte vero quadam dominica, matutinis decantatis laudibus, ad cubilia sua jans regressis fratribus, in ecclesia remansit solitarius. Ubi, inter1c psalmorum obdormiens decantatione2c, denuo venerabilem sancti Habrahe videre meruit visionem, talem ab eo suscipiens am- monitionem : Surge, frater, surge, adiens regem Balduinum, pariterque patriarcham Warmundum, defer legationis mee sacramentum, videlicet ut, advenientes, huius ecclesie aperiant pavimentum, uhi inferius, quo difficiles [reddit] aditus compages artificiosa lapidum, Abraham, Ysaac atque Iacob eorumdemque3c uxorum corpora clausum continet venerabile Lestamentum, tem- poribus suis revelandum, ut amodo plebs christiana salutis sue contra paganos suscipiat incrementum. Multi enim tam Greco- rum quam Turcorum, Surianorum ac Sarracenorum generumque diversorum homines, a tempore depositionis nostre locum istum obtinentes, obsequium reverentiamque cum hostiis pro ritu exhibentes, corpora nostra videre exobtabant, sortibus suis ornnia perlustrantes, muros locatim suffodientes superiorum sepulcrorum cassatis inspectionibus. Nulli tamen eorum adhuc comparuimus. His ita prolatis, recessit effigies tam graciose felicitatis.

Excitatus tanquam dormiens Canonicus, tari te visionis illustrat'one parumper attonitus, psalterium quod ante obdormitionem incoaverat attentius decantabat. Cuncta vero que- audierat ac viderat cum Balduino, eiusdem loci patrono, enucleans, preterea tacitum1d observabat. Haut multo post, adveniente Paschali tem- pore, canonicum eundem haut ab incepto psalmocinandi opere desistentem, hora matutinali iuxta superiorum patriarcharum sepulcra in eadem accumbentem ecclesia, aliquantisper obdor- mientem, iam tercio religiosa corripuit inquiens visio : Usquequo, frater, dormis tacendo? Usquequo negligis precepta mea? Cur que audieras ac videras quibus iusseram non manifestabas? Que si tacueris ulterius ex inobtemperantia corripieris ut meritus. Nec plura inferens divisa visio recessit. Canonicus autem, perti- mescens se vidisse sompnium, cum paucis huiusce rei habens consilium quibus precipue visum fuerat, nullum patefecit indi- Cium; psalmorum tamen decantationibus, ieiuniorum afflictio- nibus, vigiliarum curis, pocioribus sanctorum patriarcharum pa- trocinium invocationihus studium inpendebat. Preterito autem Paschali tempore, Pentecosten quarte ferie hora noua propin- quante, eiusdem pagi clero ac populo una quatuor temporum ieiunia celebrante, canonico supradicto, in eadem ecclesia inter orationum verba sopito, apparuit quarto sanctorum patriarcha- rum cum innumerabili sanctorum multitudine visio tremebunda, dormientem quasi excitando taliterque obiurgando : Quid, desi- diose, soporas, ut2d quid clausos, totiens monitus, non reseras? Cur quos pre omnibus oracionibus Luis invocas manifestare iam cessas? Canonicus quidem ad hoc3d perterritus ad eum querra ignorabat ostendi poscit enucleatius, adiciens quod ob hoc formidaverat adire imperii principatus, ne, post manifesta-- tionem, si alio cassaretur conatus, contumeliosos4d sibi ac me-. ritos rependerent cruciatus. Quis igitur alius quam iguorantie sermo contemplanti potius fieri posset excusatoris5d ? Summus ad hec patriarcha : Sequere, fili, sequere nos contemplando, aditus intuere, ignorantiam declinando. In angulo quidem orientali ad dexteram eius ecclesie mira sollercia lapis superpositus spe- lonce ultro revolvitur, quam Abraham patriarcha summus ingre- ditur ; superius memorata multitudo tam gloriosa prosequitur. Transeuntes vero septem portas marmoreas ultro reclusas, unam ingrediuntur basilicam, in cuius introitu, lapide revoluto, per quosdam ad inferiora descensus (et) dimittuntur, ubi infra mau- sole° una sanctorum patriarcharum corpora habebantur inclusa multorumque preterea sanctorum, quorum revelationis iudicium nundum divinitus ostensum est. Canonicus igitur excitatus, tam propalata vision° illustratus, et, ut cercior fieret ex his que fuerat contemplatus, ferro quodam quod ibidem casus obtulerat lapidem revolvit facillime, quem ultro revolutum viderat in visione, spe- luncam deorsum reperiens, quam, fuiii affixo lumine et inferius demisso, visu tantum perlustravit undique. Dein, lapide spelunce revoler), que audierat et viderat fratribus enuntiavit continuo. Hora autem diei erat quasi nova. Audit° tante tamque obtate sa- lutis desiderio irruunt ecclesiam affectu nimio, omni oblito cibario, quo iam refici parabant. Res miranda : lapis quem paulo ante solus revolutum advolverat, vix ab ils omnibus1e iam revolvi poterat. Inferius intuentes2e speluncam, una collaudant Dei clementiam. Fama extemplo diffusa per totam provinciam, ad hoc spectandum ad eandem omnes concurrunt ecclesiam. Inmissis vero fune fratri- bus, cum lucerna speluncam perlustrabant interius; cuius admo- dum quinque cubitorum computabatur profundum. In quavis repe- ritur aditus ulterior quem prepediebat lapis mamoreus3e multis enim diebus vix a macerie solutus, tanta vero fluent soliditate con- iunctus, artus4e hinc reperitur aditus, macerie undique munitus, in quo alter post alterum pre angustia, tamen dimissis humeris a capite, vix poterat incedere. Quinque adhuc prioribus similes in aditu restabant lapidum obstructiones, quibus miro ac diuturno molimine a macerie dissolutis, reperiant quandam basilicam xxix lapidibus circumseptam et desuper solo contectam, centum horninum experimento capacem. In cuius vero introitu revoluto lapide, pavimento paululum erninentiore, ebraicis litteris Ysaac atque Iacob inscripto nomine ipsorum gloriosa emicuere mauso- lea. Haut longeque remotum, reclusa porta marmorea, sancti Habrahe declaratur sepulcrum. Ex quo tanta tamque suavis pro- cessit odoris fragrantia5e quanta nullus hominum perlustratus, est antea. Quinimo in superiori sursum expectantes ecclesia, rati dulcedine perlustrari paradisiaca, una collaudant Dei magnalia, alternantes quis umquam sensit talia. Revelatio vero tante exu]- tationis contigit in vigilia beatissime virginis Marie assumptionis In qua etiam, adveniens de cela Ierosolimis, rutilans ignis effulsit in Templo ac super sanctissimum redemptionis nostre sepulcrum. O admiranda Dei dispensatio ! 0 inenarranda Dei exultatio, in qua in celum nostre salutis mater assumitur, gloriosus in terris patriarcharum thesaurus aperitur; in qua celitus adveniens ru- tilans ignis declaratur! 0 felix Ebron, populus quem dicavit1f thesaurus! O spelunca admirabilis, cui nulla contentu similis, nulla artificio equiparabilis, nulla tam copiosa tamque laudabilis. Ebronicus ergo clerus ac populus, tante revelationis non ultra incredulus, una mittunt Ierosoliman consulere regem ac patriar- cham ut qui preerant cultui christiane religionis diem consti- tuerent, et afforent tante revelationi. Quorum communi consiiio divinitus orantibus illibato pridie nouas octobris ad translationem dies pronunciatur omnibus circummanentibus, ut, qui luctuosus extiterat exequiis patris Abrahe depositionis, gloriosus appareret compendio eiusdem translationis. Cuius vero die per circuitum prenotata viritimque Babiloniam usque delato2f, Ebron conSuebant undique tam gentiles quam christicole, eorum pariter optantes cernere translationem, utrinque implorantes eorum interventio- nem. O viri per omnia laudabiles, in quibus tam diversorum non discrepat fides! Alii venerantur per veteris Testamenti successio- nem, alii per Novi ac Veteris agnitionem, alii ut patres ac sue secte priores, alii agnitionis filii Dei primos doctores ac trium personarum in unitate predicatores. Jeiunio quidem septem dierum in commune prius ab omnibus cum devotione celebrato, pridie nonas octobris sanctorum patriarcharum corpora extracta mauseolis, ac capsis inposita cumpetentibus, in superiorem tram- feruntur ecclesiam, tribus presulibus incoantibus Te, Deum, laudamus, ceteris idem una concinentibus. O quanta resultant laudum preconia! 0 quanta gentilium ac chrislicolarum exultatio ! 0 quanta in utroque populo sue peticionis devocio ! 0 quanta omnium in ostensiones corporum cunctorum lacrimatio! Ex quibus tanta processit odoris fragrantia ac si omnia aromata adessent inpresentia. O quanta et quarn magnifica utrinque parantur3f infirmantibus beneficia eorum affectuose poscentibus suffragia! Quorum nos translationis sacra celebrantes sollempnia, ad ew quo precessere gaudia eorum nos perducant suffragia, prestante Domino nostro Jhesu Christo, cui honor et gloria in eternum et ultra. Amen.

1. Ce titre est de nous; il ne figure pas clans le manuscrit.

2. Ms. : « obrumbrantia ».

3. Ms. : c= quociens ».

4. Le ms. portait originairement « collit » ; , mais le premier 1 a été ex-ponctué.

5. Sic.

6. Ms. : « maniste ».

1b. Sic.

2b. Ms. : « inspectis que a perfectis optaverat exhilaratus... »

3b. Sic.

4b. Sic.

1c. Ms. : « intra ».

2c. Sic.

3c. Ms. : Eorumdumque ».

1d. Ms. : « tacitus ».

2d. Peut-être faut-il lire : «.aut » ; il semble en effet que le scribe ait voulu rajouter un a avant le u.

3d. Ms.: « ad h. .» ; peut-être faut-il lire : adhuc.

4d. : « contumuliosos »,

5d. (c Ab excusatore » ou « excusatorius » serait préférable; l'auteur, en effet, • dans cette phrase un peu contournée, veut dire probablement ceci : « Quel langage, sinon celui de l'ignorance, pourrait être tenu à celui qui viendrait contempler la prétendue découverte par le révélateur cherchant à excuser sa déconvenue? »

1e. Le manuscrit portait originairement. abissernt ; il semble qu'une seconde main ait voulu séparer ce mot ainsi : « a bis sem' », dans l'idée qu'il fallait lire : » a bis semel ». Je crois qu'il vaut mieux faire une correction plus com¬plète et supposer que le texte primitif poitait : « ab lis omnibus ».

2e. Ms. : cc intuens ».

3e. Sic.

4e. Sic, sans doute pour : u arctus ».

5e. Ms. « flagrantia ».

1f. Corrigé postérieurement en « dictavit », ce qui ne donnerait aucun sens.

2f. Il faudrait « delata », comme, au-dessus, « prenotata ». Peut-être l'auteur a-t-il écrit intentionnellement « delato » pour faire voir sa connaissance du double genre du mot dies.

3f. Peut-être faut-il lire : procurantur.

French from Kohler (1896) - embedded

Year Reference Corrections Notes
14 April 1119 CE - 1 April 1120 CE A.H. 513 none Calculated using CHRONOS.

Collapse, seismically induced or not, is not mentioned. Opening of the tombs, as recounted here, was due to a deliberate excavation.

Locations Online Versions and Further Reading

Archaeoseismic Evidence

Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Hebron - Introduction n/a n/a n/a
Hebron - Tomb of the Patriarchs possible Site hasn't been systematically excavated. I am unaware of any archaeoseismic or collapse evidence from around 1119 CE.
Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Hebron - Introduction

Hebron - Tomb of the Patriarchs

Landslide Evidence

Tsunamogenic Evidence

Paleoseismic Evidence


Ambraseys (2009)

AD 1113 Jul 18 Jerusalem

AD 1113 Jul 18 Jerusalem

In Jerusalem and the surrounding area an earthquake was felt, perhaps quite strongly, since it was feared that buildings would collapse.

Fulcher of Chartres witnessed two earthquakes in Jerusalem, the first on the 15th day before the Kalends of August 1113 = 18 July, and a second on the fifth day before the Ides of August in the same year (9 August). At this time the combined Muslim forces had reached the outskirts of Jerusalem and invasion seemed imminent to the Christians (Fulch. 50/208). Traditionally in Mediterranean cultures earthquakes have been a bad omen for an invader, so Fulcher may have included this as a portent of the Muslims’ withdrawal two months later; note that most Christian chroniclers of the crusades were clerics.

The Estoire de Jerusalem et d’Antioche also mentions two earthquakes during the period while the Christians of Jerusalem were expecting a Muslim invasion in 1113. It places the first at midnight and the second at the third hour (uns a mie nuit, l’autre ` a tierce) ` , which probably means 9 am, when the Office of Terce would have been recited. No date is given, however.

The Historia Hierosolymitana places these two earthquakes at the same time and in the same context as the above two sources, adding the important details that ‘the people were consumed with fear, frightened lest buildings collapsed’, which suggests that the earthquake was strongly felt.

Sicard, Bishop of Cremona (died 1215), records an earthquake in the Kingdom of Jerusalem (in Hierosolymitano regno) in 1113. This may indicate that the earthquake was felt over a wider area than the city of Jerusalem itself, where Fulcher and other writers witnessed it, most of them being chaplains to leading crusaders. Such a mild earthquake is unlikely to have been felt throughout the whole kingdom, which stretched from Elim in the south to Galilee in the north; so, if Sicard is just using ‘Kingdom of Jerusalem’ as a commonplace, this earthquake may have been felt for a radius of a few miles around Jerusalem.



Meanwhile we twice felt an earthquake, to wit, on the 15th day before the Kalends of August and again on the 5th day before the Ides of the same month: the first time at midnight, the second time at the third hour. (Fulch., Gest. Franc. 50/208f).

(1113) Then there were two earthquakes, one in the middle of the night, and one at the third hour. (Estoire, 645).

(1113) And the sea was rougher than usual, making it impossible to fish on the sea; and the earth was struck twice by a terrible earthquake, and the people were consumed with fear, frightened lest buildings collapsed. (Fulch. Hist. Hier. 571).

‘In A.D. 1113 there was an eclipse and an earthquake occurred in the Kingdom of Jerusalem that year. (Sicard. Cr. 504).


Ambraseys, N. N. (2009). Earthquakes in the Mediterranean and Middle East: a multidisciplinary study of seismicity up to 1900.

AD 1113 Aug 9 Jerusalem - see above

AD 1114 Apr–May Jerusalem

AD 1114 Apr–May Jerusalem

A series of earthquake shocks over two months shook at least part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which had already had its crops destroyed by a plague of locusts. There may have been foreshocks and aftershocks.

This event is mentioned only in the Historia Hierosolymitana, being placed in April and May of 1114, after a swarm of locusts. Since it is not mentioned by Fulcher, whose chronicle covers the period up to 1127, it is unlikely that it affected Jerusalem. Rather, there was probably a series of local earthquakes, perhaps in the north of the kingdom around Lake Galilee.



In the year 1114 and before a multitude of locusts swarmed from parts of Arabia, the territory of Jerusalem was violently laid waste; in the months of April and May and after (sequenti) it was shaken terribly by an earthquake. (Fulch., Hist. Hier. 572).


Ambraseys, N. N. (2009). Earthquakes in the Mediterranean and Middle East: a multidisciplinary study of seismicity up to 1900.

AD 1117 Jun 26 Jerusalem

AD 1117 Jun 26 Jerusalem

An earthquake occurred, probably in the region of Jerusalem. It may have caused structural damage.

The principal source for this event is Fulcher, who places it in 1117 on the sixth day before the Kalends of July (26 June; Fink actually gives ‘on the sixth day before the Kalends of June’, which is probably an accidental error), shortly after an eclipse. Fulcher regards the earthquake as something of a portent, especially insofar as the eclipse which preceded it did not occur on the expected date (Fulch. Gest. Franc. LXI/219 and n. 1).

The Historia Hierosolymitana of about 1122 also records an earthquake on the same date, following a plague of locusts; it notes that ‘the Buildings were shaken to ruins’.

Abu’l-Faraj (writing in the thirteenth century) notes the deaths of ‘thirteen kings’ during (5 May 1117 to 23 April 1118) a.H. 511 and a.S. 1429 (September 1117 to September 1118), including that of the Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus (died 15 August 1118, Grumel 1958, 358). Before these deaths, he says, an earthquake occurred. Of course, it is not certain that Abu’lFaraj is referring to the same event as Fulcher; he could be alluding to the Constantinople earthquake of 1118 although Fulcher’s earthquake occurred closer to Abu’lFaraj’s main area of interest, which was Syria. See also Alexandre (1990, 147–154).

Guidoboni and Comastri (2005, 129–130), on the basis of a garbled Armenian colophon, split this earthquake into one earthquake in Jerusalem and another in the district of Vaspurakan in Armenia.



He moreover as He wills causes the earth to tremble and then to be still. This subsequently happened in the same month in the silence of an unseasonable night, on the sixth day before the Kalends of July. (Fulch. Gest. Franc. lxi/220).

(1117) Following the plague of locusts, on 6 Kal. July, there was a most dreadful earthquake, which was a sign that the wrath of God would the quicker be placated. The buildings were shaken to ruins, that the hearts of callous men might be shaken to repent. (Bongars 574).

(a.H. 511 = 1117, a.H. 1429 = 1118) Thirteen kings died within two years. Before they died a violent earthquake took place, and the death of the kings followed soon after it. (These deaths included that of Emperor Alexis) Abu’l-Faraj 281/ 248.)


Ambraseys, N. N. (2009). Earthquakes in the Mediterranean and Middle East: a multidisciplinary study of seismicity up to 1900.

AD 1118 Constantinople

AD 1118 Constantinople

An earthquake was felt in Constantinople, apparently rattling the roof-tiles of one house. However, it is not reported as having caused general concerny.

This event is recorded by Anna Comnena (born 1083, died after 1148) as a sign of the wickedness of the Bogomil monk Basil. She mentions that the roof-tiles of his house rattled, but says nothing about wider effects in the city. This was probably, therefore, one of Constantinople’s frequently occurring minor tremors.

The date is slightly problematic. The date reference (Ann. Comn. XV. viii. 1/496) prior to this passage is unfortunately in a lacuna, but, because this earthquake took place very near the end of the emperor Alexius’s life (he died on 15 August 1118), it is reasonable to place this event in 1118.



When about midnight the monk [Basil] had entered his cell, stones were thrown against it in the manner of a hailstorm. Now the stones fell automatically: they were hurled by no human hand . . . The fall of stones was followed by a sudden earthquake which rocked the ground and the roof-tiles had rattled. (Ann. Comn. XV. viii. 7/499)


Ambraseys, N. N. (2009). Earthquakes in the Mediterranean and Middle East: a multidisciplinary study of seismicity up to 1900.

[AD 1119 Hebron]

[AD 1119 Hebron]

A collapse occurred in the caves of Khalil. The cause is uncertain.

Yaqut (1178–1229) records that al-Hrawi heard in a.H. 567 (AD 1171–72) from some inhabitants of Khalil whom he met in Jerusalem that in a.H. 513 (14 April 1119 to 1 April 1120) there had been a collapse in the Khalil caves, which is said to have revealed the bodies of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These were reportedly seen by King Baldwin II (who reigned from 1118 to 1131). The cause of the collapse remains uncertain.



Al-Hrawi says, “I went to Jerusalem in the year 567 and I met some Mashaykh of the city of Khalil who told me that in 513, the day of King Baldwin, there was a collapse in the caves of Khalil. A group of Franks had gone in there and they had found inside Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, peace be on them, clad in used shrouds; they were leaning against the wall and above them there were lamps; they were bare-headed. The king replaced their shrouds and left the cave. ‘Abu Ya’ila al-Qalanisi gives the same report (Dhayl 202).”. (Yaqut, Mu’jam 2/468)


Ambraseys, N. N. (2009). Earthquakes in the Mediterranean and Middle East: a multidisciplinary study of seismicity up to 1900.

Guidoboni and Comastri (2005)

(050) 1114 August 10 Jerusalem and Palestine ?

(050) 1114 August 10 Jerusalem and Palestine ?

  • source 1 - Fulk Chart., Hist., p.428
  • sources 2 Estoire de Jerus. et d'Ant,, p.645; Lis. Tours, Ad secund., p.571 historiography Rohricht (1898)
  • catalogues d. Mallet (1853); *Ben-Menahem (1979); Amiran et al. (1994)
On 10 August 1114, an earthquake was felt in the region of the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem (which, in 1114, included some territory in Palestine). There is evidence that an earthquake was felt, but its exact location is unknown. The principal source is the Latin chronicler Fulk of Chartres, but although he personally experienced the earthquake, he does not explicitly describe its strongest effects, simply mentioning it immediately after recording a plague of locusts which had devastated the territory of Jerusalem (where Fulk lived) during the preceding April and May, and immediately before describing the destructive earthquake of 13 November of that year (see the next entry), which caused serious damage in an area corresponding to present-day northern Syria and central and southern Turkey.

It seems reasonable to suggest that the earthquake of 10 August 1114 was felt in the same area as that of the following 13 November.

This is what Fulk has to say:

1114. A plague of locusts poured out of Arabia into the territory of Jerusalem and devastated the cultivated fields for many days during the months of April and May. Then, on the feast of St.Lawrence [10 August], there was an earthquake.


Anno millesimo centesimo decimo quarto, multitudo locustarum infinita ebuliit, a parte Arabiae advolans in terram Iherosolymitanam, quae per dies aliquantos segetes, mense Aprili et Maio, multum vastaverunt. Die deinde festo sancti Laurentii, terrae motus factus est.
Some 12th century Christian sources, which depend to a considerable degree on the text of Fulk of Chartres, so misread his work that their information about this earthquake on the feast of St.Lawrence is distorted. Thus, in the anonymous Estoire de Jerusalem et d'Antioche, the damage effects which Fulk attributes to the earthquake of 13 November are transferred to that of 10 August, while the chronicler Lisiard of Tours confuses the two events by recording a single earthquake which is supposed to have begun in April and May 1114.


Guidoboni, E. and A. Comastri (2005). Catalogue of Earthquakes and Tsunamis in the Mediterranean Area from the 11th to the 15th Century, INGV.

(057) 1117 June 26 Scandelion [Lebanon]

(057) 1117 June 26 Scandelion [Lebanon]

  • sources 1 Fulk Chart., Hist., p.435; Lis. Tours, Ad secund., p.574
  • sources 2 Tol. Lucca, Hist., cols.1090-1
  • catalogues d. Amiran et al. (1994)
On 26 June 1117, an earthquake caused collapses at the fortress of Scandelion (south of Tyre), and in an area which the sources do not identify but must have been in Palestine (the principal source, Fulk of Chartres, was living in Jerusalem at the time of the earthquake) and southern Lebanon (Scandelion is in fact on the southern coast of Lebanon, about 12 km from Tyre).

After recording a plague of locusts and a lunar eclipse, Fulk of Chartres writes:
1117. [...] The month of June. [...] When He wishes, God causes the earth to shake and then calms it again. That is what happened a little later that month, deep in the silence of the night, on the sixth day before the Calends of July [26 June]. Then the king [Baldwin of Jerusalem] built a fortified place about five miles outside the city of Tyre, and called it Scandelion, which means Field of the Lion, and he repaired the damage and posted guardians there to keep the said place under control
1117. 1...] Quidem mense, qui Iunius erat Deus 1...] qui etiam quando vult terrain facit tremere, et postea quiescere; quod subsequenter accidit in eodem mense noctis intempestae silentio, VU kalendas Iulii.

Tune edificavit rex quoddam castrum prope urbem Tyrum, intra quintum ab urbe milliarium, quod vocavit Scandalion, et Campum Leonis interpretatum, et resarcivit diruta eius, et posuit in eo custodes ad coercendum urbem predictam.
Lisiard of Tours, who depends largely on Fulk of Chartres, records:
1117. [...] The plague of locusts was followed, on the sixth day before the Calends of July, by a terrible earthquake, which showed men the need to act rapidly in order to placate the wrath of God. Buildings were so shaken that they collapsed, and so the hard hearts of foolish men were moved to penitence.
Anno M.C.XVII. [...]. Secutus est locustae pestem, sexto kalend. Julii, horribilis nimis terrae motus, iram Dei praemonens citius debere placari. Concutiebantur ad ruinam aedificia, ut dura hominum stolidorum ad poenitentiam concuterentur corda.
Tolomeo da Lucca, a Tuscan author who lived from about 1240 to 1327, mistakenly associates this earthquake with the one which occured in the same year in Italy, as well as with the death of Alexius I Comnenus immediately afterwards.


Guidoboni, E. and A. Comastri (2005). Catalogue of Earthquakes and Tsunamis in the Mediterranean Area from the 11th to the 15th Century, INGV

Zohar (2019)


Zohar, M. (2019). Temporal and Spatial Patterns of Seismic Activity Associated with the Dead Sea Transform (DST) during the Past 3000 Yr. Seismological Research Letters 91(1): 207-221.. .

Zohar, M. (2019) Supplement - ie the catalog

M. Zohar's publication page with links to his publications

Taher (1979)

513 A.H./November 1119 AD

Yaqût1 mentions:

Al Hrawi said: "I entered Jerusalem in the year 567 and met Machaykh from the city of Khalil [Hebron] who told me that in 513, on the day of King Baldwin, there had been a collapse in the Khalil [Hebron] Caverns. A group of Franks entered and found Abraham, Isaac and Jacob there, peace be upon them, covered in worn shrouds. They were leaning against the wall and above them, there were candles. They were bareheaded. The king replaced their suzires [?] and unblocked the cave".
Abu Ya'ila al-Qalanisi2 bears the same testimony.

1 Mu'djam, 2/468.

2 Dhayl, 202.


Taher, M.A. (1979): Corpus des texts arabes relatifs aux tremblements de terre et autres catastrophes naturelles, de la conquete arabe au XII H/XVIII JC, Ph.D. Thesis (Univ. Paris), 337 pp.

Wikipedia - Cave of the Patriarchs

Paleoclimate - Droughts