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Sir John Mandeville. Marvellous Adventures. 1895.

Chapter III

Of the City of Constantinople, and of the Faith of the Greeks

AT Constantinople lieth Saint Anne, our Lady’s Mother, whom Saint Helen did bring from Jerusalem. And there lieth also the Body of John Chrisostome, that was Archbishop of Constantinople. And there lieth also Saint Luke the Evangelist: For his Bones were brought from Bethany (Bithynia), where he was buried. And many other Relics be there. And there is the Vessel of Stone, as it were of Marble, that Men call Enydros, that evermore droppeth Water, and filleth himself every Year, till that it run over, besides what Men take from within.

Constantinople is a full fair City, and a good, and well walled; and it is 3-cornered. And there is an Arm of the Sea of Hellespont: and some Men call it the Mouth of Constantinople; and some Men call it the Brace (or Arm) of Saint George: and that Arm closeth the 2 Parts of the City. And upward to the Sea, upon the Water, was wont to be the great City of Troy, in a full fair Plain: but that City was destroyed by them of Greece, and little appears now thereof, because it is so long since it was destroyed.

About Greece there be many Isles, as Calliste, Calcas (Carki), Critige (Ortygia), Tesbria, Mynia, Flaxon, Melo, Carpate (Scarpanto) and Lemnos. And in this latter Isle is the Mount Athos, that passeth the Clouds. And there be many diverse Languages and many Countries, that be obedient to the Emperor; that is to say, Turcople, Pyneynard, Cornange, and many other, as Thrace and Macedonia, of the which Alexander was King. In this Country was Aristotle born, in a City that Men call Stagyra, a little Way from the City of Thrace. And at Stagyra lieth Aristotle; and there is an Altar upon his Tomb. And there make Men great Feasts for him every Year, as though he were a Saint. And at his Altar they hold their great Councils and their Assemblies, and they hope, that through Inspiration of God and of him, they shall have the better Council.

In this Country be right high Hills, toward the End of Macedonia. And there is a great Hill, that Men call Olympus, that parteth Macedonia and Thrace. And it is so high, that it passeth the Clouds. And there is another Hill, that is clept Athos, that is so high, that the Shadow of him reacheth to Lemne, that is an Isle; and it is 76 Mile between. And above at the Top of the Hill is the Air so clear, that Men may find no Wind there, and therefore may no Beast live there; and so is the Air dry.

And Men say in these Countries, that Philosophers some time went upon these Hills, and held to their Noses a Sponge moisted with Water, to have Air; for the Air above was so dry. And above, in the Dust and in the Powder of those Hills, they wrote Letters and Figures with their Fingers. And at the Year’s End they came again, and found the same Letters and Figures, the which they had written the Year before, without any Default. And therefore it seemeth well, that these Hills pass the Clouds and join to the pure Air.

At Constantinople is the Palace of the Emperor, right fair and well-disposed: and therein is a fair Place for Joustings, or for other Plays and Sports. And it is made with Stages, and hath Steps about, that every Man may see well, and not irk one another. And under these Stages be Stables well vaulted for the Emperor’s Horses; and all the Pillars be of Marble.

And within the Church of Saint Sophia, an Emperor sometime would have buried the Body of his Father, when he was dead. And, as they made the Grave, they found a Body in the Earth, and upon the Body lay a fine Plate of Gold; and thereon was written, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, Letters that said thus; “Jesu Christus nascetur de Virgine Maria, et ego credo in Eum;” that is to say, “Jesu Christ shall be born of the Virgin Mary, and I trow in Him.” And the Date when it was laid in the Earth, was 2000 Year before our Lord was born. And the Plate of Gold is yet in the Treasury of the Church. And Men say, that it was Hermogenes the Wise Man.

And how be it that the Men of Greece be Christian yet they vary from our Faith. For they say, that the Holy Ghost may not come of the Son; but only of the Father. And they are not obedient to the Church of Rome, nor to the Pope. And they say that their Patriarch hath as much Power over beyond the Sea, as the Pope hath on this side the Sea. And therefore Pope John XXII. sent Letters to them, how the Christian Faith should be all one; and that they should be obedient to the Pope, that is God’s Vicar on Earth, to whom God gave plenary Power to bind and to assoil, and therefore should they be obedient to him.

And they sent back again diverse Answers; and among others they said thus: Potientam tuam summam circa tuos subjectos, firmiter credimus. Superbiam tuam summam tolerare non possumus. Avaritiam tuam summam satiare non intendimus. Dominus tecum; quia Dominus nobiscum est.” That is to say: “We trow well, that thy Power is great upon thy Subjects. We may not suffer thine high Pride. We be not in Purpose to fulfil thy great Covetousness. Lord be with thee; for our Lord is with us. Farewell.” And other Answer might he not have of them.

And also they make their Sacrament of the Altar of Therf (or unleavened) Bread, for our Lord made it of such Bread, when he made his Maundy (or Last Supper). And on the Shere-Thursday make they their Therf Bread, in token of the Maundy, and dry it at the Sun, and keep it all the Year, and give it to sick Men, instead of God’s Body. And they make but one Unction, when they christen Children. And they anoint not the sick Men. And they say that there is no Purgatory, and the Souls shall not have Joy or Pain till the Day of Doom. And they say that Fornication is no deadly Sin, but a thing that is natural: and that Men and Women should not wed but once, and whoso weddeth oftener than once, their Children be Bastards and begotten in Sin. And their Priests also be wedded.

And they say also that Usury is no deadly Sin. And they sell Benefices of Holy Church. And so do Men in other Places: God amend it when His Will is! And that is great Scandal, for now is Simony King crowned in Holy Church: God amend it for His Mercy!

And they say, that in Lent, Men shall not fast, nor sing Mass, but on the Saturday and on the Sunday. And they fast not on the Saturday, at no time of the Year, but it be Christmas Eve or Easter Eve. And they suffer not the Latins to sing at their Altars; and if they do, by any Adventure, anon they wash the Altar with holy Water. And they say that there should be but one Mass said at one Altar upon one Day.

And they say also that our Lord did never eat Meat; but he made Sign of eating. And also they say, that we sin deadly in shaving our Beards, for the Beard is Token of a Man, and Gift of our Lord. And they say that we sin deadly, in eating of Beasts that were forbidden in the Old Testament, and of the old Law, as Swine, Hares and other Beasts, that chew not their Cud. And they say that we sin, when we eat Flesh on the Days before Ash Wednesday, and when that we eat Flesh the Wednesday, and Eggs and Cheese upon the Fridays. And they accurse all those that abstain them to eat Flesh the Saturday.

Also the Emperor of Constantinople maketh the Patriarch, the Archbishops and the Bishops; and giveth the Dignities and the Benefices of Churches and depriveth them that be unworthy, when he findeth any Cause. And so is he Lord both temporal and spiritual in his Country.

And if ye will here wot of A.B.C. what Letters they be, here ye may see them, with the Names that they call them there amongst them: Alpha; Beta; Gamma; Delta; Epsilon; Zeta; Eta; Theta; Iota; Kappa; Lambda; Mu; Nu; Xi; Omicron; Pi; Rho; Sigma; Tau; Upsilon; Phi; Chi; Psi; Omega.

And all be it that these Things touch not to one Way, nevertheless they touch to that, that I have told you, to shew you a Part of the Customs and Manners, and Diversities of Countries. And as this is the first Country that is discordant in Faith and in Belief, and varieth from our Faith, on this Half the Sea, therefore I have set it here, that ye may know the Diversity that is between our Faith and theirs. For many Men have great Liking, to hear speak of strange Things of divers Countries.