The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, by John Mandeville

Chapter XIX

Of the Dooms Made by St. Thomas’s Hand. Of Devotion and Sacrifice Made to Idols There, in the City of Calamye; and of The Procession in Going About the City

FROM that country men pass by many marches toward a country, a ten journeys thence, that is clept Mabaron; and it is a great kingdom, and it hath many fair cities and towns.

In that kingdom lieth the body of Saint Thomas the apostle in flesh and bone, in a fair tomb in the city of Calamye; for there he was martyred and buried. And men of Assyria bare his body into Mesopotamia into the city of Edessa, and after, he was brought thither again. And the arm and the hand that he put in our Lord’s side, when he appeared to him after his resurrection and said to him, NOLI ESSE INCREDULUS, SED FIDELIS, is yet lying in a vessel without the tomb. And by that hand they make all their judgments in the country, whoso hath right or wrong. For when there is any dissension between two parties, and every of them maintaineth his cause, and saith that his cause is rightful, and that other saith the contrary, then both parties write their causes in two bills and put them in the hand of Saint Thomas. And anon he casteth away the bill of the wrong cause and holdeth still the bill with the right cause. And therefore men come from far countries to have judgment of doubtable causes. And other judgment use they none there.

Also the church, where Saint Thomas’ lieth, is both great and fair, and all full of great simulacres, and those be great images that they clepe their gods, of the which the least is as great as two men.

And, amongst these other, there is a great image more than any of the other, that is all covered with fine gold and precious stones and rich pearls; and that idol is the god of false Christians that have reneyed their faith. And it sitteth in a chair of gold, full nobly arrayed, and he hath about his neck large girdles wrought of gold and precious stones and pearls. And this church is full richly wrought and, all overgilt within. And to that idol go men on pilgrimage, as commonly and with as great devotion as Christian men go to Saint James, or other holy pilgrimages. And many folk that come from far lands to seek that idol for the great devotion that they have, they look never upward, but evermore down to the earth, for dread to see anything about them that should let them of their devotion. And some there be that go on pilgrimage to this idol, that bear knives in their hands, that be made full keen and sharp; and always as they go, they smite themselves in their arms and in their legs and in their thighs with many hideous wounds; and so they shed their blood for love of that idol. And they say, that he is blessed and holy, that dieth so for love of his god. And other there be that lead their children for to slay, to make sacrifice to that idol; and after they have slain them they spring the blood upon the idol. And some there be that come from far; and in going toward this idol, at every third pace that they go from their house, they kneel; and so continue till they come thither: and when they come there, they take incense and other aromatic things of noble smell, and cense the idol, as we would do here God’s precious body. And so come folk to worship this idol, some from an hundred mile, and some from many more.

And before the minster of this idol, is a vivary, in manner of a great lake, full of water. And therein pilgrims cast gold and silver, pearls and precious stones without number, instead of offerings. And when the minister of that church need to make any reparation of the church or of any of the idols, they take gold and silver, pearls and precious stones out of the vivary, to quit the costage of such thing as they make or repair; so that that nothing is faulty, but anon it shall be amended. And ye shall understand, that when [there be] great feasts and solemnities of that idol, as the dedication of the church and the throning of the idol, all the country about meet there together. And they set this idol upon a car with great reverence, well arrayed with cloths of gold, of rich cloths of Tartary, of Camaka, and other precious cloths. And they lead him about the city with great solemnity. And before the car go first in procession all the maidens of the country, two and two together full ordinatly. And after those maidens go the pilgrims. And some of them fall down under the wheels of the car, and let the car go over them, so that they be dead anon. And some have their arms or their limbs all to-broken, and some the sides. And all this do they for love of their god, in great devotion. And them thinketh that the more pain, and the more tribulation that they suffer for love of their god, the more joy they shall have in another world. And, shortly to say you, they suffer so great pains, and so hard martyrdoms for love of their idol, that a Christian man, I trow, durst not take upon him the tenth part the pain for love of our Lord Jesu Christ. And after, I say you, before the car, go all the minstrels of the country without number, with diverse instruments, and they make all the melody that they can.

And when they have gone all about the city, then they return again to the minster, and put the idol again into his place. And then for the love and in worship of that idol, and for the reverence of the feast, they slay themselves, a two hundred or three hundred persons, with sharp knives, of the which they bring the bodies before the idol. And then they say that those be saints, because that they slew themselves of their own good will for love of their idol. And as men here that had an holy saint of his kin would think that it were to them an high worship, right so then, thinketh there. And as men here devoutly would write holy saints’ lives and their miracles, and sue for their canonizations, right so do they there for them that slay themselves wilfully for love of their idol, and say, that they be glorious martyrs and saints, and put them in their writings and in their litanies, and avaunt them greatly, one to another, of their holy kinsmen that so become saints, and say, I have more holy saints in my kindred, than thou in thine!

And the custom also there is this, that when they that have such devotion and intent for to slay himself for love of his god, they send for all their friends, and have great plenty of minstrels; and they go before the idol leading him that will slay himself for such devotion between them, with great reverence. And he, all naked, hath a full sharp knife in his hand, and he cutteth a great piece of his flesh, and casteth it in the face of his idol, saying his orisons, recommending him to his god. And then he smiteth himself and maketh great wounds and deep, here and there, till he fall down dead. And then his friends present his body to the idol. And then they say, singing, Holy god! behold what thy true servant hath done for thee. He hath forsaken his wife and his children and his riches, and all the goods of the world and his own life for the love of thee, and to make thee sacrifice of his flesh and of his blood. Wherefore, holy god, put him among thy best beloved saints in thy bliss of paradise, for he hath well deserved it. And then they make a great fire, and burn the body. And then everych of his friends take a quantity of the ashes, and keep them instead of relics, and say that it is holy thing. And they have no dread of no peril whiles they have those holy ashes upon them. And [they] put his name in their litanies as a saint.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:10