The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter X.

How the Prayer of the One-Eyed Cobler Caused the Mountain to Move.

And when the appointed day was come, all the Christians got up early, men and women, small and great, more than 100,000 persons, and went to church, and heard the Holy Mass. And after Mass had been sung, they all went forth together in a great procession to the plain in front of the mountain, carrying the precious cross before them, loudly singing and greatly weeping as they went. And when they arrived at the spot, there they found the Calif with all his Saracen host armed to slay them if they would not change their faith; for the Saracens believed not in the least that God would grant such favour to the Christians. These latter stood indeed in great fear and doubt, but nevertheless they rested their hope on their God Jesus Christ.

So the Cobler received the Bishop’s benison, and then threw himself on his knees before the Holy Cross, and stretched out his hands towards Heaven, and made this prayer: “Blessed LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, I pray Thee by Thy goodness that Thou wilt grant this grace unto Thy people, insomuch that they perish not, nor Thy faith be cast down, nor abused nor flouted. Not that I am in the least worthy to prefer such request unto Thee; but for Thy great power and mercy I beseech Thee to hear this prayer from me Thy servant full of sin.”

And when he had ended this his prayer to God the Sovereign Father and Giver of all grace, and whilst the Calif and all the Saracens, and other people there, were looking on, the mountain rose out of its place and moved to the spot which the Calif had pointed out! And when the Calif and all his Saracens beheld, they stood amazed at the wonderful miracle that God had wrought for the Christians, insomuch that a great number of the Saracens became Christians. And even the Calif caused himself to be baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen, and became a Christian, but in secret. Howbeit, when he died they found a little cross hung round his neck; and therefore the Saracens would not bury him with the other Califs, but put him in a place apart. The Christians exulted greatly at this most holy miracle, and returned to their homes full of joy, giving thanks to their Creator for that which He had done.1

And now you have heard in what wise took place this great miracle. And marvel not that the Saracens hate the Christians; for the accursed law that Mahommet gave them commands them to do all the mischief in their power to all other descriptions of people, and especially to Christians; to strip such of their goods, and do them all manner of evil, because they belong not to their law. See then what an evil law and what naughty commandments they have! But in such fashion the Saracens act, throughout the world.

Now I have told you something of Baudas. I could easily indeed have told you first of the affairs and the customs of the people there. But it would be too long a business, looking to the great and strange things that I have got to tell you, as you will find detailed in this Book.

So now I will tell you of the noble city of Tauris.

NOTE 1. — We may remember that at a date only three years before Marco related this story (viz. in 1295), the cottage of Loreto is asserted to have changed its locality for the third and last time by moving to the site which it now occupies.

Some of the old Latin copies place the scene at Tauris. And I observe that a missionary of the 16th century does the same. The mountain, he says, is between Tauris and Nakhshiwan, and is called Manhuc. (Gravina, Christianita nell’ Armenia, etc., Roma, 1605, p. 91.)

The moving of a mountain is one of the miracles ascribed to Gregory Thaumaturgus. Such stories are rife among the Mahomedans themselves. “I know,” says Khanikoff, “at least half a score of mountains which the Musulmans allege to have come from the vicinity of Mecca.”

Ramusio’s text adds here: “All the Nestorian and Jacobite Christians from that time forward have maintained a solemn celebration of the day on which the miracle occurred, keeping a fast also on the eve thereof.”

F. Göring, a writer who contributes three articles on Marco Polo to the Neue Züricher-Zeitung, 5th, 6th, 8th April, 1878, says: “I heard related in Egypt a report which Marco Polo had transmitted to Baghdad. I will give it here in connection with another which I also came across in Egypt.

“‘Many years ago there reigned in Babylon, on the Nile, a haughty Khalif who vexed the Christians with taxes and corvées. He was confirmed in his hate of the Christians by the Khakam Chacham Bashi or Chief Rabbi of the Jews, who one day said to him: “The Christians allege in their books that it shall not hurt them to drink or eat any deadly thing. So I have prepared a potion that one of them shall taste at my hand: if he does not die on the spot then call me no more Chacham Bashi!” The Khalif immediately sent for His Holiness the Patriarch of Babylon, and ordered him to drink up the potion. The Patriarch just blew a little over the cup and then emptied it at a draught, and took no harm. His Holiness then on his side demanded that the Chacham Bashi should quaff a cup to the health of the Khalif, which he (the Patriarch) should first taste, and this the Khalif found only fair and right. But hardly had the Chacham Bashi put the cup to his lips than he fell down and expired.’ Still the Musulmans and Jews thirsted for Christian blood. It happened at that time that a mass of the hill Mokattani became loose and threatened to come down upon Babylon. This was laid to the door of the Christians, and they were ordered to stop it. The Patriarch in great distress has a vision that tells him summon the saintly cobbler (of whom the same story is told as here)— the cobbler bids the rock to stand still and it does so to this day. ‘These two stories may still be heard in Cairo’— from whom is not said. The hill that threatened to fall on the Egyptian Babylon is called in Turkish Dur Dagh, ‘Stay, or halt-hill.’ (L.c. April, 1878”)— MS. Note, H. Y.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24