This volume has its genesis in a set of 'Journeying along Medieval Routes' sessions at the 2010 International Medieval Congress in Leeds. These examined aspects of medieval travel and exploration, starting with the premises that the journey is important for understanding the way social, cultural and political meaning is produced in the medieval world, and that different societies and cultures have different relationships with both built and natural environments.
The theoretical positioning of this volume is figured around a scholarly baseline that models people and societies as dynamic rather than constrained to specific locations and time periods. Such social dynamism is nowadays familiar to the scholar, even though popular views of periodization and a modern nationalist discourse might wish to frame it. The volume discusses journeys, conquests, and economic expansions that have occurred over millennia, thereby challenging the post-Enlightenment rhetoric of the 'age of exploration' as a modern phenomenon. This volume spans from the fourth-century Christian empire of Constantine, through the Norman migrations into southern Italy and Sicily and Norman interaction with the Arab world of the medieval Mediterranean, to the twelfth- and thirteenth-century northern European movements of elites in both Germany and England.
In Section 1, Ralf Bockmann and E. J. Mylod bookend a millennium of pilgrim practice, paying particular attention to the politics and landscape of medieval pilgrimage routes to Jerusalem. Bockmann explores Emperor Constantine's fourth-century 'programme' establishing pilgrimage culture [End Page 205] and architectural infrastructure for the purpose of consolidating his spiritual and temporal authority. Mylod's contribution focuses on contemporary accounts of twelfth- and thirteenth-century pilgrimage routes in the Holy Land, discussing the political exigencies that affected the important (and lucrative) pilgrimage 'industry' to Jerusalem, focusing on changes following the loss of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187, and its destruction in 1291.
In Section 2, Paul Oldfield, Leonie V. Hicks, and Jean-Charles Ducène turn their attention to medieval Italy, and in the course of their three chapters they examine important issues concerning the Norman settlers in Sicily and southern Italy. These include, as Oldfield discusses, the reminder that our histories commonly mask the true state of affairs, derived as they are from discourse of the elites. For Norman Italy the story is more one of assimilation and convergence of cultures than has often been acknowledged, notwithstanding the fact that powerful Normans retained their status in the spatially connected world of pilgrim, mercantile and mercenary travel. Norman diasporic land-seeking lesser nobility also played an important role in this, but they did not necessarily retain their Norman identities. Hicks explores conquest narratives of Norman Italy through a number of chronicles, noting a clear correlation between the ability of a noble to successfully negotiate landscape challenges and the rightfulness of their conquest and rule over the region: a process that naturalizes political authority as geographic, realized through itinerary, topography and landscape. Ducène then switches focus to the writings of twelfth-century Arab geographer al-Idrīsī, seeking to understand routes, localities and itineraries in southern Italy. He examines oral and written sources (including Norman sources) to find that the routes al-Idrīsī described were realistic and correct, and that his sources align with those used by contemporary western European authors. He also reveals that al-Idrīsī probably used military informants from Roger II's Sicily campaign for important locality information, a useful reflection on the place of Arab geographers in Norman Sicily. Importantly, Ducène assesses al-Idrīsī's description of the road network as reliable for knowledge of contemporary conditions in southern Italy.
Section 3 turns to north-west Europe, with Pierre Fütterer and Christian Oertel reconstructing routes and road systems in medieval Germany. Fütterer examines the tenth- and eleventh-century roadway infrastructure in Saxony, analysing the mechanisms of itinerancy of the Ottonian kings, and identifying a likely location for the...