Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sæwulf

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SÆWULF (fl. 1102), traveller, was apparently a native of Worcester, and an acquaintance of Wulfstan [q. v.], bishop of Worcester. William of Malmesbury, in his ‘History of the English Bishops,’ tells us of a certain Sæwulf, a merchant, who was often advised by Wulfstan, in confession, to embrace a monastic life, and in his old age, adds the historian, he became a monk in the abbey of Malmesbury. Probably it was the same penitent who went on pilgrimage to Syria in 1102, three years after the recovery of the holy city by the crusaders. In the narrative of this journey Sæwulf only describes his course from Monopoli, near Bari in Italy, whence he sailed to Palestine on 13 July 1102. He went by way of Corfu and Cephalonia, ‘where Robert Guiscard died,’ to Corinth and Rhodes, ‘which is said to have possessed the idol called Colossus, that was destroyed by the Persians [Saracens?] with nearly all Romania, while on their way to Spain. These were the Colossians to whom St. Paul wrote.’ From Rhodes he sailed to Cyprus and Joppa; thence he went up to Jerusalem, where he visited the sacred sites, also going to Bethlehem, Bethany, Jericho, the Jordan, and Hebron, in the neighbourhood. In the north of Palestine he describes Nazareth, Mount Tabor, the Sea of Galilee, and Mount Lebanon, ‘at the foot of which the Jordan boils out from two springs called Jor and Dan.’

On the feast of Pentecost (17 May) 1103 Sæwulf sailed from Joppa to Constantinople on his return. For fear of the Saracens he did not venture out into the open sea this time, but coasted along Syria to Tripolis and Latakiyeh (Laodicea), after which he crossed over to Cyprus and proceeded on his way to Byzantium. But after describing the voyage past Smyrna and Tenedos to the Dardanelles, the narrative breaks off abruptly. Sæwulf mentions Baldwin, king of Jerusalem, and Raymond, count of Toulouse, as living in his time; and adds that Tortosa was then in the latter's possession, and that Acre was still in the hands of the Saracens. Tortosa was captured by Count Raymond on 12 March 1102, Acre on 15 May 1104.

[Sæwulf's pilgrimage only exists in one manuscript in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, from which it was edited by M. Avezac for the French Geographical Society, and translated by T. Wright for his Early Travels in Palestine, 1848. The only other reference is in William of Malmesbury's De Gestis Pontificum; see Wright's Biographia Britannica Literaria, Anglo-Norman period, p. 38.]

C. R. B.