Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Simeonis, Symon

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SIMEONIS, SYMON (fl. 1322), traveller and Franciscan, is known only from his ‘Itinerary’ of his travels, preserved in a manuscript at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Cod. 407 of the end of the fourteenth century; Nasmith, Cat. Libr. MSS. cccc. 384, 1777), and published by James Nasmith (‘Itineraria Symonis Simeonis et Willelmi de Worcestre,’ Cambridge, 1778). Symon states that he quitted Ireland after celebrating the provincial chapter of his order on St. Francis's day (4 Oct.) 1322, at ‘Clen.,’ no doubt Clane in the county Kildare, where a Franciscan convent had been founded in 1258 (Annals of the Four Masters, s. a.). He travelled in company with Hugo Illuminator (?Limner), also a friar minor, to Wales, and thence to London. From London the two friends proceeded to France, journeying through Beauvais and Paris to Troyes. Prevented by the war then going on in Lombardy from entering Italy by way of Lausanne, they took ship on the Saône and Rhône, and thus reached Arles, whence they went on by land through Nice, Piacenza, Mantua, Verona, and Padua to Venice. Here they again embarked, and made a coasting voyage down the Hadriatic and the Mediterranean, calling at many of the seaports on the mainland and islands, and eventually arrived at Alexandria on 14 Oct. 1323, after a quick voyage of five days from Candia. Of all he saw after leaving England Symon gives notices of various interest, though generally brief; but Tanner (Bibl. Brit. p. 702) somewhat exaggerates in assigning the same character to his remarks on England, which contain, with few exceptions, little more than a list of the places he passed through.

Symon and Hugh went up the Nile to Cairo, where they made a long stay. His experiences here furnish Symon with materials for a detailed account of the country and of the manners and religion of its inhabitants, an account which displays unusual intelligence and observation. From Egypt the travellers were preparing to pass on into the Holy Land, when Hugh fell sick and died. His companion proceeded on his journey, and reached Jerusalem. But with his description of the exterior of the city the manuscript breaks off, and its survival is the only evidence of the completion of his pilgrimage and of his presumable return to the west.

Symon Simeonis is called by Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy, who was ignorant that the ‘Itinerary’ had appeared in print, Symon Fitz Semeon (the e being an evident mistake in Nasmith's ‘Catalogus,’ which is not repeated in his edition of the work); but if Symon be of Anglo-Irish descent, his name would more likely be FitzSimon, and it is in any case hazardous to guess at a name which might equally well begin with an Irish prefix.

[Itinerarium Symonis Simeonis.]