Antoninus of Piacenza

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The sixth-century pilgrim Antoninus of Piacenza, or the Anonymous Pilgrim of Piacenza,[1] who described the holy places of Jerusalem in the 570s is confused often with Saint Antoninus of Piacenza, who is venerated as a saint and martyr in the Roman Catholic Church, with a feast day of 13 November in the Ambrosian calendar. The saint was said to be a member of the legendary Theban Legion and to have been martyred at Piacenza, of which he is reckoned a patron.[2]

Of Antoninus, the historical pilgrim, F. Bechtel reported in The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910).[3]

"In manuscripts he is sometimes styled Antoninus the Martyr, through ignorant confusion of the writer with the martyr St. Antoninus who is venerated at Piacenza. He is the last writer who saw Palestine before the Moslem conquest. Although he covered in his travels nearly the same extensive territory as the Spanish nun, his work contains but few details not found in other writers; it is, moreover, marred by gross errors and by fabulous tales which betray the most naive credulity."

The itinerary of Antoninus is valued by the historian as documenting the extent of the sixth-century trade catering to the pious pilgrims in the Holy Land: "We went to Cana, where our Lord was present at the marriage feast," Antoninus reports, "and we reclined on the very couch." Inspired by such a vivid figuration of Biblical truth, Antoninus indulged the classic tourists' act: "and there, unworthy as I was, I wrote the names of my parents".[4]

Antoninus' description of the chalice of onyx that was venerated in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and of the Holy Lance in the Basilica of Mount Zion form early attestations of the cultus of these two relics.


  1. ^ Pilgrims who visited the Holy Land between the IV and VII century
  2. ^ e.g. at Patron Saints Index
  3. ^ The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Itineraria"
  4. ^ A block of marble found at Elateia, inscribed in Byzantine Greek "This stone is from Cana in Galilee, where Our Lord Jesus Christ turned the water into wine" and the further inscription "Antoninus", was identified with Antoninus of Piacenza when the block was moved to the Chapel of Saint Eleutherios near the Cathedral, Athens. ("Archaeological News", The American Journal of Archaeology and of the History of the Fine Arts 1885:230.

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