Post-classical history

Nikulas of Munkethverâ (d. 1159)

Monk and later abbot (1155-1159) of the small Benedictine monastery of Munkethvera on Iceland, who visited Jerusalem between July 1149 and August 1153. After his return in 1154, Nikulas dictated to one of the monks of the monastery an account of his long journey from the north coast of Iceland to Jerusalem by sea via Norway to Denmark, overland through Germany across the Alps to Italy, and then again by sea from Bari to Outremer.

Nikulas’s account survives in a fourteenth-century Icelandic manuscript (MS København, Det Arnamagæanske Institut, 194.8o), which includes another twelfth-century description of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as well as texts describing the relics at other major cult sites in Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey) and the West.

The account is unique for its details concerning the routes used by travelers and pilgrims from Scandinavia to Jerusalem in the twelfth century, descriptions of places and sights en route, distances, and time of travel. The itinerary has sometimes been ascribed to another Icelandic abbot, Nikulas Sæmundarsson, who in all probability was a fictitious personage invented by the Icelandic historian Finnus Johannæus in the 1770s. A few surviving verses of skaldic poetry written by Nikulas contain common crusading themes.

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