On arrival at Jordan there was much excitement. To bathe in that ancient river was thought to renew youth, and so all the pilgrims were eager to immerse themselves; even women of 80—a rather doubtful figure—plunging into the lukewarm stream. Some had brought bells to be blessed with Jordan water, others strips of material for clothes; and wealthier members of the party jumped in as they were, in order that the robes they had on might bring them luck in the future. Three things were forbidden to the pilgrims: (1) to swim across the stream, because in the excitement of emotion and amongst such crowds individuals had often been drowned; (2) to dive in, because the bottom was muddy; (3) to carry away phials of Jordan water. The first regulation was openly violated. On his first journey Fabri had swum across, but on the return had been seized with panic and nearly drowned. So this time he contented himself with drawing up his garments round his neck and sitting down in the shallow water among the crowd who were splashing about and jestingly baptizing one another. The prohibition of Jordan water was to appease the shipmen; for it was thought to cause storms when carried over the sea.
We have not time to follow Fabri in more detail. On 24 August he left Jerusalem with a small company of pilgrims who had not been deterred from undertaking the journey to Sinai. There was much dispute about the route they should follow. Some were for going by sea to Alexandria, others wished to march down the sea coast; but finally they made up their minds to go straight South across the desert. Starting from Gaza on 9 September they reached St. Catherine’s on the 22nd. Five days of very hard work sufficed for them to see all the sacred sites and ascend the many towering peaks; and here again Fabri impressed upon his companions that the days of miracles were over, and that in these evil times God would show no more. On 27 September they set forth again, and journeying through Midian reached Cairo on 8 October; having picked up on the shore of the Red Sea oyster shells which should be an abiding witness of their pilgrimage. On 5 November they set sail from Alexandria; but summer had departed from the sea, and the winds blew obstinately. Three times they beat up to Cape Malea, before they could round the point and make sail for the North; and it was not till 8 Jan. 1484 that they landed in Venice. The pilgrimage was over after seven months, and with what Guilford’s chaplain calls ‘large departing of our money’.
THE TRANSALPINE RENAISSANCE