Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

Sir Francis Ronalds' Travel Journal: Holy Land - Jerusalem

"She was a turkish crazy old non-descript vessell freighted with rice (the Pasha's), Lentils, 20 or 30 mamelukes, 2 or 3 arab women, 3 Saints... and a very large assortment of animalerle vermin"




"I after much contention got myself, my servant & my luggage stored in the ship's boat, for the cabin was notwithstanding all my efforts to overcome my "prejudices" absolutely unbearable"




"The turks were surly and when I attempted to converse with the Arab women... they were immediately severely reprimanded and ordered away from me"




"I was treated with great rudeness and incivility all the way by the turks... and a scuffle once ensued about the right of boiling the pot at the fire... which had like to have terminated in mischief for knives were out in a moment"




"I went with the Consul to the spot... where the turks were massacred by Buonaparte, there still remains hillocks of sand scarcely covering the bones and many bones lying about... He said that the perfect composure shewn by every one of them on the occasion was astonishing"




"by the by I had the honour to sleep upon the couch which Buonaparte used"

View of Rama (Ramla)

"I ought to trump up a good story after strolling as I did on the fine moonlight evening amongst the tombs... & meeting with a group of bronze faced arabs sitting round their crackling fire... whilst its flitting light... stirred most horribly the ghastly contents of a neighbouring grave and now and then a shapeless something gliding through the more distant obscurity, perhaps a "Spirit doomed for a certain time to walk the night", Perhaps an Ass but I can make nothing of it"




"Here we were stoped by a Party of the Robbers on horseback whose chief placed his long spear across the road and quietly demanded to see our firmans, which we did not feel disposed to refuse and so as quietly passed on wishing him a particularly good morning"

Resting place between Ramla and Jerusalem

Chapel near Jerusalem

"If you want to "give way to your imagination"... at the first view of any famous place or thing, never read an enthusiastical account of it previously but above all never read such a bombastic, sentimental, gasconading stale fellow as Chateaubriand whose account of Jerusalem is but a bad Romance"




"I wonder whether I am the first Unitarian Pilgrim to Jerusalem"

Entrance to the Sepulchres of the Kings

Tomb of the Virgin

"the altar upon the tomb itself is ornamented with a wretched picture of the virgin and one or two others & with paltry silk hangings, gold fringes & tinsel... She was not originally buried here but transported from [blank] by an angel you know"

Absalom's Monument

Tomb of Zachariah in the Valley of Jehoshaphat

Jaffa 2nd March 1820

At last on the morning of the 27th Feby to my great joy a Borghaz was announced & I was informed that the vessell in which I had engaged my passage to Jaffa had already passed the Bar safely & waited without for her cargo, therefore I immediately took my leave of the Consul and proceeded down to her in a little boat. She was a turkish crazy old non-descript vessell freighted with rice (the Pasha's), Lentils, 20 or 30 mamelukes, 2 or 3 arab women, 3 Saints (i.e. a sort of wandering priests generally pretending to be mad) and a very large assortment of animalerle vermin. She was the best vessell I could get. Every body & every thing was soon disposed in some sort of order. I after much contention got myself, my servant & my luggage stored in the ship's boat, for the cabin was notwithstanding all my efforts to overcome my "prejudices" absolutely unbearable. & now I bade adieu to Egypt without regret for altho' I had spent only 5 weeks in that interesting country & altho' I had intended to have gone into upper Egypt with Sir Frederick, I did not anticipate the pleasure of seeing The Thebaid, Dendera, Es Suan &c so highly as an antiquarian would have done & I was glad to escape the season of the Plague. Upon the whole I was contented with my little excursion round the beautiful Delta in its proudest season & I don't expect to be better pleased with the holy land.

Nothing worth notice scarcely occurred on the voyage. The turks were surly and when I attempted to converse with the Arab women through Ferdinando they were immediately severely reprimanded and ordered away from me. One of the Saints seemed disposed to civility & I found that a little soup or some fruit had a wonderfull effect in bringing back a lucid interval now & then, but he would not enter on the subject of religion. On the 3rd day we had a most ennuyant calm and began to want water (a regular piece of turkish carelessness). I was treated with great rudeness and incivility all the way by the turks (the only instance of the kind I had met with) and a scuffle once ensued about the right of boiling the pot at the fire with Ferdinando which had like to have terminated in mischief for knives were out in a moment. So I was glad enough to pay my Baksheesh to a brawny fellow to carry me on shore in the little harbour here on the 3rd of March.

Every body who has said any thing about Jaffa has confined himself principally to what it formerly was. At present nothing remains but two insignificant fountains, therefore I have nothing at all to say about it. I went with the Consul to the spot about 2 miles out of the town where the turks were massacred by Buonaparte, there still remains hillocks of sand scarcely covering the bones and many bones lying about. It is very extraordinary that Clarke should express any doubt about this Massacre for the Consul was there at the time and witnessed it. He said that the perfect composure shewn by every one of them on the occasion was astonishing, the circumstance of the turks being fatalists is generally given as the cause of this composure. The arabs are said to be equally indifferent about parting with their heads. This does not surprise me for I verily believe that their lives are often so miserable that it becomes a burden which they don't care how soon they throw off their shoulders. I met here at the Consul's house a Mr Connor of King's College Oxford engaged in distributing bibles for the Bible society, and made his acquaintance which I have no doubt will be agreeable and beneficial to me being wretchedly ignorant of the Bible altho' travelling soon in the holy land. I cannot see I must own much use in bringing bibles here because nobody reads, the school society should come first I think.

Jerusalem 9th March 1820

We left Jaffa on the afternoon of the 4th inst for the Holy City. The party consisted, beside Mr Connor & myself, of our 2 servants, of a Greek hadgee (or pilgrim) who carried with him a quantity of hardware &c &c to sell at Jerusalem (as many other pilgrims do), two other Hadgee men and one Woman, & the muleteers. We were each mounted on a mule and other mules & 2 camels conveyed the baggage so our little caravan consisted in 14 mules, 2 camels, 8 pious Christians & the muleteers. We marched out of the town headed by our worthy Consul mounted on his fine arabian 25 years old. His figure was a little whimsical for he wore an enormous cocked hat about the same age as his horse with turkish robes and bore a tolerably respectable tea pot. After we had passed the gate about a mile we bade him a cordial adieu for we had been lodged in his house and lived with him all the time of our stay at Jaffa and were treated with the greatest hospitality and kindness (by the by I had the honour to sleep upon the couch which Buonaparte used when there).

We were provided with Arms and firmans of the Pasha of Acre for our safe conduct, the latter I believe were the most effective, but arrived without [?] or hindrance at the beautiful little town of Rama the ancient Arimathea in the evening & were soon lodged in the latin convent, the picture of cleanliness & comfort compared with any other convents or places where one can lodge in these parts. Here we remained all the next day (5th) for it was Sunday & we could not think of travelling over holy land on so holy a day. I did not regret the delay as I found much amusement in wandering about the neighbourhood. The ruined Church and Monastery of the Knights of St. John are very picturesque & there are many other sweet views. Altogether the beauty of the place, the mildness & communicative dispositions of the monks one of whom was a remarkably fine old intelligent fellow, inspired that kind of Romance which so often pleases us in tales of yore. I ought to trump up a good story after strolling as I did on the fine moonlight evening amongst the tombs and ancient [?] walls & meeting with a group of bronze faced arabs sitting round their crackling fire & cooking pilauf and singing in barbarian chorus some love song under a fine old gothic arch, whilst its flitting light which illuminates the moss grown sides stirred[?] most horribly the ghastly contents of a neighbouring grave and now and then a shapeless something gliding through the more distant obscurity, perhaps a "Spirit doomed for a certain time to walk the night", Perhaps an Ass but I can make nothing of it. Help me out Peter, this is the last attempt I make at the sublime.

We started again at day break on Monday morning (6th) and were joined by another small party of Pilgrims on going out of the town. The Road was good but the country less cultivated than that between Jaffa & Rama. The first village we passed was Latrun, abt 2 Hours from Rama. Here we were stoped by a Party of the Robbers on horseback whose chief placed his long spear across the road and quietly demanded to see our firmans, which we did not feel disposed to refuse and so as quietly passed on wishing him a particularly good morning. "And as we journeyed onwards" we came unto the mountains which we entered amongst shrubs of various Kinds some of which I have seen in our greenhouses but others I don't recollect having ever seen before, and came about noon to the usual halting place, an old ruinous piece of a wall called Elihmah Mahli[?]. Here we found some score country people who brought us Water.

The scenery all the rest of the way to Jerusalem was barren & uninteresting always among the mountains & we arrived in sight of the holy city just as the last rays of the setting Sun tipped the turrets of its Walls. I was first surprised to see these walls maintained in so good preservation and next at the smallness of their circumference. If you want to "give way to your imagination" or to indulge any enthusiasm at the first view of any famous place or thing, never read an enthusiastical account of it previously but above all never read such a bombastic, sentimental, gasconading stale fellow as Chateaubriand whose account of Jerusalem is but a bad Romance. Jerusalem as you approach it from Rama looks like a neat little fortified town, you see little beside its walls because it is built on the side of a hill which slopes away from you & the country in the neighbourhood of this side forms one of the most dreary barren prospects in the world perhaps.

I cannot boast that the pleasure I experienced in passing through the Pilgrims' gate into Jerusalem was religious, it was rather derived from associating the Biblical histories with my early school boy days when I used to read the bible straight on, the 30 or 40 long apophatic[?] years of expoundings & fistpoundings which have passed over my head have after all done but little for me. I wonder whether I am the first Unitarian Pilgrim to Jerusalem. Tasso never came into my head at that time.

We were soon safely lodged in the chambers of the latin Convent which have been occupied by all the frank travellers during more than [blank] years as is shewn by their having immortalized upon the doors until there was scarcely space left for our names. The saddles without stirrups or rather sacks which are used in these parts on the mules had almost stretched the tendons of my thighs to the cracking point I think, for I was never so dreadfully cut up by a ride tho' the distance was not particularly great. The next morning we engaged the Dragoman of the Convent and immediately began our researches (not with quite so much parade as Monsieur Chateaubriand) but as I shall remain here until after the Passover, I shall for the present take my leave of you in order that I may sum up the more shortly all I have to say of the holy city & its environs at the end of my Sojourn in it.

April 3d 1820

Happy Europe! Thrice happy little England! Tomorrow for the first time during 19 long months I bend my way homeward again to bask in the sunshine of pretty & honest English faces, again to abuse my rulers' heads without endangering my own, "to speak daggers but use none", to talk of Pilauf but eat none. - I feel so delighted with the idea of approaching home that I fear I shall forget a great part of what I intended to say about this place. However to begin.

(7th) The first thing one does if the Most Holy Sepulchre is shut is to perambulate the outside of the walls of the town and the first remarkable place you come to in so doing is Jeremiah's prison (as it is called), it is a mere arched pit very much like an ancient cistern or a modern coal hole. A sarcophagus lies near it (now used as a horse trough) of marble and of most beautiful workmanship. The carving consists of a great variety of leaves & fruits & flowers of exactly the same kind as those of the sarcophagi of the Sepulchres of the Kings and has been probably brought from thence as they are but a short distance from it.

- The cave of Jeremiah comes next where he is said to have made his lamentations. It is a lamentable place enough but nothing remarkable, being a mere cave in the rock.

- The Sepulchres of the Kings or according to some that of St Helena is quite the reverse, you see nothing of the same style any where else in Jerusalem and nothing so beautiful. The frieze over the front or entrance (which was probably supported by two or more Columns & is a little below the surface of the earth in a square open excavation) consists of flowers, fruits &c intermixed with triglyphs carved most deliberately in the native rock of marble, but it is going to decay very fast. The most curious objects of the interior are I think the marble doors of the different cells or chambers, they were suspended by convex pivots and concave sockets the pivots cut out of the same piece which forms the door, and have panels exactly like our modern parlour doors. There is no door now in its place. Some arabs whom we found here seemed a little disposed to mischief and when we creeped into the modern low entrance thought it prudent to post a man there to give us notice of any movements they might make towards blocking it up with stones and so prevent our exit, which trick they have been known to serve other travellers in order to extort a large Baksheesh (present).

- The Tomb of the Virgin in the valley of Jehoshaphat is contained in a Saracenic chapel of the outside of which you may form some idea by my sketch perhaps, its foundation is considerably below the level of the neighbouring ground. Entering the chapel you descend to the tomb by a long flight of steps & the altar upon the tomb itself is ornamented with a wretched picture of the virgin and one or two others & with paltry silk hangings, gold fringes & tinsel resembles a Bartholomew fair Puppet shew as much as any thing I can compare it to. She was not originally buried here but transported from [blank] by an angel you know. The whole chapel is constantly illuminated with silver lamps (the presents of devoted sovereigns &c) & on grand occasions with an immense number of them.

- The Garden of Gethsemane was just behind me as I drew the Chapel. It is only to be known by a low wall enclosing a space of about 30 paces square and the 12 Olive trees which the pilgrims & Priests will in spite of every thing maintain are the very same which stood there in Christ's time.

Ascending the Mount of Olives we were shewn several places which Christ & his disciples rendered memorable such as where he was apprehended &c &c, I cannot remember them all, the impressions of their bodies in the sold rock (a very favourite miracle this) were deeper than those on my mind. On the top of the Mountain in a little chapel in an anct Mosque is the impression of a man's foot which was made at the moment of his ascension. This is the most holy of all the places next to the M. H. sepulchre & people are constantly making models by pouring wax into it to sell to the pilgrims at a very high price. In descending we passed the spot where the lord's prayer was composed and several other holy cracks & corners and entered the Valley of Jehoshaphat again near Absalom's Monument, called by some his tomb but it is only the monument which he erected to commemorate his family I believe. It is a pretty thing rather, & I afterwards took the trouble to sketch it sitting on the town side of the Brook Kedron where David passed over in his flight from Jerusalem near the Bridge. The monument is on the other side. There was no water in the channel & there never is now they say except in time of heavy rains & then but little.

The tomb of Jehoshaphat is close by on the left cut in the rock, it is not very distinctly seen, only a fa├žade.

- I also sketched the Tomb of Zechariah with its pyramidical top

- And the Tomb of Jehoshaphat.

Chateaubriand makes four gross blunders respecting these tombs &c. He calls the pyramid triangular whereas it is square, he misnames it the Tomb of Absalom, he says there are six columns in each front whereas there are but two half columns & two pilasters, and he calls the architecture Doric whereas the capitals are strictly Ionic & on this last blunder he proceeds to reason: The Tomb of Jehoshaphat is the only specimen of true Doric architecture I saw at Jerusalem. They are all wholly or in part carved out the Rock.

Jerusalem's wall

Pillar of Mohammed and part of ancient bath

- The Fountain of Siloam is a little more to the left, it is said to have a daily tide or flux & reflux but altho' I visited it several times I could not discover this to be the case. They told me that a frenchman some few years ago entered the passage at one end and came out at the other having measured the whole length but I could not learn his name nor what discoveries he made. The water tasted brackish. The Village of Siloam is one of the most rubbishy poor places I ever saw & the inhabitants have a bad character. Following the course of the Brook Kedron we came to the well of Hinnom - which is now filled up, there are 3 little stone cisterns used for water troughs for cows which have an antique appearance & a building containing one of them is still used for a Cow shed. We returned to the Pilgrims' gate by the valley of Hinnom passing some ancient tombs on the opposite side cut in the rock but not ornamented.

The next excursion we made (8th) was round the Walls close under them to examine the Gates &c & I am sorry I have not made a sketch of St. Stephens to shew you the style of them, they are gothic and that of Damascus rather handsome & imposing. I drew a piece of the wall near it which may serve as a specimen of what the walls are. It was thereabouts that Godfrey began the assault. The trench is very deep but not a natural one throughout, for near this angle there are very evident marks of human labour and even masonry. Towards the north end of the eastern wall a pillar projects from it at right angles near the top upon which the vulgar turks think that Mohammed will sit (a la turque) to judge the world which will be assembled in the valley of Jehoshaphat below and on the side of the Mount of Olives opposite. I have several times seen them pay a profound reverence and mutter a prayer in passing this stone, it is about 5 ft long and 2 in diameter I think. In this angle of the wall I saw some very large square blocks of stone ornamented with a sort of projecting Panel such as is frequently seen in walls of undoubted high antiquity, perhaps if they did not belong to the more ancient wall or even the temple of Solomon which stood hereabouts they at least formed a part of the wall rebuilt by Herod. Here I also saw scattered about and in the declivity towards the monument of Absalom some pieces of roman pavement and preserved some specimens, which Mr Grey a gentleman of very great litterary [sic] & antiquarian attainments now here as well as Mr Banks who was so long here both think have belonged to the Temple as rebuilt by Herod. I one day took the trouble to count my steps in walking round as close under the walls as I could in order to compare them with old Maundrell's, the following is the comparison.

From the Gate of Rama or the Pilgrims' to St. Stephen's2400of my paces2410Maundrell's
From the Gate of St. Stephen to G. of Damascus1500- do - 1140- do -
From the Gate of Damascus to G. of Rama1100- do -1080- do -
Whole circuit of Jerusalem -5000- do -4630- do -
4630
Difference; mine more than his -370

The Time I occupied in making the circuit was 54 Mints & 20 Secds.

Nearly the whole of the difference takes place between the Gate of St Stephen and that of Damascus you see and I have no doubt that Maundrell is right & I am wrong for I was rather put out thereabouts by meeting with a party of Women. Old Maundrell is generally very correct in his statements and his book is worth ten of Chateaubriand's or Clarke's. I reckon 2300 of my paces to the mile so the circumference now may be reckoned at 2 Miles perhaps. The height of the wall varys [sic] very little.