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6-03-2015, 17:46

Nlkulas of Munkethvera (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 Kobenhavn, Det Arnamagsanske Institut, 194.8°), 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 Ssmundarsson, who in all probability was a fictitious personage invented by the Icelandic historian Finnus Johannsus in the 1770s. A few surviving verses of skaldic poetry written by Nikulas contain common crusading themes.

-Janus M0ller Jensen


Alfrxdi Islenzk: Islandsk Encyklopxdisk Litteratur. I. Cod. Mbr. AM.194,8o, ed. Kristian Kalund (Kobenhavn: Moller, 1908).

Hm, Joyce, “From Rome to Jerusalem: An Icelandic Itinerary of the Mid-Twelfth Century,” Harvard Theological Review 76 (1983), 175-203.

Jensen, Janus MoUer, “Vejen til Jerusalem: Danmark og pilgrimsvejen til Jerusalem i det 12. arhundrede: En islandsk vejviser,” in Individ, kollektiv och kulturella monster: Nya perspektivpa 1100-tallets Danmark, ed. Peter Carelli, Lars Hermanson, and Hanne Sanders (Goteborg: Makadam, 2004), pp. 284-337.

Kedar, Benjamin Z., and Christian Westergard-Nielsen, “Icelanders in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: A Twelfth-Century Account,” Mediaeval Scandinavia 11 (1978-1979), 193-211.

Magoun, Francis Peabody, Jr., “The Pilgrim-Diary of Nikulas of Munkathvera: The Road to Rome,” Mediaeval Studies 6 (1944), 314-354.

The Fourth Crusade (1202-1204), and subsequently archbishop of Thessalonica (1205-1207).

Nivelon took the cross in late 1199 or early 1200 and hosted three conferences at Soissons in 1200 and 1201 at which crusade leaders planned their strategy. In the winter of 1202-1203, Nivelon led the delegation that obtained papal absolution for the capture of Zara (mod. Zadar, Croatia). Later, along with other crusade leaders, he kept the army’s rank and file ignorant of Pope Innocent III’s prohibition of the diversion to Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey). Joined by other crusade clerics, he preached the righteousness of the crusaders’ war against Constantinople in 1204, and his ship, the Paradise, led the assault on the city’s harbor walls on 12 April. Following the capture of the city, he served as an imperial elector and was elevated to the archbishopric of Thessalonica (mod. Thessaloniki, Greece) in 1205. That same year he returned to France to recruit reinforcements for the Latin Empire, and in Soissons, which he enriched with relics stolen from Constantinople, he told his story to an unknown cleric (the Anonymous of Soissons) who produced the text De terra Iherosolimitana, which told of the crusade and Nivelon’s role in bringing relics to the West. Nivelon died in 1207 in Italy while trying to return to the East.

-Alfred J. Andrea

See also: Fourth Crusade (1201-1204)


Andrea, Alfred J., Contemporary Sources for the Fourth Crusade (Leiden: Brill, 2000).

Andrea, Alfred J., and Paul I. Rachlin, “Holy War, Holy Relics, Holy Theft: The Anonymous of Soissons’s De terra Iherosolimitana: An Analysis, Edition, and Translation,” Historical Reflections 18 (1992), 147-175.