Nils Mattsson Kiöping Still On Mount Sinai

Here’s another chapter of my ongoing translation of Nils Mattsson Kiöping’s 1667 travelogue. I’ve introduced a paragraph division for legibility.

Chapter 24: Sinai part 3
There is nothing on Horeb except for some guard houses for Arab soldiers. Having enjoyed four days and nights there, we said farewell to the Fathers, Catholics and Romans as well as Greeks, who accompanied us with a great entourage off the mountain, as follows. First the Litany was sung and then they read a blessing over us. When the Greek priests learned that we were leaving, their Prelate came to us with his entire retinue in the Carmelite monastery, where we had stayed, and coaxed us to dine with him. First Mass was celebrated, and then the food was set out. After we had eaten there was another Mass, and then we said farewell to them. But both the Greek and the Latin priests followed us off the mountain, singing all the way. All of them were dressed in Mass vestments, some carrying candles, some crosses, books or holy water.

Having thus descended from the mountain in such company, we found a number of mules and water at the ready for our trek to the ship. We reclaimed our weaponry, and again they read a blessing over us and sprinkled us with holy water. We then mounted and left. Two of these monks came with us and showed us many famous sites along the way. In particular, half a mile from the mountain, a completely dry place where they said that Aaron’s children Nadab and Abihu were consumed by fire. From there to another place where they said that the Children of Israel would have raised the golden calf, and worshipped it. A mile further on was a large Turkish church, into which no Christian was admitted on pain of death. There, they said, Moses would have stayed or slept when God spoke to him in a pillar of cloud. And in another Turkish temple which they called Beziel they said that the bush would have stood that Moses saw burn, yet not be consumed. And the monks said that this would be the same bush as they had in their monastery. Muslims venerate these churches greatly.

On the second day we came back to the ship. The crew had caught such an abundance of fish that they could not salt it all. That night so much red sand came flying on a west-southwesterly wind, and with a great storm, that no human could be on deck, so that we had to close all our hatches and pull tarred cloth over the lattice hatches. When this was over (it lasted for an hour) we could see neither deck nor water for all the sand. This gave us a certain indication that the wind had turned, and so we decided to set course for Swaquem, a town in Egypt on the Red Sea coast …

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

2 thoughts on “Nils Mattsson Kiöping Still On Mount Sinai”

  1. By more extensive study of the area around Mt Sinai on Google Earth, and reading up on St Catherine (used interchangeably with St Katherine, St Katharine, etc.), I have uncovered a wealth of stuff which makes it clear that NMK was not exaggerating or making anything up about this area. I won’t go into all of the detail of what I have uncovered, but as a fact check on NMK’s writing, it pretty much validates everything he recorded. Since I last looked at Google Earth, some tourists have been to the area, including visiting St Catherine’s Monastery (established by the Emperor Justinian) and have linked to some photos, including one of the Burning Bush that is kept at the monastery (about which NMK seemed pretty skeptical – it being the actual bush referred to in the OT, I mean).

    There is also a recently established township in the area called St Catherine, and St Catherine Airport – she clearly was and still is a big noise in the area around Mt Sinai, which all seems pretty weird because it is in Egypt. But in fact it seems that St Catherine is venerated by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, and they all seem to get along in this area. St Catherine’s Monastery does indeed accommodate a mosque, which is used on special occasions.

    So, well done NMK – good record.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. In the photo someone has linked of the Burning Bush, you can’t actually see the bush in question – it seems to be behind a wooden gate which largely obscures it. So you just get a panoramic view of some random old white folks lining up to gawk at it. Not sure what the point of that is. Maybe there isn’t one.


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