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BINOS, Abbé de. Voyage par l'Italie, en Egypte au Mont-Liban et en Palestine ou Terre Sainte, par M. l'Abbé de Binos, chanoine de la Cathédrale de Comminges, vols Ι-II, Paris, chez l'Auteur & chez Boudet, MDCCLXXXVII [=1787].

The French clergyman Abbé de Binos (1730-1803) was a priest in his native town of St. Bernanrd de Comminges. The account of his travels to the East, written at his friends' suggestion, was published ten years after his journey, and later translated into German. Binos travelled to satisfy his own curiosity, and, as he notes in his introduction: “Every night, I would record all that I had seen and felt during the journey.”

Priests of the Catholic church of western Europe had been active in the East since the time of the Fourth Crusade, when Venetians, Franks and Genoese gained the rule of Byzantine territories. In the following centuries, especially after encyclopedism of the 18th century cultivated curiosity and thirst for systematic knowledge, several clergymen dared to go on faraway voyages, not necessarily as pilgrims, in order to study unknown people and places.

Binos started out on his journey from his home town in Octoder 1776. By way of Marseille, Sardinia, Tunis and Messina in Sicily, he reached Cephalonia, where he stayed for approximately a month. He continued his journey on to the Adriatic sea, and described several islands off the Dalmatic coast in his account. Subsequently, he toured several Italian cities until the spring of 1777. He then sailed from Trieste to Egypt by way of Zakynthos, and after travelling around in the Middle East (Lebanon, Syria and the Holy Land), he returned to Paris by way of Cyprus in the summer of 1779.

He composed a very enjoyable narrative, and included several curious details related to the public and private life in the places he visited, the cities, the monuments, the customs and religion. He also dedicates some chapters especially to the rites of eastern Christians. The illustrations accompanying his text echo his reflections on the similarities and differences between nations, since, as he states in the introduction: “Finally, in Asia, Africa and Europe mores and traditions part from a common ground, and their individual differences are related to culture, politics and climate in each region”.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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