Chapter 8 depicts the voyage to and settlement in Jerusalem, with a stop in Alexandria and surroundings, to meet bishops and holy men. On a return trip to Egypt, they visited the so-called desert fathers and attempted to leave them funds. Egypt and Palestine (called the “Holy Land” by Christians in this era) were the prime destinations for Christian pilgrims, women as well as men, from the fourth century onward. Some “Westerners” settled there and founded monasteries, including Melania’s own grandmother and other Roman aristocrats. The Bible provided a virtual tour guide for pilgrims in Palestine. The family of Constantine saw to the erection of the churches of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Accompanying these developments was the burgeoning quest for relics (of the “True Cross,” of the body parts of martyrs and saints). Melania, too, sought relics for the monasteries she established in Jerusalem. For some years before undertaking the building of monasteries and soliciting inhabitants for them, however, she lived in semi-solitary confinement on the Mount of Olives. The author of the Life describes the ascetic practices in these establishments. After the monasteries were built, there is little evidence that Melania participated much in the larger worship life of Jerusalem, which is described in other sources. The author of the Life aligns his heroine with his own religious preferences and depicts her as a fierce opponent of “heresy.”
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