Mameluke Period (1260-1516)

After their victory over the Mongols near Nazareth in 1260 (Battle of Ain Jalut), Mameluke rulers of Egypt spread their dominion to Syria and Palestine. Many churches and Christian holy places were destroyed during this period. In 1291 the Mamelukes captured the last stronghold of the Crusaders in the Holy Land - the city of Acre. We do not know what befell the Crusaders’ church at Emmaus, for there is no mention of it in any pilgrim's texts throughout the Mameluke period.

Since the late 12th century, Muslims had worshiped the tombs of Muhammad’s companions at Emmaus (see: The Crusader period). At the Canada Park, near Emmaus, one can see the mausoleum of Sheikh ibn Jabal (according to other sources, Sheikh Mu’alla ibn Shukayr), built in 1288.

Sheikh ibn Jabal, Ayalon (Canada) Park near Emmaus

According to the inscription above the entrance, which is lost today, the mausoleum was built by a ruler of the Jerusalem citadel, Jashankir (Mameluke minister) named Mankuwirs. The minister’s personal symbols - a triangle inside a circle with pitchers on each side of it – are still visible above the mausoleum’s entrance ( See: Charles Clermont-Ganneau, Archaeological researches in Palestine during the years 1873-1874, London, 1896, v. 1, p. 491-493, see here; Moshe Sharon, Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palestinae, v. 1. Leiden-NY- Koln, 1997, p. 79-86, see here).

During the Mameluke period, the pilgrimage to the Holy Land became hard and dangerous to accomplish. Many holy places were difficult to reach or unrecognizable. In the early 14th century, the Dominican friar Francis Pippin of Bologna (Francesco Pipino) speaks about the confusion in the identification of the Holy places, prevailing at that time:

“I have visited many places in the Holy Land where ruins of cities and castles are visible; there are also many churches, some of which are entire and others are partly destroyed. As for the names of these cities, these castles and these churches, I have been unable to learn them from anyone. The region being largely devastated, many names of the Holy places have disappeared from the human memory. There are also many Holy places known to Christians which I have been unable to access easily.”

Tractatus de locis Terrae Sanctae, written in 1320, the translation is ours,

the original text published in: T. Tobler, Dritte Wänderung nach Palästina, Gotha, 1859, p. 409, see here.

Emmaus at Qubeibeh

With the progression of the Mameluke period, the tradition of Emmaus at Abu Ghosh disappears, and the vast majority of Western pilgrims find Emmaus in the village of Parva Mahomeria (today’s Qubeibeh), founded by Crusader settlers during the 12th century at the distance of ca. 6 km (4 miles) north of Abu Ghosh. Under the Mameluke rule, pilgrims travelled from Ramla to Jerusalem and back by the northern road through Beit Nuba (Today’s Mevo Horon). The village of Qubeibeh found on this road, was identified as Emmaus in order to satisfy pilgrim’s desire to visit the place of Jesus’ appearance while on pilgrimage to the Holy City (See: The Atlas of the Crusades, Jonathan Riley-Smith, ed., NY 1991, p. 42; D. Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1998, vol. 2, pp. 167-175, see here, see also: FAQs about Emmaus, question 7).

The first evidence of Emmaus in Qubeibeh is found by researchers in an Old French description of the Holy places, written ca. 1280, Pelrinages et pardouns de Acre:

“And from there [Jaffa] to Rames [Ramla], where St. George was martyred, there are 4 leagues; and from there to Betynoble by a bad road, 3 leagues. And 2 leagues to Emmaus, where Jesus spoke to Cleophas and they knew Him in the breaking of the bread. And from there to Mountjoy, 2 leagues; and there was the tomb of Samuel the prophet. And from there to the city of Jerusalem there are 2 leagues of good road.”

Unknown author, published in:

Henri Michelant, Gaston Raynaud, ed., Itinéraires à Jérusalem, descriptions de la Terre Sainte, Genève, 1882, pp. 229-230, see here, the translation is ours.

Church of Qubeibeh today

The name Nicopolis is also transferred to Qubeibeh (Burchard of Mount Zion in 1283, Ludolf of Sudheim in 1336, Alessandro Ariosto in 1473, Felix Fabri in 1480-1483, and others). The house of Cleophas and his grave are found here ( Lord of Caumont in 1418, Ulrich Brunner in 1470, Francesco Suriano in 1485). Modi’in and the Maccabees’ graves are found in the vicinity of Qubeibeh (Louis of Rochechouart in 1461, Bernard of Breidenbach in 1483, Francesco Suriano in 1485).

One should remark that while Cleophas’ house and his grave “moved” from Emmaus-Nicopolis to Qubeibeh, the spring of Emmaus did not. (See: The Byzantine period for the traditions of the water spring and Cleophas' house and his grave at Emmaus). As to Abu Ghosh, the tradition of the water spring of Emmaus was hosted there during the Crusader period, but neither Cleophas’ house nor his burial place have ever been mentioned at that place.

See: B. Bagatti, Emmaus-Qubeibeh, Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1993, p. 4-30 for historical pilgrims’ accounts of Qubeibeh.

A detail of a medieval map of the Holy Land, published by German book printer Lucas Brandis in 1475. Emmaus is depicted near Jerusalem and Bethel. (Collection of the Israel Museum), see: "Holy Land in Maps", A. Tishby, ed., Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, 2001, pp. 78-79

The new Emmaus in Qubeibeh appeared despite the fact that the memory of Emmaus in the Ayalon valley persisted in Muslim and Jewish traditions. Muslims have preserved throughout the centuries the ancient name of the Emmaus in the Ayalon valley in its Arabic form of ‘Amwas, ‘Amawas.

In 1334 Rabbi Isaac Helo of Aragon describes his visit to Emmaus in the valley of Ayalon:

“The way which leads from the Holy city to Jaffa, at the outskirt of the tribe of Dan, is as follows: From Jerusalem to Tsor’ah, the fatherland of Samson. Today, they call this Surah and show you the tomb of Samson. It is a very old monument, decorated with the jawbone of the ass with which Samson killed the Philistines. From there, we find Emmaus, a location well-known to our sages, may their memory be blessed. Today it is just a poor village inhabited by some Ishmaelites who live in miserable houses. There is an ancient sepulchral monument at Emmaus, which is said to be the tomb of a Christian Lord, who fell in the war with the king of Persia. From Emmaus, we come to Ghimzo, the fatherland of Rabbi Nachum, citizen of Ghimzo ...”

Isaac Helo of Aragon, Roads of Jerusalem, Chapter 2, from Jerusalem to Jaffa,

translated by us from: Itinéraires de la Terre Sainte, Bruxelles, 1847, E. Carmoly, ed., p.245.

(Some scholars consider this text to be a 19th c. forgery; it is based however upon an authentic Jewish tradition)

Jerusalem qadi Mujir Ed-Din writes in the late 15th-early 16th century:

‘Amawâs is close to Ramlah of Palestine. It is a barid and a half (ca. 18 miles, 29 km) away from Jerusalem.”

Mujir Ed-Din, The History of Jerusalem and of Hebron,

translated by us from: A.-S. Marmardji, Textes geographiques arabes sur la Palestine, Paris, 1951, p. 245.

Some Christian pilgrims also find Emmaus in the valley of Ayalon:

French pilgrim Ogier IX d'Anglure writes at the end of the 14th c.:

“That same Friday we headed from Jaffa to Rames (Ramle). Rames is a beautiful and good commercial town full of people. Its inhabitants are Saracens. In this town there is a Church of St. George. [...] Very close to it there is a village called Emmaus, where, as the Gospel says, pilgrims recognized the Lord at the breaking of the bread on Easter Day, after the Resurrection ...”

written in 1395-1396, translated by us from:

Le Saint Voyage de Jherusalem du Seigneur d'Anglure, F. Bonnardot, A. Longnon, ed., Paris, 1878, p. 12, see here.

A medieval pilgrim on his way to the Holy Land (From an English work "Informacon for Pylgrymes unto the Holy Lande", published by Wynkyn de Worde ca. 1498)

Spanish Franciscan friar Antonio of Medina speaks about his visit to Emmaus in the Ayalon valley in 1512:

“After we had spent five days [in Jaffa], the Guardian of Mount Zion came with a safe-conduct and Mameluke guards and horses for everyone. […] At midnight, we travelled to Rama [i.e. Ramla], arriving there at 10 o’clock. [Ramla] is six leagues to the east from the port of Jaffa. Having paid the taxes. [...] on the next day after midnight we headed for the Holy City of Jerusalem, and so travelling across a flat and a very barren land for almost two leagues, we saw on our left a considerable city called St. George [i. e. Lod]. [...] Travelling for two leagues more across a wide plain, we reached the village of Emmaus. In this village our Lord made himself known to two of his disciples in the breaking of bread. [...] From this village of Emmaus, the mountains of Jerusalem start, which are high and very steep. Going further along the road to Jerusalem, we arrived to the Upper and the Lower Beth Horon, mentioned by St. Jerome in his description of St. Paula’s and St. Eustochium’s travel as they came to the Holy Land ...”

Antonio de Medina,Tratado de los misterios y estaciones de la Tierra Sancta, Salamanca,1573, pp. 9-12, translated by us, see the original text here.

It should be noted that Fra Antonio de Medina’s pilgrimage was accompanied by the Guardian of Mount Zion, i. e. the head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Franciscans had become the official guardians of the Holy places during the 14th century. Although Franciscans used to take pilgrims mostly to Qubeibeh, we understand from Fra Antonio’s account, that the question of Emmaus’ location had not been yet clearly resolved by the Custody in the early 16th c. (See: P. Duvigneau, Emmaüs, le site - le mystère, Paris, 1937, pp. 98-101, see here).

Jesus on His way to Emmaus with two disciples, from a 15th c. Dutch manuscript, "Bible historiale Néerlandaise", the Royal Library of Belgium, Brussels

Already during the Crusader period, pilgrims used to find Modi’in in Latrun. This tradition continued during the Mameluke period, with some pilgrims coming here to venerate the graves of the Maccabees. A caravanserai (khan) was also established nearby.

Italian Franciscan friar Niccolò of Poggibonsi writes in the mid-14th century:

“Coming out from Rama [i. e. Ramla] on the way to Jerusalem, one proceeds in a south easterly direction as far as a hotel, called “khan”, and then begins to ascend. To the right is a little mount, with ruined houses, where there was a village; and of this place was Mattathias, the father of the Maccabees; and there were buried the Maccabees, and their sepulchre is still to be seen. The said mount is called Modin. Here is an indulgence of VII years and LXX days. On the said road one mile ahead you find, on the left, a road five miles from Jerusalem: and taking this road for three miles, you find a village called Emmaus [i. e. Qubeibeh], where Christ appeared to the two disciples on the way, in the guise of a pilgrim. There is an indulgence of VII years.”

Translated by us from: Libro d'oltramare di fra Niccolò da Poggibonsi, publicato da Alberto Bacchi della Lega, Bologna, 1881, v. 1, p. 29-31, see here, see also: B. Bagatti, Emmaus-Qubeibeh, Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1993, p. 10.

A similar statement is made by an anonymous Franciscan ca. 1463:

“At a distance of 13 miles [approx. 21 km] to the West from the Judean mountains [i. e. from Ein Karem] is found Modi’in, the city of Maccabees, where their tombs are greatly venerated by Saracens ...”

Translated by us from: Revue de l'Orient Latin, XII, 1909 -11, p. 36, see here; see also here: Vincent & Abel, Emmaüs, 1932, p. 373.

Later, during the Ottoman period, the church of Emmaus was venerated by pilgrims as a burial place of the Maccabees. The tradition might have shifted from Latrun to Emmaus already during the Mameluke period.