Vasyl Hryhorovyc-Bars'kyj was a Slav mendicant pilgrim whose travels lasted twenty-four years between 1723 and 1747. They took him from his native Kiev through eastern Europe to Italy, where he worshipped at Christian shrines in Bari, Rome and Venice. He then travelled to the Holy Land, en route spending time in the Greek islands; he also spent two extended periods living on Mount Athos, visited Cyprus onthree occasions, and travelled extensively throughout Greece and Asia Minor. He spent some time in Constantinople from where he returned home to Kiev.1 While pilgrimages were common in this period, both by religious zealots and by curious travellers, Bars'kyj's pilgrimage was unusual in both its duration and its scope, as well as for the detailed written and illustrated record that he kept.2 It was also unusual in that he wrote as an Orthodox traveller, who throughout his journeys sought out Orthodox communities and recorded their customs, churches, liturgies and traditions of worship from the perspective of a passionate insider, rather than as a curious outsider.
Although our knowledge of Bars'kyj's biography is relatively extensive, and extant sources for its study are rich and varied, basic questions such as the exact date of his birth, his precise name and details of his education remain unresolved. He appears to have been born in Kiev towards the end of 1701 in the region of the Monastery of the Caves; the third in a family of ten children, the son of a semi-literate merchant. In 1715 or 1716 he entered the
1 See T. G. Stavrou and P. R. Weisensel, Russian travelers to the Christian East from the twelfth to the twentieth century (Columbus, OH: Slavica, 1986), 70-3.
2 His untitled travel journal, usually referred to as 'The travels of Vasyl' Hryhorovyc-Bars'kyjin the holy lands of the East', survives in the autograph manuscript of over 500 folios, or about 240,000 words, and is accompanied by scores of painstakingly accurate archaeological drawings mainly of churches and monasteries. The autograph manuscript is in Kiev at the Akademiia Nauk Archive, Kiev v, No. 1062. The most accurate published edition is N. Barsukov, Stranstvovaniia Vasil'ia Grigorovicha-Barskago po sviatym mestam vostoka s 1723 po 1747 g., 4 vols. (St Petersburg: Pravoslavnoe palestinskoe obshchestvo, 1885-87). References will be given below to the manuscript and not to the printed edition.
Kiev theological academy, but was unable to complete the eight-year course of study before illness in the form of a huge ulcer on his leg forced him to abandon his studies, and in July 1723 he went to L'viv to seek medical treatment. When he left Kiev, he possessed a very rudimentary education, which included a knowledge of the Slav languages, a working knowledge of Latin and a basic grounding in Orthodox theology. It was in L'viv that he found what he interpreted as a miraculous cure for his ailment and made a vow to go on a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to the shrine of St Nicholas at Bari. Also in L'viv, when attempting to gain admission to study at the local Jesuit academy, he experienced at first hand the persecution of Orthodox believers by the Uniate Roman Catholic authorities. It is within the context of a divided Ukraine - split between the Orthodox Russian Empire and the Roman Catholic
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