German Dominican Friar of the Preaching Order, born in 1436 or 1437 in Zurich as son of a wealthy family. He died in Ulm, Germany in 1502 where he spent most of his life. Friar Felix made two pilgrimages to the Holy Land, in 1480 and again in 1483-4. He wrote two accounts of his travels, one in German (printed in Ulm 1556); the other in Latin. The former is rather brief; the other is very complete and accurate in its descriptions of the places he visited. This second journal made Fabri one of the most distinguished and learned writers of the fifteenth century.
The first trip to the Holy Land took Felix from Ulm to Memmingen where he met some fellow pilgrims. They traveled overland through Innsbruck, over the Alps into present day Italy, through Treviso and on to Venice. From Venice the travelers sailed on a galley ship through the Mediterannean to Corfu, Crete and Cyprus. The captain of the ship avoided the Isle of Rhodes on the first leg of their journey due to the siege by the Turks on that Island. It was a normal stop by the pilgrims, usually, and was made by Felix and his companions on their return trip, and again by Felix when he returned to the Holy Land two years later. The return trip was by the same route. The longer part of the text takes the second journey in 1483-84.
The text has an online edition and contains some passages to playing cards and gambling activities, which I extracted from the text.
(Source) - From the first journey on the ship
"At last, when the captain saw that we were determined to carry out our intention, he left off interfering with our pilgrimage, and we made ready to start, removing ourselves into another galley, which we had bought. When all who wished to make this voyage were together on board of this galley, and we were joyfully talking to one another as we stood on deck beside the Mast, one of the elders asked that silence should be made, and thus addressed us: 'My lords and brother pilgrims, we are undertaking a great, difficult, and arduous matter in making this pilgrimage by sea. And I say to you of a truth that, humanly speaking, we are acting foolishly in exposing ourselves to so great a danger against the advice and persuasion 'of the Captain of the Sea, and of everyone else. Wherefore the lords bishops and all the most noble, powerful, dignified, and perhaps the wisest of our company have given it up, and are on their way back to their own country, following the advice which has been given them, while we are setting out in the opposite direction. Now, therefore, that our attempt may not be a mere act of sinful foolhardiness, we must needs reform our life on board of this galley, and must more frequently invoke the protection of Almighty God 'and his saints,'that we may be able to make our way through the hosts of our enemies and their fleet.' On hearing these words, we unanimously decided that no more games of cards or dice should be played on board of the galley, that no quarrels, oaths, or blasphemies should be allowed, and that the clerks and priests should add litanies to their usual daily prayers. Indeed, before this decree was made much disorder took place in these matters, for men were gambling morning, noon, and night, especially the Bishop of Orleans1 with his suite; and withal they swore most dreadfully, and quarrelled daily, for the French and we Germans were always at blows. Thus it happened that one of the followers of the Bishop of Orleans struck a devout priest of our company, and incurred excommunication. For the French are proud and passionate men; and therefore, I believe that it was by an act of divine providence that they were separated from us, and our galley cleared of them; for we should scarcely have reached Jerusalem in their company without bloodshed and the murder of some of us."
(Source) - Journey to Creta - Gambling
"On the seventeenth we sighted the isle of Crete, Candia, or Centapolis. In the afternoon of this day the wind fell light, and we were rolled about hither and thither by the waves without making any way, and could not reach Crete that day. The other captain, Augustine, avoided Crete and sailed from Malea to the Cyclades Isles; but our captain did not like to pass by Crete, because he wished to visit the Lord Patriarch of Constantinople, who holds the archbishopric of Crete. This same patriarch was a Venetian, and was the father of our captain, wherefore he decided to touch at that isle. But lest the pilgrims should make this a ground for complaint against him, he brought out that day a piece of silken stuff, called atlas, worth ten ducats, for them to play for at cards. This stuff was won by the Lord Ber von Hohen Rechberg, one of my lords. And there was that day a great deal of secular moneymaking on board of the galley over different games; for every day deep and sinful gambling went on among the nobles with cards and dice, and one would lose, and another would win, and there was great debauchery, albeit without quarrels. I know some young knights and noblemen who brought with them so great a sum of money that they meant to go on to St. Catharine's, and they had enough to do so; but by means of this accursed gambling they were brought to such need and want, that they could not afford to travel even as far as Jerusalem, and had not their comrades helped them, they must have gone home without receiving their knighthood. On festival days, when I preached the Word of God on board of the galley, I rebuked those gamblers long and bitterly, and some by God's grace I turned away from their sin, while others I rendered all the more hardened therein; and every day from morn till dark they would sit gaming, with fifty, sixty, a hundred or two hundred ducats lying on the table as the stake for one single game. So on that day there was much rejoicing, as fools rejoice, in our company, at our having won that piece of silk."
(Source) - In Tyrol - Persecution of Jews - Jester-performance
"We came to a village named Nova, where there runs a rapid mountain-stream, which marks the frontier of Italy and Germany. Above the stream on our side stands a chapel, in which the bowels of St. Udalrich, Bishop of Augsburg, are buried. The story goes that the aforesaid saint had been at Rome, and on his way home began to be seriously ill. So he begged God that He would permit him to die in Germany, and not in Italy; and so it was, for as soon as he had crossed the bridge over this stream he died, and his bowels were buried there, but his body was taken on to Augsburg. From this place we rode to the city of Trent, and stayed the night there. Trent is one of those very ancient cities which were founded in these mountains by the Trojans, who came thither with Antenor; the Adige runs past its walls. It is placed in a most beautiful, airy and healthy position, and consists, one may say, of two cities, an upper and a lower, on account of the two races which inhabit it. In the upper town dwell the Italians, and in the lower the Germans. They are at variance both in language and habits of life, and seldom are at peace with one another; indeed, before our own times the city was often ruined, sometimes by the Italians out of hatred for the Germans, and sometimes by the Germans out of hatred for the Italians. Not many years ago the Germans were but a few strangers in that city; now they are the burghers and rulers of the city. The day will soon come-indeed, has virtually come-when Duke Athesis (sic) of Innspruck will altogether join it to his dominions and to Germany, as has been done at Botzen, for the number of Germans there increases daily. What the reason of this increase is, and why our race should spread over other people's countries instead of theirs spreading over ours, I have never learned, unless we choose to say, to the shame of our land, that on account of its poverty and sterility we are driven to other countries, or on account of the fierceness of the Germans, whose near aspect no other race can endure, but all make way for them, yielding to their rage, which no man can resist. Over against the city, on the banks of the Adige, the Preaching Friars have a right fair convent, set about with most lovely gardens, which is called the Convent of St. Laurence. This convent was built by St. Jordanes, the immediate successor of our [b] Father, St. Dominic, as head of the order; but in it there is no service or rule of life, only a few miserable brethren dwell therein to no purpose. In this city, in 1475, the holy child Simeon was martyred by the Jews with great torture; wherefore the Jews were condemned to be hanged after suffering great tortures. I myself beheld their accursed bodies hanging on gibbets the next year when I went to Rome. The body of the holy child, when it was found, began to be famous for the miracles which it wrought, and is still said to be famous. Wherefore people from distant parts of Germany, France and Italy make pilgrimages thither, and bring offerings of wax, clothing, gold and silver plate, and money, in such quantities as is wonderful to behold. In consequence of this they have pulled down the old church of St. Peter, in which the body used to be kept, and have built a new and spacious one upon the same site out of these offerings; moreover, they have cleansed the house of the martyr and consecrated it as a church. [For an account of the martyrdom of this boy, see the Supplement to the Chronicles, Book XV., page 177.] So when we pilgrims had taken off our riding-dresses, we went to the churches to obtain indulgences, and in the Church of St. Peter we saw the body of the holy child and the place of his martyrdom, and the old cathedral church, and other chapels and churches. For this is what is done by all respectable pilgrims to Jerusalem, namely, that at whatever towns they stop on the way, they straightway make inquiries about the churches and the relics of the saints, and visit them. Thus did my lords, and I together with them, as will appear hereafter. When it was late, and we were all sitting at supper, there came a minstrel, or jongleur, and his wife. He carried a flute, and his wife sang in good tune while he played his flute. This man, albeit he was sensible enough, yet while playing made mops and mows like a fool, which foolery made us laugh heartily in addition to the pleasure of hearing the music. When he had finished playing, my lords the barons, as is usual, consulted with one another as to what they should give the jongleur. One of the noblemen, however, said that he would give nothing, and declared that his parish priest had often said in his sermons that either to give or to receive money in such cases is damnable and a mortal sin. 'Since, therefore,' said he, 'I am on a holy pilgrimage, I am lath to soil it by giving away money sinfully; but I will give it to the poor.' Hereupon there arose a great dispute among the noblemen, and they argued long and angrily.
At last they asked me to settle the question, declaring that they would abide by my decision and sentence. I therefore decided, not without fear, that he ought to give money to the jongleur. So they gave a present to the flute-player and his wife. After I had returned home, I searched the writing of learned casuists to see whether I had decided rightly, and I found the decision which I had given in Gerson in two places, when he treats of 'Avarice' in the matter of the seven mortal sins, and of converse with sinners, where he declares that such flute-players, jugglers and posture-makers are not in a state of damnation, and that such things may be said or done without mortal sin, even though the words said may be idle, jesting, and sometimes faulty, provided there be nothing shameful said, and unless he does it merely for amusement; but that it is right if he practices it for his own sustenance and profit, and in order to afford recreation to princes and nobles when they are oppressed by care. This we discovered to be the case with this jongleur, who was a mechanic dwelling in Trent, who did not make a constant practice of playing, but only on the arrival of princes or nobles; for when he heard that they were pilgrims to the Holy Land, he played for their diversion and for his own profit, in order that our sadness and anxiety might for a short time be laid aside."
(source) - Galley-slaves play cards
"These galleyslaves are for the most part the bought slaves of the captain, or else they are men of low station, or prisoners, or men who have run away, or been driven out of their own countries, or exiles, or such as are so unhappy that they cannot live or gain a livelihood ashore. Whenever there is any fear of their making their escape, they are secured to their benches by chains. As a rule they are Macedonians, and men from Albania, Achaia, Illyria and Sclavonia; and sometimes there are among them Turks and Saracens, who, however, conceal their religion. I never saw a German galleyslave, because no German could survive such misery. They are so accustomed to their misery that they work feebly and to no purpose unless someone stands over them and beats them like asses and curses them. They are fed most wretchedly, and always sleep on the boards of their rowing benches, and both by day and by night they are always in the open air ready for work, and when there is a storm they stand in the midst of the waves. In general they are thieves, and spare nothing that they find; for which crime they often are most cruelly tortured. When they are not at work they sit and play at cards and dice for gold and silver, with execrable oaths and blasphemies. I never have heard such terrible swearing as on board of the aforesaid vessels, for they do nothing, either in jest or in earnest, without the foulest blasphemies of God and the Saints. Sometimes there are [b] among them some respectable merchants, who subject themselves to this most grievous servitude in order that they may ply their trade in harbours. Some are mechanics, such as tailors or shoemakers, and in their seasons of quiet make shoes, tunics, and shirts on board the ship; some are washermen, and wash shirts on board for hire.
Indeed, in this respect all galley-slaves are alike; they are all traders, and everyone of them has something for sale under his bench, which he offers for sale when in harbour, and trading goes on daily amongst them. Moreover they generally know at least three languages, to wit, Sclavonian, Greek, and Italian, and the greater part of -them know Turkish as well. Even among the galleyslaves there are orders and degrees; for some of them are put in authority over the others, and those who are most trusted are placed as guards round about the gangways of the galley, and are called 'guardians.' Some are in command of the prow; some on the right-hand side, others on the left-hand side; some serve in the stern, and these are the best treated. There are also on most galleys three or four strong youths who are learning to run about on the ropes, and who practice themselves in other labours which need courage. Besides the galleyslaves there are some cannoneers, some trumpeters, who always sound their trumpets in the morning and in the evening, before dinner and after dinner, and in all harbours. Some, too, are employed in cleaning and decorating the galley. There are also on board of it at least two barbers14, who also are physicians and surgeons, and there are withal torturers of malefactors, who, like 'lictors' ashore, torture whomsoever the captain may command. There is also another officer of great power in a galley, whom they call the 'scribe' or 'clerk,' who has all the names of the persons on board the galley written down in his books, and takes the names of those who come on board, or who leave in ship in each harbour. He arranges all disputes which arise about berths, and makes men pay their passage money, and has many duties. He is, as a rule, hated by everyone alike. So much for the officers of a galley."
Reasons, why Mass shouldn't be celebrated shipboard -
".... tenthly, Mass ought not to be celebrated on shipboard because of the presence of unworthy persons; for there are often on board of these ships Jews, Turks, Saracens, Schismatics, heretics, men outlawed by law and judge, and excommunicate: and if all these unworthy persons be not found together, yet some of them are always to be found there, in whose presence Mass ought not to be celebrated, Eleventhly, on account of the great and enormous sins which are committed on board ship, for there men daily play at dice and cards, and horribly blaspheme God and the Saints, perjure themselves, lie, pick and steal, gormandize, stuff themselves, and get drunk. I have often heard-I pray God it may not be true-that the Eastern galleyslaves commit the most unspeakable sin [50 a] of sodomy on board of galleys; wherefore the place wherein such vices are exercised is unworthy to have so great a sacrifice performed in it. Twelfthly, the foul stench and dirtiness of both the galley and the men on board of her make the place unfit. Thirteenthly, Mass ought not to be celebrated because of the derision of the infidels, and the scandal of their presence; for if they heard that our God was present on board in the sacrament, as we believe according to our religion, and yet they saw us nevertheless live sinfully, or come into trouble, it would cause a grave scandal, and they would hold the most holy sacrament in derision. Fourteenthly, on account of the folly of bad Christians. For if the sacrament were on board of a galley, and a storm came on at sea, and the ship were to become endangered, and relief or help did not come straightway, those foolish Christians would at once turn this into a reproach against the holy sacrament, and would say in their hearts, if not with their lips: 'If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us.' I have seen a case of this kind with my eyes, for once when a storm had lasted long and was growing fiercer, I and other priests and persons in holy orders turned ourselves to the Lord and sang litanies, and invoked the aid of the Saints of God, because the storm was dangerous; but while it was at its height, some noblemen who had received knighthood at Jerusalem, but yet were faithless, said that we must cease praying, because they believed that on
account of our prayers the storm was raging all the more fiercely; and they said, as they put a stop to our singing of psalms and litanies: 'If your prayers 'found any favour with God, we should long ago have been saved from this danger."
Passing the time on the board of a galley -
"The mode of life among pilgrims on a galley differs according to their several dispositions. They employ themselves in various occupations that they may pass the time while they are afloat, and unless a man knows how to redeem the time on board of a galley, he will find the hours very long and very tedious. Wherefore some, as soon as they arise from table, go about the galley inquiring where the best wine is sold, and there sit down and spend the whole day over their wine. This is usually done by Saxons, Flemings, and other men of a low class. Some play for money, some of them with a board and dice, others with the dice alone, some with cards, others with chess boards, and one may say that the greater number is engaged at this pastime. Some sing songs or pass their time with lutes, flutes, bagpipes, clavichords, zithers and other musical instruments. Some discuss worldly matters, some read books, some pray with beads; some sit still and meditate, some shout aloud for lightness of heart. Some laugh, some whistle. Some work with their hands, some sleep out of laziness; some pass almost the whole time asleep in their berths. Others run up the rigging, others jump, others show their strength by lifting heavy weights or doing other feats. Others accompany all these, looking on first at one and then at another. Some sit and look at the sea and the land which they are passing, and write about them and make books of travel, which was my daily employment out of the aforesaid canonical hours, for busy men are not weary of life even on board ship."
(Source) - Stay in Creta - Gambling
"On the seventeenth we sighted the isle of Crete, Candia, or Centapolis. In the afternoon of this day the wind fell light, and we were rolled about hither and thither by the waves without making any way, and could not reach Crete that day. The other captain, Augustine, avoided Crete and sailed from Malea to the Cyclades Isles; but our captain did not like to pass by Crete, because he wished to visit the Lord Patriarch of Constantinople, who holds the archbishopric of Crete. This same patriarch was a Venetian, and was the father of our captain, wherefore he decided to touch at that isle. But lest the pilgrims should make this a ground for complaint against him, he brought out that day a piece of silken stuff, called atlas, worth ten ducats, for them to play for at cards. This stuff was won by the Lord Ber von Hohen Rechberg, one of my lords. And there was that day a great deal of secular moneymaking on board of the galley over different games; for every day deep and sinful gambling went on among the nobles with cards and dice, and one would lose, and another would win, and there was great debauchery, albeit without quarrels. I know some young knights and noblemen who brought with them so great a sum of money that they meant to go on to St. Catharine's, and they had enough to do so; but by means of this accursed gambling they were brought to such need and want, that they could not afford to travel even as far as Jerusalem, and had not their comrades
helped them, they must have gone home without receiving their knighthood. On festival days, when I preached the Word of God on board of the galley, I rebuked those gamblers long and bitterly, and some by God's grace I turned away from their sin, while others I rendered all the more hardened therein; and every day from morn till dark they would sit gaming, with fifty, sixty, a hundred or two hundred ducats lying on the table as the stake for one single game. So on that day there was much rejoicing, as fools rejoice, in our company, at our having won that piece of silk."
(collected by autorbis)