ARCULF, a Gallican bishop and pilgrim-traveller, who visited the Levant about 680, and was the earliest Christian traveller and observer of any importance in the Nearer East after the rise of Islam. On his return he was driven by contrary winds to Britain, and so came to Iona, where he related his experiences to his host, the abbot Adamnan (679-704). This narrative, as written out by Adamnan, was presented to Aldfrith the Wise, last of the great Northumbrian kings, at York about 701, and came to the knowledge of Bede, who inserted a brief summary of the same in his Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, and also drew up a separate and longer digest which obtained great popularity throughout the middle ages as a standard guide-book (the so-called Libellus de locis sanctis) to the Holy Places of Syria. Arculf is the first to mention the column at Jerusalem, which claimed to mark the exact centre of the Inhabited Earth, and later became one of the favourite Palestine wonders. Besides a valuable account of the principal sacred sites of Judaea, Samaria and Galilee as they existed in the 7th century, he also gives important information as to Alexandria and Constantinople, briefly describes Damascus and Tyre, the Nile and the Lipari volcanoes, and refers to the caliph Moawiya I. (A.D. 661-680), whom he pictures as befriending Christians and rescuing the "sudarium" of Christ from the Jews. Arculf's record is especially useful from its plans, drawn from personal observation by the traveller himself, of the churches of the Holy Sepulchre and of Mount Sion in Jerusalem, of the Ascension on Olivet and of Jacob's well at Sichem. It is also a useful witness to the prosperity and trade of Alexandria after the Moslem conquest: it tells us how the Pharos was still lit up every night; and it gives us (from Constantinople) the first form of the story of St George which ever seems to have attracted notice in Britain.
Thirteen MSS, of the original Arculf-Adamnan narrative exist, and fully 100 of Bede's abridgment: of the former, the most important, containing all the plans, are (1) Bern, Canton Library, 582, of 9th cent.; (2) Paris, National Library, Lat. 13,048, of 9th cent.; a third MS., London, B. Mus., Cotlon, Tib. D. V., of 8th-9th cents., though damaged by fire and lacking the illustrations, is of value for the text, being the oldest of all. Among editions the first is of 1619, by Gretser; the best, that of 1877, by Tobler, in Itinera et Descriptiones Terrae Sanctae; we may also mention that of 1870, by Delpit, in his Essai sur les anciens pelerinages à Jérusalem; see also Delpit's remarks upon Arculf in the same work, pp. 260-304; Beazley, Dawn of Modern Geography, i. 131-40 (1897).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)