The Lover’s Tower
By Fr. Cristobal Vilaroig
Richard Pococke was an Anglican bishop born in the early 18th century. Besides serving his flock, Rev. Pococke found enough time to travel the world. Between 1737 and 1741, he visited Palestine, and when he returned to his native England, he wrote down his experiences in his great Description of the East and Other Countries.
“We set out to the north from Tiberias, and the first place we came to was Magdol, which is at the southeast corner of the plain of Gennesareth on the sea.” However, Magdol did not convince our author of being the Magdala of the Bible. Indeed, he wrote that Magdala was related to Dalmanutha (cf. Mt 15:39 and Mk 8:10), and Dalmanutha was supposed to be on the opposite side of the lake—although he does not explain why. In Magdol, Rev. Pococke saw the ruins of a “very indifferent castle,” but he did not link these ruins to Mary Magdalene, as previous pilgrims had done. Apart from these few facts, the Anglican cleric does not say much more. He simply describes some details of the plain of Gennersareth, such as the source of Ein Nun and the abundant “thorny trees” that give an edible fruit, “a little sort of apple” (the famous Spina Christi trees that still abound today in that region).
From Pocock’s description, we did not learn much about Magdala in the 18th century, only that it was almost forgotten as a holy place, which was not much more than “a very indifferent castle.”
Richard Pococke portrait by Jean-Étienne Liotard (Wikimedia Commons)