Silk Road Trade & Travel Encyclopedia

Interesting Facts & Trivia

41 - QUESTION:  From what European city did Friar Giovanni Carpine leave to travel to the court of Kubilai Khan?

Answer:  Rome.

In the 13th century, Europe's first envoy to the East, Friar Giovanni da Pian del Carpine left Rome for the court of the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. In addition to Marco Polo, other lesser-known European explorers had travelled to China before Marco Polo, such as Carpine. This traveler was one of the first Europeans to enter the court of the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. He is the author of early and invaluable Western accounts of northern and Central Asia.

The group of Franciscan monks sent as envoys of Pope Innocent IV to the Mongol Khan, traveled through the dominions of Khan Batu (ruler of the "Golden Horde") to the vicinity of Karakorum, where they witnessed the proclamation of GŁyŁg as the new Great Khan. The Friar's account of his journey (titled "History of the Mongols"/Historia Mongalorum) is one of the first direct authentic descriptions of Asia, and one of the most detailed accounts of the Mongols in the thirteenth century. The writings are widely known in Europe through excerpts in an encyclopedia compiled by Vincent of Beauvais, the Speculum Historiale.

"Benedict the Pole" was a Polish Franciscan friar, traveler and explorer who accompanied Giovanni da Pian del Carpine in his journey as delegate of Pope Innocent IV to the Great Khan GŁyŁk of the Mongol Empire in 1245-1247. He was the author of the brief chronicle De Itinere Fratrum Minorum ad Tartaros (On the travel of Franciscan friars to the Tatars), published only in the 1839 in France (and a year later in Poland) and a longer work Historia Tartarorum (The history of the Tatars), discovered and published only in 1965 by the academics of Yale University. This journey preceded that of Marco Polo. The report of Benedict is important because it includes a copy of the letter of the Great Khan to the Pope.

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