John of Plano Carpini

William of Rubruck

Marco Polo

Introduction

The Mongol empire in the thirteenth century is the largest land empire ever existed. Its territory stretch from Danube River on the western most to Korea on the eastern most, bring much of the heart land of Asia together and connecting the Eurasia continent. The conditions created by the Mongol conquests is summed up in the phrase Pax Mongolica, a growth in transregional trade and a more intense cross-cultural contact between distant regions of Asia and Europe[1]. In this essay, I will be examining the transcontinental connection between Europe and the Mongol empire represented by the trips of three significant travelers, John of Plano Carpini, William of Rubruck and Marco Polo to analyze Pope’s influence on the transcontinental connection.

 

Context

The “Franks”, those of Western Europe as well as the Eastern Latin states, did not hear of the Mongols until relatively late – more than thirty years after the quriltay of 1206 which had proclaimed Chinggis Khan. It is not that the westward offensive of the latter had gone unnoticed, but the Franks had only learned of it through the intermediary of the eastern Christians (the text inserted by Jacques de Vitry in a letter of April 1221 is a translation from the Arabic).[2] These eastern Christians made a Christian “King David” of the Mongol conqueror, who would have destroyed the Moslem empires, in order to head for the Holy Land and liberate Jerusalem. The Fifth Crusade, which at this time was in Damiett waiting for reinforcements, heard this news with joy; but the Mongols withdrew, and the West forgot them.[3] Around 1237 when the Mongols was approaching Russia and Hungary, western Europe was still not aware of the Mongols. The Russia refugees were the first to inform the Franks about the people they later called the Tartars. Following it, the destruction of Hungary made the Franks aware of the existence of Mongols. Batu withdrew from Hungary in the spring of 1242. “no one however, knew at this time that his would be so. The possibility of a renewed invasion of the part of this virtually unknown people therefore to be faced.”[4] The Pope and European Kings were on crusades against the Islamic world trying to reclaim their Holy land. The Mongols on one hand was a great military threat. One the other hand, the alliance with Mongols might give them significant military advantage over the Islamic world. “According to David Morgan, the question of the Mongols was placed on the agenda of the council of Lyons in 1245, and the result was the dispatch of three embassies to Mongol territory.”

 

John of Plano Carpini

John of Plano Carpini, a former Franciscan provincial minister in Saxong and currently a papal penitentiary, is the most celebrated of the the three sent by Pope Innocent IV, carrying two letters, Cum non solum and Dei Patris immense from the Pope. He had a company, Polish Franciscan Benedict and they took the route through Eastern Europe to Batu’s headquarters on the Volga and then to Mongolia, arriving in time to witness Guyuk’s enthronement in August 1246. From his trip, Carpini produced a 70 pages report, “Ystoria Mongalorum.” I went through the Chinese version of Ystoria Mongalorum by translated by耿昇and Benedict’s 柏朗嘉宾出使的叙述translated by 何高济.[5]

 

In the prologue, Carpini indicated that he was traveling after Pope’s command to the east like the two other embassies. He said “我们领悟了教皇和各位尊贵的红衣主教们的旨意,于是便选择首先出使鞑靼人,因为我们害怕即将有一种来自这一方向的危险威胁上帝的教会.” Pointing out Benedict and him would be traveling to Mongolia first because the Pope’s concern of the Mongol threat. “事实上,我们受教皇之命要仔细地研究所有事物和观察一切.”[6] Carpini. is instructed to observe and examine everything prior to reporting back to the Pope. The first eight chapters of his report constitute a systematic dossier of information on the Mongol enemy. Significantly, his eighth chapter with the question of how to wage war against the Mongols.[7]

 

Chapter nine talks about how Guyuk received Carpini’s party. At the eighth bullet point of chapter 9. Carpini mentioned communicating with a Tartar officer about the purpose of their trip. Carpini briefly explained the information on the Pope’s letter.[8] 1) The Pope wanted to make peace with the Tatars. (all Christians should be friends with the Tartars and be at peace with them; more over the desired that they should be great before God in heaven). 2) The Pope hoped the Tatars could convert to Christians (obviously he doesn’t know about Tatar’s religion). 3)The pope condemned the Tartars’s for slaughtering people, especially the Hungarian, Moravian and Polish Christians.

 

At the end of Chapter 9, Carpini the mentioned Guyek’s replyihg letter to Pope. And the content of Guyuk’s letter is reveal in the journal by Benedict. The Khan claimed not to understand the plea that he be baptized as a Christian or the rebuke for having attacked tithe Hungarians and other people. How did the pope, calling himself a Christian, know who god forgave and on whom the bestowed mercy? As for the Hungarians, they had disobeyed the Order of God, killing Mongol messengers and envoys. Without God’s power, the Mongols could not have achieved all their victories and conquests. The entire world, from where the sun rose to where it set, had been wondered on them: the pope was therefore instructed to come in person, with the ‘kings’, to make his submission.[9] In addition, Guyuk intended to send a Tatar messager going back with Carpini to deliver his letter. Carpini rejected the company and listed the following reasons. 1) The Europeans were afraid to reveal their internal struggle to the Tatars, which might encourage Tatars to invade them. 2) the messager might spy on Europe. The first two reason might be delegation from the Pope, giving him power to refuse a request from the Mongol Khan Guyuk. An envoy might not have the right in refusing the highest power of the Mongol empire. The third, fourth and fifth reason might come from Carpini himself, which in general are worries about the Mongol massager’s satety.

 

William of Rubruck

 

Another traveler William of Rubruck was set of by Louis IX, a Europe Crusader King Louis IX. He came back with the report titled “Itinerarium fratris Willielmi de Rubruquis de ordine fratrum Minorum, Galli, Anno gratiae 1253 ad partes Orientales.” In comparison to Carpini’s work, Rubruck’s account is charged throughout with personal reactions to the situations — whether trails or joys — that he and his party encounters.[10] In this work, Rubruck did not mention the Pope much. Yet, his account involves his Christian identity and his mission as a preacher. In the prologue by the Chinese translator, 何高济mentioned Rubruck was carring a letter from Louis to the Mongol Khan. Unlike Caprini, Rubruck did not mention the purpose of his trip. 何高济 puts, “we speculate. The purpose of Rubruck’s trip was to spy on the Mongols. At that time, the Europeans were on crusades and they were just aware of the rise of the powerful Mongols. To find out whether the Mongols was their allay against the Islamic world, the Kings and the pope needed to know more about the Mongols.”[11] 何高济argues that when Rubruck asked for staying in Mongolia to preach. He was only to spy on the Mongols instead of traveling for his religious mission.

 

Marco Polo

The last traveler is Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant, who travelled along the Silk Road from Europe to China between 1271 and. 1295. When Marco Polo was imprisioned in Genoa, his prison mate Rustichello da Pisa wrote the book “Description of the World” based on Marco Polo’s travels. The first half of the prologue of DW talks about the trip of Marco Polo’s father and uncle, Niccolo and Maffeo. Written in DW, ”When the two Brother got to the Great Khan”(Kublai), “he inquired about the Pope and the Church.” “He was greatly pleased, and he took it into his head that he would send them on an Embassy to the Pope.”[12] “Kublai cause letters from himself to the Pope to be indicted in the Tartar tongue, and committed them to the Two brothers and to that Baron of his own, and charged them with what he wished them to say to the Pope.”[13] When the two brothers arrived at Acre “in the month of April, in the year of Christ 1269, and then they learned that the Pope was dead(his name was Pope**)”[14]. Yule noted in his note that “the “deceased Pope’s name is omitted both in the Geog. Text and in Pauthier’s, clearly because neither Rusticiano nor Polo remembered it. It is supplied correctly in the Crusca Italian as Clement, and in Ramusio as Clement IV.”[15] We can speculat the polo’s trip is probably not after the command of any kings or Popes because they did not bear any letter when they came to Kublai and Marco Polo could not remember the name of the Pope reigned when he left Venetian.

 

Conclusion

Beside the pure diplomatic functions of the trips of Carpini and Rubruck, their task was clearly to gather intelligence— to spy.[16] In Polo’s case, his relation to the pope is much different because we could speculate the purpose of this trip from their poor memory of Pope Clement IV. But we can still find the Pope to be a very influencing character in his book. When the Polos arrived at Kublai’a court, Kublai was asking about the kings first and then about their relation and the Pope. While Kulbai’s letter only goes to the Pope, we could speculate that the Mongols considered the Pope as the most poweful figure of Europe and Europe as whole to be the Christian kingdoms. Carpini and Rubruck are Marco Polo’s predecessor and their trips are mainly spying trip when European Pope and kings feeling threaten. Though, the Mongols did not bring Europe into its territory. Simply the existence of the Mongol empire by Europe ignited the communication between two political entity. Pope Innocent IV made a good start for later traveler and envoy from Europe to Mongolia. In next few decades, the Mongol Khan and European Pope had been changing. Though not much personal bond was formed between any of two leaders, the Pope as the European’s religious and political leader, started the communication between the rulers of two continents, thus facilitating the interconnection on future cultural diffusion and trade.

 
 
 

 

Notes

[1] Jackson, Peter. “PAX MONGOLICA AND A TRANSCONTINENTAL TRAFFIC.” In The Mongols and the Islamic World: From Conquest to Conversion, pp. 210-41. NEW HAVEN; LONDON: Yale University Press, 2017. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1n2tvq0.16: p.1

[2] RICHARD, JEAN. “THE MONGOLS AND THE FRANKS.” Journal of Asian History 3, no. 1 (1969): 45-57. Accessed December 23, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41929939.: p.1

[3] RICHARD, JEAN. p1.1

[4] Morgan, D. O. The Mongols. Oxford: Blackwell Pub., 2007: p.156

[5] 耿昇’s version is translated from the French Version of the Ystoria Mongalorum translatetd by Dom Jean Becquet and Louis Hambis from the original copy

[6] 耿昇, 何高济. 柏朗嘉宾蒙古行纪布鲁布克东行记, 北京: 中华书局., 1985: p.26

[7] Jackson, Peter. The Mongols and the West 1221-1410. Milton: Routledge, 2018.: p.96

[8] To exact quote, “他派我们来晋见他们的国王,王公和见所有的鞑靼人,因为他想使所有的基督教徒都成为鞑靼人的朋友,与他们和睦相处;而且,他还祝愿鞑靼人在天堂的上帝面前成为伟人。所以教皇陛下通过我们及他的信函而劝归鞑靼人成为基督教徒,并且接受我们的上帝的耶稣基督。否则,他们就得不到拯救。 同时教皇陛下也告知他对鞑靼人杀害了那么多人而感到震惊,尤其是杀害了基督教徒,特别是已归附了他们的匈牙利人,摩拉维亚人,波兰人。鉴于此事情严重的触犯了上帝,所以教皇陛下劝说他们从今以后要禁戒类似行动,并且为他们过去的恶绩进行忏悔。我们补充说,教皇陛下要求他们答复今后想要做的事情及其意图的性质,通过书信的形式而向教皇陛下对这一切做出答复.”

[9] 耿昇, 何高济: p.106 & Jackson, Peter. p.95

[10] Jackson, Peter. “William of Rubruck: A Review Article.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, no. 1 (1987): 92-97. Accessed December 23, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25212071. p.1

[11] 耿昇, 何高济: p.187. To exact quote, “我们推测,鲁布鲁克的东行可能带有一种窥探蒙古人动向的目的。当时欧洲正在进行所谓的十字军圣战,蒙古人的兴起使教皇和欧洲的君王意识到这股可怕的力量的存在,他们需要摸清蒙古人的情况,以便决定能否和蒙古人联合起来共同对付伊斯兰教势力.”

[12] Marco Polo, trans. Sharon Kinoshita. p. 10

[13] Marco Polo, trans. Sharon Kinoshita. p. 11

[14] Marco Polo, trans. Sharon Kinoshita. p. 12

[15] Marco Polo, The Book of Ser Marco Polo: the Venetian Concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East: in Two Volumes, ed. Henri Cordier, trans. Henry Yule, vol. 1, 1903, p. 308

[16] Jackson, Peter. p.95

 
 
 

 

Bibliography

Jackson, Peter. “PAX MONGOLICA AND A TRANSCONTINENTAL TRAFFIC.” In The Mongols and the Islamic World: From Conquest to Conversion, pp. 210-41. NEW HAVEN; LONDON: Yale University Press, 2017. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1n2tvq0.16.

 

Jackson, Peter. “William of Rubruck: A Review Article.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, no. 1 (1987): 92-97. Accessed December 23, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25212071.

 

Jackson, Peter. The Mongols and the West 1221-1410. Milton: Routledge, 2018.

 

Morgan, D. O. The Mongols. Oxford: Blackwell Pub., 2007.

 

RICHARD, JEAN. “THE MONGOLS AND THE FRANKS.” Journal of Asian History 3, no. 1 (1969): 45-57. Accessed December 23, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41929939.

 

Polo, Marco. The Description of the World. Translated by Sharon Kinoshita. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2016.

 

Polo, Marco. The Book of Ser Marco Polo: the Venetian Concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East: in Two Volumes. Edited by Henri Cordier. Translated by Henry Yule. 1. Vol. 1. 2 vols., 1903.

 

耿昇, 何高济. 柏朗嘉宾蒙古行纪布鲁布克东行记, 北京: 中华书局., 1985

 
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