The Mission of Friar William of Rubruck: His Journey to the Court of the Great Khan Mongke, 1253 1255

The Mission of Friar William of Rubruck His Journey to the Court of the Great Khan Mongke Prior to the th century the horizons of Western Christians extended no further than the principalities of what is now European Russia and the Islamic powers of the near East Beyond lay a world of wh

  • Title: The Mission of Friar William of Rubruck: His Journey to the Court of the Great Khan Mongke, 1253 1255
  • Author: Willem Van Ruysbroeck Peter Jackson David Morgan
  • ISBN: 9780904180299
  • Page: 323
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Prior to the 13th century the horizons of Western Christians extended no further than the principalities of what is now European Russia and the Islamic powers of the near East Beyond lay a world of which they had only the haziest impressions The belief that Christian communities were to be found here was nurtured in the 12th century by the growth of the legend of PresterPrior to the 13th century the horizons of Western Christians extended no further than the principalities of what is now European Russia and the Islamic powers of the near East Beyond lay a world of which they had only the haziest impressions The belief that Christian communities were to be found here was nurtured in the 12th century by the growth of the legend of Prester John but otherwise Asia was peopled in the Western imagination by monstrous races borrowed from the works of late Antiquity The rise of the Mongol empire, however, and the Mongol devastation of Hungary and Poland in 1241 2, brought the West into much closer contact with Inner Asia Embassies were being exchanged with the Mongols from 1245 Italian merchants began to profit from the commercial opportunities offered by the union of much of Asia under a single power and the newly emerging orders of preaching friars, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, who had been active in Eastern Europe and in the Islamic world since the 1220s, found their field of operations greatly expanded The Franciscan William of Rubruck, who travelled through the Mongol empire in 1253 55, composed the earliest report of such a missionary journey that has come down to us Couched in the form of a long letter to the French king Louis IX, this remarkable document constitutes an extremely valuable source on the Mongols during the era of their greatness Rubruck was also the first Westerner to make contact with Buddhism, to describe the shamanistic practices by which the Mongols and other steppe peoples set such store, and to make detailed observations on the Nestorian Christian church and its rites His remarks on geography, ethnography and fauna notably the ovis poli, which he encountered a generation before the celebrated Venetian adventurer from whom it takes its scientific name give him an additional claim to be one of the keenest of medieval European observers to have travelled in Asia This new annotated translation is designed to supersede that of W.W Rockhill, published by the Society in 1900, by relating Rubruck s testimony to the wealth of material on Mongol Asia that has become accessible in other sources over the past nine decades.

    One thought on “The Mission of Friar William of Rubruck: His Journey to the Court of the Great Khan Mongke, 1253 1255”

    1. An interesting text about Friar William's travels. He endured trials & hardships (weather, bad interpreters, lack of food & drink, etc) in his travels, yet gives a lively account of his time in his telling of it to King Louis IX of France. Truthfully, he comes across a bit whiny at times (but I would have been too, given the circumstances under which he traveled). I enjoyed this particular passage where Friar William is debating religion with some "idolators" (a version of Buddhism):Then [...]

    2. Probably not as exciting as Giovanni da Pian del Carpin's travels to Mongolia a decade earlier, but probably a better account overall. The narrative is extensive, more detailed and the author is a far more skeptical about dog-headed people or whatever (but he still falls for a kneeless people story!). Möngke Khan's playing of the religions off of one another is masterful, in keeping with the Mongolian tradition. Particularly liked the monk's description of the Nestorians and the Buddhists. His [...]

    3. In 1253, the Flemish Franciscan friar William of Rubruck made his way to the courts of the Mongol rulers Batu and Möngke bearing a letter from the French Crusader king Louis IX. This book is an annotated a translation from Latin of his subsequent report to the king. It is a fascinating and rare glimpse of the life of the Mongols during the heyday of their empire in the aftermath of the conquests of Genghis Khan, and a true masterpiece of European medieval travel literature. William is a keen ob [...]

    4. This book by Father William of Rubruck in which he describes his diplomatic mission in 1254 on behalf of Louis IX of France to the court of the Mongolian emperor Mongke is a treasure. Contrary to his famous contemporary Marco Polo Rubruck is an exemplary chronicler describing only what he has witnessed personally. Rubruck who seems to consume even more Cervoise (barley beer) than Asterix is a charming narrator who makes this book a pleasure to read.

    5. Scholarship is impressive, translation is good the content itself is mind-numbingly boring. Essentially Rubruck spends 250 pages complaining about hard travel days, describing minutiae of Nestorian church services, briefly mentioning that the mission trip was a complete failure (near the end), and very rarely describing anything of interest about the daily life of the Mongols or interreligious dialogue or anything else that might be insightful in any way about any topic.

    6. This account provides a decent window on how the Mongols lived in the mid-13th century. There is an astonishing level of similarity to today, as far as everyday life. While sometimes rambling and preachy (after all, he was a monk), Rubruck does provide a relatively objective view of what he observed.

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