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Polo, Marco

(654 words)

Author(s): Goldenberg, Dan
1254-1324. Italy. Son of a well-to-do Venetian merchant family. Author (with Rustichello da Pisa) of an account of his own travels to the Orient. In 1260 Marco's father, Niccolò, and his brother Maffeo, had travelled through central Asia to the court of Berke, khan of the Golden Horde, and on through Bukhara to Cambalu (modern Beijing) and the court of Kublai (Qubilai) Khan. The Great Khan sent them back with a letter to the Pope asking for hundred scholars as missionaries to the Mong…
Date: 2016-10-17

Ethnography

(1,836 words)

Author(s): Goldenberg, Dan
Ethnography is a modern discipline which aims at describing the characteristics and habits of different nations or societies after long periods of observation and field-work. Like professional ethnographers, travellers also observe the various peoples they encounter on their travels, and they return to share their impressions with their audience. Medieval ethnographical writing was a lively and popular pursuit, characterizing and sometimes sensationalizing the exotic for the consumption of a rea…
Date: 2016-10-17

Jordan of Giano

(433 words)

Author(s): Goldenberg, Dan
[Iordanus de Iano] 13th century. Italy/Germany. A Franciscan friar from Giano, near Spoleto, Umbria. Author of a Latin chronicle of his order. Jordan joined the Franciscans before the voyage of St. Francis to the Orient in 1219. In September 1221 he left Italy and stayed first at Salzburg, then at Speyer. In June 1222 he was assigned to the apostolate in Speyer, Worms and Mainz and the following year he was ordained as a priest and lived in Speyer. From 1224 till 1239 he was in Thuringia and contri…
Date: 2016-10-17

Odorico da Pordenone

(520 words)

Author(s): Goldenberg, Dan
[de Foro Iulii] d. 1331. Italy. A Franciscan Friar, Odorico was born in Pordenone near Friuli sometime between 1265 and 1285. According to one tradition, he was the son of a soldier in the retinue of Ottakar II, king of Bohemia. Another tradition, less well-founded, tells that he belonged to a local family. He became a Franciscan around 1280, did missionary work in southern Russia for more than a decade, and after he returned to Italy, he was sent as a missionary to Constantinople and Tr…
Date: 2016-10-17

Giovanni da Pian del Carpine

(598 words)

Author(s): Goldenberg, Dan
[Iohannes de Plano Carpini] ca 1180–1252. Italy. Franciscan Friar and papal diplomat. Author of a history of the Mongols. He was born in the village of Pian di Carpini (now known as Plano della Magionne) near Perugia. He became a follower and disciple of Francis of Assisi, assuming important responsibilities in the Franciscan order by the early 1200s. He was sent to Germany in the early 1220s and became the Provincial of all Germany in 1228. He may also have been Provincial of Spain for 3…
Date: 2016-10-17