Volume 1, Chapter 8, Sections 31-33 -- The Travels of John de Plano Carpini and other Friars, sent about the year 1246, as ambassadors from Pope Innocent IV, to the great Khan of the Moguls or Tartars: *section index*


Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 31 -- How the Friars, in the presence of the Emperor, interchanged Letters.

Soon afterwards, the emperor sent us to his mother, as he intended to set up a flag of defiance against all the nations of the west, as has been mentioned before; and he was desirous to keep this circumstance from our knowledge. Having remained some days with his mother, we returned to his court, where we continued a whole month, in such extreme distress for victuals and drink, that we could hardly keep ourselves alive; for the provisions allowed us for four days, were scarcely sufficient to serve us for one day, neither could we go to purchase at the public market, as it was too far from us. But God sent to our aid a Russian goldsmith, named Cosmas, who was considerably favoured by the emperor, and who procured us some food. This man shewed us the imperial throne and seal, both of which he had been employed to make.

After some time, the emperor sent for us, and intimated, by Chingay, his secretary, that we should write down our messages and affairs, and deliver them to him, which we did accordingly. Many days afterwards, we were again called to the presence, and were asked if there were any persons about the Pope who understood the Russian, Arabic, or Tartarian languages. To this we answered that we were ignorant of these languages, and though there were Saracens in our land, they inhabited at a great distance from our lord the Pope; and we proposed, that when they had written in the Tartar language, they might explain the meaning to us, which we would carefully write down in our language, and would then deliver both the originals and the translation to his holiness. On this they went from us to the emperor. We were again called upon at Martinmas, when Kadac, the chief minister of the empire, with Chingay and Bala, and several scribes, came to us and explained the emperor's letter, word for word; and when we had written it in Latin, they made us interpret every sentence to them, to see if we had any way erred. And when both letters were written, they made us read them over twice more, lest any thing were mistaken: Saying, "Take heed that every thing be well understood, as great inconvenience might arise from wrong conception." They gave us likewise a copy of the emperor's letters in Arabic, in case any one might be found who could explain them in our country.



Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 32 -- The Papal Envoys receive a Licence to depart.

These Tartar ministers informed us, that the emperor proposed to send envoys along with us; and it seemed to us, that they wished we should ask this from the emperor, and one of the principal among them advised us to make that request. But this did not appear at all convenient, and we answered, that it did not become us to make any such petition; but if it were the pleasure of the emperor to send envoys, we should use our utmost endeavour, with God's assistance, to conduct them in safety. We were averse from this measure, for the following reasons: Lest, seeing the wars and dissensions which subsisted among the Christians, they should be the more encouraged to make war upon us: We were afraid that the messengers were meant to act as spies, to examine the approaches to our land: We dreaded that they might be slain by the way: for when the servants which attended us, by desire of the cardinal legate of Germany, were on their return to him, they were well nigh stoned to death by the Germans, and forced to put off that hateful dress: And it is the custom of the Tartars, never to make peace with those who have slain their messengers, till they have taken a severe revenge. Fourthly, we feared their messengers might be taken from us by main force. And lastly, because no good could arise from them, as they were to have no other commission or authority, except merely to deliver the letter of the emperor to the pope and princes of Christendom, which letter we already had.

The third day after this, being the feast of St Brice, 13th November, we received our passport, and a letter sealed with the emperor's own seal; and going to the emperor's mother, she gave each of us a gown made of fox-skins, having the hair outwards, and a linen robe; from every one of which our Tartar attendants stole a yard, and from those that were given to our servants, they stole a full half. We were perfectly aware of this knavery, but did not think it convenient to take any notice.



Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 33 -- The return of the Papal Envoys to Europe.

At length we took our departure, and travelled the whole winter through the desert, often sleeping all night on the snow, unless when we cleared a piece of ground with our feet, and frequently in the morning we found ourselves entirely covered by the snow, which had drifted over us during the night. On Ascension day, we arrived at the court of Baatu, of whom we inquired what message we should deliver in his name to the Pope? To this he answered, that he had no message to give us in charge, but only that we should carefully deliver what we had received from the emperor. Having received additional passports from him, we continued our journey, and arrived at the station of Montij on the Sabbath after the Whitson week, where our companions and servants, who had been kept so long from us, were returned at our desire. From thence we travelled to the station of Corrensa, who again required presents from us, but we now had none to give. He however appointed two Comanians, of the lowest order of the Tartar subjects, to accompany us to Kiow in Russia; but our Tartar guide did not quit us till we were beyond the Tartar bounds; after which the Comanians, who had been ordered by Corrensa to attend us, brought us in six days from the last guard of the Tartars, to the city of Kiow, where we arrived fifteen days before the festival of John the Baptist, 9th June 1248. On receiving notice of our approach, the whole inhabitants of Kiow came out joyfully to receive us, congratulating us as men returned from death to life; and we were received in a similar manner in our whole progress through Russia, Poland, and Bohemia. Daniel, and his brother Wasilico, feasted us splendidly, and detained us, contrary to our desire, for eight days. In the meantime, they and their bishops and nobles, having consulted on those matters, which we had propounded to them, when on our journey towards the Tartars, made an unanimous declaration, that they would henceforwards hold the Pope as their special lord and holy father, and would adhere to the Roman church as their lady and mistress, confirming all things which they had previously sent on this subject, by their own abbot, to the Pope before our return; and in ratification of all this, they sent envoys and letters along with us to the Pope.[1]

[1] In Section XIX. of this journey, Wasilico, or Wasiley, is mentioned as duke of Russia; but who must only have been duke of some subordinate province. This submission of Russia, or of his particular dukedom, produced no fruit to the Romish see, as the Russian empire still remains what are called Greek schismatics.--E


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