It is the 1st of August 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Yesterday I suggested that when a bunch of fuss is made about Christopher Columbus, you might find a look at Bartolome De Las Casas useful.
And today, by complete chance (except, the books I have chosen to read guide the Almanac) we come across a parallel figure who instead of heading West, headed East.
It was OTD in 1252 that Friar Giovanni De Pian del Carpini (or John of Plano Carpini) died. The cosmopolitan and well-liked Carpini had capped his ecclesiastical career as the first papal envoy to the Mongols. John’s history of the Mongols and Central Asia was the first western history of the peoples and territories.
Reminder: who were the Mongols?
Nomads from the Steppes of Asia who, in the 13th century became an Empire with only that of Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire as peers.
Created by Ghengis Khan (1162-1227) he consolidated the Mongols through civil war and built an army based on skill instead of family connections and developed a network of tribes by killing their chiefs and absorbing the now chief-less peasants.
Between himself, his sons, and his two most famous grandsons Batu and Kublai the Mongols took very little time in taking: Beijing, Afghanistan, Kyiv, Northern China, Poland, Hungary, the Abbasid Caliphate, and more. the Mongols would extend from the far East to the Caspian Sea!
In 1241 Batu Khan took on Eastern Europe- the battles of Legnica and Mohi were especially brutal with the Mongols routing the Teutonic Knights, the Knights Templar, and other Christian military orders.
Pope Innocent IV and the rest of Western Europe were understandably nervous. Not only did they have the Muslims to the East, but now the Mongols. The Pope (who believed he had a kind of universal jurisdiction over the world) sent John on a diplomatic mission (remember church and politics are all mixed up).
John was a Franciscan, a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi, and sought the evangelization of the Mongols. X Pope Innocent’s letter was a little more forward. Pope Innocent requested that the Khan would submit to his authority and the Christian faith. The Khan responded- “sure if you do the same”.
Note: there was no submitting nor converting.
But the work of Friar John is significant for a number of reasons:
- He was the first diplomat between the Mongols and the Christian West and the first of his kind inside the Mongol’s capitol
- His “History of the Mongols” would be one of the most fair-minded Medieval reports about foreign people.
- This has helped us separate the myth of the Mongols from the stereotype
- Friar John depicted the Mongols as humans. And relatively peaceful.
- The relative peace between the Roman church and the Mongols was based on the general religious tolerance of the Mongols as reported by John.
- The popularity of his work helped broaden the European mind to think outside of the present “Christendom” and into parts of the unknown world.
John of Plano Carpini made this trip late in this life (he was 60) but he was a celebrity in his remaining years and served in an Archbishopric in Dalmatia. John of Plano Carpini died OTD in 1252. Born in 1185 he was 67 years old.
The last word for today comes from the Gospel of John:
"And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 1st of August 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who loves giving frozen beef and vegetables to the guy standing at the big iron griddle. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man reminding you that Mongolian Barbecue is neither Mongolian nor Barbecue. I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.