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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

I: The Crusade in the Fourteenth Century,   pp. 2-26 ff. PDF (9.6 MB)

Page 11

and XVIII. 
the vast propagandist literature originating from the pens of theo rists,
ideologists, and pilgrims of various nations in the west during the fourteenth
century. In the meantime, the idea of an alliance with the Mongols for joint
action against Islam, formulated in the age of Innocent IV (1243—1254)
and Louis IX (1226—1270), continued to haunt the imagination of western
potentates even after the decline of the crusade. During this period the
most striking efforts to convert the Mongols to Christianity are exemplified
by the heroic careers of John of Monte Corvino and his worthy contemporary
Odoric of Pordenone, whose lives and activities are landmarks in Far Eastern
missionary history. Settled at Khanbaliq after extensive peregrina tions
in Asia, John of Monte Corvino became the original founder of the Catholic
church in Cathay. He might have passed unnoticed by the west had one of his
letters not accidentally reached pope Clem ent V. In 1304, he is said to
have baptized five thousand souls at what is now Peking, and built two churches.
He may have translated the New Testament and the Psalter into the Mongol
language, which he had mastered, though this remains to be proved. It was
probably in the second decade of the century that Odoric joined him at Khanbaliq
after one of the longest journeys on record in the Middle Ages. Odoric took
the route to China by way of Constantinople, Tabriz, Baghdad, Hormuz, then
by sea to Malabar, Ceylon, and Madras, whence he attained Sumatra and Java
in the East Indies, finally reaching Zaitun (probably Tsinkiang) and Khanbaliq.
He returned to Avignon in 1330 completely exhausted, to die at Udine in the
following year. In the meantime John, who had been elected bishop of Sultaniyeh
and the Far East, had died in 1328. When James of Florence was murdered at
an unknown place in the heart of China in 1362, it may be said that Catholic
Christianity had come to an end in those remote regions, though the idea
of joint action with the Mongols never died, but lay dormant in the western
mind until Christopher Columbus revived it by his westward journey to India,
only to discover the New World and give history a new orienta tion. 15 
 While the propagandists were busy stirring up the medieval mind for the
crusade, a number of leading men decided to take positive action. Thus a
series of minor preludes led the way to the greater campaigns of the second
half of the fourteenth century. Apart from some abortive attempts against
the Byzantine empire, the first expe dition to come within the category of
holy warfare at this time was 

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