Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Mystery of Prester John

From Nobility:
The mythical journey to Rome of a certain Patriarch John of India in 1122, and his visit to Callistus II, cannot have been the origin of the legend. Not until much later, in a manuscript dating from the latter part of the fifteenth-century “Tractatus pulcherrimus” (Zarncke), do we find the patriarch and priest united in one person. The first combination of the two legends appears at the end of the twelfth century, in an apocryphal book of devotions called the “Narrative of Eliseus”. The first authentic mention of Prester John is to be found in the “Chronicle” of Otto, Bishop of Freising, in 1145. Otto gives as his authority Hugo, Bishop of Gabala. The latter, by order of the Christian prince, Raymond of Antioch, went in 1144 (after the fall of Edessa) to Pope Eugene II, to report the grievous position of Jerusalem, and to induce the West to send another crusade. Otto met the Syrian prelate at Viterbo, where in the pope’s presence he learned that a certain John, who governed as priest and king in the Far East, had with his people become converted to Nestorianism. A few years earlier he had conquered the brother monarchs of Media and Persia, Samiardi. Prester John had emerged victorious from the terrible battle that lasted three days, and ended with the conquest of Ecbatana; after which the victor started for Jerusalem to rescue the Holy Land, but the swollen waters of the Tigris compelled him to return to his own country. He belonged to the race of the three Magi, their former kingdoms being subject to him. His enormous wealth was demonstrated by the fact that he carried a sceptre of pure emeralds. (Read more.)

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