Born in Florence, Italy. John of Marignolli undertook the last-known Western mission to eastern Asia before the 16th c. The mission was prompted by a group of Alans at Khanbaliq (Beijing), the Mongol capital of China, who, hoping to receive spiritual direction, sent letters to the pope after the death of John of Monte Corvino. A Franciscan delegation was sent; John was one of them. He left Avignon (where the papal court had its residence at the time) in 1338, traveling by land across Central Asia, together with an enormous war horse (allegedly three-and-a-half meters long and nearly two meters high) sent by the pope as a gift to the emperor.
John reached Khanbaliq in 1342. Later he reported that the Franciscans were received hospitably, that the cathedral and several churches established by Monte Corvino still existed, and that the physical needs of the Franciscans were supplied by the imperial court. In 1345 he left Khanbaliq for Europe, traveling by way of India; he was plundered of his imperial gifts for the pope in Ceylon but arrived safely in Avignon in 1353. In 1354, John was made bishop of Bisignano. Soon after, he became a royal chaplain of the king of Bohemia, who had been recently confirmed as the Holy Roman Emperor. As royal chaplain, John wrote a Chronicle of Bohemia, containing a report of his travels to Asia.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, copyright © 2001 by Scott W. Sunquist, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- Emler, I., ed., Chronicon Bohemiae, Vol. 3 of Fontes rerum Bohemicarum (1882).
- Latorurette, Kenneth Scott, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, Vol. 2 (1938).
- Lexikon fur Theologie und Kirche, Vol. 5 (1960).