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The Quest for Eastern Christians

The Quest for Eastern Christians: Travels and Rumor in the Age of Discovery

Francis M. Rogers
Copyright Date: 1962
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Quest for Eastern Christians
    Book Description:

    Most writers have considered that the great European explorations during the Age of Discovery were motivated primarily by a thirst for knowledge of other lands, desire for international trade, or missionary zeal. Professor Rogers demonstrates that there was another significant reason why Europeans traveled to the East during the lade medieval and Renaissance period. This was the dream of a Christian Indies, which in turn led to a quest for the Christians of the Farther East. The author specifically seeks to establish a direct relation between the knowledge of Indian and Ethiopian Christians which was available in Jerusalem from early Christian times onward and which returning pilgrims disseminated in the West, and the presence of the Portuguese in South India and the Ethiopian highlands in the early sixteenth century. Throughout his presentation of the evidence for the chain of events which links Palestinian knowledge with Portuguese action, Professor Rogers places emphasis on the early printed books and tracts which circulated both accurate information and rumor. Specimen pages from some of these books are reproduced as illustrations, and there is a double-page chart showing the genealogy of the nations and the sects of the Christians. There is a list of the early printed books which the author has used in his study as well as a bibliography.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6420-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    F. M. R.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
    (pp. xiv-2)
  5. I Medieval Background: Western Travelers and Eastern Christians
    (pp. 3-27)

    As he reads his Koran, the Moslem conceives of the East in a dual perspective. “The Lord of the two easts,” he recites, “and the Lord of the two wests!” In his lateral orientation, he thinks in terms of latitude, of side-by-sideness. More accurate in the expression of his seasonal observations of the heavens than we, he designates the location of the sun’s rising at the winter and summer solstices.

    The Western Christian, on the other hand, perceives his Easts in depth. His holy books, which place the events of his Saviour’s life in a Near East, simultaneously suggest a...

  6. II Christians from Beyond Islam and the Council of Florence
    (pp. 28-49)

    Three very popular fourteenth-century narratives, then, called widespread attention to distant Christians in the Holy Land and in the Indies. The classic tale of Marco Polo’s adventures reveals that this famous Venetian, in common with other travelers to Central Asia and India, was constantly on the alert for some sign of the fabulous Prester John, and for traces of St. Thomas and his Christians as well. He proposed a candidate for the position of High Priest-Potentate, a rather unlikely Ung Khan, and in a qualifying statement anent his nominee we perceive the forceful impact of the famous letter: “This was...

  7. III The Council of Florence and the Portuguese Princes
    (pp. 50-70)

    It was a strange and colorful band of Christians that journeyed to the Council of Florence from lands beyond Islam, lands which Western Europeans of the mid-fifteenth century perceived almost as worlds apart. These exotic newly found brethren in Christ understandably created a tremendous sensation wherever they appeared. Poggio Bracciolini shared the general fascination and interest of all who met or saw them, as did Biondo Flavio, who also was a humanist and papal secretary. Biondo prepared an account, published in the 1920’s by Bartolomeo Nogara, of Fra Alberto da Sarteano’s mission and return to Florence, quoted the discourse pronounced...

  8. IV Early Latin Chapbooks and the Christians of the Indies
    (pp. 71-90)

    Had modern publishers been active in the late fifteenth century they would have seized upon and published the remarkable letter which Pope Pius II addressed to Sultan Mohammed and the text of the masterfully conceived and executed oration of obedience to the recently elevated Pope Innocent VIII delivered in the papal presence on behalf of his loyal and humble servant in Christ, King João II of Portugal. Perspicacious and alert to trends of popular literary tastes in the timeless tradition of printers and publishers, they would have energetically sought out further material in the vein of these items. They would...

  9. V The Christians of Ethiopia and India in Vernacular Verse
    (pp. 91-113)

    Hordes of proud Portuguese thronged the banks of the beautiful Tagus on a July day in 1497 to witness the departure of Vasco da Gama and his fleet, an event vividly portrayed in theLusiadsof Camões. A competent and confident leader was to command a company of able and experienced mariners on a course carrying them before the northeast trades beyond the Madeira and Canary archipelagoes and on to the Cape Verde Islands. Many years of systematic study of winds and currents which preceded this voyage provided the essential knowledge that enabled Gama to pursue the next stage of...

  10. VI Portugal, Prester John, and the Christians of St. Thomas
    (pp. 114-135)

    The first editions of Mandeville’sTravelsand ofGuerino il Meschinoushered in a succession of tales, tracts, and poems in the vernacular languages which invigorated the frequently depressed atmosphere of Western Europe with anticipation of momentous deeds, certain of accomplishment, in the distant Indies. The introduction of Latin chapbooks on the literary scene in about 1480 augmented this exhilaration. Conscious of but never self-conscious in her role, and with the long-sought goal almost grasped, Portugal hastily served her eager audience with proclamations of her great deeds even as she accomplished them, for Portugal keenly sensed her obligation to the...

  11. VII Renaissance Finale: Ethiopian Submission to the Pope in Bologna
    (pp. 136-159)

    The literary works of two renowned humanists and men of letters, Poggio Bracciolini and Pope Pius II, figured prominently among the books which precipitated the Iberian quest of Christian Indies. Chapbooks designed for lucrative mass consumption, in Latin and in the vernacular tongues, in prose and in verse, stimulated and accompanied the quest. Elegant royal letters and obedience orations translated into Latin reported the penultimate stages of the quest and became immediately available in the format of the chapbooks.

    The Indian dream which found fulfillment with the excavations in Mylapore found disappointment as well. No great shrine dazzled the Portuguese...

  12. VIII The Age of Latin Arrogance
    (pp. 160-182)

    The imaginative tale composed by Gómez de Santisteban took the Infante Dom Pedro of Portugal over the four parts of the world to the court of Prester John and the shrine of St. Thomas. When the prince and his retinue departed for the West, they beseeched the pardon and blessing of the Prester and, in the words of the narrator: “We thus left very sorrowful, and as concerns the kind of life they lead in that land, we should have remained and should have liked to settle down, but for the fact that the people of these nations could not...

    (pp. 183-194)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-207)
  15. Index
    (pp. 208-222)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 223-225)