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Benedict of Poland

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Commemorative plaque for Benedict of Poland in Wrocław

Benedict of Poland (Latin: Benedictus Polonus, Polish Benedykt Polak) (c. 1200 – c. 1280) was a Polish Franciscan friar, traveler, explorer, and interpreter.

Benedict accompanied Giovanni da Pian del Carpine in his journey as delegate of Pope Innocent IV to the Great Khan Güyük of the Mongol Empire in 1245–1247. He was the author of the brief chronicle De itinere Fratrum Minorum ad Tartaros (On the Journey of the Franciscan Friars to the Tatars), not published until 1839 in France, and a year later in Poland, and the source for a longer work, Hystoria Tartarorum (History of the Tatars), discovered later and eventually published in 1965.[1] The report of Benedict includes a copy of the letter of the Great Khan to the Pope.[2] De Itinere Fratrum Minorum ad Tartaros, which is an account of the first expedition of Europeans to the capital of the Mongol Empire, which lasted from April 16, 1245 to November 18, 1247.

Little is known about the life of Benedict beyond the story of the journey. He may have been taken prisoner during the Mongol invasion of Poland in 1241.[3] He was well educated and spoke and wrote Latin, Polish, and Old Rusin. He had become a friar in the Franciscan friary in Wrocław about 1236. This was the first major stop of Friar Giovanni after leaving on the mission from Lyon in April 1245. Benedict was chosen to accompany him as an interpreter because he had also acquired a knowledge of the Old East Slavic language and the first part of their journey was to Kyiv. He may have even acquired some Mongolian as a prisoner.[3]

Benedict made his accounts of the journey during and after their return in 1247. After returning from the voyage he probably settled in the Franciscan monastery in Kraków where he spent the rest of his life. Later he was also a witness at the canonization of Saint Stanislaus of Szczepanów in 1252.[2]


  1. ^ Edward Kajdański: Długi cień Wielkiego Muru, Warsaw, 2005 (in Polish)
  2. ^ a b Biography of Benedict (in Polish)
  3. ^ a b Guzman, Gregory G. "European Captives and Craftsmen among the Mongols, 1231–1255". The Historian, Vol. 72, No. 1 (2010), note 110. JSTOR 24455008

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