Mandeville’s Travels -- Prologue

(translated by Anthony Bale)


BECAUSE the land overseas, that is to say the Holy Land which people call the Promised Land, is amongst all other lands like the most excellent lady and it is sovereign over all other lands, and it is blessed and hallowed and made sacred by the precious blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ;


and because in this land it pleased Him to take flesh and blood, conceived of the Virgin Mary, and travel throughout that land by His blessed feet;


and because there He chose to perform many miracles, preaching and teaching the faith, our Christian law, as if to His children; and there He chose to suffer so much disgrace and mockery for us; He who was King of Heaven and of earth, of air, of sea, and all things contained in them, but would only be called king of that land when He said Rex sum Iudeorum, that is, 'I am the King of the Jews', because at that time this land belonged to the Jews;


and because that land was chosen by Him as the best over all other lands, the most virtuous, the worthiest in the world: as the philosopher says, Virtus rerum in medio consistit, that is, 'The virtue of things is in their middle';


and because in that land He wished to live His life and suffer His Passion and death at the Jews' hands for us, to redeem us and deliver us from the torments of Hell and from eternal death, which had been ordained for us because of the sin of Adam, our father, and also because of our own sins; and He did not deserve any evil treatment, because He had never either thought or done anything evil; and He who was the King of glory and joy chose that place as the best in which to suffer death: because if one wants something to be known by everybody one shouts out in the middle of a city or town, so that all parts of the city know what is happening;


therefore He who was King of all the world chose to suffer death at Jerusalem, because that is in the middle of the world, so it was known to everybody in all parts of the world at what price He redeemed mankind which He made in His own likeness out of His immense love for us; He could not have proffered any more precious property than His own blessed body and His own precious blood, the which He sacrificed for us.


Oh dear God, such love had He for His servants when He who was without sin suffered death for sinners! People should truly love and worship and fear and serve such a god and a ruler, and worship and praise this holy land that bore such fruit, through which each person is saved (unless it might be through their own fault). This is the land promised to us in hereditary succession, and in that land He chose to die and He was put in seisin, in actual possession, of this place to leave it to His children;* therefore, every decent Christian who is able and has the wherewithal should fortify himself to conquer our rightful heritage and .chase out those of an evil creed. For we are called Christians on account of our Father Christ, and if we are the lawful children of Christ, we must demand the inheritance bequeathed to us by our Father and wrest it from foreigners' hands.


Nota bene! So now men's hearts are so aroused with pride, envy, and covetousness that they are busier making their neighbours destitute than demanding or conquering the aforementioned rightful inheritance. As for the common people, who might want to offer their bodies and their property to win back our inheritance, they cannot do so without noblemen. This is because an assembly of the people without a chief to govern them is like a flock of sheep without a shepherd: it becomes scattered and doesn't know which way it should go. If it pleases God that noblemen are in agreement with each other and have the backing of the common people to make a holy journey overseas, I really believe that within just a little time our rightful inheritance should be regained and placed into the hands of Jesus Christ's rightful heirs.


Because it has been a long time since there was a crusading expedition overseas, and because many men long to hear about that land and various countries nearby (and from that I take great pleasure and comfort), I, John Mandeville, knight, although I'm not worthy, who was born in England in the town of St Albans, set sail on Michaelmas Day in the year of Our Lord 1332 and have been abroad a long time since then. And I have seen and traversed so many kingdoms and lands and provinces and islands, and travelled through Turkey and Armenia the Lesser and the Greater, and Tartary, Persia, Syria, Arabia, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, Libya, Chaldea, and most of Ethiopia, Amazonia, Upper India and Lower India, and through lots of islands near India, where many kinds of people live, of different customs and shapes (of which territories and islands I will speak more fully). And I shall describe a part of what each one is, according to how I remember it, especially for those who wish and intend to visit the holy city of Jerusalem and the holy places thereabouts. And I will tell you the route to take to get there, because I have travelled and ridden this way many times with numerous noble companions.