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Thursday, February 11, 2010

The mythical kingdom of Prester John

by Matt Rosenberg

Picture is (C) copyright to Coleccion de los trages

In the twelfth century, a mysterious letter began to circulate around Europe. It told of a magical kingdom in the East that was in danger of being overrun by infidels and barbarians. This letter was supposedly written by a king known as Prester John.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the legend of Prester John sparked geographic exploration across Asia and Africa. The letter first surfaced in Europe as early as the 1160s, claiming to be from Prester (a corrupted form of the word Presbyter or Priest) John. There were over one-hundred different versions of the letter published over the following few centuries. Most often, the letter was addressed to Emanuel I, the Byzantine Emperor of Rome, though other editions were also often addressed to the Pope or the King of France.

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