ODORICO DA PORDENONE (Odorico Mattiuzzi). 1265/74/86 — Udine 14.1.1331. Italian Franciscan Friar and Traveller in Asia. From Pordenone in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Wrote a famous account of his journey to China and Central Asia. Started for his journey between 1314/18, together with James of Ireland, and remained several years in the East. By ship Venice–Constantinople–Trebizond, then Erzerum–Tabriz–Sultanieh, by ship to Thana (1321 or 1322), by ship via Sumatra, Java and Champa to Canton, from there Zaitun–Fuchow–Hangchow–Nanking–Yangchow–Peking (c. 1325). Remained there three years, then returned via Central Asia and Iran. In 1330 dictated his journal in Padova, then left for Avignon to ask papal permission to return to China, but became ill and died. Beatified in 1755.
Odorico dictated his narrative to William of Solagna in May 1330. It was then much read, but rarely relied on. Purchas accused him for copying Mandeville, when the truth was the opposite. He included some common myths, such as the dogheads, pygmies and the rivers of Paradise, but for the most part he described what he really had seen. Only Yule was able to rehabilitate his work. It included a brief description of Tibet, although he most probably never visited the country. The final part, from Central Asia to Italy, is left out. Moule emphasizes that many details of his life and travels are uncertain or missing.
Publications: The travel account – Peregrinatio – is preserved in several Latin manuscripts and in Medieval translations in Italian, French and Middle High German, in abridged versions, etc. Main version was published in English translation by H. Yule, Cathay and the Way Thither. 1. Hakluyt Soc. L. 1866, 2nd ed. by H. Cordier. Vol. 2. 13+367 p. L. 1916 (Appendix I. The Latin text, 278-336).
– The Old French version ed. by H. Cordier, P. 1891.
Sources: B. Laufer, “Was Odoric of Pordenone ever in Tibet?”, TP 15, 1914, 405-418 (answer not); I. de Rachewiltz, Papal Envoys to the Great Khans. Stanford, Calif. 1971, 179-186; P. Smethurst, Literature of Travel and Explor. 2, 2003, 879f.; Wikipedia with picture.
A.C. Moule, “A Life of Odoric of Pordenone”, TP 20, 1920-21, 275-290; two further articles by Moule, in TP 20, 1920-21, 301-322 and “Bibliographical Notes on Odoric”, TP 21, 1922, 387-393 contain presentation and analysis of the main manuscripts.
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