Skip to main content
Select Source:

Prester John

Prester John

According to medieval legend, Prester John was a Christian king who ruled over an Asian land. The story of Prester John started around the time of the Crusades, the military campaigns undertaken by European Christians to retake the Holy Land from the Muslims.

A report written in 1145 called Prester John a mighty priest and king, who defeated the Persian Muslims and planned to help the Crusaders free Jerusalem. Twenty years later, a letter supposedly written by Prester John circulated in Europe. In it, he described his kingdom as a paradise on earth. He also promised to defeat the Muslims and recapture Christian holy places.

medieval relating to the Middle Ages in Europe, a period from about a.d. 500 to 1500

In 1177 Pope Alexander III sent a group to locate Prester John, but they were unsuccessful. Over the next few hundred years, many explorers and missionaries searched for him as they traveled throughout Asia. In the l400s, a Portuguese traveler claimed to have found Prester John's kingdom in the present-day African country of Ethiopia.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Prester John." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Prester John." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/prester-john

"Prester John." Myths and Legends of the World. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/prester-john

Prester John

Prester John. Legendary king of the orient. Stories of a Christian king who had defeated the Muslim powers in central Asia (possibly based on a real victory of a Turkish or Mongol chief) were known in Europe in the middle of the 12th cent. In 1165 a letter from ‘Prester [i.e. Presbyter] John’, who ruled ‘from the Tower of Babel to the sunrise’ began to circulate. It was an obvious fabrication of Western origin, but was wishfully believed at a time of ebbing Christian fortunes in the Holy Land.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Prester John." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Prester John." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prester-john

"Prester John." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prester-john

Prester John

Prester John, legendary Christian priest and monarch of a vast, wealthy empire in Asia or in Africa. The legend first appeared in the latter part of the 12th cent. and persisted for several centuries. At first the utopian realm of this Christian king was supposed to be in Asia, but later it was more generally placed in Africa. Letters supposed to have been written by him and about him were widely circulated in Western Europe.

See studies by V. Slessarev (1959) and R. Silverberg (1972).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Prester John." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Prester John." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prester-john

"Prester John." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prester-john

Prester John

Prester John a legendary medieval Christian king of Asia, said to have defeated the Muslims and to be destined to bring help to the Holy Land. The legend spread in Europe in the mid 12th century. He was later identified with a real king of Ethiopia; another theory identifies him with a Chinese prince who defeated the sultan of Persia in 1141.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Prester John." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Prester John." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prester-john

"Prester John." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prester-john

Prester John

Prester John Legendary ruler of a Christian kingdom in Asia in the Middle Ages. European Christians hoped to make an alliance with him against the Muslims in the age of the Crusades. The origin of the legend may have been Ethiopia, where the Coptic Church survived throughout the Middle Ages.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Prester John." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Prester John." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prester-john

"Prester John." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prester-john