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Also known as Asselino, Anselmo. Dominican from Lombardy; papal envoy to the Tartars. His antecedents and the dates of his birth and death are not known. In 1245 he headed one of four missions that Innocent IV sent by different routes to the Tartars, who were exhorted to cease their depredations and become Christians. Apparently, he was also commissioned to treat with the dissidents and Moslem sultans of the Near East with regard to reunion and conversion. These tasks occupied him and his Dominican staff of four until the fall of 1246. Going from Acre, the friars contacted the Tartar general Batschu in the Transcaucasus (or middle Persia) on May 24, 1247, 59 days after leaving Tiflis. Ascellino's undiplomatic refusal to follow Oriental protocol endangered the lives of the envoys and led to great discomfort, hunger, and insults. Finally Batschu accepted the papal letters but forced Ascellino to await a reply from the Grand Khan. He departed for Europe on July 25, 1247, accompanied by two Tartar envoys to the pope. The letters from the khan and Batschu were arrogant, demanding papal submission to the Tartars. Ascellino reached Lyons in the autumn of 1248. His later career is unknown. The story of his martyrdom in Asia is pure speculation.

Bibliography: b. altaner, Die Dominikanermissionen des 13. Jh.: Forschungen zur Geschichte der kirchlichen Unionen unter den Mohammedanern (Breslauer Studien zur historischen Theologie 3; Habelschwerdt 1924). p. pelliot, "Les Mongols et le papauté," Revue de l'Orient Chrétien 24 (1924) 265335.

[w. a. hinnebusch]