Odoric of Pordenone, Bl.
ODORIC OF PORDENONE, BL.
Franciscan missionary also known as Odericus; b. Pordenone, Italy, c. 1265; d. Udine, Italy, Jan. 14, 1331. He entered the franciscan order at Udine c. 1280 and was ordained a priest some ten years later. In 1296 he began his remarkable career as a world missionary, which lasted about 35 years. For more than a decade and a half he was engaged in missionary work with other Franciscans in the mongol Khanate of Kipchak in southern Russia and probably also on the Balkan Peninsula. For a short time he returned to Italy, but in 1314 he set sail from Venice for the Near East. During the next eight years he did missionary work in the three Franciscan custodies of Constantinople, Trebizond (Asia Minor, present-day Turkey), and Tabriz (Persia, present-day Iran). From Sultaniyeh in northern Persia he set out in 1322 with an Irish confrere, Friar James, for the Far East in order to join Archbishop john of monte corvino in Cathay (northern China). After traveling through southern Persia, northern Arabia, and Chaldea (Iraq), he sailed from Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. At Thana, near Bombay, he recovered the relics of thomas of tolentino and his three companions, who had been martyred there about two years earlier. After visiting both the Malabar and the Coromandel coasts of India, he set sail from Quilon and stopped at the islands of Sumatra, Java, and probably Borneo, but by way of Cochin China and Great Nicobar Island. He had to return to Ceylon to get a ship to take him to Guangzhou, China. After arriving there in the latter part of 1324, he traveled overland to the capital in the north. At Zaitun (present Quanzhou) he stayed for a while with Bishop Andrew of Perugia (fl. 1307–26) and his Franciscan confreres, who had two churches in the city. On the northward journey he visited Fuzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and Yangzhou, finding at Yangzhou another Franciscan mission center. In 1325 he finally reached Khanbaliq, or Cambaluc, (modern-day Beijing), and for three years he assisted Archbishop John of Monte Corvino and the other Franciscans working in the capital. Shortly before the archbishop's death in 1328, Odoric was commissioned to go back to Europe to recruit new missionaries for China. He made the return journey overland through the vassal kingdom of Tenduk (present-day provinces Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Gansu), where he found a church at T'o-k'o-t'o, built by King George, a convert of Monte Corvino. Though he mentions Tibet, he did not visit that country but continued through Almalyk, near Kuldja (present-day Yining) in Xinjiang, the western gateway of China, where seven Franciscans later died (1339) as the first martyrs of China. Then traveling through Chinese Turkestan and central Asia, around the Caspian Sea, to Persia, Iraq, Syria, and probably Palestine, he reached Venice at the end of 1329 or beginning of 1330. He set out for Avignon to see Pope john xxii, but he fell ill in Pisa and returned to Udine by way of Padua, where he dictated his famous journal in May of 1330. The journal was one of the most famous travel books of the Middle Ages, and it was plagiarized by the author of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. The cult of Bl. Odoric was approved by benedict xiv on July 2,1775. Odoric is venerated as the patron of the Chinese missions and also of long-distance travelers. The best edition of his journal is that published by A. Van den Wyngaert, OFM, in Sinica Franciscana (Quaracchi 1929) 1:413–495, and the best account of his life is in the accompanying introduction and notes.
Feast: Jan. 14 (formerly 12) (Conventual Franciscans).
Bibliography: Sources. Eng. tr. of journal in Cathay and the Way Thither, ed. and tr. h. yule, 2 v. (London 1866); Ital. tr. Relazione del viaggio in Oriente e in Cina, ed. Camera di commercio, industria, artigianato e agricoltura, (Pordenone 1982); Germ. tr. Der Bericht des Odoric da Pordenone über seine Reise nach Asien, tr. r. jandesek (Bamberg 1987); Fr. tr. Les merveilles de la terre d'outremer: traduction du XIV e siècle du récit de voyage d'Odoric de Pordenone, tr. j. de vignay, ed. d. a. trotter (Exeter, Eng.1990). Literature. m. gnauck, Odorich von Pordenone, ein Orientreisender des 14. Jahrhunderts (Leisnig 1895). Bibliotheca hagiographica latina antiquae et mediae aetatis, 2 v. (Brussels 1898–1901) 6303–6316. h. cordier, Les Voyages en Asie, au XIV e siècle, du bienheureux frère O. de Pordenone (Paris 1891). g. golubovich, "Il B. Fr. Odorico da Pordenone, O.F.M.," Archivum Franciscanum historicum 10 (1917): 17–46. d. schilling, "War der sel. Odorich von Pordenone in Japan?" ibid. 35 (1942): 153–176. g. pullÉ, Viaggio del beato Odorico da Pordenone (Milan 1931). a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, 4 v. (New York 1956) 1:88–89. m. a. habig, In Journeyings Often (St. Bonaventure, N.Y. 1953) 80–108. a. teetaert, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, 15 v. (Paris 1903–50) 11.1:942–947.
[m. a. hÀbig]