The viaggio in Inghilterra of a viaggio in Oriente: Odorico da Pordenone’s Itinerarium from Italy to England
By Marianne O’Doherty
Italian Studies, Vol.64:2 (2009)
Abstract: This article compares trends in the reception of the fourteenth-century travel narrative (Relatio) of the Franciscan Friar Odorico da Pordenone in Italy and England before the end of the fifteenth century. Principally using physical evidence for the intended audience and actual reception of the Relatio’s surviving manuscript witnesses, this article draws a sharp distinction between a text circulating in Italy predominantly among lay, middle class, vernacular-literate readers and one attentively read in England by Latinate, religious and scholarly audiences.
Introduction: Odorico da Pordenone was a Franciscan Friar who, in the wake of the thirteenth-century expansion of the Mongolian empire, travelled to the court of the Great Khan at Khanbalik (modern Beijing). He appears to have spent around eleven years (c.1318-29) travelling and evangelising in India and China, before returning to Italy. According to a subscript at the foot of the earliest dated redaction of his travel narrative, now known as his Itinerarium or Relatio, he dictated an account of his journey to an amanuensis, a fellow-Franciscan, Guglielmo da Solagna at Padua in 1330. A subscript added to some manuscripts records his death at the Franciscan convent in Udine in 1331. Shortly after his death, district officials began to gather records of miracles worked at his tomb in Udine. A redaction of the Relatio, together with a biography and collected miracles were gathered together into a body of evidence to support the case for the Friar’s canonisation, an event that never, in fact, took place.