The legends of Presser John (also Presbyter Johannes) were popular In Europe from the 12th through the 17th centuries, and told of a Christian patriarch and king said to rule over a Christian nation lost amidst the Muslims and pagans in the Orient. Written accounts of this kingdom are variegated collections of medieval popular fantasy. Presser John was reportedly a descendant of one of the Three Magi, said to be a generous ruler and a virtuous man, presiding over a realm full of riches and strange creatures, in which the Patriarch of the Saint Thomas Christians resided.
HIS kingdom contained such marvels as the Gates of Alexander and the Fountain of Youth, and even bordered the Earthly Paradise. Among his treasures was a mirror through which every province could be seen, the fable...
d original from which the "speculum literature" of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance was derived, in which the prince's realms were surveyed and his duties laid out. We also saw there at that time [Deck 1145] the aforesaid Bellhops of Cabala In Syria...
. He said, Indeed, that not many years since, one John, a king and priest living In the Far East, beyond Persia and
Armenia, and who, with his people, is a Christian, but a Insertion, had warred upon the scalded Semiarid, the brother kings of the Modes and Persians. John also attacked Abacuses . I . The capital of their kingdom.
When the aforesaid kings advanced against him with a force of Persians, Modes, and Assyrian, a threaded struggle ensued, since both sides were willing to die rather than to flee. At length, Presser John so he Is usually
called put the Persians to flight and emerged from the dreadful slaughter as victor.
The Bishop said that the aforesaid John moved his army o aid the church of Jerusalem, but that when he came to the Tigris and was unable to take his army across it by any means, be turned aside to the north, where he had been informed that the stream was frozen solid during the winter. There he awaited the ice for several years, but saw none because of the temperate weather. His army lost many men on account of the weather to which they were unaccustomed and he was compelled to return home.
He Is said to be a descendant of the Magi of old, who are mentioned In the Gospel. 1 He governs the same people as they did and Is said o enjoy such glory and such plenty that be uses no scepter save one of emerald. Fired by the example of his forefathers, who came to adore Christ in the manger, he proposed to go to Jerusalem, but he was, they say, turned back for the aforementioned reason. Presser John, or John The Elder, Presser John [Credit:] legendary Christian ruler of the East, popularized In medieval chronicles and traditions as a hoped-for ally against the Muslims. Believed to be a Insertion (I. E.
A member of an independent Eastern Christian Church that did not accept the authority of the patriarch of Constantinople) and a king-priest reigning "in the Far East beyond Persia and Armenia," Presser John was the centre of a number of legends that harked back to the writings of "John the Elder" in the New
Testament. Presser John Is the name given to a mythical medieval Christian priest-king of a vast empire in the Chronicle of Otto of Freeing, who heard word of a powerful Christian sovereign reigning in the East in 1145 from a Syrian bishop who had arrived at the Papal Court in Bittier.
In 1177, Pope Alexander Ill wrote a letter to "Presbyter Oneness," hoping that he might become an ally of the European princes fighting to stop the Muslim advance in Mediterranean areas. At that time it was believed that Presser John was sovereign of an Asian country near India.
During the Fifth Crusade, at the beginning of the 13th century, information about Ethiopia was collected by Crusaders in Egypt, and therefore the Christian sovereigns of Nubian and Ethiopia, always fighting to defend their faith, became known in Europe. It was rather obvious development that the Indian "Presser John" of former legend should become
Identified with the Emperor of Ethiopia, the more easily because, in the Middle East, India and Ethiopia were often confused; until the Renaissance, it was believed that only a narrow strait ("el cave De Dib," according to Far Amour, cartographer of Venice) separated Ethiopia from the Indian sub-continent. As a result, in his Memorabilia descriptive, written in 1329, the Dominican friar Jordan Catalane describes the sovereign of Christian Ethiopia as "Presser John. " Thereafter the kingdom of Presser Ion was located in Africa and his legend was enriched, sometimes by data later dad known about Ethiopia.
For instance, Presser John was believed to have the power of cutting off the flow of the Nile towards Egypt (an ancient Ethiopians tradition). Again, it
was said that, in Presser John's country, children were baptized Math fire and not with water. In the Middle Ages, the name of Presser John was a byword for the exotic far east, for an empire at the outer limits of the known world. It conjured up an image in the medieval mind of a celebrated monarch who held sway over a vast multitude of loyal subjects, of a palace of immense splendor overflowing
Ninth riches and of a country teeming with marvelous beings. More compelling that the tales of grandeur was the idea that Presser John, a powerful king with an impressive empire, was in fact a Christian.
The origin of the myth of Presser John is unknown. Various theories have been proclaimed, including the idea that it was the three wise men' from the gospel of SST Matthew that had led to the wide spread belief in the existence of Christian priest-kings ruling in the Orient. Nevertheless, in 1165 a letter purporting to come from Presser John began circulating in Europe.
It was dressed to Manuel Comments, Emperor of Byzantium and in it Presser John claims to rule over the Three Indies, a territory which he explains runs from the Tower of Babel to the place where the sun rises. He announces his intention of defeating the enemies of Christ and tells of his great treasures and the many marvels of his kingdom. It is not surprising then, especially after the defeat of the Crusading armies, that Europeans would want to contact this glorious Christian leader and that travelers to the east, both mercantile and missionary, would search for the kingdom of Presser
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