chapter  4
26 Pages

A remedy against the Tartars

By the election of Pope Innocent IV in June 1243, the Curia hadat its disposal some limited information about the invaders, beginning, no doubt, with the report which the Dominican Julian had addressed to the papal legate in Hungary and which had been registered in the Liber censuum; in addition, copies of two of Béla IV’s letters from 1241-2 were among the documents transported from Italy to Lyons when Innocent took refuge there from the Emperor in December 1244.1

And Roger of Várad, who had been in Rome in 1243, may have attended the First Council of Lyons in 1245.2 The Curia further benefited from the presence of a refugee ecclesiastic from Rus′ named Peter, who arrived at Lyons at the end of 1244 or early in 1245.3 Peter, who was to be interrogated about the Mongols at the Council in June but who must surely have had a previous audience with pope and cardinals, assured his interlocutors that the Mongols received embassies favourably (benigne) and did not mistreat them.4 The pope was encouraged by this news, which had not been available at the time of the invasion, to send ambassadors to the grim new power that had arisen on Latin Christendom’s eastern frontiers. The agenda for the First Council of Lyons included not just ‘a remedy against the Tartars’ but also perennial problems such as: Church reform; the deposition of the Emperor Frederick; negotiations with the Greek Emperor of Nicaea, John III Ducas Vatatzes, for ecclesiastical union; and the parlous situation of the Holy Land. It is a measure of the importance Innocent attached to the Mongol threat, however, that he did not wait for the opening of the Council but in March or April 1245 despatched no less than three embassies to the Mongols, consisting of members of the Mendicant Orders.