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Barefoot and on Horseback to the Mongols, Whom We Call Tartars. The Mission of a Flemish Monk
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Barefoot and on Horseback to the Mongols, Whom We Call Tartars. The Mission of a Flemish Monk

(Luc Devoldere) The Low Countries - 2006, № 14, pp. 35-45

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Willem, Willelmus, Gullielmus, Guillaume, William: this sturdy Fleming was born in Rubrouck around 1210-1215. After joining the Franciscan order he received his training in Paris, as one of the first generation that hadn't known the saint personally. Around 1250 we find this lector flandricus, as a contemporary referred to him, in the Middle East. At the Syndicat d'Initiative Yser Houck in Rubrouck they are proud of the village's most famous son, who swapped the IJzer for the Gobi Desert and saw the Great Khan of Mongolia, but did not convert him. Between 1253 and 1255 he covered sixteen thousand kilometres, sometimes on foot, but mainly on horseback. The story he brought back was forgotten for centuries, though it far surpasses that of Marco Polo, who followed in his footsteps.

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