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Program Information
 The Secret Truth 
 Weekly Program
 Bristol Broadband Co-operative  
- Prester John: the Vatican & Medieval crusaders' 9/11 style hoax
- End of 'Christian' Freemasonry in the UK & US
- Death of P2 Master Licio Gelli
- Is Syria NATO's 'Stalingrad'?
- and lots lots more the mainstream media NEVER talk about

George Butler and Tony Gosling - 02Jan16

In the Middle Ages, there are few individuals, fictional or historical, who have exercised a stronger pull than Prester John. A product of anxious cultural imaginings mixed with hope for historical change, Prester John has commanded consistent interest since 1145. Over the course of six centuries, Prester John figured centrally in Christendom’s understanding of what the distant world was like: crusading aspirations depended on his materialization; missionary undertakings in the East leveraged their chances of converting the "heathen" against a presumption of his existence, and, mercantile-minded men from Marco Polo through Christopher Columbus dreamt of the putative riches of his kingdom.

Rather than another political hoax faded from historical memory, Prester John’s kingdom began to appear on maps and in travel narratives and romance tales. The Letter of Prester John grew into a legend upon which generations of writers and adventurers continued to draw. “The Peregrinations of Prester John” affords the opportunity for the viewer to experience the legend’s unfolding, piece-by-piece, as it swept up half of the world, from 1150 to 1700. The project traces the story of Prester John across the centuries during which legendary material accrued alongside the geographies the myth touched and helped shape.

By plotting the proposed locations of John’s kingdom in line with understandings of the globe contemporary to these conjectures, one begins to see the degree to which the Prester John legend helped Europeans explore the peripheries of the world, as understood by the medieval and early modern West. Moreover, as the maps shift over time— and with them, John’s kingdom— the degree to which Prester John’s kingdom itself helped determine the shape of the world begins to materialize. Along with tracing the shifting location of the kingdom and the transformations maps undertook to house it, the project will plot the locations and arrivals of key Prester John texts. This second feature will show how the once-European phenomenon of Prester John spread across the globe as a figure portending a global, Christian empire.

In a tradition born between crusades, during a period of unstable Western leadership, Prester John emerged as a potential savior of Christendom. As both king and priest, John had domesticated much of the vast East and had created a kingdom notable both for its superior wealth and for its diverse, sometimes monstrous inhabitants. In a letter quickly copied and disseminated across Europe, this Priest John (presbyter Iohannes) describes his kingdom and announces his intentions to visit the Sepulcher and help vanquish the threat of Islam once and for all. Although Prester John never arrived in the West, the promise of an exotic, abounding, Christian kingdom did not fade from the minds of Europeans.

Prester John first appears in 1145 within Otto of Friesing’s universal chronicle of Christian history based on a comparison between the heavenly kingdom of Jerusalem and the earthly kingdom of Babel. After this initial appearance in 1145, the notion of an eastern “Priest John” goes unremarked for some twenty years, at which point a letter materializes, reportedly authored by John himself. In what has come to be known as the Letter of Prester John, John professes to be a devout Christian king of an immense, militarily powerful kingdom. According to the Letter, this eastern warrior priest-king possesses the richest kingdom on earth, replete not only with a vast store of jewels, spices, and Christian soldiers, but also home to monsters, Jews, and pagans.

Although the Letter was addressed to the Greek Emperor Manuel Comnenus, its twelfth-century circulation was confined exclusively to the territories of Latin Europe. No Greek “original” has ever been discovered or mentioned by contemporaries, prompting an almost near-consensus among scholars that the Letter was always intended for a Latin Christian audience, and was likely created to suit a political purpose. Despite this near-agreement among readers, scholarship has generated far more questions than it has answered about the Letter. The reason(s) for its generation, its provenance, and the intentions of its creator remain unclear to this day.
Prester John remained fixed in the European imagination or, perhaps more accurately, wandered around it.

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