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Mykola Zharkikh (Kyiv)

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French realities

Nicholas Zharkikh

Rubruk very thoroughly cared that his notes were clear to the reader, that King Louis. Therefore the text contains a lot of comparisons with the realities of France, equally famous for author and reader. So, on the river Don he wrote that it was so broad, as Seine (Ch. 15). On the Volga Rubruk mentioned three times: it was four times greater than Seine (Ch. 20); it spreads in summer, as the Egyptian Nile (Ch. 20); it is divided into three large sleeves, each of which is almost twice wider than the Nile near Damietta (Ch. 49). These comparisons with Nile give us a precious indication that Rubruk accompanied the King during the campaign in Egypt – this detail seems a little paying attention.

To give an idea of the appearance of Batu, Rubruk noted that Batu is similar to the late Mr. Jean de Beaumont, the partisipant of Egypt campaign (Chapter 21). In determining the speed at which the Mongols were brought Rubruk to Möngke Khan, he wrote that the day he driving distance as from Paris to Orléans (Ch. 23. It is 135 km, and commentary for publication in 1957 somehow indicates that Rubruk driving for 80..100 km per day. Indeed, as we calculated above, the average speed was 56 km per day).

On education of Nestorians Rubruk wrote that they did not understand the Syrian language of their books, "they chant like those monks among us [= in France] who do not know grammar" (Ch. 28). Wine, which he drinked at Möngke's court, he compared to wine from La Rochelle (Ch. 36).

The Möngke's yard in the Karakoram was surrounded with brick wall, "like those which enclose monks' priories among us [=in France]" (Ch. 41). In the same chapter contains a detailed description of the Khan's palace interior: "it is like a church, with a middle nave, and two sides beyond two rows of pillars" – that a palace was like three-naved basilica, which were many in France. Next Rubruk writes: "Of the city of Caracarum you must know that, exclusive of the palace of the Chan, it is not as big as the village of Saint Denis, and the monastery of Saint Denis is ten times larger than the palace" (Ch. 44). This monastery (abbey of Saint-Denis) north of Paris was very well known to the king (after all it was a shrine of French kings).

Speaking as Mongolians celebrate first mare's milk of the year, Rubruk said that it reminded him "just as in some places among us [=in France] is done with wine at the feast of Bartholomew or Syxtus, and with fruit at the feast of James and Christopher" (Ch. 47) [the catholics day of St. Bartholomew – August 24; st.Sixtus – is not Sixtus 1st (April 6), rather Sixtus 2nd – August 7, possibly Sixtus of Reims – September 1; James the Apostle – July 25, st.Christopher – 24 or July 25].

When arriving to lands inhabited by Armenians, Rubruk said: "And there are very fine villages there, all of Christians and having churches, just like the French" (Ch. 51). I think he meant masonry temples with regular worship.