Prester John

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Prester John,

legendary Christian priest and monarch of a vast, wealthy empire in Asia or in Africa. The legend first appeared in the latter part of the 12th cent. and persisted for several centuries. At first the utopian realm of this Christian king was supposed to be in Asia, but later it was more generally placed in Africa. Letters supposed to have been written by him and about him were widely circulated in Western Europe.


See studies by V. Slessarev (1959) and R. Silverberg (1972).

References in periodicals archive ?
And Prester John suffers from the notion that anything of its time about Africa is bound to be 'racist', though in fact Buchan makes a hero of his renegade black clergyman, John Laputa.
Islam) and the pervasiveness of Gentilism, especially interesting are his allusions to the Portuguese reaching out to the Grand Negus of Abyssinia, whom he associates with the followers of the mythical figure of Prester John.
They also heard tales of Prester John, the legendary Christian ruler, whose kingdom was said to be far in the African interior.
Among other familiar ones are William Tell, Prester John, the Man in the Moon, Saint Patrick's purgatory, the piper of Hameln, swan-maidens, and Theophilus.
The topos of presenting the utopian essays in the framework of travel reports is eminently medieval and reminds one of the twelfth-century Letter of Prester John which presents the ruler of an Eastern country who seeks to balance heathen and Christian elements.
The title of this work, a doctoral dissertation done in the Faculty of Letters at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands, might be translated as The Land of Prester John and Utopia: The Representation of the Civilizations of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
When Prester John, the legendary Christian king of the East and the anticipated saviour of the West from the infidel, was not found in Asia, his kingdom was relocated in Africa.
Some medieval readers of the Letter of Prester John, on which the myth was based, also saw the realm of Prester John as a [utopian] enclave of Christianity (= culture) that existed in peaceful coexistence with pagan (= non-culture) countries, many of whose rulers recognized the superiority of Prester John.
Unlike the Belgian exhibition though, the RA's visitors will in the words of the curator, artist Tom Phillips, `make a circular journey around the whole continent' starting off with intimate objects from primaeval and Pharaonic Egypt, taking in the neglected artistic traditions of East Africa, including Christian Ethiopia, the land of Prester John to Renaissance and medieval explorers, and, poignantly, the delicate basket decoration of the Tutsi from Rwanda.
It was purported to lie somewhere in the Indies: and it was said that Prester John combined military acumen with saintly piety and that he was descended from the Three Wise Men.
In the 15th century, when the Portuguese were exploring Africa, they kept looking for this elusive king called Prester John.
27) The cross near the Red Sea denotes the kingdom of the legendary Prester John.