Ascelin, Ambassador of Innocent IV (1243-54) to the Tatars. He entered the Dominican Order, probably at Paris, in 1221 or 1222. He was distinguished for learning and a great zeal for the spread of the Christian Faith. For these reasons he was selected in 1245, together with three other Dominicans, by Humbert de Romanis, whom as Provincial of France the pope had ordered to select fit men for the embassy to attempt the conversion of the Sultan Melik Saleh, then encamped in Persia. On the authority of Vincent of Beauvais (Speculum Historiale, XXI, 40) who got his information from one of the embassy, Simon of St. Quentin, they met the first great army of the sultan, May 24, 1247. But their mission was unsuccessful, since they did not bring presents to win the mercenary courtiers. Besides, Ascelin refused to genuflect three times in recognition of the khan’s dignity. In consequence of this the friars were condemned to death. The khan threatened to flay the leader of the embassy, Ascelin, and send his skin to the pope. The death sentence was remitted in July, 1247, after several months of miserable imprisonment. At the same time the sultan relented sufficiently to allow the friars to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. This agreement was probably made in the hope of winning Louis IX, of whose military powers Ascelin often spoke, to participate in a concerted onset of the khan on the Mohammedan troops then blocking the march of the Tatar army. The embassy returned to Rome about Easter, 1248, bearing a respectful letter from the sultan to the pope. No proof can be adduced to show that Ascelin met a martyr’s death in 1255 on another mission to the Sultan, as Fontana and Bzovius assert. Bergeron (Recueil des voyages faits en Asie du XII0 au XIV’ siecle) gives a description of the embassies of Ascelin and his companions.
THOS. M. SCHWERTNER