The Merchants of Venice
The Voyage Home
Man of a Million Lies?
A Note on Religion
A Note on the Texts
Map of Marco's Journey
A Note on Religion
Although it had its' troubles, the Middle East of Marco's days had a larger representation of Christian followers than is the case today. Even then, the majority of local skirmishes and tribal battles were fought generally on religious grounds.
It would be remiss to believe that the Christian church was a single entity however. The fact is that there were numerous offshoots of what was then still a very young religion. Marco Polo frequently comments on the religious persuasions of the peoples that he encounters. Nothing is ever given away as to Marco's religious beliefs in the book although his family's associations with the Pope and the evidence of Marco's will tend to point to his Catholic following.
Islam was growing in the Middle East and Marco refers to them as Mohammedans, a misnomer as they had never been idol-worshippers or the worshippers of Muhammed. He also refers to Saracens whom we now call Muslim but who have always been Muslim, the term being given by God to all those who submit to his will. Another reference he often makes is to Idolators, those religions which worship their beliefs through idols. Generally speaking he is referring to Taoists and Buddhists. As already mentioned, there were several branches of Christianity and the main ones upon which Marco takes note are those of the Armenians, Georgians, Nestorians and Jacobites. Ironically, the Crusades which were originally intended to secure the Middle Eastern countries underneath the Christian church actually had a reverse effect over time. As such, Christianity is almost unknown of in today's Middle East where Islam is making a dramatic rise.
Thank you to those readers who have e-mailed me in the past regarding elements of the text above and correcting the odd slip.