By 1245, the Mongols had crossed into central Europe, successfully conquering Hungary in 1241. Rumours of Mongol cruelty, such as the butchering of civilian populations who had been promised peaceful occupation, added to heightened terror throughout European Christendom; military orders (‘Warrior Monks’) were encamped on the plains of Hungary, ready to fight the Mongols to the death. However, after the second Great Khan’s death in 1241, the invaders withdrew through the Balkans and as far east as the Black Sea and Novgorod. The Franciscan ambassador to the pope, John de Plano Carpini, was despatched to Qara-qorum (1245–47) where he learned of the Mongol plan to conquer and enslave the entire world, including Europe. Other travellers included the Franciscan missionary William of Rubruck (1253–55) who travelled to the Mongol court and participated in formal debate between Christians, Buddhists and Muslims. When the Venetian trader, Marco Polo (1271–95), travelled to the Mongol court he became Kublai Khan’s confidante and envoy.
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