Odoric of Pordenone

Portrait of Odoric   of Pordenone

Frà Odorico (Frère Odoric) of Pordenone (1286, Pordenone, Friul — 14 Jan.1331, Udine, Friul-Venezia), also known as Odorico Mattiussi/​Mattiuzzi, was a Franciscan friar of Czech origin who traveled extensively in Asia from 1318 to 1330, and left writings that give precious information on 14th century Southeast Asia. 

He never went as far from the coast as to Angkor, yet recorded monuments, mores and legends from the peoples of Champa and Chenla. His travel relation, written in Latin, is considered as the second most important medieval source on Asia after Marco Polo.

According to contemporary sources, Odorico was the son of a soldier belonging to the armies King Ottokar of Bohemia had sent to Northern Italy, and based in the small town of Pordenone, on the road from Trieste to Venice. He joined the Franciscan Order in Udine at the age of 15, and left for Asia via Armenia and Persia in 1318. Traveling through India, Ceylon, Java, Sumatra, Champa, he reached South China and stayed at Canton and the Fu-kien port cities of Zaitoun and Tche-Kiang. On his return journey, Odorico went through Tibet and was the first European traveler to describe Lhassa.

In May 1330, Fra Odorico dictated the reported of his evangelical mission, to another Franciscan friar, Guillaume de Solagna, in the Franciscan cloister of Padua, a few months before his death. He was was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV in 1775. The original version by de Solagna, completed with Henry de Glatz’s 1340 edition, was translated into Old French in 1529, and with a somewhat unaccurate reprint in 1877. The first print version, in Italian, was published in Pesaro in 1513. In 1892, French Orientalist Henri Cordier offered a critical edition with numerous notes and an Introduction.

Odoric’s accounts have been revisited’, or blatantly plundered, by 14th century authors such as Jean de Mandeville, or Sir John Mandeville’, who lifted parts of his writings to document his supposed Voyages merveilleus [Extraordinary Travels].


Odoric preaching the Infidels’, marble plate on his mausoleum erected in Udine in 1332