Francisco Álvares

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Francisco Álvares ( c. 1465, Coimbra - 1536~1541, Rome) was a Portuguese missionary and explorer. In 1515 he traveled to Ethiopia as part of the Portuguese embassy to emperor Lebna Dengel accompanied by returning Ethiopian ambassador Matheus. The embassy arrived only in 1520 to Ethiopia where he joined long sought Portuguese envoy Pêro da Covilhã. There he remained six years, returning to Lisbon in 1526-27 having wrote a report entitled Verdadeira Informação das Terras do Preste João das Indias ("A True Relation of the Lands of Prester John of the Indies").

1515 embassy to Ethiopia

Francisco Álvares was a chaplain-priest and almoner to King Manuel I of Portugal. He was sent in 1515 as part of the Portuguese embassy to the nəgusä nägäst (Emperor of Ethiopia), accompanied by the Ethiopian ambassador Matheus. Their first attempt to reach the port of Massawa failed due to the actions of Lopo Soares de Albergaria, governor of Portuguese India, which got no closer than the Dahlak Archipelago and was aborted with the death of the Portuguese ambassador, old Duarte Galvão at Kamaran. Álvares and Mattheus were forced to wait until the arrival of Soares' replacement, Diogo Lopes de Sequeira, who successfully sent the embassy on, with Dom Rodrigo de Lima replacing Duarte Galvão. The party at last reached Massawa on April 9, 1520, and reached the court of Lebna Dengel where he befriended several Europeans who had gained the favor of the Emperor, which included Pêro da Covilhã and Nicolao Branceleon. Father Álvares remained six years in Ethiopia, returning to Lisbon in either 1526 or 1527.

In 1533 he was allowed to accompany Dom Martinho de Portugal to Rome on an embassy to Pope Clement VII, to whom Father Álvares delivered the letter Lebna Dengel had written to the Pope. The precise date of Francisco Álvares death, like that of his birth, is unknown, but the writer of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article concludes it was later than 1540, in which year an account of his travels were published at Lisbon. In the introduction of their translation of Álvares work, C.F. Beckingham and G.W.B. Huntingford furnish evidence that points to Álvares death in Rome, and admit that he may have died before his work was published.

Álvares writings

In 1540, Luís Rodrigues published a version of Álvares account in a one volume folio, entitled Verdadeira Informação das Terras do Preste João das Indias ("A True Relation of the Lands of Prester John of the Indies"). C.F. Beckingham and G.W.B. Huntingford cite evidence, based in part on the earlier work of Professor Roberto Almagia, showing that Rodrigues's publication is only a part of Álvares's entire account. Another version of what Álvares wrote was included in an anthology of travel narratives, Navigationi et Viaggi assembled and published by Giovanni Battista Ramusio, and published in 1550. Almagia also identified three manuscripts in the Vatican Library which contain versions of excerpts from the original manuscript.

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