BENEDYKT POLAK (Benedict the Pole)—translator of Slavic languages in the thirteenth century (d. around 1252).
As a Franciscan he lived in a cloister in Wrocław. From1245 to 1257 he accompanied John of Pian del Carpino, an envoy of Pope Innocent IV, on a journey to the Mongol Khan Kuyuk which took them to Karakorum (Central Asia). On the journey he acted as translator in contacts with Russians, who were his chief sources of information about the Tatra mountains. In 1247 he spent time in Cologne where he wrote an account of his journey to the Orient (Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, ms 2477, parchment manuscript from the mid fourteenth century; Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek nr 512, parchment codex from the mid-fourteenth century). In 1247 he went to Rome and stayed in the papal court. There he gave a personal report to Pope Innocent IV of his journey. The written account, preserved in above mentioned manuscripts, shows that Benedykt Polak was a sharp observer with a knowledge of languages. One indication of Benedykt’s linguistic interests is that in his written account Mongol names were translated for the first time into Latin, which allows us to call him the first Polish orientalist.
Benedykt Polak worked for the cause of the canonization of Stanisław Szczepanowski and emphasized his importance for the Polish mission to the Orient. In 1252 as the guardian of the Franciscans in Kraków he made a deposition concerning the miracles of St. Stanisław.
PSB I 424–425; H. Barycz, Ślązacy w polskiej kulturze umysłowej [Silesians in Polish intellectual culture], Wr 1946, 18–19; B. Szcześniak, B. dit le Vratislavien, Antemurale 1 (1954), 39–50; B. Turoń, Wrocławski podróżnik B. [Wrocław travel book of Benedykt], in: Ludzie dawnego Wrocławia [People of old Wrocław], Wr 1961, II 11–15; A. Zwiercan, EK II 231–232 (bibliogr.); H. E. Wyczawski, Słownik polskich pisarzy franciszkańskich [Dictionary of Polish Franciscan writers], Wwa 1981, 49; Spotkanie dwóch światów. Stolica Apostolska a świat mongolski w połowie XIII wieku [Meeting of two worlds: The Holy Apostolic See and and Mongol world in the mid thirteenth century], Pz 1993; N. Guéret-Laferté, Sur les routes del’empire mongol. Ordre et rhétorique des relations de voyage aux XIII3 et XIVe siècles, P 1994; Z. Antkowiak, Wrocław od A do Z [Wrocław from A to Z], Wr 1997, 27.