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Venice gifts a copy of Marco Polo’s will to China

Venice gifts a copy of Marco Polo’s will to China

The city honours its ancient links with the Far East

This morning, a ceremony at the Marciana National Library in Venice took place which involved the formal donation of a copy of Marco Polo’s will to the World Tourism Alliance (WTA), an organization based in China. The medieval merchant and explorer is the most iconic symbol of Italian-Chinese international connections - and his native city has played a central part in that.

The digital facsimile will be exhibited in Hangzhou’s new world tourism museum

During the ceremony, the director of the Marciana National Library, Stefano Campagnolo, showed the original of Marco Polo's will, kept in a reliquary. It is a precious manuscript on sheepskin parchment dated 1324, according to the calendar then in use in the Republic of Venice. 

The document was certified as authentic after long and thorough investigations and belongs to the collection of the Library. Thanks to the project called "Ego Marcus Paulo Volo et Ordino: The secrets of Marco Polo's testament", the publisher Scrinium, by means of high-resolution photographs has created a perfect reproduction of the historical find, accompanied by some historical studies and essays on the document. These were donated to the WTA today.

"Promoting the dissemination of such an important document in the world is a gesture in continuity with the work of Marco Polo, aimed at the exchange between civilizations. Trade implies friendship between peoples. This is the historical legacy of Marco Polo," commented Mr Campagnolo on the occasion.

The goal is to give new impetus to cultural and above all tourist exchanges between the two countries, which in the pre-Covid era reached significant rates.

What were Marco Polo’s last wishes?

The original document itself is a 67x27 cm sheepskin parchment containing the testament of the explorer. The verification of the document finally proved without a doubt that Marco Polo had indeed travelled to China – something that some historians had been sceptical about.

Polo left money to Church institutions in Venice, forgave outstanding debts, and freed his indentured servant, a Tatar he had named Peter, “so that God may absolve my soul from all guilt and sin”.

The last will, however, also shows that the worldly traveller was a man ahead of his times in other ways, too. He left the rest of his possessions to his wife and daughters – something that was very uncommon at the time. Usually, men who died without having sons would bequeath their possessions to their closest male relatives.

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