The first missions were sent by Innocent IV on the eve of the Council of Lyons. One was entrusted to the Franciscan Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, the other to the Dominican Ascelino da Cremona. Leaving Lyons on April 16, 1245, Fra Giovanni arrived only at the beginning of April 1246 at Bātū, on the Volga. Bātū made him continue his journey towards the Great Khān Güyük, and so the envoy of Innocent IV, who arrived in Sira Ordo on 22 July, half a day’s journey from Qaraqorum, attended Güyük’s enthronement on 24 August. He left on November 13, with a reply from Güyu̇k to Innocent IV written in Persian, but whose seal, in Mongolian, is chronologically the second of the monuments of this language. Giovanni da Pian del Carpine had returned to Lyon towards the end of 1247. He had failed in his mission, that it was to make Güyük understand right and to convert him; but it carried a report which is a very interesting historical source. After all, those near Güyük were mostly Christians, but Nestorians.
According to SAT Test Centers, Ascelino da Cremona took the sea route to go to the Mongols established in the NO. of Persia. He had to leave around March 1245, and several companions joined him during the journey. Only on 24 May 1247 did he arrive at the camp of the Mongol chief Baidū at N. dell’Arasse, in Transcaucasia; he left on 25 July, after having suffered all sorts of harassment and having run the greatest danger, reporting as the only result of his efforts a superb letter from Baidü that two Mongol envoys delivered to Innocent IV in the summer of 1248. A detailed account of the mission had been written by Simon de Saint-Quentin: we possess only fragments of it in the Speculum Historiale by Vincent de Beauvais. The mission had seen the Mongols, not Mongolia.
While St. Louis was in Cyprus at the end of 1248, there was known a letter that the disputable Sembat of Little Armenia had written from Samarkand on 7 February 1248, while on his way to Qaraqorum, where he actually went that year. Sembat’s journey lasted from 1247 to 1250, but the letter, written when he had not yet made contact except with the Mongol armies of Persia, speaks of Mongolia only by hearsay; also, it is interesting to find a fairly faithful echo of the welcome given by Güyük to Giovanni da Pian del Carpine.
Also during the stay of St. Louis in Cyprus, two Mongol envoys landed in Cerines on 14 December 1248, bearing a letter in Persian from the Mongolian who was ruling in western Persia at the time, Älgighidäi, an already old letter, dated 15-24 May 1248; there was announced the conversion of Güyük and his court, which was not true. Not without hesitation, St. Louis decided to send an embassy, at the head of which he placed a Dominican who had already been in contact with the Mongols of Persia (but who, contrary to popular opinion, had not been part of the mission of Ascelino da Cremona), André de Longjumeau. He set out on January 27, 1249, for Antioch and Mossul. But Güyük had died in April 1248, and the regency was exercised by the widow Oghul-Qaîmïsh. It was she who received André de Longjumeau in the Emil region (not in Qaraqorum as they say): she was courteous, and nothing more; and when André de Longjumeau found San Luigì in Caesarea in the spring of 1251, the king regretted having sent him. André de Longjumeau, the first European of whom we know arrived in western Mongolia via the southern Caspian and Ürgänǵ (Khiva region), made an interesting journey, but of which he does not appear to have left a relationship.
But André de Longjumeau had reported the news that there were numerous Nestorian Christians among the subjects of the Mongols, and also a colony of German slaves of the Gengiscanid Büri, in Transoxiana. On the other hand, there was a rumor that another Gengiscanide, Sartaq, son of Bātū, in the Volga region, had converted. It was then that St. Louis, even without wanting to make him his messenger, favored the journey of the Franciscan William of Rubruck, who wanted to go to Sartaq and the Germans of Büri.
William of Rubruck, who had had conversations with André de Longjumeau, left Palestine at the beginning of 1253. For Constantinople, the Crimea, Sarai on the lower Volga and the North of the Aral Sea, he reached the region of the Emil, and finally he arrived on December 27 at the camp of the Gran Khān Möngkä (in Turkish Mängü); left Qaraqorum on 10 or 11 July 1254, returned to Sarai, followed from there the west coast of the Caspian, and through the region of Ararat, Sīwās and Conia returned to Cyprus, where he arrived on 16 June 1255. His superior commissioned a teaching in San Giovanni d’Acri. There, in the autumn, he wrote the story of his journey, in the form of a letter-report addressed to San Luigi. Later, he had to return to France, as Ruggiero Bacone saw him there. William of Rubruck was a notable observer. To him we owe very new notions for the time: so he was the first to give exact indications on the nature of Chinese writing and the first to ascertain that the Caspian is a closed sea. This report has not yet had the minute comment it is worthy of.