Along with Melo, Br Nicholas of St Augustine O.S.A. and Melo’s servant, the group comprised the two Englishmen (who had five interpreters and fifteen English companions), the Shah’s ambassador (who had four secretaries and fifteen servants), and thirty-two pack camels with gifts of the Shah for the princes of Europe.
With camel drivers, the group numbered well over fifty persons.
From a port on the Caspian Sea, sailed in slow stages to the mouth of the Volga River by early September 1599.
They then moved up the Volga in galleys as far as Astrakhan two weeks later. After two weeks there, they boarded five barges with sails and oars, provided by the tsar, Boris Godunov (tsar 1598-1613).
One hundred soldiers tsarist guarded them when they slept at night in the fields beside the river. The 1,300 miles of river took seven weeks to traverse.
After that, it required smaller boats and sleighs before they arrived at Moscow in late December 1599 or early January 1600 – the depth of winter.
During this journey it is reliably reported that one of the English adventurers twice tried to murder Fr Melo, whose physical protection thereafter was voluntarily provided by the Shah’s ambassador.
In Moscow, the Shah’s ambassador was feted, and the Englishmen and Augustinians were initially thrown into prison as suspected foreign spies.
Upon his release, Melo lodged with a Catholic physician from Milan, and began celebrating Mass for the small number of Latin rite Catholics in Moscow.
Melo then baptised the doctor’s daughter when she was eight days’ old. This enraged the local Ruthenian orthodox Catholics, who held that a child must not be baptised before the fortieth day.
Father Melo was returned to prison. It is thought that the English adventurers may have intentionally formented the situation by saying that the baptism was evidence of a Popish plot against the Tsarist throne.
The incarceration was in a monastery prison, and the tsar directed its monks to force Melo to convert to Orthodox Christianity.
Refusing to be coerced, Melo, Brother Nicholas and Melo’s servant were imprisoned there for six years.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right)
Picture 1: Boris Godunov (tsar 1598-1613).
Picture 2: Marina Mniszech, the Polish widow of two tsars. Nicholas Melo O.S.A. was executed while he was one of her chaplains.
Picture 3: Michael Romanov, tsar in 1613-1645. During his second year in office Melo was executed.