Around 1600, several European courts, among them the court of Madrid and the Roman Curia, began to consider Safavid Persia as a potential ally against the Ottomans and, at the same time, as a missionary field. Portuguese Augustinians as well as Discalced Carmelites of the italian congregation were sent to the court of Abbas I as diplomatic agents of the courts of Madrid and Rome and as missionaries. Later on, they were followed by Capuchins, Jesuits and Dominicans; as well as by some priests of the Mission étrangères de Paris. However, the missions neither resulted in an alliance against the Ottomans nor in a significant number of conversions. Muslim converts were almost inexistent, and the catholic Armenian community of New Djulfa remained extremely small. The missions to Persia offer a fascinating example of the problems faced by decision makers in Europe who totally depended on the reports of their local informants, which they interpreted following their own preconceptions. Possibly, the most important role of the missionaries in Isfahan and some other towns of the Safavid Empire consisted in offering a shelter to European travellers, who independently of their origin and confession appreciated to find European style forms of sociability, medical aid or the local knowledge of the missionaries and their capacity to act as intermediaries. Those missionaries most familiar with the society and culture of the Safavid Empire helped to feed a European knowledge about Persia which, together with the knowledge on other non-European lands, contributed from the end of the Seventeenth century to the transformation of the European mind.