My eldest daughter and I went to Hereford on Monday to see the world-famous Mappa Mundi, a beautiful thirteenth-century map of the world. It looks like this:
Gosh! There are so many fascinating features of this map. For starters, the top of the map is East, not North. That is a bit disorientating. And it is stuffed full of fascinating insights into medieval understandings of the cosmos. Loads of biblical locations and events as well as locations from the world known to the authors. (My own city of Worcester even gets on there. America, alas, does not exist at all. Just like in the Bible. Sorry guys!)
There are lots of weird and freaky creatures located across the map — creatures that the mapmakers obviously thought inhabited the world. If you love odd beasties then this map is for you. Here is one for you.
There are also some grim scenes such as this one:
Right at the center of the world is Jerusalem but, more particularly, Christ crucified in Jerusalem. This map is not simply an attempt at mapping out where things are; it is a meaning map that sets out the meaning of the cosmos. Cool.
Man I love maps! I love old maps and I love new maps. They tell us so much about how we understand space and the world and locate ourselves in relation to it.