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Mappa whole.jpg

Hereford Cathedral's 'Mappa Mundi'

After the production of the Madaba map in the sixth century CE, no individual maps of Jerusalem are known to have been produced until the twelfth century. This should not, however, be taken as a sign that the sacred city’s importance dwindled during this period. Indeed, Jerusalem was recorded at the centre of the earth on numerous circular mappae mundi, also known as T-O maps because of their distinctive layout. These maps were produced beginning around 400 CE, continuing right up until the sixteenth century. They provide clear evidence of the pivotal position Jerusalem held in medieval cartography and the Christian imagination. This extraordinary example of a circular medieval world map, the Hereford map, now mostly brown and black, would originally have been richly coloured in blues and greens, with some of the lettering produced using gold leaf. The map is divided into three continents on a T-shaped layout, representative of the cross: in the bottom left of the map is Europe, with Africa to the bottom right and Asia at the top. It combines both real and imagined cartographic elements, with actual geographical cities and towns like Hereford, Paris and Rome appearing alongside biblical locations such as Eden and the Tower of Babel. The map is also populated by fantastical, mythical creatures. At the heart of the Hereford map is the city of Jerusalem, with the crucified Christ above. At the top of the map is another image of Christ, this time surveying the day of judgement. The producer of this map, then, was as much concerned with conveying the spiritual journey of the Christian as he was with aiding in any worldly travels to the Holy City.