The first chapter of the book tackles some of the questions asked by the many people who visit Hereford Cathedral today to see the Mappa Mundi. Who made the map? Did they think the world was flat? How was it made, and where? The book then shows us the map seen through the eyes of a medieval visitor to the cathedral. It may appear strange to us, with east rather than north at the top, Jerusalem at the centre, and a population of grotesque, semi-human figures and mythical beasts, but – as Sarah Arrowsmith explains – it was intended by its maker to represent a God-centred world view very different from our own. Allowing the book to guide you around the map, you can feel yourself entering the medieval mindset. Perhaps in this medieval world, once you have found Hereford on the map (its image faded from the touches of many pointing fingers), you might trace the route of your pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, relating stories of adventures along the way. You could follow the winding trail taken by Moses and the Israelites, or recount another of the many Bible stories the map represents. You might want to impress bystanders with your knowledge of Alexander’s campaigns, or thrill them with tales of encounters with the strange races that dwell in the lands at the edges of the world – the four-eyed Marmini or the Blemmyes with no heads – or the bestiary of exotic, fabled and mythical creatures that riot across the map, from the elephant and the parrot to the unicorn, the griffin and the defecating bonnacon. For the medieval viewer, the lands of the map and their inhabitants carried moral and divine instruction as well as satisfying, or provoking, their curiosity about what lay beyond the horizon.
Sarah Arrowsmith has worked in the Education Department at Hereford Cathedral since April 2005. During that time she has become well-known for her lively, entertaining and informative talks about the Hereford Mappa Mundi. Talks which, to quote a listener from Bath, ‘make an old map glow with life and colour’.
Paperback | 96 pages | 240 x 210 mm | 2015
Over 100 colour illustrations