Jerusalem was at the center of the world in the Twelfth Century. And, the world was flat. The maps from the period were called Mappa Mundi, which is the Latin for “world map” or “map of the world” and beautifully evidenced the world as it was understood. The journeys to Jerusalem from England and France for both pilgrimages and crusades followed treks from the ends of the earth across both land and sea to the earth’s navel.
English Heritage historian Dr Steven Brindle tell us, “Medieval maps are laden with meanings and convey a world view typified by a fear of God and the end of time, but also in awe of the scale and wonder of Creation.”
William of Trye, the Archbishop of Tyre, wrote a two volumed work titled A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea. The archbishop lived between 1130 and 1190 and chronicled the tales surrounding the crusades. The reference to the sea in the title is the Mediterranean, which in the medieval world, was near the center of the world.
The recreation on vellum of one of the the Mappa Mundi is at King's Hall at Dover Castle. Henry II built the castle in the 1180s as one of the many fortifications for his empire. A detailed map of this nature would have enabled the king to understand his place in the world.
The Mappa Mundi pictured above is a reproduction and was drawn and painted by hand on vellum. The image was found on the website of William Cowley, makers of parchment and vellum in the United Kingdom.
NOTE: While many Mappa Mundi features Jerusalem at the center of the world, the image above that hangs in Dover Castle features the island of Delos in the Cyclades at the center of the world thus continuing the Greco-Roman vision of the world as they knew it.
To learn more about the world contained within Mappa Mundi from the period, see the video from Hereford Cathedral.
This installment is tied to the backbone of our research - digitized manuscripts. We turn our attention to a remarkable medieval city in England called Durham.
Situated in northeastern England, Durham was once ruled by lord bishops. They exercised both temporal and ecclesiastical powers. They had to. Viking raiders from across the seas came often. And, the Scots were not too far to the north.
Within the walls of the university library is a treasure trove of rarely seen manuscripts. Some are from the Celtic, or Irish, Christian tradition. And, much is from the generations just after the arrival of William the Conqueror.
Durham Collections Digitization and Research is a brief video about this rare and largely intact collection of manuscripts, which over time will be digitized and go online. In our research, we heavily rely on accessing and carefully examining manuscripts in order to reproduce them.