Hereford Mappa Mundi

Mapping the Renaissance: Worldmaking in Europe from the 13th to 16th Century

Full image of the Hereford Mappa Mundi, a map in the round painted on vellum from the 13th/14th century. This map presents biblical, mythological, and geographical information to show the image of Europe, Africa, and Asia from the medieval mindset.
Detail of Christ at the uppermost point of the Hereford Mappa Mundi
Detail of the Red Sea on the Hereford Mappa Mundi. The Red Sea is drawn with red ink and is bisected at one side by a brown path that shows the wandering of the H
Noah's Ark, as seen on the Hereford Mappa Mundi
A drawing of the Tower of Babel, as featured on the Hereford Mappa Mundi. It is drawn with thin black lines and has gold and red accents. The tower is formed by 5 successively smaller tiers. There is writing describing the tower next to it.
Detail of the Garden of Eden from the Hereford Mappa Mundi. The garden is draw in a circle with decorative black lines and is separated into several sections with gold colored ink. It is ringed in red and surrounded by green ink. Adam and Eve stand next to the tree of knowledge.
Detail of Jerusalem on the Hereford Mappa Mundi

Click on the links on the left to see a full image of the Hereford Mappa Mundi and read descriptions of specific sections of the map.

The Hereford Mappa Mundi is a map of the known world in 1300 and is especially interesting because the landforms represented on the map surround Jerusalem at its center. The word mappaemundi is a general term for a world map. In the Hereford map, the world is depicted symbolically through a Christian lens, rather than on a geographical grid. The map is covered in well-known biblical narratives that European Christians associated with the world around them. In mapping the world in this way, God’s creations and the extent of Christian influence are also mapped, showing the entirety of the world historically and biblically on a physical plane.

Dated around 1300 CE, this map was made directly following the crusades, a series of wars between Christians and Muslims for control of Jerusalem. Ultimately, Jerusalem continued under Islamic rule. The significance of the holy land at the center further marks this map as a representation of the world outside of territorial reality, since the center of the Christian world was still inaccessible and uncontrolled. The history depicted on this map exists outside of a set time period as a display of the fundamental truths of Christianity, with Jerusalem as a spiritual center.

The original Hereford Mappa Mundi currently resides in Hereford, London and is a testament to the prevailing Christian ideologies of the medieval European world. It was believed that the stories in scripture reference real-world geographical locations, along with instructions for a spiritually moral life. The viewing and absorbing of God’s constructed world through the Hereford map would have been a humbling religious experience, materializing the works of scripture.

-Eliana Klein

A facsimile of the Hereford Mappa Mundi can be found at Tulane University Special Collections Rare Book collection.

Ricardus, de Bello, -1278, attributed name, et al. The Hereford World Map : Mappa Mundi. New ed., Folio Society Ltd, 2010.

Howard-Tilton Rare Books (Protective Storage Oversize) 910 M969c