Medieval Mythological Cartography of the Hereford Mappa Mundi of 1285


The Hereford Mappa Mundi is a mappa mundi. It is the largest medieval map known to still exist.

Drawn on a single sheet of vellum, it measures 158 cm by 133 cm, some 52″ in diameter and is the largest medieval map known to still exist. The writing is in black ink, with additional red and gold, and blue or green for water (with the Red Sea colored red). It depicts 420 towns, 15 Biblical events, 33 animals and plants, 32 people, and five scenes from classical mythology.

The map is based on traditional accounts and earlier maps such as the one of the Beatus of Liébana codex, and is very similar to the Ebstorf map, the Psalter world map, and the Sawley map; it does not correspond to the geographical knowledge of the 14th century.


Listed Locations:

  • 0 – At the centre of the map: Jerusalem, above it: the crucifix.
  • 1 – Paradise, surrounded by a wall and a ring of fire. During World War II this was printed in Japanese textbooks since Paradise appears to be roughly in the location of Japan.
  • 2 – The Ganges and its delta.
  • 3 – The fabulous island of Taphana, sometimes interpreted as Sri Lanka or Sumatra.
  • 4 – Rivers Indus and Tigris.
  • 5 – The Caspian Sea, and the land of Gog and Magog
  • 6 – Babylon and the Euphrates.
  • 7 – The Persian Gulf.
  • 8 – The Red Sea (painted in red).
  • 9 -Noah’s Ark.
  • 10 – The Dead Sea, Sodom and Gomorrah, with the River Jordan, coming from the Sea of Galilee; above: Lot’s wife.
  • 11 – Egypt with the River Nile.
  • 12 – The River Nile (?), or possibly an allusion to the equatorial ocean; far outside: a land of mutants, possibly the Antipodes.
  • 13 – The Azov Sea with rivers Don and Dnieper; above: the Golden Fleece.
  • 14 – Constantinople; left of it the Danube’s delta.
  • 15 – The Aegean Sea.
  • 16 – Oversized delta of the Nile with Alexandria’s Pharos lighthouse.
  • 17 – The legendary Norwegian Gansmir, with his skis and ski pole.
  • 18 – Greece with Mt. Olympus, Athens and Corinth
  • 19 – Misplaced Crete with the Minotaur’s circular labyrinth.
  • 20 – The Adriatic Sea; Italy with Rome, honoured by a popular Latin hexameter; Roma caput mundi tenet orbis frena rotundi (“Rome, the head, holds the reins of the world”).
  • 21 – Sicily and Carthage, opposing Rome, right of it.
  • 22 – Scotland.
  • 23 – England.
  • 24 – Ireland.
  • 25 – The Balearic Islands.
  • 26 – The Strait of Gibraltar (the Pillars of Hercules).


Via Wikipedia.

This entry was posted in Culture, History, Visual Art by Heretic. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

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