The Hereford Mappa Mundi

The Hereford Mappa Mundi

Image photographed from the book’The Hereford Mappa Mundi’ by Gabriel Alington

Hereford Cathedral is home to the famous Hereford Mappa Mundi which is a rare example of a medieval European map of the world.

In the 1990s the Cathedral needed to raise money for essential restoration and it was decided that one of its treasures needed to be sold.  The Hereford Mappa Mundi was controversially put up for auction.  Fortunately a generous donation was received that allowed the map to remain in its rightful place at Hereford Cathedral.  The donation specifically allowed the construction of a building to house both the map and a rare example of a ‘chained library’ part of which was previously displayed within the Cathedral.

Mappa Mundi literally means ‘map of the world’.  The Hereford map was created by Richard of Haldingham or Lafford (which is near Lincolnshire) and is thought to be dated between 1290 and 1310.  It was drawn on a single calf skin which measures 5 feett 2 inches high by 4 feet 4 inches wide.  At one time the Mappa Mundi was the middle panel, a part of a 10 foot triptych.  The only panel remaining today is the one that housed the Mappa Mundi.

When first created the colours on the map would have been vibrant but over the years the map has faded.  Due to the geographical contents of the map it is thought to be a copy of an earlier map created in Lincoln with adjustments to show towns and landmarks ‘local’ to Hereford.  The Hereford map is the only known complete wall map of the world to have survived from the middle ages.

The map is laid out in a T shape showing the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa.  This type of map is known as a tripartite map.  The T shape is thought to represent the crucifixion.

The contents of the map are an encyclopedic study of the world from a Christian perspective.  The map is full of history, legend, wonders of nature, mythical creatures as well as biblical stories and themes.  The whole of God’s creation (past and present) is depicted within a geographic frame.  The double bordered circular frame with Jerusalem at its centre separates the spiritual world from the living world.

Above the circle and surrounded in clouds is Christ sitting in judgement over the world and what is beyond.  To his right the righteous are waiting to enter paradise and to his left hand sinners are being cast into the jaws of a terrifying beast.  The outer band of the circle names the cardinal points and the inner band the winds of classical authority, namely north, south, east and west.

The Art of Tolerance

On my recent weekend away in Paris I went up the Eiffel tower and when I looked down at the Champs de Mars from the viewing platform I noticed, through the morning mist, two rows of “people” lined up on either side of the lawn.  I decided to investigate a little more closely after I had descended the tower.

On closer inspection I found that they were bears rather than people and that they formed a touring exhibition of United Buddy Bears.  The bears are on display in Paris (for a few weeks) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the twinning of Paris and Berlin and the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty.

There are approximately 140 United Buddy Bears representing the countries recognised by the United Nations.  Since 2002 the bears have toured the globe promoting tolerance and understanding between different nations, cultures and religions.  The buddy bears stand ‘hand in hand’ symbolising the vision of a peaceful world.

The Buddy Bear motto is:

We have to get to know each other better…

…it makes us understand each other better, trust each other more, and live together more peacefully.

The bears are over 6 feet high and each one is individually designed by an artist from the country that the bear represents.  Therefore each bear represents a nation and its culture but they do not represent any political belief system.

Rather than show you a bear representing any one particular nation I have chosen to show you the Golden Rule and Global Ethic bears that were designed by Eva Herlitz, they are united by a heart. The Golden Rule is defined as ‘Try to treat everyone the way you would want to be treated.’  The bear on the left displays the Golden Rule written in many languages and the bear on the right shows symbols and original texts covering the Golden Rule from the scriptures of each of the seven major religions that embrace the Golden Rule and which promote peace amongst the different religions.

All the nations’ bears in the Paris exhibition are listed here, along with the name of the artist and their explanation of their interpretation of the purpose of their Buddy Bear.  I found that some of the ideas worked much better than others.  But I suppose that is bound to happen because art is open to interpretation by each of us as individuals.