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Psalter World Map from Westminster Abbey

1265

Fundación Elkano

Fundación Elkano
Getaria, Spain

The Psalter World Map from Westminster Abbey is a small map, around 3.7 inches (9.5 cm) high. Illuminated in a psalter around 1265, it is currently preserved at the British Library.

The author is unknown, but it is believed that it could be a copy of the map which King Henry III of England kept in his bedroom in the Palace of Westminster. Though small in size, it includes various figures and place names, summarizing the theological significance, and historical and geographical knowledge, of other, larger circular maps, like the Ebstorf Mappa Mundi (World Map).

The world is enclosed in a circle, upon which stands the figure of Jesus, flanked by two angels with incense burners. With his right hand he is gesturing a blessing, and in his left he holds another small image of Earth. We know it to be Earth from the T inscribed on it, as established in The Etymologies (Etymologiae) by Isidore of Seville. Under the figure of Christ, at the top of the map, corresponding to the east, is a small circle representing the earthly paradise. It is shown as a separate island of Asia, from where large rivers flow, such as the Ganges, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. In the center, denoting the world's nucleus, is Jerusalem, which is also circular in shape. There are plenty of images of the classical world, with the trees of the sun and the moon alongside paradise, the cities of Gog and Magog, and the series of monstrous beings derived from the texts of Herodotus. These are situated to the south, on the right-hand side of the map. They are located in the antipodes, away from the inhabited world comprising the three known continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Details

  • Title: Psalter World Map from Westminster Abbey
  • Date: 1265
  • Location: London, England
  • Physical Dimensions: 9,5 cm
  • Type: Map
  • Original Source: British Library Add. MS 28681
  • External Link: Wikimedia Commons

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