Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ebstorf map

According to Denis Wood, “maps are about relationships. In other words, they are about how one landscape—a landscape of roads, of rivers, of cities, government, sustenance, poison, the good life, of whatever—is positioned in relation to another.” The relationships on the Hereford map, and the Psalter and Ebstorf maps, as well as, no doubt, the damaged Duchy of Cornwall map, are of primary concern. These great cosmologies, these universal diagrams were visual explorations of the place of the Anglo-Saxons and later English peoples within the divine system of creation. Jeremy Black, in discussing power relations on maps, notes that “imaginary worlds are far more potent. The mapping of religious worlds—of myths, cosmological understandings and earthly perceptions of different faiths—was and is an exercise in the depiction and projection of power.” Where, in this system, did the English locate themselves? As discussed at length above, they placed themselves at the very edge of the known world. This location is relative to Jerusalem. Turning to the maps, we can see that the monstrous races are in much the same relationship with Jerusalem, and therefore with the sacred center of Creation. What, then, is the relationship between these two extremes? Once the maps have been reconsidered as radially configured, it becomes clear that England and southern Africa are not diametric opposites, but rather, are two points on the same ring. They share qualities of exile and liminality with one another as they—like the monstrous embodiments of the winds in the circuit surrounding the ocean on the Hereford map—look inward to Jerusalem. On the Ebstorf map, the reason for this inward gaze becomes clear: Here, within the formidable walls of Jerusalem, the resurrected Christ rises triumphantly from his tomb, thereby transforming Jerusalem from the earthly to the heavenly city. As Iain Higgins observes, the format of these maps constantly directs the viewer’s gaze back toward the all-important center, which can never be forgotten. He writes, “separated by the Mediterranean from Europe, the Holy Land lies far away, yet it is near in significance.” The Holy Land is divided by water from continental Europe. Britain, then, is doubly separated from it, set apart by the Mediterranean and then the English Channel, part of that ‘uncrossable circuit’ of sea lamented by Gildas.

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