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AbysmalA Critique of Cartographic Reason$
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Gunnar Olsson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226629308

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226629322.001.0001

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Mappae Mundi Medievalis

Mappae Mundi Medievalis

(p.57) Mappae Mundi Medievalis
University of Chicago Press

The mappae mundi of the middle ages carry meanings far beyond the conventional conceptions of mapping. The prime function of the medieval map was not to record exact geographical facts but to imitate in drawing the lessons of the Scriptures, to weave into the same fabric the threads of time and place, history and geography, textual narrative and pictorial representation. For the medieval mapmakers, the main goal was not to capture the mountains, rivers, and cities of the physical earth but to make the incredible credible by turning the invisible visible. A remarkable advance in that direction was made by Hugh of St. Victor (ca.1097–1141), who constructed a range of memory aids in which he deposited the mental pictures of whatever it was that he wanted to remember. His arca sapientiae may be seen as the floating metaphor of his own mnemonics, a model of memory which was inherently locational. The ingenuity of Hugh's ark easily fades in comparison with the beauty and symbolism of the Ebstorfer Karte, the largest mappa mundi to come our way.

Keywords:   mappae mundi, medieval map, Scriptures, geography, Hugh of St. Victor, memory aids, Ebstorfer Karte, pictorial representation, mental pictures, mnemonics

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