TITLE: The Hereford Mappamundi
DATE: ca. 1290 A.D.
AUTHOR: Richard de Bello
DESCRIPTION: This is the largest map of its kind to have survived
in tact and in good condition from such an early period of cartography.
It has been preserved in the Hereford Cathedral (England) for almost 700
years, and, besides its antiquity, it is notable for the quality of its
workmanship and for the variety of the drawings which adorn it. For this
map the entire entire skin of a calf had to be properly treated to make
writing and coloring possible. Calfskin prepared in this manner is called
vellum (from the Latin word vitulus, a calf). The vellum,
measuring 1.65 X 1.35 m, is attached to a framework of oak, the actual map
being set in a 1.32 m diameter circle. Although it bears no date, it is
possible, from what is known of Richard's life and from a study of the map,
to say that in its present form it was probably finished between 1285 and
1295. There is a reference (unusual for any medieval map) to its authorship,
in a note in the bottom left-hand corner (in translation):
Let all who have this history,
Or shall hear or read or see it,
Pray to Jesus in His Divinity,
To have pity on Richard of Haldingham and Lafford,
Who has made and planned it,
To whom joy in heaven be granted.
These place names are in Lincolnshire (Holdingham and Sleaford are the modern
forms), and this Richard has been identified as one Richard de Bello, prebend
of Lafford in Lincoln Cathedral about the year 1283, who later became an
official of the Bishop of Hereford, and in 1305 was appointed prebend of
Norton in Hereford Cathedral. Nothing certain is known of his activities
after 1313, and it is probable that he died soon after (1326), bequeathing
his map to the cathedral.
While the map was compiled in England, names and descriptions were written
in Latin, with the Norman dialect of old French used for special entries.
The circle of the world is set in a somewhat rectangular frame background
with a pointed top, and an ornamented border of a zig-zag pattern often
found in psalter-maps of the period. Inside the border-frame are
drawings illustrating some basic premises of Richard's map. At the head
of the frame is a representation of the Day of Judgement, with the
figure of Christ displaying the scars of His crucifixion in the center.
Standing on the right of Christ an angel holds a cross in one hand and three
nails in the other. At Christ's feet is a group of four figures including
the Virgin Mary. Here she displays her breasts and makes her plea, the wording
Here, my dear Son, my bosom is whence you took flesh Here are my breasts
from which you sought a Virgin's milk Show pity, as you said you would,
on all Who their devotion paid to me for you made me Savioress.
The other three figures consist of a woman placing a crown on the Virgin
Mary and two angels on their knees in supplication. On Christ's right-hand
side is an angel who calls to the blessed dead (her words issuing through
a trumpet) Arise and come to everlasting bliss. The line of figures
to the left of this angel represents those who have arisen from their graves
and includes the leading angel, a bishop, a crowned king, a monk, three
nuns, and two persons coming out of opened graves. On Christ's left hand
another angel pronounces doom on the lost, also through a trumpet, Arise
and go into hell-fire prepared for you. Six lost souls, roped together,
are being dragged to the devil, who has wings, horns, and hooves; to be
passed on to an evil spirit and consigned to the jaws of hell (quite literally
the open jaws of a monster with menacing teeth and glaring eyes is shown
awaiting them). A strange figure seems to be desperately trying to escape
from the jaws, after arising from his grave.
Still within this decorative border, in the left-hand bottom corner, the
Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus is enthroned and crowned with a papal triple
tiara and delivers a mandate with his seal attached, to three named commissioners.
The seal, inscribed S. Augusti Caesaris Imperatoris authorizes Nicodoxus,
Theoclitus, and Polyclitus to survey the world and report to the senate.
The text of the edict, Exiit edictum ab Augusto Cesare ut describeretur
huniversus orbis (Luke 2:1) is above Caesar's head. The modern translation
reads: In those days a decree was issued by the emperor Augustus for a registration
to be made throughout the Roman world. The meaning of the word describeretur
involves not simply registration but a survey, leading perhaps to a confusion
by the author of the Hereford map between the two events (and the two Caesars).
Pliny alludes to a large world map by Vipsanius Agrippa (Slide #118) displayed in Rome at the time of the emperor
Augustus (ca. A.D. 14), which may have resulted from the survey of the provinces
ascribed by tradition to Julius Caesar. It is in this corner also that Richard
de Bello makes his plea for the prayers of all who see his estorie,
as he calls his map.
In the right-hand bottom corner an unidentified rider parades with a following
forester holding a pair of greyhounds on a leash. A faded inscription above
the rider's head states that a description of the world from Orosius' history
is portrayed within the circle: Descriptio Orosii de ornesta mundi sicut
interius ostenditur [Orosius' description of the ornesta of the
world; the word ornesta is thought to refer generically to medieval maps].
Paulus Orosius was an early 5th century A.D. historian who wrote a history
against pagans that was made popular in England by a translation of King
Alfred's. The entire pictorial background to this world map found within
this frame is, therefore, informative, explanatory, and useful as an introduction
The geographical form and content of the Hereford map is derived
from the writings of Pliny, Solinus, Augustine, Strabo, Jerome, the Antonine
Itinerary, St. Isidore, and Orosius. However, the overriding theme is
that of a religious one, as can be seen not only from the drawings just
described, but also from the following description of the map itself. In
design, the Hereford map can be labelled a modified and extremely
elaborate T-O plan (Slide #205 ).
Double circles are drawn concurrently with the circular world. These give
the points of the compass and twelve winds. The four cardinal points are
marked by encircled squatting figures and minor points by eight encircled
animals' heads, a section for each wind. The outer circle is divided into
four sections. The East is at the top, Oriens (the rising sun); the
South on the right, Meridiens (mid-day); the West at the bottom,
Occidens (the setting sun); the North on the left, Septentrio
(the seven stars of the Great Bear). The inner circle, divided into twelve
sections, contains the table of winds, derived from Timosthenes a Greek
admiral of the 3rd century B.C. Four large golden letters in Lombardic script
are looped to the inner circle by ligatures; they spell M-O-R-S (mors)
the Latin word for death. They are a reminder that life is mortal
and that the world is dominated by death, an essential part of the spiritual
message of the Hereford map. The letters also have a practical value
in locating the points of the compass within the inner circle. M and O give
the clue to Oriens, O and R to Meridiens, R and S to Occidens,
S and M to Septentrio.
As is traditional with the T-O design, there is the tripartite division
of the known world into three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. As previously
mentioned, East is at the top of the map, and the whole is surrounded by
the uncrossable great ocean. The following is an analysis of the five main
areas of the map itself: Asia, Africa, Europe, the Mediterranean and the
allegorical features; each area being treated separately.
ASIA: This "continent" forms the upper, eastern portion,
of the map; actually consuming more than half as it encompasses the 'world-center'
Jerusalem. The letters A. S. I. A., in red, are hard to locate being widely
separated, placed vertically from the Garden of Eden to Jerusalem.
During the Middle Ages, when clerics were engaged in rediscovering and annotating
the writings of their predecessors, certain additions and alterations were
made to the then existent Roman maps. The practice of placing the East at
the top was acceptable to the Church, owing to the special sanctity attached
to that quarter, and, Paradise, shown here as an island, was inserted at
this point. On the Hereford map there is a drawing of Adam, Eve and
the serpent, and below to the right, the expulsion from the Garden.
These same Churchmen, in accordance with scriptural texts, placed Jerusalem
in the center of the world: This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst
of the nations and countries that are around her (Ezekiel V:5). They
also wished to show as much detail in the Holy Land as possible, consequently
the area allotted to Palestine was disproportionately enlarged. Palestine
on this map, as well as other parts of the map, have a number of Biblical
places and incidents inserted, i.e., a pictorial crucifixion outside a walled-Jerusalem;
the track of the people of Isreal from Egypt across the Red Sea to Jericho;
the Ark on Arrat in the Armenian mountains; the granaries of Joseph (Joseph's
Barns) as the pyramids were considered to be; the very conspicuous Tower
of Babel; Moses on Mount Sinai receiving the tablets; Lot's wife; and the
river Jordan flowing through to the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, where
Sodom and Gomorrah lie submerged. Some of these details of the Holy Land
were taken from itineraries made for the use of pilgrims.
On the right of Palestine is Egypt, which is included in ASIA. Here the
Nile and its delta is shown, along with the sphinx and the pyramids. Cairo
is misnamed Babylon, and Alexandria is depicted with its lighthouse.
On the left of Palestine is Asia Minor, between the Aegean Sea and
the Black Sea, along with Troy, Laodicea, Antioch, and Noah's
The actual Babylon stands conspicuously in the middle as a multi-storied
city. An enigmatic creature, perhaps the spirit of evil, protrudes from
one side, the Tower of Babel is near at hand, the Euphrates River
flows into the city and out the other side. A long description gives details
of the origin of this city with mighty walls and 100 gates. Above Babylon
is India in gold letters, a country of mountains and rivers, dragons,
giants and pygmies, and strange beasts and birds. Above India is the Garden
of Eden with four rivers flowing from it which submerge (to prevent
men from finding their way back to Paradise) to reappear as the legendary
sources of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates which are shown flowing south
to the Persian Gulf; the river Ganges which is shown flowing east forming
a delta before reaching the ocean, and the Nile. To the left of India, in
northwest Asia, across mountain ranges which may represent the Himalayas,
are the Chinese, called Seres, with a reference to their silk as
an article of export. To the right of India is Arabia, the Red Sea
and Persian Gulf extending to the ocean enclosing the island of Ceylon at
In the Middle Ages scholars were also greatly interested in the exploits
of Alexander the Great who became legendary, therefore a number of drawings
and inscriptions in Asia are associated with him: i.e., five bell-tents,
the central one with a cross, rising from an altar-style base on the boundary
between Asia and Africa; a gateway with opened doors at the end of an eight-mile
mountain pass, representing the Caspian Gates through which Alexander was
said to have passed on his way north; the city of Choolissima, conventionally
drawn, capital of the land of Magog, taken by Alexander after a long
siege; two islands in the northern ocean, Miopar and Mirabilis,
appeased by presents and entreaties; the island of Terraconta inhabited
by intractable cannibalistic Turks "from the stock of Gog and
Magog" ; and finally the battlemented wall with which he imprisoned
"the accursed descendants of Cain". Below this area is the land
of the Scythian races. Obviously knowledge of this part of the world
was very limited and the space was thus filled with dramatic pictures.
AFRICA: This continent is located in the lower portion of the map
on the right. Strangely the name EUROPE in great gold letters stretches
down the length of Africa, similarly Europe is labelled AFRICA. It
should be noted that the extremities of Africa and Europe are correctly
given in small writing, terminus Africe and terminus Europe.
The most conspicuous feature in Africa is the blue band of the Nile running
parallel with the ocean. The river begins as a lake near Mount Hesperus
and apparently ends as a lake, but it submerges to reappear as the Lower
Nile, forming Africa's eastern boundary. Behind the blue band of the river
is a grim array of grotesque figures to indicate the existence of primitive
peoples. On the north the continent is bounded by the Mediterranean, with
cities along the coastline, notably Carthage facing its rival Rome across
Sicily. Mons Mercurii opposite Crete is Cape Bon. It is clear that
Africa has been drawn from information collected from maps and itineraries
of the Roman Empire prior to 600 A.D. Consequently the Roman provinces are
delineated, Libya, Tripolitania, Numidia, and Mauritania.
The Atlas Mountains are shown forming a single peak. The ocean is dotted
with islands, including the Canaries, Madeira and Teneriffe are called the
Fortunate Islands, an allusion to their temperate climate.
EUROPE: When we turn to this area of the Hereford map we would
expect to find some evidence of more contemporary 13th century knowledge
and geographic accuracy than was seen in Africa or Asia, and, to some limited
extent, this theory is true. By the 13th century trade and commerce were
well developed, and travel throughout Europe was relatively easy. However
this type of 'word-of-mouth' information is slow to be collected and eventually
reflected on maps. Scholars, such as G.R. Crone, believe there to be about
a two century lag between the actual circulating knowledge of the world
and the geographical content on the Hereford map. Europe is not easily
recognizable since actual coastlines are disregarded in this highly stylized
format and the river systems seem to dominate. The Danube, Rhine, and Rhone
are accurately shown rising in the Alps and flowing to their respective
mouths. The Iberian and Italian peninsulas are not represented as such.
Beginning with Spain, at the bottom-center, the Pyrenees form a line running
north and south, with many rivers and towns displayed. Italy is merely a
bulge between the Mediterranean and the Adriatic; the Alps are fairly accurate,
with towns in the area being chiefly derived from the Antonine Itinerary.
Rome is honored by a popular hexameter, Roma caput mundi tenet orbis
frena rotundi [Rome, the head, holds the reins of the world].
Greece has its Mt. Olympus and such cities as Athens and Corinth; the Delphic
oracle, misnamed Delos, is represented by a hideous head. Macedonia, Thrace,
and Bulgaria are also shown in this area.
France, with the bordering regions of Holland and Belgium is called Gallia,
and includes all of the land between the Rhine and the Pyrenees. Paris,
owing to its famous university, has one of the most imposing castellated
buildings on the entire map. Unfortunately, though, the area of France has
been defaced by indelible scratching and scribbling, probably done at a
time when anti-French feelings ran high in England. The Rhine, Moselle,
Seine, and Loire are incorrectly given a general north-south direction,
consequently displacing some sixty towns that occur near them.
Norway and Sweden are shown as a peninsula, divided by an arm of the sea,
though their size and position are misrepresented. Norway, alone, is named,
and there is a strange figure which seems to depict a man on snow skis,
with an inscription, roughly translated, he runs on skis. There is
only a vague conception of the form of the Baltic Sea. Germany is equally
obscure and vague, Upper Germany is noted as being occupied by Slavic
people, and Lower Germany has a note, this is Saxony. The
principle rivers, the Rhine, Vistula, Ems, Weser, and Elbe are given, and
the towns included are Bremen, Hamburg, Magdeburg, and Prague. North of
the Danube is Dacia with a note, this is Russia, and a picture
of a bear. The river Don forms the boundary between Europe and Asia.
On the other side of Europe, Iceland, the Faeroes, and Ultima Tile
are shown grouped together north of Norway, perhaps because the restricting
circular limits of the map did not permit them to be shown at a more correct
distance. As can be seen, beyond the perimeter of the former Roman rule,
the detail and accuracy is rather lacking. What contemporary knowledge the
map does display of this area comes from the 11th century writer Adam of
The British Isles are drawn on a larger scale than the neighboring parts
of the continent, and this representation is of special interest on account
of its early date. With the exception of four maps drawn by Matthew Paris,
about 1250 (Slide #225), this is the earliest medieval attempt at a detailed
map of these islands to have survived. The appearance of this portion of
the Hereford map, in particular the narrow form of the English Channel
and North Sea, strongly suggest that an existing map of the British Isles
(probably not Matthew Paris') has been fitted into the general framework
of this world map by cutting out a segment of the main land mass of Europe.
This would explain the distortion of the coastline, particularly in southeast
England, and perhaps also the complete omission of East Anglia. The circular
shape of the map, again, no doubt accounts for the curved outlines of western
Scotland and Ireland.
On the Hereford map, the areas retain their Latin names, Britannia
insula and Hibernia, Scotia, Wallia, and Cornubia, and
are neatly divided, usually by rivers, into compartments, North and South
Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, England, and Scotland. Cathedral cities such as
Durham, Lincoln, Hereford, and Canterbury are displayed; castles and towers
such as London, Conway, Caernarvon, Dover, and Edinburgh, and the mountains
of Snowdon and Grampians are just some of the exceptional detail included
admist these special isles.
THE MEDITERRANEAN: The Mediterranean, conveniently separating the
three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, teems with islands associated
with legends of Greece and Rome. Entering this sea from the encircling ocean
is an island with two columns, the Pillars of Hercules, in the straits
of Gibraltar. Then come the Balearic Islands, Majorca and Minorca,
and Sardinia sandal-shaped to suit its name Sandaliotis. Triangular
Sicily is easy to recognize with Mount Etna belching flames; its cities
include Syracuse and Palermo. Between Sicily and Italy are the twin threats
to mariners, the rock Scylla, a head with open jaws, and Charybdis
the whirlpool. On the island of Crete concentric circles represent the labyrinth
devised by Daedalus. Near the red letters Mare Mediterraneum is a
mermaid, to the left of which is the island of Delos, surrounded with dots
for the islets of the Cyclades. On the island of Rhodes the column
of the Colossus still stands though it collapsed fifty years after erection.
Cyprus, Lemnos with an ox-like creature above it, Troy a most
war-like city is on the mainland, and Constantinople lies on the European
side of the sea, but is upside down. The two upright fingers branching up
from the Mediterranean are the Aegean and the Black Sea with the Golden
Fleece at its extremity.
SUMMARY: According to most authorities, it is very probable that
the Hereford map was copied in considerable detail from another,
older map which was, as it were, a descendant of a Roman map drawn in the
4th or possibly even the first century A.D. Earlier, notice was made of
the inscription in the border-frame of the Hereford map attributing
a survey of the known world to Emperor Augustus. G.R. Crone points out that
this reference has special significance because Augustus had also entrusted
his son-in-law, M. Vipsanius Agrippa, with the task of designing a world
map (Orbis Terrarum, Slide #118).
Essentially a world map that emphasized the extent of the Roman Empire in
the first century A.D., it was publicly displayed in Rome and praised by
Pliny. An examination of the names of the countries, cities, and other features,
and the details of the boundaries on the Hereford map shows that
these are in great part of Latin origin. Agrippa's lost map, along with
later ones of the Roman Empire, form the basis from which the Hereford
map, together with medieval additions, illustrations and Christian symbolism,
was constructed. Additional non-Biblical sources, some previously mentioned,
include excerpts from Pliny and the Antonine Itinerary, from Orosius
and Martianus Capella, from Solinus and the Aethici, from the Alexander
Romance, and from certain Bestiaries and Herbaria. Richard
draws from Ororius many of his general notions of the world-outline, and
in particular refers to him on the position of the Ganges River, the course
of the Nile, and the names of various mountain ranges in Asia and Africa.
From Solinus he naturally takes most of his mirabilia; and from Isidore
the chief part of his ethnology. Capella is especially used as a source
in reference to the Mediterranean islands; Aethicus of Istria supplies material
for the regions of the Far North.
It is thought by some scholars that this map was originally intended as
a reredos, a decorative background for an altar; there were about twenty
altars at that time in the cathedral at Hereford; in fact an 18th century
writer described the mappamundi as "an ancient altar-piece".
This would account for the more than normal emphasis on Christian features
in its design. However, if the map were intended for an altar its construction
would be a legitimate undertaking for a prebendary in cathedral precincts,
and justify his use of cathedral documents, drawing equipment and pigments,
but the idea of its being an altar-piece may have been 18th century conjecture.
An alternative suggestion would be that it was designed for educational
purposes, particularly to stress the teaching of the Christian faith. In
either case the work was suitable for a prebendary. It should be emphasized
that the mapmaker, Richard, was a cosmologist as well as a cartographer;
that is he was explaining the world as well as drawing it. This was important
because it can at a time when the general population as uneducated and very
provincial. In the Hereford map they could revel in this pictorial
description of the outside world, which taught natural history, classical
legends, explained the winds and reinforced their religious beliefs.
GLOSSARY OF NATURAL HISTORY AND ABNORMAL PEOPLE
Translated inscriptions in italics
ALERlON. Asia. Alerion the only pair in the world. Eagle-like birds
of prey. Often represented without beak or feet. Heraldically like footless
martlets. Coat-of-arms of Lorraine family.
ANTS. Africa. Here huge ants guard golden sand. Ants dig up gold
and guard it.
BASILIK. Asia. Basilisk half a foot marked with white stripes. Hatched
by a serpent from a cock's egg, and so also called cockatrice; its breath
fatal. Reptile with head of cock, or triple-tufted crest like a royal crown,
called basilisk from Greek word for king; King of the serpents. No cock's
head in map.
BONNACON. Asia. In Phrygia there is born an animal called bonnacon;
it has a bull's head, horse's mane and curling horns, when chased it discharges
dung over an extent of three acres which burns whatever it touches.
Identified with bison.
BUGLOSSA. France. A buffalo. From its literal meaning in Greek it
also signifies the plant ox-tongue, so called from its shape and roughness
of its leaves.
CAMEL (Bactrian). Asia. Bactria has very strong camels which never
wear out their hooves. Arabian camels have one hump, Bactrian camels have
two, as in the map. Camels prefer dirty water to fresh, detest horses, live
a hundred years. Example of humility, they kneel to be loaded.
CENTAUR. Egypt. Fauns half-horse men. Centaur wrongly labelled faun;
fauns were half goat, half men; centaurs half horse, half men; trunk and
arms of man joined to body and legs of horse, as depicted in map. Idea of
centaur probably derived from appearance of savage riders. Cavalry still
CIRENUS BIRD. Palestine. Unidentified, possibly cinnamologus, Arabian
bird which feeds on cinnamon.
CROCODILE. Egypt. Name derived from crocus, of yellow color like
saffron. Reputed to weep hypocritical tears when devouring its victim.
DRAGONS (Dracones). India. Golden mountains defended by dragons.
Mythical fire-breathing creature with wings, scales and claws; malevolent
in west, benevolent in east. Heraldry, common. Welsh dragon.
ELEPHANT. India. India also has the largest elephants, whose teeth
are supposed to be of ivory; the Indians use them in war with turrets (howdahs)
set on them. Two species of elephant, the African and the smaller Indian.
The chaste elephant and his wife represent Adam and Eve in the time of their
GRIFFINS (Gryphae). Asia. Arimaspi contend with griffins for emeralds.
Griffins with heads and wings of eagles resemble lions in their bodies they
will fly away with an ox. The idea of gigantic winged creatures might be
taken from fossilized bones and horns thought to be the claws of monstrous
As when a Gryphon through the wilderness
Pursues the Arimaspian who by stealth
Had from his watchful custody purloined
The guarded gold. Milton; Paradise Lost II. 943.
LEOPARD. Africa. The offspring of a lion and panther mating,
leo pardus. Member of cat family, nocturnal hunter.
LION. Africa. Roams on mountain tops; placed in the map between two
mountain ranges. Sleeps with eyes open, an example to the Christian to be
vigilant. Spares prostrate foe, a lesson in compassion. Winged lion the
emblem of St. Mark. Heraldry: lion passant gardant in arms of Great Britain.
LYNX (Linx). Asia Minor. The linx sees through walls and produces
a black stone- a valuable carbuncle in its secret parts. Wolf-like, tufted
ears, short tail, keen sight.
MANDRAKE. (Mandragora). Egypt. Mandragora a plant most wondrously
potent. It had aphrodisiac and narcotic properties; used as an anaesthetic
in ancient Greece. Short spikes, forked root occasionally of human shape.
If anyone tries to uproot it, it would shriek and he would die or become
MANTICORA. India. Solinus: The Manticora is born in India with a
triple row of teeth a man s face; bluish-grey eyes; red color; lion s body;
scorpion s tail and voice of a Siren. It was said to revel in human flesh,
was swifter than a bird, in its tail were three fatal stings which could
be used as darts.
MARSOK. Asia. Marsok a beast changed from one (color) to another.
Quadruped, two feet webbed, two feet with toes or claws. Probably a chameleon
which can change the color of its skin to harmonize with its surroundings.
MERMAID. Mediterranean. A woman down to the waist with tail of a
fish. Conventionally holds a mirror in one hand, combing lovely hair with.the
other According to myth created by Ea, Babylonian water god. Sometimes identified
with Sirens, the mythical enchantresses along coasts of the Mediterranean,
who lured sailors to destruction by their singing. Ulysses contrived a way
of escape. To her regret the mermaid had no soul, and was regarded as a
temptress. There may be significance in the soulless mermaid placed in the
map close to the unattainable Holy Land, or she may be a possible temptation
to sea-faring pilgrims.
MINOTAUR. Misplaced in Scythia. Scythia. Here l found beasts like
the minotaur useful for war. The place for this bull-headed monster is Minos'
kingdom of Crete. Associated with bull-cult and Cretan ceremonial bull-leaping.
MONOCEROS-see Rhinoceros (Unicorn).
OSTRICH (Ostricius). Europe. Ostrich head of a goose; body of a crane;
feet of a calf. Capable of digesting iron; reputation for folly in leaving
the sun to hatch its eggs and burying its head in the sand when pursued.
PARROT (Psittacus). India. Solinus: Indian sends for the parrot a
bird of green color with purple neck. According to Aristotle the tongue
of a parrot resembles that of man.
PELICAN. Asia. For my young l rend my heart. The mother bird was
reputed by St. Augustine and Isidore to kill its young by kisses or blows,
and after three days the male bird would wound himself in the breast and
revive the brood with his own life-blood. A symbol of the Resurrection.
PHOENIX. Egypt. The bird phoenix lives for five hundred years it
is the only one of its kind in the world. According to Herodotus a red and
golden bird, the size of an eagle. Every five hundred years the pheonix
visited Heliopolis, the city of the sun, with the embalmed body of its father
in a roll of myrrh and buried it in the temple of the sun. Then it plunged
to its own death in fire, to be re-born from the ashes. Christian symbol
of the Resurrection.
RHINOCEROS. Egypt. Solinus: The Rhinoceros a native of India; is
the color of boxwood; it erects its single nasal horn when fighting against
elephants; being the same length but shorter in the leg it naturally attacks
the belly which it realizes is the only vulnerable spot.
SALAMANDER. Egypt. Salamander a most venomous reptile. A species
of newt or lizard. wrongly represented with wings; often colored red because
capable of living in fire.
SCORPION (Scorpio). Egypt. Germany. Crab-like stinging creature injecting
poison with its tail. Eighth sign of the Zodiac.
SIMIA (Ape). Norway. Simia from Greek-word, snub-nosed, i.e., unattractive
appearance. Anthropoid, man-like, e.g., gorillas, chimpanzees, orang-outangs.
TIGER (Tigris). Asia. A tiger when it sees its cub has been stolen
chases the thief at full speed; the thief in full flight on a fast horse
drops a mirror in the track of the tiger and so escapes unharmed. The point
of the manoeuvre is that the thief escaping with a tiger-cub throws down
a mirror to delude the pursuer which sees its own reflection in the mirror,
mistakes it for the cub, stops to fondle it, loses valuable time and the
thief escapes. Tiger meat was eaten to give strength and courage; the cub
may have been stolen for this purpose.
TIGOLOPES (Ugolopes). Syria. Webbed feet, tail, holding up a wand.
UNICORN (Monoceros). Egypt. A virgin girl is set in front of this
unicorn; at his approach she opens her lap; there he lays his head with
all ferocity vanished and stupified and defenseless is captured. A frequent
subject for bestiaries. Unicorn's strength and gentleness symbolic of Christ.
In heraldry: supporter of royal arms.
YALE (Eale). Asia. Solinus: the eale is born in India with the body
of a horse; the tail of an elephant black in color goats jaws; horns more
than a cubit long not rigid but moveable as nee(l arises in fighting; it
fights with one and folds back the other. This creature, recorded by Pliny
and Solinus, was long regarded as mythical but identified in 1968 by Wilma
George as the Indian water buffalo whose horns are not movable; instead
of butting it uses one at a time with sideway inclination of head.
AGRIOPHANI ETHIOPES. Africa. Agriophani Ethiopes eat only the flesh
of panthers and lions they have a king with only one eye in his forehead.
(Solinus). Identified with the Agofagy of the Alexandrian Romance.
ALBANI. Asia. The Albani have grey eyes and see better at night.
Their eyesight described by Isidore, their unclean habits by Aethicus.
AMAZONS. Asia. The Pandean race in India is ruled by women. Assumed
to be Amazons, female warriors; said by Herodotus to live in Scythia. Amazon
means "without a breast," according to tradition these women removed
the right breast to use the bow.
ARIMASPIANS (Carimaspi). Asia. Arimaspians fight with griffins for
BLEMYAE. Africa. The Blemyae have mouths and eyes on their breasts.
(Isidore and Solinus); a wild Ethiopean race frequently invading Egypt;
hung down their heads when captured, hence the description.
CYNOCEPHALES. Europe. Men with dog's heads in Norway; perhaps heads
protected with furs made them resemble dogs.
ESSENDONES. Asia. Essendones live in Scythia it is their custom to
carry out the funeral of their parents with singing and collecting a company
of friends to devour the actual corpses with their teeth and make a banquet
mingled with the flesh of animals counting it more glorious to be consumed
by them than by worms. (Herodotus). Solinus adds that they set the skulls
in gold and used them as drinking cups.
GANGINES. Asia. Solinus: they occupy the source of the Ganges and
live only on the scent of apples of the forest if they should perceive any
smell they die instantly. (Aethicus; Pliny). Their name derived from the
GANGINES OF ETHIOPA. Asia. There is no friendship with them. Two
men seen embracing, but they have no friendship with others.
HERMAPHRODITE. Africa. A race of dual sex born with many strange
instincts. (Solinus; Mela; Isidore).
HIMANTOPODES (Limantopodes). Africa. Himantopodes; they creep with
crawling legs rather than walk they try to proceed by sliding rather than
by taking steps. Quite simply, they crawl on all fours as depicted.
HYPERBOREANS. Asia. The Hyperboreans as Solinus says: are the happiest
race; for they live without quarrelling and without sickness for as long
as they like, and when weary of life they fling themselves into the sea
from a well-known rock; they think that is the best kind of burial. (Herodotus;
MARMINI (Maritimi). Africa. Maritime Ethopians who have four eyes.
MONOCOLI (Sciapods). Asia. The Monocoli in India are one-legged and
swift when they want to be protected from the heat of the sun they are shaded
by the size of their foot. (Solinus; Pliny). Not to be confused with Monoculi,
MOUTHLESS RACE IN ETHIOPIA. Africa. A race with mouth grown fast
together fed through a reed.
PHANESII. Asia. Phanesii are covered with the skin of their ears.
A bat-like people with enormous drooping ears. Identified with Auryalyn
in the Alexandrian Romance.
PHILLI (Psylli). Africa. Psylli test the chastity of their wives
by exposing their new-born children to serpents. (Solinus). Legitimate babies
are untouched by the serpents. The burning mountain full of serpents is
SCYTHIANS. Asia. A race of Scythians dwelling in the interior; unduly
harsh customs; cave dwellers; making cups not like the Essendones out of
the skulls of friends but of their enemies; they love war; they drink the
blood of enemies from their actual wounds; their reputation increases with
the number of foes slaughtered and to be devoid of experience of slaughtering
is a disgrace. (Solinus; Mela).
SPOPODES. Asia. They have horses' feet, as the Greek name implies.
TROGLODYTES (Trocoditee). Africa. Troglodytes exceptionally villainous
capture wild animals by leaping on them. (Solinus). Cave dwellers.
TURKS (Turchi). Asia. The island of Terraconta where the Turks dwell
descendants of Gog and Magog; a barbarous and unclean race devouring the
flesh of youths and abortions. Associated with Mongols and Tartars, a threat
to the Greek Empire. (Aethicus).
The best pictorial collection of monsters are in The Marvels of the East
by M.R. James (Roxburghe Club) 1929, with representations from manuscripts
in the British Library and the Bodleian Library, and "Marvels of the
East", by R. Wittkower, Journal of the Warburg and Curtland Institutes,
V. (1942), p. 129, which is fully illustrated and contains a detailed study
of the whole subject. See also John Mandeville's Travels from the
LOCATION: Hereford Cathedral, Hereford, England
*Beazley, C., The Dawn of Modern Geography, volume III; pp. 528-9.
*Crone, G. R . , The Hereford Map
*Harley, J.B., The History of Cartography, Volume One, pp. 207, 288, 309,
312, 330-31, 340-42, Figures 12.4, 18.20, 18.60.
*Harvey, P.D.A., Mappa Mundi, The Hereford World Map (1996)
*Moir, A.L., The World Map in the Hereford Cathedral.