Mappa Pervius and mostly harmless

So work done and time to indulge my pervy obsession with maps. On the way through the centre of Hereford yesterday we saw one of those brown tourist signs pointing to “Mappa Mundi”. Ah ha–ius, I thought! That must be Latin for world map. A world map it was. Well, a map of life, the universe and everything according to Christian scholars in around 1300. The map is a arranged in a circular format with a curious combination of illustrated highlights from the Bible and hierarchical geography which bares little resemblance to the know (western) world – even in 1300. Jerusalem is at the centre with Asia above, Europe to the left and Africa on the right. Astonishingly, they didn’t send a team to go forth and map, it was all based on word of mouth and legend. They leant heavily on Greek and Roman mythology. This is proven by Greece and (modern day) Italy taking up a large part of the centre. Amusingly, the badly drawn Mediterranean is full of fish (probably accurate for the time) but Gibraltar is in North Africa. “Oh where was Gibraltarium again?” “Ask that fisherman over there”. “Yeah I know, it’s on the right.”

Top marks for the “illustrated Bible highlights” (very informative for short attention span Atheists) but go to bottom of the class for cartography. Truly worth the £6 entrance fee. Well maybe if you’re a map pervy!

No photos I’m afraid, it’s much too fragile to risk some plonker using his red-eye flash on it.

How about this instead. For the Antipodeans reading this, you know there is plenty of built history in a country when a tombstone from 1729 is merely a place to plonk your café bench.

Hereford has a large pedestrian precinct, which is always worth a few urban-space-brownie-points. It’s a pity the pedestrian precinct isn’t a bit more extensive, because a few of the inhabitants could do with a longer walk. As a whole Hereford leaves me feeling indifferent. Much like Ford Prefect’s very broad and dismissive brushstroke description of planet Earth in the revised Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I give Hereford the rating of Mostly Harmless.


PS. I wasn’t going to mention this, but as it was also observed and corroborated by my less pervy and far more sensible partner, I’m going to. Sometimes I am accused of reading far to much into things, but I get the feeling the Mappa Mundi was also intended to educate (hidden or otherwise) how and where human life begins. The Mediterranean has a distinct “lady parts” look to it. I’m not talking about anything pornographic here, but fallopian tubes, womb etc. And stone me to death if the Nile doesn’t look like sperm on route! I’m not sure of lens technology in the late 1200’s, so was sperm was known about back then? After this observation, I’m wondering about the wisdom of calling myself a “map pervy”.

For my part, the £6 entrance fee was better spent on the Chained Library. I wasn’t sure what it was before visiting – it hadn’t occurred to me that it might literally be a library where all the books were chained up. Lots of book thieves in the 1500s apparently. It is the only remaining example of a chained library which still has all its original chains which, according to the volunteer guide, makes it better than Oxford’s chained library. She didn’t actually say ‘so there’, but you could tell by the tone of her voice that she wanted to. D and I visited the map/library separately while the other one kept the dog company in a rather lovely garden in the cathedral grounds. Unfortunately, my visit coincided with about 40 Italian students, so I didn’t get to linger very long. On the upside, I got the benefit of lovely weather while I was waiting in the garden – it was blowing a gale by the time D was sitting out there.

We raced the rain back to the lorry and coach park where we had left Hans, only to find that he had thrown a wobbly and was refusing to start. Oh, good, we thought. Although we have breakdown cover, we had visions of having to leave the van at a garage and find a B&B which would allow dogs – not really something we wanted to happen within a week of starting our trip. However, all was well – Gary from the RAC was with us within 20 minutes of our call, fixed a loose connection on the starter motor within a couple of minutes and, to top it off, gave us a punnet of cherries! He was a lovely guy and very interested in the van, so of course we gave him the guided tour.

We are now in Hay-on-Wye, the Town of Books. The campsite is much more our thing again – a field with a tap, a babbling brook and some sheep for company. Hay is on the border between England & Wales – we are on the English side, so this morning I walked to Wales for a look around. More on that tomorrow.


Sperm allegedly discovered by Leeuwenhoek in late 1600s. Actually come to think of it, obviously discovered a lot earlier than that, but identified in geologically modern times by him. I’ve read about the Mappa Mundi – very impressed you have seen it; I didn’t know it was in Hereford. I read it is drawn on vellum which is a word best spoken by Rowen Atkinson. D, because your imagination is obviously working overtime, I won’t mention the Book of Roger which, had I mentioned it, would be a similar sort of thing to the Mappa Mundi but a bit more recent. Don’t know where you might see a copy of that. Sicily maybe? And finally here in the antipodes, we are familiar with the “park bench on historic stone” syndrome. We do stuff like carve a path for a natural gas pipeline through sacred stone carvings of unknown age but probably more than 10,000 years.

Good morning – I’m with Uncle Pete as far as web logs go.
The News of the World is dead, long live this news of the world/ mundus. This will be a much better read on my Sunday mornings (not that I ever did read the other one “your honour”).
Nice photos as well.

F & A have just returned home from Spain and have just caught up with your blogs this morning thanks to English Mum emailing us the link. Never done blogs before so hope we get it right. Looks like fun so far, sort of thing most people dream of doing but never get around to. We will try and keep up.

Just plain good reading!

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