TITLE: Maps of Matthew Paris: the World
DATE: ca. 1250 A.D.
AUTHOR: Matthew Paris (1195-1259)
DESCRIPTION: In the 12th and early 13th century, the monastery of St.
Albans in England possessed what may be called an historical school, or
institute, which was then the chief center of English narrative history
or chronicle, and with a different environment might have become the nucleus
of a great university. Among the writers of this school, the greatest was
a Benedictine monk Matthew Paris, whose three chief works contain various
maps and plans unsurpassed in European medieval geography, before the rise
of the portolani [nautical charts]. Thus, in the Historia Major,
or Cronica Majora, we have the so-called Itinerary to the Holy Land,
or Stationes a Londinio ad Hierosolymam, as well as a mappamundi,
a map of Palestine, and the first of Matthew's four maps of England. Again,
in the Historia Minor, or Historia Anglorum, there is another
form of the Palestine Itinerary, the second and third maps of England,
and the Situs Britanniae. Lastly, in the History of St. Albans,
a portion of the supposed Pilgrim-road, as far as southern Italy, is given
in another shape, together with the Schema Britanniae.
Matthew Paris, therefore, appears as the author of six geographical designs;
a world-map, in two slightly different forms; a map of England, in four
variants; a purely conventional sketch of the Heptarchy, in the form
of a Rose des Vents; a plan, or schema, of the Roman roads of the
same country; a 'routier' to Apulia from the English Court; and a map of
Palestine, which tradition has wrongly joined with the former, to make a
Pilgrim Itinerary from London to Jerusalem.
Matthew Paris' world map, unlike his England (Slides #225.2, #225.3),
according to Beazley is of small value geographically or cartographically,
though it is curiously different from all other medieval designs. It measures
34.8 X 23.6 cm and seems to have been constructed on "projections"
approaching the azimuthal logarithmic, where the central part of the map
(of most interest) is enlarged in scale. It contains about 80 legends and
perhaps its most interesting feature is an inscription, placed in the neighborhood
of Mount Taurus, which alludes to the three great wall-maps existing in
or near London at this time (ca.1250). One of these is ascribed to a certain
Robert of Melkeley; another is called the mappamundi of Waltham in Essex;
the third is termed the property of the Lord King at his court in Westminster.
Yet compared to Matthew's England, his surviving mappamundi is
a disappointment; and if we were to assume that his wall-maps at Westminster
and elsewhere presented merely the same features on a larger scale, there
would be less reason, according to Beazley, to regret the loss of these
The coloring of the Paris mappamundi is mostly red for place-names,
except those in the Mediterranean, such as Tyre, which lie to the right
of the Adriatic; these are colored black. Mountains are portrayed in ochre,
rivers in blue, for the most part; and the Mediterranean Sea in colored
green. Like most other medieval maps, but unlike his England, Paris'
mappamundi is oriented with the East at the top.
Again, according to Beazley, the chief thing worthy of remark in this world-map
is its limitation. For it is not really a mappamundi, but rather
a sketch of Europe and the adjacent coasts; only the extreme northern edge
of Africa is portrayed; as to the parts of Asia here given, the author has
so little intention of working them out in detail, that he covers most of
the spaces with the inscription mentioned above, about the three wall-maps.
In this region (Asia) Paris depicts a broad arm of the sea running west
from the Euxine [Black Sea]. The Palus Maeotis is represented
by two lakes near the North Ocean, into which they throw a river.
Even in Europe the detail is wanting; its northern coast is absolutely straight,
and apparently follows the requirements of the sheet or page without attempting
to represent the actual shoreline. Many unnamed rivers occur in Europe;
the only ones that are named are the Rhone, Danube and Elple [Scheldt].
For more contemporary names there are Hungaria, Polonia, Austria, Saxonia,
Bavaria, Theutonia, Braibe [for Brabant]; Dacia [for Denmark];
and the towns of Cologne, Pisa, Bologna and Janua [Genoa].
The text has some resemblance to the Hereford and Ebstorf
maps (especially the latter), and to Lambert of St. Omer, Henry of Mainz,
the Psalter and the Cottoniana (Slides #226,
224, 217, 215, 223 and #210). Most of the newer names may be found on Ebstorf,
as, for instance, Holland, Burgundy, Flanders, Austria, Poland, Venice,
Bavaria, Metis, Hierapolis, Teutonia; but, after all, the great mass of
name-forms in this mappamundi are old.
The form of the design is, on the contrary, novel and peculiar, it has some
relation to Henry of Mainz and Lambert of St. Omer maps; the former of whom
is not unlike Matthew in his islands, his Italy, and his Balkan Peninsula
with its curious western projection; while the latter gives a similar course
to the Danube flowing into the North Sea; but the present scheme must not
be regarded as a derivative of either of these, but rather as itself a stem-form
not directly borrowed from any other plan that has come down to us.
The western littoral is scarcely better; England, which Matthew knew so
well, is entirely omitted; and it would be difficult to rate the compiler's
geography at a high level, if we only possessed this design, and could not
also refer to the four maps that he has left us of his native country.
LOCATION: Mappamundi - Corpus Christi College, Cambridge,
MS. 26, p. 284
*Bagrow, L., History of Cartography, Plates XIX, XX.
*Beazley, C., The Dawn of Modern Geography, volume II, pp. 584-590.
*Bricker, C. , Landmarks in Mapmaking, p. 105.
*Destombes, M., Mappemondes: A.D. 1200-1500, 54.1, 54.2.
*Harley, J.B., The History of Cartography, Volume One, pp. 288, 301, 304,
306, 471, 473, 495-96, Figures 18.58, 20.10, Plates 38, 39 (color).
*Harvey, P.D.A., Medieval Maps, pp., 8, 25, 71, 73, 77, 87, Plates 1, 57,
58, 73 (color).
*Vaughan, R., Matthew Paris, Cambridge University Press, 1958,
Wright, J. K., Geographical Lore at the Time of the Crusades, p. 344.