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March Talk: Sarah Arrowsmith on Hereford’s Curious Map – The Mappa Mundi
This month’s talk was very well attended, with an audience numbering around seventy. Sarah Arrowsmith, who works for Hereford Cathedral’s education outreach department, delivered a coherent, well-illustrated talk on the fascinating Mappa Mundi. I may say, she won us over immediately by praising our society’s website!
Sarah Arrowsmith began by explaining that the Mappa Mundi (which translates as “Cloth of the World”) looks “wrong” to modern eyes. It depicts the known world of 1300 AD when, give or take five or ten years, it was created, with Jerusalem at its centre, and does not follow the convention we are used to of having the north at the top of the map Great Britain is down towards the bottom of its left side. It must have been a marvel to people of the time: on a creamy background, vibrant colours depicted not only remarkable places but also fantastic creatures. It was intended not merely as a geographical document, but a record of God’s creation.
Next, we heard how there is no actual record of the map’s origins, though it is possible to date it quite accurately. Written records do not mention it until in 1684 it is mentioned by the antiquarian Thomas Dingley. A man named John Carter made a sketch of it in 1780, showing it as the centrepiece of a triptych, the side panels of which have since been lost. Nor do we know exactly what its purpose was: people have speculated that it may have formed an altarpiece, though for various reasons this seems unlikely, that it may have been a teaching aid for monks, or that it may have been used to promote the pilgrimage industry. It is widely thought that the map may have been made in Lincoln rather than Hereford, but the speaker argued persuasively that its backboard suggests its origins do lie in our region as dendrochronology places the trees that were used to create the panel on which it is mounted firmly in Herefordshire.
Sarah Arrowsmith pointed out some of the map’s distinctive features. It is divided into three segments by a T shape, suggesting the three known continents and their Biblical explanation as the different lands of the three sons of Noah. The British Isles are disproportionally large – but this may be explained by its being made in England! Hereford itself is almost rubbed off the map – could this be caused by the reverent touch of pilgrims’ fingers? We then heard about the meaning of the various images on the map. Bible Stories are illustrated: Adam and Eve appear, outside the area totally inaccessible to mankind because of their sin. Noah’s Ark is there Moses appears on Mount Sinai and the Exodus out of Egypt is shown, and Joseph’s barns (looking like medieval English ones!). The Classical world is also referred to:– the Pillars of Hercules (marking the end of the world), the Cretan labyrinth and the camp of Alexander the Great, a popular hero in medieval times. At the heart of the map one sees the New Testament taking the viewer to the heart of the Christian faith. We see the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and of course the Crucifixion in Jerusalem, the heart of the cosmos to the medieval mind.
Round the edges of the map we see strange peoples, ideas gleaned from Greek and Roman travel writers, such as the dog-heads medieval people were to draw moral instruction from their deformed exteriors. Similarly there are exotic beasts such as unicorns, familiar to people of the time from Bestiaries, popular books which used these strange animals to convey moral messages about human misbehaviour. Vegetable curiosities such as pepper and mandrakes also appear in the margins.
The Mappa Mundi also serves the more usual functions of a map many of the places shown are mentioned in a twelfth century guide book for pilgrims, the Book of St. James. It shows places of cultural and theological significance, such as Paris and of course Rome it shows popular pilgrimage destinations, such as the shrine of St. James de Compostella. Major trade routes are identified. However, one cannot escape the figurative meanings of this document. The letters M-O-R-S surround the map, together with Christ enthroned and the dead arising from their graves to be welcomed by Him or dispatched to Hell, in an image of Doomsday.
The appreciative audience asked a range of questions following the talk, and from Sarah Arrowsmith’s responses we learned that not only is Mount Snowdon depicted on the map but also Clee Hill that not all the writing is in Latin, as some of it is in Norman French, the language of the educated and of royalty and that a number of early maps, many of them English, have also survived. Perhaps the most intriguing question related to the analysis of the inks. Recent advances in spectroscopy should help identify what the inks were made of, allowing scholars to explore whether the most precious colours were used for the most important features on maps of the time, and such an analysis is scheduled to be carried out on the Mappa Mundi. Clearly, the Mappa Mundi is a topic for us to revisit once this has happened!
For those who missed the talk but would like to learn more – or for those who were there but did not bring cash with them! – the book “Mappa Mundi: Hereford’s Curious Map” by Sarah Arrowsmith is available to buy from Hereford Cathedral you can visit the gift shop or phone the Cathedral’s library on 01432 374226 to order a copy. It costs £10.00.
Meaning &lsquoatlas&rsquo or &lsquosheet of the world&rsquo in Latin, the Mappa Mundi is an incredibly detailed 1.59m-long by 1.34m-wide map depicting the history, geography and religious understanding of the known world from the point of view of 13th-Century European scholars. The map was believed to be created around 1300 and features more than 500 ink drawings on a single sheet of calf skin, offering a fascinating glimpse into the mindset of the ancient Christian world.
The map is listed on Unesco&rsquos Memory of the World Register and described as &lsquothe only complete example of a large medieval world map intended for public display&rsquo. In many ways, it serves as a sort of visual encyclopaedia of the period, with drawings inspired by Biblical times through the Middle Ages. In addition to illustrating events marking the history of humankind and 420 cities and geographical features, the map shows plants, animals, birds and strange or unknown creatures, and people &ndash all of which helps to shed light on what Christians both did and didn&rsquot understand about humanity at the dawn of the Renaissance.
The Bizarre Hereford Mappa Mundi Map
In 1855, renovation work was being carried out on Bishop Audley’s Chantry, a cathedral in England, when something very strange was found languishing away in the darkness beneath the floor. It was a sheet of vellum, or calf skin, measuring about five feet long and four and a half feet wide, and although faded and damaged, when it was examined and restored it was found to be a medieval world map of some sort, one of the largest ever seen. But this was no ordinary map, as upon its sprawling face were many strange features and wonders that have inspired much discussion to this day and has made what has come to be known as the Hereford Mappa Mundi one of the weirdest and most mysterious maps ever found, as well as one of the most significant historical maps in the world.
The Mappa Mundi, which is simply Latin for “Map of the World,” is thought to have been made in around 1285, although the exact date, as well as the authorship is questioned and debated. It is known that the whole map was likely created by more than a single author, and what a map it is. Meticulously and intricately inked with black, red, gold, blue, and green, the colorful map is filled with over 500 elaborate illustrations of all manner of things including scenes from mythology and human history, strange tribes in distant lands, towns, landmarks, geographical features, biblical events and places including the location of the Garden of Eden, exotic plants and animals, and a menagerie of bizarre monsters and creatures such as dragons and other less identifiable beasts, all of it rendered in intricate detail. The world is depicted as circular, with the city of Jerusalem in the center, and the map is very odd in that in some respects it is very accurate, yet in others it is incredibly wrong and fantastical. For instance, Europe and Africa are transposed and East is depicted as being at the top of the map, South is on the right, West is at the bottom with North on the left, and there are many geographical features in the wrong spot or depicted erroneously, as well as other anomalies, with much of it oddly not corresponding to the geographical knowledge of the 13th century. Whether this was artistic license taken by the artist of the map or not is unknown, but it is not the end of the map’s many oddities.
One of the most oddly striking features of the map is that it shows the locations of all manner of mythical and Biblical lost lands and artifacts. Among the many such locations on the map are Paradise, which is shown to be where Japan is, the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, the Cretan Labyrinth, the Golden Fleece, the Columns of Hercules, the Tower of Babel, the mythical island of St Brendan’s Isle, and the land of Gog and Magog, among many others. The bestiary on display across the map is also impressive and strange. Here one can find known animals mixed in with all manner of fantastical and weird monsters, with crocodiles, camels or elephants depicted right alongside dragons, griffins, unicorns, cave-dwelling Troglodytes, and tribes of headless men called the Blemmye, among others. The seas of the map are populated by fish and whales, as well as sea serpents and mysterious leviathans, and the whole of the map is a sumptuous feast of weirdness.
It is quite obvious that the Hereford Mappa Mundi was never intended to be an accurate map to be used for navigation, but was rather a work of art. The exact person who made the map is still debated. Although the map itself is attributed to a “Richard of Haldingham and Lafford,” but this is debated, as the map seems to have been created by more than one person, probably passed on to several different people who worked on it, likely copying portions from other maps available at the time. Whoever it was who made it, they managed to craft the largest known medieval map still in existence, as well as one of the more mysterious and significant, with Christopher de Hamel, a leading authority on medieval manuscripts, saying of it:
The Mappa Mundi is without parallel the most important and most celebrated medieval map in any form, the most remarkable illustrated English manuscript of any kind, and certainly the greatest extant thirteenth-century pictorial manuscript.
Today the Hereford Mappa Mundi is kept in a glass case at the Hereford Cathedral, which is also home to the Chained Library, which holds 229 medieval manuscripts and is considered to be another great mediaeval treasure in and of itself. It remains a curious historical oddity and mystery, which has served to hold its place upon the landscape of weird oddities from history.
Hereford World Map: Mappa Mundi Facsimile Edition
This outstanding world map, made in c. 1291, is one of the most impressive masterpieces of medieval cartography. It is named after the English village where it is located. This superb piece of art, the largest medieval world map that has survived, is a fundamental reflection of how the world was understood and represented in the Middle Ages. Thus, it is one of the most interesting examples of medieval cartography, and its rich decoration and program of descriptive texts make it very engaging for students.
The Hereford world map does not only represent geographical features it contains a complex message that deals with the coexistence of space and time in a cartographical frame, and uses a great number of classical and medieval sources to show an enigmatic and cryptic view of the world.
A Reflection of Space and Time
This world map is made on parchment, and measures 158 x 133 cm. It represents the known world at the end of the thirteenth century with great attention to detail, portraying a very complex depiction of the world.
As is common in medieval cartography, the map is oriented to the east. Thus, Asia is located at the top, while Europe and Africa share the lower part of the map, with the Mediterranean separating those two continents but, interestingly, the names of Europe and Africa were interchanged, so that we can see the name “Africa” in Europe and “Europa” in Africa.
The map depicts a huge amount of information, both textual and graphic. This information is derived from many ancient and medieval sources, such as Isidore of Seville, Orosius, Pliny, Strabo, and the Bible, among others. Place names and iconographic references are present all over the map, which not only portrays geographical features, but also historical events.
Mythical and strange creatures share space with real references, as well as with elements from biblical history, such as the Ark of Noah on Ararat Mount and the Crucifixion, located near the center of the map.
Nevertheless, everything that happens in this mappamundi is controlled by Christ, who is represented at the very top of the frame, outside the physical world, surrounded by angels and dispensing justice in the Final Judgement.
Thus, the message of the map is based on the coming of the Final Judgement, as well as in the absolute control of God. If we begin at the east and proceed westward, the first place represented at the top of the Hereford map is the Terrestrial Paradise, the spot that was the beginning of human history.
As we look down at the map, i.e. to the west, the historical events and geographical references are transferred to the present, until we reach the Pillars of Hercules at the very bottom, which represent the end of time.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that the map, i.e. the whole world, is situated in a large frame that contains the letters M-O-R-S, that is, the Latin word for “death”.
In the Hereford world map, the coexistence between space and time is a fundamental feature, which shows us a key example of how the world was understood in the medieval context.
This map is still preserved in Hereford Cathedral, and is one of the most important artifacts in the history of cartography.
An Enigmatic Authorship and a Turbulent History
Although it has been argued that the author of this world map was Richard of Haldingham (also known as Richard de Bello), since his name is written on the map, this attribution has not been widely accepted.
The world map has been always located in Hereford cathedral, though it has suffered damage, as is easily visible, for example, in the cuts and scratches over the drawing of Paris, perhaps intentional damage stemming from anti-French sentiment.
The map has been repeatedly moved inside the Cathedral, and it is not easy to determine where it was originally located. In any case, it is believed that it was once the center piece of a triptych, according to a note written in the 1680s.
In 1988, the world map was going to be auctioned off to fund the operation of the Cathedral, but, after a strong controversy and public protest, the project was canceled and the map is still on display at the Cathedral.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Hereford World Map: Mappa Mundi": Hereford World Map facsimile edition, published by The Folio Society, 2010
The Hereford Mappa Mundi
In medieval times, the idea that flying, fire-spitting dragons existed was considered entirely plausible. The world was immense and unknown. Many people believed that a sea of darkness encircled the chartered lands. Dragons leapt across the page in the Bible, Beowulf, and Chaucer. And medieval cartographers occasionally illustrated blank spaces with winged serpents and dragons. On the Hereford Mappa Mundi (World Map) in England, several dragon-like creatures appear within its borders.
Rom Whitaker, on his quest to find today’s real-life dragons, uses the Hereford Mappa Mundi, the largest medieval map in existence, as a starting point for his journey. He travels to the 1,000-year-old Hereford Cathedral, where the antique vellum the map now hangs. About five feet long and four and a half feet wide, it is encased under thick, security-wired glass — and for good reason: the Hereford Mappa Mundi is one of the most valuable maps in the world. Historians estimate it was drawn around 1290 A.D. with a mineral-based black ink, as well as paints made from vegetable dye, which have now dulled to a warm sepia hue.
Overall, the map is covered in some 500 drawings of the history of humankind and marvels of the natural world: 420 cities and towns 15 biblical events 33 plants, animals, birds, and strange creatures 32 images of the peoples of the world and 8 pictures from classical mythology.
In the book Mappa Mundi: The Hereford World Map, by P.D.A. Harvey, a glossary is given for the map’s varied creatures and mythical beasts. It writes that dragons were found in India, where they defended the golden mountains. The description continues: “Mythical fire-breathing creature with wings, scales and claws malevolent in west, benevolent in east.”
Other weird creatures the Mappa Mundi portrays include the bonnacon in Asia, which is drawn moving toward the left but looking back over its shoulder at its own explosion of diarrhea, which, according to the adjacent legend, sprayed a distance of three acres and scalded anything it hit. In Egypt, there is a crocodile and a red salamander with wings, and in Asia, there is a griffin, which resembles a winged Welsh dragon.
Christopher de Hamel, a leading authority on medieval manuscripts, has said the Mappa Mundi “is without parallel the most important and most celebrated medieval map in any form, the most remarkable illustrated English manuscript of any kind, and certainly the greatest extant thirteenth-century pictorial manuscript.”
The creator of the Hereford Mappa Mundi did not work to create an accurate geographical representation, as the creators of maps do today, but rather to glorify the Christian view of the world. As Peter Barber writes in The Map Book, “The Hereford World Map proclaims the insignificance of man and his achievements in face of the divine and the eternal.” He later continues,
At the top one sees the Last Judgment, with the saved to the left and the damned to the right, and a bare-breasted Virgin pleading for mankind. At the bottom right a mounted huntsman looks wistfully back at the earthly world but his pace urges him to move on. The map of the world, like a colossal wheel of fortune, is held down by four thongs containing letters which together spell our ‘MORS’, or death. The map itself has Jerusalem, surmounted by a depiction of the crucifixion, at the center.
Among map historians, the Hereford map is known as a “T and O map,” called such because it looked like a T incised with an O. The T is the Mediterranean, dividing the three continents Asia, Europe, and Africa. The O is the encircling ocean, or ‘Sea of Darkness,’ beyond which lay an uncharted realm that people could only imagine.
Dragons on maps were one of the most significant symbols of what might exist in unknown, far-away lands. The phrase, “Here be dragons,” comes from its use on the Lenox Globe, made in 1500, where it is written in Latin—“HC SVNT DRACONES”—off the east coast of Asia, and denotes what was thought to be a dangerous or unexplored territory.
Whitaker journeys from the Hereford Mappa Mundi to many places that very few medieval Europeans ever went. Rather, they could only see these places on a map (if they were even that privileged), along with a drawing of a dragon, and contemplate them with wonder, and perhaps, fear.
Various strange and wonderful people are represented on the map, both real and unreal. Likely due to exaggerated traveler tales of dangerous foreign cultures, 32 images include outrageous people, such as the Blemmye a war-like race of people with no heads, and with facial features in their chests.
A Blemmyae from the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493. Public Domain
Sciapods, or Monoculi, are found on the map. Tales of these scary beings with a giant, single foot included theories on how they were able to move quickly on their one leg. They were believed to use their large foot to shield themselves from the sun.
A Monoculi, as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493. Public Domain
Mysterious and dangerous cave dwellers, or Troglodytes, are drawn in Africa on the map. Three of these men are depicted in caves, and one rides a strange goat beast. They appear to eat snakes and run around naked. The map text describes Troglodytes as very swift men who catch wild animals by jumping onto their backs.
Troglodytae were an ancient group of people from the African Red Sea coast as described by Greek and Roman historians, including Herodotus, Strabo and Pliny. These anecdotes eventually turned into mythical feats and wild characteristics.
The History Notes
The Mappa Mundi was drawn on a sheet of vellum 64 x 54 inches, supported by an oak frame, with the actual map contained within a circle 52 inches in diameter. Most of the writing was with black ink, with red and gold leaf used for emphasis, and blue or green for rivers and seas . The Red Sea however, was depicted in red. Mountain ranges were indicated by scalloped designs and towns by walls and towers.
The map bears the name of its author 'Richard of Haldingham or Lafford' (Holdingham and Sleaford in Lincolnshire). Recent research suggests a date of about 1300 for the creation of the map.
Superimposed on to the continents are drawings of the history of humankind and the marvels of the natural world. These 500 or so drawings include of around 420 cities and towns, 15 Biblical events, 33 plants, animals, birds and strange creatures, 32 images of the peoples of the world and 8 pictures from classical mythology.
Hereford Mappa Mundi - History
Story by Rachel Hatch
|Artist Spencer Sauter ’70 created a “speculative reconstruction” (shown above) of Hereford’s north transept as it appeared in the late 13th century, with the Mappa Mundi a perfect fit at its center.|
Late in the 13th century, weary pilgrims traveled on foot for miles to Hereford, an English town on the Wales border. The destination of these pilgrims was Hereford Cathedral. Bathed in medieval colors and containing relics and sacred treasures, the cathedral hosted the remains of its patron saint, Ethelbert, and one of its bishops, St. Thomas de Cantilupe, who was canonized 40 years after death, in part due to the number of miracles that were said to have occurred at his tomb.
Chief among the cathedral’s treasures is its Mappa Mundi — a giant map of the world. Drawn on a single sheet of vellum (calf skin), the map is contained within a 52-inch circle and reflects the thinking of the medieval church, with Jerusalem at its center.
By modern standards, “it’s no good as a map, really,” says IWU Professor of English Dan Terkla, who has studied the map for nearly a decade. “It’s more metaphysical. It’s meant for people to compare their life journeys to those of the saints.” Included on the map are some 1,000 drawings that depict the history of mankind and marvels of the natural world.
While scholars consider Herford’s Mappa Mundi to be among the most important medieval English maps, for centuries there were no firmly grounded theories about its original placement or purpose. That changed when Terkla published detailed evidence intended to clear up the centuries-old mystery.
Terkla’s thesis is that the map “was originally exhibited in 1287 next to the first shrine of St. Thomas Cantilupe in Hereford’s north transept. It did not function as an altarpiece, therefore, but as part of what I call the Cantilupe pilgrimage complex.”
In his second-floor office in the English House, Terkla explains the concept in simpler terms: “Think of it like a giant neon sign for medieval pilgrims,” he says with a smile.
|A detail from Mappa Mundi shows Nicodoxus, Teodocus, and Policlitus, who were sent by Augustus Caesar to survey the inhabited world.|
Terkla, who has a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of California, joined Illinois Wesleyan’s faculty in 1995. Although his expertise includes medieval literature, art, and culture, Terkla says, “I’m not an art historian by any means.” Instead, he approached the study of the Hereford’s Mappa Mundi in much the same way that he examines medieval literature. “I started to pay attention to the way the map was put together, and then asked why the map was made, when, and by whom.”
That these questions have waited so long for answers is partly due to Hereford Cathedral’s sometimes volatile history. Over the centuries, wars and other calamities damaged many parts of the cathedral, including the shrine holding the remains of St. Thomas. Subsequent restoration efforts were often misguided. During an 18th-century refurbishment, many artifacts near Cantilupe’s shrine were discarded. “They cleaned it off,” Terkla says sadly. “It was once a pretty elaborate space.”
At some point, the Mappa Mundi was also moved. It has been on display for years in another room of Hereford, sealed in a protective case. Stationed at a desk not far from this case was Dominic Harbour, now Hereford’s head of communications and marketing, and friend of Terkla’s for a number of years.
“When I first showed interest in knowing more about the map, Dominic was a great help in getting access to various parts of the church,” says Terkla. “He had keys to every room in the church. We were able to tromp through rooms at the cathedral no one has been in for a while.”
It was Harbour who contacted Terkla in December 2003 with the news that the map’s wooden backboard, which had been found in the former cathedral stable, was to come off display for dendrochronological dating. Terkla brought on board his friend Spencer Sauter ’70, a freelance artist and IWU adjunct art teacher, who was interested in the map. Terkla, Sauter, and Harbour were able to examine, measure, and photograph the backboard. Sauter superimposed images of the map onto photos of the backboard using a computer program. Based on the compiled evidence, “it was clear to me that the map fit the wood,” says Terkla.
His next step was to explore where the map may have originally hung. Terkla noticed stone inserts in the east wall by Cantilupe’s tomb, which appeared to him to be supports that could have held up the map. “When I inquired, no one knew about them,” says Terkla. “Even the mason who remodeled the tomb never noticed them.” The map being next to Cantilupe “made theological sense,” he adds, since the map’s depiction of the Last Judgment features the Virgin Mary, to whom Cantilupe had dedicated himself.
“As it turned out, the width of the nine inserts’ span aligned nicely,” says Terkla, who noted the height from the floor would have put the map at an ideal viewing level. “That also aligns the griffin and sphinx on the map with the griffin and sphinx carved on Cantilupe’s tomb,” he adds.
Terkla had a small, but very important, discovery on his hands. But he suspected he would need more than measurements and a row of stone inserts to convince his peers.
During their 2003 visit to Hereford, Terkla took photos of the backboard, onto which Sauter once again superimposed images of the map, this time placing it in the transept. “Being an artist, I was able to visually create what the tomb may have looked like,” says Sauter. Terkla used Sauter’s images in several papers he wrote on the subject — including one that caught the eye of the Very Rev. Michael Tavinor, dean of the Hereford Cathedral.
“I was particularly interested in Terkla’s thesis that Mappa Mundi may have formed part of the ‘pilgrimage complex’ around the shrine of St. Thomas Cantilupe at the end of the 12th century,” says Dean Tavinor, who could immediately see the potential of applying Terkla’s findings to his own plans “to refurnish the shrine of St. Thomas.”
|Terkla and Michael Tavinor, dean of Hereford Cathedral, discussed plans to renovate the Shrine of St. Thomas using Terkla’s discoveries about the map’s original placement.|
“It’s amazing to be part of a process that started centuries ago, and still continues today,” Sauter says of ongoing refurbishing of the cathedral.
In December, Terkla and Sauter were bestowed a rare honor: lunch at the cathedral Deanery to discuss what place the map held in Dean Tavinor’s vision for the shrine’s renovations.
“He’s a man with a plan,” says Terkla, who was overwhelmed by the graciousness of Dean Tavinor, a ranking official in the Church of England. Before a formal luncheon prepared by the dean himself, the two were led to a computer to see the dean’s plans for the tomb and north transept.
Plans were already under way for a canopy over the shrine of Cantilupe. These plans now include placing a reproduction of the Mappa Mundi in the canopy, replacing an initial image of the cathedral.
“Of course, it won’t be the original map,” explains Terkla. “But I am just thrilled the dean thinks my ideas make sense enough to get an image of the map to the part of the church where it was originally displayed.” The map will be one of several elements honoring Cantilupe. A large tapestry telling the life of the saint is also planned.
Letting modern-day visitors see how the map was originally used is vital to understanding more than the architecture of the church, says Terkla. “Restoring the medieval complex gives us a better sense of the history, of who these people were and how they thought,” he says. “It gets people to think beyond the paint and canvas. It builds bridges to how life functioned in medieval times, and I think that’s terrific.”
Historic Herefordshire Guide
Famous for: Hereford Cathedral, Malvern Hills
Distance from London: 3 – 4 hours
Local delicacies: Herefordshire Cider Cake
Airports: None (near to Gloucestershire Airport though)
County town: Hereford
Nearby Counties: Shropshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire
Perhaps best known for its cider, this land of rolling hills and quintessentially English countryside is also dotted with a myriad of castles, a throwback to the time when conflict was rife along the Welsh and English borders.
This theme continues as far back as the Anglo-Saxon era, with the massive Offa’s Dyke running through Herefordshire and providing a defensive measure for the Kingdom of Mercia against the Welsh Kingdom of Powys to the west. Even today, Offa’s Dyke can reach almost 20 metres in width and 2½ metres in height.
Other notable historic sites in Herefordshire include Hereford Cathedral, a place of Christian worship since the 8th century. The earliest surviving building in the cathedral complex is the 11th century bishop's chapel, although the majority of the structure dates mainly from the 14th to 16th centuries.
Hereford Cathedral is also home to one of Britain's finest medieval treasures the Hereford Mappa Mundi. This is the largest medieval map in the world and dates back to around 1285AD, with Jerusalem being featured at its centre. Great Britain is located at the northwest edge of the map, whilst the Garden of Eden circles the map indicating that it can be found at the edge of the world.