Julius Caesar and the Hereford World Map
Is there a direct link between Julius Caesar, the Rome of the 1st century BC and a medieval world map in Hereford Cathedral? Peter Wiseman investigates the origins and purpose of one of the Age of Chivalry's exhibits.
Hanging in the north aisle of the choir of Hereford Cathedral is one of the masterpieces of medieval cartography, the mappa mundi (world map) of Richard of Haldingham. Haldingham was a manor belonging to the prebendal church of Sleaford in Lincolnshire, and it was evidently while he was a canon of Lincoln in the 1270s that Richard of Haldingham started work on his map. By 1290, however, he was in the household of Bishop Swinfield of Hereford, and so the completed work was presented to his new diocese, which has treasured it for 700 years.
It is painted on a single skin of vellum about 137cm x 163cm (54in x 65in). In form, it is a sophisticated version of the medieval 'T-0' map, in which the three continents were schematically divided by a T within an 0, the upper segment representing Asia, the lower left Europe, the lower right Africa. Jerusalem is in the centre, and at the top, below a scene of the Last Judgement, the Earthly Paradise is represented in the Far East. In the decorative border round the edge of the vellum runs the following legend in Latin, in bold and handsome script: