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Ebstorf map

by The nuns of Ebstorf
mappa mundi
ca 1234

The Ebstorf Map (ca 1234) is the largest known mappa mundi – a European medieval map. Less a navigational tool, it is full of religious and ethnographic information, measures 12ft and is illustrated on 30 goatskins. Scholars disagree as to who the author of the map really is. Originally thought to have been created by Gervase of Ebstorf, many others now think it contains too many dissimilar traits and was actually co-created by the nuns of Ebstorf famed for their craft(wo)manship in the Arts.

It was a very large map, painted on 30 goatskins sewn together and measuring around 3.6 by 3.6 metres (12 ft × 12 ft)—a greatly elaborated version of the common medieval tripartite, or T and O, map, centered on Jerusalem with east at top.

The head of Christ was depicted at the top of the map, with his hands on either side and his feet at the bottom. Rome is represented in the shape of a lion, and the map reflects an evident interest in the distribution of bishoprics.

There was text around the map, which included descriptions of animals, the creation of the world, definitions of terms, and a sketch of the more common sort of T and O map with an explanation of how the world is divided into three parts. The map incorporated both pagan and biblical history.

The original was destroyed in 1943, during the Allied bombing of Hanover in World War II. There survives a set of black-and-white photographs of the original map, taken in 1891, and several colour facsimiles of it were made before it was destroyed.

Last Updated:
21th of June, 2023

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