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SP 2010 | 5 | 85-125

Article title

JERUSALEM AS THE EARTH’S CENTER IN MEDIEVAL IMAGINATIVE GEOGRAPHY

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EN
One of the best-known features of medieval imaginative geography was a belief that Jerusalem was founded in the exact mid-point of the earth. This idea has been frequently described as one of the basic elements of the medieval world view. In fact, it wasn’t generally accepted until the 11th century. It was already known in the ancient Judaic tradition and adopted by e.g. Saint Jerome, but until the 11th century we can find only very few references to it in western European writings and virtually none in cartography. The paper shows how the idea of existence of an umbilicus mundi in Jerusalem gradually became popular in the High Middle Ages, and points out the main problems connected with the reception of this idea. It has been suggested that the notion circulated among inhabitants of the city, and some of them transmitted it orally further to the pilgrims and crusaders, who in their turn brought it back to the western (and eastern) Europe. During the 12th and 13th century, the description of the umbilicus was repeatedly included in the pilgrim accounts. Jerusalem was also placed in the middle of many high-medieval mappaemundi, like the Hereford and Ebstorf world maps. The idea, however, never became universally accepted. The fall of Acre in 1291 failed to bring any substantial changes. The descriptions of the umbilicus mundi still can be find in many late-medieval sources, the most influential among them was the “Book of sir John Mandeville”. The expanding geographical knowledge in the 15th century sparked growing criticism towards this idea. Its early modern reception is still to be investigate, but surely it lost its importance in the imaginative geography and was relegated to the realm of local curiosities.

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5

Pages

85-125

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published
2019-12-05

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Publication order reference

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bwmeta1.element.ceon.element-07c8949f-0900-3b5f-8081-c73a1812a8bd
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