Armenia on Medieval Hand-Drawn Maps

Armenia on Medieval Hand-Drawn MapsMaps are crucial in helping us shape history. They contribute to the understanding of the political development of the ancient and modern worlds, as well as reflect international relations on certain stages of the evolution of states and empires.

Ruben Galchyan’s catalog “Armenia in world cartography” is a fine collection of antique maps of Armenia. Below are some of the maps included in the catalog.

Map 1

This is the so-called “Psalmic map” included in the 1250 manuscript of the Book of Psalms. It is drawn in the medieval T-O form. Although at the time, there has been sufficient geographical data to more or less accurately portray the world, the author of the Psalmic map decided to ignore it and instead only follow Christian traditions.

Jesus Christ surrounded by angels is portrayed in the upper half of the map, holding the earth in his hands. The world is engulfed in the ocean and 12 winds. Fictional beings living in distant countries are depicted in the bottom right corner of the map. East is positioned at the top along with the Garden of Eden. In accordance with the Old Testament, lands Gog and Magog are surrounded by fortress walls. The route of Moses is indicated in the Red Sea.

Jerusalem is imaged at the center of the map. Mount Ararat and Noah’s Ark atop its peak are displayed in the form of the crescent at 10 o’clock. Near the Ark is the name “Armenia” written in red. The map also points out other countries and cities.

Size: 10 x 15 cm British Museum, London

 Map 2

The map named “Mappa Mundi” drawn by Richard de Bello in ca. 1300 is kept in the Hereford Cathedral in England. This medieval map depicts the whole world known at the time. In fact, it is the largest medieval map discovered. Similar maps have been quite common in the Middle Ages, hence the more general term “mappa mundi” indicating any medieval map of the world.

Hereford Mappa Mundi has been preserved well. Like the Psalmic map, it places Jerusalem at its center and Eden towards the east at the top of the map. As with other T-O maps, the land is divided in three by the Mediterranean Sea, the Nile, and Don. Asia is situated in the upper area of the map, while Europe is placed in its lower left and Africa in its lower right corner. The continents are surrounded by the ocean. The Red Sea is colored in red.

Geographical data on the map is complemented by depictions of natural scenes and events. The territory of India, having 5,000 cities on this map, is decorated with images of unusual animals and plants.

Above, you can see the fragment of Hereford Mappa Mundi depicting Armenia, which is placed at 10 o’clock on the full map. One can see the Noah’s Ark resting on the Armenian mounts. To the left of the Ark is Lesser Armenia (Armenia Inferior), right next to it is Greater Armenia (Armenia Superior). Armenia itself is depicted above Greater Armenia, slightly to the right.

Size: 137 x 162 cm Hereford Cathedral, Hereford, England

 Map 3

This hand-drawn, Greek-inscribed was supposedly created in Constantinople in the 13th century. It is one of the oldest known handwritten maps based on Ptolemy’s “Geography”. This map doesn’t have any decorative elements. It was probably taken out of Constantinople when the city was besieged by the Turkic tribes.

The map depicts the Caucasus. Colchis is placed to the north on the eastern shore of Pontus surrounded by the Caucasian Mountains. Nearby is Iberia, likewise surrounded by mounts. On the western shore of the Caspian Sea is Albania, the territory of which is now occupied by the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Armenia Mtralh, that is, Greater Armenia, is situated to the south of those countries. Armenia’s western border is watered by the Euphrates River, while the southern borders Media. The map features the significant Armenian cities, as well as rivers and mountains. Lake Van along with the Tigris River flowing out of it are also depicted. It should be noted that some Greek geographical names can’t be quite identified with their Armenian analogs.

Size 42 x 57.5 cm Vatican Apostolic Library

Read also: Armenia in World Cartography – Ruben GalchyanArmenia on Ancient Maps of the World

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