Hereford Cathedral and the Mappa Mundi

The Wye and Hereford Cathedral in pouring rain

Some days you just have to accept that discretion is the better part of valour. It’s going to rain and it really might be best to admit defeat and stay indoors. Our second day in Herefordshire was just such a day: the forecast said rain, and, boy, did it rain. I was half hoping for an excuse to go and have a look at the Mappa Mundi anyway.

D said he thought the Mappa Mundi was very interesting, but since he had seen it “countless times” he would prefer to stay at home and play on the wii. Aside from A, the other children agreed. Andy offered to “take one for the team” and stay at home too, whilst a select band ventured into a rainy Hereford.

Hereford Cathedral interior 

The Mappa Mundi is on display at Hereford Cathedral, which of course is interesting in it’s own right.

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Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of tombs and memorials to the great and the good around the cathedral, but I was particularly taken with this knight.

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And his faithful hound.

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Patient observers of this blog may have noticed that, without knowing anything about them, I’m really quite fond of stained glass windows.

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There was an awful lot of it here, so I decided to restrict myself to finding images of St. George and his foe.

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Of which, it transpired, there are many.

He doesn’t look much like a Roman soldier here…

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It might be interesting to compare the iconographies of all the many countries which have him as their patron saint (there are many).

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In this little side chapel, the Stanbury chapel….

Stanbury chapel 

…I broke my self-imposed rule when I found this window….

Stanbury Chapel window 

…which I thought might show Hereford Cathedral and the Wye, but comparing it with the photo above, that seems unlikely.

In the crypt, I found this tomb…

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Which was a bit odd, since we were staying with Andrew Jones and his wife, of this parish.

In another small side chapel there are new windows, by Tom Denny, which commemorate the life of Thomas Traherne, a local seventeenth century poet and mystic.

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And the Mappa Mundi? Well – you aren’t allowed to take photos unfortunately – you’ll have to go and see it for yourself. It’s all I had hoped, absolutely fascinating, and the accompanying exhibition at the cathedral is also very impressive.

I found this snippet of the English translation of the map (which is Latin) on the internet.

Mappa Mundi snippet

The map is peopled with all manner of strange and exotic creatures, some familiar from popular myths and stories, like satyrs, unicorns, centaurs, and the minotaur, complete with labyrinth on Crete, but others less familiar – a race with a single huge foot used like a parasol to ward off the sun, and another race using their huge upper lips in much the same way.

It was gratifying for a yeller belly like me to discover that the map was drawn by ‘Richard of Haldingham or Lafford’ that’s Sleaford today, and that it probably originates from Lincoln Cathedral and was later brought to Hereford – Hereford and Clee Hill were added to the map after the rest had been finished.

So – not much walking today, on this blog “about walking, thinking about walking” etc, but, Thomas Traherne wrote a poem called walking. It’s quite long, but this part seems germane….

To walk is by a thought to go;
To move in spirit to and fro;
To mind the good we see;
To taste the sweet;
Observing all the things we meet
How choice and rich they be.

To note the beauty of the day,
And golden fields of corn survey;
Admire each pretty flow’r
With its sweet smell;
To praise their Maker, and to tell
The marks of his great pow’r.

To fly abroad like active bees,
Among the hedges and the trees,
To cull the dew that lies
On ev’ry blade,
From ev’ry blossom; till we lade
Our minds, as they their thighs.

Observe those rich and glorious things,
The rivers, meadows, woods, and springs,
The fructifying sun;
To note from far
The rising of each twinkling star
For us his race to run.

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Hereford Cathedral and the Mappa Mundi

6 thoughts on “Hereford Cathedral and the Mappa Mundi

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Yes – BBC4 had a sort of season of programs about maps, including one on the Mappa Mundi. They were all very good, and the first TV fix for map addicts since Nicholas Crane’s excellent Mapman series.

  1. Not only are you a wealth of information about your own patch, now you know more about my local area than I do!
    I’m quite pleased that me and Jane looked after you so well while you down here considering we’ve been dead for over 500 years, kind of spooky in a way

  2. beatingthebounds says:

    I’m hoovering up titbits of trivia wherever I go, like a magpie with shiny objects.
    You both look pretty well on 5 centuries of being dead. It would certainly make for a different sort of Undead film franchise: zombies, ghouls, ghosts or vampires living in quiet dormitory villages, having their friends to stop, faintly scandalised by their strange neighbours and their doll collection. I may sell a film treatment to George A. Romero.

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