Girona Beatus

Girona Beatus ff. 54v-55r, Prologue: on the Church: the map of the world

ff. 54v-55r, Prologue: on the Church: the map of the world

             The image of the world is preceded by the text on f. 53v that invokes the greatest pedagogical effect of the image: “Et quod facilius/hanc seminis grana per agrum/huius mundi quem prophete/lauoraberunt et hi metent sub-/iecte formule pictura/demonstrat”. This demonstrates that the pictorial prototype of the Beatus did in all likelihood contain paintings, such as this map of the world, which constitutes the most detailed and largest group of early medieval cartography. It is however absent from the tenth-century Beatus of stemma I, undoubtedly due to folios having gone missing. However, despite what the text says, it should feature the geographic distribution of the apostles, with their heads indicating the place where they preached, in a layout which must have been round in the original manuscript, in keeping with St Isidore's O T arrangement. The mappa mundi in the Gerona Beatus stems from the one now missing from the Tábara codex, which was the basis of a stemma of maps spanning a period of time stretching from the 10th to the 13th century, with the later Beatus. Its general characteristics are its rectangular shape, the representation of Adam and Eve instead of the four rivers of Paradise, and likewise the location of Paradise at the top of the maps, the appearance of the two possible courses of the Nile, a figuration of the Jordan, the representation of the Danube with many tributaries, the mention of the names of Cappadocia, Mesopotamia and the Arabia Gulf; a legend referring to the land of the Amazons and the new wording of legend about the fourth transequatorial continent. Finally, the names of several apostolic lands that appear in branch IIa are missing, causing it undoubtedly to differ from the original map for this very reason.

            The forerunners of this map are to be found, generally speaking, in a Roman prototype with countless glosses of Historiarum adversus paganos by the disciple of St Augustine, Paulus Orosius (4th–5th centuries). Its most direct source was however the illustration acting as a frontispiece for the Isidorian texts and diagrams in a miscellaneous manuscript mistakenly identified as Etymologiae, dated between 770 and 785, that originated in Burgundy or Italy (Vatican City, Apostolic Library, ms. lat. 6018, ff. 63v-64r), which features a map similar in certain basic aspects to the one in the Beatus manuscripts, but not copied from them. This shows that similar models were used for both groups, whose earliest forerunner was apparently a late Roman prototype with frequent borrowings from texts by Paulus Orosius. The origin of the mappa mundi in Beatus codices may be attributed specifically to Tyconius’ Commentaries, judging by the countless details in this work borrowed from the abovementioned book by Orosius, and from the Bible and St Isidore’s writings. Tyconius’s Commentaries (dated in the latter half of the 4th century) must therefore have had a cartogram that may have been copied by the original, illustrated version of the Beatus.
The image covers two complete folios. The earth is depicted surrounded by a mass of wavy, blue water with drawings of triremes, fish, sea monsters, a large crab, a man inside a fish’s body – possibly alluding to Jonah – and square, ochre-coloured islands. The orb is rectangular in shape like the one designed by Maius in the Morgan Beatus, but unlike the latter, its edges are rounded. One predecessor of this form is the tricuadrum the emersed lands are set inside in a manuscript of Paulus Orosius’s Geography (Saint-Gall, ms. 621) and an Isidorian map in a tenth-century codex (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, ms. lat. 538). The map is oriented with east at the top, like Christian temples. The earth is divided into three basic sections by means of water courses which correspond to those of the river Tanais (a group that comprised the Don, the Black Sea and the Aegean from the 7th century onwards and shown stretching from north to south), the Mediterranean (from east to west) and the Nile (from north to south and slanting from east to west), with the Red Sea being the boundary of the continents known at that time, as far as the fourth unknown continent. The coasts of the continent are wavy like those on the Saint-Gall map. The source of the blue river waters is a darker, round shape; the mountains are triangular or semi-triangular in shape with a scaly appearance; the islands, as already mentioned, are rectangular. Finally, the hot zone is depicted by means of a wavy, red band that represents fire and is separated from Asia and Africa by a strip of the ocean. This is a variety of the so-called Macrobian zone map whose horizontal divisions indicated the different climates of the world.
The top part of the world refers to Asia. The legend says “asia”, this being the name of a continent and not of a region, which strays in this respect from the way in which the sortes apostolorum were located on the original map. The two red and blue mountains situated at the very top are entitled “mons caucasus”. Above the blue promontory is the word “armenia” with “capadocia” between the mountains and, underneath, “calcedonia”, “frigia” and “pampilia”. Emerging from the red mountain is a river called “flvmen/euris”. The word on the left reads “arenosa” with “deser-/ta” underneath between two mountains. Before reaching the body of water, which can be identified with the Tanais, are the words “asia minore”. Situated on the right is the earthly paradise surrounded by a red line with a snake coiled around it and the representation of Adam and Eve standing out against the blue ground. This representation is similar to the one in the genealogical tables showing them naked and covering themselves with their hands – or fig leaves in the former. This indicates that the sin has already been committed – although no reference is made to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil characteristic of stemma IIb – and that the map may be the field of action of the apostles’ preaching which conveys the knowledge of salvation to all people. Underneath is a mountain, “mons carme-/lvs”, with the words “ihe[ru]s[a]l[e]m” at the bottom of it and, further down, “ascalones” and “ivdea”, with “babilonia” on the right. Next to the representation of paradise is a pale ochre mountain, “mons libanvs”, from which two rivers representing the Jordan emerge: the top one is called “ior” and the bottom one, “dan”. Written between the two rivers is “sidon”, and beneath the last one, “mons sinai”. Further to the right between two mountains, one entitled “Mons arabia”, “Anciocia” can be seen. Drawn underneath in the Gerona Beatus are the Persian and Arabian gulfs – the latter entitled “mare rubrum” written upon a red band, which must have existed in the original archetype, instead of upon the sea separating Africa from the fourth unknown continent, as G. Menéndez Pidal points out. However, C. Cid and I. Vigil are both of the opinion that what is represented is the Persian Gulf whilst the name “sinus arabicus” is situated upon one of the courses of the Nile. Located above is “mensopotamiam” and, beyond the body of water, “abicvsia”. A bluish mountain can be seen on the top, right-hand side before reaching the fourth continent with the words “Timiscifi-/ci campi/deserti in ac re-/gione gens ama-/zona fertur abita-/re” on the left and “Deserta et/arenosa India” on the right.
Lying in Africa beneath the Red Sea are the double source and course of the Nile. They cross each other midway before flowing separately into the sea, and the words “sinus arabicus” can be read next to the Nile that rises in the east and flows into the delta. Next to the Nile that rises in the west and flows west to east and from south to north (as Herodotus supposed) into an estuary represented as a huge, fluvial mass, is a long legend describing the two courses of the Nile: “Flubius nilus quem alii auctores feruntur/procul ubi lunae montes abentes et conti-/nuo aureis arenis inmergi inde in angusto/inmergi brebi spatjum uastatissimo luco/deserta et arenosa et eziopia”. Although in general lines this legend matches the text in St Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae (l. xiii, c. 21), its text is based upon Orosius’ Historiarum adversus paganos (l. 1, cc. 2-29). Beneath the Nile, upon the African continent are several reddish mountains from which a river, also red in colour, emerges with the words “garamantes”, “baggi” and “getvli” beneath. Underneath, in western Africa are two mountains, “dvo alpes contra arv sibi”, with the word “gens” between them – a geographical feature taken from Historiarum adversus paganos by Paulus Orosius, which correspond to the Atlas and the Rock of Gibraltar. To the left are the words “tingi” and “abentania”; on the left is an unpainted representation of two promontories “montes at luni” (where Ptolemy situated the source of the Nile) and, on the right, an elliptical shape with “lacus” written upon it. The place names in North Africa can be seen in the mappa mundi of Albi-29 and match the administrative division of Roman Great Magna.
Europe, situated in the bottom left third has an oblique legend written in red letters which reads “evropa”. Written at the top left-hand side is “hic capvt garope”, followed – next to the Danube with its four tributaries that join together in pairs to form a single river that flows into the Tanais – by “macedonia” and, on the right, “tesalonica”. Beneath are the words, “tacia vbi et goti” followed by “stolis” and, next to a mountain from which “fl[u]m[en] evsis” emerges, “constantinopoli”. “aqvilela” can be read on the side of the mountain and “epirvm” underneath. This is followed by “reenna” and “dalmacia” with “salerna” and “benebenti” underneath. Next to the source of a river on the right “sarmati” can be read once again; with “mesica”, “noricum” and “Retja cumea” underneath. On the right is “germania” followed by “dardania”. “ren” is written next to the peak of an ochre-coloured mountain followed by “suebi”, “fl[u]m[en] danubius” and, to the right, “epirum”, “apolin” and “spolite”. Next to these three place names is “niavraria” and, written across a large, blank space next to a mountainous shape are “tascia” and “roma”, with “narbona” beneath. These are followed by places on the Iberian Peninsula situated, as described in Historiarum adversus paganos by Orosius (l. i, c. 2), to the west of Aquitaine, whose origins lie in the work by St Augustine’s disciple, i.e. “cesaragvsta”, “fl[u]m[en] tavvs” and “betica”. The only reference made on the map to the apostles is in the middle at the bottom: “s[an]c[t]i iacobi ap[o]st[o]li”. On the left, next to mountainous shapes are the words “astvrias” and, beneath, “gallecia”. Next to this are areas of Gaul, also adjacent to a mountain identified as “aquitania”, “Tolosa”, “montes galliarvm” and “gallia lvgdvnensi” and, close to one of the Danube’s tributaries, “Gallia Belgia” and, above, “Francia”. The use of the names Gallia Lugdunensis and Gallia Belgia is a trait typical of the group stemming from the Tabara Beatus, since branch IIa Beatus use just the generic name of Gallias.
The fourth continent, depicted as a portion of land on the far right of the map, features a text that is almost an exact copy of Etymologiae (l. xiv, c. 17): “extra tres au[te]m partes orbis quarta pars trans oceanum interior est qui solis ardore incognita nobis est cuius finibus antipotas babulosam se/inabitare produntur”. Ptolemy believed this unknown land to be part of the African continent and to extend to the south of Asia, thereby enclosing the Indian Ocean as an inland sea in which Tapobrana island was situated. Pomponius Mela, on the other hand, on the basis of St Isidore’s texts, considered this unexplored place to be a separate continent, the land of the antipodes.
Finally the islands are merely simple, rectangular-shape representations, not all of which are named. Reading from the top and moving right, the names “tabrotane/insula”, “crise et argire/insula”, “fortunarum/ins[ul]i”, “scotiam/[in]sula”, “Britania/insula”, “tantacto/insula” and “tile/insv-/la” can be distinguished. The names of the islands in the Mare magnum or Mediterranean are badly damaged but even so, “tarsis” and “creta” can be made out, reading from top to bottom.

Carlos Miranda García-Tejedor
Doctor in History
(Fragment of the Girona Beatus commentary volume)

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