TITLE:  The Sawley Map, a.k.a. World Map of Henry of Mainz

DATE:  1110 A.D.

AUTHOR:  Henry of Mainz [Mayence]/ Honorius

DESCRIPTION:  This medieval world map apparently belongs to a family of cartographical works that can be compared with the more closely-knit members of the Beatus genealogy (#207).  This family or group, besides this map, includes the tiny Psalter map of about 1230 A.D. and the large Hereford and Ebstorf examples of the later 13th century, huge wall-pictures which represented, in size though not in execution, the possible 11th century original more closely than their elder but smaller brethren or cousins (for examples of these other ‘family members’, see #223, #224 and #226). Lastly, the so-called Jerome maps of about 1150 A.D. may be collaterally referred to the same family, through the medium of the Mainz design.

The map shown in this monograph is to be found in the De imagine mundi [Image of the World], a kind of medieval encyclopedia attributed to a certain Henry, probably the same person as Henry [Heinrich], a Canon of the Church of St. Mary in Mayence [Mainz, Germany], who in 1111 A.D. appeared before the Episcopal Court of Mainz; possibly he is the same as the Archbishop Henry, who ruled this church between 1142 and 1152.  Most of the manuscripts of the Imago Mundi identify the author as Honorius, but between the table of contents and the text in the Cambridge manuscript (which contains the map under study here) is a note: ‘This Henry who complied this book was a canon of the church of St Mary of the city of Mainz.’ This note, which may refer to Honorius in his previous life before his conversion, has led to the identification of the map as being by ‘Henry of Mainz’. An almost contemporary of Lambert of St Omer (#217), Honorius Augustodunensis (1098-1156) composed his Imago Mundi as a digest of knowledge, designed for isolated communities of monks without access to large libraries. As a frontispiece of this late 12th century or early 13th century manuscript, there appears this world map with more than 200 place names and legends. His work, part of a prodigious literary output, also became popular among the growing educated nobility of the 12th century and hundreds of manuscript copies survive today. The map historian P.D.A. Harvey maintains that it would be best to refer to the map henceforth as ‘the Sawley map’, after the Yorkshire abbey where it was housed not later than the early 13th century. ‘To call it the “Henry of Mainz” map is a misnomer that can only mislead’, writes Harvey. ‘Henry of Mainz had nothing to do with the map, if, indeed, he ever existed at all.’

Honorius introduces the Imago Mundi by saying ‘This little book has the title, image of the world, because one might see in it the description of the whole world as if in a mirror.’ He goes on to say that his work is totally based upon ancient authorities, a guarantee of quality in the Middle Ages. Imago Mundi is basically a De natura rerum, divided into three books. They are not titled, but their subject matter is, in Book I, a description of the universe, beginning with the earth and its waters, and ascending through the realms of air and fire (a reversal of Isidore’s (#205) order in his De natura rerum); Book II, on time, including the computus; Book III, on history, a concise narrative uniting biblical events with those of other civilizations, within the structure of the six ages.

In any case, the map accompanies a work that was written about 1110 A.D., and was dedicated to the famous and unfortunate Matilda, wife of the Emperor Henry V, daughter of Henry I of England, and mother of Henry II.  This work, also known as the Imago Mundi de dispositione orbis, a compendious encyclopedic description of the world, also containing a short chronicle of universal history in seven books, was copied and interpolated, but not originally composed, by the Sawley’s author; it was really the work of a contemporary, Honorius of Autun, and was the most widely read book of its type.  In fact the copy of Imago Mundi that was produced by “Henry”, which this world map illustrates, is older than any surviving work by Honorius himself. The map, however, is apparently the addition of the scribe “Henry”, and is not derived from Honorius, although the historian Beazley and others suspect that it is based on another and older design of possibly the 11th century.  The general character of the compilation is illustrated by a remark at the close of the dedicatory letter: “I place nothing in this work except that which is approved by the best authorities”. According to J.K. Wright, the main source of the geographical chapters was the Etymologiae of Isidore (#205), though the author also drew directly from Orosius.  It seems likely, indeed, that the geographical chapter of Orosius served as a basis for the entire compilation and provided an outline which was embellished by copious excerpts of detail from the more elaborate writings of Isidore, Augustine, and Bede.  Furthermore, it is even probable that the unknown author had a map before him. He appears to have borrowed directly from the Collectanea rerum memorabilium of Solinus and his account of the marvels of India, though elsewhere he taps Solinus at second hand through the medium of Isidore.

Though indirectly made from the sources that the writers of the De imagine mundi and other medieval cosmographies utilized, the map was probably not compiled directly from the De imagine mundi but rather from a large wall map.  Its affinities to the immense late 13th century world disk in Hereford Cathedral (#226) make it seem possible that both had a common source.  In addition to the older nomenclature, about a dozen more modern place names are to be found upon it.

The Sawley world map, preserved in a late 12th century manuscript copy of De imagine mundi in Cambridge College, England, is oval in form, of small size (about 29.5 x 20.5 cm), and contains 229 legends or inscriptions, together with a large number of unnamed cities, mountains and rivers, whose titles can for the most part be ascertained with the aid of its younger relatives, the Psalter, Ebstorf, Jerome and Hereford plans (#223, #224, #225 and #226). The Sawley map places the Mediterranean Sea at its center, Paradise at the top, and Africa and the British Isles at its edges. Contemporary cities and places appear alongside biblical ones; standing landmarks share terrain with creatures and peoples from ancient legends and popular adventure tales. The map marvelously and efficiently compresses time and space, legend and fact into a single image. It is in some ways a one-page visual précis, presented in geographical terms, of the vast information contained in the encyclopedia it introduces. Although the presented world-scheme is apparently intended to illustrate the Imago Mundi copied by the author, the connection between the two is but slender; for (as in the case of the Cottoniana and the text of Priscian it accompanies, #210) the peculiarities of the chart are often not in the manuscript, nor are those of the manuscript usually represented in the map.  In reference to this lack of correspondence between the Sawley map and the Imago, one may notice the former’s selection of European cities is not represented in the latter, and that the interchange of Thile and Tilos, which is found in the Imago is not on the map.  As for author’s use of colors, he is in line with the traditional medieval customs: all of the seas, save the Persian and Arabian Gulfs, are light green, the Red Sea is red, the rivers violet, and the relief shows red-lobed chains of mountains.  Major settlements are indicated using cathedrals, double towers and ramparts; and certain of the more important names are rubricated.

According to scholars such as Beazley, Santarem and Miller, the Sawley design is obviously related to the Hereford mappamundi, as an elder to a younger brother; and the similarities of detail in these two works may be traced in almost every part of the world and in nearly every important feature of the draftsmanship. Santarem has well pointed out, and Beazley seems to agree, that the Hereford scheme was a working up of the Sawley author’s design.  Like the world map of Lambert and the Hereford, the Sawley map represents a world view, founded on classical antiquity but illuminated by Christian theology. The island of Paradise is at the top of the map in the Far East, and the map is flanked by four angels, one of whom points an admonitory finger toward the ‘gens imunda’, the walled-up tribes of Gog and Magog who will emerge before the Last Judgment Day. These angels stand in place of the traditional ‘winds’, which often surround medieval world maps, and perhaps are intended for the four angels of Revelation 7.1, who hold back the winds after the opening of the sixth seal. All of these angels have golden halos, and are variously colored in green and red; while the figure on the upper left hand carries something which has been variously interpreted as a cube or die, a box, or a church.  His clothes are green, except for an upper loose cloak, which is red like the wings. Exactly the opposite arrangement of color is adopted with the angel that fronts him on the right.  Much of the map’s nomenclature is classical, largely derived from Orosius, especially in Asia and Africa, but in Europe modern names and in Palestine biblical information supplement the basic picture.

        The overall configuration of the map with its sinuous coastlines and irregularly shaped bodies of water most recalls the Anglo Saxon/Cottoniana map (#210). To call it a T-O map seems a perversion of the term or genus. The continents are not named, nor is there any reference to the sons of Noah. The Mediterranean occupies the center, making a 90-degree turn to the north as it passes the tip of Italy, while the Tanais River flows from the Black Sea into the northern ocean. There is no fourth continent, nor indication of the ‘zones’, which Honorius describes in his text. The whole appears to be centered on the island of Delos, surrounded by the other islands of the Cyclades. Also in the Mediterranean at the tip of Italy is a ‘barking dog’s head’ to represent the perils of Scylla, while a spiral indicates Charybdis.

As to this, we may compare the varied outline of the coast, on the north of Europe and Asia, and the position and outline of the Baltic Sea, of the Scandinavian peninsula, of the Caspian, and of the lands of the Gog-Magog, the Hyperboreans and the Dog-headed folk.  The coastline near Paradise may also be compared, and the islands adjoining this coast, such as Taraconta, likewise the position and outline of the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the island of Taprobane.  The peninsular form of Italy is more developed on the Sawley map than in the Hereford, but the delineation is not dissimilar. Thus both maps have the same widening of the Mediterranean at its eastern extremity, the same projecting horns to represent the angles of the Levant, the same elongation of the Black and Azov Seas, the same approximation of the last to the Northern Ocean.

The Nile River on the Sawley map resembles the Cottoniana map, as well as the Hereford in adopting the theory of three sections,  (a) a short one springing from a lake (Nilidis Lacus) near the Atlantic; (b) a long stretch from a larger lake (Lacus Maximus) running parallel to the Southern Ocean, to a second point of submergence (hic mergitur); (c) the Nile of Egypt, springing from a Fons Fialus near the Red Sea, penetrating the Montes Nibiae [i.e., Nubia], and thence flowing in a southwest direction to the Mediterranean.  Both the Hereford and Sawley mappaemundi also introduce a Lake and River of Triton flowing into the Middle Nile (in a southwest direction) from the Altars of the Phileni, which are wrongly placed, far from the Mediterranean.

In Central Africa Orosius is probably the source of the Sawley map (and Hereford’s) Euzareae Montes.  To the east of these are the Montes Ethiopiae, Mount Atlas being near the Atlantic, and Mons Hesperus further south.  The Sawley author also agrees with the Hereford in the mountains of Syria, East Asia and Bactria and in the Caspian Gates.

The rivers of Asia also agree closely, for example the Hydaspes, Acesines and Hypanis (drawn as independent of the Indus); the Ganges, on the other side of Paradise, towards the north, flowing due east; the Acheron and Oxus, flowing into the Caspian; the two unnamed rivers on the west side of the Caspian; the Pactolus, flowing into the Euxine; and the Cobar [Chebar?], flowing into the upper Euphrates. Among other coincidences are:

(a) Asia - the wall shutting off the peninsula of the Gog-Magog and the description of the same people as unclean; of the Hyperboreans as untroubled by disease and discord; of the Gryphons, Griffons, or Griffins as most wicked; and of the Dog-headed folk as adjoining the Arctic Ocean; also the notices of Amazonia, the Golden Mountains (reference the Cottoniana map #210), the Port of Cotonare, Mount Sephar on the Indian Ocean, and the Tower of Enos just outside Paradise;

(b) Africa - the Burning Mountain and the Seven Mountains (here also reference the Cottoniana map); the Troglodytes near the Middle Nile; the River Lethon near Cyrene; St. Augustine’s Hippo; the Basilisk between Triton and the Nile; the horseshoe-formed Temple of Jupiter-Ammon; the Monasteries of St. Antony, near the end of the Middle Nile; and the Pepper Wood near the Red Sea; together with other oddities which are common in medieval cartography, i.e., the Pyramids as barns, etc.;

(c) Europe - the Church of Santiago at Compostella, and near it a Pharos [of Brigantia?]; the Danus, tributary of the Ebro, unnamed in ancient geography; the boundary of the Danes and Saxons; and the heart-shaped town of Cardia near Constantinople.

As to islands, Taraconta, Rapharrica and Abalcia, on the north coast of Asia, are from Aethicus; Ganzmir [for Scanza or Scandinavia] is a remarkable misreading, also in the Hereford. Hister, Asia Minor, Galilea, Sinus Persicus and some other names, wanting on Hereford, but supplied by the Sawley author, are probably from the common original.

As mentioned above, it is plain from the great number of nameless rivers, mountains and cities in the Mainz example, that the work may well have been taken from a larger original, probably a great wall map of the 11th century.  Of this original, the Sawley transcript is more accurate but less complete due to size constraints. There is, however, another proof of the same in the eight half-circles that occur (apparently without reason) along the oval margin of Sawley’s ocean; from other works we may recognize these as representing the places of the eight intermediate winds.

The Hereford mappamundi, fuller but considered less ‘true’ and ‘scholarly’ by Beazley, probably departs from the original, as well as the Sawley, in making Jerusalem the center of the world, and in adopting an absolutely circular instead of an oval form.

The relationship between the Sawley and the so-called Jerome maps is almost as close as that between the Sawley and the Psalter.  Only the eastern part of the Orbis antiquus in the Jerome examples survives, but here the likeness is marked; while the treatment in the Sawley design, of the Twelve Tribes and their settlements corresponds with the well supported tradition that the celebrated and sainted editor of the Vulgate, who passed so many years in Syria, himself composed a separate treatise and map upon the subject.

In the draftsmanship of Asia Minor, the Gulf of Issus, and the Black Sea, the most striking analogies may be found between the Sawley and Jerome; and from a study of these particulars we may feel practically certain that some correspondence may be assumed.  The agreement of the two maps is only, of course, partial, even in the eastern world; but it is far closer than the likeness between Jerome and the other members of the ‘family’ - the Hereford, Psalter or Ebstorf maps; and Beazley believes it to be a true and conscious relationship.

The details in the Sawley design which are foreign to the Jerome tradition may be divided into three classes, respectively based upon Aethicus of Istria, upon Solinus and upon the contemporary knowledge of the central medieval period.  Among these last we may notice the references to the Turks, the Danes and the Saxons; the mention of the Lake of Nile; and the names of Rouen, Pisa, Iceland, Lombardy, Frisia and the Mare Veneticum [Gulf of Venice, unique in medieval maps].  Among these names the first three are in Aethicus; the fourth in Solinus; the last six belong to the Sawley’s own time more especially.

Once more, in summary, both the Hereford and Sawley maps have practically the same Nile River system and the same representation of African mountains, Asiatic rivers and oceanic islands; both give the boundary between Asia and Africa in much the same way; both omit to specify any definite boundary between Asia and Europe; both agree in their arrangement of the surrounding sea, in their drawing of the chief parts of the continental coastline, and in many other details.

Various peculiarities of nomenclature, i.e., Mene Island, Jabok, etc., are also common to both works; but of course the Hereford map is far larger, and contains much more detail, especially in relation to classical material.  The 229 legends of the Sawley map are overshadowed by the 1,021 legends on the Hereford mappamundi.  In the same way, among the other relatives of the Sawley map, Ebstorf (a work on the scale of Hereford) dwarfs its elder cousin of Mainz with 1,224 legends; Jerome supplies 407; while the little Psalter map, the Sawley’s younger brother, in spite of all its crowding, can only supply 145.  One may notice that, among other works of a similar nature, the Cottoniana map gives us 146 legends; Lambert of St. Omer, 180; Matthew Paris’ world map, 81; the Beatus group, 477; while the vast scope of the Peutinger Table offers 3,400 inscriptions (#210, #217, #225, #207 and #120).

The inverted L-shaped Mediterranean includes the islands of Minorga, Maiorge, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicilia, Crete and Delos – the latter surrounded with smaller and unnamed islands. Mare Caspiuos [Caspian Sea] a shown (top left) as a gulf in the shape of a boot, as an inlet from the northern ocean. Below it, from left to right, the provinces are named Hircania, Amazones and Armenia. To the south (right) of Armenia the Taurus Mountains, the red mountain range vertically stretching up to almost the eastern ocean. This range is shown to be the source of the rivers Tigris and Eufrates. Two unnamed rivers, the Arax and the Kura [Cyrus] flow from the Armenian mountains into the Caspian. Here the mythical tribes of Gog and Magog are walled off but the enclosure has been shifted to the eastern side of the Caspian. In this map the name Caspiu Porte has bean given to a pass or a gorge located inland and far from the Caspian Sea. It cannot, therefore, be the Derbend pass, but is more likely to be the Daryal Gorge. Colchis is situated between southeast of the Black Sea and a range of mountains containing the Caspiu Porte, while Albania has been shifted to the north of the Black Sea.

In Asia the map shows the cities of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Jericho, Persepolis, Babel, Damascus, Troy and others. Mount Sinai is shown in Southern Asia near the route taken by the children of Israel through the parted Red Sea. Below it the three section tent-like structure is named Joseph’s Barn, which is referring to the Egyptian Pyramids. Egyptus Superior is located next to the Red Sea. with the monastery of St. Antonius across the Nile. On the African side of the Nile the open horseshoe-shaped structure is the temple of tempius Jovis [Amon Jupiter] located south of the mountain of Catabathmon.

In Europe the largest area is allocated to Italy, showing the cities of Rome and Pisa, as well as a number of its provinces. The most detailed area of the map is France with Paris shown as an island in the river, as well as other cities such as Rouen and Magoutia as the Rhone. Other cites in Europe include Constantinople, Cologne and some others. All in all the map has 220 legends.

Excluding the Jerome maps, this is perhaps the richest in content and the best preserved among the 12th century examples of European cartography.  However, the Chinese, during the same century were further developing their scientific tradition while Europe was still basically dominated by religious cosmography (see #218).

LOCATION: Corpus Christi College, MS. 66, p. 2, Cambridge, England.

SIZE: 20.5 x 29.5 cm


*Beazley, C., The Dawn of Modern Geography, volume II, pp. 563 - 567; 614 - 617.

*Destombes, M., Mappemonde: A.D. 1200-1500, #25.3.

*Edson, E., Mapping Time and Space, How medieval Mapmakers viewed their World, pp. 111-116, Figure 6.3.

*Galichian, R., Countries South of the Caucasus in Medieval Maps: Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, pp. 139-141.

*Harley, J. B., The History of Cartography, Volume One, pp. 312, 327-28, 340-41, 349, Figures 18.42, 18.59.

*Harvey, P.D.A., “The Sawley Map and other World Maps in Twelfth-Century England”, Imago Mundi Volume 49, pp. 33-42.

*Talbert, Richard J. A., Unger, R. W., Cartography in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Fresh Perspectives, New Methods (Technology and Change in History), 2008, pp. 241, 262, Plate 5.

Wright, J. K., The Geographical Lore of the Time of the Crusades, pp. 103, 124-125.


The Sawley Map (a.k.a. the World Map of Henry of Mainz), ca.1110 A.D.

oriented with East at the top

The Sawley Map (a.k.a. the World Map of Henry of Mainz), ca.1110 A.D.

oriented with East at the top

Henry of Mainz, world map ca. 1110, detail of Middle East: Delos, barking dog’s head, spiral.
oriented with East at the top

Jerome's map of Asia

Jerome’s Jerusalem