Answers

Does a Convert Become a Latin or an Eastern Catholic?
Q: I have a question about the church membership of an adult convert to Catholicism. My grandparents were Greek Melchite Catholics. Their son, my father, drifted away from Catholicism, married a protestant woman, and began attending protestant services. I was … Continue reading → The post Does a Convert Become a Latin or an Eastern Catholic? appeared first on Canon Law Made Easy.
Catholics and Graven Images
It is no secret that Catholics make use of statues in their worship. Many churches have statues of Mary and other saints, and every church should have a crucifix somewhere near the altar. However, doesn’t this violate the Second Commandment? This commandment states: You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of […] The post Catholics and Graven Images appeared first on About Catholics.
What Makes a Baptism Catholic?
Q1: What makes a Catholic baptism Catholic? I’m a lay Roman Catholic who just started working as a hospital chaplain, which means I may be called upon to administer emergency baptisms in some cases.  If I baptize, for example, an … Continue reading → The post What Makes a Baptism Catholic? appeared first on Canon Law Made Easy.
Medieval Maps and Monsters
If Bob Seidensticker, New Atheist author of the Cross Examined blog, knows anything about the Middle Ages, he knows they were bad. According to Seidensticker, this was a period in which “Christianity was in charge” and learning and reason suffered as a result. So when Seidensticker looked at the medieval Hereford Map, he did not like what he saw. In a blog post entitled “When Christianity Was in Charge, This Is What We Got”, Seidensticker made it very clear how disgusted he was with those stupid medieval Christians who created the Hereford Map. For people like Seidensticker, history is divided into “good” and “bad” periods. The “good” ones are where we seem to find elements that we moderns like or approve of, like science, reason, developing technology, exploration, intellectual curiosity, increasing knowledge etc. The “bad” ones are where, apparently, we find less of these elements, but more things like religion, superstition, ignorance, insularity, dogma and things taken on faith. Therefore the Middle Ages have to, by this simple Whiggish formulation, fall into the “bad” category. And the Hereford Map or, more correctly, mappa mundi, is thus a product of one of the “bad” periods and so also a bad thing. The Hereford mappa mundi is not strictly a map, in the modern sense of the world. It is more of a geographical diagram, encoding a range of information in visual and textual form. It is drawn mainly in black ink, with red and gold highlights and uses green or blue for seas and rivers. The entire work is on one large piece of vellum, 158 cms high and 133 cms wide, making it over five feet at its widest point and therefore made of a whole skin of a large calf. Unusually for any medieval map, it carries an inscription that mentions its maker: Let all who have this history, Or shall hear or read or see it, Pray to Jesus in His Divinity, To have pity on Richard of Haldingham and Lafford, Who has made and planned it, To whom joy in heaven be granted “Richard of Haldingham and Lafford” is most likely Richard de Bello, prebend of Lafford in Lincoln Cathedral in around the year 1283, who later became an official of the Bishop of Hereford, and in 1305 was appointed prebend of Norton in Hereford Cathedral. This means the mappa was most likely created in Lincoln by a team of scholars, scribes and illuminators under Richard’s direction, and then found its way to Hereford after his appointment there. It would then have been bequeathed to Hereford Cathedral on his death c. 1326. Note that on the mappa Lincoln is shown as large and important like London, but Hereford is much less prominent. Like most medieval maps, it places Jerusalem symbolically at its centre and is oriented with the east at the top and the north to the left side; meaning Britain is squeezed into the edge of its bottom left quadrant. Despite its diagrammatic style, even a modern viewer can find their way around the mappa once they work out its orientation. But this is a tool for instruction rather than a chart for navigation, so as well as listing 420 cities and towns and marking over 100 rivers, it depicts Biblical events and locations, various animals and plants, historical people and scenes from Classical mythology (a large-scale image of the mappa can be explored in detail here). For most people, even those without any great interest in medieval culture, the Hereford mappa is at least a fascinating artefact – unique in its size and remarkable for its wealth of detailed information and illustrations. But for Seidensticker it is “bizarre”, but also an occasion for a sermon on science and religion. A medieval illumination of a headless Blemmyes. Snarks and Grumpkins Seidensticker acknowledges that a medieval mappa mundi was often not like a modern map: This is not the kind of map we’re used to. There is little attempt at accurate geography. This map wouldn’t serve an explorer or navigator, and its creators didn’t pretend that it would. Using the theme of a world map, medieval cartographers embellished maps like this one to make them into something of an encyclopedia.  He claims the problem here was that “science was in its infancy” and so the information this diagrammatic encyclopedia preserves is, to us, “bizarre”. This is entirely true, but because of his anti-religious biases, Seidensticker puts the blame for this on medieval Christianity. Firstly, he emphasises the silliness of many of the elements in the mappa by comparing it to the surrealism of Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, where Alice reads the nonsensical pseudo-heroic poem “Jabberwocky” and then has some of its terms explained to her by the pedantic but equally nonsensical Humpty Dumpty. Seidensticker sneers: Assuming our interest is the real world rather than Wonderland, the zoology we’re taught by the Mappa Mundi might as well have come from Humpty Dumpty. He then gives us some examples of the ridiculous races and beasts we find on the mappa: hopping Sciapods, with their single huge foot that they also use to shield themselves from the tropical sun, the warlike but headless Blemmyes with their faces in their chests, the dog-headed but otherwise human Cynocephali, and the cave-dwelling Troglodites. All about as “scientific” as the borogroves or mome raths of “Jabberwocky”, to be sure. Then there are mythic beasts like griffins and salamanders and the bonnacon, with its explosive diarrhea. But it gets worse: Even actual animals are misunderstood. The map reports, “The Lynx sees through walls and urinates a black stone.” Our poor benighted ancestors cannot get the most fundamental things straight. So Jerusalem is placed at the geographical centre of the world, the locations of Biblical events are portrayed and myth and history are hopelessly muddled: We see Jason’s Golden Fleece and the Labyrinth where Theseus killed the Minotaur, but we also see the camp of Alexander the Great. What on earth were these people thinking? Well, according to Seidensticker, the problem was that they were not thinking. And this was because of the stranglehold Christianity had on their poor befuddled minds: Christianity has been given a chance at understanding reality, and this is what it gave us. When Christianity was in charge, the world was populated by mystical creatures, we had little besides superstition to explain the caprices of nature, and natural disasters were signs of God’s anger. Of course, some of Seidensticker’s readers might pause there and ask exactly what the mystical creatures have to do with Christianity. The Biblical events and places found on the map clearly do derive from Christian holy writ, obviously, but where is the connection between Blemmyes and Christianity? If the Cynocephali and the salamander are not from the Bible, where did the makers of the mappa get their bizarre and unscientific information from? Medieval illumination of monstrous races. The Authority of Ancient Authorities The answer is that they got their information from the scientific works of the Greeks and Romans. All of the races and beasts on the Hereford mappa that Seidensticker finds so ludicrous can be found in the pages of the largest and most comprehensive scientific work available in the Middle Ages – the Naturalis Historia by Pliny the Elder. Gaius Plinius Secundus (23–79 AD) had a military and then political career, before famously dying while trying to observe the eruption of Vesuvius which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. He wrote a number of books, ranging from one on the use of missile weapons by cavalry to a 20 book history of the Roman wars in Germania, which sadly does not survive. But he is best remembered for the Naturalis Historia: a massive 37 book encyclopaedia summarising a wide range of Greek and Roman authors on astronomy, mathematics, geography, ethnography, anthropology, human physiology, zoology, botany, agriculture, horticulture and much more. Pliny himself tells us that no-one before him had undertaken such a comprehensive catalogue of ancient knowledge of the physical world, and his work remains one of the most substantial surviving ancient texts and a remarkable source of information about ancient proto-science that draws on over 400 earliest sources, most of which are now lost. It was even more invaluable in the Middle Ages, given that it was one of the most extensive repositories of the wisdom of the ancients to survive the wreckage of the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The evidence of surviving medieval manuscripts of the Naturalis shows what a vital source it was to a culture that was forced to scavenge in a few surviving works for lost information from the “authorities” of a bygone age. Pliny drew on other, earlier works and cited and quoted them extensively. A careful medieval scholar would also have found elements of the information he gives in other surviving ancient works – something that would have bolstered the authority of Pliny still further. And much of the other information in the Naturalis certainly seemed to be based on sound reasoning and observation. So Naturalis II.21 gives the reader a carefully reasoned calculation of the size of the observable cosmos, out to the sphere of fixed stars. Similarly, Naturalis II.10 gives a logical explanation for how and why eclipses of the sun and moon occur when they do, drawing on observations and citing “the sagacity of Hipparchus” as an authority on the matter. So, given both the great creedence given to all ancient writers by their medieval descendants and this extensive, rational and authoritative material making up the bulk of the book, a medieval scholar would have little reason to question Pliny when he turns to the issue of the various forms races take in far off lands to the east. Here is Pliny on the Sciapods, for example: He speaks also of another race of men, who are known as Monocoli, who have only one leg, but are able to leap with surprising agility. The same people are also called Sciapodæ, because they are in the habit of lying on their backs, during the time of the extreme heat, and protect themselves from the sun by the shade of their feet. (Naturalis VII.2 ) Pliny is equally categorical about the Blemmyes: The Blemmyæ are said to have no heads, their mouths and eyes being seated in their breasts.  (Naturalis, V.8) And the dog-headed Cynocepahli: On many of the mountains again, there is a tribe of men who have the heads of dogs, and clothe themselves with the skins of wild beasts. Instead of speaking, they bark; and, furnished with claws, they live by hunting and catching birds. According to the story, as given by Ctesias, the number of these people is more than a hundred and twenty thousand.(Naturalis VII.2 ) Pliny also mentions the Troglodites several times (e.g. Naturalis V.8 and, again, VII.2), though the Herefod mappa‘s details that they are “very swift; they live in caves, eat snakes and catch wild animals by jumping on them” comes from, another ancient authority: The Garamantes hunt the Ethiopian hole-men, or troglodytes, in four-horse chariots, for these troglodytes are exceedingly swift of foot—more so than any people of whom we have any information. They eat snakes and lizards and other reptiles and speak a language like no other, but squeak like bats.(Herodotus, Histories, IV.183) The mythic creatures that Seidensticker finds so silly can also be found in Pliny. Here is his bonnacon: In Pæonia, it is said, there is a wild animal known as the bonasus;4 it has the mane of the horse, but is, in other respects, like the bull, with horns, however, so much bent inwards upon each other, as to be of no use for the purposes of combat. It has therefore to depend upon its flight, and, while in the act of flying, it sends forth its excrements, sometimes to a distance of even three jugera; the contact of which burns those who pursue the animal, just like a kind of fire.(Naturalis VIII.16) And if our early fourteenth century medieval reader found that hard to believe, he could also have found the bonnacon described in Pliny’s source, Aristotle’s History of Animals (B. ix. c. 45), available in the Latin translation from its Arabic version by Michael Scot in the early thirteenth century. The remarkable quality of lynx urine also come from Pliny: The urine of the lynx, in the countries3 where that animal is produced, either becomes crystallized, or else hardens into a precious stone, resembling the carbuncle, and which shines like tire. This is called lyncurium; and hence it is, that many persons believe that this is the way in which amber is produced. The lynx, being well aware of this property, envies us the possession of its urine, and therefore buries it in the earth; by this, however, it becomes solid all the sooner.(Naturalis VIII.57) So our fourteenth century reader of Pliny, like the creator of the Hereford mappa, would actually have little reason to question what Pliny was telling him. Not only were these references to marvellous races and beasts in a book alongside highly rational and observation-based informaton about astronomy and natural phenomena, much of which our reader could check for themselves, but Pliny also liberally cited other, even more ancient authorities, including several in the passages in question. Further, if our reader was well-studied (note that the Hereford mappa‘s designer, Richard de Bello, would have had access to Lincoln Cathedral’s famously extensive medieval library), he could read much the same information in other ancient sources, including such esteemed authorities as Herodotus, Aristotle and Solinus. In other words, the things on the mappa that Seidensticker finds so ludicrous and unscientific and blames on the ignorance of the Church come directly from the best information available at the time – that of the enitirely non-Christian and supposedly rational Greeks and Romans. To a medieval scholar, these ancient authorities were to be held in high esteem and treated as almost as high an authority as the Bible. But they did not go unquestioned and, as the Middle Ages proceeded, some of what Pliny and others said came to be corrected by direct observation. Medieval travellers. Medieval Exploration The Greeks had contact with the far east in the Hellenic Era, thanks to the conquests of Alexander, and a Greco-Bactrian Kingdom in what is now northern Afghanistan survived into the early first century AD. On the whole, however, ancient Greek and Roman information about India and China was second or third hand – resulting in the rather garbled information we find in Pliny and other ancient sources, whereby Indian people carrying parasols become Sciapods shielding themselves from the sun with their giant single feet etc. The Romans were a market for luxury goods like silk from China but this came mostly via a series of intermediaries. The Romans did trade directly with India by sea once they had conquered Egypt and opened a maritime route via the Red Sea, and the Roman Empire was a good market for spices, exotic animals and luxury goods like coral. There are several references to Indian embassies to the Roman emperors, but none of embassies or exploration in the other direction. Overall, the ancients were not overly curious about the “barbarian” lands far to the east. This situation changed in the later medieval period, when the Mongol Empire united or at least connected large swathes of central Asia and China, opening up a much more direct route east from medieval European enclaves on the Black Sea all the way to Beijing and beyond. The result was a medieval age of overland exploration that was the precursor to the later maritime exploration that led to the Early Modern expansion of Europe into new lands. J.R.S Phillips’ The Medieval Expansion of Europe details the remarkable period between 1000 and 1500 which saw a far greater curiosity about the world beyond Europe by medieval explorers. Traders, missionaries and diplomats ventured to China, re-opened the sea routes to India and began to explore the coasts of Africa. Papal emissaries sent to the courts of the Mongol khans failed in their mission to convert the Mongol leaders, but they made enough converts that by 1305 – around the time the Hereford mappa was created – the Franciscan John of Montecorvino was able to write back to the Pope to report the conversion of 5000 people, the building of a church in Beijing with a bell tower and three bells and the translation of the New Testament and Psalms into Mongolian. In 1307 Pope Clement V recognised his achievements by making him the first Catholic Archbishop of Beijing and sending him six more Franciscans who had been consecrated as bishops (though only three survived the hazardous journey east). Religious zeal was one motivation for these perilous journeys, but riches were another. Medieval Europe had a huge appetite for eastern luxury goods and central European silver mines opened up in the medieval period meant the westerners had the cash to trade for them. Goods such as silk and, especially, spices were easily transportable and – despite the immense distances and dangers the journeys entailed – gave an extremely high return on investment. So medieval Europeans increasingly chose to cut out the middle men and trade directly with the Mongols, China and the Indies. The most famous of these medieval trading explorers was Marco Polo, but he was far from the first. He had been preceeded by his father and his uncle, the Venetian brothers Niccolo and Maffeo. Genoese merchants established themselves at Tabriz in what is now northern Iran and traded across the Caspian Sea and in 1291 the papal emissary John of Montecorvino was accompanied by an Italian merchant, Peter of Lucalongo, whose interests seem to have been less than religious. Trade with and travel to the far east appears to have been a family tradition for many of these merchants. In 1264 Pietro Vilioni made his will in Tabriz. Seventy-eight years later, in 1342, Catherine Vilioni – a likely relative of Pietro – was buried in Yangzhou alongside her father Domenico Vilioni and her brother Antonio was also buried nearby two years later. So here we seem to see perhaps three generations of Italians who had been trading in the far east for almost a century and evidence of a European community in eastern China well established enough to have unmarried women with them. Medieval Europeans went further afield still. Another Franciscan missionary, the Italian Ordoric of Pordenone, was accompanied by an Irish friar James of Hibernia on an epic journey in around 1320. They travelled first to Iran and then by sea to India and Sri Lanka and then via Sumatra, Java and Borneo before sailing on north to China. In 1292 Marco Polo and his father and uncle had made much the same journey in reverse, accompanying a Mongol princess to Iran via Java, Sumatra and Sri Lanka. Accounts of these journeys were both informed by and conflated with ancient information about these eastern lands found in writers like Solinus, Pliny and Herodotus. As a result, Marco Polo’s book on his journeys is as full of references to fabulous beasts and races as they are to direct observations of genuine eastern marvels like paper money and burning oil fields. But these medieval travellers were far from credulous and were happy to correct the ancients when they saw they were wrong. John of Marignolli was another Papal emissary to the Mongol khans who, in 1348, returned to Europe on the sea route via Java. Here he noted that he had clearly passed below the equator and concluded that the ancient Greek and Roman writers had been wrong when they had declared the equator too hot for habitation and said the tropical zone around it was therefore impassable. More relevantly, he was equally sceptical and dismissive about the monstrous races described by Pliny and other learned ancients: The truth is that no such people do exist as nations, though there may be an individual monster here and there. Nor is there any people at all such as has been invented, who have but one foot which they use to shade themselves withal. But as all the Indians commonly go naked, they are in the habit of carrying a thing like a little tent-roof on a cane handle, which they open out at will as a protection against sun or rain. This they call a chatyr; I brought one to Florence with me. And this it is which the poets have converted into a foot. So here we have a medieval churchman, a Papal emissary no less, contradicting Greek and Roman writers via direct observation and bringing home evidence that they had been wrong. So much for the wicked credulity of the medieval Church. No Greek or Roman writer that I can find expresses anything but unquestioning belief in the monstrous races, but John of Marignolli was not alone in doing so among the medieval explorers. Yet another Francisan missionary to the khans, William of Rubruck, was sent on a mission to the Great Khan by Kind Louis IX of France in 1248. He travelled via Constantinople and the Crimea first to the court of Batu Khan on the Volga and then on to the court of the Great Khan Möngke at Karakorum. Rubruck was a good observer and a sceptical inquirer and was careful to ask questions and to not take ancient lore or local folktales as fact. While in Karakorum he asked about the monstrous races found in Pliny and later ancient writers: [I] made inquiries about the monsters or human monstrosities of which Isidore and Solinus speak. They told me they had never seen such things, which makes me wonder very much if there is any truth in the story. The 1305 letter to the Pope by John of Montecorvino mentioned above also contains an account of his travels in India and includes a further expression of scepticism about the ancients’ claims of monsters and strange races: As regards men of a marvellous kind, to wit, men of a different make to the rest of us, and as regards animals of a like description, and as regards a Terrestial Paradise, much have I asked and sought, but nothing have I been able to discover. So while Seidensticker, in his wilful and self-imposed ignorance of the medieval period, portrays the monsters and beasts of the Hereford mappa as, somehow, the result of Christian stupidity and credulousness, we can see they actually derive from the non-Christian and supposedly far more rational Greeks and Romans. While those Greeks and Romans repeated their stories without much sign of scepticism, it was the travels of the rather more curious medieval explorers that began to call these creatures into question. And far from it being the Church that somehow restricted any questioning of belief in these creatures, it was medieval churchmen who fact-checked Pliny and the ancients as far as they could and, as a result, concluded the ancients were often wrong. So who were the credulous believers who lived unquestioning in a “world was populated by Sciapods, Blemmyes, and bonnacons” here? Not the medievals. Yet again, ideologically-driven ignorance by another New Atheist has resulted in pseudo historical garbage delivered with all the vast assurance of the smugly clueless. Portolan chart of Italy Medieval Maps and Charts Of course, it is not just the monsters and mythic beasts that attract Seidensticker’s modern scorn – there is also the matter of the mappa‘s silly cartography. He writes: As with all mappae mundi, this one puts Jerusalem in the center. It locates places of important biblical events such as the Tower of Babel, the Garden of Eden, the route of the Exodus, and Sodom and Gomorrah. And goes on to note, as already quoted, that on the mappa “mythology and history are mixed without distinction”. All this is more evidence, for him, that these ridiculous elements are also thanks, somehow, to Christianity being “in charge”. But this is a document that is serving more than one purpose. Close analysis of the mappa shows that the monstrous races and beasts depicted tend to be at the extremes or the more remote regions of the inhabited world. So the Sciapods are in the far east, the Blemmyes and Troglodites are in furthest Africa and the only strange race depicted in Europe are the dog-headed Cynocephali, depicted in the far off Arctic. Scott D. Westrem notes this is in keeping with ancient and medieval conceptions of how geography affects physiology: As one approached the edges of the earth’s landmass and encountered increasing cold and aridity or heat and moisture, one inevitably came across people who looked or behaved in extreme ways. The idea is discussed especially in geographies written during the 1200s, such as Thomas of Cantimpré’s Liber de natura rerum (1237/1240). (Scott D. Westram, “Making a Mappamundi: The Hereford Map”, Terrae Incognitae: The Journal of the Society for the History of Discoveries, 34, 2002,) The nearer parts of Asia and Africa, by contrast, are the ones that tend to depict Biblical and ancient historical themes in the mappa‘s scheme. And Europe is largely devoted to geographical detail, with far more cities, rivers and ports depicted and with much greater accuracy, for obvious reasons. That Jerusalem is depicted in the centre of the inhabited world is is obviously symbolic and theological, though not completely nonsensical. All maps are projections of a globe onto a plane (and Richard de Bello and his team definitely understood the world to be a globe – see The Great Myths 1: The Medieval Flat Earth). This means any map maker has to choose a point for the “centre” of their projection. Modern maps, of course, have the equator as their latitudinal axis, but which continent tends to be put in the centre of the longitudinal axis depends on where the map is made. Seidensticker, as an American, is probably used to maps centred on the Americas. British and European maps tend to have Europe and Africa at their centre. And as an Australian I have grown up with Australia at the centre of maps and as a child found that British and American maps looked slightly odd as a result. Then, as now, it was all a matter of perspective. The ancient and Biblical elements are clearly meant to be instructive, not purely geographical. Obviously the mappa‘s makers did not believe there still was a labyrinth on Crete or that the Tower of Babel still stood – these were depicted to illustrate history. Richard de Bello’s dedicatory inscription even refers to the mappa as “this history”; on at least one level the diagram is supposed to depict time as well as space. As for “mythology and history [being] mixed without distinction”, for the mappa‘s makers and for their various ancient and medieval sources, there was no such distinction. For Pliny and Solinus as well as Isiodore and Orosius, Jason was as historical as Alexander and Theseus as real as Augustus, all of whom can be found on the Hereford mappa. Seidensticker is imposing anachronistic ideas on pre-modern conceptions of time and history. But symbolism, history and bestiaries aside, what about the mappa‘s geography? Seidensticker says “this map wouldn’t serve an explorer or navigator”, but it was not designed to. After all, a wall map a metre and half tall and almost as wide would not be very practical for either. As a diagrammatic map, it was more schematic than truly cartographic. So someone looking at it on the wall in Hereford would not be able to plan a trip from London to Paris with it, at least not with much accuracy. But they would know what sequence of major ports and towns they would pass through and where the Seine was in relation to the Loire. This means that Seidensticker’s scorn for the mappa‘s cartography is something like someone in the future looking the famous schematic map of London’s tube system and concluding twenty-first century people did not know the real geography of London. As it happened, in the centuries before and after the creation of the Hereford mappa, medieval people had in fact learned how to create navigational charts of remarkable accuracy. Exactly when they began to do this is unclear, but from the thirteenth century onwards a new kind of map called a portolan chart began to appear. These were naviational charts for sailors, so their geography of inland areas ranges from sketchy to completely blank. But the remarkable thing about them is the detail and accuracy of their depictions of coastlines and ports. A portolan chart worked by depicting “windrose lines” radiating from compass roses at various points on the chart, representing “lines of bearing” according to the sixteen points of the Mariner’s compass. Used with the pilots’ notes in an accompanying periplus manuscript, listing ports and coastal fatures and the sailing distance between them, a navigator could use the chart and his compass to navigate with a high degree of accuracy. A mid-fourteenth century portolan chart. These charts seem to have evolved out of practical navigational lore in the Mediterranean and so only work across smaller stretches of water, given that their projection is flat and so does not take into account the curvature of the earth. But within those limits their accuracy is so startling that at least one researcher, Dutch geodetic scientist Roelof Nicolai, has come to the conclusion that they are simply “too accurate to be medieval” and posits that they are based on lost ancient projections similar to that of Gerardus Mercator in the sixteenth century. Actual historians of cartography, however, reject Nicolai’s hypothesis and can find plenty of evidence that the portolans did indeed develop in the Middle Ages. Mathematical analysis by John Hessler, curator at the Library of Congress, has shown how medieval navigators created these charts using the (to them) relatively new Mariner’s compass, demonstrating that small but consistent errors in portolan charts can be traced to the fact medieval chart makers did not correct for the difference between magnetic north and true north. Portolan charts proved so useful that, as medieval explorers began to venture beyond the Mediterranean, discovered the Azores and the Canaries and then explored the west coast of Africa and beyond, they created portolan charts of these new regions as well. It was only with the discovery of the Americas and the beginning of ocean voyaging that the limits of these charts forced cartographers to find new ways to project geographical information in a way that could be used by navigators and Mercator’s Projection solved this problem for open ocean travel. Even then, portolan charts and variants on them continued to be used for sailing in the Caribbean and East Indies for centuries. Because they worked. So while the Hereford mappa looks primitive and inaccurate when judged as a navigational map, this is because it is not one. It is something else. And far from representing the poverty of medieval cartography, it existed alongside navigational charts of remarkable sophistication. Medieval T-O maps like the Hereford example are projected onto a circle for symbolic reasons, but about 250 years before its time the Anglo-Saxon Cotton Map shows people were capable of a rectangular projection that did not distort the geography the way a T-O mappa does. A century later the Moroccan geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi worked with European scholars at the court of Roger II of Sicily to produce the Tabula Rogeriana, which is even more accurate. By the time the Catalan Atlas was produced in the mid fourteenth cenury, medieval cartographers were combining portolan charts with a depiction of the whole known world and the symbolic and historical details found on the mappae. Scott Westram notes that the guide book the makers of mappae like the Hereford example drew on, the twelfth century Expositio mappe mundi, was most likely written by Roger of Howden, a Yorkshire cleric who accompanied Richard I on the Third Crusade. Roger was also the author of two important medieval navigational guides, De viis maris and Liber nautarum, which means the mappae were not as divorced from navigation and practical geography as many scholars have presumed. Westram concludes wryly that “thus the only thing really monstrous about the Hereford Map, perhaps, is the way it and its making have been misunderstood and expected to conform to modern taste”. And Seidensticker is definitely guilty of trying to get the Hereford mappa to conform to his taste and finding it distasteful when it did not. Because of his ignorance of history generally and medieval history in particular, he has come to conclusions about the mappa driven almost entirely by his prejudices rather any detailed understanding. He assumes, wrongly, that its monsters and mythic beasts are somehow a product of the ignorance imposed by the medieval Church, when in fact they are drawn almost totally from ancient non-Christian sources like Pliny and Solinus. He thinks the Church stifled real scientific inquiry, when it was in fact the ancients who accepted these mythic details unquestioningly and, by contrast, it was far-travelling medieval churchmen who used reason, evidence and observation to question them. And he thinks the Hereford mappa shows medieval geography and cartography was hopelessly primitive, when in fact it existed alongside an increasingly sophisticated tradition that was eventually to lead to modern cartography. The main ignorance and irrationality on display here is not that of Richard de Bello and his fellow medieval clergy, but a profoundly and wilfully ignorant New Atheist bigot, who scorns things he simply does not understand out of irrational prejudice. We atheists need to stop doing that. Further Reading P.D.A. Harvey, Mappa Mundi: The Hereford World Map (British Library Studies in Medieval Culture) (Toronto, 1996) John Larner, Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World (Yale, 1999) J.R.S Phillips, The Medieval Expansion of Europe (Oxford, 1988) Scott D. Westram, “Making a Mappamundi: The Hereford Map”, Terrae Incognitae: The Journal of the Society for the History of Discoveries, 34, 2002 Westram’s article and two other useful analyses of the Hereford mappa, its context and its production, can also be found online here. The post Medieval Maps and Monsters appeared first on History for Atheists.
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Short Video Answer by Fr.%20Bjorn
Can the Pastor Set a Minimum Age for Baptism?
Q:  Canonically speaking, may the pastor/parish set a minimum age of 4 months old for the baptism of an infant?  If not, what steps should be taken by parents who want their child baptized before that age?  We have a … Continue reading → The post Can the Pastor Set a Minimum Age for Baptism? appeared first on Canon Law Made Easy.