Bulletin 385

October 2014

A Very Urgent Message

Kington Museum may have to close through a lack of sup­port. Run purely by volunteers the museum is struggling to stay alive. Please consider spending just a few hours each week to keep this vital element of the town alive. The comments in the visitors’ book show how much the mu­seum is appreciated. We must keep it going. At present we need a curator, a treasurer and other volunteers. Can you help us? No special knowledge or experience is needed. If you are able to lend a hand, call in and see us, or ring Alan Stoyel.

Mappa Mundi and Chained Library

Talk by Canon Chris Pullin of the Cathedral Chapter

Hereford has an ancient Cathedral, which has undergone a variety of vicissitudes and alterations since its Pre Con­quest foundation, but possibly the most distinctive attrac­tions promoting interest and visits nowadays, are the Chained Library (unique in the Country) and the Mediae­val Mappa Mundi (unique in the World), both recognized by UNESCO.

The Library has mediaeval origins, and for safety, the books were secured by short chains to the cupboards or shelves, but accessible for use on a desk below, and a no­tice at the end identified the position of any particular vol­ume.

Among the large number of venerable and important books, there are ancient manuscript volumes, including a complete set of Anglo Saxon New Testament Gospels, still in use at the Enthronement of a new Bishop, (which surprisingly an early example of recycling, as the vellum used had been previously inscribed, but was scraped clean for reuse).

There are original Editions of printed books by Caxton, a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicles of 1493, illustrated by numerous woodcuts, and quite remarkable for the time, a copy of the “Polyglot Septuagint Bible”, originating in Spain, with versions of the Scriptures in Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin and Greek characters, side by side — imagine trying to ‘set’ that lot by hand — all back to front too!

In spite of the importance, the Library has had a peripa­tetic existence — being upstairs (over the transept or clois­ters) or downstairs, and in My Lady’s Chapel, but now oc­cupies a purpose built edifice, in which every breath is pu­rified.

Of later origins is the Mappa Mundi, a large ‘World Map’ on an animal skin, roughly 5 feet by 4 feet across, mounted on oak boards, shown to originate from the For­est of Dean just before 1300, which suggests it was at Hereford from early on, as details on the map help to date it to the late 1200s — such as the new castles of King Edward in North Wales, and a representation of it appears on the shrine of Bishop Cantiloupe (canonized in 1320).

There are links to Lincoln — a centre of map making, as Cantiloupe’s successor Bishop Swinfield (1283 to 1317) had been Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, and other East­ern England features are accurate delineation of the River Nene and Ouse (which completely changed after 1600 with drainage in the Fens).

A feature well shown which would have been very obvious to Pilgrims to Pre-Reformation Hereford, is Clee Hill, and of course Snowdon — very visible to visitors to St. Winifred’s Well in North Wales.

This Map is essentially a Compendium of Mediaeval Knowledge, belief, and history, spread out over the Conti­nents then known — Europe, Africa and Asia. The ar­rangement follows that of a Latin map — all inside a cir­cle — signi1~ying perfection, with the continents separated by a large T shaped arrangement of the seas and rivers, and directed so that East is at the top, and Jerusalem at the centre. All cities are shown, more or less in proper rela­tion to each other, but the land is all squeezed a bit to fit the circle. Outside the circle represents Eternity, with Heaven and Hell on either side of the drawing of Christ in Glory.

All this is ultimately descended from a decree by Caesar Augustus, that “all the world should be described”, and of course he has a corner to himself with his document. In the opposite corner, a man on horseback sets out, giving a sly wave to a mermaid dangling a mirror.

There are many other sketches, some mythical — satyrs, unicorns, griffins, some realistic — the Bactrian Camel, the ostrich, and in the frozen North — men walking on planks (perhaps that where they got the idea) and of course the Russia bear — so what’s new?

Considering the present interest in the library and the map, it is a bit surprising to realize that the map was not re­corded as being in the Cathedral for 400 years after its ori­gin, and was hidden under some floor boards during the disturbances of the Civil War, only being rescued around 1800, and that Winlde’s detailed description and history of 1842, mentions neither, but we can make up our own minds with a visit on Saturday October 4th.

The Traherne Association

Traherne Day Celebrations at Hereford Cathedral 10th October, 2014.


Friday 17th October 2014

Annual General Meeting Followed by two short talks by local speakers.