Mappa Mundi by Fra Mauro

Mappa Mundi by Fra Mauro

Venice (Italy) — Around 1450

Fra Mauro created the largest world map of the Middle Ages: 2.4 x 2.4 meters with "breathtaking accuracy" (NASA)

  1. The world map was created ca. 1450 by the Italian monk, accountant, and cartographer Fra Mauro (d. 1464)

  2. Hundreds of illustrations are accompanied by more than 3,000 descriptions in the South-oriented map

  3. NASA, when comparing the map to satellite images, has described it as “stunning” in its accuracy

Mappa Mundi by Fra Mauro

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Mappa Mundi by Fra Mauro

A monument of geography from ca. 1450: the Mappa Mundi by Fra Mauro, an Italian monk, accountant, and cartographer. It marks the transition from biblically-based medieval maps and the new scientifically-developed cartographic works of the Renaissance. This massive 2.4 x 2.4 m map is as detailed as it is beautiful, making it arguably the most important surviving work of medieval cartography. The map was originally produced in two editions, one commissioned by the Signoria of Venice and the other by King Alfonso V of Portugal, of which only the former has survived. Nonetheless, it represents one of the most studied maps in history, and one of the first to realistically represent Earth’s continents, save for the Americas.

Mappa Mundi by Fra Mauro

This world map from ca. 1450 by the Italian monk, accountant, and cartographer Fra Mauro (d. 1464) is “considered to be the greatest memorial of medieval cartography”. With the impressive dimensions of 2.4 x 2.4 meters, it is also the largest surviving medieval European map, which is drawn on parchment and mounted in a gilded wooden frame. The circular planisphere was the most detailed and accurate depiction of the world yet created, marking the transition from biblically-based geography to more scientific methods. It is also one of the first European maps to depict Japan. As such, NASA, when comparing the map to satellite images, has described it as “stunning” in its accuracy. The map was an expensive project which took years to create on the island of Murano near Venice and two editions were made by Fra Mauro’s workshop for the great maritime powers of Venice and Portugal.

An Unusual Mappa Mundi

A mappa mundi is a medieval European map which conceptualizes the world based upon the Christian worldview. As such, Jerusalem is usually found at the center, representing its central spiritual position. Furthermore, the preeminent position of eastern civilizations like China and India in the medieval European mindset is expressed by the East-orientation of the maps, unlike modern maps, which place North at the top. Fra Mauro defied both of these traditions for his hybrid-map: Jerusalem is depicted in its geographic position and the map is South-oriented, probably because both 15th century compasses and contemporary Arab maps were as well. He made use of a range of expensive paints including blue, red, turquoise, brown, green, and black to depict the continents, which are covered with geographic features, cities, and castles. Hundreds of illustrations are then accompanied by more than 3,000 descriptions. The main map is surrounded by four smaller spheres: a Ptolemaic cosmography, a diagram of the four elements, an illustration of the Garden of Eden, and another depiction of Earth as a globe with the poles, Equator, and tropics.

Two Stately Editions

The two originals of the map went to the two leading naval powers of the time. The first was commissioned by the Signoria of Venice and was rediscovered in Murano’s monastery of St. Michael, where Fra Mauro had his studio. The other was commissioned for King Alfonso V of Portugal. It is dated precisely to April 24th, 1459. It was recorded among the treasures of the royal palace of São Jorge Castle until at least 1494, but disappeared something thereafter. Nonetheless, the surviving Venetian manuscript is one of the most-studied historical works of geography.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Mappamondo di Fra Mauro
Fra Mauro map
Weltkarte
Size / Format
1 map / 240.0 × 240.0 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
Around 1450
Style
Language
Illustrations
Hundreds of detailed illustrations
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Mappa Mundi by Fra Mauro – Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Venice, Italy)
Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2015

Mappamondo di Fra Mauro
Editalia – Rome, 2015
Facsimile Editions

#1 Mappamondo di Fra Mauro

Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2015

Publisher: Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2015
Commentary: 1 volume (118 pages) by Piero Falchetta
Language: Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€€€ (over 10,000€
Edition available
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#2 Mappamondo di Fra Mauro

Editalia – Rome, 2015

Publisher: Editalia – Rome, 2015
Commentary: 1 volume (118 pages) by Piero Falchetta
Language: Italian
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete; Half-size facsimile (1:2 facsimile edition ot the original) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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