What the Apocalypse Will Look Like (According to a 1486 Manuscript)
These 15th century maps describe the appearance of things after the end of the world.
Humankind has imagined the end of the world for centuries. But the very concept, this hypothetical situation, depends largely on what we mean by “the end,” and then again, by what we mean by “the world.” If we’re speaking only of our own planet, we know that in about 4 billion years our galaxy, the Milky Way, will collide with its neighbor, Andromeda. This will very likely end Earth as we know it. If not, then our planet will disappear when the Sun becomes a red giant, in about 50 billion years. But for a Christian of the Middle Ages, any assumptions of this nature was necessarily connected with what religion called the Apocalypse, and that branch of the theology that studies it; eschatology.
Such a scenario was portrayed and described in innumerable ways by theologians, philosophers, artists, and other scholars who had the general sense that the Apocalypse was very near. This is hardly coincidental if we take into account the numbers of plagues, diseases, wars, and excesses that have characterized humanity throughout history (and on down to the present day). The 15th-century in Europe was no exception. In a society plagued by death and outbreaks, and which had seen the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, the end of the world couldn’t help but seem just around the corner.
Still, at the time, there was a huge market for books from the then nascent publishing industry, and in which the end of the world was described both verbally and visually. Among the dozens of volumes touching on such themes, one stands out for not resembling any other. It’s a volume describing the Apocalypse through maps indexed according to their typology: symbolic, thematic, geographic, etc.
In the map above, for example, is an illustration of a triangle suggesting the emergence of the Antichrist. This event, it was calculated, would happen between 1570 and 1600. The shape of the chart, making a “T,” was known to medieval cartography as an Orbis Terrarum. Such maps were characterized by their highly theological contents. The author here was deeply concerned about the spread of Islam, and thus we see that all the text surrounding the central circle narrates the splendor of the empire, from 639 to 1514.
A second map shows five swords pointing towards the limits of the known world and representing the Islamic armies reaching the very ends of the Earth. The following map thus shows the four horns of the Antichrist.
In this next map, one can see a representation of the final judgment in the upper part and a black eye below symbolizes the abyss that leads to hell.
Written in Latin, the maps were made in Lübeck, Germany, sometime between 1486 and 1488. Today the originals are part of the collection of the Huntington Library in Los Angeles, California. Experts who’ve analyzed them argue that the author was not especially erudite and that his calligraphy is quite poor compared to many others of the period. It’s believed, then, that these maps were destined for a cultural elite, but not to the very pinnacle of that elite. Finally, the texts also reflect the strong anti-Islamic sentiment that permeated medieval Europe and filled both its religious books and other cultural forms.
The compendium of maps includes also a section on astrological medicine and a treatise on geography remarkably advanced for its time and this has attracted the attention of many experts. The maps are interesting for the mental and formal exercise they propose: the visual representation of the symbolic and the religious in apocalyptic cartography exploring all of these deep, sinuous territories.
Images: Open Culture
When ancient rituals became religion
The emergence of religions irreversibly changed the history of humanity. It’s therefore essential to ask when and how did ancient peoples’ rituals become organized systems of thought, each with their
Seven ancient maps of the Americas
A map is not the territory. —Alfred Korzybski Maps are never merely maps. They’re human projections, metaphors in which we find both the geographical and the imaginary. The cases of ghost islands
An artist crochets a perfect skeleton and internal organs
Shanell Papp is a skilled textile and crochet artist. She spent four long months crocheting a life-size skeleton in wool. She then filled it in with the organs of the human body in an act as patient
A musical tribute to maps
A sequence of sounds, rhythms, melodies and silences: music is a most primitive art, the most essential, and the most powerful of all languages. Its capacity is not limited to the (hardly trivial)
The enchantment of 17th-century optics
The sense of sight is perhaps one the imagination’s most prolific masters. That is why humankind has been fascinated and bewitched by optics and their possibilities for centuries. Like the heart, the
Would you found your own micro-nation? These eccentric examples show how easy it can be
Founding a country is, in some ways, a simple task. It is enough to manifest its existence and the motives for creating a new political entity. At least that is what has been demonstrated by the
Wondrous crossings: the galaxy caves of New Zealand
Often, the most extraordinary phenomena are “jealous of themselves” ––and they happen where the human eye cannot enjoy them. However, they can be discovered, and when we do find them we experience a
Think you have strange reading habits? Wait until you've seen how Mcluhan reads
We often forget or neglect to think about the infinite circumstances that are condensed in the acts that we consider habitual. Using a fork to eat, for example, or walking down the street and being
The sky is calling us, a love letter to the cosmos (video)
We once dreamt of open sails and Open seas We once dreamt of new frontiers and New lands Are we still a brave people? We must not forget that the very stars we see nowadays are the same stars and
The sister you always wanted (but made into a crystal chandelier)
Lucas Maassen always wanted to have a sister. And after 36 years he finally procured one, except, as strange as it may sound, in the shape of a chandelier. Maassen, a Dutch designer, asked the