Mapping the Hereford Mappa Mundi

England, 2013-2016

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In January 2013 a team from Factum Arte made a high resolution recording, at the request of the Trustees, of the Hereford Mappa Mundi whose sealed glass cover is only removed once every two years for inspection. The team used the Lucida 3D scanner mounted onto a custom designed structure to provide absolute safety to the map and a firm platform for the highly accurate no-contact surface scanning process, which is done using a low intensity laser light projected onto the object and recoded continuously using black and white video cameras where each frame is then post-processed creating the high resolution three dimensional record. Lucida 3D Scanner has been created and developed by the artist Manuel Franquelo, cofounder of Factum Arte and it has been built and tested in Factum Arte under the supervision of Manuel Franquelo.

Scanning Hereford Mappa Mundi.

The work was completed over the two long days in the controlled environment of Hereford Cathedral's marvellous chained library (one of the few left in Europe with all the original chains in place - a very efficient medieval security system) - a chamber of which houses the Mappa Mundi.

New Lucida 3D scanner in front of the XIII century´s World Map.
(Lucida Scanner: created and developed by the artist Manuel Franquelo, cofounder of Factum Arte Built and tested in Factum Arte under the supervision of Manuel Franquelo)

The Hereford Mappa Mundi is one of the most significant maps in the world which appears in Jerry Brotton's recently published 'A History of the World in Twelve Maps' and has been elegantly and beautifully interpreted by Paul D. A. Harvey in his 'Mappa Mundi. The Hereford World map'. It was drawn and painted on a single vellum sheet (calf skin) towards the end of the CXIII and is attributed to 'Richard of Haldingham or Lafford' (Holdingham and Sleaford in Lincolnshire). The map is 1.58 x 1.33 metres (64" by 52"), the skin is in the shape of an upright open envelope tapered towards the top. The central map is circular, a two dimensional globe, 1.3m (52") in diameter with Jerusalem at its centre, as the medieval church saw the world. East is at the apex, where the Garden of Eden sits on the edge of the world. It is in the form commonly called a T & O - the oceans forming the T internally and forming the O as they surround the land mass.

Laser scanning the surface and relief of the Hereford Map.

The Mappa Mundi was not designed to find a direction but to show the world from a spiritual and human perspective - with sometimes remarkably accurate and sometime misjudged mapping. Europe and Asia are very clear (though their labels are reversed) and strange beasts, scenes from the Bible, imagined tribes, classical mythology and the clearly defined water sources and bodies of water (the red sea is in red ink, oceans green and rivers blue) are mixed with references to landmarks and important sites. There are around 500 drawings including 420 cities and towns, 15 Biblical events, 8 mythological scenes, 32 drawings of people from various places and 33 plants, animals, birds and fabulous creatures. The actual structure and design of the map is similar to others of the period - such as the Psalter Map from 1262 in the British Library and the vast Ebstorf Map from around 1239, but the Mappa Mundi has intrigued scholars with its allusions, illusions and labels which are beautifully rendered.

Complete rendering of the surface of the scanned map.

The data creates a perfect routed impression of the surface of the map. The data has been archived and supplied to the Trustees so that a digital record will be available to future custodians, thus providing an accurate record of the surface as it was in 2013 which becomes the benchmark to analyse and track any changes. The final impression - a white routed map representing the exact surface relief of the map could provide access to this wonderful artefact for the blind and partially sighted; coincidentally the College of the Royal National Institute for the Blind is based in Hereford.
An interactive version of the image created from the data and some explanation of the topography can be found on the Hereford Cathedral website

The facsimile of the map after being installed in Hereford.

In January 2016, three years after the scanning of the Mappa Mundi, a team from Factum Arte, supported by Factum Foundation, returned to the Hereford Cathedral to carry out the second part of this unique documentation project: recording the colour of the map and scanning the surface of the backboard on which it may have been drawn. If we can prove that there is a direct link between the map and the backboard we will hopefully be able to call a conference of medieval and cartographic scholars to discuss where and when the map was made.
The colour of the Mappa Mundi was recorded using composite photography, a process that involves taking hundreds of high resolution macro photos. These individual shots are stitched together and lens distortions are corrected to produce a single gigapixel image of the Mappa Mundi in its current state of conservation. This image will be a valuable source of information for researchers, conservators and the general public.

Gabriel Scarpa recording the colour of Mappa Mundi

The 3D scanning the surface of the backboard was done using the Lucida 3D Scanner. The Lucida system has been evolving since it was first used to record the Mappa Mundi: the overall structure supporting the scanning head is more precise and robust and the software's user interface is more intuitive and easy-to-use. The flat surface of the backboard was recorded with the Lucida, while the carved border and edges were recorded using photogrammetry.

Scanning of the backboard using the Lucida 3D Scanner

The scan of the backboard will hopefully establish a direct relationship between the ‘features’ on the Mappa Mundi and those on the oak boards. There is clear evidence of the compass point in the centre of Jerusalem, the centre of the map. If other points, like the centre of the labyrinth at Knossos in Crete can also be registered it could indicate that the mappa and the backboard belong together. Dendrochronology tests have indicated that the wood from which the backboard is made was from trees that grew in the Hereford area and were cut in 1295 AD.
As part of this research, the 3D and colour data of the map and the 3D data of the backboard will be registered together as a multi-layer digital file; an intuitive way of reading these objects without the need for having access to the original. This information will be re-materialised to create a 1:1 scale, high-resolution facsimile of the Mappa Mundi that will belong to the Cathedral and which could be made available for exhibitions that reveal the importance of the Mappa Mundi.
As the most recent outcomes in the Tutankhamun project have made clear, a great deal of new information can emerge by documenting and inspecting the relief and texture of cultural artifacts. Navigating high-resolution 3D renders of a surface, without the colour, opens possibilities into the understanding and dissemination of cultural objects.

Two important links about the Hereford map and the Foundation's cartographic work, run by two of the most revered figures of the field:
Run by Tony Campbell, former Head of Maps at the BL.
Run by Peter van der Krogt.

Lucida 3D Scanner.
Created and developed by the artist Manuel Franquelo, cofounder of Factum Arte.
Manuel Franquelo: general concept and development in the areas of electronics, mechanics, optics, and software.
Built and tested in Factum Arte by Carlos Bayod, Jorge Cano, Dwight Perry, Nicolás Díez and Manuel Franquelo Jr. under the supervision of Manuel Franquelo.

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