Medieval Maps – The Sawley Map

The Sawley Map is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the medieval drawing exhibit, “Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages.”

The museum has a post about it on its blog, along with an image of the map. According to the post, the map was “created by a twelfth-century English monk … the first image in a book called the Imago Mundi (Image of the World), a kind of medieval encyclopedia. A rare early example of a detailed world map, the Sawley Map places the Mediterranean Sea at its center, Paradise at the top, and Africa and the British Isles at its edges.”

I sat and studied the map for a few minutes but had a difficult time deciphering the various landmarks. I might have to spend more time looking over it. The larger version of the image posted on the site is extremely clear, but at first glance, it’s challenging to interpret. Might help if I spoke some latin. I did find Rome.

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My life has been pretty simple. I grew up in Alabama and graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor's in Advertising. I have spent about the last ten years in web development. In 1998, a friend of mine and I started a web design company we ran for three or four years before deciding to close it due to the demands of school. Since then, I stayed in the web working with various companies in Alabama. I worked for a brief period with Southern Progress, namely with Southern Living magazine and Health magazine, in their web departments. While there, I also wrote for Southern Living magazine,, and the company's internal newsletter. I write as much as I can. For the last five years, I have been working on my first novel. I am on the third revision now and hope to be finished with this draft by the end of the year. I also write short fiction, though not as frequently as I used to due to the time I spend on the novel. My goal is to have my novel published in the next three years. Other interests include: History (particularly medieval and ancient civlizations), Reading, Foreign Language (I currently speak Spanish but plan to learn as many as I can), Landscape Photography, the outdoors, sports (especially college football), and Travel.

5 thoughts on “Medieval Maps – The Sawley Map”

  1. That map is very fascinating. At first I thought the top would be North, but the more I looked at it, the more it appeared to be east.

    After I printed it out and colored the water blue, I turned it sideways—it actually wasn’t a half bad rendering of the known world! Things are out of proportion, but not as bad as I had thought initially.

    It even has the tower of Babel on the map, and it looks like the Orkney Isles are there, too. The interesting thing is that Paradise looks like it’s right where Japan would be!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. It is fascinating. I see what you’re saying now. I think I need to print it out like you did. Where did you see the Orkney Isles?

  3. Actually I’ve changed my mind about the location of Paradise. I see that there is a river leading to it called the Gangei, and if that’s the Ganges river, then Paradise is the island of Sri Lanka off of India. Or maybe its Australia—the map *is* out of proportion.

    And the islands I guessed were the Orkneys in fact are. When I zoomed in, it says:


    And, yes, it is possible, if I remember right, that this name is related to Tolkien’s “orc”. The island of Orcs! Hah!

    This island looks like a circle just north (relatively so) of Britain and Hibernia. Around this circle are a bunch of smaller circles to denote a group of islands.

    This map is worth hours of fun. It’s like a puzzle.

  4. I see the Orkney’s now, but I can’t make out the names of Sweden or Norway. You’ve been able to decipher a lot more of it that I have. You can definitely kill a lot time looking at this thing.

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