Library debuts Medieval map with panel discussion

The O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library recently acquired a facsimile of the largest medieval map known to exist. Professors from multiple university departments came together Tuesday to talk about the “Hereford Mappa Mundi.”

Library Director Dan Gjelten said the event held in the Leather Room was a great academic moment for the university to come together.

“One of the greatest parts about working on a university campus is being surrounded by smart people, and to have an opportunity for them to come together outside of their normal teaching routine to share ideas is great,” Gjelten said.

The library hosted a viewing and panel discussion on the map, which John O’Shaughnessy, St. Thomas benefactor I.A. O’Shaughnessy’s grandson, donated to the university.

The panel included Bob Werner of the geography department, Ken Snyder of the school of divinity, Shelly Nordtorp-Madson of the art history department, Martin Warren of the English department and Ann Brodeur of the history department. Each person gave a brief presentation on the map, giving the audience a well rounded basis of the map.

Junior Beth Anne Card said she enjoyed the wide array of perspectives provided at the discussion.

“The event was really cool in terms that it incorporated five different terms on the map. We got to learn about the history as well as the theological implications, and also the geography and other aspects, so that was really cool,” Card said.

The map provided many interesting talking points for the professors. Made out of deerskin, the map places Jerusalem at the center of the world, with what’s considered east now, at the top of the map.

“The purpose of this map is not navigational,” Werner said.

Brodeur later explained the real purpose for the map through the eyes of people living in the medieval age.

“It maps out places on the globe where you can meet the divine … where time and space collapse,” Brodeur said.

There were snacks and time for questions after the panel discussion for the students and faculty who attended.

Card thought that having the map and panel easily available to students was a great benefit.

“It offers an opportunity to see it at your convenience, and offers a lot of important themes that are important for students to know on an overall educational basis,” Card said.

Alex Goering can be reached at

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