Author: hughessa (Page 1 of 2)

Margery Kempe Medieval Travel Map Reflection

When I transferred my modern map onto the Hereford Mappamundi, there were many noticeable differences between the two maps. Firstly, the modern map showed accurate terrain and distances between locations, making it easier to understand how long it would take to travel from place to place. The medieval map is a T-O map so it is oriented with Asia at the top. There is no concept of true distance on the medieval map. Since the continents are not accurate in shape or size, the locations Margery traveled to are more abstract and you have to estimate where they would be. There is also a more detail about people that Margery may encounter on her journey, but no details on the terrain. The modern map has lines of latitude and longitude, making it easy to plot points accurately. Additionally, the modern map has many more detailed locations on it whereas the medieval map has set locations. To plot all of the points takes some estimation when the cities are not on the map.

Additionally, on the medieval map is oriented with north to the left and Jerusalem at the center of the map. The modern map which I detailed Margery’s journey on doesn’t have a center because the viewer can orient the map however they wish with the digital viewing technology. Although, it is worth pointing out that most modern maps have Europe at the center- indicating a Euro-centric ideology because Europe is centered in the middle. Similarly, for the Medieval map, Jerusalem is in the center of the map. Clearly, Jerusalem is oriented as the center of the world, emphasizing the importance of Jerusalem in the Christian World. The medieval map also includes other religious locations like the Garden of Eden, located at the very top of the map, clearly indicating that this map was drawn with Christianity as the focus. The modern map, however, is geographically accurate, with no religious motivations at all.

The modern map is in English, making it very easy to locate the ten locations. However, the medieval map is in Norman French and the writing is barely decipherable. Even if I could see the writing, I wouldn’t be able to understand the language. I used the Hereford Map website to help me place my initial locations (Rome, Jerusalem, and Venice). I then estimated where the other locations would be based on a modern map, estimating proximity and location.

The Hereford Mappamundi would be virtually useless to a traveler like Margery, unlike the modern map. The medieval map offers no real references for time and distance, and is not even an accurate representation of the shapes and and continents. Actually using a map like the Hereford map would lead to a very confusing journey, because there is no indication of distance and terrain. Traveling with a map, or even looking at it before the journey, would offer very little, if any, insight into how long and what the journey would look like. Additionally, the Mediterranean is incredibly inaccurate, making it impossible to plan for a sea voyage.

The Book of Margery Kempe: Bologna

Before Margery arrives in Jerusalem, she arrives in Bologna, Italy. On her way to Bologna, she comments on how nice some people were to her, sometimes allowing her to sleep in their own bed for “God’s love” (Kempe 101). She also comments on how the Lord granted her great spiritual comfort and guidance on her journey, saying, “And so God brought her on her way until she came to Bologna” (Kempe 101). She finds her travel companions who had previously abandoned her in Bologna as well. They were amazed that she had gotten to Bologna before they did and one of them asked her to rejoin the party, which she did, after agreeing to the conditions to not talk of the Gospel and to “sit and make merry” at meals (Kempe 101). There are not too many details about her stop in Bologna, so it could be assumed that they were only there for food and rest. She and her friends move on to Venice quite quickly, without much other detail. The most significant thing that happens in Bologna is that Margery gets to travel with her companions again, with the agreement that she must stop acting out. Does she follow through with her agreement? No. Not very long after, she gets abandoned again for not following through with her promise.

Margery continues to insist and depend on the presence of God in her life, attributing all of her successes to him and even saying that He is the reason that people were so nice to her on her travel to Bologna. Her devotion to God seems to be bother her downfall and her triumph. When she is judged for her extreme devotion, she reassures herself that God tells her that she is doing the right thing and that she will go to heaven. When something goes well in her travels, she gives credit to God. She implies that God himself guides her to Bologna where she is reunited with her former travel companions. When she says, “God brought her on her way” it almost seems as if God is pulling her along, or carrying her to her destinations. This image of God carrying Margery to her destinations is extremely fitting and makes a lot of sense, given what we already know about Margery. She believes that, in essence, she can do no wrong because God is guiding her. Anything that happens, good or bad, is God’s will. I can see how frustrating this would be to travel with. Traveling was incredibly dangerous to begin. To add a travel companion who would not be afraid to make any sort of mistake because regardless of the outcome she would declare it God’s will would be incredibly worrisome for a group of travelers who are concerned for their safety on their journey. Not only would she be a nuisance to travel with, she could potentially be a hazard. I do wonder how she keeps getting re-accepted into her travel groups who abandon her. She is so annoying and dangerous to travel with that I wonder why they would risk accepting her back into their group. Maybe other Christians in the group find her annoying, but also believe in the importance of the pilgrimage and want to help her regardless.

The Book of Margery Kempe: Jerusalem

When Margery Kempe finally made it to Jerusalem, she is overcome with joy. She, “arrived on an ass- she thanked God with all her heart, praying him for his mercy that, just as he had brought her to see this earthly city of Jerusalem, he would grant her grace to see the blissful city of Jerusalem above, the city of heaven” (Kempe 103). She nearly fell off of the donkey she was riding because she was so overcome with how the Lord had blessed her soul.  She visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the place of the Lord’s Passion (The Mount of Calvary). Again, Margery was so moved by the Lord’s compassion that she wept and wailed as if she felt as though she should have suffered too. She received communion at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and saw the grave where Mary was buried. She says the Our Lady spoke to her soul, reassuring her that she will receive more grace than she will know what to do with from Jesus and people will be in awe of her. She jumps around a lot in this section, talks about crying in Rome and England, before returning back to her story about her time in Jerusalem. She compares and contrasts her crying in Jerusalem to her crying in these other places. Margery then continued to Bethlehem where her pilgrimage continued.

Margery finally makes it to Jerusalem! After enduring so many hardships of being abandoned several times and falling ill, Margery arrives in Jerusalem. She is over joyed and amazed to be there and continues her crying and wailing at each site she visits. Arguably, this is one of the most important moments for Margery because she is so devout. Witnessing the places like the place of the Lord’s passion and the Virgin Mary’s burial site is incredibly moving and overwhelming for her. Margery writes a lot about how what she is doing and justifies it by saying that she will see make it to heaven. Ever time she is abandoned throughout her journey or gets judged by others for her wailing, she justifies it by saying that they don’t know that she knows and that she will go to heaven after she dies. This is reinforced by her supposed conversation with Mary while she is at Mary’s burial site when Mary tells her that she will be blessed with grace and that she will see the “blissful city of Jerusalem above, the city of heaven.” This is very revealing of Margery’s goal- to get to heaven. She is only concerned with where her soul will go after she dies that she doesn’t care what other people think of her. She seems to think that everyone else is lesser than her because they don’t understand. This is why she insists on eating alone and constantly wailing. The public display of devotion, she seems certain, will guarantee her  a spot in heaven. This pilgrimage to Jerusalem is yet another obvious and public action of devotion, proving her piety over and over again.

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