Category: Felix Fabri (page 1 of 3)

The Book of the Wanderings of Felix Fabri: Medieval Travel Map

The hardest part about mapping the section of Fabri’s journey I chose on a medieval map is that his journey, in comparison to the Psalter world map as a whole, only occupies a very small geographic area. Within that limited space, the geographical details included on the Psalter world map only vaguely match up with the descriptions Fabri gives in his account, which are fairly accurate to the modern map and the actual geographies he traveled through.

It was easiest to plot Mestre, Italy and Venice, Italy on the medieval map because Italy is still drawn as a peninsula, albeit very circular and consisting mostly just of Rome. Venice is along the northeast coast of Italy, and Mestre a bit inland from Venice, so their relative locations on the medieval map were the most straightforward.

Plotting the locations in the Alps Mountains was complicated because it’s not made clear which mountain range is which on the Psalter world map, so I just had to make an educated guess based on the location of Greece and the assumption that the Dinaric Alps were included on the map. Within the range that I assumed to be the Alps, there wasn’t much space to plot the multiple stops Fabri made while journeying through them, which is both a function of the scale of the map and of the lower importance placed on that part of the world. Generally, plotting most of the stops I chose from Fabri’s journey was difficult because the Psalter world map’s representation of Europe is condensed. The further north the location, such as those in Germany, the harder it was to plot the town because Europe is not given as much space, as the focus is Jerusalem and the Holy Lands as the center of the world.

The orientation of the Psalter world map complicated my plotting of Fabri’s travels on it because most modern maps are oriented with North on the top, while East is up on the Psalter world map. Given theological views of paradise being in the East, this makes sense, as the Psalter world map is religiously based. The orientation of the Psalter map points to the great importance of religion at the time of its creation, whereas the modern map’s orientation reflects the perceived greater importance of northern hemisphere nations as leaders in politics and economics and the history of countries in the northern hemisphere as colonizers of those in the southern hemisphere.

The Book of the Wanderings of Felix Fabri: Medieval Map

Medieval Travel Map (Hereford Mappamundi)


Light blue = Ulm

Light green = Memmingen

Pink = Innspruck

Orange = Balzano

Dark blue = Ad Scalam

Yellow = Bassano

Dark green = Treviso

Purple = Venice

Medieval Travel Map (Writing)

Initially, I had some trouble locating my points on the Hereford Mappamundi because the writing isn’t readable on the map. However, once I found out how the countries were laid out, I was able to approximate where they would’ve most likely landed on the Hereford map. I wasn’t able to include all of the points that I plotted on the modern map. Unfortunately, the points became too close together as Fabri’s route entered Italy to plot on the Hereford Mappamundi which could’ve contributed to some of the differences in the shape of Fabri’s route. The first major difference I noticed between the modern map and the Hereford map was that on the Hereford map, Fabri’s route looks much more direct than it does on the modern map. On the modern map, Fabri’s route is less direct and winds through the mountains. Because of the lack of physical features and details on the Hereford map, it was harder to depict the more specific aspects of Fabri’s journey and the route appears to be an almost perfectly straight line from Ulm to Venice. The Hereford map depicts rivers and lakes, with debatable accuracy, but it doesn’t illustrate any mountain ranges. Considering that nearly half of Fabri’s journey takes place within the Alps between Austria and Italy, the lack of mountains contributes to how different his journey looks on the Hereford map compared to the modern GIS map. The lack of mountains also made it more difficult to illustrate an accurate depiction of Fabri’s route and contributed to how straight the route looks on the Hereford map. Additionally, on the Hereford map, Fabri’s route looks horizontal because East is positioned at the top where North would be on a traditional modern map. On the modern map, Fabri’s journey looks vertical, as if his journey is taking him down the map. However, this is mostly due to each map’s differences in orientation, as the modern map is oriented with North towards the top, unlike the Hereford map.

The Book of the Wanderings of Felix Fabri: Trent

Fabri and his party rode on horses from the village of Nova to Trent on April 21st during the year of his second pilgrimage. They stayed the night and left after Mass and dinner on the 22nd to journey to Persa. In his account of their stay in Trent, Fabri writes about the structure of the city,  in terms of its geography, architecture, and demographics, characteristics of the German people, the religious history of Trent, and the instance of a flutist and singer entertaining his party at supper.

According to Fabri, Trent is “one of those very ancient cities which were founded in these mountains by the Trojans,” and therefore has a rich history (18). The river Adige, which serves as the boundary between Italy and Germany, “runs past its walls,” adding to  its qualifications for being what Fabri calls “in a most beautiful, airy and healthy position” (18). Within the city walls, Fabri notes that Trent is split into an upper city and a lower city “on account of the two races which inhabit it,” with Italians living in the upper city and Germans in the lower (18). Referring to Germans and Italians as races in this section shows that Fabri categorizes people and perceives a difference in their value in accordance with the language they speak or the broad sense of nationality they may adhere to. Fabri distinguishes the Germans and Italians from each other by commenting that “[t]hey are at variance both in language and habits of life, and seldom are at peace with one another; indeed, before our own times the city was often ruined sometimes by the Italians out of hatred for the Germans, and sometimes by the Germans out of hatred for the Italians” (18). From this, we note that language and culture are different between the two groups of people, and that they are as opposed in violence as in nationality. Their equal hatred of the other group, however, is a strong similarity between Germans and Italians in the city of Trent.

In speaking about the presence of Germans in Trent, Fabri highlights the shift in their population over time by noting that “[n]ot many years ago the Germans were but a few strangers in that city; now they are the burghers and rulers of the city,” further predicting that “[the] day will soon come-indeed, has virtually come” when the Duke of Innspruck will add Trent to “his dominions and to Germany” (18).  That Trent can shift from being ‘Italian’ to being ‘German’ so quickly and based on demographics rather than boundaries or territory demonstrates the loose sense of countries, nationality, and borders in the time of Fabri’s travels. Even though he describes the border between Italy and Germany as the river Adige, he has no qualms about absorbing Trent into Germany based on the demographic composition of the city. Fabri muses on why “the number of Germans there increases daily” and “why [the German] race should spread over other people’s countries instead of theirs spreading over [the Germans’],” which he admits that he “[has] never learned” (18). Fabri offers the possibilities that Germans flee Germany “on account of [Germany’s] poverty and sterility” or “on account of the fierceness of the Germans” that drives other peoples out of their own lands, but does not confirm either one, possibly because they go against his view of Germans being superior to all other ‘races’ (18).

Illustrating the religious history of Trent, Fabri writes that in 1475, “the holy child Simeon was martyred by the Jews with great torture” and that “[he himself] beheld [the Jews’] accursed bodies” (19). By labeling the Jews as evil torturers of holy children, Fabri shows his negative view of them. If the situation he writes about is similar to the story of the boy drowning in the cesspool in a Jewish neighborhood in England, it illustrates an inherent bias against Jews and will to blame them without knowing the full story. We would need more information about this occurrence to determine if the situations are similar.

While Fabri and his party were at supper, a flutist and singer entertained them. When his party was unsure whether to pay them or not, as it is a mortal sin “either to give or to receive money in such cases,” they asked Fabri to settle the question, which he did “not without fear” (19). By relying on Fabri, his party asserted his superior knowledge in what is sinful and what is not, although Fabri showed hesitation and an unusual self-doubt when he “searched the writing of learned casuists to see whether [he] had decided rightly” upon returning home (19-20).

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