Jerusalem at the very centre of the World, Bunting’s Map and social construction
“If I do not remember thee,
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”
(Psalms 137: 6)
Jerusalem is at the centre, if not the physical at least the symbolic one, of our World. We know that, in respect of the world’s shape, its “centre” stems from social construction and choices, and not “natural” or physical reasons. One famous map, Bunting’s Cloverleaf Map of the World, is a good example of this socially-constructed centrality.
Heinrich Bunting did know that the World does not look like a clover leaf. But he wanted to go beyond the positivist knowledge of our Globe’s surface, to the one of symbols where the physical is not necessarily the “real” (In this regard we can say that he was a real geographer: a specialist of space who did not only consider positivist space but also socially-constructed ones). Here I argue that those social constructions of centrality, medieval ones, are still effective and very influential in our Weltanschauung today, and are still used for political and social propagandas, notably in what concerns Jerusalem, still regarded as one of the holiest sites on Earth and the epitome of desire of two major civilisations.
Heinrich Bunting and the mapping of Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae
Heinrich Bunting (1545-1606) was born in Hanover, in the Holy Roman Empire. He was a theologian and pastor. And in 1581 he published a guide for Bible readers, the Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae. The three-leaf clover map of the world came to illustrate this book (cf. Image 1). Heinrich Bunting expressed both Christian doctrine and “national” and mystical feelings in his mapping:
1- The arms of Hanover show a three-leaf clover (cf. Image 2). Bunting pays tribute to his native town in the map. The German text above reads “Die ganze Welt in einem Kleberblatt welches ist der Stadt Hannover meines lieben Vaterlandes Wapen” .
2- Bunting did, intentionally, ignore the cartographic positivist rules. By his time there was enough geographical knowledge to assure that the world can by no means look this way (America is on the map). Yet Bunting chose to represent the Raum as Bible readers would perceive it: centred on Jerusalem (In the tradition of T in O Medieval maps, inspired by Isidore of Seville’s). He did understand, apparently, that Raum/space is but a social construction, a sort of locational relations between different actors and agents; and in the space of Bible readers Jerusalem should certainly be at its very heart…
3- The three central “leaves” are the three “Parts” or continents of the Old World, centred on Jerusalem. Today we do know that continents are but mere constructions, and that the Middle East is at the heart of those constructions: on the crossroads between Asia, Europe, and Africa. It seems as if Bunting’s map is a precursor of the current visio mundi on how the World’s divisions have to be made. In this division Jerusalem is at the very centre, it belongs to noone, but to all; it is the connection and the separation of the three Parts of the World, a sort of sacred “public space” for all the Continents.
4- The strong Christian dimension is clear in the three-leaf clover: the Trinity. And in Jerusalem the Golgotha, with its Three Crosses, is visible outside the city, while the city centre would be the Temple (cf. Image 3).
Jerusalem Today: the use of Bunting’s map in the symbolic enhancement of centrality
Today, Bunting’s map is the property of the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem. But a representation of it is used in public space: at the Safra Square (Jaffa Street), in the Jerusalem’s City Hall Compound just outside the walls of the Old City (cf. the map infra), there is a mosaic model of Bunting’s map made by Arman Darian, a renowned ceramic artist (cf. Image 4). A difference can be seen from the original map: the Golgotha has no crosses. Jerusalem misses her Temple in the real world, but has it in Bunting-Darian’s map.
Jerusalem is a city which many desire and want to seize, it is a “metaphorical” centre of the World. In this regard the City Hall represents the centre’s administrative centre (Maybe it is to the Old City what the Golgotha is to the Temple in Bunting’s map?).Jerusalem is a spatial-spiritual “peak” and a focal point of History, when considered by her people; and this view of the world is inscribed/expressed on public space by the ceramic model of Bunting’s map. Our view of the world stems, to a certain extent, from Medieval and Renaissance maps; Bunting’s map in Jerusalem’s public space is but a “reminder” that space is a construction at which the Holy City is the centre.
Why not? The centre is what and where we want it to be.
Jerusalem as an archetype of socially-constructed space
Jerusalem is not the economic or the geometrical centre of our World. Yet its centrality belongs to another order: it is the symbol of a people, of a civilisation, of captivity, of a restoration, of a return. It epitomises the tears, the joys, the hopes, the failures and the successes of the ones who take her as their centre. In this regard Jerusalem is an archetype of socially-constructed space, a space which can be “unreal” or “unuseful” in economic, financial and strategic terms; yet it is at the centre of the world, when taken in a symbolic way, that is, taken as geographical space.
In this geographical space Jerusalem is to be preferred above extreme joy. It is subjective, yes. Yet without subjectivity no space can be constructed, made or even conceived. Is not space appropriation (thus creation) a desire before being an act? Is not desire a great expression of subjectivity?!
 “The whole World is in a clover, which is the coat of arms of my dear Fatherland Hanover.”
Photo and Image Credit: Strange Maps Site, Heraldry of the World.
The Bunting’s Map belongs to the Public Domain.
Cartographic Curiosities, Yale University Collections. URL: http://www.library.yale.edu/MapColl/oldsite/map/curious.html
Davy, Benjamin. 2012. Land Policy: Planning and the spatial consequences of property, Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 276p. (cf. pp. 115-117).
Heraldry of the World. Hannover. URL: http://www.ngw.nl/heraldrywiki/index.php?title=Hannover
Jacobs, Frank. 2007. The Whole World in a Cloverleaf. URL: http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/87-the-whole-world-in-a-cloverleaf
Jewish Virtual Library. Bünting’s Cloverleaf Map. URL: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/1581map.html