Europa Prima: the centre between a head, a heart, and a hand!

Europa Prima Pars Terrae, 1581, Hanover, by Heinrich Bunting

“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:”

(Revelation 12:1)

We have already analysed one of the maps made by the Reform theologian Heinrich Bunting (1545-1606), The World  at the Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae, and in which the cartographer shows the world as a clover map (a tribute to his native city, Honever) and then he puts Jerusalem at its very centre (Find the whole article here: Jerusalem at the very centre of the World, Bunting’s Map and social construction.)
This map, also made by Bunting, for the Itinerarium, is different: it is again “geographical space”: space as understood and wanted by human beings, subjectively and after their own interests. This map is more political: it is Europe read by the Habsburgs, then kings of Spain and Holy Roman Emperors. Where is the centre and how is it represented?


Europa Prima Pars Terrae, a Habsburgian political reading of Europe

This map is named Europa Prima Pars Terrae in forma Virginis, made in Hanover, 1581 (or 1588). Europe is a body politic or, of course, the Res publica Christiana. Spain is clearly the head of the continent’s political system: the “thinking member” of it. And, inside Spain, this centrality is dwelling, according to the map, in Castile, Aragon and Navarra being peripheries of the head. Then Bohemia is in the placement of the heart: the continent “beats” from Bohemia. For the rest France is a “chest”; Italy is the right hand; and interestingly the British Isles and Scandinavia are “out of place”: they float somewhere in the seas around Europe, but are not a “real” part of it, or maybe a “flag”, a banner in the hands of Queen Europe.

Europa Prima Pars Terrae, 1581, Hanover, by Heinrich Bunting

Europa Prima Pars Terrae, 1581 or 1588, Hanover, by Heinrich Bunting

Both Spain and Bohemia belonged then to the Habsburgs: Philip II was king of Spain, Naples, Sicily and the Low Lands and his cousin Rudolph II Holy Roman Emperor and king of Bohemia and Hungary, amonsgt others. It was not a secret that the Habsburgs’ political and military capital was mostly in Spain, while Bohemia was a “treasury” of their vast domains.

We can cite some interesting historical and geographical facts which this map can inspire:

1- Spain by then was in command of most of continental Europe and of most of the New World, and the “head” of the Holy League, directed against the invading Ottomans. Bunting is reflecting this fact in his mapping of the European political system.

2- Bohemia, before all a physical heart of the continent, was for long the mine of Europe; before the silver of the New World the best mines were in the lands of the Bohemian Crown. Silver production was so important that the first dollars, called Joachimsthaler, were minted in Bohemia in 1519 and named after Joachimsthal, a mine town which lies today within the borders of the Czech Republic.

3- The crown on the head has twelve gems. The image would be common in the history of Europe, taken for the “great sign” or “great wonder” of the Book of Revelation in the Bible: a woman clothed with the sun (The Empire?), and the moon under her feet (The Ottomans?) and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The image is recurrent in Christian art to represent the Virgin Mary, as a symbol of the Church, the Civilisation and Humanity altogether. This representation, putting the centre on the apocalyptic and eschatological readings of history, is still used to symbolise Europe: the European Union Flag still shows twelve stars in the sky. According to The Economist, Arsène Heitz, the Alsatian designer of the flag, acknowledges this Marian element being his ultimate inspiration. The crown on the head, Spain, consecrates its “eternal” and “apocalyptic” mission as the head of the virgin-continent.

The EU Flag with the twelve stars, inspired by the Biblical image of the woman with a twelve-star crown

The EU Flag with the twelve stars, inspired by the Biblical image of the woman with a twelve-star crown

4- Another “central dimension” can be deduced from the map: the right hand of Europe, namely Italy, then the Pontifical States around Rome and Sicily represented as an orb. By that time the Church was the right hand of the Habsburgian Empire and a “pulpit” of the Spanish policies in Europe, Rome being under Spanish influence and the main “tool” of the Escurial’s propaganda in Europe. One can argue that the centre here is a triangle: thinking in Spain, producing in Bohemia and acting in Rome. This is, of course, a Habsburgian weltanschauung.


Discussion and Conclusion

Here, one can argue, we can distinguish between what is “head” and what is “heart”: the head being the place of decision-making and the heart being the place of flow and production. The head being the “spiritual”, the conceptor, the decider, the thinking part. The heart being the “material”, the producing part, the place of flow and physical density.

The differentiation between a centre-heart and a centre-head might be a key notion in understanding centrality and how it operates. We can add the notion of a centre-hand: a “centre of action”, a tool of acting and excuting policies conceived, planned and wanted by the centre-head.

The typology proposed here is still gross and needs some more research. But it can be a point of beginning towards more understanding of what the Centre is and what the Centrality is: Centrality is assimilated to power in its most political form. So the head-centre is the “real” one; the other centres beings to produce and to execute what the head-centre conceives, plans and wants.

Our language, vernacular and literary, is full of centre-head-ly expressions: capital city, head office, head of government, head of state and so on.

Can we say that the centre is where the “brain” and the concept is? To be studied and detailed more.


You can find the map studies above and some analysis on this following URL:

This link, from the University of Exeter, explains the history of the word “dollar”, URL:

This link speaks about the European Union and the inspiration of its flag, designed by Arsène Heitz, URL:

For further information on the Habsburh please visit the Habsburg Family Association, URL:

Image credit:,



Cite this blog post
Jack Keilo ( Jacques Keilo ) (2014, April 1). Europa Prima: the centre between a head, a heart, and a hand! Centrici. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

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1 Response

  1. Mario says:

    Forgot to mention Lusitania on top!

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