Beatus Map, locating Garden of Eden, 1109
Author: Beatus of Liébana
Medium: Pigments on vellum
This world map comes from a beautifully illuminated copy of Beatus of Liébana's ‘Commentary on the Apocalypse of St John’, a religious text from the 8th century held in high esteem by medieval Christians. This copy was made at the Spanish Monastery of San Domingo de Silos in 1106, a time when the monastery’s scriptorium was producing some of its finest work.
Adam and Eve are shown with the serpent against a dark green background representing the verdant Garden of Eden.
Its picture of a world centred round the Mediterranean Sea is virtually unchanged since the 8th century and reflects an even older world-view inherited from Roman times. Beyond the Red Sea is a hint of an undiscovered fourth continent that some ancient thinkers - among them, Pliny, the 1st-century Roman author - had suggested must exist in order to balance the known land masses of Europe, Asia and Africa.