Pilgrimage, Cartography, and Devotion: William Wey’s Map of the Holy Land
By Pnina Arad
Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Volume 43, Number 1, 2012
Abstract: This article offers a reconstruction of a chapel, set up in England in the 1470s to commemorate a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The reconstruction follows information drawn from the founder’s will.
Made up of architectural components, paintings, wooden models, stones, maps, and a manuscript narrative, the composition was designed to evoke the Holy Land in England. Rooted as it is in the tradition of architectural response to pilgrimage, it also appears to be a product of a different tradition and use of architecture, that of the English Easter Sepulchre. A map of the Holy Land preserved in the Bodleian Library seems to be the only component to have survived.
The article studies the installation in relation to a wide-ranging European tradition, that of relocating the Holy Land in the homeland, and discusses in more detail the insertion of a map of the Holy Land into the category of fifteenth-century devotional imagery.
Introduction: In the course of the fifteenth century the practice of accompanying pilgrims’ narratives with maps of the Holy Land was becoming prevalent, even if the visit had been restricted to the area around Jerusalem. These maps do not appear to have been made in order to record any particular journey. The various origins and backgrounds of the pilgrims suggest that the inclusion of the whole country in the map was not a personal or arbitrary decision, but that the medium—the map of the Holy Land—conveyed special connotations associated with pilgrimage and devotion.
William Wey, an English scholar from Oxford, undertook two pilgrimages to the Holy Land in the 1460s. After his retirement in 1467, Wey moved to the Augustinian Priory of Bonhommes at Edington in Wiltshire, where he wrote his Itineraries. Dated to 1470, a manuscript in the Bodleian Library (MS Bodley 565) appears to be the only copy of the work, and is considered the original one. According to what looks like a will, written on a flyleaf at the beginning of the manuscript, it appears that Wey established a chapel in the Edington monastery, modeled after the Holy Sepulchre, and there he displayed a collection of mementos and liturgical objects; a map of the Holy Land is mentioned among them.