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Cartographica Helvetica


Ivan Kupčík:

Maps of pilgrim routes within the area of present Switzerland and the surrounding lands from the 13th to 16th centuries

Cartographica Helvetica 6 (1992) 17–28


The pilgrim maps with simple descriptions of travel routes developed from handwritten itineraries from which distances could be derived. The first of these pilgrim maps, also called itineraries, were small map scrolls.

The oldest preserved middle European pilgrim map is the so-called 'Itinerary from London to the Holy Land' which was drawn around 1250 by the English monk Matthew Paris. For practical reasons it is oriented to the south and, compared to the contemporary T-O maps, much more realistic and exact.

After written travel descriptions came into use again in the 14th century, the pilgrim maps experienced a revival towards the end of the 15th century, brought about by the impending Holy Year of 1500. The pilgrim maps were thus cut in wood and printed. One of these maps was the anonymous 'Rome Route Map' at the scale of approx. 1:5.3 millions. The author could have been Erhard Etzlaub (c. 1460–1532) from Nuremberg. The most important characteristics are the dotted pilgrim routes leading to Rome. Its accuracy is relatively poor in the mountains but otherwise of considerable quality. Particularly noteworthy is the connection to Einsiedeln which at that time enjoyed a high reputation and was often visited. The Gotthard pass was not represented even though it had been used for a long time. The Splügen and Saint Bernhard passes seemed to be of greater importance. A more complete map appearing in 1501 by the same author also depicted the political situation.

Further authors were inspired by Etzlaub's maps, such as Waldseemüller with his 1511 Carta Itineraria Evropae, which is particularly interesting because of the improved terrain respresentation and hydrological features. Sebastian Münster created a colored manuscript map of Europe in 1515, a kind of general map. The Landkarte Teütscher Nation (Map of the German Nation) from 1525 is a section of the 1501 map by Etzlaub. Also worth mentioning are the various editions of road maps by Georg Erlinger. The best-known maps are those at the scale of 1: 3.7 millions from 1524 and 1530 which are also copies of the Etzlaub map. The fact that the maps were oriented to the north was surely revolutionary. A further novelty was a grid for locating places, these being indicated by a practical symbol introduced by Erlinger. Furthermore, the itineraries were the first maps with German lettering which was rarely the case around 1500.

After the Reformation the pilgrim maps gradually lost their significance and were ultimately replaced by other maps. They are, however, still considered to be the prototype of modern road maps.

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