I rose quite early to pack up the rest of my stuff (more scattered than usual due to two days in the same place), and broke fast at 7:30 AM. I was really glad for this energizing meal, as I needed a faster pace to get to Hereford in time to see the Mappa Mundi and chained library. The book said 6.75 miles. I was betting on more like 9 on my Fitbit.
A couple of miles from Fownhope is a little village called Mordiford. They are famous for their dragon legend. The dragon, some said, would amble down from its lair in Haugh Wood to drink from the confluence of the rivers Wye and Lugg near the village. The Dragon Trail tells the story in more detail, including, of course, a maiden who raised and befriended the dragon.
If you read between the lines, it may appear that the maiden and the dragon were more than just friends…
Entering Hereford was a little confusing, but I finally ended up on pavement and my feet were unhappy. I spotted a bus stop, and quickly Googled whether the bus would take me near my destination. Lo! A bus was to come within 10 minutes and stop a few blocks from my Airb&b!
While Google maps saved me a couple miles walking, it was singularly unhelpful in directing me to my accommodations. It was a crazy busy part of town, with infrequent crosswalks. Then the building was tucked in a courtyard that had escaped Google’s notice. It took me 20 minutes to find my digs, 2 blocks from the bus station.
Washed my teeth and face and headed out right away for Hereford Cathedral. I could see the cathedral from my street! But crossing the busy intersection was frustrating. Then a friendly stranger pointed me to a subway (underpass) very close to my digs. Sheesh, thanks for nothing, Google maps!
As lovely as the cathedral is, my target was the Mappa Mundi and chained library. A special wing was built in 1996 to house these medieval treasures and ensure their conservation.
I like to think of the Mappa Mundi as a fanciful cartoon written and drawn by Mad Monks. It is more insidious than that, sadly. Their conceptions of The Other (i.e., non-Christian, non-European) were riddled with dangerous preconceptions and stereotypes. Those conceptions drove church and political policies (one and the same, for the most part) for centuries. Vilification of Jews and people of color was especially widespread.
Here is the original, dating from the 1300’s. It is astoundingly well-preserved after many years of being disregarded, part of the decor of the Cathedral. The history of its journey is interesting; its preservation is a near-miracle.
There was a recreation of the map in 3D, which one could get close up looks at the fabulous creatures imagined by the Mad Monks. The expressions on the faces are especially intriguing.
Away from the crazy, and on to the scholarly. If you have seen “Game of Thrones” or any of the Harry Potter movies, or both — you’ve seen a chained library, and it was a real thing. I really did not know of this until I researched things to do in Hereford, and I surely didn’t know it was at the Cathedral. The texts date from the 9th century up until the 19th. It is a working library: if you’ve got credentials, you can get access to the tomes.
Some of the books, unchained, below.
And so the day came to a close, with many more miles walked than planned (LOL), and an early rising scheduled for the next day — the longest walk of the journey, from Hereford to Monnington-on-Wye.
9 May, 2022
Leave a Reply