Ravenna Mappa

Ravenna Mappa

Ravenna Mappa: Exploring the World through Ancient Cartography

Key Takeaways

  • The Ravenna Mappa is an impressive and detailed map that provides a unique glimpse into the world during ancient times.
  • Created in the 6th century, this map showcases a variety of geographical features, including rivers, mountains, cities, and seas.
  • The map reflects the knowledge and worldview of the people of that era, combining accurate representations with mythical and symbolic elements.
  • It serves as an invaluable historical artifact, shedding light on the cartographic techniques and cultural references of the time.


The Ravenna Mappa is an extraordinary example of ancient cartography, created in Ravenna, Italy, sometime during the 6th century AD. The map, also known as the “Ravenna Cosmography,” is an incredibly detailed representation of the known world at that time.

The map is believed to have been designed for a public space, possibly a church or monastery, to provide visitors with a visual representation of the world. It is composed of multiple sheets of parchment, measuring over 2.8 meters long and 1.5 meters wide when fully assembled.

The Ravenna Mappa combines elements of earlier Roman maps with information from other sources, including late antique manuscripts. It presents the world as imagined by the Byzantine Empire, combining geography with symbolism and mythology.

Interestingly, the map is not oriented northward as most modern maps are. Instead, it is oriented eastward, with Jerusalem at the center. This placement reflects the importance of Jerusalem as the spiritual center of the Byzantine Empire.

Unique Insights

The Ravenna Mappa provides several unique insights into the ancient world and the art of cartography at that time:

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1. Combination of Accuracy and Symbolism

The map combines accurate representations of geography with symbolic and mythical elements. Precise details like cities, rivers, mountains, and roads are depicted alongside illustrations of various creatures, biblical scenes, and even legendary cities.

2. Focus on the Mediterranean World

Although the map covers a significant part of the known world, it primarily focuses on the Mediterranean region and the territories surrounding it. This reflects the Byzantine Empire’s particular interest and influence in this area.

3. Cultural and Religious References

The Ravenna Mappa includes numerous cultural and religious references, such as the illustration of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, biblical figures, and scenes from classical mythology. These elements highlight the influence of Christianity and classical knowledge on the map’s creators.

4. Influence on Later Cartographic Works

The Ravenna Mappa had a profound impact on subsequent cartographic works, particularly medieval maps. Many of the conventions and symbols used in the map influenced the development of cartography in the following centuries, including the use of a T-shaped framework to divide the world into three continents.

Table of Relevant Facts

Fact Date Description
Creation of the Ravenna Mappa 6th century AD This intricate map was crafted using parchment and ink, showcasing the geographical knowledge of the time.
Orientation Eastward The map is oriented towards the east, with Jerusalem at the center, reflecting the Byzantine Empire’s significance.
Geographical Coverage Primarily Mediterranean region The map focuses on the territories surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, illustrating the Byzantine Empire’s influence.
Combination of Accuracy and Symbolism 6th century AD The map incorporates precise geographical details along with symbolic and mythical elements, capturing both reality and imagination.
Cultural and Religious References 6th century AD The Ravenna Mappa includes depictions of biblical scenes, classical mythology, and religious imagery, reflecting the influence of Christianity and classical knowledge.
Impact on Later Cartography 6th century AD onwards The map’s symbols and conventions influenced medieval and subsequent cartographic works, leaving a lasting impact on the development of maps.
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Here are some frequently asked questions about the Ravenna Mappa:

1. Who created the Ravenna Mappa?

The creator of the Ravenna Mappa remains unknown. It is believed to have been a collaborative effort involving skilled cartographers, artists, and scholars of the time.

2. What materials were used to create the map?

The map was created using parchment, a writing surface made from animal skin, and ink made from various natural pigments.

3. Why is the map oriented eastward?

The eastward orientation of the map emphasizes the significance of Jerusalem in Byzantine Christianity, as well as the Byzantine Empire’s connection to the eastern world.

4. What are some notable features on the map?

Notable features include depictions of cities, rivers, mountains, roads, as well as mythical creatures, legendary cities, and scenes from the Bible and classical mythology.

5. How was the Ravenna Mappa preserved?

The Ravenna Mappa survived over the centuries by being rolled up and preserved in various libraries and collections. Today, portions of the map are held in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and the Museo Arcivescovile in Ravenna, among other institutions.

6. How accurate is the map?

While the map displays an impressive level of accuracy considering the resources and knowledge available during the 6th century, it also includes several inaccuracies, such as disproportionate scaling and distorted shapes of regions.

7. What is the historical significance of the Ravenna Mappa?

The Ravenna Mappa provides valuable insights into medieval cartography, geographical knowledge, and cultural influences of the time, serving as an invaluable historical artifact.

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External Links

LSI Keywords

  • Ravenna Mappa
  • Ravenna Cosmography
  • ancient cartography
  • world map
  • 6th century map
  • Byzantine Empire cartography
  • medieval maps
  • Ravenna historical artifact
  • geographical knowledge
  • symbolism in maps

Maps. Maps. Maps.