Located in the Mappa Mundi and Chained Library

Saturday 30 April to Saturday 3 September 2022, 10 am – 5 pm

A special new exhibition in Hereford Cathedral’s Mappa Mundi and Chained Library building explores how human beings throughout history have covered their fear of the unknown with stereotypical and distorted misinterpretations of those who appear different to themselves: the ‘Other’.

This exhibition shows how we all tend to see ourselves at the centre of things, marginalise and distrust strangers, and exaggerate difference. It looks at how terrible things happen when we disassociate ourselves from people whom we perceive as different to ourselves to such an extent that they seem scarcely human, and crimes like genocide become conceivable.

Detail of Blemmye from Hereford Mappa Mundi (c.1300) © Hereford Cathedral

Hoping to recognise this and counteract it, ‘Strangers’ looks at the situation from different perspectives. The exhibition starts with the strange peoples drawn on the edges of the Hereford Mappa Mundi, and displays a wide range of images and documents from the cathedral’s collections relating to many peoples, places and periods. As well as the Hereford Mappa Mundi itself, the Cathedral’s Magna Carta is examined in the context of its imperialist uses, and a rare Torah scroll, loaned by the Memorial Scrolls Trust, bears witness to the tragedy of European Jewry.

Doghead from Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia (1550) © Hereford Cathedral

Rosemary Firman, Cathedral Librarian, points out: “Over the eighteen months of the exhibition's preparation, the issues explored in 'Strangers' have become even more urgent. The historical examples it presents are unsettling, and are a wake-up call to examine our present-day mindsets. We must all come together to delight in difference and celebrate our commonality.”

Detail from engraved title page by Romeyn de Hooghe (c.1700) © Hereford Cathedral

A related free art exhibition 'Who are We? Who are They?' displaying new works by Foundation students at Hereford College of Arts and responding to the same issues, will be on show in the cathedral from 16 May to 25 June.

Detail from engraving by Bernard Picart (c.1735) © Hereford Cathedral

Peter Barber OBE FSA, former Head of Maps at the British Library said: “The Hereford Mappa Mundi is not a medieval relic, precious but irrelevant to today; ‘Strangers’ shows how through its distorted and often negative portrayals of other peoples and faiths, the Mappa Mundi visualises prejudices which continue in the contemporary world. They are even more dangerous because they come so naturally to people everywhere when confronted with ‘the other’.  But the exhibition uses other exhibits drawn mainly from Hereford Cathedral’s magnificent collections, to emphasise the value of human diversity.” 

To find out more about the Cathedral Library and Archives, please contact Rosemary Firman on 01432 374 225 or [email protected]