Valerie Flint's The Hereford Map: Pilgrimage, Politics and Power in Thirteenth-Century England

Professor Valerie I. J. Flint (1936-2009) was a leading historian of medieval ideas. In an obituary (The Guardian, 26 Feb 2009), Martin Brett described her as 'one of the most interesting medieval historians of her time.' She won many research awards and held teaching positions in London, Dublin, Auckland and Liverpool, and, from 1995, was Professor of History at Hull University. She published important books on Honorius Augustodunensis, including a critical edition of his Imago Mundi, on early medieval magic and on Christopher Columbus. She also wrote numerous scholarly articles, some of which were collected in Ideas in the Medieval West: Texts and Contexts (London: Variorum, 1988).

In 2018 Hereford Cathedral Librarian Dr Rosemary Firman learnt that towards the end of her career Professor Flint had been working on a major study of Mappa Mundi, which in 1998 Flint had hoped would 'shortly be forthcoming.' Not knowing of such a book and wondering whether it was completed, Firman tracked down Flint's executor, Professor Barbara English, and found that she had carefully kept the papers relating to it, and that seven of nine chapters, plus an introduction, were in a final or near-final state. Professor English kindly agreed to give the small archive of the book and related papers to Hereford Cathedral, along with the copyright of the unpublished material. Although Flint had been negotiating publication with a leading academic press, no contract had been signed.

The Hereford Map, written twenty years ago (it includes references to works published in 2001) and published here for the first time, contains much that is fresh and stimulating. Flint had a lively and original mind, which ranged widely, and Hereford Cathedral is pleased to share her book with specialist researchers and the wider public.

The archive donated by Professor English included typescripts of a few other unpublished articles. One of them, 'Display maps and the laity', given as a paper at the conference Maps from the Middle Ages, held at the University of Minnesota Center for Medieval Studies in November 1998, is also published here owing to its close connection with the subject matter of the book.

In a research grant application made in December 1998 Professor Flint described the book thus:

The book The Hereford Map: pilgrimage, politics and power in thirteenth century England is an exercise in scrutinising large issues through the lens of a single, albeit complex, artefact. The Map was designed to embellish a shrine, and as a visual aid for a guardian or expositor. It was thus capable of supporting many different types of exposition and of appealing to a variety of different audiences. Lay men and women formed the majority in these audiences. This book seeks to reconstruct, from the multifarious pictures and inscriptions to be found upon the Map, and from their contexts and related manuscripts, the different teachings and methods of address. More than this, in that its lessons were directed towards penitents, the Map's expositor was enabled to address lay subjects whilst they were in a relatively receptive frame of mind. I am beginning to develop a hypothesis which is, so far as I know, original; namely, that in confronting crime under the guise of sin, the guardians of, and teachers at, great medieval pilgrimage shrines rendered themselves extremely useful to the state in its efforts to exert control. The study should, then, contribute to our understanding of the ways in which church and state could co-operate, rather than compete, in the arts of government; especially in the effective operation of the law and its sanctions, and in the encouragement, and financing, of carefully chosen military campaigns.


In the links below, the endnotes to each chapter have been made into separate files to enable them to be read alongside the main text. You may download the book and quote from it freely, provided its author and the copyright of Hereford Cathedral are acknowledged. (click on the title chapter to download as a pdf)


The Hereford Map: Pilgrimage, Politics and Power in Thirteenth-Century England





Part I. The external scenes

  1. The Hereford Map: its author, two scenes and two borders. A revision of her 1998 article 'The Hereford Map: its author(s), two scenes and two borders', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series, vol. 8, p. 19-43.


  1. The Hereford Map and images of compassion and mercy



Part II. The Mappa Mundi

  1. The place and uses of the Mappa Mundi


  1. The Map and the strange creatures



  1. The Map and the legend of Alexander



  1. The Map, the Bible and pilgrimage - planned but not written


Part III. Pilgrimage and politics in thirteenth-century England

  1. Shrines and the fabric of English society


  1. The role of shrines in royal government


  1. Not written


Conclusion - not written