Accuracy, veracity, and theological truth in the 16th century atlas Theatrum Terrae Sanctae
- National Museum of Maps and Old Books, Romania
Keywords: veracity, Christian van Adrichom, historical cartography, theology, geography, Renaissance
Abstract. The characteristics and appearance of an authentic map (in conformity with reality), together with the convention about how authenticity should be obtained in a map, continued to change since the beginning of modern cartography along the centuries. As Critical Cartography has emphasised, the authenticity of a map was in many cases just a convincing appearance, hiding intricate ideologies. However, the political role of maps is just one aspect of their significance, which does not exclude the existence of genuine beliefs and ideals which were guiding cartographers and map authors in the creation process.
With a long tradition of understanding maps as illustration devices, Renaissance geography blended intimately with the assumptions and debates of the artistic domain of painting. Among these, veracity was a much praised ideal, signifying the ability of the art work to make present the absent things or giving a new life to people or events gone long ago, a perspective which allowed for rich metaphysical implications. In his theological atlas Theatrum Terrae Sanctae, Christian Adrichom used a variety of formula through which he expressed his view on the evocative power of maps, deriving from contemporary theories concerning truth, vision and representation. In this article we will employ the textual analysis of Adrichom’s affirmations, approaching them through the filter of the Intellectual History methodology. This method allows us to discover that the author explored the metaphysical implications of painting realism in order to present and use his maps as Christian devices, equating the veracity of the cartographic medium with the authenticity of Christ’s life and with the theological understanding of truth.