A History of Heaven on Earth
Mapping Paradise is a history of the cartography of paradise that journeys from the beginning of Christianity to the present day. Instead of dismissing the medieval belief in a paradise on earth as a picturesque legend and the cartography of paradise as an example of the period’s many superstitions, Alessandro Scafi explores the intellectual conditions that made the medieval mapping of paradise possible. The challenge for mapmakers, Scafi argues, was to make visible a place that was geographically inaccessible and yet real, remote in time and yet still the scene of an essential episode of the history of salvation. Mapping Paradise also accounts for the transformations, in both theological doctrine and cartographical practice, that brought about the decline of the belief in a terrestrial paradise and the emergence of the new historical and regional mapping of the Garden of Eden that began at the time of the Reformation and still continues today.
The first book to show how paradise has been expressed in cartographic form throughout two millennia, Mapping Paradise reveals how the most deeply reflective thoughts about the ultimate destiny of all human life have been molded and remolded, generation by generation.
"Where do you find paradise on a map?...As Alessandro Scafi shows in his erudite history of the Christian effort to map paradise, pre-modern mapmakers focused on spiritual navigation, not the secular kind. They tried to portray time and space in a way that is still beautiful, but can seem baffling. Their maps showed God, history, and human woes and joys, often biblical ones. The Garden of Eden was a real place, just as Adam was a real man.... Mr Scafi tells this story well from the sublime start to the ridiculous end, with spectacular flourishes of art history and confident quotes from Latin, Greek and Hebrew."