Unidentified Coats of Arms on a 16th C. Map
November 30, 2008 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Curious coats of arms on a 16th century map-- can you help with identification and significance?

I'm working on a conference paper about the Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus (1539). Here's a link to a reasonable scan of the map.

I've identified most of the coats of arms on the map, but there are a few that have eluded me. The Moscow coat of arms, for instance, on the right over Ivan the Terrible ("Great King of the Moscovites")-- the man on horseback with a bow and arrow appears in a couple of Russian coats of arms, but I haven't been able to find this one in a specifically Moscovian context. Normally their coat is St. George, who has a spear (quite a different connotation from bow and arrows).

Secondly, the coat of arms of Norway appears over the Faroe Islands (Olaus has labeled them "Orcad"). Faroe was historically attached to Denmark, not Norway. And interestingly enough, the coat of arms is reversed. I speculate that Olaus believes this property ought to be Norway's, but I have no historical basis for that. Any information would be appreciated!

One somewhat unrelated item: I've been unable to decipher the latin inscription on the king of Gothia (he is fictional; Gothia was a province of Sweden at this time). The other kings all have religious inscriptions or descriptions of their greatness.

I'd write up more of these items to Olaus' imagination, but his other map details are almost always based on some kind of historical sources. I'd really appreciate any information or light shed upon this wonderful map, even if it's not specific to my questions.
posted by RedReplicant to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Aren't the ones labeled "Orcad" the Orkney Islands? The Faroes would be the ones labeled "Fare".
posted by milkrate at 11:45 AM on November 30, 2008

To clear it up -

Orcad is the Orkney Islands
Insule Hebride are the Inner Hebrides
Hetladia is Shetland
Fare are the Faroes
posted by fire&wings at 12:09 PM on November 30, 2008

Yes, I think milkrate's right on that -- since I took on a job editing a UK mag I have only recently learned that "Orcadian" is the adjective for things from Orkney.

Which inscription on the Gothia section? The "Leo... something something it's hard for me to read... bit?"
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:14 PM on November 30, 2008

Thank you fire&wings, I think you are completely correct.
I read that the marriage of James III and Margaret of Denmark pass the Orkney Islands over to Scotland; would that reverse the coat of arms?

Bitter-girl, I think it says "Leo decidit capere preda" although it might be broken up differently. If my bad Latin is right, this means "The king has fallen and been taken as plunder"? It also appears to have a biblical reference, to Ezekiel 19, which talks about the trees and branches of Israel. I believe this is Olaus' commentary on the Gothic origin of the Scandinavian peoples, which on the lower right hand of the map he demonstrates as springing from the branch of Gothia.
posted by RedReplicant at 12:41 PM on November 30, 2008

I suspect that the coat of arms is not for Muscovy but for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (because of its proximity to Belarus ("Russia Alba"), part of the Duchy at the time). That doesn't help you much, of course, because the Duchy's coat of arms is a sword-wielding knight on horseback, not a bowman. Is it possible that Olaus just wasn't sure, and thus decided to exoticize the Lithuanians as Oriental horse archers?
posted by nasreddin at 12:46 PM on November 30, 2008

Oh, nevermind, the Lithuanians are down below. I don't know what it could be; perhaps the bowman is an allusion to the Mongol Conquest?
posted by nasreddin at 12:50 PM on November 30, 2008

It could also be that this is some kind of religious thing, referring to the Orthodox/Catholic schism. This is suggested by the Latin inscription "let there be no schisms among you" and the horse archer's helmet, which resembles the style worn by Byzantine kataphraktoi.
posted by nasreddin at 12:57 PM on November 30, 2008

A couple or three of ideas:

1) I've seen Saint Demetrios (-ius) with a bow slung over his back. There's an image of him like this in the current Royal Academy Byzantium show. But not firing from horseback. From Wikipedia:

Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki (Greek: Άγιος Δημήτριος της Θεσσαλονίκης) was a Christian martyr who is said to have lived in Thessaloniki in the early 4th century. During the Middle Ages, he came to be revered as one of the most important Orthodox military saints, often paired with Saint George. His feast day is 26 October for Christians following the Gregorian calendar and 8 November for Christians following the Julian calendar.

In Russian, he is called Димитрий Солунский ([dimitri solunski] 'Dimitri of Saloniki') and was a patron saint of the ruling Rurikid family from the late 11th century on. Izyaslav I of Kiev (whose Christian name was Dimitry) founded the first East Slavic monastery dedicated to this saint. The name Dimitry is in common use.

2) Sticking with Dmitri: he could also be Saint Dmitri Donskoi:

Saint Dmitry Ivanovich Donskoi (Russian: Дми́трий Донско́й), or Dimitri of the Don, sometimes referred to as Dmitry I (October 12, 1350, Moscow – May 19, 1389, Moscow), son of Ivan II Krasnyi, reigned as the Prince of Moscow from 1359 and Grand Prince of Vladimir from 1363 to his death. He was the first prince of Moscow to openly challenge Tatar authority in Russia. His nickname, Donskoi (i.e., "of the Don"), alludes to his great victory against the Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380) which took place on the Don River

3) Or another specifically Russian Orthodox saint.
posted by londongeezer at 1:51 PM on November 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

(Can I just say how much I love Metafilter for stuff like this? This is the kind of stuff I had to go to the ICMS for in grad school...but here we go, all merrily geeking out together!)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:19 PM on November 30, 2008

I have come up blank on the coats of arms, but you said to toss other info about the map into the mix.

What little I know about the Carta Marina comes from reading about it in the context of the area around where I grew up. The area of the Mare Botnica between Sweden and Finland that is iced over (where sleds are carried across the ice) corresponds fairly closely to a current-day UNESCO world heritage site called the High Coast/Kvarken Archipelago.

On the west/Swedish side, around the town marked as "Nordmalvng" and the mountain marked as "Skvla Mons" lies the heart of the High Coast - the "type area" for research on isostasy (the land rising after being freed from the weight of the glaciers). The Kvarken ("Qverken") archipelago, on the east/Finnish side, is the exact opposite, where the land is being reclaimed by the sea. It's the shallowest area of the Gulf of Bothnia, which would explain why it's only this area that is frozen on Magnus' map.

The Latin by the Skvla Mons reads "Hic rugitus cavernarum terribilis", approx. "here is terrible roaring caverns". This area is known for a stark coastline with numerous treacherous caves and sea caves, including a large cave called the "King's Cave" on Skvla Mons (Skuleberget) itself.
posted by gemmy at 3:36 PM on November 30, 2008

A neat subject! One of my earliest conference papers was on Olaus's Carta marina and Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus.

The passage over the king of Gothia reads "leo didicit capere praedam," which is adapted from Ezechiel 19.3: "et eduxit unum de leunculis suis leo factus est et didicit capere praedam hominemque comedere" (KJV: "And she brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion, and it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men").

I haven't paid much attention to the heraldry, so I can't be much help there. You surely know that the Carta marina was published with an explanatory booklet--what's less well known is that it's available in a reprint (see below). At the risk of bringing coals to Newcastle, here's the brief bibliography of items that refer specifically to the Carta marina that I compiled when I wrote my paper (delivered in 1994, so it's not exactly up to date):

Brunner, Kurt. “Die ‘Carta marina’ des Olaus Magnus vom Jahre 1539.” In Vorträge und Berichte, 5. Kartographie-historisches Colloquium, Oldenbourg 1990, 45-57. Berlin: Reimer, 1991.

Crone, G. R., and F. George. “Olaus Magnus and his Carta marina: A problem in sixteenth-century cartography.” Geographical Journal 114 (1949): 197-200.

Granlund, John. “The Carta marina of Olaus Magnus.” Imago Mundi 8 (1951): 35-43.

Johannesson, Kurt. The Renaissance of the Goths in sixteenth-century Sweden: Johannes and Olaus Magnus as politicians and historians. Translated by James Larson. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991.

Knauer, Elfriede Regina. Die Carta Marina des Olaus Magnus von 1539: Ein kartographisches Meisterwerk und seine Wirkung. Göttingen: Gratia-Verlag, 1981.

Magnus, Olaus. Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus, earumque diversis statibus, conditionibus, moribus, ritibus, superstitionibus, disciplinis, exercitiis, regimine, victu, bellis, structuris, instrumentis, ac mineris metallicis, & rebus mirabilibus, necnon universis pene animalibus in Septentrione degentibus, eorumque natura. Romae: apud Ioannem Mariam, 1555.

Magnus, Olaus. A compendious history of the Goths, Svvedes, & Vandals, and other northern nations. London: Printed by J. Streater, and are to be sold by Humphrey Mosely, George Sawbridge, Henry Twiford, Tho: Dring, John Place, and Henry Haringman, 1658.

Magnus, Olaus. Carta marina: Karta och beskrivning över de nordiska länderna sant de underbara ting som där finnas. Uppsala: Bokgillet, 1964.

Schumacher, H. A. “Olaus Magnus und die ältesten Karten der Nordlande.” Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin 28 (1893): 167-200.

Olaus Magnus 1964 includes the booklet describing the map.

For more up-to-date bibliography you can now see vol. 3 of David Woodward, ed., The History of Cartography, pp. 1786-88.

I never published my paper (it was early work), but some of it made its way into my 2006 book The Science of Describing.

Good luck! Again, sorry if you've already covered these bases, but depending on where you're doing your M.A. you might not have run across some of the references.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:16 PM on November 30, 2008

Could the mounted archer be Vasily III? From Wikipedia:
Whilst out hunting on horseback near Volokolamsk, Vasili felt a great pain in his right hip, the result of an abscess. [...] By November 25, 1533, Vasili reached Moscow and asked to be made a monk before dying. Taking on the name Varlaam, Vasili passed away at midnight, December 4, 1533.
And as for the schism, this bit about Yury, his successor:
For Yury Ivanovich this permission never came because after his brother's death in 1533 his widow and regent for the young Ivan IV [that's Ivan the Terrible to you and me], Elena Glinskaya, began to suspect Yury. Not long after that Yuri was arrested and put in prison where he died in 1536.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:21 PM on November 30, 2008

I should add that Elena Glinskaya would have been regent in the year your map is dated, as Ivan the Terrible was just a toddler; Elena would be poisoned shortly thereafter. It was a period of extreme uncertainty, to be sure.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:47 PM on November 30, 2008

...actually, maybe she was dead already. Same difference, really. Basically, long story short, after Vasily III dies, there's a series of executions and assassinations of regents until Ivan IV is finally crowned Grand Prince of Moscow in 1547.

FWIW, Ivan IV would later unify Russia, so that map's inscription (from I Corinthians I) serves not only as a dire warning, but also as an uncanny prophecy.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:19 PM on November 30, 2008

Sys Rq, thanks for the Russia info. Wikipedia (as you know it is not the most dependable) seems to think that he begins as Great Prince in 1533, which although he was a wee lad (3?) would still make him the official Moscovian prince. Olaus seems to have been very up-to-date and so I wouldn't put it past him to have known who was actually doing the ruling during the time; perhaps that is a regent or perhaps it is an idealization of baby Ivan. Yeah, it looks like there was a huge mess between Elena's death and Ivan's coronation.

Thanks BrianOgilvie for the bibliography-- it's overlapping mine but there are one or two that I hadn't gotten yet, and I really appreciate it. I found this fantastic little volume by Herman Richter that also reprints the key both in German and Italian, I have yet to translate the Italian one which is apparently the most comprehensive. Neither one appear to address the Russians other to mention them as traders. I'm working on this from a political angle and so far it's been extremely rich (not surprisingly!) I'm going to go look for a copy of your book, too. Sounds right up my alley.
posted by RedReplicant at 6:00 PM on November 30, 2008

Sorry I have nothing to add but I just wanted to say that is a freaking cool map! And I love this AskMe!
posted by like_neon at 5:02 AM on December 1, 2008

« Older Is self lying?   |   Are those nuns still a health hazard? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.