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Imago Mundi: The International Journal for the


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Mapping a Holy QuasiIsland: Mount Athos in Early


Renaissance Isolarii
Veronica Della Dora

Available online: 04 Jun 2008

To cite this article: Veronica Della Dora (2008): Mapping a Holy QuasiIsland: Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii ,
Imago Mundi: The International Journal for the History of Cartography, 60:2, 139-165

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Mapping a Holy Quasi-Island:
Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii

VERONICA DELLA DORA

ABSTRACT: Mount Athos, the third finger of the Chalkidike peninsula in northern Greece and a self-
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governing monastic enclave for more than a thousand years, is a striking feature in Renaissance island books.
In early isolarii it usually appeared in a round insular shape featuring four main monasteriesa
representation that bears no resemblance to reality. Scholars have tended to dismiss these representations
of Mount Athos as rudimentary and inaccurate. This article offers a re-evaluation of the maps in their
context, interrogating them in their cultural specificity and as complex visual artefacts. As part of a long
manuscript tradition, these maps were liable to change over time and according to the geographical contexts
in which they were copied. This approach leads to the suggestion that rather than being representations of
reality, isolarii maps of Athos were intended mainly as mnemonic and moral devices for self-edification.

KEYWORDS: Mount Athos, Mons Sanctus, Chalkidike peninsula, isolarii, island books, Cristoforo
Buondelmonti, Henricus Martellus, Bartolomeo dalli Sonetti, sacred cartography, mnemonics, emblems.

One of the most characteristic features on con- on Western maps, and it has taken cartographers
temporary maps of the Aegean are the three fingers nearly six centuries to re-scale Athos and to reduce
of the Chalkidike peninsula (Fig. 1). These trident- what we can recognize as an exaggeratedly large
like protrusions are connected to the mainland by size to its geodetically proper proportions.1 As late
thin isthmuses. The two outer fingers (in the as 1819 the French naval captain Pierre Henri
southwest Kassandra, and in the northeast Mount Guattier, an experienced surveyor, was still insist-
Athos) are slightly curved towards the middle ing on portraying the mountain-peninsula as twice
peninsula (Sithona) and seem to be almost mirror the size of the whole finger of Kassandra.2 In the
reflections of one another. This familiar configura- following year, Jean-Denis Barbie du Bocage, one
tion, however, has not always been shown on of the Enlightenments most convinced purveyors
maps. Only relatively recently has Mount Athos, of cartographic truth, also maintained that Mount
the easternmost of the three, approached the other Athos was considerably larger than either of the
two fingers in size and shape. two other fingers of the Chalkidike.3
Over the years, the third finger of the Chalkidike Athoss outline and centrality on maps of
has undergone a series of dramatic transformations the Aegean bear witness to its uninterrupted

c Dr Veronica della Dora is a lecturer in human geography, University of Bristol. Correspondence to: V. della
Dora, University of Bristol, School of Geographical Sciences, University Road, Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK. Tel: 44 (0)117
928 9113. Fax: 44 (0)117 928 7878. E-mail: veronica.delladora@bristol.ac.uk.

Imago Mundi Vol. 60, Part 2: 139165


# 2008 Imago Mundi Ltd ISSN 0308-5694 print/1479-7801 online
DOI: 10.1080/03085690802159129
140 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008
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Fig. 1. Map of the northern Aegean Sea. Mount Athos, the third, easternmost, finger of the Chalkidike peninsula, is one of
the most characteristic features of any modern map of the region.

prominence in Western geographical imagination Mount Athos made its first appearance on
not only as an autonomous republic of monks Western isolarii as a monadic unit portrayed in a
dating back to the tenth century, but also as one of round insular shape only precariously connected to
the most frequently and copiously described of the the mainland through a thin neck of land as if to
localities and holy mountains of classical anti- suggest its separateness from the rest of the world
quity.4 The distinctiveness of the mountainous (hence the qualification quasi-island). The map
peninsula, which culminates in a 2,033-metre peak was usually placed in the books after Thasos
at its southeastern extremity, is portrayed on the (which lies to the northeast) and before Lemnos
earliest Ptolemaic maps, but the singular treatment (which is to the southeast). The quasi-island is
in Renaissance isolarii, or island books, is particu- generally portrayed as if much larger than either of
larly arresting and that is the focus of attention them. Instead of towns and cities, it is full of
here.5 The isolarii were in effect cosmographical monasteries, also exaggerated in size so that they
encyclopaedias, or visual catalogues, of the major loom, as it were, over most of the buildings on the
islands or groups of islands in the Mediterranean other islands featured in the book. The consistency
composed of maps and text. Typically, each of these graphic characteristics from isolario to
island is depicted on one page and accompanied, isolario raises the question: why was Mount Athos
either on the same page or separately, by notes represented in this way?
of historical, geographical and anthropological Through the analysis of representations of Athos
character, as well as by legends and other in Cristoforo Buondelmontis Liber Insularum
curiosities (Fig. 2).6 The genre emerged in Archipelagi, the first Renaissance island book, and
fifteenth-century Italy from navigational practices in other isolarii derived from it, an attempt is made
in the Mediterranean, and especially in the here to answer the question from multiple per-
Aegean, among whose islands Venetian and spectives. First, challenging Brian Harleys claim
Genoese sailors had established extensive commer- that the visual predominance of certain carto-
cial networks. Paralleling other cartographic tradi- graphic features is a manifestation of political
tions, such as that of portolan charts and Ptolemaic or social power, I suggest that Athoss graphic
chorographic tables, island books endured until the distinctiveness is to be linked, rather, to its
early eighteenth century. peculiarity and to its ability to excite wonder and
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 141
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Fig. 2. Two pages from an isolario, or island book. Henricus Martellus, Insularium Illustratum, compiled in Florence c.1480-
1490. 34 6 24 cm (folio). Thasos is shown on the left, Mount Athos on the right. Brief written accounts accompany the
maps of the islands. For a transcript of the description of Mons Sanctus (Mount Athos), see Appendix 2. London, the
British Library, Add. MS 15760, fols. 41r42r. (Reproduced with permission from the British Library, London.)

spiritual admiration, even in a non-Orthodox the relevant manuscript traditions (especially those
(indeed often anti-Orthodox) context, such as of the Liber), and here I seek to take the analysis
Catholic Italy.7 Second, following Giorgio further. Finally, I speculate on the possible reasons
Manganis discussion of the compositional rhetoric for Athoss quasi-insular representation in the
of pre-modern maps, I see Mount Athos as one of isolarii: its nature as a sacred place, its history as a
the elements of a larger encyclopaedic mnemonic locus memoriae and its function as an emblem. I
system, one that allows for a moral antiquarian conclude with the idea that the image of Athos in
cartography.8 Third, I suggest that Athoss insular the isolarii was an iconotext, a device able to travel
shape might also have had an emblematic function across space and time to serve as a source of
extending far beyond the mountain-peninsula and moral inspiration not only for pious clerics like
the work of Buondelmonti.9 Buondelmonti, but also for authors of other isolarii,
I start by providing a context for Mount Athos in such as the Venetian sailor Bartolomeo dalli
Buondelmontis Liber and its manuscript tradition. Sonetti.
I go on to compare the way Athos is shown on
maps in different manuscripts of the Liber, in Mount Athos in Buondelmontis Liber
Martelluss Insularium, and in a less well-known There was a time, we are told by Herodotus, when
isolario, BNF franc. 2794. The portrayal of Athos in Mount Athos was an island. In 480 BC, the Persian
Buondelmontis and Martelluss isolarii has already king Xerxes cut a canal across its isthmus, so that
been an object of study, both with regard to the his fleet could sail through it and avoid the stormy
text and the image.10 In most cases, however, waters near the point, which had swallowed his
discussion has been limited to a few versions and brother-in-laws fleet about a decade earlier.11
aspects of the maps and has not taken into serious Apparently, the canal collapsed soon after its
account the continuities and discontinuities within excavation, leaving no visible trace and returning
142 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008

Athos to its original peninsular status. The memory blend of maritime practical knowledge (tradition-
of Athoss short insular life, however, endured. ally confined to portolan charts) and antiquarian
From the first decades of the fifteenth century to erudition marks him out as the initiator of a new
the end of the seventeenth, Mount Athos, or Mons cartographic practice.
Sanctus, as it was commonly called in Western The success of the Liber probably exceeded
Europe, remained a standard feature in island Buondelmontis expectations. In a matter of few
books. Of course, it was not the only non-island years, copies of it were disseminated all over
to be included in isolarii. Famous capes and Europe as prototypes of a Baedeker or a Murray
peninsulas often figured side by side with islands. guide for antiquarian travellers to the Aegean, and
This phenomenon can be partly explained philo- also (perhaps more significantly) as the equivalent
logically, for the ancient Greek word nesos was used of the modern coffee-table book designed for the
for both types of geographical features.12 Other much larger number of armchair travellers.19 In
non-islands commonly portrayed in Aegean isolarii the course of the fifteenth century the Liber was
included Constantinople and the straits of the translated into Greek and at least four different
Dardanelles. Like Athos, both were famous sites vulgata versions, and in the late sixteenth century it
that compilers felt obliged to incorporate in their was partly translated into English.20 We also know
narrative. that after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the
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Athoss insularity, however, transcended its Latin version made its way beyond Europe for the
mere presence in island books. The thinness of benefit of an Ottoman audience, as suggested by
the isthmus and the imaginary roundness of the one of the Paris manuscripts (BNF nouvelle
peninsula became a familiar image in fifteenth- acquisition lat. 2383), with its Ottoman names for
century isolarii. We first encounter this anomalous the islands and cardinal directions superimposed
quasi-island in Cristoforo Buondelmontis Liber on the maps in red.
Insularum Archipelagi, the first island book in Buondelmontis Liber was never printed, but no
Renaissance Europe and the prototype of the fewer than 64 manuscripts ranging in date from
genre.13 Born into a powerful Florentine family, c.1422 to 1642 have survived.21 Their geographical
Buondelmonti became a priest and a passionate origins stretch from Rhodes (Vat. Chig. F.IV.74,
antiquarian. His date of birth is commonly located c.14221430) and Chios (Holkham Hall ms. 475,
in the early 1380s; the date of his death remains 1428, and Vat. Urb. lat. 459, 1465) to Vienna
uncertain.14 When he was in his mid-thirties, the (Dusseldorf, Universitats und Landesbibliothek ms.
Florentine presbyter left his native city for an g.13, c.1480), northern Italy (Paris, BNF lat. 4825,
adventurous life of antiquarian peregrinations in c.1466, and lat. 4824, late fifteenth century),
the Aegean. From his base in Rhodes, he spent southern France (Baltimore, Walters Art Museum
sixteen years travelling extensively throughout the W.309, c.1475), Flanders (British Library, Arundel
Archipelago, as he stated in a 1430 version of his ms. 93 art. 7, 1485), and England (Cambridge,
Liber.15 We know that he visited Crete on several Corpus Christi 210, 1470) (Appendix 1). If such
occasions and Constantinople at least twice.16 I popularity made the Liber one of the most
shall return later to the nature of his travels in the influential geographical works of the early
Aegean. For now, I shall focus on the Liber and on Renaissance, that popularity has created one of
representations of Mount Athos in the different the most problematic and controversial texts for
manuscript traditions of the work. modern scholars. The abundance of copies, as
The Liber Insularum Archipelagi is thought to have has been noted, distorted the information and
been completed sometime after 1418. A copy of the [departed] further and further from the original, so
manuscript was sent to the humanist and biblio- that it has become almost impossible for anyone to
phile Cardinal Giordano Orsini in Rome around trace the copies back to the original.22
1420, with a note saying that it was for Orsini to The manuscripts can be divided into three
have the pleasure of letting your thoughts wander textual traditions. The first and longer Latin version
when you are tired.17 While Buondelmontis (A) comprises only two manuscripts (Ravenna,
abilities as a writer and a cartographer may be Classense lat. 308, fifteenth century, and Milan,
debatable and his classical scholarship is considered Ambrosiana a219 inf., early fifteenth century) and
rather mediocre, the Florentine priest merits praise has been regarded since Roberto Almagias day
for being the first to gather original information as the most authoritative.23 The second group
about islands systematically and to accompany his (version B), deemed to be an abbreviation of
narrative with individual maps.18 Buondelmontis version A but with a standard text, contains 58
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 143

manuscripts, most of which were produced in the Liber.29 Even so, the few studies of representations
last part of the fifteenth century.24 Finally, a third, of Mount Athos (a subject obviously less promi-
even shorter, Latin version (C) had been identified nent than the capital of the Byzantine Empire)
in only two codices until about twenty years ago have so far not strayed far from Almagias
(Venice, Marciana lat. X.215, c.1430, and Vat. Chig. chronology and assumptions. Agostino Pertusi
F.IV.74, c.14221430) and has been generally can be credited with being the first to have
dismissed as a further abbreviation of the two published the description of Athos in the extended
longer accounts on the grounds that they appear to version (A), but he failed to ask about the function
have been mutilated.25 of the maps in relation to the text, and his
In the late 1980s, however, Hilary Turner treatment of the maps is on the whole dismissive
identified another copy of the C version, this time and superficial.30 According to Pertusi, the
intact, in a manuscript preserved in a private Ravenna manuscript is the prototype and the other
collection in Baden. On the basis of this discovery, codices are to greater or lesser extent infelicitous
she argued that Buondelmontis original compila- copies, ranging in his assessment from fair to
tion should be identified as that of group C, and not rudimentary, extremely rudimentary, worthless
A as scholars had generally assumed, and that A and totally imaginary.31 Although George Tolias
and B should be seen as extended and elaborated and Evangelos Livieratos offer a more sophisticated
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versions, compiled by scribes possibly after interpretation of these maps in their comprehen-
Buondelmontis death.26 Giuseppe Ragone has sive survey of Athos (they cover island books from
dismissed this theory as too simplistic. In his Buondelmonti to Coronelli), they continue to rely
opinion, Buondelmonti sent Cardinal Orsini two on Almagia and Pertusi and to restrict their analysis
copies of his work: a succinta notitia insularum to only a few manuscripts.32
Cycladum (which Ragone identifies as version C) My analysis here considers exemplars of maps
sometime before 1420, and, in 1420, a true accompanying texts representative of the three
descriptio of the Archipelago upon which the textual traditions (A, B and C) in copies made in
Milan and Ravenna manuscripts (version A) are geographic locations as disparate as Chios and
based. Version B should thus be considered a France. The time span involved, from 1428 to the
reduced version that might not have been com- sixteenth century, and the extended geographical
piled by Buondelmonti, although it includes his area make it possible to trace the development of
original material.27 the concept of Mount Athos as a holy quasi-island
While the genealogy of the Liber remains
in the geographical imagination of the Western
problematic and no agreement has yet been
Renaissance. Unlike Buondelmonti, most scribes
reached, scholars are no longer looking at the later
engaged in copying the manuscripts would have
manuscripts as mere distortions of an original.
had no first-hand experience of the place they
Instead, they are seeing them as valuable visual
were drawing, and they filled the gaps in their
artefacts to be appreciated in their cultural speci-
empirical knowledge with features transposed from
ficity. Buondelmontis original draft (or drafts) can
their own everyday life or with further mytholo-
be and has been envisaged as a sort of canvas that
gical references. Thus, from the actuality of a
has travelled across space and through time and
mountainous peninsula in the Aegean, Athos
has been liable to continual modification and re-
turned into a floating island of the mind, to
inscription, with new data and in different styles,
borrow the phrase from John R. Gillis.33 As a
according to the specific contexts through which it
mental construct Athos went through a series of
moved. In this way, instead of talking dismissively
transformations not only of the features it con-
about plagiarism, the ignorance of the compilers
tained but also of its coastline. As we shall see,
and the progressive distancing of the copies from
Buondelmonti himself was probably less interested
the prototype, the graphic and stylistic variations
in portraying Athos as it actually was, as a real
(textual as well as artistic), omissions and additions
place, than as an object for self-edification and a
observed in the extant manuscripts can be appre-
locus memoriae.
ciated as pointers to different lines of development
and as opening up a whole new geography of
reception.28
Athos as a Mutable Travelling Canvas
Ian Manners has employed this approach in his As Godfrey Baldacchino has recently observed, if
comparative analysis of the representation of we ask anyone to draw an island as seen from the
Constantinople in thirteen manuscripts of the air, what we are most likely to get is (uncannily)
144 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008

the approximation of a circle. Perhaps, the author common with the other two fingers of the
explains, Chalkidike headland (see Fig. 1), and the boundary
between Mount Athos and the rest of the
the answer lies in an obsession to control, to embrace
an island as something that is finite, that may be Chalkidike lies on the northern side of Athos close
encapsulated by human strategy, design or desire. . . . to the isthmus. On all the isolarii maps, however,
Being geographically defined and circular, an island is Mount Athos is laid out across the page (conform-
easier to hold, to own, to manage or to manipulate, to ing to Ptolemys eastwest alignment) with the
embrace and to caress. Is this not part of the reason
why so many islands are self-contained jurisdictions, isthmus on the left; that is on the side identified as
perhaps precursors of the modern territorial, nation the west by the cardinal directions that are given
state? . . . Circular forms make the exercise easier, as on perhaps half the maps. This erroneous orienta-
well as somehow more perfect.34 tion means that what is shown on the maps as the
north side of Mount Athosfacing the top of the
As an ideal republic and, indeed, the oldest
pageis actually its eastern shore. In the following
democracy in the world, with its own internal
discussion, however, real direction is used except
jurisdiction and parliament of monks, Mount
where the context makes it obvious that the
Athos could certainly inspire the notion of circular,
reference is to the maps directions.
perfected, enclosure. In Buondelmontis Liber, the
In addition to the round form of Marciana lat.
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ideal was varied. Were we to trust Turners


X.215, three basic island shapes can be identified
chronology and consider version C as the first
on the other Buondelmonti maps. One is almost
draft, Buondelmonti would have portrayed Athos
square, as in the Baltimore manuscript (Fig. 4).
as a true island surrounded by the sea (Fig. 3).
This version could have been derived from the
Such a fully insular representation is to be found
Holkham Hall exemplar, which is the oldest dated
in only one manuscript, however, that in the
manuscript and which bears a note in Latin to the
Marciana library (lat. X.215, c.1430) and possibly
effect that it was transcribed in the port of Chios by
also in the Baden manuscript (which I have not
Nicholas Scanavinus de Monte Rube on 17 August
been able to see, but which Turner claims to be 1428. The second shape is a scalloped drop,
extremely close to the Venetian).35 pointing northeast. This form is found in both
In all the other manuscripts that I have manuscripts featuring the extended text (A):
inspected, Athos continues to be called insula and Milan, Ambrosiana a.219 inf., and Ravenna,
to be represented as an island except for the narrow Classense lat. 308 (Fig. 5). It is also found in many
neck of land that connects it to the mainland. In of the standard (B) manuscripts (Fig. 6).
reality, the finger runs northwestsoutheast, in A third shape has a scalloped outline, marked by
a deep gulf that varies in length, and that is
found in every manuscript from the middle of the
fifteenth century onwards. This embayed form is
present in standard copies from a wide temporal
and geographical spectrum, including Athens,
Gennadeion 71 AGL (Fig. 7); Venice, Marciana
lat. XIV.45 (Fig. 8) and Marciana lat. X.124 (an
incomplete sketch probably derived from Marciana
lat. XIV.45); Vienna, rec. 2098;36 Vatican, Chig.
F.V.110 (Fig. 9), Urb. lat. 458 and 459; Ross. 704
and 705; Paris, BNF lat. 4823, 4824, 4825, and
nouvelle acquisition lat. 2383; and Padua CM 289
(Fig. 10). On the Dusseldorf ms. g.13 map the
island has a slightly different shape and the bay is
less accentuated (Fig. 11). All the manuscripts date
Fig. 3. Map of Mount Athos from the one of the Venice
from the second half of the fifteenth century.
manuscripts of Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Liber Insularum
Archipelagi (Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana lat. X.215) While connections between the genealogy of the
dating from c.1430. This codex is one of only three extant textual traditions and that of the images are
exemplars in the shorter (C) Latin manuscript tradition, difficult to make, we can nevertheless persuade
regarded by Hilary Turner as the oldest. The map is
unique in portraying the peninsula of Mount Athos as a
ourselves that the gulf was a later introduction.37
complete island, surrounded by the sea. (Reproduced Not only does the shape of Mount Athos vary
with permission from the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.) from manuscript to manuscript, but so also does
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 145
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Fig. 4. Map of Mount Athos from the Baltimore manuscript of Cristoforo Buondelmontis Liber Insularum Archipelagi
(Walters Art Museum W.309, fol. 37v) of c.1475. In this copy, which was made in southern France, the island is correctly
attached to the mainland but has been given a distinctive square shape. Although nineteen Byzantine monasteries were on
Athos during the fifteenth century, in many codices of the Liber only four are represented, as here. Their cruciform
disposition and disproportionate size are a common aspect of the Buondelmonti maps and may suggest a mnemonic
function for the map. (Reproduced with permission from the Walters Art Museum.)

Fig. 5. Map of Mount Athos from the Ravenna manuscript of Cristoforo Buondelmontis Liber Insularum Archipelagi
(Biblioteca Classense lat. 308, fol. 61). Fifteenth century. This codex is traditionally considered the most authoritative. It is
one of only two containing an extended version of the text (A), which is distinguished from the short (C) and the standard
(B) versions by extra references to ancient mythology and classical topography. The map of Mount Athos thus features a
note (next to the isthmus) reminding the reader of the mythical existence of a canal that had been cut across the isthmus
in 480 BC by the Persian king Xerxes, making Athos into an island. Six monasteries are shown. (Reproduced with
permission from the Biblioteca Classense.)
146 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008
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Fig. 6. Map of Mount Athos from another Venice manuscript of Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Liber Insularum Archipelagi
(Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana lat. X.123, fol. 24), copied in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century and probably
based on the map in the Ravenna codex (see Fig. 5). The same six monasteries are featured, but the vignettes have been
scaled down and drawn in a more realistic style through the use of linear perspective and shading. (Reproduced with
permission from the Biblioteca Marciana.)

the number of monasteries shown on it. Ten in proximity of the isthmus, whereas its actual
monasteries are marked on the map in Padua CM location is near the point, at the foot of the
289 and nine on the one in Marciana lat. X.215, mountain peak. On the Dusseldorf manuscript,
but only four are on the maps in the Walters, Vatopedi is placed in the interior of the peninsula,
Holkham Hall, Vienna, Gennadeion, and most of whereas in reality it is located on the eastern coast.
the Vatican and Paris manuscripts. These four The names of the two monasteries (which feature
monasteries are always disposed to form a cross. in Buondelmontis text but not on the oldest maps)
In some cases (as on the Ravenna and Dusseldorf were probably added by scribes unfamiliar with
manuscripts), two monasteries are identified either the toponyms or the exact location of these
Lavra (the most ancient) and Vatopedi (the second monasteries.
largest on the peninsula)and their names are Other textual information and graphic features
accompanied by demographic information.38 The also vary from manuscript to manuscript. Trees, for
other monasteries remain unidentified in all but example, are present on BNF lat. 4823, 4824 and
one of the manuscripts. 4825, on Vat. Ross. 704 and Urb. lat. 459, as well as
While the positioning of the monasteries is on the Vienna and Gennadeion maps, but not on
generally much the same, their cartographical the others. On the map in the Gennadeion library
distribution bears no resemblance to reality. and on another of the Paris copies (BNF, nouvelle
Lavra, for example, is usually depicted on the acquisition lat. 2383), Mount Athos is depicted as a
western coast of the peninsula (for example, in high mountain adjacent to the isthmus instead of
both the Vat. Urb. manuscripts, in Marciana lat. at the extremity of the peninsula, as in reality,
XIV.45, in the Gennadeion and in the Dusseldorf), while the Ravenna map (see Fig. 5) shows the
whereas it is actually sited on the eastern coast. In entire peninsula as mountainous. The Ravenna
the Ravenna manuscript, this monastery is situated map also has a note, close to the isthmus, referring
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 147
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Fig. 7. Map of Mount Athos in the Gennadeion manuscript of Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Liber Insularum Archipelagi in
Athens (Gennadeion 71 AGL). Fifteenth century. The quasi-island is labelled Mons Sanctus. The usual four monasteries
are featured; the mountain peak is incorrectly located next to the isthmus and a bay or gulf penetrates deeply into the east
coast. The bay is found in a number of the standard (B) codices and was probably a later insertion. (Reproduced with
permission from the Gennadeion Library.)

to Xerxes canal, and another with the mysterious


command hoc pinge caloyeros [here depict the
caloyers].39 Pertusi has interpreted the latter as
either an encouragement to the reader to visualize
the monks in his mind or an instruction to other
artists to portray monks on that specific spota
suggestion apparently taken up by the scribe of the
Dusseldorf manuscript who has indeed sketched a
monk with his talanto (the wooden board used
instead of a bell to summon the Fathers to
prayer) at Vatopedi to match the description in
Buondelmontis text (see Fig. 11).
Unlike the views of Constantinople, where a
copyist would feel obliged to make a faithful
rendition of at least the main monuments, Mount
Athos presented a literally blank canvas on to
which he could unfold his architectonic fantasy.40
The appearance of built features (monasteries,
Fig. 8. Map of Mount Athos in a fifteenth-century copy of churches and towers) was just as imaginary as
Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Liber Insularum Archipelagi in their topographical disposition. A copyist accord-
Venice (Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana lat. XIV.45, fol.
131). This elaborate representation is a variant of the map
ingly filled the outline of the quasi-island of Mount
in the Gennadeion manuscript (see Fig. 7). The dimen- Athos as he would, drawing on whatever archi-
sions of the Holy Island are given, and two of the tectural models he had to hand or using ideas from
monasteries are identified, Vatopedi (upper left) and other sources. For example, on the Vienna manu-
Lavra (lower right), and the number of monks (caloyeri)
given. (Reproduced with permission from the Biblioteca script (Bibliotheca Palatina Vindobonensis rec
Nazionale Marciana.) 2098) the large domes of the monasteries of
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Fig. 9. Map of Mount Athos in the Vatican Librarys manuscript of Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Liber Insularum Archipelagi
(Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Chig. F.V.110, fol. 46). Undated. A variant of the Gennadeion map (see Fig. 7). Almost the
entire surface of the quasi-island is occupied by the four monasteries. Their distinctive architecture evokes an eclectic
mixture of styles. There are Italian church loggias (top left and bottom right), Renaissance towers together with Venetian
gothic windows (bottom left), and walls decorated in a fashion similar to the marble bas-reliefs on the iconostasis of ancient
basilicas (top right). (Reproduced with permission from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.)

Athos resemble those of Hagia Sophia, which a buildings similar to those in contemporary French
copyist might have seen represented elsewhere and Books of Hours (Plate 1).42 Only the Muslim
which best represented his own idea of the minarets of one of the monasteries betray the
Byzantine style (Fig. 12). southeastern European origin of the prototype.
In other cases, the copyist made sense of an
unfamiliar subject by means of the familiar, turn- Athos in Martellus and BNF franc. 2794
ing his representation of Athos into a poetic space, Further stylistic variations in the representation
as on the Dusseldorf and Vatican Ross. 702 maps, of Mount Athos are to be found in two isolarii
where the monasteries have become Italian-style that derived directly from Buondelmontis Liber:
churches complete with loggias and campanili (see Henricus Germanus Martelluss spectacular
Fig. 11).41 As the transmission of the manuscript Insularium Illustratum, compiled between 1480
moved farther west, the Greek peninsula was and 1490, and an anonymous isolario now in
transformedas in the case of BL Arundel ms. 93, Paris (BNF franc. 2794) dating from the sixteenth
a sumptuous Franco-Flemish exemplar emended century and probably based on Martellus. Unlike
and copied by the abbot of Mercatel in 1485into Buondelmonti, little is known about Martellus
a green landscape scattered with blue-roofed other than that he was a German miniaturist
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 149
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Fig. 10. Map of Mount Athos in the Padua manuscript of Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Liber Insularum Archipelagi (Biblioteca
Civica CM 289, fol. 21v). Second half of the fifteenth century. This map, copied in Italy, is the only one that features the
promontory as a mountain chain (at the bottom) and the mountain peak, which is depicted correctly at the eastern
extremity of the peninsula (shown here with a pronounced bay), opposite, not adjacent to, the isthmus. The quasi-island is
connected to the mainland through the broad isthmus, but at the same time (unlike other Buondelmonti maps) it is also
separated from it by an irregular line and different colouring (as on early Ptolemaic maps of the region). The mountains are
coloured sky blue and the monasteries bright pink. The castle labelled hic est civitas eno presumably refers to the harbour in
Thrace (along the coast of the mainland to the east) and is either a scribal error or, more likely, a later addition.
(Reproduced with permission from the Biblioteca Civica.)

active in Florence in the last decades of the clearly not only to inform but also to delight a
fifteenth century and that he became famous demanding audience of princely collectors.45 Four
as the compiler of two codices of Ptolemys copies of this manuscript exist. Unlike those of
Geography and, especially, for his map of the Buondelmontis Liber, all known manuscripts of
world that is thought to represent Christopher Martelluss Insularium are in the same style and
Columbuss conception of the globe.43 The world equally lavishly embellished.
map is found in the Insularium, which Tolias has Martelluss Insularium and the Paris isolario BNF
defined as a true island world atlas.44 Drawn on franc. 2794 (the so-called French Portolan) have
parchment, embellished with gold and lapis lazuli, been regarded by some scholars as plagiarized
the intent behind Martelluss Insularium was versions of Buondelmontis Liber; the same islands
150 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008
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Fig. 11. Map of Mount Athos in the Dusseldorf manuscript of Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Liber Insularum Archipelagi
(Universitats und Landesbibliothek, ms. g.13, fol. 56) of c.1480. The manuscript was copied in Vienna, but the artist was
apparently familiar with Italian architecture and has represented the four main monasteries (Vatopedi and Lavra are
named) as Italian-style churches complete with loggias and campanili. An Orthodox monk calling his brethren to prayer
with his talanto (board) is shown by the entrance into the monastery of Vatopedi. The gulf is less accentuated than on other
maps. (Reproduced with permission from the Universitats und Landesbibliothek.)

are represented in a similar fashion (allowance on a Ptolemaic-style map of the Balkans added to a
being made for the personal styles of the different few copies of the Insularium.49 By colouring Athos
artists) and, generally speaking, in the same golden brown (in stark contrast to the white of the
order.46 At the same time, the Insularium and the rest of the Chalkidike and the region behind), we
Paris isolario can be envisaged as natural continua- may assume that Martellus intended to indicate
tions of the Liber. Unlike the Liber, these codices the mountainous character of the peninsula. The
moved beyond the Aegean to include other islands colouring adds emphasis to the peninsulas dis-
in the Mediterranean, even, in the case of tinctive bold shape and enhances the way it
Martelluss Insularium, other seas (such as the appears to be floating in the lapis lazuli of the
Black Sea), large peninsulas (such as Italy and the Aegean. It also sets Athos apart as special island, a
Balkans), other countries and notable places that place in its own right.
Martellus re-used from his Ptolemaic compilations Martellus calls Athos, both in the text and on the
(such as France, Germany, the Holy Land), as well map, Mons Sanctus (Appendix 2). His map appears
as his famous world map.47 However much to be an elaboration of the Gennadeions version of
Martelluss Insularium and the Paris isolario may Buondelmontis Liber (see Fig. 7), but the poetic
have been based on Buondelmontis Liber, it is uniqueness of Athos has been accentuated by
clear that the texts and maps that relate to the Martellus. The rectangular frame that encloses
Aegean islands in the new works are neither the area emphasizes its insularity and sets the
faithful reproductions nor mere summaries, but quasi-island apart from the rest of the world.50 A
elaborations of their prototypes.48 marginal note informs us that Mons Sanctus covers
Mount Athos features in the Insularium in a no less than 100 millia passi, which would make it
distinctive fashion as a golden-brown island with a more than twice the size of Thasos, the next island
deep gulf on the eastern coast, connected to in Martelluss book.
the mainland through a long, thin strip of land Sixteen monastic foundations and churches are
(Fig. 13). The emphasis on the places quasi- shown, and three of the usual four monasteries
islandness is seen on the individual maps of feature in a much larger size and are named (the
Mount Athos found in all manuscripts and also fourth is not identified in any text or map):
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 151

the cartographers birds-eye view. An ordered


multitude of green trees and streams (not present
on the maps of Buondelmontis Liber) makes Athos
a true Garden of Eden, a blessed island enclosing
other blessed islands, those of the monasteries.
As with the maps in the various manuscripts of
the Liber, the topography of the peninsula bears
little resemblance to reality. The stylized coastline
has become a conceptual container to be filled with
features mentioned in the text: the multitude of
holy monasteries in which the monks conduct
their frugal solitary life in contemplation and
prayer; the most pleasant vales full of olive trees
and fig trees; the proximity of the city of
Thessaloniki (marked on the map but outside the
frame and on the edge of the page), situated just
across the isthmus; and finally Athoss highest
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peak, which the author has located next to the


isthmus (so shown on the Gennadeion manuscript,
as noted above).51 On the top of the mountain
Martellus portrays what he calls in the text oppidi
vetustissimi vestigia . . . in quo quidem homines
diutius vivere quam in ceteris locis tradunt [the
vestiges of a most ancient fortified city . . . whose
inhabitants, they say, live longer than in other
places]. This mythical city is mentioned in Pliny the
Elders Natural History. On Martelluss map it
features as if it existed. It is a Renaissance
classicists echo of the Garden of Eden (which
medieval theologians believed to be similarly
located on a high mountain), inaccessible to
Fig. 12. Detail of the map of Mount Athos in the Vienna mankind, that is presented here.52
manuscript of Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Liber Insularum As Martelluss Insularium was transmitted west-
Archipelagi (Bibliotheca Palatina Vindobonensis rec.
2098). First half of the fifteenth century. Another variant wards, an anonymous compiler in sixteenth-
of the Gennadeion map, with two of the four large century France was inspired to create the isolario
monasteries placed north and south of the gulf (see Fig. 7). now in Paris as BNF franc. 2794. Nothing at all is
Here, however, the monasteries are characterized by large known of the origin of this island book. The codex
domes reminiscent of Hagia Sophia, probably the artists
ideal of Byzantium. (Reproduced with permission from contains the same islands as Buondelmontis
the Bibliotheca Palatina Vindobonensis, Vienna.) Liber, with the addition of other Mediterranean
islands (the Balearics, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily,
Vatopedi of Saint Chrysostom is correctly placed on Malta, Lampedusa, Pantelleria and Djerba). Like
the eastern shore of the peninsula; Lavra of Saint Martelluss Insularium, the Paris isolario is a lavish
Nazarenus is incorrectly placed in the southwest folio volume displaying one or at most two maps
(as in several of Buondelmontis maps); and Saint on a page, each accompanied by a textual descrip-
Basil is (also incorrectly) sited to the west and in tion (in French). The use of lapis lazuli for the seas
proximity of the isthmus. Roofs and towers, which and the frames around the maps is clearly derived
were perhaps iconographically more familiar to from Martellus. A richer palette and more elabo-
Martellus than the architecture of Orthodox rate iconographies in the interior of the islands,
churches, have been substituted for the however, have been introduced.
Byzantine domes (as on the Gennadeion, In the Paris isolario, Athos is called both Athos
Marciana lat. XIV.45 and Marciana lat. X.124). and Mons Sanctus. While the text is similar to
The three main monasteries are depicted as Martelluss, the map of Athos in the Paris manu-
miniature walled cities, small microcosms enclosed script is rendered in a much bolder, more confident
within high walls and made visible only through style (Plate 2). The coastline is broadly similar but
152 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008
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Fig. 13. Map of Mount Athos in the London manuscript of Henricus Martellus, Insularium Illustratum (British Library, Add.
MS 15760, fol. 42, c.14801490). 18 6 24 cm. Although probably derived from the Gennadeion map (see Fig. 7), Martellus
has accentuated the character of Athos as a Holy Island (Mons Sanctus) emphasizing its separateness from the mainland not
only by narrowing the isthmus but also by setting the quasi-island into a rectangular frame. The landscape is Edenic,
covered in trees and well watered. Adjacent to the isthmus is the peak, on whose summit lies the mythical fortified city
described by Pliny the Elder. Placing the mountain by the isthmus may have been intended to give it a defensive function,
to protect the island from intruders. (Reproduced with permission from the British Library.)

has been smoothed out. Martelluss already eye- author of the Paris isolario as well, was the sacred
catching rectangular frame is here even more aspect of the place. After all, as Buondelmonti
pronounced. Thessaloniki has been omitted, and noted, Mount Athos was called Holy Mountain
the peninsula has a thicker neck. The French artist principally because of the holy men who live
has gone even further, transforming Martelluss there.54 Unlike later cosmographers, such as
fortified monasteries into unwalled gothic Andre Thevet, Buondelmonti had not been content
churches and fantastic castles and the surrounding to gaze at the peninsula from his ship.55 He visited
landscape into a verdant countryside defined by some of its monasteries and observed the way
white cliffs strongly reminiscent of those of of life of its pious inhabitants, the caloyers.56
Normandy. In the hands of this unknown copyist, He calculated that there were around thirty
Martelluss landscape has become one that his monasteries on the peninsula, in some of
readers would have recognized from what they which he counted one hundred monks, in others,
saw around them and from their Books of Hours.53 five hundred. Their life was one of work and
Athos had become a French Garden of Eden. prayer. All, Buondelmonti wrote, followed the
same rule.
Athos as Locus Sanctus and Locus Amoenus
They rise up silently at night to the sound of a bell
What struck Buondelmonti most, and was made by wood, according to the Greek custom, and go
emphasized by Martellus and the anonymous to church to sing the divine morning office. . . . When
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 153

the sun rises, everyone, with devoted lips and a heart on local small wooden boats.63 For Cardinal Orsini
full of joy, recites briefly again the offices of the day to
and other pious armchair travellers, Athos similarly
the praise of God.57
represented a stop where they could rest their souls
Seated in their cells, they while journeying through the Liber. For all these
people, Athos was a locus amoenus, a delightful
weave garb, stitch shoes, make nets, carve wood,
weave baskets with twigs, make vessels for wine and place somewhat analogous to the garden of
sew caps, which they call kamelavkia. Finally, at stated Alkinoos, where Homers Ulysses found comfort
hours, all the monks hasten to praise God in order to after being shipwrecked, or to the Vale of Tempe
find the eternal peace which reigns among them.58 that Abraham Ortelius, a century and a half later,
incorporated into his Parergon to offer his wearied
Unlike the descriptions of most of the islands in
readers some place of rest, where to re-create
the Liber, the account of Athos is not limited to the
themselves.64
purely informative. A sense of deep emotion is
Athos had already appeared as a locus amoenus in
communicated that goes beyond the authors
late Byzantine ekphraseis. Ekphrasis, the rhetorical
simple desire to investigate the conditions of the
art of vivid description, usually focused on gardens
islands.59 After all, Buondelmonti was himself a
or objects of art with the aim of bringing to life not
cleric. Besides his interest in achieving Life Eternal,
an actual picture, but the spiritual reality behind it.
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Buondelmonti, as it has been suggested, cannot


Like sacred icons, written descriptions of real and
have been without some interest in the ideas for
imagined loci amoeni served as tools for inner eleva-
the union between the Greek Orthodox and
tion and as useful fictions for self-edification.65 In
Roman Catholic Church.60 In his description of
the opening of his Antirrhetika, the Byzantine
Athos, the Florentine priest abandoned himself to a
intellectual Nikephoros GregorasAndronicus
sense of enchantment and profound admiration for
Palaeologus IIs famous chroniclerdescribed
the monks and their unique holy quasi-island,
Mount Athos as a self-sufficient agricultural insti-
which he defined as a palace of angels. As Rene
tution modelled on Platos ideal polis.66 Gregoras
Gothoni has suggested, the metaphor may derive
turned the Holy Mountain into a perfumed garden
from Buondelmontis perception of the fortress-
island covered by a delicate vegetable mantle,
like Byzantine monasteries: sacred buildings that
traversed by little streams, and blessed like the
generations of scribes tried to render on their gardens of Alkinoos and Eden with eternal spring.
maps in the most marvellous fashion they could He described Athos as an ideal place reflecting the
imagine.61 botanical completeness of Eden; a place where
For Buondelmonti, however, the beauty of monastic virtue fused in a harmony of colours,
Athos lay less in the Byzantine domes and scents and sounds and offered many occasions for
splendidly decorated churches than in the soul of inner quietness to those who desire to live a
its angelic inhabitants, the coenobitic monks and celestial life on earth, for its insularity naturally
the humble hermits. He described these aswith protected the monks from the evils of the outer
their eyes set towards heaven and sighing with world.67
all their soul at the thought of Paradise, the Eternal Similarly, Buondelmonti, who could well have
Motherland, from where they were banished due been familiar with Gregorass writings, informs the
to the transgression of their first father, and with a reader that the monks of Athos lead a way of life
contrite and humble heart,they move their just like those who are content with little and who
lips to chant a hymn, and went on to note that have no desire for what the vast majority considers
contemplative in his heart of hearts, the monk to be wealth. . . . Their life is truly peaceful and
trains himself not to fear solitude because God is joyful, their nights are pleasant, their days busy,
with him, but always to delight in looking at the their meals quiet.68 As in Gregorass ekphrasis, the
sky without any worries about money. Standing on Athos narrated by Buondelmonti is a sweet-
the earth makes him praise and give thanks to God, scented garden-island containing fig trees, olive
unceasingly and continuously.62 trees and numerous beehives.69 This, an idealized
In Buondelmontis hands, the Holy Mountain image of the Edenic locus amoenus, is surely what
thus became a peaceful island of virtue in a the copyists were attempting to reproduce in their
turbulent world of greedy desires and passions. generally flat and quasi-insular cartographic repre-
For him, Athos represented a safe refuge in his sentations of Athos.
adventurous peregrinations through the Aegean, For early Renaissance man, islands conveyed
now with pirates, now with merchants, and now deep mystical meanings. An island was more than
154 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008

a geographical object. It was, in the words of the commission.74 Thus it is conceivable that his
humanist Domenico Silvestri (13351411), sojourn on Athos had also been dictated by the
peninsulas fame as one of the largest repositories
terra undique mari circumsepta, et secundum veros
theologos significat animam constantem virtutibus que of Byzantine manuscripts.75 It was widely known
crebris vexatur tentationibus sed firma in constantia that the monasteries on Athos were treasure troves
non volvitur of invaluable relics and precious manuscripts, both
ecclesiastical and classical. Ciriaco dAncona, who
[a land surrounded by sea on all sides and, according travelled to Athos a few decades after the
to true theologians, it stands for the soul that
Florentine priest (possibly, as Jos van der Vin and
perseveres in the virtues and, though afflicted by
frequent temptations, stays firm in constancy, without others suggest, with a copy of the Liber to hand),
turning aside].70 has left us a detailed description of some of these
treasures.76
On early isolarii maps, the insular imagery so Buondelmonti does not say in his account of
predominates that it often seems to obliterate the Athos whether he tried to acquire any manuscripts
other characteristic geographical features of Athos. on the Holy Mountain, nor does he mention the
For example, Pertusi is puzzled by the total absence libraries. He does, however, refer to Athoss most
of Athoss 2,033-metre summit from the maps in famous topographical myths. As Mangani has
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nearly all the manuscripts of Buondelmontis Liber, noted, Buondelmonti was by no means a sort of
a peak that, he observes, even the most distracted pre-Baconian sailor after empirical information.77
sketcher could not have missed.71 The reason for He was an antiquarian seeking the loci of tradition.
omission becomes clear, however, if we take the In other words, he was not looking for places so
Renaissance view: such a dramatic peak would not much as for the famous place-events of antiquity.
have fitted into the Edenic landscaped garden. He knew that Athos was the peninsula Xerxes had
There was no place in the peaceful island of human transformed into an island; he knew that it was the
virtues for such a peak. It would have distracted site that had hosted the ancient fortified city
the viewer. Its graphic presence on the map had to described by Pliny the Elder, whose inhabitants
be marginal, as in the Gennadeion manuscript and lived longer than anyone else; and, of course, he
on Martelluss map. knew (and could personally confirm) that its peak,
one of the most frequently described or referred to
Mount Athos as Locus Memoriae by classical authors, was exceedingly high.78
For Buondelmonti, Mount Athos was not just a The ancient history of the peninsula is presented
palace of angels. Like most of the Aegean islands he quite differently in the three textual traditions.
visited, it was also a site with a mythical pre- Versions A and C differ from version B mainly in
Christian past. The blend of modern and classical the extra classical allusions and mythological
topographies was probably the Libers most references.79 For example, the extended version
attractive aspect for European humanists. (A) gives the historical context of Xerxes canal,
Buondelmontis project was in fact primarily which is missing from the standard version (B).80
antiquarian, since the goal of his extensive In the former group, the Ambrosiana map
journeys through the Aegean and prolonged stays (Ambrosiana a219 inf.) is complemented with
in Crete and Rhodes was historical. In Florence, marginal notes about the ancient cities of Athos
Buondelmonti had received a traditional mentioned by Herodotus and Strabo.81
Renaissance education. He may have been a Furthermore, while version B simply informs us
member of the circle of the famous humanist and that Athoss peak is so high that one can see it for
copyist Niccolo Niccoli, to whom he dedicated a 120 sea miles, versions A and C both reiterate
copy of his Descriptio Insulae Cretae (1417).72 In Pomponius Melas belief that the mountains
Crete and especially in Rhodes, then a minor summit reached the highest layer of the atmos-
centre for Greek studies, the Florentine priest had phere.82 At the top of the mountain the air is so
the opportunity to deepen his experience of pure that no clouds, or rains are generated: winds
classical culture and perhaps learn most of his do not blow, birds do not fly over there, neither
Greek.73 does snow or hail freeze, and signs inscribed in the
Besides gathering geographical and historical ashes of the altars remain unaltered.83 Also in
information for his works as he travelled about versions A and C, Athoss peak is located on the
the Aegean, Buondelmonti purchased ancient same geographical parallel as Olympus and is
manuscripts on, it has been suggested, Niccolis deemed to be so high that its shadow reaches the
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 155

island of Lemnos, as was related by Apollonius of surprise was enhanced by the depiction of the
Rhodius in the late third century BC.84 monasteries as enclosed microscopic worlds, each
Instead of relying solely on Mela and Apollonius, within its compartment, which in turn were
Buondelmonti seems to have consulted a number contained within Athoss quasi-insular microcosm.
of secondary sources, such as Sir John Mandevilles In these representations, Athos was like a Chinese
Travels (1356), a guide for pilgrims bound for box: a surprise without end, where the eye is
Jerusalem that brought together and further invited to make continuous discoveries.
elaborated these and other topographical myths. But islands also served as highly effective
Besides being a bestseller in the later Middle Ages, mnemonic tools. According to Aristotle, Plato and
Mandevilles book included one of the few modern other ancient authors, memory was predominantly
Western descriptions of Athos readily available to visual and depended on the spatial arrangement
Buondelmonti.85 of images or objects. The Roman rhetorician
Of course, Mount Athos was not the only Quintillian (c. AD 35100) devised a spatial model
classical locus in the Liber. Antiquarian references in which information to be memorized (for
permeate the entire narrative of the island book example, parts of a speech) was associated with
and some of the maps of islands visited by variously ornamented rooms of an imaginary
Buondelmonti include representations of the building.91 The belief that recollection could be
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ancient ruins mentioned in the text.86 Yet among stimulated best by visual means (be the images
the maps of Athos, only the Ravenna manuscript mental or actual) endured throughout the Middle
explains Xerxes canal in a note on the map. Ages and the Renaissance.92 Naturally delimited by
Perhaps this is a reflection of the importance their coastlines, islands are easy objects for the eye
accorded to it in the extended version of the text. to grasp and imprint on memory. Islands were
Plinys fortified mountain-top city is graphically natural rooms within the isolarios memory palace.
present on Martelluss map. They were loci memoriae, containing in turn icons
Whether represented on the maps or referred to and symbols indicating the mirabilia, memoranda,
only in the text, the different layers of the physical, singularities and other spatially located object-
the ancient, the mythical and the sacred find events that were to be memorized.93 Islands were
coherence in the self-enclosed insular narrative basic narrative units strung together like precious
unit: hence another possible reason for turning stones through the compilers island-hopping
Athos into a quasi-island. In Renaissance isolarii, journey, a journey imaginatively reiterated by the
islands were the equivalent of small cabinets reader as he leafed through the pages of the island
of curiosities, narrative containers whose self- book. Islands were equivalents of the miniature
contained spatiality allowed the compiler to blend landscapes that illuminated thirteenth- and
fact and legend, personal observation and hearsay, fourteenth-century Books of Hours. Like these
past and present. If the island represented the basic other illustrations, islands summarized and condi-
cognitive form, Aegean islands offered the perfect tioned the reading of the text; they helped the
chorographic scale, which emphasized the qualita- reader to form mental images for inner meditation
tive characteristics of the locus.87 and memorization.94
Islands stirred geographical imagination and As Mangani has suggested, island books were
curiosity, as well as a sense of wonder that was closer in concept to medieval bestiaries (books of
the true impulse for knowledge making in the beasts) than to modern surveys. Their character
Renaissance.88 The map of each island in the was markedly encyclopaedic. The precursors of
isolario opened a small window on a new, different Buondelmontis Liber could have been thematic
microcosm to be explored and described. As we are geographical collections, such as Giovanni
taught by phenomenology, the minuscule, a Boccaccios De Montibus et silvis and its continuation
narrow gate, opens up an entire world. The details by Domenico Silvestri (De insulis et earum propriet-
of a thing can be a sign of a new world, which, like atibus) and Domenico Bandinis De populis, de
all worlds, contains the attributes of greatness.89 aedificis, de provincis, de civitatibus, de insulis, and
In this sense the island book was a source of also books of miracles, costumes, battles, famous
continuous excitement. As the reader leafed men and the like, rather than portolan charts.95
through, each page revealed a new marvel. On Significantly, Domenico dArezzo, one of
maps of Athos such as those in the manuscripts in Buondelmontis tutors in Florence, was himself
the Gennadeion, Marciana and Vatican libraries,90 the author of a massive compendium of knowledge
and especially in Martelluss Insularium, the sense that included a section on islands. It could be said
156 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008

that Buondelmonti was continuing the philological di Domenico Bembo, the Venetian rector of the
project of these encyclopaedic works when he islands of Skiathos and Skopelos. On the map of
complemented his text with visual mnemonic aids, Mount Athos, for example, the patrician classicist
the maps. 96 His perception of geographical knowl- has followed the text and drawn, as an adjacent
edge was as a system of laudes of places connected note indicates, the ditch that Xerxes had dug and
to the cult of memorabilia and great men who made through which his armada sailed.100 Another
them famous through their exempla.97 His anti- example of a readers graphic intervention is to
quarian mapping embodied memorability. Thanks be found on the map in the Marcianas copy of
to the descriptive power of place, Athos, in its Bartolemeos Isolario (Venice, Marciana incunabula
cultural, historical and geographical exceptionality 733), where again Xerxes work attracted the
and as one of the main loci memoriae in the Aegean, attention of the reader, or the artist working for
was represented by Buondelmonti as one of the him, who has dramatically rendered the canal as a
most prominent nodes within the Libers encyclo- deep and rugged crevasse (Fig. 14).
paedic mnemonic system. The order of the maps in Bartolomeos Isolario
usually follows Buondelmontis and the shapes of
Mount Athos as an Emblem the islands are also similar to those in the Liber. In
Bartolomeos Isolario, however, Mount Athoss
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The mnemonic character of island books has roots


coastline has undergone a significant transforma-
in the ancient world. Dionysius Periegetes, a
tion. The quasi-island is no longer depicted in
contemporary of Ptolemy, devoted an entire sec-
isolation but has become part of the Chalkidike
tion of his geographical poem Oikoumenes Periegesis
peninsula, with all three fingers indicated. As on
(AD 124) to islands. First translated into Latin
Buondelmontis and Martelluss maps, they are
in the fourth century and commented on in
aligned left to right on the page. A compass rose,
the twelfth century by Eustathius, bishop of
instead of the usual marginal words, provides
Thessaloniki, the poem remained a standard text
(correct) orientation. The effect of Bartolomeos
throughout the Middle Ages and was often learnt
outlines is to make Athos resemble the head of a
by heart.98
monk bent in prayer and holding a komboschoini or
Similarly, the text of Bartolomeo dalli Sonettis
prayer rope (the peninsulas of Sithona and
Isolario (1485), the first printed island book, was Kassandra being his arms, and Thasos and the
composed in easily memorized rhyming couplets. other nearby islands and reefs the rope). The
While explicitly conceived for navigational pur- sanctity of the peninsula and the piety of
poses, Bartolomeos Isolario was derived from the monks are reiterated in the related verses, in
Buondelmontis Liber and retained, through its Italian, situated on the facing page, probably
poetic format and philological objective, the inspired by Buondelmontis description of Athos.
humanistic interest in the sites and landscapes of
Greek antiquity.99 Bartolomeos text contains Da Stalimene in fin a Monte Sancto
E circha mia sesanta inuer ponente
forty-nine woodcut maps that show only the
Che Atos gia gli fu dito antiquamente
outlines of the islands in black ink on white paper, Altissimo e divoto tuto quanto
usually without topographical detail. The plainness Per tuto e monasteri in ogni canto
of the image invited readers (or the scribes or artists De chaloieri pieni che sovente
Fano suo oration giemente
working for them) to intervene and fill the empty
Pregando Idio chi cuopri col suo manto.
spaces as they wouldwith colours, with topo-
graphical names and features and with corrections
[It is about sixty miles west / [the distance] from [the
based on their personal experience of the places island of] Stalimene to the Holy Mountain / anciently
concerned and, for armchair travellers, their deep called Athos: / loftiest, wholly most pious / scattered
knowledge of the classics. with monasteries in every corner / full of monks who
often pray God with sighs that He cover them with His
Memorization was thus no longer a purely visual
mantle.]101
process, but a performative practice expressed
through the physical acts of drawing, colouring, By fusing his poetry with practical information,
inscribing. Particularly interesting in this respect is Bartolomeo alerted the sailor to shallow waters
the incunabulum of Bartolomeos Isolario that is and dangerous reefs. Off the coasts of Sithonia, the
now in Modena (Estense Alfa E.5.15), whose maps crosses marking the reefs on the map pick out
are packed with all sorts of practical and erudite the line of the monks prayer rope. Unlike his
annotations added by its original owner, Giovanni predecessors, Bartolomeo included a compass rose
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 157
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Fig. 14. Map of Mount Athos in the first printed island book, Bartolomeo dalli Sonettis Isolario (Venice, 1485). The
example reproduced here comes from the Marciana library in Venice (incun. 733). A characteristic of the maps in
Bartolomeos Isolario as first printed is their plainness. The islands are shown only in outline, with a compass rose but few
topographical features. It was up to the readers (or their artists) to colour and fill them in as they liked with place-names
and drawings. In this case, Mount Athos has been made very different from the rest of the Chalkidike peninsula (whose
shape resembles that of a monk in prayer). The reader has also drawn Xerxes canal as a deep crevasse. (Reproduced with
permission from the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.)

on all his maps, a feature that was to become references behind practical information is con-
characteristic of what Tolias has categorized as firmed by the dedication of the book. This is
maritime isolarii.102 On the map of Athos the addressed to his compatriot, Doge G. Mocenigo,
circle of the rose is positioned in such a way that it and contains a numeric cryptogram of his name in
surrounds the head of the praying monk like a the first verses of the text:
halo. That Bartolomeo was deliberately using
Al Divo Cinquecento cinque e diece
the image of map and text simultaneously to Tre cinque a do Mil nulla tre e do un cento
conceal and to reveal moral messages and erudite nulla, questa opra dar piu chaltri lecce.103
158 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008

[To the divine five-hundred five and ten / three five to its quasi-insular self-enclosure. It was not only an
two miles zero and two one hundred / zero, I dedicate
this work which he reads more than any others.]
emblem conveying deep moral meanings, but also
a locus amoenus presented to the reader for personal
The map and the rhyming verses form a single moral edification.
unit, what Denis Cosgrove has called an icono- Like Constantinople and other prominent loci in
text.104 As such, it might be considered to be a early island books, Athos can be also envisaged as a
precursor of a neo-Stoic Renaissance practice that circulating reference that was continually re-
became popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth inscribed and poeticized by copyists who in most
centuries. In that tradition, maps acted not only as cases had no experience of the place they were
mnemonic devices but also as moral emblems, depicting except through previous textual and
images representing a visible thing at the same graphic representations. To Buondelmontis origi-
time as indicating something different. Long nal sketch of Athos, each scribe added something of
familiar examples of emblems in cartographic guise his own cultural background and his clients
include Peter Apians and Oronce Fines heart- demands. When isolarii started (with Bartolomeo
shaped projections of 1530 and 1534/36 respec- dalli Sonetti) to be printed, interpretation and
tively, the anonymous so-called Fools Cap map of re-inscription were left to the erudite reader
1590, and Ambrosius Holbeins two maps of the himself.
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island of Utopia (1516 and 1518), which some In the remaining two centuries of the isolariis
scholars claim may have been inspired by life, the image of the Athos peninsula underwent
Martelluss map of Athos.105 Moral emblems were further transformations but never lost its promi-
objects of contemplation through the assistance nent position in the books and its moralizing
of which the individual could rise above the function. Running counter to every narrative of
mundane in order to observe the theatre of the cartographic progress, Athos appears on Coronellis
world and reflect on the futility of human affairs 1699 map in the shape of a huge cross chasing the
and terrestrial life itself.106 Cosgrove has shown infidel Turk from the Aegean. After the demise of
that sixteenth-century cosmographic projects, such the island book as a genre in the eighteenth
as Abraham Orteliuss Theatrum orbis terrarum century, Athos continued to occupy a central
(1570), sought to represent the worlds unity position on maps of the northern Aegean.108
in diversity and that they promoted a quest Even today, re-scaled to fit modern measure-
for global tolerance at a time of religious and ment, Athos still features on topographic maps as a
political division.107 Buondelmontis, Martelluss space qualitatively different from its surroundings.
and Bartolomeos moral appraisal of Mount Athos, It stands out as a finger of land with no towns,
a republic of monks belonging to a Church deemed camp sites, marinas or asphalted roads. Instead, it is
schismatic by the Vatican, can be seen as a small- crowded with tiny crosses marking a multitude of
scale anticipation of these ideals; as a glimpse of monasteries. Sacredness is conveyed in a way that
inter-religious tolerance within the context of is perhaps different from, but no less effective than,
humanistic universalism. Buondelmontis and Martelluss Edenic quasi-
island, or with Bartolomeos iconotext. As on
The representation of Mount Athos on early the early isolarii, the peninsula remains a locus
Renaissance isolarii served multiple functions that memoriae: the uncanny non-presence of Xerxes
went beyond the purely informative or descriptive. canal haunts even contemporary scientific topo-
For this reason, I argue, to assess these maps in graphic maps. Mount Athos thus challenges tradi-
terms of faithfulness to reality or to search for tional evolutionary narratives that like to posit
detailed topographic information on them, as has a progression from a pictorial/subjective to a
been done in the past, is to miss the point. To scientific/objective cartography. It also challenges
separate the image from the text or from the Harleian readings limited to power-knowledge. It
context of the island-book genre is equally mis- calls for a re-evaluation of maps as complex
leading, for the maps were used as visual aids for cultural artefacts, as carriers of not only social but
the memorization of the information conveyed by also moral values as links between interior and
the text. Mount Athos was not just a blessed stop exterior worlds.109
in the Aegean for the armchair pilgrim, it was a
Acknowledgements: I am most grateful to the two
node within a complex net of loci memoriae. It was a
anonymous referees and to George Tolias for their
site whose different temporal and cultural layers invaluable comments, and to Robert Markus for
could be contained and appropriated only through checking my Latin translations.
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 159

Manuscript submitted October 2007. Revised text received March vedute ma io hora qua con i pirrhati hora con mercanti
2008. et hora con grippi et barchecti et altri ligni delle isole, et
hora innanzi et hora in dietro, hora in qua et hora in la,
NOTES AND REFERENCES secondo che la comodita del navigare che ad me era
apparecchiato, perche lo fine del mio navigare solo era per
1. As shown by Evaggelos [Evangelos] Livieratos, Atho posser investigare la condizione et effecto delle isole
perimetrou metamorfoseis, in Orous Atho ges thalasses (Vatican (hereafter Vat.), Ross. 704, fol. 1rv), quoted in
perimetron kharton metamorfoseis, ed. Evaggelos Livieratos Ragone, Il Liber Insularum Archipelagi (see note 14),
(Thessaloniki, Ethnike Khartotheke, 2002), 17144. 187.
2. See, for example, British Library (hereafter BL) Maps 16. Hilary Louise Turner, Christopher Buondelmonti:
SEC.5 (216). adventurer, explorer and cartographer, in Pelletier,
3. On Barbie du Bocage, see Matthew Edney, Geographie du monde au Moyen Age et a la Renaissance (see
Reconsidering Enlightenment geography and map mak- note 6), 207; Ian Manners, Constructing the image of a
ing: reconnaissance, mapping, archive, in Geography and city: the representation of Constantinople in Christopher
Enlightenment, ed. Charles W. J. Withers and David Buondelmontis Liber Insularum Archipelagi, Annals of
Livingstone (Chicago and London, University of Chicago the Association of American Geographers 87 (1997): 73.
Press, 1999), 18890. For Athos on 18th and 19th century 17. Turner, Christopher Buondelmonti (see note 16),
maps, see ibid. 207; Buondelmonti quoted in Tolias, Isolarii, fifteenth to
4. Graham Speake, Mount Athos: Renewal in Paradise seventeenth century (see note 6), 266. The manuscript
(New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2002). believed to have been sent to Cardinal Orsini is
5. See, for example, the Vatopedian codex of Ptolemys considered lost. It probably perished when his library
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Geography, Mount Athos, Vatopedinos 655 (13th14th was dispersed following the sack of Rome in 1527: see
century). For the analysis of Mount Athos on Ptolemaic Turner, Christopher Buondelmonti (note 16), 215.
maps, see Livieratos, Atho perimetrou metamorfoseis 18. Ragone, Il Liber Insularum (see note 14), 186;
(note 1); and Nane Ploutoglou, Tridaktulou Athos Turner, Christopher Buondelmonti (see note 16), 209.
Ptolemaikos, in Orous Atho ges kai thalasses perimetron 19. Ragone, Il Liber Insularum (see note 14), 187;
kharton metamorfoseis (note 1), 20516. Turner, Christopher Buondelmonti (see note 16), 209.
6. George Tolias, Isolarii, fifteenth to seventeenth 20. In Greek: published by Emile Legrand, Christoforo
century, in The History of Cartography, vol. 3, Cartography Buondelmonti: Description des isles de lArchipel. Version
in the European Renaissance, ed. David Woodward greque par un anonyme (Paris, Ecole des Langues Or.
(Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2007), 3:1, 263 Vivantes, 1897). In Italian: Vat. Ross. 704; Marciana ital.
284, esp. 264; Frank Lestringant, Iles, in Geographie du Vi.19 (without maps); Vienna, rec. 2098. In Venetian:
monde au Moyen Age et a la Renaissance, ed. Monique Ambrosiana Y.72 sup. (without maps). In English: BL,
Pelletier (Paris, CTHS, 1989), 166. Cod. Titus B VIII, fols. 245r48v. See Roberto Weiss, Un
7. Brian Harley, Maps, knowledge and power, in The umanista antiquario: Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Lettere
Iconography of Landscape, ed. Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Italiane 16 (1964): 108.
Daniels (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988), 21. Turner, Christopher Buondelmonti (see note 16),
277312. 207. Ragone has counted 75 manuscripts, including some
8. Giorgio Mangani, Cartografia morale (Modena, Cosimo cited by other scholars but deemed lost. He also includes
Panini, 2006). the four manuscripts of Martelluss Insularium Illustratum,
9. Denis Cosgrove, Globalism and tolerance in early the isolario in the Bibliotheque nationale de France
modern geography, Annals of the Association of American (hereafter BNF), and other works he considers plagiariza-
Geographers 93 (2003): 85270. tions of the Liber. See Ragone, Il Liber Insularum (note
10. Rene Gothoni, Tales and Truth: Pilgrimage on Mount 14), 2034.
Athos Past and Present (Helsinki, Helsinki University Press, 22. Thomas Thomov, New information about
1994), 1125; Agostino Pertusi, Monasteri e monaci Cristoforo Buondelmontis drawings of Constantinople,
italiani allAthos nellalto Medioevo, in Le Millenaire du Byzantion 66 (1996): 434.
Mont Athos, 9631963 (Namur, Etudes et Melanges, 23. Roberto Almagia, Planisferi, carte nautiche e affini
Editions de Chevetogne, 1963), 21751; Evaggelos esistenti nella Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City,
Livieratos and Georgios [George] Tolias, O Athos ton Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1944), 10517.
neson, in Orous Atho ges thalasses perimetron kharton 24. Turner, Christopher Buondelmonti (see note 16),
metamorfoseis (see note 1), 21740. 215. Version B was first published by G. R. L. von Sinner,
11. Herodotus, The Histories, VII, 2224. Christoph. Buondelmonti Florentini Librum insularum archi-
12. Georgios Tolias, Ta nesologia: e monaxia kai e suntrofia pelagi e codicibus Parisinis regiis nunc primum totum edidit
ton nesion (Athens, Olkos, 2002), 227. (Leipzig and Berlin, 1824), and then in 1897 by Legrand,
13. The title can be translated as Island Book of the Christoforo Buondelmonti (see note 20). Only fragments of
[Aegean] Archipelago. version A have been published, and in so far as I know
14. The frequent suggestion that Buondelmonti died in version C not at all.
the early 1430s remains purely hypothetical, based 25. Turner, Christopher Buondelmonti (see note 16),
wholly on the lack of any known work from after 215.
that date. See Giuseppe Ragone, Il Liber Insularum 26. Ibid.
Archipelagi di Cristoforo dei Buondelmonti: filologia del 27. Ragone, Il Liber Insularum (see note 14), 200.
testo, filologia dellimmagine, in Humanisme et culture 28. David Livingstone, Science, text and space:
geographique a lepoque du concile de Constance, ed. Didier thoughts on the geography of reading, Transactions of
Marcotte (Turnhout, Brepols, 2002), 19293. the Institute of British Geographers 30 (2005): 391401.
15. Deliberai nel mio animo volere vedere le isole dello 29. Manners, Constructing the image of a city (see
Archipelago, et per fare questo ho consumati anni sedici, note 16).
et cos ho visto et trovate multe cose che scripte non ho 30. Pertusi, Monasteri e monaci italiani (see note 10).
160 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008

31. Ibid., 245, n.88. parts of the world can be observed by comparing the four
32. Livieratos and Tolias, O Athos ton neson (see existing (complete) copies of the Insularium (Leiden,
note 10). Cod. Vossianus Lat. 111; BL, Add. MS 15760; Chantilly,
33. John R. Gillis, Islands of the Mind: How the Human Library of the Musee Conde, MS 483; Minneapolis,
Imagination Created the Atlantic World (New York, Palgrave University of Minnesota, Bell Library, B1475) to the
MacMillan, 2004). codex at Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana, XXIX.25, a
34. Godfrey Baldacchino, Editorial: islandsobjects of draft of the Insularium including Buondelmontis islands
representation, Geografiska Annaler B, 87 (2006): 247. and the B version of his text, in which sketches of the
35. The only other extant C version (Vat. Chig. F.IV.74) countries are left unfinished.
has been truncated and does not contain a map of Mount 48. Roberto Almagia, I mappamondi di Enrico Martello
Athos. e alcuni concetti geografici di Cristoforo Colombo, La
36. On the Vienna manuscript (rec. 2098), see Hermann Bibliofilia 42 (1940): 302.
Julius Hermann, Die Handschriften und Inkunabeln der 49. One manuscript with the Balkans map is Chantilly,
italienischen Renaissance (Leipzig, Verlag von Karl Conde Museum ms 483, fol. 103, 54.5 6 32.5 cm, on
Hiersemann, 1932), 3: 69. which the finger of Athos is portrayed as virtually a
37. Ragone argues that the genealogy of the text almost round island characterized by the gulf. The round quasi-
never coincides with the genealogy of the maps. He insular shape can be traced to earlier versions of the
thinks that the maps may not be in the same hand as any Geography: see, for example, Venice, Marciana gr. 338
of those responsible for the text. See Ragone, Il Liber (1449). For a reproduction, see Tolias, Ta nesologia
Insularum (note 14), 95. In any case, there is no reason (note 12), 48-49.
to assume that drawings were as faithfully copied from an 50. BL, Add. MS 15760, fol. 42r.
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exemplar as the text. 51. Ibid., fols. 41r42v.


38. The notes in the Ravenna manuscript indicate that 52. Pliny, Natural History, 7.35. Two such theologians
Lavra had 800 or 1000 monks and Vatopedi 500; in were Alexander de Hales, the first Franciscan professor at
Marciana lat. XIV.45, the figures are 800 and 500 the University of Paris in the 1220s, and later (1312)
respectively; and in the Dusseldorf manuscript, 800 and Durandus of Saint Pourcain, Auvergne, France. See
400. See also Pertusi, Monasteri e monaci italiani (note Alessandro Scafi, Mapping Paradise. A History of Heaven on
10), 250, n.160. Earth (London, British Library, 2006), 17475 and 192.
39. Caloyer is the latinization of the Greek word 53. Numerous examples of similar landscapes and
kalogeros (monk). Buondelmonti in his description of the landscape features in French Books of Hours can be
islet of Kaloyeros between Chios and Andros, gives a found in Janet Backhouse, Illuminations from Books of
philological explanation of the word (kalos 5 bonus, Hours (London, British Library, 2004), especially 36, 43,
geros 5 senex); see Sidney Allen, Kaloyeros: an Atlantis 54, 102, 103.
in microcosm? Imago Mundi 29 (1977): 55. 54. Buondelmonti, in Gothoni, Tales and Truth (see note
40. Arne Effenberger, Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Liber 10), 11 (translation based on Legrand, Christoforo
Insularum Archipelagi (Dusseldorf, Universitats und Buondelmonti (see note 20)).
Landesbiblioithek, 2005), 66. In the Milan manuscript 55. Thevet only glanced at Athoss summit from the
(Ambrosiana a219 inf., fol. 76r), the map of Mount Athos Hellespont, but reproduced it in his Cosmographie
(erroneously labelled Lemnos) appears as a blank space; Universelle (1575) and associated it with a saying from
only the coast is outlined and the surrounding sea is Erasmuss Adagia (a book of proverbs): Ahvz kaluptei
painted in green. pleura Lgmnaz booz. Athos overshadows the flanks of the
41. The concept of poetics of space is taken from Lemnian cow [traditionally, something or someone that
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (Boston, Beacon gets in the way or casts a shadow on anothers
Press, 1969). First published in French as La poetique de reputation]. They say that in Lemnos there was an
lespace (Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1958). immense statue of a cow made of white marble; and
42. See Weiss, Un umanista antiquario (note 20), 109. Mount Athos was so high and so huge that, in spite of the
Compare, for example, the iconography of the highest great mass of Thrace, it casts a shadow three hundred
tower on the Athos map in BL, Arundel ms.93, with the stades long (Adagia, III, ii, 90). See also Martin Martin,
tower on the left in the Annunciation of the Shepherds Some western images of Athos in early modern times,
in the Master of Jean Rolin IIs Book of Hours executed in c.15541678, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 22
Paris in 1460 (BL, Add. MS 35216, fol. 51v). (1998): 51.
43. Almagia, Planisferi (see note 23), 307; Tolias, Ta 56. Which monasteries he visited during his stay on
nesologia (see note 12), 33. Martelluss origins are Athos, Buondelmonti does not tell us, but it is likely that,
suggested by his self-characterization as Germanus. sailing from Thasos, he first disembarked at Vatopedi,
Several misspellings and errors in the transcription of proceeded along the coast to the Great Lavra and the
place-names from older portolan charts show that his monastic village of Saint Anne. He might have then
knowledge of Italian was far from perfect. See Florio visited other foundations on the west coast, before
Banfi, Two Italian maps of the Balkan peninsula, Imago leaving the peninsula. As Gothoni has observed, Lavra
Mundi 11 (1954): 30. and Vatopedi were the only two idiorrhythmic mona-
44. Tolias, Ta nesologia (see note 12), 32. steries at that time, which would correspond to his
45. Tolias, Isolarii (see note 6), 267, 283. description (Gothoni, Tales and Truth (see note 10), 24).
46. The term French Portolan is used by, for example, 57. Gothoni, Tales and Truth (see note 10), 11.
Ragone, Il Liber Insularum (see note 14), 204, no. 85. 58. Ibid., 12.
47. Martellus characterized the Mediterranean as our 59. Vat. Ross. 704, fol. 1v.
sea, echoing the ancient Romans mare nostrum: Almagia, 60. Hilary Louise Turner, The expanding horizons of
Planisferi (see note 23), 292; Tolias, Isolarii (see note 6), Christopher Buondelmonti, History Today 40 (1990): 41.
280. The expansion from an island book for the Aegean to As Ragone has shown, Buondelmonti became directly
one covering the Mediterranean and, finally, different involved in diplomatic operations at the time when Vitold
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 161

of Lithuania was attempting to create a Lithuania mainland, this mountain was separated from the con-
Constantinople axis (Ragone, Il Liber Insularum (see tinent in the time of Xerxes, king of the Persians, who
note 14), 216). advanced to Thermopilae with eight hundred thousand
61. A detailed account of the interiors of the churches of men against the Athenians, wisest of nations, and having
some of the monasteries and their treasures is given by been defeated by the few, returned to his country without
Ciriaco dAncona, who visited the peninsula in 1444. honour]. Latin from Pertusi, Monasteri e monaci italiani
Unlike Buondelmonti, Ciriaco was a merchant and (see note 10), 246; my translation.
antiquarian rather than a cleric and was more interested 81. Herodotus, The Histories, VII, 22; Strabo, Geography,
in aesthetic detail than in the spiritual life of the 66 (Macedonia).
Athonites; see Edward Bodnar, Cyriac of Ancona: Later 82. This would be the equivalent of 178 kilometres,
Travels (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, which is close to modern geodetic calculations; see
2003). Livieratos and Tolias, O Athos ton neson (note 10), 231.
62. Gothoni, Tales and Truth (see note 10), 11. 83. Pomponius Mela, Description of the World, 2.31. On
63. Ma io hora qua con pirrathi hora con mercanti et the Ravenna manuscript (Classense lat. 308, fol. 61),
hora con grippi et barchecti et altri ligni delle isole, et hora Pomponius Melas original quotation was noted on the
in la, secondo che la comodita del navigare che ad me era margin by some erudite reader.
apparecchiato, perche lo fine del mio navigare era per 84. Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautics, 1.60106. Rather
poster investigare la condizione delle isole (Vat. Ross. than a real phenomenon, Athoss shade probably reached
704, fol. 1v, quoted in Ragone, Il Liber Insularum (see Apollonius (and after him Plutarch, who admittedly had
note 14), 187). never been to Athos or to Lemnos) as a topographic
64. Quoted in Cosgrove, Globalism and tolerance (see legend mentioned in an iambic verse by Sophocles (495
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note 9), 857. 406 BC); see Miltiades Konstantinou, Athos skiazei nota
65. Liz James and Ruth Webb, To understand ultimate Lemnias boos, in Agion Oros kai prochristianike archaioteta,
things and enter secret places: ekphrasis and art in ed. Soteres Athanasiades (Thessaloniki, KEDAK, 2006),
Byzantium, Art History 14 (1991): 117. 25.
66. The same ekphrasis was also re-proposed with slight 85. There is also another hill which men call Athos; and
changes in Nikephoros Gregorass Romaike Istora (1359). that is so high that its shadow stretches to Lemnos, which
See Nikephoros Gregoras, Romasche Geschichte, transl. Jan is distant from it nearly seventy-eight miles. Upon these
Louis van Dieten, vol. 3 (Stuttgart, Anton Hiersemann, hills the air is so clear and so pure that no wind can be felt
1973). there; and so no animal can be seen there; and so no
67. Nikephoros Gregoras, in Zacharia Papantonios, animal nor bird can live there, the air is so dry. And men
Agion Oros (Athens, n.p., 1934), 183. I would like to say in those countries that once wise men went up on the
thank Father Amphilochios and Father Theoktistos hills and held to their noses sponges soaked with water to
(Docheiariou Monastery, Mount Athos) for their assis- catch the air, for the air was so dry. And also up on those
tance with translations from Byzantine Greek. hills they wrote letters in the dust with their fingers, and
68. Gothoni, Tales and Truth (see note 10), 1112. at the end of a year they went up again and found the
69. Ibid. same letters that they had written the day before as fresh
70. Quoted in Mangani, Cartografia morale (see note 8), as they were on the first day, without any defect.
160. And therefore it certainly appears that these hills
71. Pertusi, Monasteri e monaci italiani allAthos (see pass beyond the clouds to the pure air (Mandeville, The
note 10), 251 n.162. Voiage and Travayle of Sir John Maudeville Knight which
72. On Buondelmontis classical education, see Weiss, Treateth of the Way toward Hierusalem and of Marvayles of
Un umanista antiquario (note 20). Inde and Other Islands and Countreys (1356), quoted in
73. Ragone, Il Liber Insularum (see note 14), 186. Jay Levenson, Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration
74. Weiss, Un umanista antiquario (see note 20), 110. (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1991),
75. Today the libraries of Mount Athos contain no fewer 225).
than 16,000 Byzantine and modern Greek manuscripts, 86. Weiss, Un umanista antiquario (see note 20), 113.
together with a considerable number of chrysobulls, 87. Frank Lestringant, Mapping the Renaissance World: The
patriarchal letters and other valuable documents. See Geographical Imagination in the Age of Discovery (Berkeley
Evaggelos Litsas, Palaeographical researches in the Lavra and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1994);
of Mount Athos, Ellenika 50 (2000): 21821. Denis Cosgrove, Apollos Eye (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins
76. Jos P. A. van der Vin, Travellers to Greece and University Press, 2001), 93.
Constantinople: Ancient Monuments and Old Traditions in 88. Patricia Platt, Wonders, Marvels, and Monsters in Early
Medieval Travellers Tales (Leiden, Nederlands Historisch- Modern Culture (Newark, University of Delaware Press,
Archaeologisch Institut Istanbul, 1980), 138. See also 1999).
Bodnar, Cyriac of Ancona (see note 61), 12135. 89. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (see note 41), 155. See
77. Mangani, Cartografia morale (see note 8), 160. also Tolias, Isolarii (note 6), 280.
78. Pliny, Natural History, 7.35. 90. Marciana lat. XIV.45; Vat. Chig. F.V.110.
79. Turner Christopher Buondelmonti (see note 16), 91. Francis Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago, University
215. of Chicago Press, 1966), 3.
80. Invenimus post has iam peractas insulas olim Athos 92. Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory (Cambridge,
dictum: et quamvis nunc continens sit, tunc, tempore Cambridge University Press, 1990), 17.
Xerxis, Regis Persarum, qi contra sapientissimum popul- 93. Mangani, Cartografia morale (see note 8), 69.
um Athenarum cum octingentis milibus hominum usque 94. Ibid., 161.
Termophilas venerat et devictus a paucis ad patriam sine 95. Marica Milanesi, De insulis et earum proprietate di
honore remeavit, a continenti mons iste erat divisus Domenico Silvestri (13851406), Geografia Antiqua 2
[Having visited these islands, we finally arrive at the (1993): 13346. As Tolias has noted, the fact that a copy
mount formerly called Athos: and even though now it is of Domenico Bandinis De populis is included in Marciana
162 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008

lat. X.124 as an introduction to Buondelmontis Liber Icaromenippus seu Hypernephelus, published in Paris in
seems to confirm that these two works were considered 1506, ten years before the publication of Utopia. See also
by contemporary readers as two of a kind (Tolias, Isolarii Craig Ringwalt Thompson, The Translations of Lucian by
(see note 6), 265). Erasmus and St. Thomas More (Ithaca, NY, Cornell
96. Turner, Christopher Buondelmonti (see note 16), University, 1940). On the possible relationship between
207. Holbeins maps of Utopia and Martelluss map of Athos,
97. Mangani, Cartografia morale (see note 8), 160. see Evaggelos Livieratos and Maria Parzale, Ou topos e
98. Tolias, Isolarii (see note 6), 264. topos Orous? in Orous Atho ges thalasses perimetron kharton
99. Massimo Donattini, Bartolomeo dalli Sonetti, il suo metamorfoseis (note 1), 246). Holbeins original map
Isolario e un viaggio di Giovanni Bembo, 15251530, illustrated the first edition of Thomas Mores Utopia
Geografia Antiqua 34 (19941995): 230; Cosgrove, (1516), but a different version of the map appeared in
Apollos Eye (see note 87), 93. A copy of Bartolomeo dalli the second edition (1518). It has been suggested that
Sonettis Isolario used to be bound together with the Erasmus of Rotterdam, who oversaw the first edition of
Venetian translation of Buondelmontis Liber in Milan, Mores Utopia and who had also worked with Holbein,
Ambrosiana Y.72 supplement. ordered the artist to rework the original map for the
100. Donattini, Bartolomeo dalli Sonetti (see note 99), second edition of Mores book, so that it would give the
235, 238. hint of a human skull, after recognizing its emblematic
101. Bartolommeo dalli Sonetti, Isolario (Venice, 1485), potential as a memento mori, or remembrance of death
n.p. The translation is mine. (Malcolm Bishop, Ambrosius Holbeins memento mori
102. Tolias, Ta nesologia (see note 12). map for Sir Thomas Mores Utopia: the meanings of a
103. Donattini, Bartolomeo dalli Sonetti (see note 99), masterpiece of early sixteenth-century graphic art, British
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212, 217. The translation is mine. With his cryptogram, Dental Journal 199 (2005): 10712).
Bartolomeo was again following Buondelmonti, who had 106. Cosgrove, Globalism and tolerance (see note 9),
inscribed his dedication to Orsini using the initial letters 866. See also Cosgrove, Apollos Eye (see note 87), 14950.
of his islands descriptions. 107. Cosgrove, Globalism and tolerance (see note 9).
104. Cosgrove, Apollos Eye (see note 87). 108. See Livieratos, Atho perimetrou metamorfoseis
105. Thomas More was familiar with Athos and the (note 1).
story of Xerxes canal (which he adapted for his account 109. Denis Cosgrove, Introduction: mapping meaning,
of Utopia) from his and Erasmus of Rotterdams in Mappings, ed. Denis Cosgrove (London, Reaktion
translation of the complete works of Lucian, Luciani Books, 1999), 321.

Appendix 1. List of Manuscripts Consulted


Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Liber Insularum Archipelagi.

The folio number for the Mount Athos map is given wherever possible, as is the date and place of copying. In addition
the letters A, B and C indicate which of the three versions of the text the manuscript represents.

Manuscripts with maps:


1. Athens, Gennadeion 71 AGL. 15th century. B
2. Baltimore, Walters Art Museum W.309, fol. 37v. Southern France, c.1475. B
3. Dusseldorf, Universitats und Landesbibliothek ms. g.13, fol. 56. Vienna, c.1480. B
4. Holkham Hall, Norfolk, Library of the Earl of Leicester ms. 475. Chios, 1428. B
5. London, British Library Arundel ms. 93 art. 7, fol. 157r. Flanders, 1485. B
6. Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana a219 inf., fol. 76. Early 15th century. A
7. Padua, Biblioteca Civica CM 289, fol. 21v. Italy, second half 15th century. B
8. Paris, BNF lat. 4823, fol. 35v. Italy or France, 1516th century. B
9. Paris, BNF lat. 4824, fol. 47v. North Italy, late 15th century. B
10. Paris, BNF lat. 4825, fol. 39v. North Italy, c.1466. B
11. Paris, BNF nouvelle acquisition lat. 2383, fol. 37. Italy, second half 15th century. B
12. Ravenna, Biblioteca Classense lat. 308, fol. 61. 15th century. A
13. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Barb. lat. 270, fol. 47. B
14. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Chig. F.V.110, fol. 46. B
15. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Ross. 702, fol. 34v. B
16. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Ross. 704, fol. 65. First half 15th century. B
17. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Ross. 705, fol. 52v. B
18. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Urb. lat. 458, fol. 44. 16th century? B
19. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Urb. lat. 459, fol. 36. Chios, 1456. B
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 163

20. Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana lat. X.123 5 3784, fol. 24. Late 15early 16th century. B
21. Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana lat. X.124 5 3177. 15th century. B
22. Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana lat. X.215 5 3773, fol. 48. c.1430. C
23. Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana lat. XIV.45 5 4595, fol. 131. 15th century. B
24. Vienna, Bibliotheca Palatina Vindobonensis 5 rec. 2098, fol. 45. Italy, first half 15th century. B
Manuscripts without maps:
1. Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana ital. VI.19, fol. 34v. Venice, 1471. B
2. Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana Y.72 sup. Venice, 1485? B
Henricus Martellus, Insularium Illustratum
London, British Library Add. MS 15760, fol. 42. Florence, c.14801490.
The Paris isolario
Paris, BNF franc. 2794, fol. 83v. France, 16th century.
Bartolomeo dalli Sonetti, Isolario
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana incun. 733, fol. 48. Venice, 1485.
Paris, BNF Cartes et plans, Res. Ge DD1989, fol. 48. Venice, 1485
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Appendix 2. Transcripts of the Description of Mount Athos


Crisoforo Buondelmonti, Liber Insularum Archipelagi.

Originally compiled either as Buondelmonti travelled through the Aegean or later when he was in Rhodes sometime
after 1418. The transcript is based on the Milan (Ambrosiana a219 inf) and Ravenna (Classense lat. 308) codices. The
words in bold are those present in the A text but missing from the B (vulgate) version. Version A is based on the
transcript by Agostino Pertusi, Monasteri e monaci italiani all Athos (see note 10), 24647.

Invenimus post has iam peractas insulas montem olim Athos dictum; et quamvis nunc continens sit, tunc
tempore Xerxis, Regis Persarum, qui contra sapientissimum populum Athenarum cum octingentis
milibus hominum usque Termophilas venerat et devictus a paucis ad patriam sine honorem
remeavit, a continenti mons iste erat divisus; nunc igitur tale tenue vadum propter ignorantiam vel
pusilanmitatem et ignaviam colentium reclusum terra habetur; et accedentes in eum turba
innumerabiliorum caloerorum. Mons Sanctus usque in hodiernum nuncupator ab istis. Qui in Tracia
prope Macedoniam in tertio Europe sinu et in mari Egeo situs, in altitudine Olimpi, habertur et
adeo mons iste sublimatur ut eius vertex in loco tam sublime, tam puro aere constitutus est,
quod neque imbres in eo nec pluvie generantur: non spirant venti, non aves advolant nec nives
aut grandines congelantur. Annua enim sacra ibi facere soliti cinerem characteribus quibusdam
signabant, quem anno altero redeuntes uti liquerant signatum inveniebant lineamentis
characterum in nullo mutatis. Huius umbra propre Lepnon accedit, quamvis multi dicant
Lemnon usque insulam dictam. In summitate igitur, ut dicitur, Acrohathon oppidum olim erat, in quo ad
dimidium longior quam in aliis terris etas habitantium extendebatur. Circuit et enim ad plus mons iste
magnus centum viginti duo milaria.
Quo in loco tot et tanta sunt monasteria virorum Dei sive caloerorum sancti Blaxii, Chrysostomi atque
Gregorii Nazanzeni et aliorum sanctorum preteritorum, quod hoc nullo modo enumerari posset. Surgunt
igitur in tempestate noctis silentio, postquam primum signum lignea campana dederat rauca voce secundum
consuetudinem plurium orientalium grecorum, et ad ecclesiam accedentes, postquam de sua exeunt
cellula, matutinale divinum cantant officium, semper omnibus in pedibus astantibus suis. Cumque sic
peragerent et orationes factas ad laudem Omnipotentis finirent, ad suas redeunt casas, et quicquid a suo
mittitur priore cum pace comedunt et devotione. Sunt et enim aliqua horum monasteria que ad communem
caloerorum trahunt ritum, aliqua antea (ad alium) asperiorem modum vivendi vita ordinavere, quia in
sabato de monte atque solitudine omnes in cellulis redeuntes et in officio divino die dominico usque
meridiem fere orantes ad refectorium accedunt, et completo prandio maior ipsorum pars leguminibusque
pane in heremum revertitur et inde suspiciens celum ac stellas et illic habitantem divinum Deum secum tota
164 V. della Dora Imago Mundi 60:2 2008

nocte suspirans et patriam cogitans eternam de exilii sui loco protinus ad orationem humilem os secum
convertitur supplicaturum, atque ita verbis pastus amenissimis multa in pace animi venture lucis
initium prestulatur; et ubi iubare iam solis exorto, in diurnas Dei laudes pio letus ore prerumpit. Iste vero
hesterno sobrius vegetusque somnio modesto sub lare, mundum mensam nulla re magisque sua
presentia exornat; pro tumultu requiem, pro strepitu silentium habet, ipse sibi comes, ipse sibi
fabulatur, nec metuit solus esse dum secum est. Celum spectare, non aurum, terram amat calcare, et
benedictio cum gratiarum actione sepe est in ore suo ; scit vite hominum pauca sufficere et summas verasque
divitias nil optare, summumque imperium nil timere ; letum agit atque tranquillum evum, placidas noctes,
otiosos dies et secura convivia ; it liber, sedet intrepidus, nulla struit aut cavet insidias; angelorum aula
conviciis odor colorque optimus, iudex morum testisque modestie; mensaque pacifica, luxus ac tumultus
nescia, gule domitrix ; et voluptas feda exulat et regina sobrietas regnat; cubile castum et quietum,
conscientia paradisus est preparatus. Multi itaque, Ursine mi venerande, in huiusmodi monte sponte talem
eligere vitam, que tantum trahit eos ad contemplationem perfectam, quod, si maceris lapidum contra rueret
eos, nullo modo talem sentirentque viderent strepitum atque caput vel oculos contorquerent ad videndum.
Aliqui etiam in monasterio cum silentio tribus ebdomada diebus cibum ad sustentationem nature capere sunt
assueti. In quibus quidam monasteriis pro quolibet centum enumerabis, et in aliquibus quingentique plures
ab uno capiunt gubernantium. Igitur monasteria de decem caloeris usque plusquam mille superasse
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videntur, qui ex suo labore monasterio serviunt et devote; et omnes in dicto cenobio communiter
vivant sine aliqua custodia atque orta zizania. Hic autem apes, ficus, oliva in amenissimis vallibus valde
virescunt, quorum fructus pro servitio ecclesiarum in anno reponunt. Aliqui in eodem monasterio
pannos texunt, aliqui sotulares suunt, et aliqui retia pro piscibus religare fatigant; ille fusum lana revolvit,
iste canistrum viminibus conectit in manu, et omnes alternatim, horis stabilitis, Deum laudari conantur, et
pax vere in eis regnat sempiterna.

Henricus Martellus, Insularium Illustratum.

Manuscript compiled in Florence c.14801490 (London, BL, Add. MS 15760, fol. 41v42r (item 79).

Athos mons, quem nunc Montem Sanctum appellant: a Xerxe P[er]sarum rege seiunctum olim a continenti
velificatusq[ue] ut inquit Iuvenalis. Nunc continenti Tracie conuiunctus sequitur vicinus quidem
Stratonicensi: Salonicensi q[ue] civitatibus. Est aut mons altissimus [editissimus in the text] habetq[ue] in
vertice oppidi vetustissimi vestigia non pua[?] quem oppidum Acroaon dixere in quo quidem homines
diutius vivere quam in ceteris locis tradunt. Ambitur vero mons universus passibus cxxiii milibus
plenusq[ue] est monasteriis sacris[que] edibus Basilio, Crisostomo, & Nazianzeno sanctis patribus dicatis in
quibus monaci solitariam vitam ducentes contemplationi orationiq[ue] tantum intenti, pane atq[ue] aqua
contenti. Interdum tribus tantum in ebdom[a]da diebus cibum sumunt et breviter summas divitias putant
nihil cupe[re]. Sunt vero monasteria plus q[uam] triginta monacorum autem numerus pene infinitus: valles
habet plerasq[ue] amenissimas olivis fic[i]busq[ue] plenas porrectusq[ue] in mari orientem solem spectat
a[d] Lemnos insula[m].
Imago Mundi 60:2 2008 Mount Athos in Early Renaissance Isolarii 165

Cartographier une quasi-le sacree:


le Mont Athos dans les insulaires du debut de la Renaissance
Le Mont Athos, le troisieme doigt de la presqule de Chalkidike dans le nord de la Grece, enclave monastique
autonome pendant plus dun millenaire, est un trait frappant dans les livres dles de la Renaissance.
Dans les premiers insulaires il apparaissait habituellement comme une le de forme circulaire comprenant
quatre monasteres principauxune representation qui nentretenait pas de ressemblance avec la realite.
Les chercheurs ont eu tendance a ecarter ces representations du Mont Athos comme rudimentaires
et inexactes. Cet article propose une nouvelle evaluation de ces cartes dans leur contexte, en les interrogeant
suivant leur specificite culturelle et en tant quobjets visuels complexes. En tant quelements dune
longue tradition manuscrite, ces cartes sont susceptibles de changer en fonction des epoques et des
contextes geographiques dans lesquels elles furent copiees. Cette approche nous conduit a suggerer que
les cartes du Mont Athos figurant dans les insulaires, plutot que detre des representations de la
realite, etaient surtout concues comme des instruments de memorisation et de morale pour ledification
personnelle.
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Karten einer heiligen Insel: der Berg Athos in Isolarien der Fruhrenaissance
Der Berg Athos ist der dritte Finger der Halbinsel Chalkidike im nordlichen Griechenland und seit uber
tausend Jahren eine von den Monchen selbstverwaltete Enklave. Die Halbinsel bildet ein prominentes Motiv
in den Isolarien der Renaissance. In fruhen Fassungen erscheint sie gewohnlich als runde Insel mit vier
Hauptklosterneine Darstellung, die keine Anklange an die Realitat hat. Wissenschaftler tendierten bisher
dazu, diese Reprasentationen als rudimentar und ungenau abzuqualifizieren. In diesem Beitrag sollen diese
Karten aus ihrem Zusammenhang und ihrer kulturellen Eigenart heraus neu interpretiert und als komplexe
visuelle Artefakte gewertet werden. Sie gehoren zu einer langen Manuskripttradition innerhalb derer sie
mehrfache Veranderungen erfahren haben. Diese Veranderungen hangen von der Zeit der Entstehung und
dem geographischen Kontext ab, in dem sie verwendet wurden. Die Untersuchung dieser Zusammenhange
legt die Vermutung nahe, dass die Athos-Darstellungen in den Isolarien weniger Abbildungen einer Realitat
sein sollten, sondern vielmehr als mnemotechnische Hilfen zur moralischen Selbstbildung gedacht waren.

Cartografiando una Casi-Isla Sagrada:


Monte Atos en los Isolarios de Principios del Renacimiento
Monte Atos, el tercer apendice de la Pennsula Calcdica en el norte de Grecia y un enclave monastico
autonomo durante mas de mil anos, esta presente de forma llamativa en los libros de islas renacentistas. En
los primeros isolarios aparece normalmente con forma redondeada a modo de isla, mostrando los cuatro
principales monasteriosuna imagen alejada de la realidad. Los investigadores han tendido a desestimar
estas representaciones del Monte Atos por su tosca apariencia e inexactitud. Este artculo ofrece una
revalorizacion de esos mapas en su contexto, cuestionandolos en su especificidad cultural y como objetos de
complejidad visual. Como parte de una larga tradicion manuscrita, dichos mapas estan condicionados por los
cambios a traves del tiempo y por los contextos geograficos en los que fueron copiados. Este enfoque sugiere
que mas que como representaciones reales, los mapas de Atos que aparecen en los isolarios fueron concebidos
como recursos mnemotecnicos y morales autodidactas.