Medieval Practices of Space

Medieval Practices of Space

Medieval Practices of Space

Medieval Practices of Space

Excerpt

Ever since the word “space” lost its strictly geometrical meaning, it has acquired and been accompanied by numerous adjectives or nouns that defined its “new” use and attributes. Mental space, ideological space, literary space, the space of the imagination, the space of the dreams, Utopian space, imaginary space, technological space, cultural space, and social space are some of the terms that have emerged alongside the Euclidean, isotropic, or absolute space. With the publication of Henri Lefebvre's La Production de l'espace in 1974 (the English version, The Production of Space, was published in 1991), the possibility that space can be produced altered how one talks about and envisions that which used to be an empty area. Lefebvre's triad of spatial practice (perceived), which embraces production and reproduction of each social formation, representations of space (conceived), which are tied to the relations of production and to the order, hence knowledge, that these relations impose, and representational spaces (lived), which embody complex symbolism dominating, by containing them, all senses and all bodies, has changed not only how one studies the history of space but also the history of representations as well as of specific representational practices.

It is therefore not surprising that the uses and definitions of space are proliferating and becoming increasingly important as a subject matter as well as an analytical tool for a number of different disciplines including those studying the Middle Ages. In the area of cartography, for instance, it is quite apparent that medieval maps divided space differently than modern ones. In the great mappae mundi, Jerusalem was placed at the center of the map and the crucified Christ was often superimposed on the map to divide the space. The continents were ranged around the circle of the map with important cities or countries noted. Pilgrimage maps depicted the routes in a linear fashion rather than following the actual terrain. In cathedrals, the use of the internal space changed frequently, with perhaps the most dramatic being the erection . . .

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