In the preceding chapters we have looked at the lives of specific types of medieval communities. This chapter will step both away and inward: it will pull back from the local setting to consider how medieval people interacted with their world at large, and also move into the inner life of the individual to see something of how medieval people thought and felt.
The medieval experience of the exterior world took place from a perspective profoundly different from that available to people today. Both physically and conceptually, medieval people saw their world from ground level. Elevated vantage points were rare. The view from the top of the keep at Dover Castle or from the summit of the towers of Notre-Dame was as high above the ground as an individual might get, and even that experience was limited to a few people. Mountaintops provided broad panoramas, but the point of view was still land based. While today we can see the world from above and interpret its shape on a grid of lines running north to south and east to west, medieval people saw their world from the surface, and related places to each other by landmarks, relative directions, and times of travel.
This ground-level view of the world was reflected in medieval cartography. Maps were extremely rare, and used almost exclusively by schol-