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Article: Axis Mundi

טבור הארץ

Axis Mundi

Ayelet Rubin

”The entire world in the shape of a clover leaf, the symbol of Hanover, my beloved hometown.” This is the title of a map first printed in a 1581 book in which scripture is rewritten in the form of a travel log. The book is entitled Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae (Travel Book of Holy Scripture), and its author, Heinrich Bünting (1545–1606), supplemented the text with various symbolic maps like this one. In his clover map, he included a tribute to the two cities that dominated his earthly and spiritual existence: the German city of Hanover, the capital of Lower Saxony and his birthplace, and Jerusalem, his religious home as a devout Protestant Christian. The juxtaposition of these two cities, along with the unusual cartographic design, makes it clear that this is a figurative map whose purpose is to convey not an accurate image of the world but a religious and spiritual message.   

The most striking, spectacular image on the map is that of the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa, which are depicted as the three parts of a clover leaf, with the city of Jerusalem at their center. As Bünting explained in his title, the emblem of the city of Hanover includes a clover leaf, which accounts for the use of the graphic form of the clover to represent the three continents of the Old World. The American continent appears in the lower left-hand corner with the label “America, the New World.” Its marginal placement on the map is consistent with the fact that it is, of course, not mentioned in the Bible. 

The map is very popular in Israel and throughout the world due to its unusual design. Bünting’s original goal of creating a double tribute to his favorite cities seems to have been forgotten or overlooked in the map’s myriad modern uses.