The Sun Never Sets on the Empire of Christ!
Finely executed hand-drawn miniature map of the world, celebrating the spread of Jesuit Catholicism around the globe.
The map was probably made at the end of the 17th century, in France, to celebrate Louis XIV's support of the French Jesuit mission to China. In the context of this map, the establishment of Jesuit missions in China is important because it completed the spread of Christianity to every major continent of the globe, meaning, effectively, that the sun never set on Christianity. The Latin inscription at the bottom of the map highlights this point.
With its broad illuminated border and careful gouache brushwork on fine vellum, the map is redolent of the work of French court artists such as Nicolas Robert (1614-1685).
The Layout of the Map
A representation of the baby Jesus is shown between the dark lapis hemispheres, with the symbol of the Society of Jesus in the clouds above. This format had been repeated in Jesuit emblem books earlier in the 17th century, see, for instance, our 68691.
In the four corners are female personifications of the four continents (America top left, Asia top right, Africa bottom right, Europe bottom left).
Within the two hemispheres, a classical depiction of the world is given, as known in the middle of the 17th century. California is shown as an island, with the Straits of Anian ("Estrete de Anian") show at the top left, with a large landmass running north and south toward America. No signs of Tasman's voyages in the 1640s is given, but there is a very large Terra Incognita in the Eastern Hemisphere.
The primary Jesuit missionary locations are shown with the IHS Christogram:
- 2 in North America
- 2 in South America
- 2 in Africa
- 1 in Madagascar
- 1 in Spain
- 1 in France
- 1 in Scandinavia
- 1 in Russia
- 1 near Syria
- 1 in Southeastern India ?
- 1 near the mouth of the Ganges
- 1 in Thailand or Northern Malaysia
- 2 in China
- 1 above the Philippines
The map features two inscriptions in Latin, which hold a key to the meaning of the map.
At left the inscription translates:
There is no region of the world (Orbis nulla plaga est) which Jesus, as/like the sun, does not enrich (quam sol non ditet Iesus), but neither does an hour/season pass which does not propitiate/appease Jesus (sed nec quae Iesum non litet hora fluit)
At right the inscription translates:
And thus there is no day on earth (Sic nec in orbe dies) which does not promise you good things in the name of Jesus (bona qui tibi nomine Iesu non vovet), because you, as a benefactor, love among comrades (in sociis quod benefactor amas).
These inscriptions are bolstered by the central world clock, shown in the form of a scallop shell wrapped by palm leaves. That shell bears Roman numerals running from 1-12 twice, then strands representing the time at various locations around the world (Nova Hispan., Peru, Brasil, Aethiop., Malabar, and China) are matched against each other and the central clock.
The map might include a numeric cipher, though we have not been able to uncover its meaning; the letters in the Latin poem at the bottom are lowercase except for those characters that are also Roman numerals, in which case they are capitalized.
This is the first time we have ever handled an illuminated manuscript map.