Map of Grace
A Reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
For July 23, 2017
Based on Psalm 147:1-11
When you look at this labyrinth, you can see it has four very distinct quadrants. I always assumed it was part of the geometry created to divide the pathway evenly within the circle. I learned it actually has a greater symbolism – symbols connected to historic practices.
Roman cities were built at the intersection of two roads, and the city wall was often a circle whose center was that intersection. This is why we still call a section of a city a “quarter” of a city. So the symbol for a city was a circle with an x inside.
When Emperor Constantine ordered the reconstruction of Jerusalem, it was done on a Roman plan. For Christians Jerusalem is the place where Christ died, so the city symbol for Jerusalem was rotated 90 degrees: the X became a cross. On the larger maps detailing the city of Jerusalem, you can see this cross shape following specific roads along well-known landmarks.
Two examples of Situs Hierusalem
When you look at medieval maps, Jerusalem is placed as the center of the world. The idea was that God’s presence was strongest at Jerusalem and radiated outward to the rest of the world. That was why a pilgrimage to Jerusalem was so essential for medieval Christians: it got you as close as possible to the place where God’s presence on earth was the greatest. It was as if the closer you could get to God then God’s grace might rub off on you – actually the idea is more that God’s grace permeated you, more like we think of radiation but without the negative effects. Continue reading