Giovanni da Carignano

Portolan chart of Giovanni da Carignano

Giovanni da Carignano, or Johannes de Mauro de Carignano (Genoa c. 1250-Genoa 1329), was a priest and a pioneering cartographer from Genoa.

There is little certain information about his life. There is a Genoese document (dated June 9, 1291) referring to a certain Giovanni, son of Mauro, from Carignano (Johannes de Mauro de Calignano). Other fragments suggest he had two brothers, Giacomo, a notary, and Anselmo, a doctor. Further documents suggest he was still alive in September 1329, but dead by May 1330.

From 1293 to 1329, Giovanni da Carignano was the rector of the church of San Marco al Molo ("Saint Mark at the Pier"), a parish in Genoa, just a few meters away from the bustling port of Genoa, arguably the most important seaport in the Mediterranean Sea at the time.

Carignano is important to the history of cartography as the author of an early 14th-century nautical portolan chart, depicting, with much skill, most of the world as then known to his Italian contemporaries (Europe, North Africa, Mediterranean, Black Sea and much of the Middle East). Although the northern reaches of Europe are unclear, it contains possibly the first depiction of Scandinavia as a peninsula. Carignano's portolan has been variously dated between 1305 and 1327.). If the earlier dates are accepted, then it might be the first known portolan signed by its author (i.e. before Pietro Vesconte's portolan of 1311). The signature read: Presbiter Johannes Rector sancti Marci de portu Ianue me fecit.

The Carignano chart was long held by the Archivio di Stato in Florence, Italy. Unfortunately, already fragile, the chart was destroyed in 1943 during a bombing of Naples, where it was temporarily on display. All that remains of it are a set of photographs and notes by earlier scholars.

A second mysterious Carignano map, dated 1306, is mentioned routinely in 19th-century lists, but without indication of its location or description of its content, and thus either never existed beyond rumor, or has long been lost.

In this map he joins the theological tradition that placed Jerusalem in the centre of a T-in-O scheme and the more accurate and up-to-date information.

In the port of Genoa (1306) he interviewed the ambassadors of the Abyssinian negus Wedem Arad; some scholars, as Silverberg, presume he was the first European to locate the legendary Prester John's Kingdom in Africa (Ethiopia) rather than in northern Asia.


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  • NANSEN Fridtjof, In Northern Mists; Arctic Exploration in Early Times, trans. Arthur G. Chater, New York, 1911, vol. 2, p. 221 e p. 235.
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  • REVELLI Paolo, Cristoforo Colombo e la scuola cartografica genovese, Genova, CNR (Stabilimenti Italiani Arti Grafiche), 1937.
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  • UZIELLI Gustavo and AMAT DI SAN FILIPPO Pietro, Studi biografici e bibliografici sulla storia della geografia in Italia, vol. II: Mappamondi, carte nautiche, portolani ed altri monumenti cartografici specialmente italiani dei secoli XIII-XVII, Roma, Società Geografica Italiana, 1888, pp. 49–50 (scheda numero 9).

Some photographic reproductions of the map (lost in 1943) in: ONGANIA, Ferdinando, Raccolta di mappamondi e carte nautiche dal XIII al SVI secolo, Venezia, 1875–1882, n.3; NORDENSKIÖLD, Adolf Erik von: Periplus: an essay on the early history of charts and sailing-directions; with numerous reprod. of old charts and maps, Stockholm 1897, table V note 14.

Uses material from the Wikipedia article Giovanni da Carignano, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.