Mary Baker Eddy’s Marvelous Mapparium

Stained-glass globe that “takes you to the center of the world” celebrates its 70th Anniversary

13200510275people.jpgA group of people at the center of the great 30-foot diameter Mapparium (graphic © The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity

In the history of human spirituality and intellectual endeavor, American Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) occupies a unique place; not only did she found a religion (The Church of Christ, Scientist, commonly known as “Christian Science”) but also the internationally known daily The Christian Science Monitor, a non-denominational newspaper renowned for the accuracy and insightfulness of its reporting. Perhaps, then, it stands to reason that, amongst the enteprises spawned by her life, one should be one of the most interesting and unique maps known today: The Mapparium®.

At this size, the scale amounts to approximately 22 miles to the inch.

The Mapparium was commissioned in 1930, designed for the Christian Science Publishing society’s then-new headquarters, by Boston architect Charles Lindsay Churchill. Thirty feet in diameter, it was based on Rand McNally’s 1934 map of the world, and constructed of stained glass over the period of 1934-1935. At this size, the scale amounts to approximately 22 miles to the inch. The project cost $35,000–in 1935 dollars.

If it were merely a huge stained glass globe it would have been impressive. But Churchill made it truly unique by reversing the world map so that it would be viewed correctly from the interior. A catwalk through the middle takes visitors into the vast center of the sphere, so that they view the map from the proper place and perspective. Visitors are usually deeply impressed by a view that shows land masses and oceans in thier proper place and relative sizes. Also, it is a world frozen in time; the countries and land boundaries represent the polictical world of 1934-35, with a much-different Europe dominated by Germany at its center, colonial powers still divvying up Africa, an enlarged Indian Empire, “Siam” instead of Thailand, and Indochina where todays Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are.

Newly restored and refurbished, the Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity is mounting a special exhibit, running through 6 Jan 2006, celebrating the 70th anniversary of this remarkable display. The Library is located at 200 Massachsetts Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts.

Complete details about the Mapparium, including history, facts, and visiting information, can be found at this link