Among Irish cities, Galway is considered unique because it possesses an aerial view map created during the critical point of its history that also offers insight on the cultural, socio-political and religious outlook of the town’s ruling elite. The bird’s eye view map is a glorification of Galway and a celebration of its importance, wealth and power during the years that immediately precede its surrender to parliamentary forces in 1652.
The bird’s eye view map was created to impress because of the visual impact of the heraldic embellishments and decorative artistry used and the wealth of details that have been recorded, most of which might have otherwise remained unknown.
However, according to Paul Walsh, the pictorial map may be considered unique in terms of subject matter but it was fairly common among the more affluent classes during the 16th and 17th centuries. Paul Walsh’s book Renaissance Galway – Delineating the Seventeenth Century City that was published by Royal Irish Academy will provide readers with an intimate tour of the city as it was then which is surprisingly familiar to what it is now.
To experience an intimate tour of the city, an individual has to take an early morning walk through the middle of Galway. This will enhance the appreciation and understanding of Paul Walsh’s book. Aside from the wonderful architecture of the late Medieval City, one of the most interesting elements of the book is the daily life of people in the countryside that is enlivened by vignettes of ordinary men and women going about their daily life.
There are also representations of the bountiful hinterland that provides life’s necessities. There are people coming from the market with their carts full of produce. Fishermen are coming home in what appears to be boats full of fishes. It seems that the compilers of maps wanted to highlight the seven marketplaces that dot the city.
It is common for an aerial view map to be a source of information and knowledge. A map illustrator artistically draws architectural images, isolated constructions and buildings and prominent parts of the landscape for a customary feeling of identification. These perfectly drawn bird’s eye view maps were popular centuries ago and surprisingly, until today.