Viabundus, a digital travel planner for the Middle Ages

Previously I wrote about the (digital) historical mapping of Leiden and my own website that also incorporates historical maps. Viabundus is another project which I find interesting.

It is an online street map of late medieval and early modern northern Europe in the period of 1350-1650. On the website you can calculate routes between cities and towns all over northern Europe. The original digital model was based on an atlas from 1962 of Hanseatic trade routes in and around Germany. This is currently included as a rough digitisation while regions like the Netherlands, Denmark and a large part of Germany are more accurate.

The project started in 2017 and the website launched in April of 2021. The main technical center of the project is situated in Göttingen and further regional partners are situated across Europe. In the Netherlands the project is carried out by RICH, the Radboud Institute for Culture and History.

The area around Bergen op Zoom with information about the city.

Upon opening the map you can see a large part of the road network of Northern Europe in the year 1500. With the timeline you can adjust this to any year between 1350-1650. In the Netherlands there are some routes with timestamps that change course due to flooding. A major change can be seen to the south of the city of Dordrecht where a large part of land was flooded in 1421.

When you select a city or town there is a pop-up with route-planning options. The travel planner shows the shortest routes between nodes and can display the travel time for land routes. The options that correlate to the travel speed are foot, wagon, horseback and messenger. The travel times are rough estimates and the route planner is still under development.

Other fun features are the fair calendar and the information panel for the towns and cities. The information often shows when a town was first mentioned. The fair calendar shows which fairs are active around this time in nearby regions.

It is also possible to click on the light-red roads, these have additional information about the particular section. The calculation of a long route can take some time, when I tried the route from Leiden to Moscow it took around a minute to finish. Shorter routes within the Netherlands are ready within seconds. On the right you can activate/deactivate layers in the legend menu. The current modern background (openstreetmap) can be activated there.

> Green: ready; yellow: extended research in progress; orange: road network reconstructed with historical maps, no further research planned yet; red: rough digitization of the road network with modern maps, no further research planned.

The project is still under development by the different partners (regions). The Netherlands, Denmark and Finland have already undergone extensive research but are still in progress. While the orange parts are reconstructed with historical maps but with no further planned research. The red parts, mostly in the east, are digitised based on modern maps. It is nice to check on the progress from time to time.

(There is also a similar project with digital maps for the Roman period: https://imperium.ahlfeldt.se/)

References:

Documentation: https://www.landesgeschichte.uni-goettingen.de/handelsstrassen/documentation/Viabundus_Documentation_v1.2.pdf

Main page: http://www.landesgeschichte.uni-goettingen.de/handelsstrassen/index.php#download

Project blog: https://www.landesgeschichte.uni-goettingen.de/roads/viabundus/the-project/

The map: https://www.landesgeschichte.uni-goettingen.de/handelsstrassen/map.php