Minnesota Renaissance Festival Blog

Artisan Appreciation – Medieval Mapmaker

Jesse Kennedy, known to Festival goers as the Medieval Mapmaker, creates hand-drawn maps on parchment paper and leather. These maps are drawn freehand, without tracing or projecting. After learning calligraphy through years of letter-writing, Jesse started making maps in 2012. The idea to draw maps originated from his lifelong love of geography and history.

Hand drawing a map usually takes between two and three hours, not including reading and fact-checking. Historical maps take longer, as do the maps where Jesse has to look up a lot of facts (for example, a map of Wisconsin’s breweries).

Jesse’s favorite maps to create are representations of classical literature, ancient and medieval history, and military conflicts. In addition, he is inspired and influenced by a deep appreciation for poetry, particularly Dante, Pope, and the English Romantics.

He elaborates by saying, “I’m a Dante fan, so it was fun to make maps for each of the three canticas of the Divine Comedy. It was also one of the most rewarding, because it took me 22 tries before I got the Inferno map to look the way I wanted it. The Dante maps are among my favorites to draw on leather, particularly black leather.”

When asked why he enjoys working at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Jesse explains, “I’m only 32, but I consider myself pretty old-fashioned. My favorite part about working at Renaissance festivals is the absence of modern, electronically-enhanced noise that is prevalent in other public places. Go anywhere from the grocery store to a baseball game, the state fair to the airport, and there is a barrage of loud noise, almost always unwanted, in the form of music, advertisements, pages, announcements and the like. At the Renaissance festival, though some shows use microphones at reasonable volume, sound comes from real human and animal voices, and acoustic instruments. My favorite part of the Minnesota festival in particular is my excellent shop location. I have the privilege of being by the best stage at the festival–the Gypsy Stage–and right next to the Sherwood Forest, from which I receive daily acts of kindness from the Merry Men.”

Jesse appreciates all of his customers, especially those who share his passion for history, English, and Latin. In addition to the maps for sale at his shop, he accepts custom orders.

You can check out his beautiful and intricate maps at his Etsy shop and at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival!