Ancient Origins IRAQ Tour

Deer, antelope and predators. Aberdeen Bestiary (12th century) (Public Domain)

Meaningful Sacred And Profane Medieval Bestiaries

Medieval European churches, constructed by men for the glory of the Creator, are adorned to varying degrees, with sacred and profane images. No figure nor detail in these stone encyclopedia is accidental and there are many subjects represented, but a precious source of inspiration for sculptors were the Bestiaries - didactic-moral works particularly in vogue in the West in the 12th and 13th centuries. In the Bestiaries, heirs of the popular works of naturalistic knowledge of antiquity with their related repertoire of images, the physical and fantastic characteristics of existing or imaginary animals are interpreted along a symbolic and allegorical key, accompanied by Biblical references and moralizing explanations.

Adam names the beasts. Aberdeen Bestiary (12th century) (Public Domain)

Adam names the beasts. Aberdeen Bestiary (12th century) (Public Domain)

Sources for Bestiaries

Their origin is to be found in texts that enjoyed great success during the Middle Ages, such as Pliny the Elder's Naturalis historia, Solino's Collectanea rerum memorabilium, Sant'Ambrogio's Hexaemeron, Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae, and last but not least is Physiologus, a work by an unknown author written in Greek between the second and third centuries BC in Alexandria of Egypt, later translated into Latin, of which several illustrated examples remain.

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