Sunday, January 03, 2016

Knight vs. Snail


The medieval mind is much stranger than you imagined...

Recently a group of us went into our manuscripts store to have a look at some medieval genealogical rolls. We were examining Royal MS 14 B V, an English roll from the last part of the 13th century that contains quite a lot of marginalia, when one of our post-medieval colleagues noticed a painting of a knight engaging in combat with a snail.  
This struck him as odd, which struck the medievalists in the group as odd; surely everyone has seen this sort of thing before, right? As anyone who is familiar with 13th and 14th century illuminated manuscripts can attest, images of armed knights fighting snails are common, especially in marginalia.  But the ubiquity of these depictions doesn’t make them any less strange, and we had a long discussion about what such pictures might mean. 


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