Quail

Quail /coturnix/ medallion 3.5 cm in diameter The text is borrowed from Isidor /XII.VI.64—66/ who says that the Greek called the bird “ortygia” because quails were first seen on the island of Ortygia /Delos/ and describes the quails’ flying across the sea. While the flock is flying, the birds guard their leader against a falcon.…

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Peacock

Peacock /pavo/ 10X5.7 cm The tale of the peacock given in the bestiary is remote from the late Greek versions of “Physiologus”. Many antique descriptions of the peacock /Varron, V.75; Aelian 111.42/ and early Christian ones “Patro-logia Graeca” v. XLIII, p. 527/ are not used in it either. The image of the peacock associated with…

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Cock

Cock /gallus/ medallion 5 cm in diameter The text follows the story by Isidor /XII.VII.50/ and includes interpolations from St.Ambrose’s “Hexa-meron” /V.24.88/. The cock is named “gallus” after the emasculated priets of Cybele. The crowing of a cock wakes the sleeping, forewarns the anxious, consoles travellers. On hearing the cock the robber leaves his wiles,…

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Duck and Goose

Duck and Goose /anas et anser/ medallion 4 cm in diameter The text is taken from Isidore /XII.VII.51—52/ who explains the name “anas” by the bird’s capacity for constant swimming /ab assiduitate natandi/, “anser” — by its likeness to the duck. The story of the goose announcing the night hours by cackling and his ability…

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Bees

Bees /apes/ 9.5X4.5 cm The story of the bees is one of the fullest in the bestiary. Accounts from Pliny /XI.5.4—20.23/, St.Ambrose /V.58.21—70/, Isidor /XII.VIII.I/ the medieval compilers, Pseudo-Hugh among them /III.38/, describe their way of life, their art of making honey, the construction of their hives, the laws and customs of the bees’ kingdom.…

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Caladrius

Caladrius /caladrius/ 10.5X6 см Caladrius — charadrius in Deuteronomy translated by St.Jerome /14:18/ — is one of the most mysterious birds of the medieval bestiary; it is a completely white bird. Its dung cures the blind. The caladrius can tell whether the patient is going to live or die: when the sickness is mortal, the…

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Pelican

Pelican /pelicanus, onocrotalus/ 10.2X5.8 cm The Latin versions of the text about the pelican take rise in the Greek version. The bestiary, like version “B” of Latin “Physiologus”, opens the tale of the pelican with the quotation of the woebegone psalmist compared to a pelican in the desert /Psalms 101:7/. When the pelican younglings have…

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Eagle-Owl

Eagle-Owl /noctua, nycticorax/ medallion 5 cm in diameter In the bestiary, like in the old Latin versions of “Phy-siologus”, the story of the eagle-owl follows the story of the pelican since the former is mentioned in the psalm of the same woebegone psalmist /”I am … like an owl of the waste places …, Psalms…

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Phoenix

Phoenix /phoenix, fenix/ two medallions 4.1 cm in diameter each The legend of the phoenix, which originated in the sphere of ancient oriental symbolism, occupies pride of place in Greek and Latin culture and is widely interpreted by medieval writers (Hubaux J., Levy M. Le Mythe du fenix dans les litteratures greque et latine. Liege,…

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Hoopoe

Hoopoe /epopus, upupa/ medallion 4.7 cm in diameter By medieval tradition hoopoe is an “unclean” bird /Isidor, XII.VII. 66/ but it is noted for its love and affection for its parents. The birds, when they grow up, preen the feathers of the parents and keep them warm as if wishing to thank them for being…

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Ibis

Ibis /ibis, ibex/ 10X5.8 cm Ibis, which the bestiary mistakingly calls “ibex” taking it for a chamois, is one of the foulest birds. Isidor /XII.VII.33/ takes his information from Pliny /X.28.40; VIII.27.41/ and Aelian /X.29/ when he says that the bird feeds on cadavers and snakes’ eggs which he also brings to his younglings. The…

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Coot

Coot /fulica/ medallion 6.2 cm in diameter The early Latin versions of “Physiologus” did not distinguish between a heron and a coot /version “Y” says: “Herodius id est fulica”/- Version “B”, which the bestiary adheres to ascribes the qualities of the heron to the coot, while the heron itself is given other features. In the…

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Partridge

/ medallion 4 cm in diameter Following version “В” of Latin “Physiologus” the bestiary expands the symbolic interpretation of the partridge and adds to it some information from Isidor /XII.VII.63/ and St.Ambrose /VI.3.13/both of whom obviously proceeded from Pliny /X.33.51/. Telling us about the bird’s cunning and malice the bestiary refers to the indication made…

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Turtle-dove

Turtle-dove /turtur/ medallion 4.7 cm in diameter The chapter about the turtle-dove in Latin “Physio-logus” and in the bestiaries differs from that of the first Greek versions. It repeats the quotation from the Song of Solomon /Song 2:12/ about the voice of the turtle-dove foretelling the approach of spring but ascribes to her the qualities…

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Dove

Dove /columbus/ 10.5×6 cm In the story of the dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit /John 1:32/, the bestiary follows the narration of “Physiologus” about the diversity of colours in the dove’s plumage comparing it with the diversity of means by which the Holy Spirit addresses himself to Man. The white doves seem to…

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Peridexion Tree

Peridexion Tree /arbor peridexion/ 9.8X9.8 cm The Latin narattive of Peridexion tree, elaborating on the original Greek versions of “Physiologus”, is a continuation of the story about doves. It takes rise in the Evangelic proverb about a grown mustard seed /Matthew 13:31, 32; Mark 4:32/ or from the antique tale of the shadow of an…

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Sea pigs

Sea pigs /porci marini/ 8.8X5.9 cm The miniature illuminating the text from Isidor /XII.VII.12—17/ is one of the most vivid and interesting in the bestiary. The text provides information on sea pigs, digging up earth under water, on the sword-fish /gladius/ on the flying fish /serra/ and the sea-scorpion /scorpio/. This miniature is clearly different…

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Whale

Whale /aspidochelone, cetus, balena/ 10X13.7 cm The story of a huge sea monster, which sailors once mistook for an islet, was fairly popular in the ancient times and in the Middle Ages. The story originates from Arrian /Indica, XXXI/ and Strabon /Geography, XV, 2.13/. It appears also in many medieval writings about far-away lands and…

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Crocodile

Crocodile /cocodrillus/ 10.1 X 9 cm The impressive miniature featuring a fantastic monster, all bristled up as if it is about to rend its prey, illustrates the text describing the crocodile reappearing in the bestiary, this time in the section on reptiles. The text is taken from Isidor /XII.VI.19—20/ who drew on the knowledge provided…

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Dragon

Dragon /draco major/ 10.1X7.7 cm Dating back to Pliny /VIII.II.ll —13/ and Solinus /25.10—13/, the story of the dragon strangling the elephant had come all through the Middle Ages /Isidor, XII.IV.4—5; Pseudo Hugh, 11.24; Guillaume le Clerc, 2221—2238; Albert the Great, XXV.II.27; Brunetto Latini, I.V.142/. The text of the bestiary is close to the description…

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Basilisk, Scorpion

Basilisk /basiliscus/. Scorpion /scorpio/ 10.1 X5.8 cm 10.4X2.5 cm The text is borrowed from Isidor /XII.IV.6—9/ who drew on the information provided by Pliny /VIII.21.33; XXIX, 19/ and Solinus /27.51/. Basilisk is the derivative from the Greek word “basileus” /king/, which implies that it is the king of snakes. It is able to kill by…

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Snakes

Snakes /anguis/ 10×2.6 cm The introductory text about snakes was borrowed from Isidor /XII.IV.1.—3/. They are called “anguis”, a modification of “angulosus” /bent/, “coluber” because a snake looks for a shade /colat umbras/ or “serpens” because it sneaks or creeps /serpit/ to an object. Snakes vary in shape and colour. The miniature pictures two intertwined…

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