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bestiary

(bĕs`chēĕr'ē), a type of medieval book that was widely popular, particularly from the 12th to 14th cent. The bestiary presumed to describe the animals of the world and to show what human traits they severally exemplify. The bestiaries are the source of a bewildering array of fabulous beasts and of many misconceptions of real ones. They were the artist's guide to animal symbolism in religious building, painting, and sculpture. Physiologus (the naturalist), an ancient work of the type, was probably the chief source of the bestiaries. A Middle English version is translated in J. L. Weston, The Chief Middle English Poets (1914). Variations of the genre remain popular. Modern authors who have written bestiaries include Lewis Carroll, James Thurber, T. H. White, and Jorge Luis Borges.

Bibliography

See W. Clark and M. McMunn, Beasts and Birds of the Middle Ages (1989).

bestiary

A collection of medieval allegorical fables about animals, each with an interpretation of its significance to good or evil; in medieval churches, a group of highly imaginative and symbolic carved creatures.
See also: Ornament

bestiary

In a medieval church, a group of carved or painted creatures, often highly imaginative and symbolic.

bestiary

a moralizing medieval collection of descriptions of real and mythical animals
References in periodicals archive ?
Interestingly, the emergence of the bestiaries coincided with that of the so-called Cult of the Virgin, an explosion of devotional fervor that catapulted Christ's mother to an exalted status of near equality with her son.
What I would like to explore here is the affinities between medieval modes of conceptualizing anomolous bodies: on one hand, the creature bodies of the bestiaries, and on the other, the paradoxical body of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Certainly some of the more extravagant claims of the bestiaries would have been contravened by experience, yet it seems unlikely that these kinds of discrepancies mattered much.
The straightforward, even crude moral didacticism of the bestiaries has, in my view, impeded our understanding of their imaginative power.
Interestingly, the bestiaries seem unconcerned with questions of decorum: there is no self-consciousness about associating the Virgin with a predator that can "scent corpses from above the sea," (126) and that hovers over battle in order to cannibalize the fallen.
The descriptions in the bestiaries of the mode of escape differ: "[the hydrus] eats the intestines of the crocodile and thus gets out alive" (Barber 191); "[the hydrus] tears at the crocodile's intestines [and] emerges alive from the dead beast after having lacerated his entrails and expelled his intestines and guts" [Physiologus 53); "splitting all the crocodile's guts into two parts, [the hydrus] not only remains alive but comes out safely at the other end" (White 179).
The self-expulsion, or delivery, of the hydrus/Christ from the belly of the beast is indeed a metaphor for Christian redemption, but in the bestiaries, Christ is literally wrapped in the blood and guts (which he also may have eaten), and possibly the excreta of the crocodile.
The bestiaries make no reference to the Virgin's complicity in the entrapment of the unicorn, and they elide the brutal killing altogether.
The title intentionally establishes an intertextual relationship with the bestiaries originating in the medieval period and, in so doing, with the past that has remained very much alive in Galician culture through literal, architectural, musical, and other media.
Taking off from the poisoned peacock offered to King Felice, for which Biancifiore was unjustly accused, Boccaccio gathers in Filocolo all the references about the sacred bird found in mythography, natural sciences, Scripture's exegesis, and moralized bestiaries.
The symbolism deriving from bestiaries is rightly given prominence in the Introduction and the Commentary on the poem, but other topics, such as the poem's numerological aspects, are also placed under close scrutiny.
In so doing, Talavera seems to have drawn on standard treatments of the attributes of the eagle in medieval bestiaries.