ANIMALS 516 ANIMALS luminated manuscripts, in .stained glass windows, and in tapestry as well. Tliree reasons may be given for this unexampled fondness for animal life. First, because it atTords an easy medium of expressing or symbolizing a virtue or a vice, by means of the virtue Fresco in Cr or vice usually attributed to the animal represented. Secondly, because of the traditional use of animal forms as an element of decoration. And, thirdly, because of that return to the direct study of nature on the part of the medieval designers, which included, in one loving investigation, man, the lower animals, and the humblest plants. The paintings of the first period, as seen in the Catacombs, show us, usually, the lamb ac- companying the Good Shepherd, a represen- tation of the Chris- tian soul during its earthly life. Birds, too, appear, either as simple decorative ele- m e n t s transmitted from antique paint- ings, or u.sed sym- bolically as in Noah's dove, symbolical of the Christian soul released by death; the peacock, with its ancient meaning of im- mortality, and the phoenix, the symbol of apotheo- sis. The symbol of perhaps the widest distribution is the Ichthys, which since the second century has represented graphically the celebrated acrostic: "Jesous Christos Theou Uios Soter", and so be- comes the Carved Gem, II or III C Carved Gem, II or III Centuh certain trace of youthful grace hints of the coming revival. After the recognition of the Church by Constantino, the Apocalypse is the source from which are derived most of the decorative themes of Christian Art. The lamb is now the most important of these, and its meaning is either the same as Ix^fore or, more fre- quently perhaps, it is symbolic of Christ the expia- tory victim. The dove is the Holy Spirit, and the four animals that St. John saw in Heaven (Apoc, iv, v,) are used as personifications of the Four Evan- gelists. Under the influence of Byzantine art, a great variety of fantastic animals, such as dragons, birds with human heads, winged lions, etc., en- twined themselves around the decorative forms until foreign wars and the iconoclast movement brouglit this period of vig- orous art to an end. During the succeeding Wine, Loaves and Fish. three centuries, we find ^^^^^mwoEucHARLTH merely unimportant ar- Centdry tistic manifestations, and it is only in the Romanesque buildings that we find new types of animals. These are usually either purely fantastic or composite, that is, made up of elements of different species combined in one. Often, the subject grows out of foliage forms; and monsters are shown fighting and even de- vouring one another. In the spandreis of the en- trance doorways, around the glorified Christ, the lion, the o.x, the man, and the eagle are shown, holding the holy books. This is a favourite motif in the sculpture of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Sometimes the jaws of a monster figure the entrance of Hell, into which sinners are plunged. With the beginning of the thirteenth century Gothic art affords the greatest number and the best rep- resentations of animal forms. The great cathedrals, especially those of the Isle of France, w'here sculpture reached its highest point of excellence, are a sort of encyclopedia of the knowledge of the time. They show, therefore, examples of all the then known ani- mals, that is, whether by legend or experience. The "bestiaries", popular treatises on natural history which exhibit a curious admixture of truth and error, are fully illustrated in the cathedrals in the stone carving of the capitals, the parapets, and the tops of the buttresses, and in the woodwork of the stalls. For example, one readily recalls the beautiful birds of prey, the wild boars, and the feline forms of the towers of Notre Dame in Paris; the birds covered with draperies, or the elephants at Reims; the enor- mous oxen of the towers of Laon placed there in memory of the patient service of those animals dur- ing the construction of the Cathedral. With the animals of the country, domestic or wild, those of remote parts of the earth, known by a few specimens, are also represented. Thus we find the lion, the elephant, apes, etc.; legendary animals also, like the unicorn, the basilisk, the dragon, and the griffin. Imaginary creatures are also frequent, and the gar- goyles alone display such a variety of them as to make us wonder at the fecundity of the artists of the period. Viollet-le-Duc remarks that he does not know, in France, two gargoyles alike. These unreal figures are, nevertheless, given such a semblance of reality as to make them appear faithful copies of nature. The failure in modern times to rival tliese firoductions of medieval sculpture, while avoiding a iteral copy of them, but increases our appreciation of their value. The symbolism which usually attaches to the various animals is derived for the most part from the " bestiaries". Thus, for the lion, strength, vigilance, and courage; for the siren, voluptousness; for the pelican, charity. The four animals which symbolize the leading characteristics of each of the I' our Evangelists became more and more an acces- sory used to characterize the figure of the Evangelists themselves. In the same way many saints, when not charac terized by the instruments of their martyrdom, are accompanied by animals which identify them;
Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/582
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