Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Knights vs Snails

 From Ancient Origins:

Illuminated manuscripts are handwritten books, decorated with stunning painted illustrations and often embellished with gold and silver. While the text is emblazoned with ornate painted initials, the borders are regularly festooned with marginalia, be it scribbles, doodles or decorative drolleries, images which became popular additions to illuminated manuscripts between the 13th and 15th century. The margins were the spaces where artists could have a little fun, providing comic relief and artistic critique of everyday life. Like a modern-day meme however, the artists didn’t leave behind any kind of explanation for their doodles and so historians are unsure as to what exactly these farcical illustrations actually mean. While animals in general were often seen as synonymous for certain morals or characteristics, the scene of a diminutive snail battling it out with a medieval knight, and often having the upper hand to boot, remains a mystery. (Read more.)


UPDATE: Thanks to a reader who sent me a link to Catholic Tradition, which says: "The snail was believed to be born from the mud, and to feed upon it. It was, therefore, interpreted as the symbol of the sinner, and of laziness, because it made no effort to seek food, but ate what it found at hand." So we can see that knight battling the snail as symbolic of the spiritual struggle against the vice of sloth.


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