Vegder's Blog

April 24, 2016

Not Quite the Zodiac – Part Seven, sub 4: Christians vs. the Dragons

Filed under: Art,Christian mythology,European art — vegder @ 12:35 pm
Tags: ,

This is the routine:
first a few choice images
to be followed by revelatory passages
meant to enhance and entrance. 

Chantilly_6e_pestilence_Germany_7b
15th century illumination from the Mirror of History, volume III by Vincent de Beauvais (ca. 1190 to ca. 1264).
Musée Condé, Chantilly

Please come back often – at least in the early days of this ordeal
and I will guarantee you that you won’t be disappointed – or, double your money back –
no wait!… triple. How do you like them crackers, eh?

Have you seen any dragons lately? Huh? Have you? In the zoos or wildlife preserves or in the wild? Bet not. You know why? It is because the Christians killed them off. Of course, you might think that this is just a theory of mine, but it isn’t. Darwin is a theory. Evolution is a theory. This is a fact. The Christians drove them to extinction and the ones who did it best were sainted for it. You’ll see. All of the pertinent information will be provided below. Believe what you want to believe (now), but there is only one conclusion you can come to in the end – the dragons are no more and guess what, the Christians did it.

Oh, but you’re saying to yourself (and anyone else near you who will listen): “There never were any real dragons. It’s all myth. It all bunkum. It’s a lie.” But I tell you, and listen carefully, that dragons really did exist and just like the dodo they were driven to extinction by mankind. In fact, the dodo and the dragon have/had an awful lot in common. The only real difference is that dragons could fly, but chose to stand their ground, while those poor hapless birds never saw it coming and had no easy means of escape. Also, dodos couldn’t breathe fire and didn’t consume maidens, virgin or otherwise, and didn’t leave behind them a trail of a hell of a lot of questing knights. And as we all know, humans have to be right all of the time, but dragons only have to be right once to do any real damage. Trust me on this one.

In case you are thinking of taking me literally, remember what Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 to 8 B.C.) said: Dulce est desipere in loco. “Sometimes it’s fun to play the fool!”

Just as we used to have “Most Wanted” pictures in our post offices, maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing to show people what the typical dragon might look like in case they happen to encounter one 

The image below comes from the Hortus Sanitatis, originally published by Jacob Meydenbach in Mainz in 1485. Wikipedia quotes Sir David Attenborough at the University of Cambridge site that states: “This is the first natural history encyclopaedia.” What about Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus: born 23/24 to 79 A.D.? Doesn’t he count? When I was little we owned a copy of The World Book Encyclopedia. When I was older we got a copy of The Encyclopedia Britannica. I had been given a choice of Britannicas or a set of golf clubs. Guess which one I went for, but what do I know?

Side note: Pliny was done in by the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius on August 24, 79 A.D. Same day Pompeii and Herculaneum ate it.

MNHN_1497_dragon_woodcut_anonymous_7          U._of_Cambridge_Hortus_Sanitatis_dragon_7
Anonymous woodcut from 1497 from the muséum national d’Histoire naturelle on the left
and on the right is the one from the University of Cambridge, dated 1491

MNHN_1561_Drancunculus_Monoceros_7b
Illustration from the 1651 edition of the
Rerum medicarum Novae Hispaniae thesaurus seu Plantarum animalium mineralium Mexicanorum historia
in the collection of the muséum national d’Histoire naturelle. The author was Francisco Hernández (1514-1587).

Chantilly_dragon_majeur_Liber_Floridus_Lambert_de_Saint_Omer_Ghent_7b
Page from the Liber Floridus by Lambert de St. Omer
15th century Ghent
Musée Condé, Chantilly

Reinventing the wheel – I have been at it again. I pick a topic, I wax poetic only to find someone has already said what I think is so clever and not only that they have said it better. As you may know, there is nothing I enjoy more than doing research and learning new things – both true and fallacious. Unfortunately, at my age, sometime I think I am learning something new when suddenly it dawns on me that I learned it before at some indistinguishable point in my past. That is understandable due to my advancing old age, but it is a bit mortifying at the same time. However, sometimes the information is truly new and then I go off skipping and laughing and singing into whatever abyss the future holds in store for me. For example, looking at Christians versus the dragons and European interpretations of said topic drew me to come to certain conclusions. Then I ran across the British Library web site for the first time – really, plugged in the word ‘dragon’ in their search box and voilá – a whole new, wondrous world of images opened up before me. For me this was the next level of joyousness, just short of total enlightenment. But wait there is more: while researching references on Google made by the British Library I stumbled again into another whole new world of dragon lore. My goodness. Could things get any better? Not likely.

One entry in particular for the British Library ‘Medieval manuscripts blog’ from April 23, 2014 entitled ‘The Anatomy of a Dragon‘ posted by Sarah J. Biggs I found a description of the European dragon which hit on exactly the points I have been trying to make (further down this page). Normally I would not quote from anyone else’s blog – I prefer the mustiness of old manuscripts and books even via the Internet as my sources – but this is from the British Library, damn it. How much better can one source get? That said, below is Ms. Biggs cogent appraisal of how we should look at European dragons and it is spot on:

Dragons are near-ubiquitious in medieval manuscripts.  They take pride of place in bestiaries and herbals, books of history and legend,
and Apocalypse texts, to name a few.  They serve as symbols, heraldic devices, and even as ‘just’ decoration, and their physical characteristics
can vary widely. Cinematic and literary depictions of dragons today are fairly consistent; they are almost always shown as reptilian, winged,
fire-breathing creatures (in a word, Smaug).  But this was by no means constant in the medieval period.

Let’s have a look at a very common medieval trope – of the dragon as the nemesis of a saint or angel.  Below we can see dragons facing off
against St George (again), St Margaret, and the Archangel Michael.  All these examples are drawn from late 15th century manuscripts, but their
dragons are very different, and range from a lizard-y animal with duck-like feet to a winged leonine creature and a demon.

Saints and dragons – Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the Millenium Edition, gives a list of saints associated with dragons. Some I will discuss below and some I won’t – yet – because I don’t have a clue who they are/were. Just so you will see the scope of my ignorance I will follow the saints I know nothing about with a bracket with a question mark or marks enclosed. Here is their list of dragon slayers: St. Michael, St. George, St. Margaret, St. Samson, archbishop of Dol [??], St. Clement of Metz, St. Romain of Rouen, “…destroyer of the huge dragon La Gargouille. which ravaged the Seine” [?], St. Philip the Apostle, St. Martha, “slayer of the terrible dragon Tarasque (associated with Tarascon, the saint’s patronal city)” [?], St. Florent, who killed a dragon which haunted the Loire [?], St. Cado [?], St. Maudet [?], St. Pol [?] and St. Keyne of Corwall [?]. Dizzying isn’t it?

The Digest of Literature… volume 3, from 1909 adds a few more dragon-slayers, one saint, two not: St. Paull [with two ells? Is this a typo meant to throw us off our game?], Donatus, Pope Sylvester.

So what do we know about some of these question-marked saints?

      • St. Samson – Born in Glamorgan, Wales. Died in 565. After he went to Ireland he became a hermit and was able to cure
        his father of a fatal disease. “During a trip to Cornwall, he was consecrated a bishop and appointed an abbot. He then
        departed England and went to Brittany where he spent the rest of his life as a missionary, even though he had long searched
        for solitude. Samson founded monasteries, including one at Dol and another at Pental, in Normandy.” That last part is from
        the Catholic Online, but still no mention of a dragon.In a book on miracles it says of this man: “During the sacrifice of the
        mass the face of St. Samson seemed on fire (a.d. 565). While offering the sacrifice of the mass, after his consecration as bishop
        of Dol, near St. Malo, all the assistants remarked that the face of St. Samson was on fire; that flames of fire burst from his mouth,
        ears, and nostrils, and a luminous glory encircled his head with rays like those of the sun. His biographer adds, it was no unusual
        thing to see angels at his side, while he was serving at the altar.”The second miracle: At the time of Samson’s consecration as
        Bishop of Dol, a dove landed on his head and remained there unperturbed until the ceremony was over. The white dove was said
        to luminous and visible to all present.A third miracle: While St. Samson was at Dol he drove off a flock of noisy geese which were
        disturbing the quiet and singing of the nearby monastery of St. Iltut. The geese never returned to disrupt the monastic silence.
      • St. Cado “Cado is a Breton saint of the Dark Ages who is said to have come across from Glamorgan in Wales to convert the local
        people. The story goes that once he had chosen the site where he was going to settle, he first had to chase the snakes from the land.
        He began building an island monastery but realized that he didn’t have the funds he needed to make the causeway to attach the
        island to the mainland. Satan came and offered to construct the causeway for him in exchange for the first life that
        crossed it. Cado managed to get a black cat to cross it first, thus sparing any human life.
        (This comes from a book 
        on Brittany by Philippe Barbour.)
      • St. Philip the Apostle “In Hierapolis, a city of Phrygia, was a temple in which was a terrible dragon. It was a natural living
        creature into which the devil had entered, as he entered into the serpent in paradise. The people used to adore this reptile, and
        offer sacrifice to it as to a god. It was, however, the death of many innocent people, for when malefactors failed, innocent people
        were given it by lots for food. St. Philip, moved to indignation at this cruel idolatry, went up to the venomous beast, prayed to God,
        and the creature dropped down dead. A great crowd witnessed the miracle, and all rejoiced that the city was freed from the dreaded
        monster.” (From A Dictionary of Miracles… by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, p. 116.)

        There is a fresco by Filippino Lippi in the Strozzi Chapel of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. It shows St. Philip vanquishing the dragon.
        André Gide in his Journals described this painting with especial notice of a fainting young man. “Pretty-pretty frescoes, and already in
        the florid style, but full of exquisite grace, in the right-hand choir chapel. They are by Filippino Lippi; on the right, a dragon exorcised…
        Very soft figure of the young man whom he dragon’s breath causes to faint away. The group surrounding him is very fine — the Negro
        King. . . ”

        Filippo_Lippi_fainting_young_man_detail_7b

 

St. Margaret of Antioch

BM_Swabian_ca.1495_St._Margaret_formerly_Schongauer_7c
Schwabian drawing from ca. 1495 once attributed to Martin Schongauer (ca. 1440/53 to 1491).
British Museum

Bourdichon_BnF_Ste._Marguerite_dragon_7
From the Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne by Jean Bourdichon (ca. 1457-1521)
Bibliothèque nationale de France  – ca. 1507-1508

Flickr_St._Margaret_dragon_7
This is one of my favorite images of St. Margaret. I found it at Flickr.
Love the fact that she is emerging from the belly of the beast before he has ever finished swallowing her garments.
Also, the look on the dragon’s face is just… is just… is just… precious.

BL_ca.1475_South_Netherlands_Book_of_Hours_St._Margaret_dragon_7d
Detail from a South Netherlandish Book of Hours, ca. 1475.
St. Pargaret emerging from the dragon.
British Library
CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO GO TO A BRITISH LIBRARY’S WEB LOG POST.

Old Testament Daniel has a friend in Jesus – Don’t go running to your Bibles. The story of Daniel and the dragon of Bel won’t be there, as best I understand. Turns out the passages from The Book of Daniel only exist in the ancient all Greek version and that these passages were eliminated later. I can only assume that they were viewed as apocryphal. Or, deuterocanonical as the Catholics would say. [A word I had never heard before today, April 26th.]

BM_dragon_of_Bel_3rd_5thc_Daniel_Christ_glass_gold_7
Glass bottom of a drinking vessel showing Daniel accompanied by Jesus. It dates from the 3rd to 5th century.
Daniel is feeding the poisoned biscuit to the dragon of Bel.
British Museum

The Germans have a word for it: zwischengoldglas – The Germans have a word for almost everything. So do English language speakers, but for some reason I sometimes just love the German word combinations better. Who doesn’t? In this case, zwischen means ‘between’. You can guess what gold und glas mean – and you will be right.

Here is a general idea of the process in the most simplistic terms: 1) a glass base is made; 2) when cooled an adhesive is coated onto the surface of the glass that will receive the gold leaf; 3) the gold sheet of gold leaf is applied to the gummed-up surface; 4) a craftsman/artist cuts away the gold he doesn’t need to make the design. This is a reductive process; 5) another piece of glass is made of the same size to fit over the base which carries the design on top in gold leaf; 6) the freshly made new, piping hot piece of glass is placed on top of the old cooled piece with the design, fusing them together and both are than placed in an annealing oven. The end result is basically what you see in the Daniel/Christ/dragon image shown above.

I find all of this effing amazing. My goodness look at the age of this piece. It may be as much as 1800 years old. Amazing.

Chantilly_Daniel_15e_dragon_Bel_7
Musée Condé, Chantilly – 15th century – color on parchment

Here is the true story of Chapter 14 of the Book of Daniel which ain’t in the Bible 

First part – lines 1 thru 22

Daniel was friends with the new king who worshipped the god Bel.
Every day the king had twelve bushels of the finest flour, forty sheep and six measures of wine placed before the statue of that god.
The king wanted to know why Daniel wouldn’t worship Bel and Daniel said he would not worship a statue made by man.
The king argued that it was the god that was consuming all of the victuals placed before it every day. Daniel was skeptical.
The king demanded that his priest prove Daniel wrong. The priests suggested that all of them, including Daniel and the king,
go to the temple, place the food and drink before the god, go out locking the doors of the temple behind them.
Then in the morning if the food is still there the priests felt they should be put to death. If the food was gone then Daniel should die.
The priests were self-confident because they knew that they had a secret entrance into the inner sanctum
and had been going in nightly and removing the food themselves.
What they didn’t know was that Daniel had ordered his servants to scatter ashes on the floor before the doors were locked.
Later that night the priests and their wives and children went in and ate the food and drank the wine.
In the morning the king and Daniel went to the sealed doors and agreed that the seal was unbroken.
The doors were opened and lo and behold the food was gone, but Daniel told the king to look at the floor
where he saw the footprints of the priests and their families. The king had them put to death.

Second part – line 23 thru… 

There was a great dragon which the Babylonians worshipped too.
It was eating the food placed before the statue. Daniel asked the king if he could have permission to kill the dragon. The king said “Okay.”
Whereupon, Daniel took some pitch, some fat and some hair and boiled them up together, rolled the mixture into balls
and fed them to the dragon; the dragon swallowed them and burst. Daniel said, ‘Now look at the sort of thing you worship!’ 
Upon hearing this the people were furious and screamed “The king has turned Jew.
The people were out for blood and demanded that Daniel be put to death or else.
The king relented and Daniel was arrested and thrown into the lion den.
The rest is history, as you know.

Other Daniel-in-captivity stuff – Here is an interesting tidbit: the name ‘Daniel’ in the ancient Hebrew meant “God is my judge”. In ca. 605 B.C., when Daniel was about 14 years old, he was carried off to Babylon and held in captivity. His and three of his peers were entrusted to the king’s master of his eunuchs for their education. Daniel was given a new name, Baltassar, i.e., ‘under the protection of the god Bel’. At the court of the king, in time, Daniel came to be the greatest interpreter of dreams and omens and was richly rewarded for his services. (Joseph served in a similar role for the pharaoh in Egypt.) Then after a change of regimes Daniel went into retirement, but was brought back when the ruler, Belshazzar was having a feast and miraculously these words appeared on the wall: mene, mene, tekel, upharsin (מְנֵ֥א מְנֵ֖א תְּקֵ֥ל וּפַרְסִֽין). Daniel was brought out of retirement and told the king what these words meant. Below is a small reminder of the drama of that moment a la Rembrandt’s version.

NG_Rembrandt_Belshazzars_Feast_7c
National Gallery, London

But Daniel’s travails were hardly over. Jealousy among the kings other lieutenants caused Daniel to be thrown in the lion’s den. By now Daniel was in his 80s, but take a look at Rubens wonderful painting of this scene. Does Daniel look like any other octogenarian you have ever known. Artistic license or credible biblical effects? I guess 80 was the old 30. Doesn’t matter. It is still a great painting. (Who needs dragons?)

NGA_Daniel_Rubens_lions_7b
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

And what does the King James Version of the Bible say about that passage in Deuteronomy? 

32 For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter:
33 Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
34 Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?

The Archangel Michael doing battle with dragons, demons and sundry other devilish creatures 

Chantilly_15e_St._Michael_dragon_Flemish_7

BL_998_1018_Michael_dragon_saving_soul_Milan_7b
British Library – illustration from the prayer book of Archbishop Arnulph II of Milan
St. Michael pulling a soul out of the mouth of the dragon he is slaying.
Milan – 998-1018 A.D. – imagine that, more than 1000 years old

Cluny_13e_crozier_Limoges_enamel_Michael_dragon_7
Crozier of St. Michael slaying the dragon – 1st half of the 13th century – Limoges champlevé enamel
Musée de Cluny

BL_Michael_Miracle_Mt._Gargano_ca.1340_Italy_7b
Possibly Florentine – ca. 134o – St. Michael and angels slaying a dragon – actually the devil
British Library

Their curatorial notes state: “Historiated miniature of the Apparition of Michael, with the saint and two other archangels plunging their lances into the devil’s throat watched by Christ and the company of heaven. Historiated full-page border in colours and gold, of foliage, (lower left) the Miracle of Mount Gargano, and two lay figures, one of which is in a roundel. Beneath the miniature is a single four-line red stave, musical notation and a single line of text in gold capitals ‘Exultando in Gesu’.”

The myth: St. Michael appeared before the Bishop of Siponto and commanded him to build a church to himself, i.e., St. Michael. This is where it gets really interesting. “In the pontificate of Gelasius I. [492-496] there was a man named Gargano, very rich in cattle, who happened to lose a bull. After long search Gargano came to a cave which the men with him refused to enter; but one of them shot an arrow into the cave, and the arrow after penetrating the cave, returned back to the shooter. This seemed very strange, and the Bishop of Siponto, who was one of the searchers, prayed and fasted for three days, that the mystery might be revealed to him. At the expiration of that time St. Michael appeared, and informed him that he (St. Michael) was himself in the cave when the arrow was discharged therein, and that it was he who had turned it back  again by his own hand. He then commanded the bishop to build a church on  the site of this miracle, and dedicate it  to “St. Michael and all angels.” The bishop then entered the cave, and found it fitted up like a beautiful chapel; so he celebrated mass in it, and many miracles made it noted. Subsequently a church was built on the site called Mount Gargano, from Gargano, the farmer whose bull was lost, but the name was changed to St. Angelo’s Mount from the “apparition of St. Michael.” This mount is in the Capitanate near Manfredonia, in the kingdom of Naples.” (This information originally came from a book on the saints by Edward Kinesman in 1623.)

So while we are on the topic of Mt. Gargano – First off, I have to tell you that until the other day I had never heard about this miracle mount, but then again my knowledge of Christian miracles would fit inside of a good sized cookie jar. That said, now we will examine a related miracle, the one related to St. Origna. “St. Oringa [d. 1310], on her pilgrimage to Mount Gargano, was attacked at dusk by some men with a view of dishonouring her; but St. Michael flashed like lightning to her defence, and protected her till she arrived in safety at the place of her destination.”

St. George and the dragon 

NGA_Saint_George_and_the_Dragon_Rogier_7b
Rogier van der Weyden – St. George and the dragon – ca. 1432-35
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
This is one of the greatest paintings in America and it is only 5 5/8″ tall. Imagine that!

The museums ‘overview’ of this painting, this gem, states:

“The special mixture of reality, fantasy, and virtuosity that is particular to early Netherlandish painting is nowhere more apparent than in this exquisite panel. In an episode from the popular legend, Saint George in black Gothic armor pins the dragon to the ground with his lance; at the left kneels the fashionably attired Princess Cleodolinda who was to have been sacrificed to the dragon. George was a Roman soldier living in third-century Cappadocia, but the setting has here been transformed from ancient Asia Minor to the contemporary Belgian countryside.

Passing through a series of overlapping hills, we come upon a walled city surrounded by water and dominated by a castle perched atop a fantastic mountain. This scene is almost certainly imaginary and yet is rendered with the greatest clarity and realism. The attention to specific detail has led to the suggestion that the artist made use of a magnifying glass.

The artist’s interest in the depiction of light — reflecting on George’s armor and the dragon’s scales — and atmospheric effects shows the influence of Jan van Eyck. The painting is also stylistically related to manuscript illumination that would suggest this is an early work. The panel may originally have been part of a larger ensemble, perhaps a diptych, and was most likely used for private devotion.”

Louvre_Master_IAM_Zwolle_St._George_dragon_7
Master I.A.M. of Zwolle (1440-1504)
The Louvre

There is another copy of this print in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Their files describe this print’s technique beautifully:

” one of the artist’s most graceful compositions, again splendidly showcases his characteristically tonal approach. Here, contrasting tonalities also serve an additional, narrative function, helping to characterize the protagonists in the story. The artist plainly defines the dichotomy of good and evil through light and dark, brightly lighting the hero, Saint George, from the foreground while the ravenous dragon, shrouded in darkness, casts deep shadows upon him from above. Tonal contrasts also help balance the composition, with the horse’s illuminated hindquarters on the bottom right echoing the black dragon in the opposite corner. Particularly beautiful passages include the horse’s dark underbelly and rippling front legs, and Saint George’s head ornament, which mirrors the dragon’s whipping tail, below.”

Louvre_Anonymous_German_15e_St._George_dragon
Anonymous 15th century Rhenish-Westphalian painting on wooden panel
The Louvre

 

I’m gonna saddle up and kill me some vermin. How’dya like some dragon meat for supper?

MMA_Bohemian_saddle_ca.1400_no.7b
Possible Bohemian polychromed saddle from ca. 1400-25 made of carved bone or ivory, staghorn, limewood, rawhide and birchbark.
Metropolitan Museum of Art

The curatorial files say:

“This is one of about twenty known Medieval saddles decorated with bone plaques. The saddles vary somewhat in decoration, but certain motifs are common throughout. For instance, Saint George, standing over the defeated dragon, appears with elegant couples on most of the saddles. Used in parade, they were probably more ceremonial than utilitarian.

MMA_Bohemian_saddle_ca.1400_no.7_detail2

The bone plaques used to create the saddle, probably from the pelvic bones of large animals such as cows, are attached to the core with bone pins and glue. The underside is lined with hide and birch bark.”

MMA_Bohemian_saddle_ca.1400_no.7_detail3

Damsels in distress – they are all pretty much interchangeable, don’t you think? – I can’t think of hapless maidens without thinking of Fay Wray. Dragons or giant apes… what difference does it make to the victim? The basic elements are almost always the same: a beautiful, sexy female of our species in need of saving, a monster and a superhuman hero/savior. How does this differ from that formula? It might as well be St. George vs King Kong – that pathetic and poorly understood hormonally challenged, over-sized ape.

Fay_Wray_in_the_grasp_of_King_Kong_7c

Now that I think of it, there is a difference: King Kong wasn’t real, but dragons were.

Who in the hell was Saint Hélain? I’ll get back to you later when I find out.

Next day: I love the Internet. When I set my mind to it, to problem solving, I always seem to find something I am looking forward. It isn’t always easy, but generally I can find something. That is why I am so pleased that after getting up at 5:10 A.M., drinking my first cup of re-heated coffee, made the night before, looking bleary-eyed at the news, doing the Washington Post crossword puzzle online, taking my three morning pills, I am ready to face most tasks. So that is what I did and here is what I found: St. Hélain was Irish, 5th century, went to the Champagne region of France, proselytized, was martyred and his saint’s day is October 7. It is Helanus in the Latin. I got this from Dictionnaire hagiographique: ou, Vies des saints et des bienheureux, honorés en tout temps et en tous lieux depuis la naissance du christianisme jusqu̓à nos jours… The 1850 edition, in French, of course. God, I love the Internet. Have yet to find out anything about the dragon.

Arsenal_St._Helain_riding_dragon_7
Saint Hélain riding on a dragon from the Mirror of History by Vincent de Beauvais.
This illustration dates from ca. 1333-1350. Artist unknown.
Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal

Sir Perceval, a knight of the Round Table, a very Christian fellow

BnF_1470_Gonnot_Percival_7
Sir Perceval fighting with a dragon by Michel Gonnot from Lancelot du Lac from 1470
Bibliothèque nationale de France

A tail of things to come – There is an incomplete Spanish manuscript in the British Library. It is dated 1455. It is from a summary of the Liber Concordiae Novi ac Veteris Testamenti (Harmony of the Old and New Testaments) and was composed approximately 37 years before the Christians under the leadership of Ferdinand and Isabella finally were able to conquer, oust and coerce the Muslims and Jews of Spain in 1492. A seminal date in world history. The library notes on one page point out: “…a dragon, with seven heads in its tail. In Joachim’s thought, the seven heads correspond to Herod, Nero, Constantinus, Mohometh, Melsemothus, Saladin, the Antichrist, with Gog, the last Antichrist. ” Detail shown below.

BL_Spain_1455_dragon_7_headed_tail_7_detail2
British Library

Seven heads are better than one: the dragon of the Apocalypse

Revelations 12

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun,
and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon,
having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth:
and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered,
for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron:
and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God,
that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon;
and the dragon fought and his angels,

And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan,
which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

BnF_Sarum_Master_Lady_and_dragon_7b
The Lady and the dragon by the Sarum Master – 13th century – Salisbury, England
Bibliothèque nationale de France

“The ‘Sarum Master’ is the name given to the elusive illuminator (or more likely master of a workshop) who was in operation at Salisbury in the years between c. 1245 and 1255/60, and who produced a series of prestigious illuminated books for high-ranking patrons connected to the see and/or the city…” The Paris Apocalypse (ca. 1250-55) – detail shown above – was produced toward the end of this master’s creative life. (Quoted from: Thirteenth-century Wall Painting of Salisbury Cathedral: Art, Liturgy, and Reform by Matthew M. Reeve.)

Did you know that the Tudor coat of arms had a (red) dragon and a greyhound on it? I didn’t – The Tudors, who claimed ancient Welsh descent, used the red dragon as one of their symbols. That motif was replaced by the Stuart unicorn in 1603.

BL_Tudor_dragon_grayhound_ca._1478_illuminated_'Q'_7b
This illuminated page for ‘Q'(uod) from ca. 1478 appears to be from the
Quaestiones de observantia quadragesimali or Questions regarding the observance of Lent.
Note the dragon on the right side and the greyhound below.
British Library

I was going to save the astronomical stuff for a later post and then I found this…

BL_1490_England_book_on_astronomy_detail_7b
British Library – book on astronomy and related topics from England, 1490

COME BACK SOON AND COME BACK OFTEN!
PALEEZE! PRETTY PLEEZE!

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