The Medieval Bestiary



The Medieval Bestiary


For my final project, I chose to create a smaller version of a medieval bestiary that meshed present-day animals together with their medieval depictions. In the Middle Ages, bestiaries were used to teach Christian morals to the illiterate by characterizing animals by their perceived adherence to Christian doctrine. For example, the lion was seen as a symbol of kingship, representing both human and divine power over all life on Earth. Meanwhile the tiger was seen as a symbol of excessive pride, hence warning listeners not to indulge too much in it as it was considered a vice that you had to atone for. To create this bestiary, I had to study the medieval art style and design the animals in a way that was authentic to their original depictions in medieval bestiaries. To make the process easier, I drew the animals in Clip Studio Paint (an art software), printed them out, and then taped them into the book I was using to make the bestiary. To make this project seem more authentic, I designed an illuminated letter for each animal, added the Latin names for them beneath their corresponding images, and then added some filigree to make each page look fancier. The final product of this project is meant to show how the dominance of Christianity in medieval Europe changed how people saw the natural world and how they treated those who did not adhere to Christianity and its values, hence why notions of good and evil were projected onto neutral animals.


Heather Anderson