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Beast or Monster? Animals in the Medieval World

Speaker: 

Elizabeth Morrison

Wednesday, August 14, 6:00 p.m.
Gartner Auditorium

Explore animals both real and imaginary in the Middle Ages with Elizabeth Morrison, senior curator of the Department of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Although Europeans in the medieval era were familiar with domesticated animals, exotic animals such as lions and elephants were largely known only through stories, books, and images. Visualizations of these foreign creatures were irresistible and proliferated alongside depictions of unicorns, dragons, and sirens, which were all thought to inhabit the far reaches of the earth. The bestiary, a kind of medieval animal encyclopedia, wove together these creatures as evidence of God’s awesome creative powers; the creatures’ appearances and behaviors were explained as reflections of Christian vices and virtues. Bestiaries also often discussed the so-called monstrous races, whose status as beasts or humans was a subject of endless debate. Free; ticket required.