The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of March 3, 2024

Capital with Addorsed Harpies

Capital with Addorsed Harpies

Location: not on view

Did You Know?

A harpy is part bird and part woman featured often in Greek mythology.


Monstrous images were prevalent in the decoration of religious buildings during the Middle Ages. Such images must have impressed, perhaps even terrified, the monks and visitors who spent much of their time within the cloister or church, a place of prayer, contemplation, and reflection. Scholars have speculated how such images would have been received by the people given the ubiquity of monsters in medieval society. The carved monsters, often symbolizing vice and retribution for sin, were possibly designed to provoke a range of emotional responses including laughter, wonder, surprise, fear, and shock. This striking imagery must have had a strong impact, which in turn led Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), the spiritual head of the Cistercian order, to admonish their use as distracting from prayer.
  • Mrs. Chauncey J. Blair, Chicago, IL
    The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Cahn, Walter, and Linda Seidel. Romanesque Sculpture in American Collections. New York: B. Franklin, 1978. Vol. III, no. B III 9, 158-59
    Mikolic, Amanda. A Field Guide to Medieval Monsters.Cleveland; The Cleveland Museum of Art, 2019. Reproduced: p. 9
  • Medieval Monsters: Terrors, Aliens, Wonders. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (July 7-October 6, 2019).
  • {{cite web|title=Capital with Addorsed Harpies|url=false|author=|year=1200s|access-date=03 March 2024|publisher=Cleveland Museum of Art}}

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