‘Here be dragons …’ : Medieval Monsters in Church Art

You don’t have to go into many churches right across Europe, or look at many manuscripts made at any time during the Middle Ages to notice fabulous monsters, mythical beasts and grotesques rampaging through the carvings and pages. Some are funny, some downright disrespectful, but all show a strange mixing of devotion with deformity, piety with profanity, reverence with roguishness.

Were our ancestors bonkers or did these images have a purpose? What inspired them? Did they come from travellers’ tales or were they made to make moral points? This lecture explores these questions and more. If nothing else, the medieval monsters are fun. Some are terrifying, but many others are utterly adorable.

Vezelay Vision of St Anthony - Copy Amiens dragon