HISTORY OF THE CAT IN THE DARK AGES (PART 2)

CATS AND SAINTS

During the Dark Ages the cat, not yet completely reviled, still had its admirers even amongst those closest to the church.  As the contest between Christianity and Paganism raged, St. Gertrude of Nivelles in 640 became known for her benevolence towards cats.  Most often pictured with rats and mice at her feet, she was known for her vigilance against vermin, and so it makes sense that she welcomed the help of the cat.

Prior to St. Gertrude, St Agatha (d.251) known as a frequent visitor to cemeteries, became the patron saint of death and cats in some parts of southwestern France.  Some believe that she appears on her feast day, February 5th, in the form of a cat to punish those who have angered her. Moreover, the ascetic, St. Jerome (340 – 420), owned a cat as seen in Da Messina’s painting.

St Jerome in his Study, 1475 Antonello da Messina National Gallery London, cats and saints

St Jerome in his Study,
1475
Antonello da Messina
National Gallery London

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the patron saint of lawyers, St. Ives (1253-1303), has a cat as his emblem, a symbol of constant vigilance (Spence, 1917)

 

 


A supporter of asceticism, St. Jerome did not think highly of women (Grössinger, 1997, p.1).

 

 

REFERENCES

Grössinger, Christa. (1997). Picturing women in late Medieval and Renaissance Art. Manchester University Press.

Spence, Lewis. (1917). Legendes and romances of Brittany. New York: Fredrick A. Stokes Co. Publishers.

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