HISTORY OF THE CAT IN THE MIDDLE AGES (PART 7)

Representations of the Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts, the Moralia of Job and other books.    

Other miscellaneous religious books such as the Moralia in Job, written in the latter half of the 12th century, also include portrayals of the cat.  In an initial letter a spotted cat claws a mouse and holds one in its mouth, while a dog bites the cat’s back.

 

Decorated Cat Initial Moralia in Job Germany,12th Century f.56 V Harley 3053 , Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

Decorated Initial
Moralia in Job Germany,12th Century
f.56 V Harley 3053 Source:  Morgan Library, New York

 

In a theological miscellany by William Peraldus there are contributions from our infamous cat hater Alain de Lille, who probably didn’t know that cats would decorate its pages.  In the middle of one of the pages a stripped cat sits and looks at a mouse in front of it. On the next line down a larger mouse, perhaps a rat, sits underneath the cat.

Peraldus-England Cat after1236 Harley3244f.49vBritishLibrary, Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

Peraldus-England
after 1236
Harley 3244
f.49v
Source: British Library

 

A page from The Pontifical of Guillaume Durand, created before 1390, shows a rather pleased rat with a bird perching on its paw sitting astride a leashed cat.

 

Pontifical of Guillaume Durand Cat Paris Biblio Sainte-Genevieve MS0143 f.076V Before 1390,Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

Pontifical of Guillaume Durand Paris Biblio Sainte-Genevieve MS0143 f.076V
Before 1390


In the bottom margin of a page in the Missale Romanum (1420-99) a cat follows a large mouse.  In another text of a prayer book, a brown monkey wearing a red hat holds a white cat in the left margin of a richly illuminated page. 

1460-1470 Cat held by monkey with red hat Prayer book ONB2599 fol.94v1, Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

1460-1470
Cat held by monkey with red hat, Prayer book, ONB2599 fol.94v1

 

 

And finally, in the Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal (1500), a cat sits atop a tree looking down at a man praying.

1500 Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal Bruge, Belgium Calendar cat in tree MSM.52 Fol.518r Source: Morgan Library, New York,Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

1500
Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal Bruge, Belgium
Calendar cat in tree MSM.52 Fol.518r Source: Morgan Library, New York

 

In addition to religious works, many other books of the Middle Ages in both Europe and Asia include illustrations of cats.   In a Medieval medicine and herb book dating to 1195, a cat crouches in a small square inserted between the lines of a page.

1195 Cat Dung for Baldness Medieval Herbs and Medicine Book Source: British Library Sloane MSf.86v.,Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

1195
Cat Dung for Baldness
Medieval Herbs and Medicine Book
Source: British Library Sloane MSf.86v.

         

In the Persian book, The Benefits of Animals (1297-98), a female cat carries one live kitten toward three dead kittens lying in front of her, while a woman holds out her hands sympathetically.

1297-1298 The Benefits of Animals Persian Female Cat Carries one Kitten to Three Dead Ones MSM.500 fol.49v Source: Morgan Library, New York, Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

1297-1298
The Benefits of Animals Persian
Female Cat Carries one Kitten to Three Dead Ones MSM.500 fol.49v Source: Morgan Library, New York

 

And in a leaf from an Arabic book dating to 1350 a cat and dog fight. 

Cat in Arabic Script from 1350, Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

Arabic Script from 1350

 

In the Tacninum Sanitatas (1370-1400), a medieval medical book based on an earlier Arab text dating to the 11th century, a cat sits contentedly guarding a cheese shop from rats.

1370-1400 Tacninum Sanitatas ONB2644 fol.30r., Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

1370-1400
Tacninum Sanitatas
ONB2644 fol.30r.

 

Even in one French poetry book written in 1350, entitled “Les Voeux de Paon,” a large fanciful flower peacefully separates a cat and a dog on one page; whereas, on another, a woman threateningly chases a cat with a spindle.  In this same book a cat is also pictured listening intently to a jester playing a rebec.

1350 Les Voeux du Paon N. France MSG.24 fol.42r Woman Threatens Cat with Spindle Source: Morgan Library, New York, Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

1350
Les Voeux du Paon N. France
MSG.24 fol.42r Woman Threatens Cat with Spindle Source: Morgan Library, New York

 

1350 Les Voeux du Paon Northern France Cat Watches Fool Fiddle MSG.24fol.32r Source: Morgan Library, New York,Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

1350
Les Voeux du Paon Northern France
Cat Watches Fool Fiddle MSG.24fol.32r
Source: Morgan Library, New York

  

In a later medical book from Italy dating to around 1440, a cat and mouse appear at the bottom of the page.

1440 Herbal book, Italian N.Sloane 4016 f.40 Cat and Mouse Source: British Library, Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts

1440
Herbal book, Italian N.Sloane 4016 f.40 Cat and Mouse
Source: British Library

 

All over the world during this time the cat was a subject of interest and had already cleverly managed to insinuate itself into domestic life.  Through the cat’s prominent presence in these illustrations as a dog hating, rat catching predator that served the interests of its keepers, the bond between man and cat grew inextricably stronger for better or for worse.

 

 


Alain de Lille associated the cat with the Cathars and claimed they were heretics.

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