DOMESTIC CAT HISTORY IN THE EARLY MODERN PERIOD

BACKGROUND The Early Modern Period (1500-1700), was an era marked by global exploration, the rebirth of classical thought and religious reformation. Christopher Columbus’ ships were the first to sail across the world in 1492, probably carrying cats to kill mice and rats, much as the ancient Phoenician vessels did centuries before on their first voyages around the Mediterranean.  And […]

CATS AND MAGIC

No description of the cat and its involvement with witchcraft is complete without the accompanying examples of it as an essential ingredient for magic.  Cats and magic had been inseparable since Egyptian times. The black cat was especially important, as it was commonly believed that the blood of a black cat when mixed with certain herbs was extremely powerful […]

CATS AND WITCHCRAFT (Part 6 – Edward Topsell)

Further inflaming the fire of witchcraft accusations that revolved around cats, in 1607, Edward Topsell (1572-1625), first published his book The History of Four Footed Beasts, wherein he stated, “The familiars of witches do most commonly appear in the shape of cats, which is an argument that this beast is dangerous to the soul and […]

HISTORY OF THE CAT IN THE MIDDLE AGES (PART 13, THE CAT IN STRANGE INVENTIONS)

The Cat in Medieval Inventions: Not only were cats inspirations for paintings, but they also became the models for strange tortuous inventions.  In 1549, a cat organ was made in honor of Philip II of Brussels.  A large bear played the organ that contained up to twenty cats perched in separate compartments.  The parts of […]

HISTORY OF THE CAT IN THE MIDDLE AGES (PART 11)

The History of the Cat in Medieval Paintings: From literature the cat sprang onto Medieval European canvases depicted as a force of evil and chaos, a mouse catcher, or simply as a disinterested spectator.  In the 1475 painting Pilate Washes his Hands, a white cat lies to the side of Pilate perhaps an indication of […]

HISTORY OF THE CAT IN THE MIDDLE AGES (PART 9)

Petrarch and his Cat: There is no record of Francesco Petrarca, also known as Petrarch, (1304-1374) writing about his cat.  Even so, this great poet Laureate of Rome, and the creator of the term ‘Dark Ages’, was known to have loved his cat so much that he had it mummified  after its death and placed […]

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 […]

THE HISTORY OF THE CAT IN THE MIDDLE AGES (PART 6)

Cats in Books of Hours: The Books of Hours were another source of devotional literature, which included psalms, a calendar of the church feasts and other religious writings. In the 14th century, these reached their height of popularity becoming even more common than Psalters.  Usually written in Latin, cats and mice amongst a myriad of […]

THE HISTORY OF THE CAT IN THE MIDDLE AGES (PART 5)

Cats in Psalters and Bestiaries: Cats were present in psalters and bestiaries, which were second in popularity only to the bible.  These books as well as books of hours and even books of poetry, were widely read by the nobility and those well to do enough to purchase them.  They contained many illustrations of cats, […]

HISTORY OF THE CAT IN THE MIDDLE AGES (PART 3)

Jews‘ Association with Cats: Often depicted with the heretical symbol of the cat in the Bible Moralisée, the church considered Jews heretics.  In one illustration two clerics devoted to the church read a book and pray, while two bearded men (Jews) shun the church. One of whom holds out a money bag to a seated […]