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Naughty Nuns & Flatulent Monks: Surprises of Sacred Medieval Manuscripts
July 25, 2014 1:05 PM   Subscribe

The images vary widely, but they tend to be very strange and even disturbing—overt sexual acts, defecation, monsters, human-monster hybrids, animals acting like humans. There’s also examples of clergy behaving very badly, the sort of thing you would not expect to see in the margins of a sacred book.
Kaitlin Manning of B & L Rootenberg Rare Books and Manuscripts talks to Collector's Weekly (previously) about the exquisitely detailed religious texts surrounded by all manner of illustrated commentary, known today as marginalia.
posted by Room 641-A (13 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very cool. That nun plucking penises off a phallus tree is pretty awesome.
posted by latkes at 1:13 PM on July 25


I'm sure I got the link from here, but if you want to see a new bit of marginalia every day or two: discarding images.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:31 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


Previously, on depictions of snails in marginalia
posted by exogenous at 1:39 PM on July 25


Related - lots of marginalia at Got Medieval (now sadly dormant).
posted by Chrysostom at 1:46 PM on July 25


Two wild and crazy headless guys…
For what it's worth, they're not strictly headless. Decapitated, yes. Carrying someone else's head, maybe. Headless? No.
posted by plinth at 1:47 PM on July 25 [4 favorites]


Aww, I love marginalia. The tattoo design I have (if I ever get it done) is a little Green Man from a stained glass window with a medallion based on manuscript decoration.

Oh, and you see little things like this on cathedral facades, too - some of which are stuffed full of little creatures. On either side of the San Fortunato cathedral in Todi, there's a little monk on one side and a little nun on the other and they eventually meet up. I don't think I got all the shots but here's the monk in one part of the cathedral facade, climbing up the twisted column, and here they are having fun with each other. (link to my Flickr account)
posted by PussKillian at 2:13 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


Terry Jones of Monty Python has had a long-time interest in medieval history. I wonder if he inspired Terry Gilliam to come up with images like this.
posted by jonp72 at 3:42 PM on July 25


Huh. I don't know why, and in retrospect it makes no sense, but I had always thought marginalia was added after the initial creation of the book, by amateurs, as a sort of graffiti.

I wish she had talked more about iconography.
posted by PMdixon at 4:04 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


Huh. I don't know why, and in retrospect it makes no sense, but I had always thought marginalia was added after the initial creation of the book, by amateurs, as a sort of graffiti.

Probably because you were thinking of printed books where by definition....
posted by IndigoJones at 4:12 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


Terry Jones of Monty Python has had a long-time interest in medieval history. I wonder if he inspired Terry Gilliam to come up with images like this.

This is from the first article:
For example, few Monty Python fans realize that the comedy group’s silly animations are direct references to artwork in illuminated manuscripts.
I couldn't tell if they meant that they were references to specific artwork, but claiming that "few" Python fans would make the connection to illuminated manuscripts in general seems...very wrong.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:03 PM on July 25


Posts like this help to remind me that the world is a wonderful and infinitely strange place. And that makes me happy.
posted by Paul Slade at 5:16 PM on July 25


I get all tingly at the illustrations of "magical beasts" and want to squee and curl my toes that maybe they're just extinct now. Or evidence of an LSD epidemic that started much earlier than previously believed.

And maybe someone will make a TV show about time-traveling cryptozoologists starring Jensen Ackles and Ian Somerhalder with mandatory bi-monthly cameos by David Duchovny as Mulder the Mentor so that I can be happy with Netflix again.
posted by mibo at 4:41 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]


plinth: "For what it's worth, they're not strictly headless. Decapitated, yes. Carrying someone else's head, maybe. Headless? No."

And it does look like they're headed for each other.
posted by vanar sena at 11:51 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]


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