Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/209

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195
ANIMAL SYMBOLISM IN ARCHITECTURE.

tion, published in the Dublin Review for January, 1893, by the Rev. John S. Vaughan, who finds traces of this doctrine "'written large across the whole face of Nature’ and everywhere suggested by ‘such familiar things as rocks, mountains, seas, and lakes.' "

This reminds us of Mr. Gladstone's famous discovery that the trident of Neptune, in some occult manner, symbolized the Christain Trinity; the trident being, after all, nothing but the most natural form of fish spear, devised in consequence of the fact that, owing to the refracting power of water, a single spear head is not likely to be so useful in catching fish as one with three prongs.

Into the concluding chapter of the work is brought a bird which greatly exercised the mediæval imagination—the peacock. A text is cited from the Physiologus to the effect that "when the peacock wakes suddenly in the night, it cries out as if in distress, because it dreams that it has lost its beauty, thus typifying the soul, which in the night of this sinful world is constantly fearing to lose the good gifts and graces with which God has endowed it." Perhaps one of the most curious typical examples of ultra-theological reasoning is seen in the pious argument of the Bestiaries that "the tail of the peacock denotes foresight, since the tail, being behind, is that which is to come; and foresight is the faculty of taking heed to that which is to come."

Much light is thrown into mediæval ideas, also, by other sculptures, especially those representing Satan. This, indeed, opens a great chapter, and a chapter which was by no means concluded at the Reformation. Undoubtedly a considerable part of Luther's theology regarding the devil was drawn from this source. The writer of this article, some years since, staying for a time at Wittenberg, and being frequently in the great church where Luther so often preached, noted directly opposite the pulpit a sculptured imp emerging from a mass of carving. Nothing could be more natural than that the great Reformer, wearied with other themes, should by this and similar sculptures in other churches be constantly drawn off from his main subject to his well-known denunciations of Satan and satanic influences.

It should be remembered that in the ages before printing the cathedral sculptures took, for the people at large, the place of the printed book. Robert de Luzarches and Erwin von Steinbach, who built, preceded Faust and Schoeffer, who printed. Victor Hugo recognized this when he pictured his Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, as absorbed in the study of the series of sculptures about the choir of that cathedral. The special value of Prof. Evans's book lies in the fact that, like Prof. Crane's book on the Exempla of Archbishop Jacques de Vitry, it enables the American reader to get really into the thoughts of