Fountains Abbey bestiary
Gift of Alastair Bradley Martin, 1958
Left Page (Fol. 10v)
Coot: The coot, shown here perched on a tree branch, was praised for living in one spot all its days—a model of constancy to faithful Christians who were not stray from the Church.
Halcyon: The mythical halcyon shown here looking over its shoulder, was thought to cause the sea to quiet in order to hatch and rear its young— a calm period sailors called “halcyon days.”
Phoenix: The legendary phoenix is shown twice: gathering twigs for its funeral pyre, and bursting into rejuvenating flames. Christians saw the bird’s eventual rise from the ashes as an analogy to the Death and Resurrection of Christ.
Cinnamon Bird: A cinnamon bird nests in the fragrant tree after which it is named, while two men below ready their slingshots in order to try to dislodge some of the precious bark.
Right Page (Fol. 11r)
Ercinea: The Ercinea (waxwing) lifts one of its wings as if about to fly; it was thought to have luminous feathers to guide night flights.
Hoopoes: One of two depictions of hoopoes in the manuscript, this image shows three young hoopoes trying to restore life to their parents by licking their old eyes and plucking out aged plumage.
Pelican: This drawing shows two scenes illustrating the mother pelican as a type for Christ: in the first, she kills two of her chicks after they attack her; in the second, she revives them by piercing her breast and feeding them her own blood.
Night owl: A night owl gazes at the viewer with large attentive eyes, which enable the creature to see in the dark.