Monastic learning included texts on the natural world. A characteristic example from the important Benedictine monastery at Göttweig, this compilation of animal lore is based on ancient and early medieval sources. Beginning with the lion and ending with the phoenix, the text describes some thirty different animals, both real and imaginary. At upper left is the hydrus, legendary enemy of the crocodile; directly below are sirens, birdlike beasts that prey on sailors. At upper right is the onocentaur, a half-man, half-donkey hybrid; below that are sex-changing hyenas, related to sodomy; and the creature at lower right is a braying onager, symbol of the devil. Added later, rhyming couplets in the margins offer typological and moral interpretations of the animals, of a type also featured in the encyclopedic Concordance of Charity.

Browse entire manuscript

Bestiary (Dicta Chrysostomi), in Latin
Austria, Göttweig, ca. 1140–50
The Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.832, fols. 3v–4r
Gift of the Fellows, 1958