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The Phoenix, In A Bestiary

The Phoenix, In A Bestiary

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1235

Shelfmark: Harley MS 4751

Item number: f.45r

Length: 30.4

Width: 22.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

In addition to their often attractive illustrations, bestiaries are appealing because--with their combination of real and misunderstood facts, fantasy, and religious interpretation--they seem to offer us a window into the medieval person's view of the natural world. They have traditionally described by scholars in terms of being natural history books, but recent research has shown that from the 12th century onwards the bestiary was used largely as a source of theological inspiration for sermons, rather than for information about animals. This copy is related to other manuscripts which may have been made in Salisbury. The phoenix was thought to live for upwards of five hundred years. When it felt that it was growing old, it would make its own funeral pyre, and allow itself to be consumed in the flames, which it fanned with its wings. But, just as Christ rose from the dead, the phoenix would rise from the ashes after nine days.

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