Those of us who went to college can remember the amazingly fun times we had with our coursemates. However, I doubt that, in our spare time, any of us did anything as weird as one band of students from the Czech Republic.
A group of Czech students has the weirdest understanding of leisure we’ve seen so far. They decided to recreate weird and bizarre scenes found in illustrations from medieval books. And we know how strangely artists from the Middle Ages saw the world around them.
So scroll down, upvote your favorite recreated scenes from the Middle Ages, and remember to share with your friends (they’ll have a hearty laugh, we promise). Oh, and do let us know in the comments below which pictures you like best and why. Scroll down to read Bored Panda's interview with Dr. Catherine Harding from the University of Victoria and Professor Claire LaBrecque from the University of Winnipeg. When you’re done with this list and if you still need your dose of medieval weirdness, take a look at Bored Panda’s list about how ugly cats in paintings from the Middle Ages are.
The Czech students obviously have a good sense of humor, and plenty of courage and flexibility, too, because they’re not afraid to recreate some of the more difficult medieval drawings that would make anyone’s eyebrows shoot up into their hairline. But why does art from the Middle Ages look as though it belongs in Wonderland, along with Alice and the White Rabbit?
Some believe that all the peculiar drawings in books were the result of monks who got bored and spent their time doodling. Monks were the ones who usually illustrated books in the Middle Ages, and their work was very meticulous, requiring superhuman amounts of patience. So it’s no wonder that a few novices decided to let their imaginations run wild on a few pages.
One trend often seen in books from the Middle Ages is just how often you come across illustrations of rabbits attacking people. Listverse writes that monks probably found the idea that rabbits were the ones hunting their hunters to be hilarious.
There are also plenty of drawings of cats licking their butts, and knights fighting snails. Just History Posts suggests that there are plenty of theories as to why there is an absurd number of snails in ancient art. One theory is that snails represent death and the Resurrection, while another is that they mock the Lombards who used to rule most of what is now known as Italy. Whatever the true purpose of such drawings, the fact is that they are highly amusing, and we would love it if more people recreated scenes from Medieval art.
Dr. Catherine Harding from the University of Victoria talked to Bored Panda about peculiar medieval illustrations and the monks who made them. “There is a lovely book by a now-deceased scholar, Michael Camille. He called these images ‘images on the edge’. In some manuscripts, the images might fit with the text above and be very playful in terms of how pictures and words come together. In other manuscripts, they do appear to be playful and so medieval pages, even sacred pages, were a blend of serious and playful expression. I don’t think they [the monks] were bored. Actually, medieval scribes and artists enjoyed creating rich, deep networks of meaning for medieval audiences to work at, a little like mental puzzles for the mind. Medieval readers loved to parse out what the page might mean. And we are still probing the meaning centuries later!”
According to Dr. Harding, it’s difficult to know how long each drawing would take monks to illustrate because everything depended on the length of the text, the size of the book, and whether the drawings were “simple pen-and-wash illustrations” or “deluxe books” that contained “lots of gold and precious pigments.”
“They [the monks] probably could flip out a simple wash illustration in minutes. And sometimes we have books in which the artists were given a huge project to illustrate and they got part way in and the monies dried up so the book is only half-illustrated.”
“We have all these stereotyped ideas about how religious medieval people were. But the research shows over and over again how creative, playful and resilient they were,” Dr. Harding told Bored Panda. “There is strong evidence for people who thought outside of the box as in the case of a medieval heretic, who created their own mental world that runs counter to the culture. I love their mental agility and their passion for questioning. They made medieval Christianity over and over again in so many ways. That is the creative part.”
Meanwhile, Professor Claire LaBrecque from the University of Winnipeg seconded Dr. Harding’s thoughts: “I think we are living in a world that is strange, but not stranger than it was in the medieval times. It was just different, and unexpected, and super creative.”
Dear pandas, if you know who these students are or know how to get in touch with them, please let us know!