Domestic animals as symbols and attributes in Christian iconography: some examples from Croatian sacral art

https://doi.org/10.17221/7863-VETMEDCitation:Škrobonja A., Kontošić I., Bačić J., Vučevac-Bajt V., Muzur A., Golubović V.: (2001): Domestic animals as symbols and attributes in Christian iconography: some examples from Croatian sacral art. Veterinarni Medicina, 46: 101-107.
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The aim of this paper was to register the domestic animals appearing in the iconography of Christian saints and to explain their association. The source of knowledge was literature dealing with hagiographies of saints, sacral iconography and liturgy along with visiting churches, monasteries and museums throughout Croatia. After research in sacral literature and works of art lasting several years, it was observed that the following domestic animals appear as accompanying about seventy Christian saints: bees, bull, camel, cow, dog, donkey, goose, dove, horse, lamb, pig, sheep, steer. Reasons and explanations of their association are most often in practical relations (the animal serves and helps the man). However, in the animal, the most varied symbolic, especially ethical and morality messages are personified very often. Especially interesting are saints honoured as patrons of particular animals and of professionals occupied with animals. In human medicine, they are most frequently protectors from zoonoses, too. In some cases, animals are attributed to saints because of the linguistic association resulting from similarity of the names of animals and saints. In the same way, domestic animals are present in sacral art as a part of ambient decoration, too. In addition, it can also be interesting from the historical and ethnic veterinary point of view. Presented examples show how, by interdisciplinary approach to sacral art and tradition, we can come to other numerous findings surpassing mere religious messages. In this case, these are contributions to the history of veterinary medicine in the widest sense.
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