12 Eternal Devotion: The Stone Canine Companions of Gothic Castilla y León

In: Our Dogs, Our Selves


Details of the animals represented in art in northern Spain during the Middle Ages conveyed significant ideas in much the same way as attributes of saints and depictions of clothing. An examination of sculpted canines in Castilla y León reveals not only that these apparently portraitlike images represented the recognizable dog breeds that originated in Spain but also that the carvers expressed notions of the stature and rank of the persons associated with these dogs: small companion dogs accompanied the ruling elite; canine guardians replaced lions in supporting monumental sarcophagi; coursing or hunting hounds indicated the special role played by bishops who served in the stead of absent monarchs during times of need. Making use of detailed photographs of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century sculptures and modern photos of descendants of ancient Spanish breeds and the historical context for these painted sculptures, this essay deciphers the lexicon of a sophisticated language of images in gothic Castilla y León.

Our Dogs, Our Selves

Dogs in Medieval and Early Modern Art, Literature, and Society