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In: Mental (Dis)Order in Later Medieval Europe

Abstract

The liveliest and most attractive animals serving as footrests on medieval tombs are probably dogs. They may be seen peeping out from under ladies’ skirts, looking up at their master or mistress, or barking for attention. As an emblem of fidelity, dogs were evidently considered an appropriate symbol for the medieval tomb monuments of married women. The meaning of this motif is unclear, but one might wonder whether these dogs represented the deceased’s own pets. This idea is not as far-fetched as one might think, for personalized pet dogs do occur on medieval monuments, in particular beneath the feet of female effigies. This essay examines the lost origins of this popular motif and how its meaning may have changed over time.

In: Our Dogs, Our Selves