Briefly Noted: Monumental Wildmen, an under-researched conundrum, or “Take your stinking paws off me…”

4524150260_d508fca679I’ve been on the hunt, seeking images of the story of Nicholas and the Three Clerks. Most show–yawn–the resurrection; some show the moment before the murder; and some, the ones I want, show the murderer on the verge of stunning the clerks with the dull side of an ax, as one would stun a cow or a pig prior to slitting its throat. And, yes, thank you, I’ve just discovered the existence of Karl Meisen’s Nikolauskult und Nikolausbrauch im Abendlande, which will save me heaps of work.

I’m glad, though, to be so tardy in finding Meisen. Had I already known his book, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of today’s consultation of William Frederick Creeny’s A Book of Fac-Similes of Monumental Brasses on the Continent of Europe, With Brief Descriptive Notes (Norwich, 1884). I found my Nicholas image in the lower border of the fourteenth-century engraving commemorating Bishops Burchard de Serken and John de Mul, from Lübeck Cathedral. So, thanks much, G. G. Coulton and your skimpy annotations for compelling me to track down Creeny.

Here I also found a set of wildmen on the lower border of an enormous commemorative brass for two fourteenth-century bishops, Godfrey and Frederic de Bulowe, dated 1375. For my small flickr set, see here.

Why bishops should be commemorated with several wild men, shown at dinner, in majesty, and in the act of abduction, I don’t know. Apparently such things are not uncommon. Still, I don’t think I’ll come close to understanding the Middle Ages, or, at least, the fourteenth century, until I understand why wildmen? Why here? Why then? And, pace this, why so civilized? Am I faced with some kind of Wodwoserie?

(when I say “under-researched,” I mean I’ve under-researched it. Who knows? Everyone else, I suppose, who has looked at something more recent than Bernheimer)