Souvenirs from forgotten lands & times
The Lindisfarne Cat
Once upon a time, somewhere in the 8th century to be exact, there was a monk. He lived in a monastery called Lindisfarne that lay off the coast of Northumberland. Although a devout Christian the monk was well familiar with the wisdom and knowledge of the old days. He knew he was one of the few and that more and more of that wisdom was lost as Christianity spread and fastened its grip. This worried him.
The ancient wisdom and knowledge might not be of much use to the Church but it could provide easy solutions, clear answers and valuable insights to the individual.
For months now he was looking for a way to preserve at least some of this wisdom for the future. But all of the solutions he had come up with so far would have the same result as writing down a message and then burying it deep under the ground. Till one day, as he climbed to the topped of the hill, he had a brilliant idea.
He had long felt that he should write down the gospels. Why would he not illuminate them with symbolic illustrations and decorations that would encapsulate the wisdom of old? This way it would be out in the open and there for anybody to find who is looking.
The monk had a very good feeling about
his new plan and on the way back home he
already started playing with the idea of
illustrating the start of the gospel of St. Luke
with a colourful image of a cat with two
plumb birds inside.
Birds, flying closest to heaven than any other
being on earth, have been envied by humans
since time began for their freedom. While the
cat is a perfect example of a solitary creature,
hunting alone, going its own way.
The image would convey the message that it is
within the cat, or better said within its traits,
that freedom lies. For the wisdom of old,
contrary to the preaching of the Church,
always emphasized that those who go their
own way and refuse to follow others and their
laws and rules, will break through and find
true freedom. Those are the ones who will find
their way to heaven.
Thirteen hundred years later the gospels produced by the monk are known as the Lindisfarne Gospels and famous for being one of the finest illuminated manuscript ever made. If the monk knew he would be very pleased. If he knew they interpret his illustration of the cat, as the guardian of the underworld who consumed a meal of birds, he would not be so pleased.
Why the cat has the eyes of a bird!
A bird flying in the sky has a clear overview. The person who goes his or her own way and finds freedom has that same clear overview.
Why two birds!
The two birds could represent a male and a female indicating that the freedom they represent is a complete freedom that can give birth
© Brigitte Franssen 2013