Bestiary Ceiling

  • Bestiary Ceiling
The bestiary ceilings painted in the first half of the thirteenth century composed the emblematic works of the Medieval Messin's heritage. They are, with the painted ceiling of the twelfth century of the Church of St. Martin of Zillis in Switzerland, the oldest painted ceilings preserved or known at the present time. Originally, they decorated two or three rooms of the former residence of No. 8 Poncelet Street. 

Composed of beams and oak planks, they offer to the eyes a hundred of hybrid creatures inscribed inside circles or frames. The richness and complexity of these creatures are remarkable. Indeed, in addition to the few human faces such as a knight, a wild man or  even Siamese, as well as real animals like a hedgehog, a horse or a cock, we find an incredible series of hybrid faces. The spectator faces a medieval bestiary as it should be, where heads sometimes animal, sometimes human meet, wearing hoods, tails of dragon, bird or fish, claws or palms, bodies of felines or deer, all reflecting the vivid imagination of the Middle Ages men. 

The beams of the ceiling are adorned with relatively thick tendril motifs with varied circles, characteristic of the thirteenth century, painted like the rest of the ceiling with red, yellow and brown ocher.  The elements coming from the blue-green background of their frame emerge from the bottom of the composition thanks to a thick black outline. A link has to be established between the exceptional decorative richness of these ceilings and the owners of the house in the Middle Ages.  It was a house belonging to the chapter of the collegiate church of Notre-Dame-la-Ronde, which makes us think that the sponsor of the ceilings had to be a canon. The complexity of the iconographic program of the work still leaves some areas of shadow in its global understanding. However, it is clear that the painted ceiling contains a specific message created from the very beginning by the sponsor. 
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