Medieval Marginalia: Why Are There So Many Snails In Medieval Manuscripts?

Just History Posts

If you’ve ever flicked through an illustrated medieval manuscript, or seen pictures of some marginalia on the internet, chances are you’ve seen pictures of snails. Sometimes the snails are fighting each other, sometimes they are fighting knights, sometimes things are riding the snails, but in one form or another, snails keep cropping up in these manuscripts. So, were the writers and illustrators of these manuscripts huge lovers of the snail, frustrated gardeners, or did the snails represent something deeper?

In short, we don’t really know. Numerous theories have been raised about what the snails could represent and why they are so prevalent, so I shall take you through some of them (and as the pictures are so oddly charming, this will be a picture heavy post!).

CTjoy9JWEAEU9pAKnight defending himself and his wife, who holds a distaff, against a giant snail (Festal Missal, Amiens, 1323).

6a00d8341c464853ef019aff98b2b1970d-500wiKnight with a club fighting against a…

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