Rochester Bestiary


Rochester Bestiary: UnicornisEdit

Latin originalEdit

Rochester bestiary Unicorn

Unicornis qui et Rinoceros a Grecis dicitur, hanc habet naturam. Pusillum animal est simile hedo, acerrimum nimis. Unum cornu habens medio capite et nullus uenator eum capere potest. Sed hoc argumento capitur. Puella uirgo ducitur ubi moratur que ibi sola dimittiturin silua. Ac ille mox ut uiderit eam: insilit in sinum eius et complectitur eam. Sic et Dominus noster Iesus Christus est spiritualiter unicornis de quo dicitur. Et dilectus quemadmodum filius unicornium. Et in alio psalmo. Exaltabit sicut unicornis cornu meum. Et Zacharias. Suscitauit nobis cornu salutis in domo dauid pueri sui. Quid autem unum cornu habet in capite significat hoc quod ipse ait. Ego et pater unim sumus; et secundum apostolum capud Christi est Deus. Acerrimum autem dicit eum: quia neque principatus, neque potestates neque throni, neque dominationes eum intelligere potuerunt. Nec infernus eum tenere potuit, nec subrilissimus Diabolus intelligere aut inuestigare ualuit, sed sola uoluntate Patris descendit in uterum uirginis propter salutem nostram. Pusillum animal dicitur propter Incarnationis eius humilitatem, ipso dicente. Discite a me quia mitis sum et humilis corde. Similis est hedo unicornis, quia ipse Saluator factus est similitudinem carnis peccati, et de peccato damnauit peccatum. Unicornis sepe cum elephantis certamen habet et in uentrem uulneratum prosternit.

English translationEdit

The unicorn, which is also called rhinoceros by the Greeks, has this nature: a small animal and similar to a kid, very fierce, having one horn in the middle of the forehead, and no hunter is able to capture it. But by this series of events it is captured: a virgin girl is led to where it lives and is left there alone in the woods. And as soon as it sees her, it leaps into her lap and embraces her and thus it is seized. And thus our Lord Jesus Christ is spiritually the unicorn, about which it is said, And as the beloved son of unicorns. And in another psalm, My horn shall be exalted like that of the unicorn. And in Zacharias, And I shall raise up an horn of salvation to us in the house of David his servant. Further the creature with one horn signifies that which He himself said I and the Father are one; and according to the apostle, The head of Christ is God. They say it is very fierce, because neither principalities, nor powers, nor thrones, nor dominions could understand him. Nor could Hell hold him, nor the keenest Devil be able to understand him or track him, but only by the will of the Father did he descend into the womb of a virgin for our salvation. It is called a small animal on account of the humility of Incarnation, as it is said, Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart. The unicorn is similar to a kid, and because the Savior was made in the likeness of sinful flesh and of sin, he hath condemned the sin, not the sinner. The unicorn often fights with elephants and casts them down, wounded in the stomach.


The bestiary merges the characterization of Physiologus and Isidore of Seville. The copyists must not have thought very long about an animal the size of a young goat that kills elephants and is called "nose-horn" but has a horn on the forehead. Indeed they were more interested in allegorizing it as a symbol of Christ.

Rochester Bestiary: MonocerosEdit

Latin originalEdit

Rochester bestiary Monoceros

Est monoceros monstrum mugito horrido, equino corpore, elephanti pedibus, cauda simillima ceruo. Cornu media fronte eius protenditur splendore mirifico ad magnitudinem quatuor pedum, ita acutum ut quicquid impetat facile ictu perforetur. Viuus non uenit in hominum potestatem et interimi quidem potest. Capi quidem non potest;


This description is word-for-word borrowed from Solinus with one important omission: Solinus said the monoceros had a tail of a pig (cauda suilla) and a head of a deer (capite cervo) and the copyist must have read it as "tail most similar to a deer" (cauda simillima cervo). In consequence the head was rendered like that of a horse, like the rest of the body.

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