Monastery of St George, Stein am Rhein - Elephant

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Monastery of St George, Stein am Rhein - Elephant

Postby Monzambano » 11 Aug 2015 09:56

The monastery of St George in Stein am Rhein, Switzerland, at the point where the Rhine leaves Lake Constance, was founded in the 11th C, and dissolved in 1525 when Zurich joined the Reformation. About 15 years earlier, the then abbot David von Winkelsheim renovated the monastery. As part of the refurbishment, a set of medallions was included in the ceiling of one of the reception room.

There are seven medallions, the centre one featuring St George killing the dragon, surrounded by six further medallions arranged hexagonally. Five of them feature symbols from antiquity which acquired religious interpretations, e.g. the phoenix as a symbol of the Resurrection, the lion who with the loudness of his roar wakens the dead, etc.

Also featured is this picture of an elephant, which has no known religious interpretation.

The Zurich Reformation was iconoclastic, but Abbot David's spectacular renovation, which included a banqueting room with magnificent murals from antiquity in grisaille, survived due to its largely secular imagery. After the Reformation, the monastery was used as an administrative base, and so was left in the state it was in in 1525. It's a marvellous little jewel.

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Re: Monastery of St George, Stein am Rhein - Elephant

Postby swordflasher » 16 Aug 2015 22:36


The Cutlers Guild in London has this emblem of an 'Elephant and Castle' which gave its name to a pub and thence, I believe, to the area of London of that name. The link was ivory used for cutlery handles.

Also see Pliny's Natural History Book 8, 1-13

"The elephant is the closest of all animals to humans in intelligence. It understands the language of its own country, and can therefore understand and obey orders. Elephants are wise and just, remember their duties, enjoy affection, and respect religion. They know that their tusks are valuable, so when a tusk falls off they bury it. Elephants are gentle, and do no harm unless provoked. Females are more timid than males. Male elephants are used in battle, carrying castles full of armed soldiers on their backs. The slightest squeal of a pig will frighten them, and African elephants fear to look at Indian elephants. They hate mice and will refuse to eat fodder that has been touched by one. Their period of gestation is 2 years and [quoting Aristotle] they never bear more than one child at a time. They become adults at the age of 60 years, and live between 200 and 300 years. They love rivers but cannot swim. Elephants constantly feud with the large serpents of India, which can encircle an elephant in their coils. When this happens, the elephant is strangled and dies, but in falling crushes the serpent and kills it. Another way these large serpents kill elephants is by submerging themselves in a river and waiting for an elephant to come and drink; coiling around the elephant, the serpent bites its ear and drains all its blood. The elephant in dying falls on the serpent and kills it. The largest elephants are from India, though Ethiopian elephants rival them in size, being 30 feet high. (Book 8, 15): Pliny repeats the story from Julias Caesar about the elk that cannot bend its legs. (Book 11, 115): The breath of elephants attracts snakes out of their holes."

Thanks for sharing, I love the picture in your post - do you have images of any of the others?
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