The Owl

Owl, ca.1224-59, pulpit, cathedral of Sessa Aurunca

Owl, ca.1224-59, pulpit, cathedral of Sessa Aurunca

The owl is named bubo for its call, which it makes with a heavy heart. It is a mournful bird, portending death with the sound of its voice. Weighed down by the great mass of its feathers, it is likewise hindered by its slothfulness. Hiding from the sun that plagues its eyes, it makes its nest in caves, and wanders around tombs and ruins to avoid the light of day.


This tiny owl seems to prefer churches to tombs: he decorates the cathedral’s sculpted pulpit, where he is affixed to the underside of one the arches. His location there, somewhat out of view, is in keeping with the dim view bestiary authors took of owls: they were considered symbolic of those who lived in sin and eschewed the path of righteousness.

First published April 2009, reworked June 2013.

3 responses to “The Owl

  1. How interesting KC. I have always heard of Owls being associated with impending death. I know that there are Native American tales, and all kinds of superstition that has been floating around for a long time. This must be where it all came from.

  2. Thank you, Lost in Sicily!

    Gail, I didn’t know about the negative connotations before I looked into their medieval symbolism! Before that I always thought of how they were associated with Athena and Minerva in classical mythology.

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