The Wolf

Pulpit capital bestiary image

Wolf biting its leg, ca.1224-59, pulpit, cathedral of Sessa Aurunca

Desirous of blood, the wolf kills whatever it finds. It steals into sheepfolds against the wind to evade the hounds. If it makes a sound while stalking its prey, it bites its leg to chasten itself. A wolf loses its ferocity if it senses that it is observed, but a man will lose his voice if the wolf spies him first.
Bestiary authors associated the behaviour of wolves with the vices of lust and avarice, and likened wolves to the devil, who creeps into the sheepfold of the faithful. Medieval representations of wolves typically emphasise their predatory nature; an example is the diminutive Wolf biting its leg, which adorns one of the capitals of the pulpit in the cathedral of Sessa Aurunca. The wolf’s elegantly elongated proportions accentuate the gauntness of its frame, a characteristic which would surely influence its voracious appetite.

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