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Animals / Birds / Fish

Animals, birds and fish are common motifs amongst the early graffiti inscriptions, and are to be found all over the country. Many of the bird inscriptions are to be found associated with other known religious motifs, particularly crosses, suggesting that they may be linked to several Christian stories. In medieval art the Holy Ghost is often depicted as a bird, and such inscriptions might well be supplications aimed directly at an element of the Trinity.

However, the interpretation foe many of these inscriptions may be far more mundane. What is clear is that there are many types of animals that we might expect to find amongst the graffiti, but are simply not to be found. The farm animals that play such a major role in the medieval economy, that provided the money to actually build the great medieval churches - the sheep, pigs and cattle - are only rarely shown. Instead it is the animals of the woods, forests and the hunt that we are coming across - the deer, hunting dogs and hares.

The strange bias against the animals of the farmyard also appears to extend to the horses as well. Of the few that have been recorded, such as this example from Barton Turf in Norfolk, all share certain characteristics. Instead of depicting the everyday plough horses of the farm the images are invariably of the majestic and expensive chargers that would become a knight, suggesting perhaps a certain aspirational nature to the inscriptions, and perhaps much of the other graffiti as well.