1st Edition

Companion Species Saints, Ordinary Humans in the Middle Ages

Edited By Mathilde van Dijk Copyright 2025
    312 Pages 33 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    312 Pages 33 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores the connection between saints and animals, and how the power over animals has been a characteristic of saints from their beginnings in the Early Church.


    The connection between saints and humans is examined, with the saint as a human rising beyond humanity, touching the divine, and the non-human animal as a creature, which is connected to and yet removed from humanity and which may have a connection to the sacred itself. This volume transcends traditional religious boundaries by including Christian saints as well as similar figures in Islam and Norse religions. It operates on the cusp of two exciting and innovative fields: hagiographic and animal studies. It shows the complexities of human-animal interaction and the sacred: authorities clashing with experiential knowledge, metaphorical animals as opposed to real, animals ranging from helpers or opponents of saints, disguises of demons, or identity markers of a human community.


    Companion Species will be of value to scholars and students interested in medieval history, Europe and religion, as well as social and cultural history.

    1. Introduction

    Mathilde van Dijk

    2. Canes Domini? ‘Saint’ Guinefort, popular devotion, hierarchies and Animalité

    Stephen Molvarec

    3. Contested Popular Rituals in Late-Medieval Italy: Franciscan saints and animal baptism

    Bianca Lopez   

    4. Hundheiðinn and Heathen Hounds: Dogs and the Authority of Saints in Old Norse Literature

    Ashley Castelino

    5. Wondrous birds in Old Norse-Icelandic Literature

    Eric-Ania Haley-Halinski

    6. Wonderful animals in the biographies of the prophet Muhammed

    Nicolas Payen

    7. ‘Too large for calm consumption’: Spiders as silken  saviours and venomous villains in the medieval lives of saints

    Sven Gins

    8. ‘I am like the cat’: Human-Animal encounters in Devotio  Moderna biographies

    Mathilde van Dijk

    9. Saints and animals on medieval seals: a religious bestiary for moral purposes and identity

    Caroline Simonet

    10. Martinus vs. Lupus: Martin of Tours as a Protector against Wolves in European Folkways and Folklore.

    Martin Walsh

    11. Holy Cat! Virtuous Felines, Medieval saints and their appropriations

    Ann Martinez


    Mathilde van Dijk teaches History of Christianity at the University of Groningen. She specializes in the history of late medieval reform as well as in the connection between the Middle Ages and popular culture and heritage studies, focusing on the Devotio Moderna, Carthusians and saints.