The wild men of the Middle Ages –

If something characterizes the Middle Ages obscurantism is something that makes it mysterious and exciting, that envelops us in that halo of mysteries and legends, where the existence of the fantastic mixes with the real. Perhaps the mystery of the Middle Ages lies in the thousand years that this period covers, from the end of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, until approximately the discovery of America in the 15th century. A time in which the new Germanic currents bring back the myths and the old pagan gods. The Wild Men of the Middle Ages They are a clear example of how medieval man continues to represent his ancestral myths, why this type of representation was made, where they were made and, above all, what they represented.

The wild men of the Middle Ages | Who was the Wild Man

The call wild man or also known as the being of the woods, it is a figure that began to appear represented in European medieval art. The figure of a wild man is represented in a multitude of images carved in stone or painted in the different rosettes on the ceilings of medieval churches and cathedrals. An example is the Canterbury Cathedral in England, but in Spain we also have Wild Men, like the one we can see in the Western Door of the Church Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Avila.

It is perhaps a mythological figure which represents a wild-looking man, covered in hair and carrying a club, or tree branch. It is believed that they represent the conjunction of civilized man and the spirits of the forest, which in other cultures could represent the elves, such as the figure of Puck.

in the fourteenth centurythe concept begins to change, the literary trend focused on the chivalrous storiesfull of maidens and monsters or wild men determined to kidnap them.

It would soon pass from the decoration of Romanesque churches to wall decorations and the tapestries. Soon these representations of wild beings began to swell the symbology of different shields, incorporating it in this way in heraldic symbology.

Now the figure of the wild man was no longer relegated to the baron, wild women appear and even savage families.

The wild men of the Middle Ages | How was it represented?

The wild man is a creature that lives in the woods, Totally far from civilization. The way to represent the wild man is as a human figure covered with hair. Draw attention to long locks that shine on the body, such as the long beard, which gives it a fierce look.

The human features of the beast have European racial characteristics and the way of being represented varies from total nudity, to wearing a kind of short skirt and has even been represented covered with some type of vegetable element, such as leaves and branches.

Another characteristic of the representation of the wild man in the Middle Ages is with a belt that may or may not be decorated. His size also varies depending on the place he was to occupy, sometimes he will appear represented like a giant and others will seem more like a short figure.

But be that as it may, he is always represented as a strong and muscular being. almost always wearing a mace or club that you can use as a cane or wielding it as a weapon.

The wild men of the Middle Ages | The evolution

It is not known for sure what was the first representation or examples of the wild man. The Hispanic art developed during the medieval age reserved this figure to the decoration of the Romanesque churches. Perhaps the oldest example that we can find in the Iberian Peninsula is the representation of the wild man in the capital of the Cloister of the Cathedral of Pamplona, whose antiquity dates back to the thirteenth century.

Although in Europe the first representations date back to the 12th century, where figures with their bodies covered with hair begin to appear, as is the case of the miniature that represents “The Folly of Nebuchadnezzar”engraving included in the Bible of King Sancho the Strong, XII century.

But its maximum splendor did not arrive until the fourteenth century, a figure that lasted until the fifteenth century, when the wild man made the leap towards Literatureas we have previously mentioned.

Appear representations in ivory, in tapestries, in pieces of gold work, etc. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the wild man began to be represented surrounded by nature, semi-camouflaged in it, reaching its maximum expression in both architecture and decoration.

These representations endured over time until well into the 16th century. representations as the paintings in the choir of the Cologne Cathedral.

There is no doubt that they must have been very popular representations, the mixture of the fascinating and the real, the wonderful and the wild. In Castile, the use of the figure of the savage began to be integrated into the coats of arms at the beginning of the fifteenth century. An example can be found in the Castle of Escalona (1440), where we can find a wild man in the tympanum of the entrance door to the castle at that time owned by D. Álvaro de Luna.

Other examples can be found in the Sepulcher of Juan de Cerezuela in the Chapel of Santiago in the same Toledo Cathedral. Being a fashion that spread throughout Castile and Portugal at the end of the 15th century.

The wild men of the Middle Ages | Other names

The name by which it is popularly known is Wild manbut this phenomenon did not occur only in the Iberian Peninsula, as we know in Germany, England, France or Italy, the images of these men of nature were also represented.

So we can find this creature with names like Wikld Manfor the Saxon language, Wilder-Mann in German, Homme Sauvage in french or Jungle Smoke in Italian.

This would be at a general level since there are different variants of its name depending on the different popular cultures. Thus in Old English it was known as Wudewasa, Wodewose or Woodehouse. The terminology Wood (wood) indicates the clear connection of these characters with the local forests.

In the Lombardy region there is the term Salvan or Salvang, very common name of the alpine zone. It seems that this terminology derives from the Roman god of gardens and fields called Silvanus. In the Swiss area closest to German influence, there is the figure of a wild woman who was called Fange or Fankea derivative of Latin Fauna, the feminine form of the god Faun.

In other traditions or languages, figures of wild humans appear as in the Tyrol area, where it appears with names such as Orke, Lorke or Fankederived from the Latin Orcus, Roman god of death.

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The wild men of the Middle Ages | Image gallery