Pope Boniface’s Dog

Dante made a place for Pope Boniface in Hell, meanwhile this despised pontiff of the late middle ages was commissioning manuscripts with artfully decorative images and designs in the margins. So, here’s a pre-Renaissance dog chasing a hare. It’s purely decorative and has no connection with the Latin text in this book, Liber Sextus, which is a collection of Papal letters clarifying points of Canon Law.

Still, one can ponder with some amusement the historical juxtaposition of this rabbit-chasing dog and the degree that the pope pursued his enemies. Dante fell out of graces for being on the wrong side of the debate over whether the Florentine Republic should assist the pope with its soldiers in one of those pursuits. For that, Dante was convicted and condemned to death on trumped of corruption charges, forcing the poet into exile for the rest of his life. It’s a sad story, but then without that we would probably not have quite so divine of a Comedy to enjoy.

(This manuscript is from the University of California, Berkeley, Robbins Collection.)

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