Online reports about the Portable Antiquities Scheme for last year feature a delightful medieval find from my home town of Pontefract.
A praying knight emerges from a snail on top of a goat.....
Image: The Guardian
Dated to 1200-1350 the ornament is of high quality and finely detailed, and made in silver-gilt. What the piece is thought to signify is not at all clear. Snails were popular in manuscript marginalia, with knights fighting gigantic snails in some instances. Like the popular illuminator’s use of hares or rabbits as homicidal beasts or as captors of trussed up knights they appear to represent the idea of the world turned upside down and role reversal. Snails as a stone that moves were used as a symbol of the Resurrection, but that seems unlikely in this case, The articles below offer a range of interpretations. Nor is it immediately clear how it how and where the device was worn. I do hope it does go to the Museum in Pontefract.
The articles about it can be seen at Was This Ornament of a Knight Emerging From a Snail Shell a 'Medieval Meme'? from The Smithsonian Magazine and at ‘Such a funny little thing’: ‘snail-man’ relic may depict ancient joke from The Guardian. The Daily Telegraph has an account at Medieval meme revealed by British Museum after 'snail man' image found and the BBC News website at Yorkshire snail man mount was 'medieval meme'
I can assure, or reassure, readers that such a scene is not one that even on a Friday or Saturday evening one encounters in Pontefract these days - or at least not when I lived there.