At Southwark Cathedral, the first Saturday of this month was dedicated to cats – a full day of lectures rounded off with a screening of Kedi, a lyrical documentary about Istanbul’s street cats. The ‘Caturday’ event was in part inspired by Doorkins, the cathedral’s own famous cat. Doorkins is no-one’s lap-cat, but she has, shall we say, a compelling presence. As a consequence, she’s become a star of Twitter and Instagram, as well as the muse of poets and writers. This portrait at left is from the cathedral’s website.
Dr Walker-Meikle’s PhD (at University College London) was on the art of medieval pet keeping. She’s now the author of a fine litter of books on the subject, including three about cats. This lecture was based on her latest volume, Cats in Medieval Manuscripts, soon to be published by the British Library.
Of course Dr Walker-Meikle was preaching to the choir here in Doorkinslandia. But I must say that I’ve seldom sat in a lecture room that rippled so with delight. Image after image filled the twin screens, accompanied by text that was both learned and witty, delivered with infectious gusto and pleasure.
|the local talent approves|
| Busy cats at work in a bestiary illumination: |
one reaches into a birdcage; the second grimly removes a rat
from a tray of eggs; the third is napping
Albertus Magnus warned that cats drown easily when made wet and that those who have fallen in wells must therefore be dried very quickly. Of course it was not surprising to medieval writers that cats, subject to cold and damp dispositions, had a natural propensity for the softest, warmest places in the house.
The audience was delighted to hear that Dr Walker-Meikle continues with her researches. She told us that she was currently writing a paper on mange as part of the Renaissance Skin Project. She has also written about snake bite in the middle ages. Finally, she shared the fact that when she started her cat researches, she did not share her home with a living cat. Now she has one happy owner.
You can follow Doorkins Magnificat on Twitter @Doorkins. The Cathedral Shop sells a selection of Doorkins merchandise – and a percentage of the profits goes towards gifts, food and treats for Doorkins herself.
Michelle Lovric’s website
Michelle is teaching a pair of Masterclasses called FLOW in London in March and April with Lucy Coats. For more details see here
Michelle's post on our sister-site about The Curious Incidence of Felines in Paintings of the Virgin Mary.