Damien Kempf: “The Hanged Sow: Animal Trials in the Middle Ages”

3:30pm - 5:00pm / Wednesday 5th February 2020 / Venue: Seminar Room 10, Rendall Building
Type: Seminar / Category: Department
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In December 1457, in the French town of Savigny, a sow and her six piglets killed an infant. The seven pigs were caught in the act, imprisoned and brought to trial. If the owner of the pig was accused only of negligence, the sow, on the other hand, faced the death sentence. After hearing testimony, the judge sentenced the animal to hanging by her hind legs, in accordance with the custom in Burgundy. The six piglets escaped death since no one could prove they participated in the crime. We have about two hundred records of animal trials across Europe in the late medieval and early modern period. This paper will address the significance of animal trials, particularly in relation to the role and symbolism of animals in medieval society.