Feast of the Ass

Happy Feast of the Ass!

This medieval feast on 14 January celebrated the donkey that helped the holy family flee from King Herod. A girl would be led into the church, riding a donkey, and the people would bray like asses! We don’t have any record of this feast happening at Great St Mary’s, but it was popular in France. Read more here. 

Here’s GSM’s donkey from the east window – you can also just see a statue being toppled in the background. This addition to Matthew’s gospel account arose from medieval legends, and represented the triumph of Christ over paganism.

Detail of GSM's east window. Photograph by Cipher Arts Ltd.

Detail of GSM’s east window. Photograph by Cipher Arts Ltd.

Here is a nice medieval manuscript example with a whole chorus line of idols! For more about the changing iconography of the Flight into Egypt, see this article.

This manuscript from the 1360s shows the same link between the flight into Egypt and the toppling of pagan idols. Via wikimedia.

This manuscript from the 1360s shows the same link between the flight into Egypt and the toppling of pagan idols. Via wikimedia.

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