Saints and Holy Beasts: Pious Animals in Early-Medieval Insular Saints’ Vitae
Shockro argues that animals occupy a unique position in early-medieval Insular saints’ vitae as the verifiers of the divine source of saints’ power and as the companions of saints. In these texts in which animals are the peers of saints, they are capable of the full spectrum of spiritual states traditionally associated with human spiritual growth, allowing them to become active participants in the Christian cycle of sin and redemption. Within individual vitae the progression of the animal and saint’s relationship from basic interaction to complex communication mirrors the spiritual development of the saint. These interactions speak to a vision of the Christian world in which animals are the collaborators with and companions of saints as they assist each other toward spiritual growth.