Drake, basilisk, amphisbaena eller senmurv? Frågor kring några tidiga fasadreliefer i Vä, Skåne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Downloads (Pure)


A dilemma that the iconographer is often faced with when it comes to medieval imagery is what the fantastic hybrid animals actually represent. What are they? What do they mean? On the outer walls of the mid 11th century church of Vä, in north-eastern Scania, there are a number of sadly withered reliefs that may be interpreted as representing a number of different mythological animals with completely different meanings. One of them has usually been interpreted as either a dragon or a basilisk, but there are in fact a number of other, and at least as likely, alternatives. Based on historical sources and pictorial parallels, Near Eastern, European as well as local, it is argued that this relief can very well represent an amphisbaena or a simurgh, the latter with a theological meaning totally opposite to a dragon or basilisk. The simurgh, together with other mythical animals of ancient Persian origin, may well have been introduced into recently Christianised Medieval Denmark either through direct contacts with Byzantium, or via Italy and France, before appearing on at least two of the earliest high status stone churches (Lund and Vä), perhaps as a symbol of resurrection. Another intriguing motif is an Agnus Dei which, contrary to established iconography, shows the lamb holding two rods instead of one.
Original languageSwedish
Pages (from-to)39–71
Number of pages33
JournalICO Iconographisk Post. Nordisk tidskrift för bildforskning – Nordic Review of Iconography
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Cite this