Detail of the restored left central door of the Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis, the nécropole of the kings of France. Notice the heads of hound dogs which were used here as a decorative element. Symbol of fidelity and courage, protector and herding animal, the dog was also an exterior sign of power and position--kings's and feudal lords' indispensable hunting companion. During the Middle Ages hunting was an activity reserved to the nobility. At the same time, however, the dog could also be a bleak negative symbol; French priests were forbidden to possess a dog or to even allow a dog under their roofs because the animal was considered by some to be an incarnation of the devil. Nonetheless, sculpted dogs were frequently positioned at the feet of the aristocrats' recumbent effigies.
une nécropole: a necropolis, a cemetery
un molosse: a large, ferocious hound
Nom de chien!
A familiar and vulgar expression used to avoid saying "nom de Dieu," an expletive violating the third of the ten commandments, not to take the Lord's name in vain.
©2013 P.B. Lecron