Updated: Mar 31, 2021
A recently discovered silver badge or belt decoration of a knight riding a snail atop of a goat leaves researchers wondering, WTF?
A silver badge depicting a knight with his hands crossed in prayer riding a snail atop of a goat was found in 2020 by a treasure hunter in England.
Believed to be a 13th-century belt decoration or badge, this inch-long motif has left historians scratching their heads. Was it designed to be a parody of the medieval pilgrim’s badge? An insulting depiction of Italians? A Biblical or even a sexual reference? No one knows for sure.
Some researchers have postulated that depicting a knight as slimy as a snail may have acted as an insult against the Lombards, who ruled what is now a part of Italy. Representatives from the British Library have suggested that it may also be a representation of the struggles of the “poor against an oppressive aristocracy, a statement of the snail’s reputation as a garden pest, a commentary on social climbers, or even a… symbol of female sexuality.”
What is certain is that medieval people loved visual jokes. Snails were often depicted in the margins of illuminated manuscripts as a symbol of cowardice. As such, the mount may be a “satirical reference to… non-chivalric behavior of opponents in battle, or as a parody of the knightly classes,” explains Beverly Nenk, curator at the British Museum.
Wakefield Museum hopes to eventually acquire the object.