In the 16th century, the Protestant reformers Luther and Melanchton substantially increased the presence of monsters in popular culture with the publication of a pamphlet depicting monstrous creatures as prophecies of the imminent ruin of the Roman Church.
The monk-calf which appeared in one of their pamphlet published in 1523 is interpreted by protestant preachers as a sign of the ruin of the Roman church. For Sorbin, on the other hand, it symbolized the sin of the Reformation.
The monster of Ravenna has been widly ocumented in many contemporary publications. Following the pattern of prodigious tales, it was inspired by real events. A child was born with severe birth defects in the Italian city of Ravenna. Shortly thereafter, Italian forces were defeated in the Battle of Ravenna. The monstrous birth then became a symbol of the Italians’ defeat.
Portrayed with the torso and feet of a bird, the monster symbolized the effects of the supposedly Italian sin of sodomy, tempered, however, by a certain degree of virtue. It was the first monstrous birth to attain international notoriety and one of the most symbolic.
There are other monsters like the pope-ass – see Fortunio Liceti's De Monstrorum causis natura (1665).
Classification of Freaks and Prodigies
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