Description Gallery Bibliography Manuscripts Jump to Home page Help Jump to Contents page Jump to Beast Index page Search Previous beast Next beast

Source: Koninklijke Bibliotheek - Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Copyright 2002 Koninklijke Bibliotheek / Used by permission Manuscript description Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, KA 16, Folio 81v



Latin name: Columba

Other names: Colum, Coulompe, Coulon, Culvour

There is meaning in the various colors of doves


General Attributes

There is meaning in the various colors of doves. The red dove rules over all the others and brings the other doves into the dovecot. The song of the dove is mournful. Doves fly in flocks and continually kiss; they have twin young. It sits on water so that it can see the reflection of the hawk, which it can then avoid. The dove lacks gall, and nests in holes in rocks. It does not eat corpses or live by plunder, but instead gathers the best seeds.

When menaced by a dragon, doves will fly to a peridexion tree, where they are safe.


The dove is associated with Christ and the Holy Spirit. God sent his spirit in the form of a dove to gather mankind into his church. As there are many colors of doves, so there were many ways of speaking through the laws and the prophets. The meanings of the colors of the dove are: red - the predominant color because Christ redeemed man with his blood; speckled - the diversity of the twelve prophets; gold - the three boys who refused to worship the golden image; air colored - the prophet Elisha, who was taken up into the air; black - obscure sermons; ash colored - Jonah, who preached wearing a hair shirt and ashes; stephanite - Stephen, the first martyr; white - John the Baptist and the cleansing of baptism.

Sources (chronological order)

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 7:61-62): Doves (columbae) are tame birds that live in company with men; their necks change into different colors, they have no gall, they are often in the nests and make love with a kiss. Ring doves (palumbes) are chaste birds; if it loses its mate it lives alone and never takes another.

Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (De proprietatibus rerum, book 12): The culvour is messager of peace, ensample of simpleness, clean of kind, plenteous in children, follower of meekness, friend of company, forgetter of wrongs. The culvour is forgetful. And therefore when the birds are borne away, she forgetteth her harm and damage, and leaveth not therefore to build and breed in the same place. Also she is nicely curious. For sitting on a tree, she beholdeth and looketh all about toward what part she will fly, and bendeth her neck all about as it were taking avisement. But oft while she taketh avisement of flight, ere she taketh her flight, an arrow flieth through her body, and therefore she faileth of her purpose, as Gregory saith. Also as Ambrose saith, in Egypt and in Syria a culvour is taught to bear letters, and to be messager out of one province into another. For it loveth kindly the place and the dwelling where it was first fed and nourished. And be it never so far borne into far countries, always it will return home again, if it be restored to freedom. And oft to such a culvour a letter is craftily bound under the one wing, and then it is let go. Then it flieth up into the air, and ceaseth never till it come to the first place in which it was bred. And sometimes in the way enemies know thereof, and let it with an arrow, and so for the letters that it beareth, it is wounded and slain, and so it beareth no letter without peril. For oft the letter that is so borne is cause and occasion of the death of it. (Mediaeval Lore from Bartholomew Anglicus (London, 1893/1905) Steele edition of 1905)

Description Gallery Bibliography Manuscripts Jump to Home page Help Jump to Contents page Jump to Beast Index page Search Previous beast Next beast