St. Francis of Assisi has been for decades been depicted in illustrations, paintings, and even garden bird baths as a saint with a love for animals.

But he is not the only Christian saint associated with animals. Early Christian martyrs, the Desert Fathers of Egypt, monks and hermits from Ireland to Italy, Belgian nuns and saintly French noblemen all have fascinating accounts of animals as part of their legends. The tendency is to either naively accept all these accounts at face value, or dismiss them outright as fables. However, neither approach is adequate. In this series of lectures you will approach these stories as hagiography, that is, stories of the saints intended to edify, to communicate a spiritual meaning to their audience. 

These stories of saints and animals in this course are designed to offer people today an idea of how earlier Christian generations understood their fellow creatures as significant, communicating important messages of their Creator.

Course curriculum

  • 1

    Saints and Animals

    • Saints and Animals Study Guide

    • 01 Introduction

    • 02 Peace with Animals in Scripture and Legend

    • 03 Wild Beasts Serve and Obey

    • 04 Animals Atone for Damage

    • 05 Hunted Animals & Their Saintly Protectors

    • 06 Saints and Fish

    • 07 Winged Creatures & the World of the Spirit

    • 08 Serpents, Dragons and Demons

    • 09 A Tradition of Devilish Beasts

    • 10 The Devil and Wild Beasts

    • 11 Wild Beasts in Early Christian Tradition

    • 12 A Christian Vision of Saints and Animals