Little cat feet

The General Congregations of the Cardinal Electors are still shrouded in fog.   Since they haven’t give us a date for the conclave yet, to the dismay of many, here is this cool photo, sent by a reader, of a medieval manuscript with some cat footprints.

One imagines the moment…

I imagine that the monk in charge of this manuscript uttered – first – the cat’s name.  After, who knows.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. bbloomfield says:

    It doesn’t make for as good of a picture, but in the blogpost where I first saw this photo, they also had one of a manuscript that had been ruined by a cat that urinated on one of the pages during the night, which was explained by the scribe thus:

    “Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam. Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte Daventrie, et consimiliter omnes alii propter illum. Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt.”


  2. Tom in NY says:

    Ad iucundum: Infelix felis fuit.

    Salutationes omnibus.

  3. Phil_NL says:

    I just hope that the manuscript wasn’t written while a pope named Felix reigned. The target of the monk’s invective might have been misunderstood since the difference is so small….

  4. An American Mother says:

    Those are BIG cat feet – hefty fellow, probably a big old tom whose job was keeping mice and rats from nibbling the manuscripts.

    Messe [ocus] Pangur bán,
    cechtar nathar fria saindán;
    bíth a menma-sam fri seilgg,
    mu menma céin im saincheirdd

    I and Pangur bán my cat:
    ‘Tis a like task we are at.
    Hunting mice is his delight;
    Hunting words I sit all night.

    Pangur, by the love Divine –
    Keep your work, and I’ll keep mine.

  5. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The cat felt like this: “Praecedat dominus meus ante servum suum: et ego sequar paulatim vestigia ejus….” “May it please my lord to go before his servant: and I will follow softly [his footsteps]….” (Gen. 33:14)

    And this is why the footsteps were found: “Cognovit enim Dominus omnem scientiam, et inspexit in signum aevi, annuntians quae praeterierunt et quae superventura sunt, revelans vestigia occultorum.” “For the Lord knoweth all knowledge, and hath beheld the signs of the world, he declareth the things that are past, and the things that are to come, and revealeth the traces [footsteps] of hidden things.” (Sirach 42:19)

    And this is how everyone reacts to the sight: “Et risit Daniel, et tenuit regem ne ingrederetur intro: et dixit: Ecce pavimentum: animadverte cujus vestigia sint haec.” “And Daniel laughed: and he held the king that he should not go in: and he said: Behold the pavement, mark whose footsteps these are. “ (Dan. 14:18)

    And the monk who let the footsteps stay, not scraping them off, probably quoted this: “Perfice gressus meos in semitis tuis, ut non moveantur vestigia mea.” “Perfect thou my goings in thy paths: that my footsteps be not moved.” (Ps. 16:5/17:5)

  6. Andkaras says:

    I wonder if St. Jerome’s lion ever walked across his manuscripts?

  7. An American Mother says:

    Excellent! (isn’t Boolean search a delightful toy?)
    anthem we used to sing which I can’t find – “righteousness shall go before him, and shall set us in the way of his steps” – I think it was Ned Rorem’s “Mercy and Truth are met together”.

  8. HyacinthClare says:

    You contributors are a total delight this morning!! What a great way to start a day!

  9. Jon says:

    Things like this fascinate me. Thirty, ahem, years ago while in college as a history major I did an internship in the Special Collections of my school library. It was my job to organize and preserve mountains of newspapers, bills and letters dating from the War of 1812 to the 1890’s. The collection came from a single house that had served as British Headquarters during the Battle of Plattsburgh.

    I encountered everything from scraps left behind by the occupying British soldiers to coal receipts to original Civil War correspondence. The item I remember most vividly though, and the one that touched me the most, was a drawing by a little girl in the 1880’s of a street scene. There, in a child’s hand, was the sun with its inevitable little lines coming out from a sky-circle, but also horses, wagons, lamp posts, men with huge mustaches, and women in bonnets and over-size dresses. No different than a child would draw today.

    The very idea that “modern man” is different, superior, etc… What utter and damaging rot.

  10. Torpedo1 says:

    You guys are making me giggle so much today. I needed it so thank you very much. So cats were still walking over our hands when they wanted attention even before keyboards. I love kitties.

  11. An American Mother says:

    THE fog comes
    on little cat feet.

    It sits looking
    over harbor and city
    on silent haunches
    and then moves on.

    – Carl Sandburg

    Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.

    Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time — as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look.

    The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.

    – Dickens, Bleak House

  12. Mary Jane says:

    I knew there was a reason I didn’t like cats! :) (Except for the reason that, as a child, I was very allergic to them.)

  13. Supertradmum says:

    Assassin Albino Cat named Silas…..

  14. Mary Jane says:

    Italics…I didn’t write my comment in italics…?

  15. jaykay says:

    Hmmm… if the author was a medieval version of TS Eliot, I suspect “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” would swiftly have been followed by “Murder in the Cathedral”.

    An American Mother: Nice to see “Pangur Bán”! Wow, early Irish is very different to the modern language. I can understand about 4 words in the whole thing!

  16. Never mind St Jerome’s lion! Did Pope Benedict’s cats ever walk across his manuscripts?

    What happens if the cardinals decide not to have a conclave? That we’ll now be run by committee? The Church has laws that say they must have a conclave, but there is no big stick to make them obey.

    What will happen if a non-Cardinal (like Archbp Athanasius Schneider) is elected pope? Will there be white smoke and then a very long wait while he flies in (with the press watching the airports for travelling bishops)? Will there be no smoke till he arrives (again the airport problem, especially if a morning ballot elects him)? Will the cardinals lie and announce that they will spend a day in prayer before the next ballot? Will there be a Habemus Papam announcement without waiting for the new pope to arrive? Will the wording of the Habemus Papam be the same?

  17. wmeyer says:

    The monk showed restraint: there are no blood stains. ;)

  18. inexcels says:

    I’ll see if I can break the italic mistake. One of these ought to do it:


  19. inexcels says:

    OK, I’ve got nothing, I don’t know the style codings the combox is using.

  20. inexcels says:

    Oh wait. One more try. (Sorry for the comment spam. Whether this works or not, I’ll stop.)



  21. Therese says:

    Inexcels, use preview before you post. (Thanks for the laugh! I also have days when the italics refuse to behave. ;-)

    Of course Pangur Bán immediately comes to mind. I love the Robin Flower trans. best, but here for your pleasure are two more from Irish author O’Connor and poet Eavan Boland:

  22. Therese says:

    Oh, this is hilarious!

  23. VexillaRegis says:

    Hey, maybe because Fr. Z is *inclined* towards going to *Italy* soon? :-)!

  24. VexillaRegis says:

    “For he will do
    As he do do
    And there’s no anything about it”

    T.S. Eliot Old possum’s Book of Practical Cats

  25. StWinefride says:

    Vexilla Regis – and let us not forget Father “Z” s singular name!

    “The name that no human research can discover–
    But the cat himself knows, and will never confess.
    When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
    The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
    His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
    Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
    His ineffable effable

    Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”

    T.S. Eliot – Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

  26. Charivari Rob says:

    An American Mother, thank you for posting Pangur Ban – and one of the better translations, too!

    I went looking for a translation I saw on Father Murtagh’s blog years ago, but the fog of internet swallowed it like some literary Flying Dutchman

  27. Tom in NY says:

    Ad iucundum secundum:
    Dixit poeta, “parturient montes
    et nascetur ridiculus mus” cum felis
    edeat quam primum disparuit.

    Salutationes omnibus.

  28. Sieber says:

    OK, detectives & trackers. Are those the tracks of a cat in motion or a cat simply standing in place?
    Did someone ink the cat’s paws & place it on the manuscripts or?????????????

  29. Matt R says:

    Father, fyi, the entire page is in italics!

  30. VexillaRegis says:

    Sieber: I think you’re right – some cat loving monk used his big furry friend as a stamp after inking his paws!

  31. Traductora says:

    Sieber, you just didn’t see the other manuscript upon which the cat tipped over the whole pot of ink before tracking it across this manuscript…those look like pretty leisurely paw prints, though, so maybe the monk was off in the chapel at that moment.

    There is a monastery in Spain, San Millan de la Cogolla, that houses the oldest example of written Spanish (as opposed to Late Latin) as well as Basque in the form of marginal notes done during the transition from the so-called Visigothic or Mozarabic Rite to the Frankish-Roman Rite which occurred there sometime in the 11th century. The books are huge and are kept the way they always have been, in closed wooden cupboards…with a small hole at one end. Brother Catkeeper used to come up with the cat tucked under his arm, open the little door and slip the cat in – and then wait. If the cat came right back out, he’d pick it up and go on his way. If the cat delayed, it was because kitty had found dinner, in the form of a mouse or rat, somewhere back in the “stacks,” and Brother would keep the little hole closed off until the cat was finished and the books were safe for one more night. The books are still with us, so the cat system was pretty effective.

  32. I removed some stray italics tags. the “I” tag doesn’t work well all the time. “em” is more certain.

  33. Panterina says:

    The italics problem has happened before. It is the result of someone typing the wrong HTML tag. It seems to have originated in a post which ended with the italicized words “Bleak House”, which had the incorrect tag “i+space+forward slash” instead of “forward slash+i”. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that we commenters can do, but thankfully Father has jumped right in to fix it.

  34. jaykay says:

    Sieber: I think the cat was walking as the front paw tracks seem to be turning right. Picture it: head turned over the shoulder looking in puzzlement at the flying armillary sphere headed inexorably in his/her/its direction accompanied by choice curses from the Liber Maleficiarum (de animalibus cattivis)…

  35. jaykay says:

    Ahhh… headed left, of course. All adding to the sense of the sinister. Call Macavitty, he’ll sort it!

  36. AnAmericanMother says:

    Mea maxima culpa — or, if you prefer, “Guilty, m’Lord!”

    I could have sworn that I closed my tags before I dashed off to other things, but if that’s the stupidest thing I do today I am well ahead of the game.

    In the future, as advised, I will use “em” rather than “i”.

  37. acardnal says:


  38. Christopher says:

    Sieber (1:19 pm):

    Tracks seem stationary.

    jaykay (3:13pm):

    Distance seems too great for an ordinary walk, the distance between the set on the right and the set on the left is almost an entire body’s length, cats cannot stretch their limbs that far.

    God Bless.

  39. Christopher says:

    Most liekly something blocking the manuscript, such as perhaps a few pages lying ontop at an angle so the cat would have walked upon them.

    God Bless.

  40. Christopher says:


    God Bless.

Comments are closed.