Return to the Bestiary Elephant
Deriving from the Latin misericordia, meaning "compassion," a misericord provided unobstrusive support for choir members obliged to stand during lengthy medieval services. Seldom seen, these wooden ledges along the back row of the choir stall often are intricately carved and decorated with a variety of delightful plant and animal scenes.
The earliest complete set of misericords, which probably date to before 1279, are those of Exeter Cathedral. The elephant that decorates this misercord is thought to have been carved from a drawing of the animal given to Henry III for his menagerie in the Tower of London. It is the only one now on public display.