(Fake) Medieval UFO Sighting (Mmm… [Not Really] Marginalia #48)

Instead of marginalia, this week I offer you a medieval mystery.

A while back a colleague contacted me on behalf of a fellow working for the History Channel. Sadly, they were not interested in picking up my medieval detective miniseries,* but rather they wanted my help identifying the source of an image that some claim is a manuscript illustration of a medieval UFO sighting. This is that picture:

As I told the guy at the time, it’s certainly not what it claims to be. Let me quote the caption so that you don’t have to get eyestrain:

These images of two crusaders date from a 12th century manuscript “Annales Laurissense”, and refer to a Ufo sighting in the year 776 A.D. during the siege on Sigiburg Castle, France, by the Saxons. Suddenly a group of discs (flaming shields) appeared and started hovering over the top of the church. The Saxons believed the French were protected by these objects and fled.”

Another blogger helpfully sums up the truth of the matter much more ably than I would have,** like so:

The oldest manuscript known today which contains a copy of the Annales Laurissenses is known as the Lorsch Codex. This is where the Annales Laurissenses took their name, monasterium Laureshamense being the Latin name of the Lorsch monastery. The Lorsch Codex is indeed dated from the 12th century and is most probably the one referred to when talking about the provenance of the above illustrations. […] Unfortunately, even if the Lorsch Codex does contain some miniatures for initials, it does not contain our beautiful world-wide-web illustrations. These must have come from elsewhere.

So, yes, there is a chronicle which describes glowing shields in the sky, but there is no illuminated copy of it that has images that even remotely look like those. They must have come from elsewhere, and it’s the elsewhere that’s been giving me fits over the last few months. As aforelinked blogger correctly points out elsewhere in his post, the image on the left is almost certainly a mislabled picture of one of the three magi being led by the star of Bethlehem, a recurring motif in medieval iconography. The knight [there weren’t any crusaders in 776 –ed.] who seems to be saying “Gooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaal!!!!!!” is harder to place, especially as his armor is so generically vague.

My theory is that someone took two originally separate images, one of a magi and the star, another of a knight with his hands over his head, and redrew them with modern paint and ink, making the star look more like a UFO and adding the UFO over the knight. But I hold out hope that someone, somewhere, has seen the original images in their proper context and knows where the fraudulent-UFO-captioner took them from.

So, anyone? You were all so crackerjack with the snails that I expect you’ll be able to have the mystery solved by lunchtime tomorrow. In which case, I will definitely pass your hard work off as my own and use their high esteem of me to get the monkey-loving medieval detective series off the ground.

*It follows a fictional deodand examiner who investigates wrongful deaths in the margins of gothic manuscripts. His sidekick is a cynocephalus who hides his condition with a variety of clever headbands. Oh, and his love interest is a girl with the hindquarters of a monkey. Hmm, come to think of it, I should lead with the monkey-hybrid girl. Animal/human romance is so hot right now.
**With far fewer non sequitur-laden footnotes, I might add.***
***In a non-sequitur-laden footnote, natch.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Seamyst

    On first thought, the picture on the right looks like a knight under a large star of some kind (probably a supernova, or maybe even a comet (yes, I know comets aren't stars)). Whoever redrew them certainly could have made the star look more UFO-ish, although it kinda also looks like the Holy Hand Grenade… Unfortunately I have no idea what the picture was originally from.

    Looking at the enlarged picture, it seems like someone wasn't very careful tracing around the hands, as there are white areas outside the lines around both hands of the guy on the right.

  • Radagast

    The magus (Baltazar) also gets a mention here: http://www.sprezzatura.it/Arte/Arte_UFO_3.htm

    I can't find the other picture of the knight, but I'm betting he's indicating a comet.

  • ethelfleda

    Guy on the right almost looks like a woodcut, and that the cross on his tabard has been coloured over deliberately – late or post medieval history of the Crusades? But frankly, the style is so generic he could come from an English Heritage children's coloring book.

    Guy on the left – that texture from the background, if it isn't an artefact of the image compression, looks more like the texture of fabric or plaster than any sort of paper or vellum. It to me has a sort of East European folk-art feel to it, or possibly even further east: I can't find anything that quite has that 'feel', but if you look at this Armenian tile: http://armenianstudies.csufresno.edu/arts_of_armenia/image.aspx?index=172
    I hope you'll get where I'm coming from!

    I have no expertise in this area and am totally guessing. However, I would happily lay £1 that at least the guy on the left is from a post-medieval source.

  • IQXS

    Looking forward to more incoming comments on this query. Thank you for the post!
    The LINK to this post has been Twittered at http://twitter.com/IQXS and shared with 1,575+ UFO enthusiasts. We track the latest in UFO/Alien Affairs News, Views, Pix and Vids. Come join the loop and be in the know. Tin foil hats, optional! 😉 ATT: We do not re-post videos or data, we only share the link to yours. Ciao!

  • audreybmorin

    You're right, it's probably a recolouring of an original image. The image on the right looks like an image of Halley's Comet sighting (there's one in the Bayeux Tapestry, but it's not the right image).

  • Raven

    These remind me of the UFO 'proofs' in the Bible — only there for those who 'want to believe'.

  • Sigivald

    Guy on the right seems pretty obviously to be under a comet.

    Note the tail, etc.

  • ncm

    Yeah, comet, yo.

    The windows are a nice touch, actually. It must have been hard not to add a flexi eyestalk.

  • Natasha Czk

    By now there’s more info gathered about Hollow Earth and flying sauces coming from there, so it is not a fake. Subterranean civilization does not want wars, that is why they appeared.

  • kjucrown


    Disc-shaped flying saucer picture what happened at the European figure UFO

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