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Listed as a historic monument (Monument Historique) and as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Saint-Hilaire Roman church in Melle counts several depictions of people among its sculpted decorations. Compared to sculptures in other Romanesque churches in the Mellois area, they give us an insight into daily life and entertainment in the Middle Ages.
This capital illustrates big-game hunting, which was reserved for lords. A richly dressed man kills a wild boar with his hunting spear, assisted by his hounds. Noblewomen were able to take part in hunting on horseback with falcons, like men. The birds killed and brought back small game themselves, as we can see in this bas-relief that comes from the Javarzay church.
Exotic animals, such as lions, may have been exhibited for the entertainment of the people and the nobility. As in the church in Villiers-sur-Chizé, those exhibiting the animals and the tamers seemed to impress their audience by measuring up to the wild creatures. Representations of humans fighting animals often symbolise the battle of good versus evil, the Christians versus the sins that would consume them. Following this theme, a man removes the thorn of evil that was inside him in the Saint-Pierre church in Melle.
Coming back to the world of entertainment, wrestling matches were put on in public by professionals. They sometimes used accessories to confront their strength, like in this example from Verrines-sous-Celles.
Music played an important role in livening up the festivities and accompanied the first courtly love stories. Here, two musicians play a psaltery harp, while the two viol players accompany an acrobat dancing on its head in a scene identical to this capital in the Villiers-sur-Chizé church. Acrobats, musicians, wrestlers and animal tamers were all included in entertainment under the title of “minstrels”.