This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library License images from £2.99 Pay by PayPal for images for immediate download Member of British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA)

Subject: ‘Religion’

All of these articles and images are available for licensing: click on an image to see further details and licensing options; contact us about licensing textual content.

Sack-cloth and ashes

Posted in Bible, Interesting Words, Language, Religion, Sinners on Friday, 1 July 2016

This edited article about the language of the Bible originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 392 published on 19 July 1969.

Mordecai, picture, image, illustration

Mordecai wearing sack-cloth with ashes cries out bitterly among his threatened people, the Jews

We aren’t happy when we have made a mistake, and if we dislike admitting it to ourselves, we dislike admitting it to others even more.

Sometimes, however, we may be able to make things easier by a phrase which may bring a faint smile to the face of the person we have to confess to. “I really am sorry,” we may say. “It was a stupid thing to do. Here I am in sack-cloth and ashes.”

This is an odd thing to say, and it would be an even odder sight if it were literally true! What we mean, of course, is that we are pretending to have dressed ourselves in the clothing which represented a penitent person in Biblical times.

There are several references to this custom in the Bible. Sometimes sackcloth was used to mark a great misfortune, as when a decree was issued by a certain Persian King ordering a great persecution of the Jews. One of their leaders, Mordecai, “rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and bitter cry.” (Esther, Chapter 4 verse 1).

But the custom was usually a way of expressing deep sorrow for something that had displeased God. When Jonah preached to the people in the wicked city of Nineveh, we are told that the people there “put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them,” and that even the King removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes (Jonah, Chapter 3, verses 5 and 6).

A famous instance of a King wearing sackcloth as a mark of his own repentance is that of the wicked King Ahab. With the help of his evil wife, Jezebel, Ahab had arranged for an innocent man named Naboth to be stoned to death on a false charge. This had been contrived so that the King could seize a little vineyard which Naboth had owned, next door to the palace grounds. Ahab badly wanted this vineyard for himself, to turn into a herb garden.

The prophet Elijah learned of the cruel plot by which Naboth had been got out of the way, and, confronting the King boldly, warned him that a terrible fate would overtake not only Ahab and Jezebel but their whole household, in punishment for their crime. Frightened by the prophet’s words, Ahab “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth,” and went about dejectedly (1 Kings 21, verse 27).

In their writings, the prophets often advised their hearers to “gird themselves with sackcloth” as a mark of sorrow for their sins. And Jesus himself used the words. Rebuking the people of certain villages, he said, “If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”

In view of the widespread use of this phrase, it is not surprising that it has passed into our everyday speech as an expression of regret and a desire to make amends.

Saint Agatha

Posted in Bible, Religion, Saints on Sunday, 31 January 2016

Agatha, picture, image, illustration

Saint Agatha of Sicily

Saint Agatha is the Patron Saint of Catania, and is one of the most revered Saints in Italy and especially Sicily, where she lived and where she died a martyr in 251. A predatory Roman prefect of base origins and baser intentions had designs on her which she spurned, for which rejection she was tortured and humiliated, ultimately being placed in a brothel run by a madam called Aphrodisia. This immoral woman advised Agatha to save herself by worshipping the Roman idols and submitting to the will of Quintianus, but she refused with simple rhetorical grandeur and profound moral sureness, proclaiming her faith in the love and power of Jesus Christ. She was subjected to appalling torture and humiliation, but clung to her faith throughout with luminous and exemplary courage. Saint Peter appeared at her martyrdom and cured her mutilated body, which now rests at the Badia di Sant Agata, Catania.

Many more pictures relating to Saints can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Condemned pig

Posted in Absurd, Animals, Historical articles, History, Law, Oddities, Religion on Sunday, 31 January 2016

This edited article about legal systems first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 527 published on 19 February 1972.

Animal justice, picture, image, illustration

Top: A sow and her piglets are summoned to appear before the court; Bottom: A court official reads out the charges to a cow accused of trampling a boy to death

Imagine your surprise if you saw a pig, a cow or even a wild animal such as a fox or a badger, being led into court to be tried by a judge and jury! If you had lived on the Continent in medieval times, such a spectacle would not have surprised you in the least, for in those days it was quite common for both domestic and wild animals to be brought to court, there to be tried, sentenced or acquitted, according to the jury’s verdict.

These animal courts were not staged for fun. They were conducted in all seriousness, with eminent lawyers acting for plaintiff and accused, exactly as they do when people are tried in our courts today.

Not long ago a bird was blamed for causing a thatched cottage to be burnt to the ground. It was suggested that the bird had taken a still smouldering cigarette end into the thatch for use as nest-building material. If the same thing had happened in medieval times it would have been the solemn duty of the ecclesiastical court to publicly declare the bird to be under notice to quit the district forthwith.

Fantastic, admittedly – but none the less true. The position was that civil courts had jurisdiction over all domestic creatures, including farm animals, whilst the church, or ecclesiastical courts, could call to trial and pronounce sentence on all forms of wild life, from wolves and rats down to insect pests such as ants and house flies.

One of France’s most eminent jurists, M. Chassensee, made his name for his masterly defence of the rats in the Diocese of Autun, in the 15th century. The rats were accused of appearing in great numbers and annoying the townspeople and were therefore summoned to appear before the local ecclesiastical court.

The defendants were described as “dirty animals of grey colour living in holes.” As the rats failed to appear in answer to the summons, the prosecution demanded sentence right away. But Chassensee argued that All the rats in the diocese were interested parties and they, too, should be called to give evidence. The curate of every parish was therefore commanded to issue a general summons. Still no rats turned up.

Contempt of court? Certainly not, argued Chassensee. Some were too old and some too young to make the journey. The rest of his clients, he explained, were quite willing to attend, but were afraid to come out of their holes because of “evilly disposed cats belonging to the plaintiffs.” This resulted in a stalemate and the case was therefore adjourned, sine die, or indefinitely!

Read the rest of this article »

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 114

Posted in Best pictures, Educational card, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Invasions, Leisure, Religion, Sport, War, Weapons on Thursday, 26 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows Abd-ar-Rahman III proclaiming the Caliphate of Cordoba.

Cordoba, picture, image, illustration

Abd-ar-Rahman III Proclaims the Caliphate of Cordoba

The second picture shows a game of tennis.

 tennis, picture, image, illustration

A game of tennis

The third picture shows Turkish Bashi-bazouks mutilating Greek corpses.

war, picture, image, illustration

Turkish Bashi-bazouks mutilating Greek corpses, Akrotiri, Crete, Greco-Turkish War, 7 March 1897

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 109

Posted in Anniversary, Architecture, Best pictures, Christmas, Country House, Educational card, Historical articles, History, Invasions, Leisure, Music, Religion, Saints, War on Thursday, 26 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows Wagner conducting Siegfried’s Idyll at Triebschen to celebrate the birth of his son, Siegfried.

Wagner, picture, image, illustration

Wagner conducts Siegfried's Idyll at Triebschen to celebrate the birth of his son

The second picture shows Saladdin’s entry into Jerusalem.

Saladdin, picture, image, illustration

Saladdin's Entry Into Jerusalem

The third picture shows a cook roasting a goose on St Martin’s Day, Germany, in the 18th Century.

Roasting, picture, image, illustration

Roasting a goose on St Martin's Day, Germany, 18th Century

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 106

Posted in Ancient History, Architecture, Best pictures, Castles, Educational card, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Literature, Magic, Music, Religion, Royalty, Travel on Thursday, 26 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows Mozart and Schikaneder working on The Magic Flute.

Mozart, picture, image, illustration

Mozart and Schikaneder Work on The Magic Flute

The second picture shows the Merovingian Do-nothing Kings.

The Do-nothing Kings, picture, image, illustration

The Do-nothing Kings

The third picture shows the Statue of Osiris visiting the temple of Ipsambul.

Osiris, picture, image, illustration

Statue of Osiris visiting the temple of Ipsambul

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 105

Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology, Architecture, Best pictures, Educational card, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Plants, Religion, Ships, Trade, War on Thursday, 26 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows Enrico Dandolo, Doge of Venice, preaching the Fourth Crusade in St Mark’s Basilica, Venice.

Enrico Dandolo, picture, image, illustration

Enrico Dandolo, Doge of Venice, preaching the Fourth Crusade in St Mark's Basilica, Venice

The second picture shows Cogs of the Hanseatic League, 14th – 15th Century.

Cogs, picture, image, illustration

Cogs of the Hanseatic League, 14th – 15th Century

The third picture shows a shopkeeper weighing fruit in a shop in Pompeii.

Pompeii, picture, image, illustration

Weighing fruit in a shop in Pompeii

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 104

Posted in Ancient History, Architecture, Best pictures, Customs, Dance, Educational card, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Music, Myth, Religion, Royalty on Thursday, 26 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows the Muses on Mount Parnassus.

The Muses, picture, image, illustration

The Muses on Mount Parnassus

The second picture shows the outer gate of the enclosure containing the palaces in Peking.

Peking, picture, image, illustration

Outer gate of the enclosure containing the palaces in Peking

The third picture shows celebrating Ramadan in Turkey.

Ramadan, picture, image, illustration

Celebrating Ramadan, Turkey

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 98

Posted in Actors, Architecture, Best pictures, Educational card, English Literature, Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Invasions, Leisure, Literature, London, Politics, Religion, Royalty, Shakespeare, Theatre, War on Thursday, 26 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows Shakespeare performing before Queen Elizabeth I in 1595.

Shakespeare, picture, image, illustration

Shakespeare performing before Queen Elizabeth I in 1595

The second picture shows Hernan Cortes, Spanish conquistador, receiving gifts from the Aztec Emperor Montezuma.

Hernan Cortes, picture, image, illustration

Hernan Cortes, Spanish conquistador, receiving gifts from the Aztec Emperor Montezuma, Mexico, 1518-1519

The third picture shows Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden attending an open air service before the Battle of Lutzen, Germany, 1632.

Lutzen, picture, image, illustration

Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden attends an open air service before the Battle of Lutzen, Germany, 1632

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 97

Posted in America, Ancient History, Animals, Best pictures, Bible, Bravery, Customs, Educational card, Famous battles, Flags, Geography, Geology, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Minerals, Myth, Religion, Saints, Sea, Ships, Travel, War, Weapons on Thursday, 26 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows Jason making a sacrifice to the Gods to aid the Argo in its voyage.

Argo, picture, image, illustration

Sacrifice to the Gods to aid the Argo in its voyage

The second picture shows gold prospectors in Alaska.

Gold prospectors, picture, image, illustration

Gold prospectors, Alaska

The third picture shows St James the Great, patron saint of Spain.

St James the Great, picture, image, illustration

St James the Great, patron saint of Spain

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.