From its foundation until the nineteenth century, the College of St George held land and property throughout the country and it was whilst researching these links that I came across the following porcine tale relating to St Anthony’s Hospital in London.
A medieval privilege enjoyed by the master and brethren of St Anthony’s was the right to take from Smithfield, London’s meat market, pigs considered unfit for slaughter. With a bell tied about their necks, these scrawny animals were released onto the streets of the capital where it was a Londoner’s responsibility to feed them. Having been fattened at the citizens’ expense the pigs were then used to feed the poor and needy in the care of St Anthony’s Hospital.
It is thought that this custom is the basis for images of St Anthony being accompanied by a pig. Whatever the reason however, one such early sixteenth century representation of the saint still survives in the Catherine Room, No.2 Canons’ Cloister, Windsor Castle.
Richard (Assistant Archivist)