Sea Monk illustrated in Omnium fere gentium nostrae que aetatis nationum, habitus et effigies, et in eosdem epigrammata by Johannes Sluperius, 1572

The Sea Monk (a.k.a. Monk Fish or Monkfish) is a mysterious sea animal which has been illustrated in European bestiaries and natural history almanacs from the mid-16th century onward. It's illustrated as a quasi-humanoid entity with a bald domed head, a scale-covered body, a pair of elongated fins instead of arms and a broad tail instead of legs.

As documented in Conrad Gesner's Historia Animalium, a member of this species was captured off the Norwegian coast in 1546, but its carcass was deemed an abomination and unceremoniously buried on the orders of King Christian III of Denmark. Gesner also claims that a similar animal had been documented by Boethius as having been captured in the Firth of Forth in Scotland.

In later centuries, many scientists have speculated that the Sea Monk may actually represent a deformed carcass of some existing animal, with possible identifications ranging from a giant squid (as proposed by Japetus Steenstrup) to a walrus (as proposed by Bernard Heuvelmans) to an angel shark.

In his 1578 poem La Sepmaine; ou, Creation du monde, Guillaume du Bartas mentions the Sea Monk as well as the Sea Bishop as exemplifying the fact that everything that exists on land has a counterpart in the seas.

See also

  • Umibōzu, another sea entity associated with monks.