‘Tis but an inspiration! Famous Monty Python Black Knight sketch is depicted in text from 1400 

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The old jokes are the best: Famous Monty Python Black Knight sketch is found depicted in text from 1400

  • British Library curators told Radio 4’s Moving Pictures they discovered the joke   
  • Famous liturgical text was echoing 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail 
  • Image in margin of Sherborn Missal shows two mythical men fighting each other

They say the best comedy stands the test of time – and that’s certainly the case for Monty Python’s ’tis but a scratch’ sketch.

British Library curators found a drawing in a 15th century manuscript depicting a near-identical scene.

Experts at the library told the Radio 4 programme Moving Pictures how they discovered the joke echoing the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail in a digitised copy of a famous liturgical text.

Experts at the library discovered the joke echoing the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail (pictured) in a digitised copy of a famous liturgical text

An image in the margin of the Sherborn Missal shows two mythical hairy wild men fighting each other. 

One man is using his severed leg as a sword and the other is holding his decapitated head as a shield.

Curator of illuminated manuscripts at the British Library Ellie Jackson said the illustration was a ‘wonderful instance of medieval cartoon violence’.

She said: ‘You can see that the battle has been raging for a while. 

An image in the margin of the Sherborn Missal shows two mythical hairy wild men fighting each other (pictured)

An image in the margin of the Sherborn Missal shows two mythical hairy wild men fighting each other (pictured)

An image in the margin of the Sherborn Missal shows two mythical hairy wild men fighting each other (pictured)

‘One wodewose’s sword has broken, he’s had his leg chopped off and he’s wielding his severed limb in lieu of his broken sword.

‘The other wodewose has been decapitated and is now using his head as a replacement shield.

‘We realised that the joke is essentially the same as the Monty Python Black Knight joke – the combatants refuse to give up. ‘Tis but a scratch!’

Dr Jackson said the scene, placed alongside the text for Easter Sunday Mass, might reflect the idea of life after death and the refusal to succumb to death.

Curator of illuminated manuscripts at the British Library Ellie Jackson said they realised the image was the same as the Monty Python Black Knight joke (pictured)

Curator of illuminated manuscripts at the British Library Ellie Jackson said they realised the image was the same as the Monty Python Black Knight joke (pictured)

Curator of illuminated manuscripts at the British Library Ellie Jackson said they realised the image was the same as the Monty Python Black Knight joke (pictured)

The Sherborne Missal was digitised by the British Library and can be viewed online.

Dr Jackson described it as a ‘titan’ of a manuscript. Made of vellum, the Missal weighs more than three stone and features a large number of illustrations across its 694 pages.

It was made for the Benedictine abbey of St Mary in Sherborne, Dorset, sometime between 1399 and 1407.

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