The 68 misericords date from 1520, a greater number than in any English cathedral. The intricate carvings are on the underside of the seats which were tipped up to reveal a small ledge – sufficient support for the canons who stood during long services.
Misericords, or mercy seats, were hinged wooden seats placed in the choir stalls of medieval churches which, when tipped up, presented a ledge for the user to rest on when attending long services. Beneath the ledge were carved figures. Beverley Minster has 68 misericord seats, the largest number of any church in the country. Carved in 1520, they are most probably the work of the Ripon School of Carvers and represent the final flowering of skilled medieval woodcarving.
Each misericord has a central carved scene with supporters on either side. Sometimes the supporters seem to add comment to the central scene while at other times they are purely decorative. Subjects include scenes from the Bestiary, medieval life, animals as musicians and also as musical instruments (there is a scene of a dog being played like a bagpipe), emancipated women and their feeble husbands, dancing fools in the tradition of the Feast of Fools (a tradition still active in early 16th century Beverley) and a man muzzling a bear.
One of the most prominent seats is the familiar figure of the fox, holding a rosary (an indication that he is a Dominican friar) preaching to a bunch of silly geese (the congregation of the church). Another scene shows the geese hanging the fox.