Sans some kind of complicated Time Bandits-esque scenario, it's safe to say we'll never know our forebears' opinions on, say, the internet's various controversial anthropomorphic frogs, but that's not the point. The point is that the art of the Middle Ages is being reborn through a specific strain of memes on a popular Twitter account called "Medieval Reactions."
Started in early 2015 by Manchester UK-native Cathal Berragan when he was a 19-year-old student, the account takes Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque artworks and turns them into, well, #relatable memes about dating, drinking, school, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
"The idea came from an existing meme that was already doing the rounds," Berragan told Creators. "The caption read something along the lines of, 'When your drunk friends try to look sober while you negotiate with the bouncer,' and featured Jesus addressing a Pharisee. It was pretty hilarious, and it occurred to me that there must be a never ending bank of classic and medieval art that could be uniquely interpreted."
From there, Berragan trawled the internet for quirky old artworks to prep his piping hot memes, essentially consolidating what had been once a scattershot joke idea floating around the internet into one central Twitter account. Once he had his archive set up, "it's simply been a case of flicking back through and waiting for inspiration to hit."
"The best performing posts are usually contextual," Berragan told us. "So during big news events it can be easier to come up with a caption for an image."
Once he began posting, the account took off, gaining 200,000 followers in a matter of weeks. To date, Medieval Reactions sits at 427,000 followers and going strong, garnering multiple copycat accounts and thousands of retweets and likes with every silly picture tweet.
It's essential to note that the account wasn't created for fun and games. Berragan, who's now based in New York, works as a creative director for an "influencer marketing company" called The Social Chain, which runs dozens of similar "relatable" Twitter accounts.
"The way we monetize at the moment is that apps—or whatever, really—will come to us, and we can get them trending within an hour or so by mentioning them across multiple accounts," Berragan told VICE in a 2015 interview. "We've got multiple apps to number one on the apps list doing that."
Moral of the story, in order to get those freshly cooked memes, you'll have to endure an occasional storm of obviously sponsored tweets and retweets. Still, despite the spam, Medieval Reactions distinguishes itself from the pack of various "parody" Twitter accounts because, simply put, contrasting the works of the old masters and recycled meme humor is just viscerally hilarious. I mean, who else could turn a depiction of the martyrdom of Saint Vitale into a joke about weed?