Medieval Definition: Cranes fly in order, with the leader guiding the flock with a shrill voice; when the leader becomes tired or his voice gives out, another takes his place. They fly high in the air so they can see the lands they seek. At night cranes take turns keeping watch for enemies. The one who is on duty holds a stone up with one claw; if the watcher falls asleep the stone will fall and wake him. If the wind is strong cranes swallow sand or carry stones for ballast. Cranes are the enemy of pygmies, with whom they are constantly at war.
Christian Symbolism of the Crane in a Medieval Bestiary
A Bestiary was a medieval book with allegorical descriptions of real and fabled animals, such as the Crane which were often full of symbolism and contained a moral or religious lesson or allegory. A Bestiary reflected the belief that the world itself was the Word of God, and that every living creature had its own special meaning. Some of the information on this page, about the Crane, is taken from the Aberdeen Bestiary which was written in the 12th Century.
The Definition and Meaning of the Crane as a Religious Christian Symbol - Allegory and Moral
The Meaning of the Crane as a Religious Christian Symbol together with the Allegory / Moral detailed in the Bestiary is as follows:
The sentinel crane represent those who provide goods for others in common, and watch over the obedience of their brothers, protecting them from devils and the incursions of this world. The stone held in the claw is Christ; the claw, the disposition of the mind, so that the one who stands guard over himself or others should carry the stone of Christ in his mind. If such a man falls asleep in sin, Christ the stone will fall from his mind. Then he must cry out by means of confession. The change of color in old age refers to the elderly when they repent of their sins.
Reference to the Crane in the Bible
The Easton Bible Dictionary provides the following definition, meaning and emblem for the Crane in the Bible.
(Isa. 38:14; Jer. 8:7). In both of these passages the Authorized Version has reversed the Hebrew order of the words. "Crane or swallow" should be "swallow or crane," as in the Revised Version. The rendering is there correct. The Hebrew for crane is 'agur, the Grus cincerea, a bird well known in Palestine. It is migratory, and is distinguished by its loud voice, its cry being hoarse and melancholy.