This owl is perched above the western arch of the sedilia (a series of
stone seats for priests in the south side of the chancel of the church).
The immediate surrounding details of the wall painting have not survived,
so our understanding of the owl's precise significance here will always be
incomplete. However, elsewhere on the chancel walls are images of
mysterious and menacing creatures, sometimes in combat with one
another--there is a winged elephant, some wyverns, a basilisk, a satyr,
even a unicorn. In this company the owl was most likely intended to
represent its traditional solemn associations. To quote Kathryn Hume,
"[in folk tradition] owls are birds of ill omen, associated with darkness and cold, disaster, and death. This dread reputation stems from their being nocturnal (which strikes men as unnatural and sinister), from their mournful sounding hoots, and from the hatred other birds display by mobbing owls.... In literary contexts the owl is again often known as a bird of ill omen, but frequently has as a counterbalance a reputation for great wisdom. This reputation originates in the owl's almost human facial structure, and in its association with Athene, goddess of wisdom."
[Kathryn Hume, The Owl and The Nightingale: The Poem and Its Critics (Toronto, 1975), pp. 16-17]