How good to walk through Cardinal College the other day and see the Founder's Arms flying in a gigantic banner; so typically Tudor and nouveau in their elaboration and detail. The Tudor motifs are obvious, and I presume that the Cornish choughs indicate that Wolsey's Patron was S Thomas a Becket. But I wonder: does anybody know what the other details were intended to indicate? And why - despite Wolsey's disgrace and the 'refoundation' of the college by Henry Tudor - did the Cardinal's arms remain those of the college?
Wolsey reminds me of a nice little exhibition of bookbindings (finishes at the end of October) in Bodley. Among them a spectacular little volume - the earliest English gold-tooled binding - presented to Wolsey c1519, containing prose and verse encomia addressed to him, and with S George on the cover ... and roses ... and pomegranates! A real evocation of the Renaissance, humanist days before all went to pot. And what a European axis that would have been, England with Spain and the Empire! It reminded me of an occasion a couple of decades ago when the then Subdean of the Chapels Royal, the admirable Fr Anthony Caesar, smuggled me past the security guards to show me the Tudor chapel in S James's Palace with all the pomegranates in the ceiling decoration. I wondered, and wonder still, what the syphilitic old tyrant thought when his eye lighted accidentally upon them in his latter days after he had repudiated his wife and betaken himself to whores. And from the same period, Bodley displays a book, also with gold tooling, which was probably given to the humanist Cuthbert Tunstall, later Bishop of Durham, during the bonanza which accompanied the Peace of Cambrai in 1529.
This tiny one-room exhibition also reminds us of the next King Henry - the opposite in most conceivable ways to the Eighth - by showing an Italian book, the red silk binding embroidered with the arms of our late Sovereign Lord King Henry IX, Cardinal Bishop of Frascati. Crown underneath the ecclesiastical hat (which only has six tassels each side: why?).
But what I lingered over longest was an Evangelarium of c800, Court School of Charlemagne at Aachen, with an ivory inset of Christus Victor. It was made for the Abbey at Chelles, where Charlemagne's sister Gisela was Abbess. It suggested to me that earlier Renaissance, the age of Alcuin, which was so instrumental in conveying Romanita to the Middle Ages.