Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thomas Cranmer and the vulning pelican

I haven’t yet given up altogether with my “research” on this vulning pelican. See, I heard a rumour that Thomas Cranmer had something to do with the whole business, but I haven’t yet been able to find any direct or precise connection between Cranmer and our Diocesan Crest. However, a work colleague, who found out my fascination with this pelican, showed me this:
... very soon after he became Archbishop, Cranmer decided to alter his personal arms, apparently wanting something which was distinctively his own. The birds (apparently cranes, in a typical heraldic pun on the family name) were changed to pelicans, to give the symbolism of that bird’s legendary willingness to feed its young with its own blood; this typology of Christ’s blood-shedding for humanity on the cross appealed to the evangelicalism which the Nottinghamshire squire’s son had now embraced ...
Thomas Cranmer - A Life, by Diarmaid MacCulloch

Thomas Greenwood, who was president of Corpus Christi College in Oxford shortly after Cranmer became one of the Oxford Martyrs, had in his possession two volumes of Luther’s work, with a presentation inscription to Cranmer, which may or may not hint at how the pelican came to be at Corpus Christi (I read this in a book on the internet, but I now can't find where, sorry), but that is all I know for now.

So, that is just another piece in the vulning (all the autocorrects want to make it "vaulting") pelican story.


Meredith said...

I am enjoying your progress through this little piece of research. I laughed when I read the autocorrect comment because until this very post, when I noticed it was "vulning", I had been reading it all along as the "vulnerable pelican."

Ali said...

Ah thanks Meredith! I am glad someone is enjoying it!

Yes, well, here's hoping there is no very great need for the word "vulning" in one's ordinary life, a word which would appear to be based on nothing more than myth in the first place (these medieval animal bestiaries must have been something else, if they could even invent such things for pelicans!).