Friday, 8 April 2011

Arms and the woman

What, you might ask, does a sixth-century Frankish princess, nun and founder of a monastery in Poitiers have to do with a pub in Cambridge?
Or perhaps you wouldn’t, maybe it’s just me.
Well anyway, the reason is that the pub is not a terribly long stagger away from Jesus College, founded on the site of the suppressed twelfth-century Benedictine nunnery of St Mary and St Radegund. In fact, the original (and still, I believe official) full name of the college is ‘The College of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and the glorious Virgin Saint Radegund, near Cambridge’. Although as Radegund had been married to the Frankish king Clotaire I her ‘virgin’ status might be more honorific than literal.
So, that’s the name. What of the sign? Well, once upon a time it looked like this:

The arms depicted are those of Sankt Radegund bei Graz, Styria, Austria, whose blazon is described in the German Wikipedia page as:
Erhöht geteilt; oben in Gold zwei schwarze Wolfsköpfe mit roten Augen und Zungen, unten in Rot ein goldenes Holzschaff.
In English it would be something like: Per fess Or and Gules in chief two wolf heads Sable eyes and tongue Gules in base a wooden bucket Or. (That may not be entirely correct, I’m a bit rusty at writing blazons.)

Very pretty, but unfortunately it has nothing to do with our Radegund, who was born somewhere in Thuringia in central Germany. Sankt Radegund bei Graz is actually named after a completely different Radegund, Radegund von Wellenberg (links to German text), who was fatally injured by wolves. Hence the wolf heads, presumably. What the bucket is for I cannot as yet find out.
Realising this dreadful geographical and biographical error in 2007, then licensee Terry Kavanagh replaced the sign with this modern attempt at depicting a saintly, yet royal figure:
This change of sign even got coverage in the Cambridge Evening News!
And so it remained until 2010, when the new regime reverted to the erroneous heraldic device, albeit with a new sign:

Nicely done, but really, why perpetuate a known error? If it must be heraldic, why not, say, the no less anachronistic Arms of Erfurt in Thuringia, where some claim that the proper Radegund was born, or the Arms of Poitiers, where she is actually buried?
In passing, here is a photograph of Radegund’s tomb in Poitiers that I took last September.

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