e had just come from the
magnificence of Kings
College Chapel where, goggle-eyed under the soaring stone arches of the
Gothic ceiling we struck neck-wrenching poses to stare at the jeweled glass
paintings of the windows above us. All too grand, and painful, for my taste.
I instead turned to inspect the stone carvings and intricate sculpted wood
panels nearer to eye level. These decidedly secular images were more
appealing to me because I recognized the story in these characters and
symbols. There was the outsized Henry, bulging from the wall in the satiny
patina of 400-year-old oak, his jewels and ermine turned to ebony. And beside
him his queen (his third one), the fetching (and some say bewitching) Ann
Boleyn with her head still intact and still quite obviously the apple of
Henry's eye. Too soon she would be the thorn in his rapidly expanding side.
The happy couple sat entwined by delicately carved roses, the stylized
single-petal "eglantine" or wild rose of the English countryside.
But these were no ordinary roses. A slight variation in the petal shape, one
squared off, the other rounded was definitely meant to distinguish between
the Red Rose and the White Rose, symbols of the houses of York and
and the most famous power struggle of English history - the Wars of the
Roses. I noticed then that adorning each limestone pillar of the chapel walls
was a platter-size rose, its stone petals unfurling from the wall as if just
e were thirsty and walked toward
the nearest pub
in the late autumn afternoon.
After a pint of bitters
and ale we stepped out
into the cobbled street across from the little church. Though the sky was
still blue, a crescent moon had appeared above the rooflines and slowly rose
to the height of the weather vane on the church tower. A curious shape, the
twisted form appeared to be some long-necked bird, maybe a heron or stork.
It looked out of place on top of the stodgy square tower. The church hardly
seemed to exist, huddled on its little corner, in the shadow of the grand
edifices of kings and queens. But these lumpy walls of crudely packed rocks
and mortar had seen a lot of kings and queens come and go since the eleventh
century when the tower was built by the ancestors of King Wenceslas.
on impulse, I asked Christian for his sketchpad and leaned against
the walls of the pub. Penning the outlines of the church door I noticed what I hadn't
before - a tangle of leaves framing the arch of the rough wooden door. In
the falling dusk they gleamed like garnets against the stone, the blood red
petals of an English rose.