University of Cambridge > > Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term > Tudor Renaissance Monuments Deconstructed and Reconstructed: 3D Laser scanning and the Tombs of the Dukes of Norfolk

Tudor Renaissance Monuments Deconstructed and Reconstructed: 3D Laser scanning and the Tombs of the Dukes of Norfolk

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This lecture will examine the value of 3D laser scanning of artefacts for the visualisation of the past, using the Tudor monuments of the dukes of Norfolk as a case study

Until its dissolution by Henry VIII in 1540, Thetford Priory was the dynastic mausoleum of the dukes of Norfolk. In 1539, some of the finest sculptors in the country were at work carving monuments for Thomas Howard, the third duke, and for his son-in-law, Henry VIII ’s bastard, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond. After he had failed to stave off the priory’s dissolution, Howard decided to move the still incomplete monuments to the parish church of St Michael, Framlingham in Suffolk and to rebuild the chancel to house them. Pending that reconstruction, some tomb components were stored in his great house at Kenninghall but other pieces were abandoned at Thetford.

Before the monuments could be moved to Framlingham, the ailing king resolved on the destruction of the Howards, whose power might threaten his young son, the future Edward VI. The Earl of Surrey, Norfolk’s heir, was convicted of treason and beheaded and the duke himself was only saved from execution because the king himself died. Howard, though, remained in the Tower until Queen Mary I released him in 1553. Salvaged pieces of the monuments could now be taken to Framlingham, but the octogenarian duke died the next year. Both monuments were hastily finished off – but in a different style and radically modifying the original designs – during the time of the fourth duke. The latter commissioned two more monuments, one for himself and his wives, another for his daughter. They too were left incomplete when the fourth duke was executed for treason in 1572. Such were the perils of power under the Tudors.

So, the monuments of the third duke and of Richmond are composites, started in 1539 and hurriedly finished off in the 1550s. Bits of them had been left at Thetford, where they were excavated in later centuries. In posing the question how the excavated components were intended to fit into the monuments as erected at Framlingham, we are asking what the monuments were originally intended to look like, and what their subject matter meant. The question is an important one not just because these were two of the most important monuments of the period. To reconstruct their planned appearance as first intended, 3D laser scanning and CAD software has been used. The monuments at Framlingham have been digitally disassembled and later additions removed. The tomb-chests have then been virtually reconstructed, incorporating pieces discarded at Thetford in 1540. Here I go beyond art-historical connoisseurship and archaeological examination of artefacts to suggest that modern technology can enable innovative and imaginative visualisations of the past.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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