Archbishops of Washington, DC

Here are the armorial bearings of the Archbishops of Washington, DC almost all of whom have been elevated to Cardinal with the notable exception of the first one, Archbishop Michael Curley who was also the Archbishop of Baltimore. At first the Archdiocese of Washington was part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Later, a dual archdiocese of Baltimore-Washington was created with Curley leading it. Eventually, Washington became a separate archdiocese but Curley was still appointed its archbishop making him, simultaneously, the archbishop of the oldest American diocese (Baltimore) and the newest at that time (Washington). A short time later Washington, DC received its own residential archbishop with the appointment of Patrick O’Boyle.

There is no coat of arms for Theodore McCarrick who is no longer a cardinal or even a cleric. A blank shield is used in place of his armorial bearings but his time in Washington in still noted because under Mr. McCarrick’s tenure the armorial bearings of the archdiocese were changed and that change, despite McCarrick’s disgrace, has been employed by his two successors as well. One can only hope that at some point in the future the original coat of arms of the archdiocese will be adopted again.

Archbishop Michael Curley (the archdiocesan arms hadn’t been adopted yet and Curley impaled his arms with those of Baltimore)
Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle
William Cardinal Baum
James Cardinal Hickey
Archdiocesan arms changed by Mr. Theodore McCarrick
Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Cardinal-Designate Wilton Gregory

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

On October 24 it was announced that the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for the last four years, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, the former Custos of the Holy Land had been named by the Pope as the Patriarch of Jerusalem for the Latins. Accordingly, His Beatitude’s armorial bearings were updated to include another row of green tassels for a total of thirty tassels suspended from the galero. This rendering, as also the original rendering, was done by Marco Foppoli.

Bishop Grob

On November 13 the Most Rev. Jeffrey S. Grob (59) a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Abora and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. The armorial bearings he is assuming are:

The armorial bearings of Bishop Grob symbolize his origins, his personal devotion and the place in which he has spent his ministry as a priest. The field is Azure and the main charge is a large gold (yellow) plow blade facing the viewer. This not only alludes to the ministry of spreading the Gospel as symbolized by plowing a field to prepare for seed to be sown but is an allusion to the bishop’s early life growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm.

Above the plow blade are a silver (white) crescent, a symbol of Our Lady under her title of the Immaculate Conception which is the patronal feast of the USA. The two silver (white) fleur-de-lis represent several things. First, they are a symbol of St. Joseph to whom the bishop has a special devotion as a kind of patron saint because he was born on the Solemnity of St. Joseph (March 19). The fleur-de-lis is a stylized version of the lily and St. Joseph is often depicted holding a staff from which lilies are blossoming. Second, they allude to St. John XXIII who used them in his own coat of arms. The bishop has a devotion to this great 20th Century saint. Finally, there are two fleur-de-lis in the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago where the bishop has served as a priest and will now serve as a bishop.

The motto below the shield is “Jesus The Vine”

It was a great privilege for me to design Bishop Grob’s coat of arms in consultation with him and to emblazon it.

Bishop Birmingham

On November 13 the Most Reverend Kevin M. Birmingham (49) a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Dolia and Auxiliary bishop of Chicago.

Bishop Birmingham’s armorial bearings represent his family name and symbols of his own devotional life. The division of the shield uses a jagged line called “indented” in heraldry and is borrowed from the arms associated with the family Bermingham and which is also used in several places that bear the name Birmingham. 

The upper half is green with a gold (yellow) chalice and white priest’s stole. These symbols represent priestly life and ministry and specifically act as an allusion to St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests to whom the bishop has had a lifelong devotion. On the ends of the stole are a red fleur-de-lis. This symbol is associated with France where St. John Vianney lived and died and are also borrowed from the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago where the bishop has spent his life and priestly ministry and now will continue with his episcopal ministry.

The lower half shows three red roses on a silver (white) background. They represent Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. In connection with the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego the miraculous blooming of roses in December occurred. Two days after his ordination the bishop traveled to Mexico City and celebrated his second Mass as a priest at the Basilica of OL of Guadalupe. Throughout his priesthood he has had a strong devotion to Mary under this title.

The motto below the shield is “Tend My People” (adapted from John 21:16)

I was privileged to design and emblazon the armorial bearings of Bishop Birmingham.

Bishop Lombardo, CFR

On November 13 the Most Rev. Robert Lombardo, CFR (63) a Franciscan friar and priest currently serving in the Archdiocese of Chicago will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Munatiana and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago.

The armorial bearings of Bishop Lombardo reflect his Religious Community, his Marian devotion and the centrality of the Eucharist. The shield is divided into three sections by a dividing line that suggests an open cape. In the upper left on a silver (white) background is the customary symbol of Franciscans the world over composed of the right bare arms of Jesus and the left clothed arms of St. Francis of Assisi. Both show the hands bearing the nail mark of the Crucifixion because St. Francis received the stigmata prior to his death. The color of the sleeve on the arm of Francis reflects the grey/blue habit worn by the CFR Franciscans. This color more closely approximates the color of the robe actually worn by St. Francis himself. Bishop Lombardo is the first member of his community to be named a bishop.

The upper right depicts a traditional monogram of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is composed of the letter “M” interlaced with a cross. The whole is depicted blue, a color frequently associated with the Blessed Mother on a silver (white) field. This emblem is also found on the reverse of the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady which the bishop received years ago in Lourdes and has worn every day since.

The lower, main, portion of the shield is blue with a gold (yellow) cross-shaped monstrance holding the Sacred Host above blue and silver (white) waves. The waves allude to the Atlantic Ocean of the east coast of the US where the bishop was born, and also to Lake Michigan where Chicago is located and where he has done priestly and, now, episcopal ministry as well as to the Mediterranean Sea near Salerno and Calabria in Italy from which his ancestors came. The central figure is a simple monstrance in the shape of the cross containing the Eucharist. This symbolizes the central place in the bishop’s life of the Eucharist and also the Eucharistic retreats undertaken by the friars of his community all over the world.

The motto below the shield is “My God And My All”

It was my privilege to design and emblazon the armorial bearings of Bishop Lombardo. 

Erik Varden, OCSO

On October 3, the Most Rev. Erik Varden, OCSO, (46) formerly the Abbot of the Cistercian Abbey of Mt. St. Bernard in the UK and a convert to Catholicism was ordained a bishop in the Church and also installed as the 6th Territorial Prelate of the Prelature of Trondheim, Norway, his native country. It is interesting to note that his episcopal ordination took place in the Lutheran Nidaros cathedral, the traditional site of the consecration of the Kings of Norway which was built in the 12th Century and was originally a Catholic Cathedral.

A helpful reader directed me to the following information: The lions are taken from the arms of Mt. St. Bernard Abbey, Bishop Erik’s monastery. The pillar comes from the motto that he had used as abbot (“Columna in templo Dei”) – “A pillar in the temple of God”, a quote from the Book of Revelation. The rose symbolizes the flower that sprang from Root of Jesse, a reference to the mystery of the incarnation. The coat of arms was designed by Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

They are clear, simple and nicely designed. The artwork is also rather nice too.

Bishop Hicks of Joliet

On September 29, the Most Reverend Ronald A. Hicks (53), a priest and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, will be installed as the Sixth Bishop of Joliet, Illinois.

His personal coat of arms was assumed in 2018 when he became a bishop and was prepared at that time by the late Deacon Paul Sullivan. After being named to Joliet he asked me to help him by marshaling his existing arms with those of the See of Joliet.

Bishop Persaud of Mandeville

On September 19 the Most Rev. John Derek Persaud (64) a priest of the Diocese of Georgetown, Guyana will be ordained a bishop and installed as the fourth bishop of Mandeville, Jamaica. I was pleased to be able to design his personal coat of arms and marshal it to the existing armorial bearings of the See.

The coat of arms of the Diocese of Mandeville depicts a red field on which there is a black cross filling the space. The cross is outlined in silver (white) to offset it from the red background. In the middle of the cross is the heart with the cross on top of it that is the emblem of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus, more commonly known as “The Passionists” who were instrumental in the foundation of the diocese. On the upper third of the shield, called a “chief” are blue and silver (white) wavy bars suggesting the waves of the ocean with a gold (yellow) anchor, a symbol of Hope, placed overall.

Bishop Persaud’s arms depict a blue background on which there is a gold (yellow) eagle bearing a red scallop shell on its breast. The halo on the eagle’s head indicates it is the symbol of St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist. The given name John means “a gift from God”. In addition, the bishop’s family name, Persaud, means “gracious gift” derived from the Hindi word, “Prasad”. As both the bishop’s given name and family name have similar meanings the eagle as a symbol of St. John represents both. The red scallop shell on its breast is a heraldic symbol for St. Augustine, to whom the bishop has a special devotion.

In the lower part of the shield the silver (white) wavy lines suggest waves of the sea. This is borrowed from the coat of arms of the bishop’s native country, Guyana, the name of which means, “Land of many waters”. In addition, they also appear in the arms of the See of Mandeville so they possess a double meaning. Above the eagle there are two gold (yellow) pineapples borrowed from the coat of arms of Jamaica, the bishop’s newly adopted country. These are on either side of a silver (white) fleur-de-lis, a heraldic symbol for Our Lady.

The motto below the shield is, “Iustitia in Caritate” (Justice in Love)

The shield is also ensigned with those external ornaments that indicate the bearer is a bishop. The gold (yellow) cross is placed vertically behind and extending above and below the shield. This is often mistakenly thought to be a processional cross like those used in liturgical processions. However, in former times archbishops, and later all bishops, had a cross mounted on a staff carried immediately in front of them while in procession or on solemn occasions. This cross was a symbol of their rank as bishop. While such an episcopal cross is no longer used practically it has been retained heraldically. In fact, there are other clerics who make use of the ecclesiastical hat with its many tassels but the one true heraldic emblem of a bishop, and the only essential one, is the episcopal cross placed behind the shield.

Above the shield is the ecclesiastical hat, called a galero which, in heraldry, replaces the martial helmet, mantling and crest. “The hat with six pendant tassels (green, purple or black) on each side is universally considered in heraldry as the sign of prelacy. It, therefore, pertains to all who are actually prelates.” (Heim, Bruno B., Heraldry in the Catholic Church 1978, page 114) The galero is green with green cords pendant from it and twelve green tassels arranged in a pyramid shape on either side of the shield. At one time in history bishops and archbishops wore green before adopting the more Roman purple we see today. In heraldry the green hat and tassels was retained for prelates with the rank of bishop according to the Instruction of the Secretariat of State, “Ut Sive” of March, 1969.

Do The Work

I’m very gratified whenever someone tells me that they regularly take a look at this blog. Sometimes they will mention that they have learned a thing or two in what they’ve read here and sometimes they also, jokingly or occasionally chidingly, tell me that they are surprised at the sharpness of my criticisms. With increasing frequency, however, I’m also hearing often in both direct contact with me or in other places on the internet where heraldic enthusiasts congregate that those of us who seem to know more about heraldry should do more to educate those who wish to learn more.

First, let me say that the “those who wish to learn more” frequently fall into two categories. There are those who, for whatever reason, have an interest in learning as much as they can about heraldry for their own enrichment. They understand that a study of heraldry means delving into a world of history, genealogy, symbolism and, lastly, art. Heraldry is a science as well as an art. It isn’t just about pretty pictures or “cool” images of dragons and basilisks. It’s not the domain of medieval fantasists (although many of them do enjoy it) or social-climbing faux nobles. It is a perfectly good hobby, so to speak; a wonderful subject to which one can devote a lifetime of study and learning. In addition, a few also become intimately involved in it as a profession or as an avocation and create new coats of arms for the deserving and the desirous. Whether someone becomes a practitioner of heraldic design and art or simply remains a great enthusiast it is a topic about which you can never stop learning more.

But then there is the other type who, again for whatever reason, have an interest in heraldry but don’t really care all that much about learning the “why and wherefore” of heraldic history or design. They have no interest whatsoever in the many ways the development of heraldry differs from country to country or during different centuries. They have, perhaps, read one or two books on heraldry (or maybe even as many as three!) and have now decided that they’ve “got this”. They are now as expert on the topic as the Garter King of Arms. Therefore, the time has come for them to hang out a shingle and begin creating coats of arms themselves…as a “herald”.

Ironically, despite being convinced of their own expertise, it is this second category who seem to complain the most and the loudest that those individuals and organizations online who offer criticism of heraldic designs owe it to everyone else to educate them more.

Well, first of all, reading someone’s criticism of a design should actually help the less educated to learn more in itself. Although, having said that, I must admit that when I come across really appalling examples I often don’t go into a detailed analytical criticism of the coat of arms but just express my great displeasure by means of some exclamation like, “Awful!”. I’ll grant you that someone is hardly likely to learn much from that other than that I didn’t like it.

My area of particular interest is, obviously, ecclesiastical heraldry. This is an interesting sub-set of heraldry that crosses over time and boundaries and has many rules, customs and traditions of its own despite the fact that there is no umbrella heraldic authority over the entire Church. In places where a heraldic authority does exist the coats of arms of clerics are just as subject to that local authority as the armorial bearings of anyone else. The Church makes no claim to having some kind of supra-national jurisdiction over the regulation of heraldry worldwide. Famously, St. John XXIII (himself a heraldic enthusiast) wanted to establish a Pontifical Office of Heraldry. His former secretary and good friend, Abp. Bruno Heim, talked him out of it. Heim said that one couldn’t legislate in matters of taste. He also had a healthy respect for the different ways heraldry developed in different countries and a real love of heraldic creativity. He knew such a Pontifical Office would tend to standardize Church heraldry and stifle creativity.

So, that’s one of the reasons there isn’t now, nor is there likely to be, an office to regulate the armorial bearings of clergy, prelates and institutions in the Church.

Throughout history the Church has primarily concerned itself with the external ornaments of heraldry. That is, those things that are placed around the shield rather than on it which indicate the rank and/or function of the armiger in question. What actually goes onto the shield is a matter of individual taste or family history or inheritance or anything else that would make for a unique mark of identification for the bearer of the coat of arms. The Church has no great desire to get into that. Those are precisely the kinds of things some heraldic authorities do get into. I know someone who had applied for a grant from the College of Arms in England and the individual wanted the shield divided per bend. He was told to modify that request because, in England, they preferred not to divide the field that way. I know of another case where a bishop wished to receive a grant from the Court of Lord Lyon. His arms were designed by a very competent expert in heraldry but they contained a field chequy and Lord Lyon didn’t allow such a field so the design had to be changed. The Holy See has neither the time, the resources to devote, or the desire to get into that kind of heraldic regulation. Rather, it tends to concern itself with things like the appropriate color of the tassels on a galero to indicate a Prothonotary Apostolic, etc.

So claiming that it is the job of the Holy See to provide guidance in this area isn’t the answer especially as they already do to some extent. Similarly, it isn’t the job of the various heraldic societies that exist to make sure everyone knows every and any rule of the heraldic science. For the most part those societies exist for people who already know and appreciate heraldry somewhat and wish to share their love of the subject with other enthusiasts. There is an educational element to that but it comes primarily from mutual enrichment rather than mere instruction. There are the many heraldic artists in the world, many of whom now have a website to display their work and solicit business. But they are not necessarily experts in heraldry. Rather, many of them are happy to provide heraldic artwork, itself a speciality that not every competent artist can undertake, but it is not necessarily their task to educate. Finally, there are the heraldic enthusiasts like myself who have a website or blog and who, sometimes a bit flippantly, offer exposure and criticism in an effort promote good heraldic practices and, perhaps, help some people to avoid bad ones. But, I put it to you that while having such a blog may help others to learn that does not make it incumbent upon me to attempt to provide an exhaustive course of study in the particulars of ecclesiastical heraldry. After all, this is something I do for fun!

No, the problem in the world today, especially since the advent of the internet and social media, is that, as usual, people want something for nothing. They want some quick and easy way to skip over the hard stuff and be provided with all the answers they need at the click of a mouse. To put it another way, they don’t want to do the work.

Occasionally, someone is kind enough to describe me as an “expert” in ecclesiastical heraldry, especially Catholic heraldry. That’s very kind. To the extent that it may be true it is so for one reason and for one reason only. It’s because I undertook to begin a serious study of heraldry when I was a young man and have stayed with it for over 35 years. I started doing this before there was an internet (or one to speak of) and it was difficult to communicate with others who shared my enthusiasm. But, I was willing to delve, to do research, to read extensively, to slowly build up a personal heraldic library, to seek the advice of experts and then eventually to come under the tutelage of a person who could critique my own ideas and help me to learn by making mistakes. I did the work!

There are a lot of resources available…if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do some good, old-fashioned research. You can’t learn about heraldry by reading an book, or two, or even three. You definitely can’t learn about ecclesiastical heraldry by looking at pictures of other bishop’s coats of arms alone. For example, if you look in the back of a really good book on Church heraldry like Bruno Heim’s Heraldry in the Catholic Church you’ll find not only a bibliography but several appendixes quoting papal documents. How many people have undertaken to look up and obtain full texts of those documents and then have them translated into their own language if they don’t have a good command of Latin?

I did.

How many people who claim to really love Church heraldry look at the books in Heim’s bibliography and then set out to obtain as many of them as possible for your own library, or at least track copies of them down in a lending library?

I did.

How many heraldic enthusiasts who can draw reasonably well have said no to undertaking heraldic commissions because they realize they don’t really know enough about heraldry to create a coat of arms for someone else so they wait several years in order to learn more and become more competent in the field before daring to be so bold as to design a coat of arms for someone else?

I did.

To become really good at this -not the world’s greatest, but just really good- takes a lot of effort, a lot of time and a lot of work. Sadly, there are too many people involved with the creation of heraldry who simply don’t want to make the effort, put in the time or do the work. THAT’S why there is so much bad heraldry floating around the Church. It’s because too many people who have no business whatsoever creating coats of arms are doing so. For a bishop to go to a friend, or relative, or seminarian and say, “You draw well. Why don’t you do my coat of arms?” is like me going to a friend and saying, “You know how to sew on a button so why don’t you make me a chasuble?” It’s preposterous! But, it happens all the time. Ignorant dilettantes who don’t have the sense to seek out the advice of someone with greater expertise, let alone refer their “client” to someone with greater expertise, are getting involved in droves in the design and creation of coats of arms in the Church. Not only are the resulting designs really bad but then they have the audacity to say that someone else: the Holy See, a heraldic society, or even a blogger should provide more guidance and instruction to them so that they can avoid mistakes.

Well, I don’t agree. I’m living proof that the resources and material are out there and can be found with a little effort. What is required is having the humility to start out as a student and not jump immediately into attempting to do something about which you know very little as though anyone can do it. It requires the ability genuinely to learn from criticism instead of simply becoming defensive in the face of it. Most importantly, instead of expecting someone else to provide you with ready-made answers at your fingertips so that you can reap all the benefit of the years of effort someone else has made to increase their knowledge and expertise while at the same time barely lifting a finger yourself you need to…

DO. THE. WORK!