Coat of Arms of Bishop-Elect Robert Coyle


The Most Rev. Robert Coyle, who will be ordained the titular bishop of Zabi and auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA on April 25 has adopted the coat of arms above. They are based on a coat of arms he adopted at the time he was named a Chaplain to His Holiness.

BLAZON: Azure, on three barrulets wavy Argent in base a ship under full sail Or, masted of the same; on the sail Argent the letter “M” Azure; in chief to dexter and sinister two escallop shells Or. Ensigned with an Episcopal cross Or placed palewise behind the shield and surmounted by a galero with cords and twelve tassels disposed in three rows on one, two and three all Vert. On a scroll below the shield the motto: “Lord Bid Me Come To You”.

EXPLANATION: When describing things in heraldic terms the coat of arms is described from the perspective of one standing behind the shield and holding it in front of them. So the terms “dexter” (right) and “sinister” (left) are then reversed from the point of view of someone observing the coat of arms from the front.

The shield depicts the personal coat of arms of Bishop Coyle containing symbols having to do with his personal devotion, his service to his country, his home and his priestly ministry. The blue background and large letter “M” on the sail of the ship recall his devotion to Our Lady who is the patroness of the United States. The “M” is also a reference to the coat of arms of Bl. John Paul II during whose pontificate Bishop Coyle was ordained to the sacred priesthood. The ship at full sail is an obvious allusion to the more than 24 years Bishop Coyle has spent in the United States Navy. The ship is also an ancient symbol of the Church; the barque of Peter. It is a fitting symbol for anyone in God’s service to use and somewhat poignant that Bishop Coyle’s appointment as a bishop was announced by Pope Benedict XVI on the very same day he announced his abdication as pope initiating historic days of change in the Church which, nevertheless, did not swamp the barque of Peter which remains on course. In the upper portion of the field to the left and right are depicted two gold escallop shells. These shells appear in the coat of arms of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Bishop Coyle’s native diocese for which he was ordained to the priesthood and also in the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI who called him to service as a bishop.

The external ornaments surrounding the shield indicate the rank of the armiger. In place of the martial helmet, mantling and crest ecclesiastics use a pilgrim’s hat called a “galero”. This broad-brimmed hat was, at one time in history, worn by all prelates. It exists now as a heraldic symbol. The Church has devised a system of various colors and numbers of tassels suspended from the hat to indicate various ranks of prelates. Since the original color worn by bishops was bright green this color has been retained in heraldry as the episcopal color. The galero therefore has twelve tassels suspended from cords and falling on either side of the shield. In addition a gold-colored episcopal cross is placed vertically behind the shield and extending above and below it. This cross, not to be confused with the processional cross used in the liturgy of the Church, is a heraldic symbol which has its origins in an actual cross, rather like a processional cross, which used to be carried immediately in front of any bishop whenever he was exercising his office. Throughout the Middle Ages such crosses were used in addition to the processional cross at the head of a liturgical procession. Eventually they fell into disuse but remain as a heraldic symbol of the office of bishop. These external ornaments conform with the Instruction of the Holy See, “Ut Sive Sollicite” of 1969 for the ornaments proper to a coat of arms for a prelate with the rank of bishop.

Below the shield on a decorative scroll we see the bishop’s chosen motto, “Lord Bid Me Come to You” from Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 14.

2 thoughts on “Coat of Arms of Bishop-Elect Robert Coyle

  1. Perpignan

    Bravo ! Not only a great design but you have now added further to interest and education by giving us the blazon (very helpfully annotated) and the wherefore of the design, which I had been about to request after the two previous episcopal postings.

  2. Xavier Garcia

    Does the letter M was a reason to argue between Bruno Bernard Heim and John Paul II? I read that the Holy See after John Paul II was elected want Heim to rectify his book where he said that the letters must not been used in heraldry.


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