Monthly Archives: November 2016

Bishop of Aachen

On November 12 the Most Rev. Helmut Dieser was installed as the VI Bishop of Aachen, Germany. His coat of arms is:


The description (translated from the diocesan website) is:

The coat of arms of the new bishop of Aachen shows two motifs in the shield: the one stands for the diocese of Aachen, and the other identifies the person of the bishop.The Diocese of Aachen has a black cross on a golden ground in the shield. In the smaller Mittelschild, the person of Bishop Dr. Helmut is designated.

The middle shield shows a silver dove against a red background with a green olive branch in its beak. The new bishop accepted this motif from his former coat of arms as an auxiliary bishop in Trier. It symbolizes his episcopal motto from the Philippine letter: “The peace of God exceeds all understanding“. The two colors red and silver also recall his origin from the diocese of Trier, which is a red cross in front of a silver ground in the shield. The dove with the olive branch is used in Christian art as a symbol of the new peace that God wants to bring to all his creation. This goes back to the biblical narrative of Noah and the great flood in the Book of Genesis. When finally the water no longer rises and gradually begins to flow away, Noach lets a dove fly from the ark several times. The second time she comes back with a fresh olive branch in the beak (Gen 8, 9-11). Noah understands: God does not want to spoil the earth, but makes it back to the homeland for life. God creates a new peace, which Noah and his own may accept in faith.

Peace, which surpasses all understanding, and which the whole of creation longingly waits for (see Romans 8: 21-22), arises from the greatest love of God, in which he gives his Son, so that all may come to the new life. The embellishments surrounding the coat-of-arms signify its bearer as a bishop: the green hat with six green tassels on each side, and the gold episcopal cross.

Armigerous Candidates for US President

This is one of those posts that has absolutely nothing to do with the heraldry of the Church. Those do come up occasionally on this blog but I try to keep them to a minimum. I couldn’t let this opportunity pass, however, to discuss how, for what must be the first time in a quite a while (although its not unprecedented) both of this country’s major party candidates are heraldically connected, so to speak.

The Republican candidate, Donald Trump, is well known as a business man with hotels and resorts around the world. One such property is the golf course he built and owns in Scotland. To make it “look good” a logo for the place in the form of a coat of arms (not a particularly good one, in my opinion) was devised and used on their promotional materials. The problem is that Scotland happens to be one of the few countries where they take heraldry and the public use of heraldry very seriously.

The body that regulates heraldry in Scotland is the Court of Lord Lyon and indeed it is a standing civil and criminal court under the Scottish legal system. The incumbent of the office of Lord Lyon King of Arms is usually a lawyer well versed in the laws affecting genealogy and heraldry and he sits as judge over cases of dispute. By contrast the English Heralds are incorporated into a College and while there is Her Majesty’s High Court of Chivalry which has existed since the 14th C. and sits as a civil court to regulate all matters of English and Welsh heraldry it rarely sits. The last time was in 1954 for the case of Manchester Corp. v. Manchester Palace of Varieties, Ltd. Prior to that the court hadn’t sat for 200 years!


Trump’s self-designed and adopted coat of arms (above) ran afoul of the Scottish legal system in 2008 when it was asserted that he had no right to use the coat of arms. In 2012 the Court of Lord Lyon ruled in Trump’s favor and now he may make use of the coat of arms originally designed for his Aberdeen golf course. Trump’s mother is of Scottish origin and Lord Lyon claims jurisdiction worldwide over any Scot, even expats, or anyone with Scottish ancestry. Unfortunately, I do not have an image of the coat of arms in full color. I wonder if anyone in the Trump organization even bothered to have one made in full color since this is primarily used as a logo.

The Democrat Party candidate, Hillary Clinton, does not, as far as I know, have a coat of arms in her own right, but her husband does. In 1995, at the request of the Taoiseach (the Irish Prime Minister), Mr. John Bruton, the Chief Herald of Ireland devised and granted a coat of arms to Mr. Clinton whose mother was of Irish ancestry (below). It was presented to him as a gift on his state visit to Ireland. As I say, Mrs. Clinton does not have a coat of arms in her own right, at least not yet. Who knows? It is possible that another head of state may be asking another heraldic authority to grant her a coat of arms at some point in the future. Only time will tell.


Of course the way the election on November 8 will turn out remains to be seen and there is a great deal of speculation on both sides. It does seem to be far from certain even at this very late stage in the campaign. But, one thing is, nevertheless, absolutely certain. Regardless of the result of the voting that will take place across the United States next Tuesday one of the two people mentioned above, Trump or Clinton, come next January 20th will be able to make use of yet another old and venerable means of identification that employs the ancient and respected use of heraldry as a large part of its symbolism. It’s an armorial seal…


Bishop Rodríguez

Today, November 4, in Denver, CO the Most Rev. Jorge Humberto Rodríguez-Novelo is to be ordained Titular Bishop of Azura and Auxiliary Bishop of Denver.

His coat of arms was designed by the Vicar General of the Archdiocese. However, early on in the process, very shortly after the bishop’s appointment was announced, the director of the Office of Worship of the Archdiocese contacted me to ask if I might be willing to act as a consultant during the design phase of the project which I was happy to do. In fact, I explained, this is really and truly the area of heraldry where I am most at home. I am far from a great artist but my real expertise is in the designing of a good coat of arms. I can tell you all the “whys and wherefores” about what goes into a good design. Once again, we see that heraldry is both an art and a science. It is not primarily the realm of the heraldic artist. Rather, first and foremost the whole thing must start with someone who is knowledgeable about the rules, customs and history of heraldry as well as have a good eye for composition, balance and proportion. I am far more at ease with the work of the herald than that of the heraldic artist.

Since its beginnings, and right down to our own day, the work of heralds has involved the devising, granting and recording of coats of arms. However, it has also included expertise in genealogy and family history, protocol and ceremony. In addition, it is rare that the herald actually renders the artistic depictions of the arms he designs. That task is left to those with expertise in drafting and art who are usually contracted independently by the herald or by the armiger to create beautiful emblazonments.

I have always been one of those who comes down firmly in this debate on the side of the herald, not the artist, as the person who does the “real work” of heraldry. This is not to disparage heraldic artist, whose work is not only painstaking and highly detailed but requires tremendous skill as well as training. But, the simple truth is that one can still paint a coat of arms while at the same time knowing absolutely nothing about the science of heraldry whereas one cannot claim to be competent at designing a coat of arms simply because one can paint or draw well. The heraldic world is best served when both act together in tandem to produce beautiful and correct heraldry.

Over the last thirty-three years my focus has been on learning as much as I can about the science of heraldry and only dabbling as an amateur in producing heraldic artwork. I do not now, nor have I ever, claimed otherwise. So, when a person contacts me to ask me to paint their coat of arms I usually balk but when they ask me to consult on a design I’m right in my comfort zone, as well as my “competency zone”.

In the case of the coat of arms of Bishop Rodríguez there were several elements of his life and ministry he wished to represent in his coat of arms. In Denver they came up with an initial design, very much a work in progress and then asked for my in put. The bishop wanted to represent Christ the King, priestly ministry, the local church in Colorado and Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is the first draft:


After some discussion back and forth I made several proposals that sought to unify the imagery and create a single, more simple, more bold design. The first thing to be avoided was falling into the trap of quartering the field and then filling each quarter with things. It was also important to avoid the use of the color brown as this is not one of the tinctures used in heraldry. Since the symbol for Christ the King occupied the first quarter and was, in a sense, the principal element to be represented we first moved to create a large compound charge of the crowned Chi-Rho. This, then alludes to Christ, the King as well as to priestly service as all priests share in the High Priesthood of Jesus. Then it was a simple matter to allude to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado by a division line in the field and to add the rose as a fitting heraldic charge that is frequently used as a reference not only to Our Lady in general but to Guadalupe in particular. This is because of the roses that bloomed in December which were brought by Juan Diego to his bishop who asked for “proof” of the apparitions. I originally proposed placing the red rose on the silver chief or changing it to a golden rose. However, the bishop really wanted the rose depicted in the traditional red so we cheated a little on the tincture rule (avoiding a color on a color or a metal on a metal) by blazoning the rose as “Proper” which does permit such violations in the case of charges that are depicted Proper. After some of my suggestions were considered a second draft was prepared in Denver which also changed the general shape of the episcopal cross behind the shield and the galero and tassels in order to give the whole achievement a look that was unique. This draft met with the new bishop’s approval. So, the arms he has assumed today are:


These arms were designed and emblazoned by Fr. Randy Dollins with me acting as design consultant.