In January several new Auxiliary Bishops have been ordained in the USA. Their choices regarding armorial bearings have been, shall we say, underwhelming. I am not commenting on the quality of the artwork, at least not for the moment. This post is concerned with the content and composition of these coats of arms from a heraldically correct viewpoint. Let’s have a look.
Most Rev. Timothy Freyer, Auxiliary of Orange, CA (ordained January 17)
Most Rev. Mark Brennan, Auxiliary of Baltimore, MD (ordained January 19)
Most Rev. Adam Parker, Auxiliary of Baltimore, MD (ordained January 19)
Gag. (and not entitled to the quarter of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher)
Most Rev. Gerard Battersby, Auxiliary of Detroit, MI (ordained January 25)
Most Rev. Robert Fisher, Auxiliary of Detroit, MI (ordained January 25)
I have no particular quarrel with either the design or the emblazonment of the Freyer arms, with the possible exception of the eccentric shape of the shield, which I doubt was ever seen in real life. The Brennan and Parker arms were each apparently designed by the same “herald” and executed by the same artist. Both designer and artist need a good talking to, as does the artist involved with the Battersby arms, whose design might have been better executed by a talented artist. The Fisher arms are truly awful! The design starts badly with the shape of the shield, breaks the tincture “rule” at least three times and leaves us with the conundrum as to whether the brown (!) embattled bridge is meant to be part of the shield or sitting on top of it.
De gustibus disputandum non est.I’d have chosen another title for this post, maybe something like.”The nice, the mediocre and the unspeakable”.The “nice” would be the Freyer arms, the “mediocre” the arms of Msgrs. Brennan, Parker and maybe – a definite maybe – Battersby, but the less said about the Fisher “arms”,the better, The design reminds me of the sort of “heraldry” that in times past used to grace the labels of wine bottles, employing oodles of grapes,vine-leaves and idealized figures of wine queens.Since I am of the Austrian persuasion, the pine-cone charge in the Fisher “arms” would indicate a bottle not of wine, but of “Zirbengeist” (a special liquor, produced like this:you take cones of pinus cembra, soak them in schnaps for some considerable time, then strain the seeds out of the schnaps and distil it; rather tasty). Don’t know whether this was what Msgr. Fisher was striving for.
Meh. Busy. Gag. Yuck. Blech.
And according to this:
“The upper right features a Jerusalem cross, which calls to mind the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, of which Bishop Parker is a member. This symbol also honors Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, whom Bishop Parker considers a mentor, having served as his secretary in Baltimore and when the cardinal became grand master of the order, based in Rome. “
As a member of the EOHS he is bound to follow not only the protocols and customs of Church heraldry but also of the Order itself which, like most orders of chivalry, has its own heraldic customary. The bishop in question is not of the sufficient rank within that order to use a quartering of the Order. That is reserved to members of a specifically higher rank. My point was not that he had no right to indicate his membership in the order but that he was not entitled to use a quarter of the EOHS. His membership should be represented by which inclusion of the insignia of the Order as an external ornament. Insofar as it also alludes to his relationship to the order’s current Grand Master, Cardinal O’Brien, again doing so by including a full quarter with the arms of the EOHS is something to which he is not entitled. If he wished to include the Jerusalem cross on the shield it should have been done in a different manner which complies with the customs of Church heraldry and the customary of the EOHS. A competent heraldic designer should know this. Bishops are not simply permitted to have whatever they’d like slapped onto a shield, not even when, as in this case, the arms are being assumed rather than granted by a heraldic authority.
Considering how poorly these designs were executed I think my criticism was just as sharp as necessary.