The Right Reverend Marc Fierens O.Praem. will be blessed and installed as the 53rd Abbot of Averbode, Belgium on March 11. This design was devised by the Abbot in consultation with with someone very well versed in heraldry. The drawing is by Prisca Van Dessel.
It has long been customary for the Abbots of Religious Orders that wear a white or mostly white habit to use an abbatial galero that corresponds to the color of their habit. Since the Praemonstratensians wear a habit which is entirely white their abbots have traditionally used a white galero.
Personally, I have never agreed with this tradition. The color of the galero does not have to correspond with what is actually worn. Rather, in heraldry, color as well as number of tassels is an indication of rank. For example, bishops and archbishops use a green galero. This has its origin in the belief that the original color worn by bishops was green. However, when Roman purple was later adopted by bishops for their manner of dress the galero, which is after all symbolic, remained green for bishops and archbishops in heraldry.
Indeed, abbots do not, nor have they ever, wear a galero! It’s use in their heraldic achievements is purely symbolic. This is a further reason that it need not correspond to the color of their habit. The black galero with 12 tassels indicates the bearer is a Religious Superior, in this case an abbot, regardless of what we wears. The galero need not indicate the Order to which he belongs, just his rank. In abbatial heraldry it is the veiled crozier which indicates the arms are those of an abbot because the black galero with 12 tassels may be used by any Major Religious Superior of any Order, Institute or Congregation, as well as by secular Vicars General and Vicars Episcopal. Similarly, the galero that indicates the armiger is a priest is black with 2 black tassels regardless of whether the bearer is a secular clergyman or a member of a Religious Community. Franciscan priests do not use a brown galero, Sylvestrine priests do not use a blue galero, Dominican priests do not use a white galero, etc. Nevertheless, among the Canons Regular of Premontré the canons, like their abbots, do indeed make use of a white galero.
I may not be in favor of it but it is, regardless of my personal opinion, a long-standing tradition in heraldry and done on a regular basis. The length of time this custom has been observed has made it into the commonly accepted practice. My contrary opinion is but wishful thinking on my part. I wish it otherwise and I have good reasons to support that opinion. Alas, it is not and I have to live with disappointment.