Archbishop of Atlanta

The Most Rev. Gregory Hartmayer, OFM.Conv., (68) Bishop of Savannah, Georgia since 2011, was installed as the 8th Archbishop of Atlanta on May 6. The arms he assumed when he became Bishop of Savannah he has retained and impaled with those of the See of Atlanta.

OK. This isn’t a bad coat of arms. It also isn’t the very best I’ve ever seen. I have no comment on the arms of the See of Atlanta. The archbishop’s personal arms employ a very complex field and then sort of ruin that effect by pasting several charges onto it. I have no issue with the idea of a dividing line of a color other than black between two impaled coats of arms but for reasons passing understanding this seems to be more than just an artistic decision because it is included in the blazon.

I do have a problem with the fact that there are two different shades of blue used in the same achievement but both are blazoned simply as “Azure”. The archiepiscopal cross (which is quite wrongly described as a “processional” cross…which it is not) with the roundel containing silhouette of the San Damiano cross (a particularly Franciscan symbol) is heraldically unsupportable. I have written on this blog numerous times that the external ornaments should not be personalized by unique additions. Finally, while it has certainly become something that is done frequently I do not approve of the inclusion of the pallium in the achievement of a metropolitan archbishop. I agree with Bruno Heim’s assessment that the pallium as a heraldic charge is best depicted on the shield and not included as as external ornament.

Many will say, “Oh! But as an archbishop he’s entitled to it!” Well, first of all the extra row of tassels on the galero and the two horizontal bars on the archiepiscopal cross clearly indicate the armiger is an archbishop. Second, to those who raise the objection that those are also ornaments used by archbishops who are not also metropolitans and the pallium is the only symbol of being a metropolitan, I say, “Tough”. That’s not a good enough reason to destroy the aesthetics of a good heraldic achievement by trying to stuff yet another ornament into it. There are other external ornaments used by bishops no longer included in their coats of arms, like mitres and croziers. The coat of arms does not have to include every single thing a prelate is entitled to wear or use.

As I have said, this is a debatable point and many favor the use of the pallium in the achievement of a metropolitan archbishop. I do not. Neither did Heim. I trust his opinion more than the opinions of 100 other people. So, I think the inclusion of the pallium here detracts from the rest of the coat of arms especially as, placed where it is, it looks more like an afterthought.

The archbishop’s arms were first prepared when he became a bishop by an old friend and former student of his. The same person worked on this project for his arms as Archbishop of Atlanta.

The blazon is: “Impaled fimbriated gules, (????) at dexter (for Atlanta), Bary wavy of seven Argent and Azure; at the centre point overall an open crown Or and at the honour point a rose of the first with a center of the last, and at sinister (for Archbishop Hartmayer), per pale argent and azure a chief wavy of one crest depressed in the center of one point and issuant in base throughout a pile reversed enarched all counterchanged, overall an eagle or and in chief at dexter a triquetra interlaced with circle of the last and at sinister a tau cross sable.

The explanation (from the archdiocesan website) is: “The personal Coat of Arms of Bishop Hartmayer is intended to symbolically represent the Bishop’s heritage and vocation as a Conventual Franciscan Friar. The background of wavy blue and white is a heraldic symbol for water. The Bishop is a native of Buffalo, NY – the Queen City of the Great Lakes. Water is also the key symbol of Baptism – the first Sacrament of Initiation as a Christian. This helps recall the Bishop’s ministry as the primary sacramental minister of his diocese. The eagle serves as a two-fold symbol of both the Bishop’s German heritage and of St. John the Evangelist. The Bishop’s father was named John and this is the Bishop’s middle name. The Celtic Knot, known as a Triquetra, represents the Bishop’s Irish heritage on his maternal side. And finally, the Tau is a reference to Bishop Hartmayer’s vocation as a Conventual Franciscan Friar. St. Francis would sign his writing with a Tau, often painted it on the walls and doors of places and he stayed, and would remind his friars that their habit was in the shape of a Tau cross illustrating to them that they must go into the world wearing this cross like an incarnation of Christ.

2 thoughts on “Archbishop of Atlanta

  1. Howard Connell

    Surely Barry wavy of seven is a solecism? The dexter field is simply Argent, three bars wavy azure. The contrasting blues are, as you say, problematic. But overall this isn’t bad, if somewhat busy.

    Reply
    1. guyselvester Post author

      You must consider that there isn’t only one way to blazon something. So, determining something to be an error presupposes that there is. In addition. “Argent, three bars wavy Azure” doesn’t take into account the spacing. The three bars wavy could, with that blazon, be spaced close together toward the center of the field. When the field is composed of two colors that are evenly spaced throughout the field it is customary to blazon it as barry of (the number) and then the colors. That way, any other artist depicting the arms without having seen them (part of the point of the blazon) would know how to space the bars.

      Reply

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