Unique Arms for a Unique Office

This is the armorial bearings of Monseigneur Gilles Wach who is the Founder (one of two) and Prior-General of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest. This is a community of Pontifical Right founded specifically to keep alive the traditional liturgy that was in use prior to the reforms of 1963-1970. The habit that the clerics in the community wear is composed of a mozzetta and mantellone over the cassock and surplice. In addition, there are accents on the garb (such as buttons, piping and the pom on the biretta) in a distinctive shade of blue.

The Superiors of the Community wear a mozzetta that is entirely made of this blue color. As the Prior-General–the Major Superior of the Community–Mons. Wach wears an entirely blue cassock and also uses and entirely blue biretta.

The arms above are clear and simple. As the major Superior General of an Institute of Clerics it is perfectly in keeping with the heraldic traditions and customs of the Church for him to employ a galero with 12 tassels pendant from the hat. In addition, there is a long-standing tradition in the Church (one which I have never particularly liked and have said so publicly) that the color of the galero and the tassels is sometimes determined by the color of the garb worn by the armiger. Fore example, Abbots in the Praemonstratensian Order and those in the Cistercian Order often use a galero that is white and had white tassels pendant from it. This is because the habit they wear is white.

I have argued against this because the color of the galero (and the tassels) is not a mirror of what one wears. The galero used by bishops and archbishops is green but they do not wear that color. The color and the number and color of the tassels is supposed to indicate a rank, not membership in a particular order or community. So, I continue to argue that for Abbots the hat should be black and the tassels black regardless of the color of the habit. But, that’s not up to me. I don’t get to make that determination and the custom is a long-standing one that would be difficult to overturn except by Papal Decree (which I would neither hope for or desire).

Consequently, this coat of arms is perfectly in keeping with the accepted heraldic practices of our time. A Superior General is entitled to use 12 tassels and since the use of different colors depending on the habit has become the norm it makes perfect sense to use a galero and tassels in the distinctive blue worn by the Community. I might be inclined to question why the tassels are topped in gold and also why there is a skein of gold intertwined in the cords but, not having any definitive answer at my fingertips, I must admit that this may simply have been artistic license. It is, perhaps, worth noting as well, that different Communities within the Church (i.e. Order of Chivalry, Religious Orders, Institutes and Lay Communities) can and do make determinations for themselves about heraldic emblems used by their members. That, too, is well in keeping with the established customs, traditions and practices in ecclesiastical heraldry.

1 thought on “Unique Arms for a Unique Office

  1. professor1126

    You might be interested in this…some of these priests taught in my high school…that was a long time ago. I know nothing about heraldry but enjoy your website.

    TEMcK

    Reply

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