Bishop Edward Cullen of Allentown: RIP

The Most Rev. Edward Cullen, a priest of Philadelphia who served as Auxiliary Bishop there from 1994-1997 and who went on to become the Third Bishop of Allentown, PA from 1997-2009, passed away on May 9, 2023 at age 90. RIP.

The coat of arms he assumed upon becoming a bishop in 1994 is simple enough. Because so many bishops want to include as much symbolism as they can he decided against symmetry by having the garb and the star next to each other. The problem is that symmetry is an important aspect of heraldic art. It might have been better to place the star in the center between two garbs. Even though that increases the number of charges it provides for a more symmetrical look and avoids the appearance of a bunch of charges merely splayed across a shield. The garb may only represent one thing but having two of them would still have looked better.

Some might say, “But then it is as if they represent two separate things.” Only if you are being tiresomely literal. Solely for the sake of symmetry and a better composition and appearance, two garbs with a star between them would have been a better choice.

It is unfortunate that the personal arms and the diocesan arms both had fields Gules. But, sometimes that kind of thing happens. It would not have been a good idea to change the field in the personal arms to something else. Occasionally, the luck of the draw created some unfortunate combinations when marshaling arms together. That’s just the way it is. In such situations a bishop could consider not impaling his arms with those of the See or the artist could get creative with the depiction of the coat of arms by doing something like employing a division line of a color other than merely black to separate the two impalements.

Overall he had a nice coat of arms but with a little bit of help it could have been even better.

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