Author Archives: guyselvester

Bruno Heim Birthday

March 5 marks the 110th anniversary of the birth of the man many people, myself included, consider to have been “the” master of Catholic ecclesiastical heraldry, the late Archbishop Bruno Bernard Heim. He literally wrote the book on the subject starting with the publication of “Wappenbrauch und Wappenrecht in der Kirche” in 1947 which was published in 1949 in a French edition, “Coutumes et Droit Héraldiques de l’Église” and finally completely revamped, expanded, lavishly illustrated and published in English in 1978 as “Heraldry in the Catholic Church”. He helped revive the art and science of heraldry in the Church which is, sadly, once again in desperate need of some renewal. But his heraldic work was actually a sideline to his ordained ministry and his work in the Holy See’s diplomatic corps where he served in several posts concluding as Pro-Nuncio to the Court of St. James’s in London. He died March 18, 2003 at age 92. Requiescat in Pace.

Third Priestly Arms

Recent days have been busy and I have now completed a trifecta of sacerdotal arms all, as it happens, for priests who are also Benedictine monks. They’re from different communities and made their requests independently of each other. In addition, they have all proven to be men of exceeding patience because their projects kept getting sidelined by commissions I’d received to prepare a coat of arms for a new bishop. Those commissions are always time sensitive so all other considerations would have to go by the way side whenever I’d receive one.

Finding a window in the calendar I decided to make the extra effort to complete this three long-standing commissions. This is the last of the three.

These arms reflect the armiger’s community, apostolate, family history and monastic name. The inclusion of the chaplet encircling the shield indicates that he is a Professed Religious in vows and the galero indicates he is ordained to the priesthood. Not all Religious armigers choose to use the chaplet, especially if they are also ordained priests. It is a matter of choice.

In fact, it is worth pointing out that while there are specific external ornaments which may be used by an armiger to indicate what rank they hold, or honors they have received, none of these are required to be used. If an armiger should so desire, he/she may simply bear a shield and motto, or indeed even just the shield alone. I mention that last part because everyone in ecclesiastical circles seems to make such a big deal out of the motto. (Bishops especially). Mottoes are, strictly speaking, not really part of the coat of arms. It has become customary to display one’s motto in the achievement of arms but that, too, is not necessary.

Another Presbyteral Coat of Arms

Sometimes, fate interrupts the desire for armorial bearings. This armiger was having a coat of arms designed for him. Sadly, the heraldist working on it for him passed away. With much of the work done but not yet finalized he came to me requesting my help. The original design was very busy with many charges included and a bit too liberal a use of various tinctures. (Keeping a coat of arms to fewer tinctures is always a good idea).

I didn’t feel as though the whole thing could be scrapped to start over. Rather, I tried instead to clean up the design a bit while still maintaining the original ideas. I also made a few suggestions about tinctures. Working with the armiger we were able to come up with something with which he was pleased and also with which I was, at least, satisfied. It’s not the achievement I would have designed had I had the opportunity to start from scratch. Nevertheless, it is a decent, if crowded, design and there aren’t any egregious violations of tincture rules.

I must admit it was odd working on a project that had been started and brought rather far along by someone else. It was also an odd feeling to make changes to something that another heraldist had done and, being deceased, couldn’t defend or explain his choices. Still, it was a privilege to help this particular armiger out and, I think, we ended up with a rather nice coat of arms for him. (…if I do say so myself)

Armorial Bearings of a Priest

Here is one of my more recent commissions. It is the armorial bearings of a priest who is also a Professed Religious in vows. The black galero at the top of the achievement indicates his status as a priest. The chaplet – not often seen these days in heraldry – is used in the achievement as an external ornament indicating a person in Religious Vows. It is often seen in the arms of an Abbess (along with the veiled crozier) who, unlike an Abbot, does not make use of the galero. It is also seen in the armorial achievements of Professed Knights of Malta, whose Knights of Justice are Professed Religious in the Roman Catholic Church.

This armiger is both a monk and a priest. The motto is taken from the Holy Rule of St. Benedict.

Bishop Kulick of Greensburg, PA

On February 11, 2021 the Most Rev. Larry James Kulick (55) a priest of the Greensburg, Pennsylvania diocese will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 6th Bishop of Greensburg.

The arms he is assuming are:

The Bishop’s family is of Slovak origin hence the clear resemblance of his personal arms to those of Slovakia with the addition of two garbs of wheat, traditionally used in Catholic heraldry as an allusion to the Eucharist. Really, he has simply taken the arms of Slovakia in their entirety to use as his own coat of arms. It can be argued that the inclusion of the two garbs differences his personal arms from those of Slovakia. That would not be entirely untrue. However, it isn’t, in my opinion, a sufficient enough difference. Some thought could have been given to a change of tincture as well.

It is noteworthy that the double-barred cross which is the principal charge in the Slovak arms is also repeated in the arms of the See. In the arms of the Diocese of Greensburg the double-barred, or patriarchal, cross is taken from the arms traditionally associated with the Order of St. Benedict and are included as an allusion to the Benedictine monks of St. Vincent Archabbey who have been present in that part of Pennsylvania since 1846 and have ministered to Catholics there since before the foundation of the diocese in 1951. In fact, the Benedictines founded the cathedral parish before it even was a cathedral and graciously gave it back once it had been designated as the cathedral church. In addition, the monks run a major seminary which is the seminary the new bishop attended. So that particular charge can have multiple significance for the armiger.

The explanation included in the worship program for the event says among other things that the colors have significance for the armiger. One sentence says, “The darker red at the top of the shield represents the blood of martyrs, and the lighter red below it represents fire; together they symbolize the martyrdom of St. Lawrence, Bishop Kulick’s patron saint.” To that I can only add that there are no shades of difference in heraldic colors and no set meanings to the what a particular color means. Another section of the explanation says this (somewhat unbelievably), “The blue shadow on top of the hills symbolizes how Christ illuminates the world, and blue is the color of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the diocesan patroness as Our Lady of the Assumption. The shadows and highlights at the top of the mountains where the red and blue come together also represent St. Joseph.”

Really? Shadows and highlights represent St. Joseph? How? And how, specifically, is a highlight blazoned? So, while I don’t doubt that all these meanings are significant to the armiger, or that at least he thinks they are, but this isn’t heraldry. Such subtleties may be present in the mind of a graphic artist but not in the science of heraldry. This is all a bit too “over the top” and focuses on the wrong things.

The coat of arms was done by Sig. Poletti of Italy who also did the coat of arms of Bishop Kulick’s predecessor, Bishop Malesic, now of Cleveland.

Bishop Bonnar of Youngstown

On January 12th, the Most Rev. David Bonnar (58) a priest of Pittsburgh will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 6th Bishop of Youngstown, Ohio. The coat of arms he is assuming is:

As per the diocesan website the explanation of his personal arms, impaled with those of the See are: “The chequy blue and silver fess appears in the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s coat of arms representing his diocese of origin.  The seven point blue star recalls the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom Bishop Bonnar entrusts his new pastoral ministry.  The pomegranate represents the motto of the Bishop that all the grains of this fruit are united in an only body, the mystical body of the Church.  The field of gold, the first among the noble metals, symbolizes the first of the virtues – the faith – which makes all believe in the salvation given by the Lord.”

The combinations of tinctures are pleasing. The overall design is simple: a complex ordinary with something above and something below, rather like the arms of the See as well. The charges are relatively clear even when reduced.

Lieutenant of the Order of Malta

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, more commonly known as the Order of Malta, is currently in the charge not of a Prince and Grand Master but of a Lieutenant of the Grand Master, elected by the Council Complete of State. He presides over the Sovereign Council of the Order directing the Order’s governance during his tenure in office. This situation is not quite as unusual as it may first appear to be. In the last 100 years there have been five occasions when the Order did not elect a Prince and Grand Master, but was governed by a Lieutenant of the Grand Master. None of them went on to be elected Prince and Grand Master with the exception of Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto. Also, I do not take notice here of the four men who served as Lieutenant ad interim after the death of and before the election of a Grand Master.

Fra’ Pio Franchi De’ Cavalieri (1929-1931 during the illness of Grand Master Thun und Hohenstein)

Fra’ Antoine Hercolani Fava Simonetti (1951-1955) *

Fra’ Ernesto Paternò Castello di Carcaci (1955-1962)

Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto (2017-2018)

Fra’ Marco Luzzago who is presently the Lieutenant of the Grand Master elected in 2020.

*NOTE: Hercolani Fava Simonetti served as the Lieutenant to the Grand Magistry and the others had the title Lieutenant of the Grand Master.

Archbishop Farrell of Dublin

On December 29, 2020 His Holiness Pope Francis appointed the Most Rev. Dermot Farrell (66), a priest of the Diocese of Meath and since 2018 Bishop of Ossory, Ireland to be the 51st Metropolitan Archbishop of Dublin. He succeeds Abp. Diarmuid Martin.

He had already assumed a coat of arms as Bishop of Ossory. The image below is not official but was a cut and paste job by me to see what his arms as archbishop will look like. In Ireland the archbishops of Armagh (who is the Primate of All Ireland) and of Dublin (who is the Primate of Ireland) use arms of the See that appear identical because this stems from a time when all archbishops tended to use arms depicting a pall (pallium) and a cross as symbols of being an archbishop. The archiepiscopal insignia then later became associated with certain metropolitical & archiepiscopal sees and it remains so to this day, including some (like the Church of Ireland Diocese of Dublin, or the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) where it seems particularly incongruous. This is because the pallium is worn by Roman Catholic Metropolitan Archbishops as a symbol of sharing in the ministry of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) and, as such, they receive it from him as a sign of their office.

Below we see what Archbishop Farrell’s coat of arms may well look like (or something close to this). I note that his predecessor, App. Martin, did not use a coat of arms.

Thomas Becket

St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was assassinated by nobles who served King Henry II of England in 1170. They entered the cathedral and killed him. His conflict with the king centered around the Constitutions of Clarendon, a series of laws Henry wished to impose to check the increase in power the Church gained under the rather chaotic reign of his predecessor King Stephan. Becket opposed these laws as the state over reaching into the internal affairs of the Church. Their conflict became more heated until Henry supposedly (though not definitely) was to have said to his barons, “Will no one rid me of this meddling clerk?”. It’s doubtful he actually said that and if he did it certainly would have been in French since Henry II didn’t speak English. This was taken to mean he desired to see Becket gone, so they went to the cathedral on December 29th and killed him.

This all happened before the advent of systematized heraldry as we know it. becket certainly did not have a coat of arms. But, according to the long-standing traditional custom of attributing coats of arms to great persons after the fact a coat of arms was devised for him. It appears in many places erroneously as the coat of arms of St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury. While it certainly was not his actual armorial bearings it is, nevertheless, a very handsome achievement especially impaled with those of the See of Canterbury.