On May 3, 2023 Fra’ John Dunlap the Lieutenant of the Order of Malta since 2022, was elected as Prince and 81st Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta. He is a 66-year-old Canadian and the first Professed Knight from the Americas to be elected as head of the Order. In accordance with the current Constitutions of the Order he will serve for a term of 10 years. Ad Multos Annos!
Category Archives: Corporate Bodies
Crown of Lord Lyon
It was very interesting to read in the Times that Lord Lyon King-of-Arms, the senior heraldic officer in Scotland will not only take part in King Charles’ coronation on May 6 but will do so wearing the crown that had been commissioned and obtained by the Heraldry Society of Scotland back in the early 2000s. The arches on the crown, which are removable, will be removed for the coronation so it won’t too closely resemble the crown with which the King shall be crowned.
The expensive item and the trouble that went into commissioning and fabricating it was one of the reasons that, despite the Peers not being allowed to wear their coronets at the upcoming, more modernized, ceremony Lord Lyon–and indeed the other three English Kings-of-Arms–will be wearing their crowns. The coronation of the Sovereign is one of the only occasions on which these crowns are traditionally worn.
Anniversary for Norroy & Ulster
This month marks the 80th anniversary of the office of Norroy and Ulster King of Arms. The office of Ulster King of Arms was created by King Edward VI on February 2, 1552, and for its first 36 years, appears to have been regarded as attached to the College of Arms; the two Ulsters in this period, Bartholomew Butler and Nicholas Narboon, had both been English Heralds before their appointment as Ulster. After the resignation of Narboon in 1588, subsequent Ulsters acted independently from the English College. On January 30, 1908, King Edward VII appointed Captain Nevile Rodwell Wilkinson King of Arms and Principal Herald of all that part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland called Ireland, with the title of Ulster. Wilkinson exercised this office, based in Dublin Castle, through a period of great political turmoil in Ireland until his death on December 22, 1940. The political circumstances in Ireland at this time led to the decision to return the office of Ulster to the College of Arms in London, with responsibility for Northern Ireland alone, and united with the office of Norroy.
On January 29, 1931, King George V had appointed Algar Henry Stafford Howard, M.C., as King of Arms and Principal Herald of the North Part of England, with the title of Norroy. Howard still held this office on April 1, 1943, when King George VI additionally appointed him King of Arms and Principal Herald of that part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland called Northern Ireland, without prejudice to his existing appointment as Norroy and with the title of Ulster to be borne after that of Norroy. Howard held these joint offices until his promotion to Garter the next year, and on June 2, 1944, King George VI appointed Sir Gerald Woods Wollaston, K.C.B, K.C.V.O., King of Arms and Principal Herald of the North Part of England and of Northern Ireland, with the title of Norroy and Ulster, which has remained the form of the office to this day. The present Norroy and Ulster, Robert John Baptist Noel, was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II on April 6, 2021. He proclaimed the accession of His Majesty The King at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland on September 10, 2022, the first time Ulster had performed such a duty in Ireland since the proclamation of King George V in Dublin on May 9, 1910.
Between 1943 and 1980, holders of the office of Norroy and Ulster used the arms of office of one of the two offices, or both arms impaled on one shield. In 1980, Queen Elizabeth II approved new arms for the joint office. These are: Quarterly Argent and Or a Cross Gules on a Chief per pale Azure and Gules a Lion passant guardant crowned between a Fleur-de-lis and a Harp Or. Norroy and Ulster King of Arms is also ex officio King of Arms, Knight Attendant, Registrar, and Keeper of the Records of the Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick, offices which are purely nominal since the death of the last Knight of the order.
Text taken from the College of Arms Newsletter, No. 71 April, 2023
Heraldry is EVERYWHERE!
On a recent visit to the Vatican I was amused and delighted to see that even the trash cans in St. Peter’s Square were looking rather smart by being emblazoned with the armorial bearings of the Holy See. Indeed, heraldry can be used any and everywhere.
An Unexpected Honor
The Board of Governors of the American Heraldry Society voted unanimously at its July meeting to elect Father Guy Selvester as the first Fellow of the American Heraldry Society!
Father Guy has spent decades as a student and practitioner of heraldry and has become a respected expert in the field of ecclesiastical armory specifically. Many Bishops and Priests around the country bear arms designed by Father Guy and his writings on the subject are held in very high regard.
“The Board hopes this is a welcome recognition of the fine work that Father Guy continues to do promoting and improving heraldry in the United States and around the world! Congratulations!” said David Boven, president and founding member of the American Heraldry Society.
The honor of Fellow is awarded to any member of the Society who has compiled a distinguished record of scholarship and experience marked by significant contributions to the advancement of heraldry or an auxiliary science of heraldry. Since the inception of the award in 2013, no individual has been nominated or elected as Fellow by the Society until now.
Bishop Tylka Succeeds to the See of Peoria
The Most Rev. Louis Tylka (51) a priest of Chicago who became Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria in 2020 succeeded to the See on March 3 after the retirement of Bishop Jenky. The armorial bearings I originally designed for him in 2020 will now be displayed as impaled with the coat of arms of the See of Peoria.
Advent in Heraldry
It’s not all that easy to find heraldic references to Advent. Nevertheless, one which I came across many years ago and of which I always think at this time of the year is the very fine coat of arms of the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama. This is the cathedral church for the Episcopalian Diocese. They had a devisal of arms produced for them by HM College of Arms in London. It is, overall, a most pleasing design and I particularly like how an Advent wreath was incorporated.
The Church enters into the final week Advent this week and I wanted to be sure to point out this excellently done coat of arms before the season had left us again.
Happy Advent (and a Merry Christmas) to you all.
Since 1894 there have been nine Presidents of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Five of them have also been armigerous in their own right. The first IOC President, Demetrius Vikelas, was not and neither were the fourth, Sigfrid Edström, the fifth, Avery Brundage, or the ninth and current IOC President, Thomas Bach.
On July 2 David Vines White (59) was appointed Garter Principal King of Arms at HM College of Arms in London. This is the most senior of the three Kings of Arms. He had previously been Somerset Herald and before that Rouge Croix Pursuivant. He succeeds Sir Thomas Woodcock who has served as Garter since 2010. Congratulations to the new Garter King of Arms!
DO NOT FOLLOW THIS EXAMPLE!
Recently, while taking a short trip for some post-Easter R&R I went to visit friends in western Pennsylvania. I found myself in the town of Loretto, PA where I had attended college at St. Francis University (but in my day it was still just St. Francis College). In that town is the fine parish church of St. Michael, built entirely at the expense of Charles M. Schwab, the US Steel president whose summer residence was located in Loretto. His former mansion is now the motherhouse of the TOR Franciscans who run the university. Schwab generously built the fine romanesque revival structure and donated it to the parish. Andrew Carnegie donated the church’s pipe organ. Some time ago the church was designated a minor basilica. It’s churchyard is the resting place of its founder, Father (Prince) Demetrius Gallitzin.
While looking around the lovely structure which has been spruced up since the the days when I occasionally saw it as a student some 37 years ago I noted in a side chapel a large display of the basilica’s coat of arms…and almost vomited.
What a poor coat of arms for the purpose intended. In fact, it is simply the Altoona-Johnstown diocesan coat of arms with the base changed to have the arms of St. John Paul II (who bestowed the dignity of basilica on the church) shoved in as well. The motto is the one used by the bishop at the time the church was raised to basilican rank.
The fess with three plates is borrowed from the arms of William Penn. The two charges in chief represent the cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona and the co-cathedral of St. John Gualbert in Johnstown. The cross in base is borrowed from the coat of arms of the aforementioned Demetrius Gallitzin. Of course the ombrellino and crossed keys are typical external ornaments of a minor basilica.
But what a complete lack of creativity this design displays. Instead of alluding to the diocese or to the pope who bestowed the honor it is the arms of the diocese and the arms of that pope shoved together. There is absolutely nothing in there to identify the basilica as being dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, or being located in Loretto, or to the Franciscan heritage of that place. The slender line dividing the silver Gallitzin cross from the arms of John Paul II is also heraldically unsupportable. From beginning to end this thing is junk.
It was so horribly disappointing to see this is what was used. The raising of the church to the rank of a basilica occurred only in 1996. By that time the internet was an easy place to find the right person or the right guidance on the design and creation of a fitting coat of arms. There is no excuse for the horrible result they ended up with, except the laziness or arrogance of those in charge of that decision.
This basilica coat of arms is useful for one thing and one thing only: to serve as an example of what not to do!
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.
On September 17 the official merger of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska with the neighboring suffragan See of Juneau, Alaska will take place creating the Archdiocese of Anchorage Juneau. The current bishop of Juneau, the Most Rev. Andrew Bellisario, CM, will be installed at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Anchorage and also will be invested with the pallium as a Metropolitan Archbishop. The sensible decision to combine the coats of arms of the two dioceses by simply borrowing elements from each was made. The new coat of arms combines all that had been in chief of the arms of the Diocese of Juneau with what had been in base for the arms of the Archdiocese of Anchorage. It’s a lot of blue as each one had a primarily blue field but the overall look is not unpleasant.
Third Canadian Chief Herald
The Canadian Heraldic Authority is undergoing an important transition today. With great pleasure they have announced the appointment of Samy Khalid as the third Chief Herald of Canada. He takes up the torch from Claire Boudreau, who has held the position since 2007 and has now been appointed Margaree-Chéticamp Herald Emeritus by the Governor General.
Conrad Swan, R.I.P.
Sir Conrad Marshall John Fisher Swan KCVO FSA (born 13 May 1924) was a retired long-serving officer of arms at the College of Arms in London. Having been first appointed to work at the College in 1962, he rose to the office of Garter Principal King of Arms in 1992, a position he held until 1995. He was the first Canadian ever to be appointed to the College of Arms. He was first appointed Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary in 1962 and six years later became York Herald of Arms in Ordinary. In these capacities, he was among the Earl Marshal’s staff for the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969, and was Gentleman Usher-in-Waiting to Pope John Paul II during his visit to the United Kingdom in 1982.
Swan was appointed Garter Principal King of Arms in 1992 on the retirement of Sir Alexander Colin Cole. His own retirement came in 1995, after having been diagnosed with cancer.
Swan was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 1994 as a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO). He is also a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Nation of Antigua and Barbuda (KGCN), Knight of Honour and Devotion of the Order of Malta, Cross of Commander of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Grand Duke Gediminas (Lithuania), Knight Grand Cross of Justice of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Francis I (GCFO) and Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Lion of Rwanda.
He was also a Knight of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem and Knight Principal of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor (1995–2000); Commander (with Star) of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit; Grand Cross with Grand Collar of the Imperial Order of the Holy Trinity (Ethiopia); Coronation Medal of the King of Tonga. He received the Commemorative Medal for the Centennial of Saskatchewan in 2005.
May he rest in peace.
More Clergy With Multiple Versions of Their Arms
A couple of years ago I wrote about clergy who make use of more than one version of their coats of arms depending on offices held or circumstances of use. Once again I’ve come across a fine example.
The current Lord Lyon King of Arms, the principal heraldic authority for Her Majesty in Scotland is not only a heraldic expert and a jurist but he is also an ordained clergyman in the Scottish Episcopal Church (a.k.a. the Anglican Church north of the border). The Rev. Canon Dr. Joseph John Morrow, CBE, KStJ, QC, DL, LLD possesses a very nice coat of arms of his own.
This coat of arms can be displayed all alone or, as Lord Lyon sometimes has chosen to do, with the helm, mantling and crest of the typical armorial achievement.
However, sometimes this coat of arms is also displayed with the external ornaments proper to the Office of Lord Lyon King of Arms.
Additionally, the Office of Lord Lyon has its own armorial bearings which may be used by the incumbent of the office of Lord Lyon in a “greater” form:
as well as a “lesser” or smaller version.
Finally, the current Lord Lyon may choose to impale his personal arms with those of Lord Lyon and display them with the external ornaments of the office, including the red lion supporters:
or he may impale his personal arms with the arms of office and display them with some of the external ornaments of Lord Lyon as well as his own crest and supporters.
Same man; same arms; many versions.
Heraldry For Parish History
Among the various ways that a parish community can record and mark its history is through the use of heraldry. Many are familiar with the custom of churches having incorporated into the architecture of the building, or in a church building’s decoration, the coat of arms of the reigning pope and the bishop at the time the church was constructed or consecrated. The use of the coats of arms of the pastors who have served the parish can be similarly used.
In a previous assignment where I served as Rector of a Shrine Church I entered into a project to devise what would be considered attributed arms for all of my predecessors so that the tenure of each Rector could be remembered by means of a coat of arms for each displayed in the Rectory Office. I was even able to devise a coat of arms for my successor as well!
I arrived at my current parish assignment as Parish Administrator, a common practice in many dioceses including my own. The idea is to have a new priest serve as Administrator (a temporary appointment) for a time until it is determined if the man is a “good fit” for the parish at which time, usually one year, he would be appointed Pastor with a six-year renewable term. In my case I served as Administrator for two years because as the end of my first year was approaching our bishop resigned and a new bishop arrived who wanted to take some time himself to settle in to the diocese before making any major decisions.
At the time my tenure as Administrator began I devised a coat of arms for the parish community. In June of this year I was appointed Pastor of the parish and my official Installation takes place later this month. To mark this start of a new chapter I decided to undertake a similar project of devising coats of arms for my predecessors to be displayed in a suitable place somewhere in one of the parish buildings.
There have been 23 priests in charge of St. Joseph Church, Washington, New Jersey since its establishment as an independent parish in 1871. Of those 23 one of them, Rev. John Eagan, served here for only 11 months in 1943 as Administrator. In addition, one of the priests, Rev. John Auchter, actually served here for six years but was never an incardinated priest of the Metuchen Diocese. Rather, he was and always remained, a priest of the neighboring diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania on loan to the Metuchen Diocese. Consequently, he only had the title “Administrator” but was, for all intents and purposes, the Pastor of this parish as much as any of the others. So, while Fr. Eagan is not counted among the Pastors of St. Joseph Fr. Auchter is counted among their number. As a result I find myself now as the 22nd Pastor of St. Joseph.
For the purposes of this project I found it rather daunting to face the prospect of devising 21 attributed coats of arms. Therefore, I decided to try and pare down the list. But, what criteria should I use to do so. I decided to look at the entire history of the parish in stages. At its foundation in 1871, by Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, the nephew of St. Elizabeth Ann (Bayley) Seton, the parish was part of the then Diocese of Newark which, at that time, covered the entire state of New Jersey. Just ten years later, in 1881, the parish became part of the newly established Diocese of Trenton encompassing eight counties in the central part of New Jersey. A century later St. John Paul II decided to separate the four northern counties of Trenton and erect the Diocese of Metuchen in November of 1981. Once again, the parish of St. Joseph found itself in a new diocese. It was this last separation, becoming part of the diocese in which it currently finds itself, that I decided to use as my dividing line. At least for the time being this project encompasses the coats of arms of the seven Pastors the parish has had since the erection of the Diocese of Metuchen. At some point in the future other coats of arms can be added until all the Pastors are represented.
Creating attributed arms is both a challenge and a lot of fun. All but two of my predecessors are deceased and the living ones could not be easily consulted. In addition, two of the seven who served here since 1981 are non-armigerous because, sadly, they both were convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison. As such, it is not appropriate to devise coats of arms for them and had they been armigerous the privilege of having a coat of arms would have been lost to them.
In each case the attributed arms contains charges that allude to their names or to some other strong association with them. That way, each is somewhat easily associated with the priest it represents. In all cases their personal arms are emblazoned impaled with the arms assumed for the parish itself and the shield is ensigned with a simple priest’s galero. No mottoes were used in the depiction of these achievements.
The Arms of St. Joseph Parish, Washington, New Jersey (est. 1871)
The arms are based on those of George Washington for whom the Borough and Township where the parish is located are named. His arms showed two red bars on a silver (white) field with three red stars above. Here the colors have been reversed and the stars changed to three fleurs-de-lis, a symbol of St. Joseph.
Rev. William Roos 16th Pastor 1979-1983
The name “Roos” alludes to a rose in Dutch, hence the three roses.
Rev. (later Monsignor) John A. Auchter (Administrator) 1983-1989
The lamp is from a German coat of arms associated with the family name. The chief contains the arms of the Diocese of Allentown, PA of which Fr. Auchter was an incardinated priest. After his time in New Jersey he returned to his own diocese and was later promoted to Prelate of Honor with the title “Rev. Monsignor”. However, when serving here he was still simply a priest.
Rev. Michael Santillo 18th Pastor 1989-1992
He does not have a personal coat of arms so the parish arms are impaled with a blank shield. The design on that half of the shield is a technique to fill empty space in heraldry called “diapering” and it is merely decorative.
Rev. Michael A. Kochon 19th Pastor 1992-1999
Father Kochon’s arms consist of a flaming sword which is symbolic of his patron, St. Michael the Archangel and a wild hog’s head erased. In French the word cochon, similar to his surname Kochon, means pig so his personal arms allude to his given and family names.
Rev. (later Mr.) Robert J. Ascolese 20th Pastor 1999-2006
He does not have a personal coat of arms so the parish arms are impaled with a blank shield. The design on that half of the shield is a technique to fill empty space in heraldry called “diapering” and it is merely decorative.
Rev. Blaise R. Baran 21st Pastor 2006-2015
Father Baran’s name means “rain” in Persian, hence the raindrops. His patron, St. Blaise, is alluded to by the two candles crossed in saltire which are used to give the Blessing of Throats on the feast day of St. Blaise.
Rev. Guy W. Selvester (Administrator 2015-2017) 22nd Pastor 2017 –
Readers of this blog should know the symbolism of my arms by now but the division line sapiné (shaped like fir trees) alludes to my family name which was originally Silvestri (later anglicized to Selvester) which means a forest dweller or woodsman. The green and gold (yellow) tinctures are for my Irish ancestry and the cross for the centrality of my faith in my life. It is a cross fleury so that the fleurs-de-lis are references to both the Holy Trinity and Our Lady.
Detroit Coat of Arms Redesign: EPIC FAIL
By now so many people have seen the redesign of the archdiocesan coat of arms undertaken by the Archdiocese of Detroit and unveiled last Saturday (below, right).
Where does one even begin? Perhaps a good place to start is by saying that this was done in conjunction with the release of Archbishop Vigneron’s post-synodal pastoral letter entitled, “Unleash the Gospel”. This letter addresses issues that arose during the archdiocesan synod and outlines the pastoral approaches to be implemented by the archdiocese as it faces the future. As a part of this entire effort someone had the idea that redesigning the coat of arms to reflect the current “realities” of the archdiocese and certain aspects of the archdiocese’s identity would be a good idea. I suppose the thinking was that with a new approach should come a new symbol. The archdiocese’s Moderator of the Curia, Msgr. Robert McClory, who was in charge of the redesign, said, “Initially, we thought about, ‘What is the identity of the archdiocese?’ When people think of the Archdiocese of Detroit, what do they think of, and what visuals are connected to that?”
So, it seems clear that this jettisoning of the former coat of arms and redesigning an entirely new one was done with all the very best of intentions. That seems abundantly clear and, I think, it’s worth pointing out and keeping in mind. There was no malicious iconoclasm motivating a desire to discard outmoded symbolism. Rather, there seems to have been a sincere effort to look to the future in a positive manner with a symbol for the local church that would be more evocative to both members of that local community and those outside of it as well. They were trying to do something good, and new, and fresh.
More is the pity. It is precisely all these good intentions that underscores the appalling ignorance with which this process, in the works for more than a year, proceeded. An article in the archdiocese’s publication, “The Michigan Catholic” indicates the following:
“Archbishop Vigneron consulted with a wide range of people, including laity and the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council, before deciding to go ahead with the changes, Msgr. McClory said. While the archdiocese enlisted the help of a Cleveland-based design firm for the project, the process also benefited from Archbishop Vigneron’s experience redesigning the coat of arms of the Diocese of Oakland, Calif., where he served as bishop from 2003-09.”
Apparently, the Archbishop’s previous experience left him feeling confident in doing a wide and varied consultation with just about everyone, except someone well versed in the customs, rules and traditions of good heraldic design. That really baffles me. In these days even a simple Google search will easily yield at least some possibilities of contacting a group or individual who has some knowledge or expertise in designing a coat of arms. Consulting such a person or group really wouldn’t be so difficult. I have to ask why it was deemed important to solicit the opinions of laity and the Presbyteral Council? What experience or learning do they possess that would enable them to determine a good heraldic design? I can appreciate the Archbishop’s desire to avoid making such a change by episcopal fiat and to seek the input of various people in his archdiocese. Nevertheless, the way to design or redesign a coat of arms is not by committee. I think the end result is clear evidence of that.
What they have come up with is, simply put, bad. The artwork is cartoonish and dated. The overall composition bears little to no resemblance to anything remotely like a coat of arms. The mitre on top has the appearance more of a royal crown than an episcopal mitre. The confusing miss-mash of charges float all over the place on the field. You cannot simply take a bunch of logo-like symbols, slap them onto a shield and call it “heraldry”!
Most of all, however, I think the epic fail has its origins in a basic misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of a coat of arms in the first place. Monsignor McClory goes on to say:
“A major difference between the old coat of arms and the new, Msgr. McClory said, is one’s ability to tell the story of faith using its symbols: Starting with the Old Testament in St. Anne and continuing through the revelation of the New Testament through her daughter, Mary, one comes to Christ through the waters of baptism and is invited through the open doors of the Church to bring others with them to their ultimate fulfillment with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in heaven. I think you can really tell a story with this. You can’t do it with the old coat of arms.”
And there you have it. Once again, because something is connected to the Church it becomes about “telling a story”, or “tracing a history”. Not everything connected to the Church has to be a catechetical tool; not everything is a means of evangelization. Just as a personal coat of arms is not supposed to be one’s pictorial C.V. so, too, a corporate coat of arms is not supposed to be a visual mission statement or pictorial history.
Heraldry was developed as a means of creating a unique identifying mark. Full stop.
In addition, because even modern heraldry still hearkens back to the medieval period in which heraldry has its origins there is supposed to be both a timelessness and a sense of permanence to heraldry. It’s quite wrong to change a coat of arms simply because it was designed and adopted in a different time and because the thinking has changed about what should be on it. A coat of arms doesn’t have to “tell a story”; it doesn’t have to “reflect present realities”; it is supposed to be immutable. Since it becomes the identifying mark of the individual or corporate body that uses it the permanent character of it must be respected.
That is not to say that there are no instances of changes being made to a coat of arms. Even within the science of heraldry itself techniques such as marshaling (combining two or more coats of arms on the same shield), augmentation (adding a new element to an existing coat of arms to reflect an honor, event or accomplishment) and differencing (slightly changing an initial design to indicate its use by a relative, descendant, or protégé) exist to make changes within the accepted framework of heraldic custom and practice. But, simply throwing out the former coat of arms and redesigning the thing from scratch is foreign to the nature of heraldry. Let me be clear: it is sometimes done and whenever it is, it is always wrong.
Rather, the archdiocese has fallen victim to a not uncommon phenomenon present today. That is, equating heraldry with a logo. Corporate logos frequently change. Whether it’s to mark the takeover of the corporate body by another, or simply to refresh and renew the artwork, or to indicate the corporate body embarking on a new phase or vision the transitory nature of corporate logos almost necessitates their periodic updating or full-scale redesign. I note that the archdiocese consulted with a Cleveland based design firm. But, what does this firm know of heraldry? How much experience do they have designing a heraldic achievement? I would hazard a guess that its very little compared with their experience of coming up with a first time logo or doing a redesign for a group interested in “re-branding”. But, a coat of arms is neither a logo nor a brand.
The simplest solution to their present situation would have been to leave their diocesan coat of arms alone and design a logo which would be used not only for the roll out of this most recent pastoral letter and the ensuing archdiocesan efforts at implementing it but could have also become the favored symbol used by the archdiocese in place of the coat of arms. Things like letterhead, signage, etc. could easily have borne this newer logo and simply ignored the coat of arms. Its not the solution that those of us who prefer heraldry might like but it certainly is far from unprecedented. Numerous ecclesiastical institutions have desired a symbol that was considered more in keeping with the times. They have chosen to respect the existence of a previously adopted coat of arms and merely make minimal use of it in favor of the newer logo they have adopted as more fitting to their situation.
The Archdiocese of Detroit could have done the same. They could have tried, with the help of a competent heraldic designer, to truly re-design the present coat of arms. They could have, for example retained the gold field, the black cross and three gold stars on the cross and removed the antlers and martlets. Then in those now empty quadrants they could have placed charges symbolic of what they desired. They could have augmented the current coat of arms by means of placing a smaller shield at the center of the design bearing whatever symbols they wanted. They could have adopted a kind of heraldic badge (a symbol composed of heraldic charges but separate from a shield) and used that in conjunction with the archdiocesan coat of arms as well as had new artwork prepared for both. They could have decided to adopt an archdiocesan logo to be used instead of the coat of arms while leaving the former alone.
Instead, they chose the ill-advised path of completely throwing out the coat of arms first adopted 80 years ago and used regularly throughout the archdiocese in many ways and in many places, and coming up with an entirely new design, poorly executed, which bears little to no resemblance to the original and destroys any visual continuity with what had been used.
It has been announced that over time the former coat of arms will slowly but systematically be expunged and the Archbishop plans to have a new rendering of his own coat of arms impaled with this mess. I think that’s a very bad idea. Rather, if he wishes no longer to use the older archdiocesan arms the Archbishop should simply use his personal arms on the shield alone. That way, if his successor wishes to correct this error and revert to the former coat of arms he can do so easily.
I suppose that it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that this kind of thing happened considering what the archdiocese did to redesign what had been its beautiful cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Much of that renovation is quite nice (I’m thinking in particular of the floor of the sanctuary) but most of it doesn’t fit at all with the style of a neo-gothic structure. Once again in the interest of “updating” the archdiocese has an epic fail on its hands. What I find particularly sad is the failure isn’t because of a difference of opinion regarding taste. Rather, the fail occurred because of inexcusable ignorance of the subject at hand. They simply don’t get what a coat of arms is supposed to be. What they’ve ended up with is unheraldic and ugly.
Here is the coat of arms of the Very Rev. Fr. Donald Richardson, BTh, STB, MA, KCHS who is presently the Dean of the Cathedral and Basilican Church of the Immaculate Mother of God, Help of Christians more commonly known as St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia. He has long been armigerous being a heraldry enthusiast himself and the cathedral church has made use of a corporate coat of arms different from that of the Archdiocese for a long time. When he was appointed Dean I told him I would prepare a nice emblazonment with his own arms impaled with the cathedral arms.
Because his personal arms are so similar to the arms of the cathedral I chose to use a line of separation in a color other than black since black wouldn’t provide a clear enough separation. There’s nothing wrong with this. many other artists and authors have advocated it as well. (See: Carl Alexander Vov Volborth’s works, Heraldry: Customs, Rules and Styles and The Art of Heraldry)
In addition, while Fr. Richardson does not possess a Roman Honor his arms are ensigned with the galero used for what is collectively known as “Minor Officials” which would include cathedral deans and/or rectors, rectors of shrine churches or seminaries, basilica rectors, Vicars Forane, Religious Superiors, etc. This galero has two tassels pendant on either side of the shield and they may be shown hanging one below the other or, as here, side by side from a median knot. Father will bear these arms “pro hac vice”, that is to say, during his tenure as Dean of the Cathedral only.
The cross of Jerusalem is included in the achievement to note that he is a Knight Commander in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The motto means, “Lord, It Is Good For Us to Be Here” (Matt. 17:4)