Category Archives: External Ornaments

Bishop J. Gregory Kelly

On February 11 the Most Rev. (John) Gregory Kelly was ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Dallas. The description of the coat of arms (from the diocesan website):

“Bishop Kelly’s arms are based on the Kelly family design where the shield is silver (white) and the charges are black. For difference, and for his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the chevron is now blue. The chevron is reminiscent of the mountains of Colorado, so dear to His Excellency’s youth and the chevron is charged with two estoiles (special, six pointed stars) that are taken from the mantle of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to remind all of the profound Hispanic influence in Texas, the “Lone Star State“, represented by the single star below the chevron. Above the chevron are a fleur-de-lis and a trefoil (the heraldic representation of a shamrock) to honor the Bishop’s Irish and French-Canadian heritage.”

Once again we see here an example of the increasingly popular (and completely WRONG!) trend of personalizing one of the external ornaments, in this case, with the addition of the triquetra on the episcopal cross (erroneously referred to as a “processional” cross in the description) to represent the Holy Trinity because it was the name of the seminary the bishop attended.

It is necessary to repeat that the only thing subject to having charges particular to the bearer is the shield. The external ornaments may NOT be personalized in a heraldic achievement of this type and all those who advocate such a practice are both incorrect and foolish! The heraldic artist is completely free, in future, to depict this bishop’s coat of arms with an episcopal cross of any shape and manner he might wish. This is what happens when armigers turn to those who do not know what they are doing for the devisal of their coats of arms.


Artwork: P. Sullivan

Very Rev. Steven A. Peay, PhD

One year ago today the Very Rev. Steven A. Peay, PhD, an Episcopal priest of the Diocese of Albany and Honorary Canon Theologian for Evangelism at Christ Church Cathedral in Eau Claire, WI became the 20th Dean and President of Nashotah House Seminary in Nashotah, WI.

His coat of arms is pictured below. The blazon is:

Arms impaled; to dexter, quarterly Gules and Azure, overall on a Latin cross Or between two fountains in chief a triple blossom lily Proper; to sinister Or between three pommes a fess dancetty Gules. The shield is ensigned with the ecclesiastical hat of an Honorary Canon according to the Earl Marshal’s Warrant for the coats of arms of clergy in the Anglican Communion of 1976. Below the shield is a scroll with the motto, “Quomodo Prædicabunt Nisi Misit” (Romans 10:15)

In the arms of the seminary the lily represents both the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom the main chapel is dedicated. The two fountains allude to the seminary location between Upper and Lower Nashotah Lakes.

In the personal coat of arms of Fr. Peay the gold field and fess dancetty are taken from the coat of arms of Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman. The bearer has long been an admirer of Newman’s work and writings. There is some irony in choosing this as Newman famously converted from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism and Fr. Peay, conversely, had been a Roman Catholic and was received into The Episcopal Church. Whereas Newman had three hearts surrounding the fess in his arms here, for difference, they have been changed to three pommes. In heraldry this term describes a green roundel. In this case they are chosen to resemble peas as an allusion to the bearer’s surname “Peay”.

The motto is a favorite scriptural quote that reflects the bearers long time teaching of historical theology and preaching to seminarians.


Heraldic Achievements of the “Junior Clergy” in the Catholic Tradition

A Presentation delivered to the NYG&B Heraldry Committee and the College of Arms Foundation

January 28, 2016

Many people know that I have been involved in the study and creation of both the science and art of heraldry for over thirty years. Not surprisingly, my particular area of interest is the heraldic customs of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, in many ways I owe my abiding interest in heraldry to the Church.

I became interested in heraldry as a boy, as many do, because we were studying the Middle Ages in school. Then, it was much more tied up in a romantic interest in chivalry and, as a result, it seemed like something from long ago and far away. After all I was an American (pronounce that ‘Mur-can’) and we had thrown off the shackles of tyranny by abolishing the monarchy on this side of the pond and tossed onto the dustbin of history all the trappings and frummery of kings, aristocracy and the like.

However, one day in the children’s section of my public library I came across a biography of the then reigning pope, now Bl. Paul VI. The book contained a beautiful line drawing of his coat of arms. My eldest brother, some ten years my senior, who was a font of knowledge for me on all manner of things told me, when I remarked on it, that it was the usual practice for all popes to have coats of arms. In fact, he went on to explain that all bishops and dioceses had coats of arms and he even pointed out to me the examples from our own church and parochial school where heraldic images could be found.

It was as if someone had opened a door to a secret garden for me. Suddenly, heraldry no longer seemed long ago or far away. Even as a boy I had already felt a vocation and the Church was very much a part of my daily life. Now, thanks to that little book and my brother’s copious general knowledge I had discovered that heraldry was alive and well and living in the Church all over the world…including right here in the USA. Now two things which occupied a great deal of my thought and interest; my religion and coats of arms, found a happy marriage and from that point on (I was about eleven years old at the time) I was hooked on what would go on to be the enduring passion and avocation of a lifetime.

Jumping ahead to my high school years I began to be a little frustrated with learning more about Church heraldry because most of the source material was limited to secular heraldry and almost all of it either about English or Scottish heraldic customs. (not that there’s anything wrong with THAT!) In the majority of these books the mention of ecclesiastical heraldry at all was scant and, frequently, limited to a brief discussion of the heraldic practices of the Church of England. I kept wondering why no one had ever written a book about heraldry as used in the Catholic Church. This was several years before I had even heard of Woodward’s “Treatise” or Galbreath’s “Papal Heraldry”. Then in 1979 I came across, again in that same wonderful public library to which I will always be so grateful, a book entitled, “Heraldry in the Catholic Church: It’s Origins, Customs and Laws” by the late Archbishop Bruno Heim. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Here in one volume which I later discovered was the first English printing of an expanded version of his earlier work, “Coutumes et Droits Heraldiques de l’Eglise” (published in 1949). It was the book I had been hoping and wishing for. The extraordinary “Year of Three Popes” (1978) during which Heim had designed the coats of arms of John Paul I and St. John Paul II occasioned its publication. It went on to become my “bible” of sorts and Heim came to be held in very high esteem by me, as well as a host of others, not only because of this book for for other personal reasons.

It was because of Heim that I went on to discover the history and traditions of Roman Catholic Church heraldry in the Western and Eastern rites as well as a bit more about Anglican heraldry. This book revealed that it wasn’t only popes, bishops and dioceses that made use of armorial bearings but all the ranks and levels of clergy. It blew away the idea, comparable in secular heraldry, that coats of arms are only for the mighty and powerful; the upper echelon of society. Heim explained that it is not only those at the highest end of the elaborate hierarchy within the Church who are entitled to use heraldic ensigns but all the clergy. Wanting very much to be a priest but never presuming to aspire to the episcopate I had imagined that just as only knights, barons and princes used coats of arms in the secular realm so, too, the lower rank of clergy to which I aspired would not be permitted a coat of arms. Now, I had come to realize that I couldn’t be more wrong. I realized that as a priest I could have and use a coat of arms!

This was a big deal (to me anyway).

In 1987 I was living in Latrobe, PA in a Benedictine monastery and studying in the seminary for the priesthood. The diocese in which that monastery was located, Greensburg, PA, was receiving a new bishop. All the printed matter concerning his installation contained his new coat of arms which I immediately recognized had been emblazoned by Bruno Heim. The explanation went on to say the coat of arms had been designed by a Dr. Geza Grosschmid, Ph.D. of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. I resolved to contact Dr. Grosschmid, a long-time friend and collaborator of Abp. Heim it turns out as I was later to discover, to see if he could teach me more. Thus began an sort of unofficial “apprenticeship” for me that lasted until his untimely death in 1992. He was the one who helped to direct and focus my studies, critique my designs (with an eye he gained from working with Heim) and expand the scope of my research. Through him I gained a connection, albeit a slight one, to Heim.

Heraldry with its origins in the XII C. we know began as something employed by those who engaged in battle as a means of identification. It entered the Church primarily via its use on armorial seals employed by the clergy in their capacity as magistrates. We shall not go into a lengthy explanation of either of those origins today as it has been treated extensively elsewhere and in several other talks given in this venue, including more than one by me! Canon Law regulates the use of seals in no less than fifteen separate Canons and, by extrapolation, that provides some regulation of armorial bearings as well. In addition, various Rules, Instructions and Regulations of the Roman Curia, as well as various official Instructions and Letters Motu Priorio of the Supreme Pontiffs have “regulated” heraldry in the Church.

However, two important points remain inescapably true: 1) The Catholic Church does not “grant” arms to the clergy of the Church (and respects the jurisdiction of those heraldic authorities in existence over the clerical as well as the lay people within their jurisdictions) and 2) there is NO heraldic authority (as a body) within the Roman Catholic Church. The various regulations concern themselves primarily with the external ornaments in a heraldic achievement as these indicate rank, office or special privilege. The Church does NOT concern itself with regulating the design on the shield (i.e. the blazon) which explains the appalling state of so much Catholic ecclesiastical heraldry.

For example, there is the decree of Innocent X in 1644 which forbade the use of secular marks of dignity (like crowns) in the arms of cardinals and the further decree of Benedict XV in 1915 extending that prohibition to all bishops (and by interpretation to all prelates…but not to all clergy, interestingly enough); the Motu Proprio of St. Pius X “Inter Multiplices Curas” of 1905 that regulates the insignia of many of the prelates and the confirmation of the validity of that document in 1934 by Pius XI in the Apostolic Constitution “Ad Incrementum Decoris” as well as the Instruction of the Secretariat of State under Bl. Paul VI on the vesture, titles and insignia proper to cardinals, Bishops and Prelates of the Minor Orders issued in 1969 (which discontinued the use of mitre and crozier in the arms of Cardinals and Bishops).

But what of all the so-called “Junior Clergy”, those below the rank of bishop? Some maintain that there is no heraldry proper to them and they couldn’t be more wrong. Let’s briefly examine what has evolved over time to indicate in heraldry the varying ranks of the lower clergy within the Catholic Church.

PRIEST: In his excellent book Heim states plainly, “Those who object to a simple priest using an ecclesiastical hat (on his coat of arms) hold this position arbitrarily, and without the support of any ecclesiastical decision, code or regulation. It must be remembered that all priests belong to the same ecclesiastical order and are thus possessed of equal sacerdotal and other privileges.” (p.125) So, the priest ensigns the shield with a simple black galero that has two tassels pendant from it.

DEANS & MINOR SUPERIORS: These are priests who do not necessarily hold any ecclesiastical rank higher than that of priest but whose functions (office) place them in a special category. They make use of a black galero with four tassels pendant from it. The tassels may be arranged one hanging below the other or they may hang side by side from a median knot. This true for secular offices (like Dean or Rector) and also for offices held by Professed Religious, such as Provincial Superior or Prior.

CANONS: Whether Religious (Canons Regular) or secular Canons attached to a Collegiate or Cathedral church, none of which exist in the USA, they make use of a black galero with six tassels pendant on either side. Some contend that Canons Regular may use a galero of whichever color corresponds to the color of their habit. For example Norbertine Canons wear a habit that is all white so the galero and tassels would all be white. As the heraldic privilege is attached to the rank of Canon and not to a particular Religious Community I don’t agree with such a custom. Nevertheless, it exists as a valid argument.

MAJOR SUPERIORS: Here we mean those clerics who exercise Ordinary Jurisdiction over persons in the internal and external forum, hence, canonically considered prelates. These would include Vicars General, Vicars Episcopal and Abbots. They all make use of a black galero from which hangs twelve black tassels from black cords. The same rule about the color of the habit determining the color of the galero, cords and tassels used for Canons Regular is also frequently applied to Abbots as well but I don’t agree for the same reason as above.

In addition, the Abbot employs the use of a veiled crozier placed vertically behind the shield. The veil or sudarium, dates from a time when abbots did not yet enjoy the privilege of all the pontificals, including pontifical gloves, and the veil served to protect the staff of the crozier from soil and perspiration. It remains now in heraldry only and marks one of the few exceptions to the use of the crozier in the coats of arms of persons.

There is also the office of Ordinary of a specific Ordinariate (such as the newly formed Anglican Ordinariates). Such Ordinaries, although not bishops, enjoy the use of pontifical insignia. Therefore, it was suggested by some, including myself, that they should make use of external ornaments that include the black galero with twelve black tassels and the crozier (to indicate their status as an Ordinary) but without the sudarium to differentiate it from the crozier of an Abbot.

It is worth noting that many who hold these offices, Abbots excepted, often are promoted to a rank of one of the three kinds of Roman Prelates and in such cases would make use of a galero proper to that rank.

MONSIGNORI: These are the clergy who have received Roman Honors from the Pope and, as such, are technically members of the Pontifical Household. There are three levels or ranks and all are addressed as “Reverend Monsignor”.

Prothonotaries Apostolic: They are further divided into Prothonotaries Apostolic “de numero” (participatium) and Prothonotaries Apostolic Supernumerary. The Former make up the College of Notaries of the Church and also serve as Canons of the Papal Basilicas in Rome; the latter are those prelates so honored around the world. They all make use of a purple galero from which twelve amaranth red tassels hang from amaranth red cords.

Prelates of Honor: This middle level makes use of a purple galero with twelve purple tassels hanging from purple cords.

Chaplains to His Holiness: This lowest level make use of a black galero from which hang twelve purple tassels from purple cords.

DEACONS: There is no officially sanctioned external heraldic ornament for Permanent Deacons in the Catholic Church. This is partly so because when heraldry first grew and flourished the office of Permanent Deacon did not exist in the Church. Rather, by that time it had receded to being the final step on the way to priesthood and, as such, only Transitional Deacons existed. It was not considered necessary to devise a heraldic emblem for an office held only temporarily. With the revival of the Permanent Diaconate in 1970 the matter should probably well have been addressed but has not been.

There are some authors who contend that on the authority of the Holy See Deacons are to make use of a crest of a ciborium surrounded by a humeral veil like mantling and include on the shield a chief with a bend to suggest a stole worn diagonally in the manner of Deacons. This is FALSE. Such a contention is made up out of whole cloth entirely and enjoys no sanction from the Church. It is ludicrous to suggest that after replacing the secular crest with the ecclesial galero the Church would then devise a crest specific to a particular rank of clergy, especially when a heraldic crest is specific to an individual. In addition, it makes no sense to think that the Church which, again, does not concern itself with the blazon on the shield, would now mandate a chief to be added to the armorial blazon of the arms of Deacons especially when one considers that married men may be ordained to the Diaconate and this could very well mean that such a chief would then be borne by their children, who may not be Deacons, when they inherit the arms from their father.

In the Church of England (and by extension the whole Anglican Communion) there is a provision for Deacons to ensign the shield with a black galero that has no tassels or cords. This was determined by a 1976 Earl Marshal’s Warrant. There are those who contend that such an ensign should be adopted for use by Deacons in the Roman Catholic Church as well. I have not yet fully made up my mind. I don’t oppose the idea from a heraldic or artistic standpoint. As an external ornament it would not be “inheritable” by a Deacon’s heirs but I would rather the Holy See issue an Instruction to clarify the matter or otherwise it remains simply borrowing from another heraldic tradition.

When asked I recommend that armigerous Deacons do one of the following: a) Make use of the shield and motto alone. There is no hard and fast rule that one MUST employ helm, mantle and crest in a heraldic achievement. Indeed the only thing “necessary” is the shield. b) Make use of a “secular” manner of a coat of arms with helm, mantle and crest, especially if the arms are destined to be inherited. c) Compromise by making use of both an ecclesiastical and a secular version of the coat of arms. d) Employ some kind of heraldic augmentation to the shield which would be removed when the arms are inherited (such as an escutcheon in pretense or a canton) or incorporate a charge into the design of the arms that alludes to Diaconal ministry but would not seem inappropriate or offensive when the arms are used by later generations not unlike charges that allude to the occupation of the original bearer but do not indicate the occupation of subsequent generations who inherit the coat of arms.

Archbishop Zuppi of Bologna


The coat of arms of the new Archbishop of Bologna, the Most Rev. Matteo Zuppi.

The shield depicts the Book of the Gospels, a river and the cross of Constantine. The book is open to John 4:34-35.  Jesus at Jacob’s well with the Samaritan woman said , “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say perhaps four more months and then the harvest? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” The river evokes the Tiber and Rome. The sign of water and the river runs through the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. The Cross with Alpha and Omega is a sign evoking Christ crucified and risen, the beginning and end of all things. This cross is above the triumphal arch of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome where Archbishop Zuppi has lived for most of his priestly ministry.

The scroll below shows the motto chosen by Archbishop Zuppi “Gaudium Domini Fortitudo Vestra.” The joy of the Lord is your strength. (Neh 8:10)

The pallium is both unnecessary and very ill-placed.

External Ornaments in Heraldry

The last post on the arms of the new Territorial Abbot of St. Maurice started an interesting conversation in the comments section. Namely, about the fact that the Abbot’s arms are ensigned with only the crozier that indicates the coat of arms belongs to an abbot. Many dislike it when the arms of a cleric do not employ the use of the distinctive galero, or broad-brimmed hat, which usually replaces both the helm and crest (with their accompanying torse and mantling) found in the heraldic achievements of lay people. This ecclesiastical hat is depicted in varying colors and with varying numbers of tassels to indicate the rank of the armiger. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England have developed elaborate systems for the use of the galero. Many other constituent churches of the Anglican Communion employ the system devised for the Church of England and approved by Earl Marshal’s Warrant in the 1960s.

However, while it is true that the galero certainly makes the coat of arms of a clergyman instantly recognizable as such it is not true that the galero is always and everywhere mandatory for clergy. In fact, there are no external ornaments that are mandatory in heraldry. A coat of arms, simply put, may consist of the shield alone. The motto, which many clerics spend way too much time on devising, is not a necessary component to a coat of arms for example.

In the case of a bishop the one single external ornament that marks the coat of arms as that of a bishop is the episcopal cross placed behind the shield. Full stop. There is no other external ornament necessary and quite a few bishops have chosen to display the episcopal cross (which is not to be confused, as it often is, with the liturgical processional cross) alone in their heraldic achievement. The green galero with twelve tassels is not exclusive to them so it is not the necessary element to indicate the arms of a bishop. Similarly, archbishops use the archiepiscopal cross which has two horizontal bars and is sometimes somewhat misleadingly referred to as the patriarchal cross, in their coats of arms. The green galero with twenty tassels is used almost exclusively by archbishops but it, too, is not a necessary or mandatory external ornament.

When it comes to cardinals the situation changes somewhat in that the red galero with its thirty tassels is, pretty much, the only external ornament that indicates the armiger is a member of the College of Cardinals.

For other clergy, again, the situation remains that the galero is usually employed and certainly makes it clear that the coat of arms belongs to a cleric rather than a laic but the privilege of ensigning the shield with various ornaments isn’t always absolutely necessary. In the case of an abbot it is the (usually veiled) crozier that indicates the arms of an abbot or abbess, the latter being easily distinguished by the lozenge or oval shape of the shield. If a coat of arms is ensigned with a veiled crozier then it is indicating the armiger is a cleric with the rank of abbot whether the black galero with twelve tassels is displayed or not. This is so because the black galero with twelve tassels may also be used by Vicars General; Vicars Episcopal; Non-Episcopal Ordinaries, Moderators of the Curia, Titular Abbots, Prelates of Chivalric Orders as well as Superiors General of Religious Orders and Clerical Religious Congregations. However, only an abbot may also employ a veiled crozier*. Thus it is the crozier that indicates the coat of arms belongs to an abbot, not the galero.

Similarly, the green galero with twelve tassels may be used by Territorial Abbots, Permanent Apostolic Administrators and Vicars or Prefects Apostolic who lack the episcopal character. However, only a bishop or archbishop may also ensign the shield with the episcopal or archiepiscopal cross.

It is worth mentioning that in some places bishops and abbots still use the mitre as well as the cross or crozier in ensigning their shields rather than the galero despite the preference as indicated by Papal Instruction for the use of the galero.

As I said jokingly to one of my sympathetic correspondents, “You don’t have to have all the doo-dads on your coat of arms when, frequently, there is only a single ornament that is the true indication of rank”.

*NOTE: Recently, the Church has established Ordinariates for former Anglicans who wish to come into the Roman Catholic Church. These are headed by Ordinaries who, while exercising Ordinary jurisdiction over the churches under their charge, do not possess the episcopal office. In some cases they were formerly bishops in some branch of the Anglican Communion. Of the three existing today they, too, ensign their shields with the proper galero of rank (usually that of a Prothonotary Apostolic, the highest rank of “monsignor” which is a purple hat with twelve red tassels) as well as a purposely UN-veiled crozier to distinguish it from the crozier of an abbot. This is because they exercise Ordinary jurisdiction of which the crozier is a symbol and they are entitled to use the pontificals liturgically so they actually carry a crozier at Mass but the veil on the crozier is particular to monastics which these Ordinaries are not.

Another Example of What NOT To Do


Above is the coat of arms of Jan Piotrowski who will be installed on November 29 as the Bishop of Kielce, Poland. The bishop’s arms contain perfectly good charges and are arranged nicely with good composition with one exception. The episcopal cross (often mistakenly thought of as a processional cross) which is the one external ornament that indicates the arms belong to a bishop, since other prelates may use the green galero with 12 tassels, is depicted as passing in front of the shield and piercing it with the bottom of the cross protruding from behind the shield. It is as if the cross is depicted as both a charge on the field and an external ornament at the same time. This is most incorrect. Charges must never extend beyond the edges of the shield; external ornaments should not be placed in a position to obscure any of the shield; objects cannot be depicted as piercing the shield; external ornaments are to be just that: external to the shield. I’m sure the person who designed this and/or depicted it thought he was being very clever and innovative. Instead, it’s just wrong. EPIC FAIL.

A Possibility if Scotland Votes For Independence (UPDATED)

Just today the news has been spreading that, for the first time, the polls are showing that those who seem to favor voting for Scottish independence are in the majority, albeit an ever so slight one (within the margin of error, in fact). The vote is less than two weeks away and what once seemed like a proposition that was surely not going to pass now looks like it may have a fighting chance. It will be interesting to see the result of the vote. Polls can be deceiving and in the time remaining it may swing the other way agin. I’m not interested in discussing the politics involved. However, there is a possibility, and it is just that: merely a possibility, that there could be some heraldic ramifications for the Queen if Scotland becomes independent.

At present, the plan is that even if Scotland votes for independence it would remain a constitutional monarchy. Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, has indicated that there is no plan to declare a republic, at least not immediately. Rather, Her Majesty would still be Queen of Scotland and act as the Scottish Head of State in an independent Scotland. However, such a scenario could remove Scotland from the United Kingdom. So, as the Queen is in some sixteen countries already she would be the sovereign of Scotland and she would continue to be the sovereign of the U.K. with the difference that the U.K. would no longer include Scotland. This would not be unique. The Queen is Queen of Canada, Queen of Australia and Queen of New Zealand, for example. None of those countries is in the U.K but she is, nonetheless, sovereign of those nations.

With an independent Scotland the United Kingdom would consist of England (including Wales) and Northern Ireland. Currently the U.K is described as a united kingdom of “Great Britain and Northern Ireland” meaning all of the territory on the island of Britain as well as the northern part of the the separate island where Ireland is located. (NOTE: the Channel Islands are possessions of the Queen but not part of the U.K.) I suppose it could be argued that if she remains the Queen of Scotland then she could still be said to be Queen of Great Britain. However, the point of this referendum is that now Great Britain and N. Ireland is all one country and the Scottish people will be voting on whether or not they want Scotland to be a separate country. This would make it a separate country with its own monarch who happens to be the same person as the monarch of the U.K. as is the case with Canada, Australia, etc. While those working for an independent Scotland have assured the voters that there is no plan at present to dump the monarchy that does not mean it might not be considered at some future time, such as after the passing of the present Queen. In fairness, it should be pointed out that it would also be possible to have a politically independent Scotland while maintaining a monarchial union, that is to say, that Scotland would continue to be part of a United Kingdom with its own separate government.

So, all of this could, I say could, potentially have heraldic ramifications. The current coat of arms used by HM reflects, in its quarterings, the various lands that make up the United Kingdom: England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Wales does not have a separate quartering because it is considered to be part of England, although, in fairness, perhaps not by all the Welsh! Many are probably familiar with the fact that the Queen uses a slightly different coat of arms when in Scotland. In that version the Scottish quarter receives pride of place, as does the Scottish supporter (the unicorn), the crest is different and the collar encircling the shield is that of the Order of the Thistle instead of the Garter. Nevertheless, this is a different version of the arms of the United Kingdom. The quarters for England and N. Ireland are still included. However, the Queen also has a separate coat of arms in right of Canada and also makes use of badges and other heraldic insignia in her other realms.

This begs the question of what may, again I say may, happen to the royal arms if Scotland becomes an independent country and is no longer part of the United Kingdom. Officials at Buckingham Palace have indicated that the Queen may find it better to appoint a Governor-General to represent her in Scotland as there is in places like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In such a case then perhaps HM will make use of the Scottish royal arms all alone as would be her lawful right as sovereign of an independent Scotland?


In addition, modifications would need to be made to the royal arms as used in the U.K. This would mark the first major change in the royal arms since the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 at which time the inescutcheon of Hanover was removed from the royal arms because the Salic Law prevented a woman from succeeding to the throne of Hanover. It would also mark the first time there was a significant change in the four quarterings of the arms since 1801 when the quarter for France was removed from the arms of George III. The quarter for Scotland would be removed from the royal arms as it would no longer be part of the U.K. and, very likely the thistle would be removed from the compartment at the base of the achievement. It might also be possible that the unicorn supporter might be replaced. So instead of the current royal arms (below left) we could conceivably end up with something more like (below right)

sc00109f8e      Image

Again, it is worth noting that in this hastily prepared image I did not take the time to remove the thistle from the compartment or to replace the unicorn supporter. While the former would almost certainly be done it is really uncertain that the supporter would be changed so that there would be two lion supporters. The last time one of the supporters in the royal arms was changed was 1603 when James I succeeded Elizabeth I and replaced the dragon with a unicorn. It could be argued that leaving the unicorn supporter in the royal arms even if Scotland becomes independent is acceptable. It would also not be unthinkable simply to have two lion supporters as in the image below (left). Personally, I’d like to see the reintroduction of the Welsh dragon supporter especially as Wales doesn’t get a quarter of its own on the shield. (Image below right). But, I am getting waaaaaaay ahead of things. All of this would have to be discussed and worked out properly in consultation with the Earl Marshal and HM College of Arms in London as well as the Court of Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. It seems, however, that there would be little reason to include a quarter for Scotland in royal arms of the sovereign of the U.K. if Scotland is no longer in that same U.K. Otherwise, quarterings for all of HM realms and territories would already be included in the royal arms and, of course, such is not the case.

Image 4     Image 6

Indeed, it will be interesting and, by all recent accounts, now much more exciting to see the outcome of the September 18 referendum. Most people will, rightly, be concerned with the political, the economic, and the social aspects of an independent Scotland. It will also be interesting to see if and how the admittedly minor heraldic aspect of it all is resolved as well.

New Primate of Poland

The new Archbishop of Gniezno, Poland, the Most Rev. Wojciech Polak, will be installed on June 7. In 1948 it was decided that the Archbishops of Warsaw would also be the Archbishops of Gniezno and, thus, Primates of Poland. These two offices were joined “in persona episcopi”. However, later in March of 1992 it was decided once again to separate the two archdioceses with each having its own archbishop. Josef Cardinal Glemp who was Archbishop of Gniezno and warsaw at the time was permitted to retain the title of Primate of Poland until he stepped down in 2009. From 2009 onwards the title Primate of Poland once again rests solely with the Archbishop of Gniezno and not with the Archbishop of Warsaw.

The arms of Archbishop Polak (below) show a simple design. However, the galero is shown with 30 green tassels instead of 20 and those tassels also appear ro have a skein of gold interwoven in them. Such a hat is used in Roman Catholic heraldry by Patriarchs, not Primates. Frequently, it is erroneously asserted that Primates are entitled to the same external ornaments as Patriarchs. This is false and untrue! So, this new Archbishop-Primate begins his tenure by claiming additaments on his coat of arms to which he has no credible claim.

Heraldry: FAIL



A Chaplain to His Holiness

Back in 2012 a priest who, like me, grew up on Long Island and who, unlike me served as a priest of the diocese of Rockville Centre and also went on to serve the U.S. Air Force as a chaplain rising to the rank of Colonel, was honored by the then Pope, Benedict XVI, with the rank of Chaplain to His Holiness. This is the lowest of the three grades of prelates in the papal household who are collectively addressed as “Monsignor” (Italian for “My Lord”). Fr. Mark Rowan contacted me and asked if I could assist him with the design of a coat of arms. I jumped at the chance to help out a fellow Long Islander as well as a chance to assist someone who was serving not only the Lord but our country. Below is the end result:


The main background of the field is a shade of blue called, in heraldry, Bleu Celeste. It is borrowed from the coat of arms of the U.S. Air Force. Obviously, it alludes to the blue of the sky. On this is the single charge of the open globe combined with a Latin cross (one where the lower arm is longer than the other three) in silver. This charge is taken from the arms of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Superimposed over this is a small black roundel, called a “pellet”. This, in turn, has three small silver hills. It is borrowed from the coat of arms of the diocese of Rockville Centre, NY. The three small hills are, in turn, taken from the arms of Pope Pius XII who founded the diocese of Rockville Centre in 1957. That diocese is composed of territory taken from the diocese of Brooklyn so the black tincture represents the marshes, which recalled to the Dutch their homeland in Breuckelen on the Vecht in the Province of Utrecht. The Dutch who settled Brooklyn at first called it “Breuck-Landt,” meaning “broken land,” or “marshland,” inasmuch as a great deal of land was broken up by patches of water.

The upper third of the shield (called the “chief”) is separated from the rest of the background by a line whose shape is referred to as “nebuly”. This type of line in heraldry is used to suggest clouds. This same dividing line is also used in the coat of arms of the U.S. Air Force. Here, along with the bleu celeste, it alludes to Msgr. Rowan’s service as a Chaplain. The bumps or nebuli are six in number. This is a reference to the fact that Msgr. Rowan has served or provided support on six different continents in the course of his service as a Chaplain and has also administered six of the seven sacraments. (The seventh sacrament, holy orders, is reserved to bishops). On the gold (or yellow) colored chief stands a red winged lion that is the symbol of his patron saint, St. Mark, the Evangelist. The lion holds, in his right front paw a green trefoil, more commonly known as a shamrock, which is the symbol of Msgr. Rowan’s Irish ancestry.

The galero, or ecclesiastical hat, is used in Church heraldry in place of the more martial helmet, mantling and crest. Originally a pilgrim’s hat it was worn and used in heraldry by Cardinals. Later, it was adopted by the lesser prelates. Eventually a system of both colors and number of tassels was devised to indicate the various ranks within the hierarchy. Msgr. Rowan’s arms use a black galero like any priest but the cords and tassels are purple indicating he is a member of the papal household. This galero indicates the bearer is a Chaplain to His Holiness according to the Motu Proprio, “Inter Multiplices” of Pope St. Pius X in 1905.

On a scroll below the shield Msgr. Rowan has chosen the motto, “Christ Be Beside Me” which is taken from the prayer known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”. After I completed this design and Msgr. Rowan approved the artwork was quickly and expertly executed by Mr. Sandy Turnbull of Australia. Mr. Turnbull is a member of the Australian Heraldry Society.

Archdiocese of Westminster


The archdiocese of Westminster (UK) recently launched the use of a new rendering of the archdiocesan coat of arms. Previously, they had used the arms of the See (Gules a pall Proper) under the galero of an archbishop with the patriarchal (double-barred) cross. This was technically incorrect as the cross and galero imply the arms of an individual archbishop rather than a corporate body like a diocese. So, that has now been rectified with the use of this new rendering that more correctly indicates this is the coat of arms of the archdiocese, rather than of the Cardinal-Archbishop.

As for the artwork: isn’t it hideous?

Bishop Burnette of Passaic


The arms of the Most Rev. Kurt Burnette, Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Eparch of the Eparchy of Passaic which has parishes on the eastern seaboard of the USA from Connecticut to Florida. He was ordained and enthroned several months ago. Recently, Byzantine bishops in the USA have taken to using emblems composed of icons with the external ornaments of a coat of arms in a kind of hybrid. Bishop Kurt has chosen a genuine coat of arms. The motto is from Psalm 150 and says, “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet”. It alludes to the main charge of a hunting horn fashioned after the horn of Leys given to Alexander Burnett by Robert the Bruce in 1363. The Burnette family traces its origins back to the 11th Century. One of the bishop’s ancestors emigrated from Scotland to the American colony of New jersey in 1700. The cross of St. Andrew is a further allusion to Scotland as well as to the first called Apostle so revered in the Eastern Churches.

Parish of St. Catherine Labouré in Harrisburg, PA


The arms naturally incorporate images found on the Miraculous Medal, which had been first entrusted to Catherine Labouré by the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The shield incorporates four images found on the Medal, the Marian monogram, the stars from Sacred Scripture (as ascribed to Mary in the Apocalypse: 12-13), and the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary side by side.  The shield is worked in blue and in gold.  On this gold field is found the Marian cipher, a letter “M” surmounted by a Christian Cross, an image presented to Saint Catherine by the Virgin Mary herself.  It is blue, as it represents the Blessed Mother specifically.

The blue field above represents the Blessed Virgin, of course, but more so in Her title of Our Lady of Grace.  Upon this field appear the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, linked theologically as Mary always stood beside her Son.  These two images associated with the Miraculous Medal are surrounded by the twelve stars that surround Mary’s head as a halo in many Marian images, most definitely those associated with Her as Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal as seen on the reverse side of the medal itself.  Both hearts suffer and bleed for the world.

Saint Catherine supports the shield in her historic and colorful habit of a Daughter of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul as it was worn at the time of her life on earth.  Saint Catherine stands on a compartment upon a green river bank above the blue waters of the Susquehanna River that runs through the state capital city to which the parish is near.  The shield rests upon a stone, specifically a keystone, the emblem of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Next to the keystone is found a floral spray composed of shamrocks honoring the patron saint of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Saint Patrick of Ireland; and mountain laurel, the official flower of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Design: J. Noonan  Art: L. Nicholson

Heraldic Vestments

Usually, I am not a big fan of heraldry being used as a decorative motif on vestments and pontificalia. Every now and again, however, it can work. The example below shows the Most Rev. John J. Myers, Metropolitan Archbishop of Newark, NJ. The chasuble he wears is decorated with a shield (partially obscured by his pallium) bearing his personal coat of arms as is the base of the mitre he is wearing. I think this is a good example of how heraldry can be used to decorate vestments in a way that is neither overpowering nor inappropriate.


New Archbishop of Salzburg


The new archbishop of Salzburg, Austria, Dr. Franz Lackner, OFM will be installed on January 12. His coat of arms employs the traditional red galero used by ancient custom by the archbishops of Salzburg (who hold the title “Primate of Germany”) because of their role as Papal Legate. This red galero with 20 tassels is used even if the archbishop is not a Cardinal. If he is promoted to Cardinal then another row of tassels is added to the galero. Similarly, the archbishops of Salzburg wear red, not purple, even if they are not Cardinals.

The arms also illustrate that the method of marshaling coats of arms preferred in many places, impalement, is far from the only option. The ancient arms of the See of Salzburg make up the upper third of the shield. The center section of blue with the gold grapevine is primarily emblematic of those referred to in Jn 15:1-5 the Lord’s vineyard and the strong connection between Christ and the believer (“I am the vine; you are the branches.”) . At the same time the vine but is also reference to the origin of Dr. Lackner from the wine area , namely that of Eastern Styria around Kapfenstein and St. Anna am Aigen. The golden heraldic lily is the actual symbol for Mary. The threefold division of the fleur-de-lis symbolizes the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The green base shows the “Franciscan Conformities” or the coat of arms of the Franciscan Order (without the clouds).

Bishop Cozzens

In an earlier post I noted how Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Andrew Cozzens, had his coat of arms carved into the crook of his crozier. Here now we see the coat of arms in its full achievement.

Hmmm. Less than wonderful.

The shield is divided by a saltire which is traditionally the X-shaped “St. Andrew Cross”. The three hearts represent the Sacred Heart of Jesus (center) the Immaculate Heart of Mary (to dexter) and the Heart of St. Joseph (to sinister). I have never heard of the latter being depicted either in heraldry or in any Catholic religious symbolism and art. Perhaps it was made up by the armiger to balance the other two? Either way, three hearts is a bit much and, if they were to be used, in heraldry it would have been better NOT to depict them in the traditional form with flames, roses, thorns, etc. and simply to depict three heart-shaped charges to stand for these three hearts.

The waves in base are from the arms of the See, which the bishop now serves and had served as a priest as well. However, the mountains in chief, to allude to his native Colorado, should be stylized and not depicted in a portrait landscape style. When…When…WHEN are people going to get it through their heads that you cannot simply take any image or picture you want, slap it onto a shield and call it heraldry???

The cord around the perimeter of the shield represents the bond of fraternity that the bishop has with a group of priests who form a priestly fraternity of which he is a member. That’s a perfectly good symbol for such a bond but should have been depicted within the edge of the shield as a bordure. Depicting it as the actual edge of the shield is heraldically unsupportable.

In the description of the achievement the episcopal cross is described as being Celtic. There are two problems there. The first is my often mentioned admonition that individual armigers are not free to determine the shape, style and manner of the depiction of the external ornaments. That creative freedom applies only to that which is on the shield. The second problem in this case is that the cross depicted is not even Celtic!

So, all in all there are nice ideas here and the charges were chosen to represent wonderful priestly and personal virtues but the overall effect is disappointing at best.