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.
On February 20, 2015 the opening session of the diocesan inquiry into the beatification of the Servant of God, Fra” Andrew Bertie, 78th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta took place. Of course Fra” Andrew, an Englishman, was armigerous.
On October 19 Pope Francis will beatify Giovanni Battista Montini, also known as Pope Paul VI whose pontificate lasted from 1963-1978. He presided over three of the four session of Vatican II and is really the one responsible for most of the reform and simplification of the Church’s liturgy and ceremonial practices.
In his coat of arms the six hillocks in base are a play on his family name, Montini, which means “little mountains”.
The second most important figure in the Opus Dei order, Alvaro Del Portillo, was beatified on September 27 at an open air Mass attended by tens of thousands of Catholics. Del Portillo succeeded Opus founder,St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, as Opus Dei’s leader. The miracle attributed for Del Portillo’s beatification was confirmed last year by Pope Francis.
NOTE: This post was updated when a reader pointed out I had used an image of the incorrect coat of arms.
August 20, 2014 marks the centenary of the death of Pope St. Pius X (Giuseppe Sarto) who was pope from 1903-1914.
His coat of arms (below) depicts a chief with the lion of St. Mark, a symbol used by the Patriarchs of Venice. St. Pius served as Patriarch of Venice prior to becoming pope and retained this chief (added to the arms he assumed previously as Bishop of Mantua) upon his election. This started a trend for other Patriarchs who were later elected pope like St. John XXIII (1958-1963) and Pope John Paul I (August-September, 1978)
August 20th is the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, considered by many to be a driving force behind the Cistercian Order even though he is not its founder. Like many medieval abbots St. Bernard bore a coat of arms illustrated in the lower corner of the image below.