Category Archives: Work of Other Artists

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)

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.

Bishop Byrne of Springfield, MA

On December 14 the Most Rev. William Draper Byrne (56) a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC will be ordained a bishop and installed as the Tenth Bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts. His personal coat of arms impaled with those of the See of Springfield (below) depicts a paschal candle, a symbol of the Light of Christ to the world and also of sacrifice (the candle is consumed as it burns, which also makes a slight pun on the Bishop’s name). The crescent is taken from the arms of the See of Washington, DC and also from those of his seminary, the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

The bishop designed his own arms in consultation with another priest of Washington, DC and had them depicted by an artist who copied the style of the late Anthony W.C. Phelps of Cleveland, Ohio. That style became popular in Washington when it was used by Cardinal Hickey (who had previously been Bishop of Cleveland) and has been copied since by a number of bishops who have come from the Archdiocese of Washington. Mr. Phelps died in 2005.

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

On October 24 it was announced that the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for the last four years, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, the former Custos of the Holy Land had been named by the Pope as the Patriarch of Jerusalem for the Latins. Accordingly, His Beatitude’s armorial bearings were updated to include another row of green tassels for a total of thirty tassels suspended from the galero. This rendering, as also the original rendering, was done by Marco Foppoli.

Bishop Lewandowski, C.Ss.R.

The coat of arms assumed by the Most Rev. Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR who will be ordained the Titular Bishop of Croae and Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore on August 18th:

While many reactions leap to mind such as: incorrect, poorly-designed, clashing styles (the dove’s wing going right up off the shield is particularly ridiculous) among others there is really only one word to describe this:

HIDEOUS!

Found in Translation

The Most Rev. Edward Malesic (59) who, since 2015 has served as the fifth Bishop of Greensburg, Pennsylvania is now to be translated to the See of Cleveland, Ohio becoming its twelfth Bishop. The announcement was made in Rome this morning. Very well liked and respected in Greensburg, Bishop Malesic, originally a priest of Harrisburg, PA, will be greatly missed. He brings to Cleveland his gifts and talents and hopefully he will have a fruitful ministry there. His coat of arms, assumed in 2015, will impale well with those of the Diocese of Cleveland.

Archabbot Martin Bartel, OSB of St. Vincent Archabbey

On June 23 the Rt. Rev. Martin de Porres Bartel, OSB (65) was elected by the monks of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, PA as their 12th Archabbot. On July 10th at Mass he received the abbatial blessing from the Most Rev. Edward Malesic, the Bishop of Greensburg, PA which is the diocese in which the Archabbey, America’s oldest Benedictine Monastery and currently the largest Benedictine Abbey in the world, is located. I studied for my Master of Divinity at St. Vincent Seminary and I used to be a monk in the Community there.

The new Archabbot has assumed a coat of arms:

I’m a bit conflicted in my assessment of this coat of arms. I know the Archabbot and I also know the monk who designed it and executed the artwork. I have a great deal of respect for Archabbot Martin as a priest and a monk and I don’t wish to be too harsh in my critique. I think the best I can say is that it isn’t “horrible”. Another way to say it would be, “It could have been worse” but that is, admittedly, damning with faint praise.

I will not say a word about the artwork because that is not usually the subject of any of my criticism on this blog. Different artist’s draw differently. The style is strongly reminiscent of that of the late Wilfred Bayne, OSB a monk of Portsmouth Abbey in Rhode Island who was an eminent heraldist in his day.

My first, and principal, criticism is that, as has happened in many instances before, the veiled crozier that is the primary heraldic symbol of the coat of arms belonging to an abbot is missing. When St. Paul VI (pope from 1963-1978) decided to remove both the mitre and crozier from the coats of arms of bishops and leave only the episcopal cross in their heraldic achievements many took this to affect the arms of abbots as well. In former times abbatial achievements contained the mitre and the crozier. However, Paul VI’s directive was truly addressing the arms of bishops and cardinals only. The coat of arms of an abbot is still supposed to have a crozier placed behind the shield with a veil (sudarium) attached. It’s origin comes from a time when abbots made use of the crozier (in fact abbots have used the crozier longer than bishops have done) but did not enjoy the privilege of pontifical gloves. The veil served the function of protecting the crozier from dirt and oil that can be present on the hand. It is not usually used practically anymore but it has remained as a heraldic symbol and – I repeat – the heraldic symbol of the coat of arms of an abbot. Other clergy are entitled to the black galero with twelve tassels. Such a galero may be used in the armorial bearings of Vicars General, Vicars Episcopal, Provosts, Major Religious Superiors and, on occasion, some others holding a particular office. Alone, it does not indicate the coat of arms of an abbot.

The arms adopted by the Archabbey in the early 20th Century are very nicely designed and combine well when impaled with the personal arms of the Archabbot.

As for Archabbot Martin’s personal arms: the cross quartered Sable and Argent is a reference to both the Dominican Sisters who educated him as a boy and the order to which his patron, St. Martin de Porres, belonged. Over these is a basket containing bread and a broom. These are, apparently, symbols associated with St. Martin de Porres and the bread is also an allusion to the Holy Eucharist.

There is no problem with the black in the cross up against the red of the field. The so-called “rule” of tincture (i.e. that a color should not be placed on a color nor a metal on a metal) does not come into play with complex fields or charges. Because the cross is both black (Sable) and white (Argent) it may be placed on a field of a single tincture. (For example: the complex field Azure & Argent of the arms of the Archabbey may have an entirely Sable inverted chevron on it without violating this “rule” because of the complex appearance of the field). However, I think it would have looked better if a lighter shade of red had been used giving the arms a brighter appearance.

I find that the basket of bread is ill-placed as is the broom. In addition, there seems to be no good justification for the basket to be blue. Introducing multiple tinctures into a coat of arms without good reason is unsupportable, heraldically. The broom I suppose to be considered gold (Or). I have not seen an actual blazon of these arms, if one exists. If it is not intended to be gold but brown, of any shade, then it should be noted that brown is not used in heraldry. If it were blazoned as “Proper“, a term which means a particular charge is shown as it appears in nature, I don’t see this as being justifiable either since there is no naturally occurring broom and, therefore, no color which would be considered its “proper” color. Some more attention should have been paid to both the placement and the tinctures of the basket and broom.

So, I return to where I started. This design isn’t “bad” per se. But, having said that, it could have been considerably better. With some further consultation on the design the armiger might have been better served. Of the twelve Archabbots of St. Vincent nine of them have borne unique coats of arms. (The first four used the same coat of arms). Of those nine coats of arms, with 1 being the best and 9 being the worst, I would say that Archabbot Martin’s ranks 8th. The final word I can say is that I have seen abbatial coats of arms that are absolutely horrible and ugly. This is most definitely NOT one of those. But, it is merely…OK.