Category Archives: Work of Other Artists

Monk & Priest

Fr. Pachomius Meade, OSB a monk and priest of Conception Abbey in Missouri is an artist by avocation. He is very interested in heraldry as well and has had occasion to design some very nice coats of arms. But, up until now, he had not adopted armorial bearings for himself. With my encouragement he eventually set about doing so and, in my opinion, took the right path which was to take his time and go through many draft ideas. He has finally settled on a design which I also told him was a striking and good one.

The explanation of the charges chosen for this design are in his own words:

The top third of the shield (chief) is made up of two charges (one repeated). It depicts a royal crown between two birds’ claws erased. The talons are designed so as to be obviously those of falcons. Heraldry often places leather straps (jess) and bells on falcon legs. I took the artistic license to show the feathers around the talon in a diagonal conical form, as several species of falcons display around their legs. The talons plus the crown together are a rebus for my religious name Pachomius, which in the Coptic language means “king’s falcon.” These charges on a chief make them, therefore, canting arms, which is to say the arms “speak” the name of the armiger. Additionally, the base of the chief – which is usually a straight line – is enarched, a very simple variation on the line. I liked the idea of an elegant variant such as this.  Other than the stylistic choice, on a personal level I like that it is Romanesque, which is the style of my abbey’s basilica and is a subtle nod to the structure of a church.  

The lower two thirds of the shield depict smaller white shields (escutcheons) on a green field. The repeated charge spread evenly on a field in heraldry is called semy or semé, meaning “seeded.” This is a feature of heraldry that I particularly love and what was lacking in some of my original ideas for a coat of arms. The charge of a white shield without a charge of its own is a traditional symbol for a painter or heraldist. Probably my most obvious talent since I was a child has been art and it seemed like a no-brainer to have this charge. Again, there’s nothing more to it than that, but my own theological reflection on this part of the shield can also be that monastic life is called a white martyrdom – to distinguish from red martyrdom – and the spiritual combat of this charism. My surname is Meade, which is a meadow, and a green field makes sense (although, I believe my last name is really an Anglicized Gaelic word that had a completely unrelated definition).”  

I think he has come up with a clear bold design. The symbolism of the charges makes sense. He kept the overall design somewhat simple. The choice of tinctures is not only good from the point of view of symbolism they are aesthetically pleasing. The priest’s galero above the shield symbolizes his priesthood while the chaplet (rosary) encircling the shield is the accepted heraldic external ornament indicative of the armiger being a Consecrated Religious, in this case, a professed monk.

I say, “Well done!”. Incidentally, the artwork is by Fr. Pachomius as well.

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!

Bishop of the Virgin Islands

On April 17, 2021 the Most Rev. Jerome Feudjio (65) a priest of the Diocese of St. Thomas, American Virgin Islands was ordained a bishop and installed as the sixth Bishop of St. Thomas. The bishop is a native of Cameroon. The armorial bearings he has assumed are:

These are placed here for your information with no further comment. (I’m feeling charitable today)

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.