Epiphany: The Attributed Arms of the Magi

We see here the attributed coats of arms of the Three Magi, or Wise Men who are traditionally named Kaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. Of course, we don’t really know their names and they also existed before heraldry did. In fact, some Biblical scholars question whether or not they even existed at all or are merely symbolic. We also don’t know from the Scriptures that there were three of them, only that they brought three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It is assumed, safely I think, that they each bore one gift so that there must have been three of them.

This version of their arms is nicely rendered by Marco Foppoli.

Bishop dos Santos

The Most Rev. Joel Maria dos Santos (55) a priest of the archdiocese of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, was ordained Titular Bishop of Thenae and Auxiliary Bishop of Belo Horizonte on December 18, 2021.

His coat of arms is rather nice. It’s clear with a simple, if not a bit haphazard arrangement of the charges. The principal symbol represents the Holy Trinity while the star is for Our Lady and the sword and book a reference to St. Paul. The color scheme is good and the tinctures and metals are a good combination while not going nuts with multiple tinctures.

A very nice coat of arms. Bravo!

Archbishop Boland’s Excellent Example

One of the better coats of arms borne by an American prelate in the 20th Century belonged to the Most Rev. Thomas Aloysius Boland, the 6th Bishop and 2nd Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey from 1952-1974. Boland had been a priest of Newark and served as Auxiliary Bishop there from 1940-1947 and then was translated to the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey as its 2nd Bishop from 1947-1952. Archbishop Boland retired from office in 1974 and died in 1979.

His very nice, simple and stylish coat of arms impaled very well with the equally simple and well-designed armorial bearings of the See of Newark. The contrast in tinctures and the composition of the charges made for an excellent overall appearance. Of course, in the time when he became a bishop and assumed these arms it was still the custom to include the mitre and crozier in the achievement of a bishop.

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.

Bishop Meagher

On December 8 the Most Rev. Daniel Joseph Meagher (60), a priest of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia was ordained a bishop with the Titular See of Pocofeltus and assigned to serve as Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney. The arms he assumed, of which I was pleased to act as a consultant on the design, are the following:

Thanksgiving

In the United States the last Thursday in November is always observed as Thanksgiving Day. Ostensibly, it commemorates a 1621 event celebrating a good harvest shared by the new colonists arrived from Plymouth, England( now called “Pilgrims”) who came to these shores seeking religious and economic freedom and the Native American Wampanoags who lived here already. The observance as it exists now in the US and its Territories dates as far back as 1863 but having it fixed on the fourth Thursday in November occurred in 1941 under President Franklin Roosevelt. From 1939 to 1941 it had been fixed on the next to last Thursday in November for business reasons but a joint resolution in Congress changed it to the fourth Thursday in November where it has remained since.

Some armorial devices that are somewhat related to Thanksgiving include:

The first seal of the Plymouth Colony
The armorial bearings of a number of the families who sailed on the Mayflower
The coat of arms of Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony
The coat of arms of Plymouth, England
Armorial bearings of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Colin Powell 1937-2021

US Army General Colin Luther Powell, who served as U.S. Secretary of State from 2001-2005, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989-1993 and as National Security Advisor from 1987-1989 died on October 18, 2021 at age 84 from blood cancer and Parkinson’s Disease both of which had been complicated by Covid-19.

Some people knew, but many didn’t, that Powell had British ancestry and that his father, Luther Powell, had been granted a coat of arms by Her Majesty through Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland. In addition, Lord Lyon granted a unique crest to General Powell. The achievement is:

When Lord Lyon Robin Blair travelled to Washington, DC to deliver the Letters Patent of the grant to General Powell in 2004 he attended a cocktail party the night before in suburban Virginia given by American members of the Heraldry Society of Scotland. I was at that party. Lord Lyon was kind enough to bring the Letters Patent with him to the party for all of us heraldic enthusiasts to see. So, we were all privileged to see the grant even before Colin Powell did!

May he rest in peace.

The version above was rendered by Andrew Stewart Jamieson.

Bishop Guido Marini

On October 17 Pope Francis ordained his long-serving Master of Pontifical Ceremonies, Guido Marini (56) as Bishop of Tortona at a liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica. Bishop Marini, a priest of Genoa who served as Papal MC since 2007, will be installed in his cathedral church on November 7.

The armorial bearings he has assumed were prepared by Marco Foppoli.

Bishop Robert Brennan to Brooklyn

Today, September 29, Pope Francis appointed the Most Rev. Robert Brennan, 59, Bishop of Columbus, OH since 2019 to become the 8th Bishop of Brooklyn in its 168 year history. He succeeds Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, 77, who served there since 2003.

Bishop Brennan is a NY native and was a priest, official and Auxiliary Bishop in the neighboring diocese to Brooklyn, Rockville Centre until he went to Ohio three years ago. He also studied in the Brooklyn Diocese when he attended St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens.

The arms he assumed in 2012 when he became a bishop impale nicely with those of the See of Brooklyn:

Ad Multos Annos!

Bishop Iffert of Covington

On September 30th the Rev. John C. Iffert (53) a priest of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 11th Bishop of Covington, Kentucky.

The armorial bearings that he will be assuming upon entering his episcopal ministry are:

It is customary in North America for a bishop to marshal his personal coat of arms to those of his jurisdiction, in this case the See of Covington. The method most often used is impalement whereby the two separate coats of arms are depicted side by side on the same shield. This method is most often used heraldically to depict the arms of two married people who are armigerous. In employing this method in the coat of arms of a diocesan bishop it illustrated that the bishop is “married” to his diocese. The arms of the See of Covington were commissioned by William T. Mulloy, 6th bishop of Covington, following the 1953 elevation of the cathedral to a minor basilica. The gold (yellow) sword over the red cross on a silver (white) field is the symbol of Saint Paul, the Patron of the Diocese of Covington. On a chief (upper third of the shield) the gold fleur-de-lis and silver crescent are symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the titular patroness of the Cathedral of the Assumption.

The right-hand side of the shield depicts the personal coat of arms now assumed by bishop Iffert. The field (background) is green a color used to symbolize hope in the liturgy and which also hearkens to the bishop’s farming ancestors, the color green being associated with the fertile land. Across the center of this field a wavy barrulet ( a line thinner than a bar or fess) represents the the rivers that flow near Belleville, IL (the Mississippi) and Covington, KY (the Ohio). These river cities are the places where Bishop Iffert has exercised his priestly and now episcopal ministry. In the upper portion there is a gold carpenter’s square and an eight-pointed star. These are symbols of St. Joseph and Our Lady. The star also appears in the coat of arms of Pope Francis so combined here they allude to the idea that Bishop Iffert was appointed by Pope Francis during the Year of St. Joseph. 

The gold garb of wheat in the lower part of the shield has multiple meaning. At harvest time wheat is brought in and gathered in sheaves or garbs. Harvest time is the time of year when we celebrate Thanksgiving and in the year Bishop Iffert was born his birthday happened to be Thanksgiving Day. In addition, the wheat alludes to what is used to confect the Eucharist, a word that means “thanksgiving”. The area of Illinois from which the bishop comes is often called “Little Egypt”. In addition, the garb of wheat is often used in heraldry to represent agriculture in general so it alludes to the bishop’s already mentioned farming ancestors. So, in the single charge of a sheaf of wheat we can allude to the Thanksgiving holiday, the act of giving thanks which is the central action of the Eucharist as the center of our Catholic lives and the matter of the Eucharist itself, the “gift of finest wheat”.

The motto below the shield is, “In All Things Give Thanks”, taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

The shield is also ensigned with those external ornaments that indicate the bearer is a bishop. The gold (yellow) cross is placed vertically behind and extending above and below the shield. This is often erroneously thought to be a processional cross like those used in liturgical processions. However, in former times archbishops had a cross mounted on a staff carried immediately in front of them while in procession or on solemn occasions. This cross was a symbol of their rank as archbishop. Later, archbishops – and eventually all bishops – began to incorporate this symbol of rank into their coats of arms. A processional cross in Catholic usage is a crucifix and has a corpus on it while the episcopal cross very specifically does not. While such an episcopal cross is no longer used practically it has been retained heraldically. In fact, there are other clerics who make use of the ecclesiastical hat with its many tassels but the one true heraldic emblem of a bishop, and the only essential one, is the episcopal cross placed behind the shield.

Above the shield is the ecclesiastical hat, called a galero which, in heraldry, replaces the martial helmet, mantling and crest. “The hat with six pendant tassels (green, purple or black) on each side is universally considered in heraldry as the sign of prelacy. It, therefore, pertains to all who are actually prelates.” (Heim, Bruno B., Heraldry in the Catholic Church 1978, page 114) The galero is green with green cords pendant from it and twelve green tassels arranged in a pyramid shape on either side of the shield. At one time in history bishops and archbishops wore green before adopting the more Roman purple we see today. In heraldry the green hat and tassels was retained for prelates with the rank of bishop according to the Instruction of the Secretariat of State, “Ut Sive” of March, 1969.

It was both my privilege and my pleasure to assist in the design and execution of the bishop’s coat of arms.

Blessed Stefan Wyszynski

On September 12 the Pope will beatify the late Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski (1901-1981) who was the Archbishop of Gniezno, making him also the Primate of Poland and also of Archbishop of Warsaw from 1948-1981. In 1953 he was created a Cardinal and in 1957 made Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere. After his death the two archdioceses have been under the care of separate archbishops.

His somewhat unconventional coat of arms speaks loudly of the love he had for his homeland.

Grosseto

On August 9 the Most Rev. Giovanni Roncari, OFM. Cap. (71) Bishop of Pitigliano-Sovano-Obrbetello Italy was additionally installed as the Bishop of Grosetto, Italy. Henceforth, Grosseto is united to Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello in persona episcopi. His coat of arms, designed by Giuseppe Quattrociocchi is below:

The chief (upper third of the shield) contains the traditional symbol of all the various types of Franciscans, namely the crossed arms of Christ and Francis with a cross. The bridge recalls the place where the bishop hails from (San Piero a Ponti) and the star is for Our Lady. The inclusion of the Florentine fleur-de-lis is to recall the city of Florence where the bishop exercised a great deal of his priestly ministry.

The coat of arms is well done, despite the asymmetry of the star and fleur-de-lis. That bothers some people but can also work very well depending on the overall design and I think it does so here.

My only criticism is the inclusion of the small Tau Cross at the center of the episcopal cross standing behind the shield. As I have frequently written about on this blog I am of the opinion that the external ornaments in a heraldic achievement, which indicate rank, not identity, should not be seen as open to personalization. But, in the grand scheme of things that is a minor criticism at best. I particularly like the shape of the shield chosen as I think it works very well with what is depicted upon it.

A Very Poor Example

At the recent installation of the Most Rev. Siegfried Jwara, CMM as Archbishop of Durban it was possible to see his personal symbol on a banner in the sanctuary. I don’t call it a coat of arms because it is composed entirely of reproductions of paintings: one of the Good Shepherd, one of Dom Francis Pfanner, OCSO, the founder of Marianhill and a portrait of another cleric.

This. Isn’t. Heraldry.

Below is a poor quality image taken from a screenshot of the video of the installation. Apologies for the poor quality. Although, perhaps it’s better not to see it more clearly. I’ll say again that you may not simply put whatever you’d like on a shield and call it a coat of arms.

Asidonia-Jerez

On July 31 Bishop José Rico Pavés, a bishop since 2012, was installed as the Bishop of Asidonia-Jerez (Jerez de la Frontera) Spain. His coat of arms is:

Generally speaking I think this is a nice coat of arms. The charges are clear and easy to discern and would be even if viewing the coat of arms greatly reduced, as on printed matter. The green portions of the lilies and the pomegranate don’t really break the tincture rule of no color on a color despite their being on a blue field because they are secondary additions to the primary charges (the blossoms of the lily and the fruit of the pomegranate themselves). Such little things can easily be tolerated.

The only real criticism I have is the notion of the anchor extending up onto the chief from the field. Charges, especially the principal charges like this one, aren’t supposed to overlap portions of the shield, especially in this instance where the shield is divided by having a chief. The chief itself is an ordinary and, as such, is considered to be placed over the upper portion of the blue field. Even if the anchor is blazoned as “overall” that doesn’t justify having it extend up to overlap the chief. In addition, it does actually violate the tincture rule of no metal on a metal since the whole body of the anchor is silver and it extends to a gold chief. Again, another good reason to have the anchor remain below the chief. Without counterchanging, it doesn’t really work so it comes off as a poor design decision.

I wonder why there is even a chief at all? Having the Sacred Heart on the anchor could have been enough justification to leave it red (on a silver anchor), or it could have been depicted all in gold and then the entire arms could have simply had a blue field.

Nevertheless, despite this one item, the rest of the coat of arms is, in my opinion, very nice.

Olympic Heraldry

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.

Pierre, Baron de Coubertain, the “Father” of the modern Olympics. 2nd IOC President 1896-1925
Henri, Comte de Baillet-Latour 3rd IOC President 1925-1942
Michael Morris, Baron Killanin 6th IOC President 1972-1980
Juan Antonio, Marquess of Samaranch 7th IOC President 1980-2001
Jacques, Count Rogge 8th IOC President 2001-2013