Bishop of the North Pole?
At this festive time of year it is a bit of fun to wonder if there is a bishop in the Church who can claim to have jurisdiction over the North Pole and, thus, be Santa Claus’ pastor. I think such a claim might be made by the Territorial Prelature of Tromsø which is in the northernmost part of Norway. A portion of the territory of the prelature is above the arctic circle.
The Prelature is currently served by Bishop Berislav Grgić who is a native of Croatia. He can make a credible claim to be “Santa’s Bishop”.
Unique Arms for a Unique Office
This is the armorial bearings of Monseigneur Gilles Wach who is the Founder (one of two) and Prior-General of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest. This is a community of Pontifical Right founded specifically to keep alive the traditional liturgy that was in use prior to the reforms of 1963-1970. The habit that the clerics in the community wear is composed of a mozzetta and mantellone over the cassock and surplice. In addition, there are accents on the garb (such as buttons, piping and the pom on the biretta) in a distinctive shade of blue.
The Superiors of the Community wear a mozzetta that is entirely made of this blue color. As the Prior-General–the Major Superior of the Community–Mons. Wach wears an entirely blue cassock and also uses and entirely blue biretta.
The arms above are clear and simple. As the major Superior General of an Institute of Clerics it is perfectly in keeping with the heraldic traditions and customs of the Church for him to employ a galero with 12 tassels pendant from the hat. In addition, there is a long-standing tradition in the Church (one which I have never particularly liked and have said so publicly) that the color of the galero and the tassels is sometimes determined by the color of the garb worn by the armiger. Fore example, Abbots in the Praemonstratensian Order and those in the Cistercian Order often use a galero that is white and had white tassels pendant from it. This is because the habit they wear is white.
I have argued against this because the color of the galero (and the tassels) is not a mirror of what one wears. The galero used by bishops and archbishops is green but they do not wear that color. The color and the number and color of the tassels is supposed to indicate a rank, not membership in a particular order or community. So, I continue to argue that for Abbots the hat should be black and the tassels black regardless of the color of the habit. But, that’s not up to me. I don’t get to make that determination and the custom is a long-standing one that would be difficult to overturn except by Papal Decree (which I would neither hope for or desire).
Consequently, this coat of arms is perfectly in keeping with the accepted heraldic practices of our time. A Superior General is entitled to use 12 tassels and since the use of different colors depending on the habit has become the norm it makes perfect sense to use a galero and tassels in the distinctive blue worn by the Community. I might be inclined to question why the tassels are topped in gold and also why there is a skein of gold intertwined in the cords but, not having any definitive answer at my fingertips, I must admit that this may simply have been artistic license. It is, perhaps, worth noting as well, that different Communities within the Church (i.e. Order of Chivalry, Religious Orders, Institutes and Lay Communities) can and do make determinations for themselves about heraldic emblems used by their members. That, too, is well in keeping with the established customs, traditions and practices in ecclesiastical heraldry.
Another Tassel on the Hat
(artwork by Xavier Garcia)
New Archbishop of Valencia
The Most Reverend Enrique Benavent Vidal (63) will be installed as the 62nd Metropolitan Archbishop of Valencia, Spain on December 10. Originally ordained as a priest of Valencia, the Archbishop-Elect has been serving as the Bishop of Tortosa since 2013. In 2004 he had been appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Valencia. So, it is a nice homecoming as he is promoted to Archbishop.
His armorial bearings were assumed at the time he became a bishop and will now reflect his higher rank:
Governor-General of Canada’s Armorial Bearings
On October 28 the Canadian Heraldic Authority published the coat of arms that has been devised for the current Governor-General of Canada, Mary J. Simon, CC, CMM, COM, OQ, CD, FRCGS. Simon has been serving as Canada’s 30th Governor-General and representative of the King as Head of State since July 26, 2021. She is the first indigenous person to hold the office, being of Inuk origin.
For more information about the devisal of the coat of arms and the symbolism contained therein you can visit the website of the Governor-General’s Office HERE.
Bishop Figueroa Morales
On October 17 the Most Rev. Alberto Figueroa Morales, (61) a former Capuchin who later incardinated as a priest in the Archdiocese of San Juan where he served also as auxiliary bishop was installed as the 5th Bishop of Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
His handsome coat of arms:
(artwork by Matthew Alderman)
The armorial bearings of the Reverend Father James R. Smith of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey were designed by me and recently assumed by the priest.
The shield is divided by a vertical line with the left side colored blue and the right side colored gold (yellow). These colors are borrowed from the armorial bearings of the Diocese of Trenton where he serves as a priest. Upon this is an escallop shell, a symbol of St. James the Greater which is also divided by the same colors alternating in a manner known as “counterchanging”. The counterchanging is evocative of the conversion inherent in metanoia. The shell is charged with a heart that is a symbol of St. Vincent de Paul, the “apostle of charity”. The heart is similarly counterchanged as a further allusion to metanoia.
The upper third of the shield, called a “chief” is separated from the rest by a jagged division line suggesting the teeth of a saw because St. James the Less was martyred by being sawed in half. Then the two sides of the chief are also “counterchanged” from the field below.
On the chief to the right is a silver (white) crescent moon which is a symbol of Our Lady so it alludes to the diocese of Trenton, St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore and the USA of whom Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the patroness. To the left, the violet (depicted in a stylized way) is the State flower of New Jersey. The armiger is a proud New Jerseyan.
The motto, “Go Teach All nations” is taken from the Sacred Scriptures from Matthew 28:19.
The whole achievement, instead of using the secular helm, mantle and crest is ensigned with the traditional galero, an ecclesiastical hat. It is black with one tassel pendant on either side of the shield as befits the priestly dignity.
Charles III Royal Cypher
Buckingham Palace released the royal cypher to be used by King Charles III. It employs the “Tudor” crown rather than the stylized version of the St. Edward’s Crown favored by his late mother, Elizabeth II. Her four predecessors used this Tudor style crown in their cyphers as well as on their coats of arms. This has led to the erroneous belief that there is a “Queen’s crown” and a “King’s crown” used heraldically in British royal heraldry. That is not the case. It is simply a matter of each sovereign’s personal preference.
Death of Elizabeth II; Accession of Charles III
Today, HM Queen Elizabeth II died peacefully at Balmoral. Her eldest son immediately succeeded her becoming King Charles III. His son inherits his titles as heir to the throne and will now be Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge (among several other titles). King Charles will now relinquish the coat of arms he has borne since 1958 and the royal arms which had been used by his late mother since 1952, immediately becomes his coat of arms.
May she Rest in Peace. God Save the King!
Abbot President of the American Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine Monasteries
The Right Reverend Jonathan Licari, OSB who was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Duluth in 1976 and has been a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota since 1982 was elected as the 18th Præses or Abbot-President of the American-Cassinese Congregation on June 23, 2022 during a meeting of the General Chapter of the Congregation taking place at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Kansas. At the time of his election Abbot Jonathan did not yet possess the abbatial dignity. He received the solemn abbatial blessing the same evening as his election from the Most Rev. Elias Lorenzo, OSB who had himself served as the 17th Abbot-President of the Congregation prior to being appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Newark, NJ.
Abbot Jonathan had recently completed a term as Administrator of Mary, Mother of the Church Abbey in Richmond, Virginia and had also just been appointed by his predecessor as Abbot-President, Abbot John Klassen, OSB of St. John’s Abbey as the Administrator of St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, NJ (which also happens to be the monastery to which Bishop Elias belongs as a monk. Are you keeping up?)
Abbot Jonathan decided to assume a coat of arms and I was very pleased and honored to assist him in the design and execution of his armorial bearings.
The blazon is: “Sable, a quill pen, point downward Or between two arrows, points downward Argent; a chief wavy, fusily in bend Azure and Argent. Shield ensigned with an abbot’s crozier Or behind the shield with the sudarium attached and an abbot’s galero Sable cords and twelve tassels disposed in three rows of one, two and three all Sable. On a scroll below the shield the motto: “Servire”.”
The field is colored black to allude to the black Benedictine habit. In addition, the area of Minnesota where he was born and raised is known as an area for mining iron ore. The black also alludes to the iron. The gold (yellow) pen in the center is a symbol of administration which is the kind of work the Abbot has been assigned to do during most of his monastic life. The two arrows are a symbol of the Biblical figure, Jonathan, his monastic patron. They allude to the story of Jonathan shooting arrows as a signal to David about whether or not he was safe in the First Book of Samuel, chapter 20.
The shield is divided by a wavy line of division. This is symbolic, once again, of the part of Minnesota where the Abbot grew up known for its many lakes. The upper third of the shield, called a “chief” depicts the familiar blue and silver (white) pattern of fusils (elongated diamond shapes) placed in a repeating pattern along diagonal lines. This is the background of the coat of arms of the Bavarian Royal House (Wittelsbach) and of the State of Bavaria in Germany today. The motherhouse of the Congregation was founded by Boniface Wimmer who was a monk of St. Michael’s Abbey in Metten and the Ludwigsmissionverein was heavily subsidized by the Bavarian Royal Family. So, the coat of arms of St. Vincent Archabbey uses this background in its own arms. In addition, the coat of arms of the Abbot’s own Community at St. John in Collegeville makes use of this background in two of the four quarters on its coat of arms. In fact, of the 18 existing independent houses of the American Cassinese Congregation there are 8 which were directly founded from St. Vincent as daughter-houses and 2 which were founded as granddaughter-houses from St. Vincent. Of those houses 5 of them make use of this Bavarian pattern and/or of its color scheme as an allusion to the Bavarian origins of the Congregation. So, the chief is used to symbolize St. Vincent and Bavaria as the origins of the American-Cassinese Congregation as well as St. John’s Abbey, the Abbot’s own community of origin. It is also an allusion to St. Mary’s Abbey where the Abbot is serving as Administrator for several years.
The motto below the shield is the single Latin word, “Servire” which means to serve.
The shield is also ensigned with those external ornaments that indicate the bearer is an abbot. The gold (yellow) crozier, no longer used in the coats of arms of bishops but retained in the arms of abbots is placed vertically behind and extending above and below the shield. Attached to the crozier is a veil or sudarium. Widely used in the Middle Ages it is rarely seen in actual use today. It dates from a time when abbots were already making use of the crozier as a sign of their authority but had not been granted the privilege of full pontificals which, prior to the reforms of the 1970s, would have included liturgical gloves. The purpose of the sudarium was originally practical; it shielded the metal of the crozier from dirt and perspiration from the hands. Later, it became merely symbolic and has been retained in heraldry to distinguish the crozier of an abbot.
Above the shield is the ecclesiastical hat, called a galero which, in heraldry, replaces the martial helmet, mantling and crest. The galero is black with black cords pendant from it and twelve black tassels arranged in a pyramid shape on either side of the shield. This is the hat assigned to a prelate with the rank of abbot according to the Instruction of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, “Ut Sive” of 31 March, 1969 (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 61 (1969) 334-40).
Beatification of Pope John Paul I
On Sunday, September 4 Pope Francis will beatify his esteemed predecessor, Pope John Paul I (Albino Luciani) who was pope from August to September, 1978 for just 33 days, one of the shortest pontificates in history.
The “Smiling Pope” as he was called chose a unique papal name using the names of his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI. He created a new double name, John Paul, which went on to be adopted by the man who succeeded him, St. John Paul II.
Bruno Heim designed a wonderful coat of arms for John Paul I that employed elements from the arms of John XXIII (the chief of Venice) and those of Paul VI (the mountains in base). The three stars (changed form 4-pointed to 5-pointed stars) were used in the coat of arms Luciani had assumed as a bishop. It is, in my opinion, one of Heim’s better designs.
Two Recent Installations
The Most Rev. Robert Barron (62), a priest of Chicago and, since 2015, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles was installed as the 9th Bishop of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota on July 29. His arms impaled with those of the diocese:
On July 22, the Most Rev. Erik Pohlmeier (51), a priest of Little Rock, Arkansas was ordained a bishop and installed as the 12th Bishop of Florida’s venerable Diocese of St. Augustine. The arms he has assumed impaled with the diocesan arms:
Both bishops are fortunate to have diocesan coats of arms that are clear and simple and don’t clutter up the shield by impalement. (That’s a rarity in the US!) and they both have clear and uncomplicated personal coats of arms.
Full Disclosure: while I did not do the design or the artwork for Bishop Pohlmeier, because of this blog, he did consult with me in order to ask numerous questions and seek my advice on what he was hoping to use in his personal coat of arms.
The coat of arms of Bishop Barron was designed by James Noonan and emblazoned by his long-time collaborator, Linda Nicholson. The arms of Bishop Pohlmeier were designed by Renato Poletti.
Rembert Weakland, OSB 1927-2022
On August 22 the Most Rev. Rembert (George) Weakland, OSB (95) passed away in Milwaukee. He had been a monk and Archabbot at St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania serving as Coadjutor Archabbot cum plena jure from 1963-1967, Abbot-Primate of the Benedictine Confederation, 1967-1977 and Archbishop of Milwaukee from 1977 until 2002. His final years were marred by scandals and revelations of misconduct.
His armorial bearings were the same as an Archabbot and Abbot-Primate as well as during his tenure as Archbishop. A very simple design using a red field and stylized tongues of fire represents the Descent of the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Woost of Cleveland
On August 4 the Most Rev. Michael G. Woost (63) was ordained as the Titular Bishop of Sertei and Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, OH where the had previously served as a priest.
His arms are blazoned: “Argent, a cross emerging from a pile embowed reversed Or, charged in base with a closed book Gules, in dexter chief a gutté d’eau surmounted in bend sinister by a gutté de sang, and in sinister chief a tongue of flame Proper.”
I don’t concern myself with the artwork here. In addition, the charges chosen are all clear and the overall design is simple. I do know that many, myself included, might take issue with the two droplets, one of water and the other of blood, slightly overlapping each other. As a general rule charges should not do that but it is done in a very minor way that I don’t think really detracts from the overall design or the ability to discern what they are. That, after all, is what is most important for a coat of arms.
No, my only issue –and it is admittedly a very minor one– is with the blazon. Now, it must be said at the outset that the art of blazon is not as precise as some might assert. That is to say there is often more than one way to blazon the same coat of arms. There can be slight differences in the way a phrase is turned, etc. While the essence of a coat of arms “lives” in the blazon rather than in the emblazonment that does not mean there can only be one single way to blazon a particular coat of arms.
My issue is with the use of the word “gutté” to refer to a single drop or droplet. Generally speaking a single drop is a “goutte” and the word “gutté” indicates a field or a charge that is covered with numerous drops of whatever liquid is being depicted. So, my minor criticism is that the blazon should read, “…in dexter chief a goutte d’eau surmounted in bend sinister by a goutte de sang…”
Nit picky? Perhaps. But, the blazon should try to be as precise as it can be assuming that someone who is familiar with the language of blazon could depict the coat of arms without ever having seen it just by following the blazon. Since gutté means covered with several drops and these arms contain a single drop each of water and of blood the blazon is confusing.
Abbot Augustine Curley of Newark Abbey
On May 12, 2022 the monks of Newark Abbey in Newark, New Jersey elected the Right Reverend Augustine Curley, OSB as the third Abbot of their community. He is still yet to receive the abbatial blessing. The arms he has assumed are shown above.
The armorial achievement, or coat of arms, of Abbot Augustine is composed of the shield with its various charges, the external ornaments of an abbot and the motto. The shield contains the coat of arms of the abbey impaled (combined side-by-side on the same shield) with the personal arms. Such impalement illustrates that the abbot is, in a sense, “married” to the community and exercises jurisdiction over it during his tenure in office.
In the armorial bearings of Newark Abbey the field is primarily silver (white) with six white and blue wavy lines representing waves below. Out of this sticks a gold (yellow) rocky formation on top of which is the ark, also gold (yellow). This is a representation of the ark and the rock upon which the ark came to rest after the great flood of Noah’s time surrounded by receding waters of the flood. Above the ark is a stylized rainbow in blue and gold (yellow) representing the the new beginning of Newark Abbey after the tumultuous period preceding its re-elevation to Abbatial status.
The chief (upper third) of the shield is a field of the blue and silver (white) elongated diamond-shaped fusils in a diagonal pattern taken from the Bavarian royal arms. Newark Abbey traces its monastic origins back through St. Mary’s Abbey which was a daughter house of St. Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania. St. Vincent was founded by Boniface Wimmer, a monk of St. Michael’s Abbey in Metten, Bavaria.
The personal armorial bearings which Abbot Augustine has assumed recall his Irish heritage, his patron saint and his Benedictine life. The green field with a gold (yellow) harp is a symbol of his Irish ethnic background as well as an allusion to the singing of the psalms, composed by King David, which are traditionally accompanied on the harp. This is the principal work of a Benedictine monk —the ora in “Ora et Labora”— as it were. The upper portion of the shield is divided using a line representing trefoils, more commonly known as shamrocks, a further symbol of Ireland and, in particular, the Irish rebels Abbot Augustine counts among his ancestors. Those facing upward are three in number as an oblique reference to the fact that Abbot Augustine is the third Abbot of Newark Abbey. On the upper portion of the shield is a single red heart. The heart is used as a symbol of St. Augustine, the abbot’s monastic patron saint but also represents the exhortation to “Listen…inclining the ear of one’s heart” that makes up part of the Prologue of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict.
The shield is ensigned with the black pilgrim’s hat, called a galero, used in heraldry for clerics in place of the traditional helmet, mantling and crest. The hat has black cords terminating in twelve black tassels. Behind the shield and extending above and below it is a gold (yellow) abbot’s crozier with the sudarium (veil) attached. This veil was used in former times to protect the shaft of the crozier from dirt and perspiration before the time when abbots would have worn liturgical gloves. While the veil is no longer used it remains as a heraldic emblem to distinguish the crozier of an abbot. These are the ornaments proper to a prelate with the rank of abbot according to the Instruction of the Holy See, “Ut Sive” of March 1969.
On a scroll below the shield we see Abbot Augustine’s chosen motto, “Blessed Be The Name of The Lord” which is from the Book of Job.
I was pleased and privileged to design his personal arms and marshal them to those of the Abbey.
An Unexpected Honor
The Board of Governors of the American Heraldry Society voted unanimously at its July meeting to elect Father Guy Selvester as the first Fellow of the American Heraldry Society!
Father Guy has spent decades as a student and practitioner of heraldry and has become a respected expert in the field of ecclesiastical armory specifically. Many Bishops and Priests around the country bear arms designed by Father Guy and his writings on the subject are held in very high regard.
“The Board hopes this is a welcome recognition of the fine work that Father Guy continues to do promoting and improving heraldry in the United States and around the world! Congratulations!” said David Boven, president and founding member of the American Heraldry Society.
The honor of Fellow is awarded to any member of the Society who has compiled a distinguished record of scholarship and experience marked by significant contributions to the advancement of heraldry or an auxiliary science of heraldry. Since the inception of the award in 2013, no individual has been nominated or elected as Fellow by the Society until now.
On August 27, in Rome, Pope Francis will create twenty-one new Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Among these, the Most Rev. Robert W. McElroy (68) a priest and Auxiliary Bishop in San Francisco who has, since 2015, served as the 6th Bishop of San Diego, California will receive the red hat. He assumed arms when he was made Auxiliary of San Francisco in 2010 and he later modified his coat of arms after he was translated to San Diego. He has decided to make two minor adjustments to his existing coat of arms by changing the episcopal cross which had previously been of a specific shape to a more general form and to change the oak leaf in the base of his shield from green on green to a contrasting color to make it easier to see.
His coat of arms as a Cardinal Priest are:
By heraldic custom observed in North America, the arms of a diocesan bishop are “impaled” side by side on the same shield to the arms of his jurisdiction, in this case, the Diocese of San Diego. This signifies that the diocesan bishop, in this case, the cardinal, is “married” to the See. The same method of impalement is employed in the coat of arms of two married people who are armigerous.
The coat of arms of the See of San Diego is composed of a gold (yellow) field and symbols of San Diego (St. Didacus in Latin), the diocesan patron saint. Diego was born to poor Spanish parents shortly before the year 1400. His love of poverty never left him. As a Franciscan brother he was a selfless servant of the poor and was known to heal the sick with the Sign of the Cross, the central charge of the diocesan coat of arms. The Spanish stew pot in the upper left quadrant indicates Diego’s boundless charity and tireless efforts to feed the hungry. San Diego had a special devotion to the Lord in his Passion, symbolized by the three nails in the other three quadrants. Diego died on Nov. 12, 1463, at the Franciscan monastery in Alcalá, Spain, pressing a crucifix to his heart and repeating the words of the Good Friday chant: “Dulce lignum, dulce ferrum, dulce pondus sustinet” (Precious the wood, precious the nails, precious the weight they bear.)
For his personal arms Cardinal McElroy uses the design he assumed in 2015 upon becoming Bishop of San Diego reflecting his priestly ministry and interests. The arms are composed of two sections of the field. In the upper portion, on a blue background, are stylized depictions of two California Missions. The upper is Mission San Francisco and the lower is Mission San Diego. Prior to becoming Bishop of San Diego the cardinal served as Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco. The lower part of the field shows a green background. On this field we see a silver (white) dove in flight which symbolizes peace; a silver (white) oak leaf used as a symbol of life and the gold (yellow) scales symbolizing justice. These three virtues are important to the life, work and ministry of the cardinal.
For his motto, Cardinal McElroy has selected the phrase “DIGNITATIS HUMANAE” (Of the Dignity of the Human Person) which is also the title of the Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on Religious Freedom”.
The shield is ensigned with a gold (yellow) episcopal cross. Such crosses resemble contemporary processional crosses but they are, in fact, different. In the Middle Ages such a cross, without a corpus, was carried directly in front of all metropolitan archbishops and Papal Legates as a symbol of their authority. Eventually all bishops began using this emblem and adopted it in their coats of arms as well. The episcopal cross ceased to be used in the late XIX Century but the cross behind the shield continues to be used by bishops in ecclesiastical heraldry. The cardinal retains the use of an episcopal cross, with a single horizontal bar, because while the Holy Father has promoted him to the dignity of the Sacred College of Cardinals he retains his office as Bishop of San Diego. In the armorial bearings of a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church the external ornaments around the shield reflect the office exercised by the individual cardinal. Those cardinals who are also archbishops use a cross with two horizontal bars; those who are bishops use one with a single horizontal bar. In the rare case of a cardinal who does not possess the episcopal office no cross at all appears in his coat of arms.
In addition, above the shield is the red ecclesiastical hat called a “galero” with fifteen tassels pendant on either side. This is the singular heraldic emblem that distinguishes the coat of arms of a cardinal. This broad brimmed hat, once worn in cavalcades, is no longer used but remains as a heraldic emblem. The galero was first bestowed on the Cardinals of the Roman Church by Pope Innocent IV at the First Council of Lyon in 1245. It was the first hat to be distinguished by the use of a specific color (scarlet) and it was also to be adorned with tassels. However, originally the number of tassels was not fixed. There are various examples of cardinals’ coats of arms that show as few as two tassels suspended from the galero and as many as seventy-two! What marked these coats of arms as those belonging to cardinals was that the galero, cords and tassels were red and nothing else. No one else could use such a red hat except a cardinal regardless of how many tassels were suspended from it. The number eventually was fixed at thirty (usually depicted as fifteen suspended on either side of the shield in a pyramidal pattern) only in 1832. A system for distinguishing the ranks of other clergy based on the color of the hat, of the cords and the number of the tassels did not come into existence until the Instruction of Pope St. Pius X “Inter Multiplices” in 1905.
These external ornaments are those used for a prelate with the rank of cardinal who is a diocesan bishop while not being a metropolitan archbishop according to the Instruction of the Holy See, “Ut Sive“, of March, 1969.
It was my great pleasure to advise the Cardinal on his armorial achievement and to assist him in preparing this version upon his elevation to the Sacred Purple.