There is an old custom in the world of heraldry of attributing a coat of arms to fictional characters or to people who were real but who lived long before the dawn of heraldry. Great figures from throughout history have had a coat of arms devised for them and attributed to them. This includes people such as Constantine the Great, King Arthur, the Blessed Virgin Mary and even her divine Son, Jesus Christ. On this Good Friday I wanted to highlight some examples of the arms attributed to Jesus. Most include the instruments of His Passion. In addition, this fascination with attributing arms to Jesus seems to have been at its height in the medieval period but the last example I share today is very recent.
The arms of the Most Rev. Kurt Burnette, Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Eparch of the Eparchy of Passaic which has parishes on the eastern seaboard of the USA from Connecticut to Florida. He was ordained and enthroned several months ago. Recently, Byzantine bishops in the USA have taken to using emblems composed of icons with the external ornaments of a coat of arms in a kind of hybrid. Bishop Kurt has chosen a genuine coat of arms. The motto is from Psalm 150 and says, “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet”. It alludes to the main charge of a hunting horn fashioned after the horn of Leys given to Alexander Burnett by Robert the Bruce in 1363. The Burnette family traces its origins back to the 11th Century. One of the bishop’s ancestors emigrated from Scotland to the American colony of New jersey in 1700. The cross of St. Andrew is a further allusion to Scotland as well as to the first called Apostle so revered in the Eastern Churches.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of one of my intrepid readers we see below the coat of arms of Edward Bernard Scharfenberger who will be ordained and installed today as the 10th Bishop of Albany, NY. The design of his arms is simple and clear and borrows from the arms associated with a family called Scharfenberger (the mountains). The star of David represents his mother, Miriam, who was of Jewish origin. The wavy lines allude to the various rivers associated with the bishop’s life and the golden feather in base is an allusion to both the Holy Spirit and the native Americans of upstate NY. My criticism would have to do mostly with this particular artistic rendering and so, I will refrain from commenting further as that is often simply a matter of taste. The beaver holding a crozier in the arms of the see come from the fact that the original name of Albany was “Beaverwyck” as it was a major outpost on the trade route for traders. It holds a crozier as an indication of Albany as the seat of a bishop. The crescent alludes to the Immaculate Conception, the titular of the cathedral church.
The Most Rev. Donal McKeown will be installed April 6 as the new bishop of Derry, Ireland. His arms (below) are briefly described on the diocesan website: The Bishop’s coat of arms takes some elements from the traditional McKeown family symbols – the salmon, which is an ancient Irish symbol of wisdom, and the red hand. However, the simple penal crosses now flank the One whose hands were pierced for the world’s salvation. The salmon reflects the words of the prophet Isaiah, who said “with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Is 12:3).
The Bishop’s motto “Veritas in Caritate” occurs in the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (4:15).
The arms (above) of António Francisco dos Santos, newly installed bishop of Porto, Portugal. It is a simple and elegant design. Some would be critical of the green collé on a blue field but the so-called “tincture rule” isn’t so much a hard and fast rule as much as it is a custom as frequently honored in the breach than in the observance. Read Bruno Heim’s book, “Or and Argent” if you don’t believe me. My only criticism would be that the episcopal cross behind the shield is depicted as a teeny tiny one. It could be larger. I also find the choice of an oval shield (usually used by women in heraldry) as interesting, but not necessarily wrong as its use is not exclusive to females.