Canting Arms

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There is a tradition in heraldry of so-called “canting arms” or armes parlantes where the design of the coat of arms literally depicts the meaning of the name of the armiger and, so, ‘says” his name. One that I came across recently which illustrates this well is the coat of arms of Cardinal Vegliò who was created cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. The main charge on the shield is a crane standing with one foot off the ground and holding a stone. This is usually referred to as a crane “in its vigilance”. This comes from Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and waken. The cardinal’s name means “watchful”.

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