Monthly Archives: May 2014

Another Coat of Arms of a Priest

Below is the recently designed coat of arms for a priest. The shield is divided per saltire, the upper and lower quarters being red and the other two being green. These colors, along with the silver (white) are the national colors of Italy, the country of the bearer’s ancestry. In the center there is an open royal crown with two arrows, points downward, passing through it crossed in saltire and the crown and arrows are gold (yellow). This is the heraldic device used to symbolize the armiger’s patron saint. The two silver (white) stars on either side evoke the armiger’s last name which, translated into English, means a bringer of light. The stars are the firmaments fixed lights. Above and below the main charge are two hearts. This is an allusion to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts as well as to the fact that the armiger has had a heart transplant and so has also had two hearts. The motto “Lift Up Your Hearts” is taken from the opening dialogue of the Preface of the Mass.

We had been in discussion about a coat of arms for some time but couldn’t seem to settle on a design that satisfied us both or, for that matter, even come up with a good starting point. This design, somewhat oddly, simply came to me in my minds eye all at once one afternoon and was accepted immediately by the armiger.

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New Arms of a Priest

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Here is a coat of arms I just completed for a Roman Catholic priest. He has a devotion to St. Michael the Archangel and wanted to incorporate a charge that suggested St. Michael defeating the Evil One. In addition, he was rather inspired by the personal arms of Archbishop Georg Gänswein, The Prefect of the Pontifical Household, whose arms depict a dragon slain by a spear as an allusion to St. George. In this coat of arms the dragon is once again used this time to allude to Satan and he is depicted pierced by a flaming sword, a heraldic symbol of St. Michael. The three stars represent both Our Lady and the Blessed Trinity. The motto is a translation of the name Michael. The phrase, “Quis Ut Deus” means “Who Is Like God”. The shield is ensigned with the simple black galero of a priest. The similarity to the arms of Abp. Gänswein can be seen but there is enough of a difference in the design to make these arms unique.

St. James Parish, Jamesburg, NJ

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Above is the coat of arms recently designed for St. James Parish in Jamesburg, NJ. I’m not pleased with this design but much of it is the result of what the client requested. The sad reality is that frequently the heraldic designer and/or the heraldic artist must compromise their own tastes and even their knowledge of heraldry in order to accommodate the wishes of the client who has commissioned them. This one has been a little too ambitious in its use of color and has also overcharged the shield a bit. But, the client was happy with the design.

Heraldic Vestments (Part II)

Back in February I posted about a nice set of vestments decorated with coats of arms worn by the Archbishop of Newark. Generally speaking I don’t think this is usually pulled off very well. But, every now and again you come across an example where the use of heraldry as a decoration on vesture actually works rather nicely. I recently came across another example. At the Archabbey of St. Vincent in Latrobe, Pennsylvania there is a very nice set of festive vestments which had been a gift to the Archabbey from the Abbey of Montserrat in Spain. That community had been the beneficiary of some financial aid from the monks at St. Vincent after the Spanish Civil War when they were in great need. In gratitude, the Spanish monks presented the community with some of their handiwork in the form of beautifully embroidered vestments with the coat of arms of St. Vincent on the front of the chasuble. What you can’t see is the beautifully embroidered portrait of St. Benedict that is on the back of the chasuble. Nevertheless, the embroidered coat of arms on the front is very nicely done. Unfortunately, because the Archabbot insists on wearing his pectoral cross on the outside of the chasuble, incorrectly I might add, he obscures part of the shield from view. The chasuble has recently been slightly reconstructed because the base material began to fall apart but the front of the vestment with all the embroidery has remained intact despite being 70+ years old.

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A Chaplain to His Holiness

Back in 2012 a priest who, like me, grew up on Long Island and who, unlike me served as a priest of the diocese of Rockville Centre and also went on to serve the U.S. Air Force as a chaplain rising to the rank of Colonel, was honored by the then Pope, Benedict XVI, with the rank of Chaplain to His Holiness. This is the lowest of the three grades of prelates in the papal household who are collectively addressed as “Monsignor” (Italian for “My Lord”). Fr. Mark Rowan contacted me and asked if I could assist him with the design of a coat of arms. I jumped at the chance to help out a fellow Long Islander as well as a chance to assist someone who was serving not only the Lord but our country. Below is the end result:

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The main background of the field is a shade of blue called, in heraldry, Bleu Celeste. It is borrowed from the coat of arms of the U.S. Air Force. Obviously, it alludes to the blue of the sky. On this is the single charge of the open globe combined with a Latin cross (one where the lower arm is longer than the other three) in silver. This charge is taken from the arms of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Superimposed over this is a small black roundel, called a “pellet”. This, in turn, has three small silver hills. It is borrowed from the coat of arms of the diocese of Rockville Centre, NY. The three small hills are, in turn, taken from the arms of Pope Pius XII who founded the diocese of Rockville Centre in 1957. That diocese is composed of territory taken from the diocese of Brooklyn so the black tincture represents the marshes, which recalled to the Dutch their homeland in Breuckelen on the Vecht in the Province of Utrecht. The Dutch who settled Brooklyn at first called it “Breuck-Landt,” meaning “broken land,” or “marshland,” inasmuch as a great deal of land was broken up by patches of water.

The upper third of the shield (called the “chief”) is separated from the rest of the background by a line whose shape is referred to as “nebuly”. This type of line in heraldry is used to suggest clouds. This same dividing line is also used in the coat of arms of the U.S. Air Force. Here, along with the bleu celeste, it alludes to Msgr. Rowan’s service as a Chaplain. The bumps or nebuli are six in number. This is a reference to the fact that Msgr. Rowan has served or provided support on six different continents in the course of his service as a Chaplain and has also administered six of the seven sacraments. (The seventh sacrament, holy orders, is reserved to bishops). On the gold (or yellow) colored chief stands a red winged lion that is the symbol of his patron saint, St. Mark, the Evangelist. The lion holds, in his right front paw a green trefoil, more commonly known as a shamrock, which is the symbol of Msgr. Rowan’s Irish ancestry.

The galero, or ecclesiastical hat, is used in Church heraldry in place of the more martial helmet, mantling and crest. Originally a pilgrim’s hat it was worn and used in heraldry by Cardinals. Later, it was adopted by the lesser prelates. Eventually a system of both colors and number of tassels was devised to indicate the various ranks within the hierarchy. Msgr. Rowan’s arms use a black galero like any priest but the cords and tassels are purple indicating he is a member of the papal household. This galero indicates the bearer is a Chaplain to His Holiness according to the Motu Proprio, “Inter Multiplices” of Pope St. Pius X in 1905.

On a scroll below the shield Msgr. Rowan has chosen the motto, “Christ Be Beside Me” which is taken from the prayer known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”. After I completed this design and Msgr. Rowan approved the artwork was quickly and expertly executed by Mr. Sandy Turnbull of Australia. Mr. Turnbull is a member of the Australian Heraldry Society.

Some Australian Bishops’ Arms

In recent years I have often had the great good fortune to collaborate on the design or re-design of coats of arms for various prelates and corporate bodies within the Catholic Church in Australia. My acquaintance and growing friendship with Mr. Richard d’Apice, President of the Australian Heraldry Society as well as a member of the Collegium Ecclesiastica Exarandorum, led to his occasionally consulting with me on designs upon which he was working. These days he acts as the agent with the bishop in question and we consult back and forth via email on the design itself. This happy collaboration is then added to even further by the artistic abilities of Mr. Sandy Turnbull who is also a member of the Australian Heraldry Society. With ease and great efficiency Mr. Turnbull is able to take our ideas and sketches and turn them into first rate heraldic depictions. To date we have worked together on approximately 28 commissions. Here are some examples of our most recent collaborations:

The coat of arms of the Most Rev. Michael F. McCarthy of Rockhampton who will be ordained and installed on May 29th.

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The coat of arms of the Most Rev. Columba Macbeth-Green, OSPPE of Wilcannia-Forbes who will be ordained and installed on July 3rd.

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Archdiocese of Westminster

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The archdiocese of Westminster (UK) recently launched the use of a new rendering of the archdiocesan coat of arms. Previously, they had used the arms of the See (Gules a pall Proper) under the galero of an archbishop with the patriarchal (double-barred) cross. This was technically incorrect as the cross and galero imply the arms of an individual archbishop rather than a corporate body like a diocese. So, that has now been rectified with the use of this new rendering that more correctly indicates this is the coat of arms of the archdiocese, rather than of the Cardinal-Archbishop.

As for the artwork: isn’t it hideous?