Category Archives: Bad Heraldry

Bishop Cheri

Bishop Cheri Coat of Arms

Today Bishop Fernand Cheri, OFM was ordained as the auxiliary bishop of New Orleans, Louisiana. His coat of arms has so many things about it that go against accepted heraldic practices, to say nothing of good taste, that I won’t even begin to comment on it.

Except to say no…just…no.

Bishop Garcia

On March 3, the Most Rev. Daniel Elias Garcia was ordained as Titular Bishop of Capsus and Auxiliary Bishop of Austin, Texas. His adopted coat of arms (below) depicts his devotion to Our Lady (the roses), baptism (the shell), the Colorado River and Christ who is the First and the Last.

Dividing the field into two colors (green and gold) by a blue line isn’t really the best design choice. It would have been better if the whole field were gold. In addition, the description of the arms from the ordination program describes the “processional cross” as being in the form of a Jerusalem cross for apparently no reason. First of all it is not a processional cross. The external ornament in a bishop’s coat of arms more than any other that marks it as the coat of arms of a bishop (even more than a mitre or a galero) is the episcopal cross that stands vertically behind the shield. This type of cross, which resembles a processional cross, used to be carried directly in front of a bishop. Like the galero, also no longer in use, such episcopal crosses are no longer used but are retained as not only one of but actually as THE ensign of the coat of arms of a bishop. The galero is optional; the cross isn’t.

Second, it is not permitted to mandate that an external ornament like the episcopal cross, be depicted in a certain shape or style. The blazon concerns itself only with what is on the shield. That may indeed be mandated to be depicted in a particular way. No other artist is bound to depict the episcopal cross of Bp. Garcia’s arms as a Jerusalem cross. It may be his preference but it is not one to which others must adhere.

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Another Example of What NOT To Do

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Above is the coat of arms of Jan Piotrowski who will be installed on November 29 as the Bishop of Kielce, Poland. The bishop’s arms contain perfectly good charges and are arranged nicely with good composition with one exception. The episcopal cross (often mistakenly thought of as a processional cross) which is the one external ornament that indicates the arms belong to a bishop, since other prelates may use the green galero with 12 tassels, is depicted as passing in front of the shield and piercing it with the bottom of the cross protruding from behind the shield. It is as if the cross is depicted as both a charge on the field and an external ornament at the same time. This is most incorrect. Charges must never extend beyond the edges of the shield; external ornaments should not be placed in a position to obscure any of the shield; objects cannot be depicted as piercing the shield; external ornaments are to be just that: external to the shield. I’m sure the person who designed this and/or depicted it thought he was being very clever and innovative. Instead, it’s just wrong. EPIC FAIL.

Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur

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NO! HORRIBLE!

Cut and paste artwork (much of it STOLEN from someone else!), insipid charges, poor design. An example of the WORST kind of heraldry. It’s really not heraldry at all. Just a bunch of nonsense slapped onto a shield. This kind of heraldic device reveals an arrogance and conceit not befitting a bishop.

New Primate of Poland

The new Archbishop of Gniezno, Poland, the Most Rev. Wojciech Polak, will be installed on June 7. In 1948 it was decided that the Archbishops of Warsaw would also be the Archbishops of Gniezno and, thus, Primates of Poland. These two offices were joined “in persona episcopi”. However, later in March of 1992 it was decided once again to separate the two archdioceses with each having its own archbishop. Josef Cardinal Glemp who was Archbishop of Gniezno and warsaw at the time was permitted to retain the title of Primate of Poland until he stepped down in 2009. From 2009 onwards the title Primate of Poland once again rests solely with the Archbishop of Gniezno and not with the Archbishop of Warsaw.

The arms of Archbishop Polak (below) show a simple design. However, the galero is shown with 30 green tassels instead of 20 and those tassels also appear ro have a skein of gold interwoven in them. Such a hat is used in Roman Catholic heraldry by Patriarchs, not Primates. Frequently, it is erroneously asserted that Primates are entitled to the same external ornaments as Patriarchs. This is false and untrue! So, this new Archbishop-Primate begins his tenure by claiming additaments on his coat of arms to which he has no credible claim.

Heraldry: FAIL

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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.