There were three popes in the 20th C. who had served as Patriarch of Venice prior to their election to the papacy. (and two were also later canonized!) They each decided to retain a chief “of Venice” (with the winged lion of St. Mark, a symbol of Venice) in their papal coats of arms. The three were St. Pius X, St. John XXIII and Pope John Paul I.
August 20, 2014 marks the centenary of the death of Pope St. Pius X (Giuseppe Sarto) who was pope from 1903-1914.
His coat of arms (below) depicts a chief with the lion of St. Mark, a symbol used by the Patriarchs of Venice. St. Pius served as Patriarch of Venice prior to becoming pope and retained this chief (added to the arms he assumed previously as Bishop of Mantua) upon his election. This started a trend for other Patriarchs who were later elected pope like St. John XXIII (1958-1963) and Pope John Paul I (August-September, 1978)
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.
Last May while I was vacationing in France I posted about saints who had been armigerous (i.e. who bore a coat of arms). On Sunday, April 27 there will be two more added to that number when Pope Francis canonizes his predecessors in the Chair of St. Peter, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.
The coat of arms of Pope John XXIII (above) was identical to the one he used as Patriarch of Venice with the addition of the external ornaments of a pope. The arms are: “Gules a fess Argent; in chief two fleur-de-lis Argent and overall a tower embattled Argent; on a chief Argent the lion of St. Mark Or”. The lower portion consists of the coat of arms that was adopted by Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli when he was named a bishop. Later, when he was promoted to Patriarch of Venice he added the chief (upper third of the shield) with the golden lion of St. Mark, the patron saint of the Venetian church, as is customary for all Patriarchs of Venice. This is one of the few examples in Italian Church heraldry where arms of the See are used. When he was stationed as Papal Nuncio to Paris, Roncalli had a young Bruno Heim serving as his secretary at the Paris Nunciature. The two shared an abiding interest in heraldry. At the time of his election to the papacy John XXIII was not in immediate touch with Heim who was serving elsewhere. John, himself an amateur heraldist approved his arms as they were with the Venetian lion included to be used as his papal coat of arms. A short time later he did employ his former secretary, Heim, to produce the artwork for the official version of the coat of arms. Heim tried to talk him out of retaining the chief of Venice in his papal arms but it was too late. So, it remained.
The coat of arms of Pope John Paul II (above) are also connected to the late Archbishop Heim. The arms are: “Azure a Latin cross skewed to dexter throughout Or; in sinister base the letter “M” Or”. These arms are also the ones adopted by Karol Wojtyła at the time he was made a bishop. However, in the earlier version the cross and “M” were black. On his election to the papacy Heim tried in vain to persuade the new pope to drop the letter “M” and replace it with another Marian symbol. The use of letters in heraldry is considered poor design. The new pope was adamant that his arms had to remain the same as those he had borne under a repressive Communist regime in order to show that he would not modify or weaken the stance he held as a bishop and cardinal in Poland. As a concession to good taste and design, however, so as not to have a color on a color he agreed to change the cross and “M” to gold on blue. Heim, who was afraid that his reputation as a knowledgeable expert in heraldry would suffer did his homework and then added an entire chapter to a second edition of his book, “Heraldry in the Catholic Church” on the use of what are called house markings, which resemble letters, as being particular to both Polish and Swiss heraldry (Heim was Swiss).
So, the age of saints is not long ago and distant but is with us right now. In addition, both of these down-to-earth men (John was the son of peasant farmers from Northern Italy and John Paul the son of a Polish civil servant) had coats of arms. Heraldry is often misunderstood as elitist, exclusive, snobbish and pretentious. Yet, these two men who were holy to a heroic degree such that they are now being held up as worthy of emulation by the faithful and who were known for their genuine humility each had a coat of arms.
Artwork: Bruno B. Heim
Since April 25 is the feast of St. Mark who is the patron saint of Venice I thought it would be nice to see the arms of that city’s patriarch, Archbishop Moraglia. Venice is one of the few (arch)dioceses in Italy that uses a kind of diocesan arms. The Patriarch’s arms always have a chief (upper third of the shield) which contains a gold winged lion of St. Mark on a silver (white) background.
Doesn’t that violate the “tincture rule” of no metal on metal? Yes, it does but sometimes you just say, “What the heck?” In the case of many ancient coats of arms the tincture “rule” which is merely a custom, doesn’t apply.
The winged lion is the symbol for the Apostle and Evangelist, St. Mark. This comes from the prophecy of Ezekial and is also reflected in the Book of Revelation. The winged lion is one of the four great creatures that pull the throne-chariot of God. These creatures came to be considered representative of the authors of the four gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In his paws the lion holds an open book with the phrase, “Pax tibi Marce Evangelista meus” (Peace be to you, Mark, my Evangelist).
In addition to these arms of the See the Patriarch of Venice (an honorary title obtained during the days of the great Venetian Republic to add prestige to the city) uses the green galero with green cords and thirty green tassels (fifteen on either side of the shield). If the individual incumbent is created a cardinal he uses the regular scarlet galero of a cardinal. Some maintain that the galero of a Patriarch should have a skein of gold thread interwoven in the cords but this is not true. There were three popes in the 20th C. who had been Patriarch of Venice at the time of their election and all of them continues to use this chief of St. mark in their coat of arms as pope. They were: St. Pius X, Bl. John XXIII and Pope John Paul I.