Friday, May 8, 2009


The ermine made it into the symbol lexicon in a rather sad way – or – rather their tails made it in. Have you ever seen the inside of a fanciful king or queen’s cape and there are those little black things amid the white fur. Those, my friends, are ermine tails. I guess better than having symbolic legs . . .

The ermine was known to be extremely clean and so became the symbol of purity. A saying sprung up around the legend of its cleanliness, “Potius mori quam feodari” or “Rather die than be soiled.” The tails seen in the armorial cloak were fastened with a three headed pin. They appear on coats of armor in stylized form. You can see here how they are part of the arms of the Diocese of Cleveland. This coat of arms is based on that of the first settler which became the See City of this diocese. Moses Cleveland’s family crest had added to it the three crosslets which you see here.

Part of the neat things about coats of arms is that they often reference each other. The coat of arms for Saint Mary, Our Lady of the Lake Seminary, the diocesan seminary for Cleveland also has the ermine tails on it simply to show its connection to the coat of arms of the diocese.

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