Friday, October 12, 2007


Here’s a look at Pope Benedict’s coat of arms. Notice first that instead of the three fold crown, a bishop’s miter is atop the crest with three bands across it signifying the three fold tiara. The pope is, after all, the bishop of Rome as well as the visible head of the Church on earth so this is a nice combination of symbols. The crossed keys sit behind the shield.

Notice first the gold field in the upper left hand quarter. Here is a picture of the Moore of Freising. The head of an Ethiopian has been associated with Freising since 1316 and has been on the arms of the archbishop of Munich and Freising ever since. Notice that no color rests on a color nor a metal on a metal. A white eye (silver) sits on a brown face (with red crown and clothing) on a gold field.

In the upper right quarter there is a brown bear with a red saddle on a gold field known as the “Bear of Corbinian”. The bear is associated with the saintly Bishop Corbinian. Legend says that he commanded the bear to be his pack animal on a trip to Rome. Once there he released the bear from service and it returned to Bavaria. This is the bear, “Chrstianity tamed and domesticated the ferocity of paganism and thus laid the foundation for the civilization of Bavaria.” The bear also symbolizes the burden of office.

Finally, there is the gold shell on a red field. It has several meanings. There is the story of St. Augustine concerning a legend about a boy (angel) using a shell to put water from the ocean in a whole he had dug. (Pope Benedict has strong Augustinian leanings.) A shell is also a sign of pilgrimage and the title, “Pilgrim People of God” is a title he promoted during Vatican II. It is also on the coat of arms at the seminary at which he taught.

Next week: What happens when an ordinary’s and a diocese’s coat of arms meet!


Amice – c) Square cloth used to cover the collar.
Antependium – h) Decorative altar frontal.
Buse – f) Holds the corporal.
Cathedra – a) Seat of the residential bishop.
Chirograph – j) A written message from the Pope.
Galero – k) A broad rimmed clergyman’s hat.
Morion – e) A Swiss Guards helmet.
Ostensorium – d) Another name for a monstrance.
Rogito – b) Documents of the Pope’s death.
Terna – l) Names recommended for bishop.
Vert – g) GreenVimp – i) Veils for holding the miter and crosier.

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