The coats of arms explained today might be a bit Cleveland specific, but you can use them as an example of what happens when a bishop’s and diocese’ coats of arms collide. There is a similar effect in all dioceses.
The first set of arms seen here are for the Diocese of Cleveland. We can tell that it is a diocesan coat of arms because of the miter on top and the distinct lack of a crossier or processional cross behind the arms. It is based on the family coat of arms of General Moses Cleveland, the founder of the city. Added to the original arms are the crosslets. Ermine tails, like those seen on the arms, lined the inside of royal cloaks. Attached with a three-headed pin, they are a sign of purity.
This picture of the episcopal heraldic achievement is the coat of arms for the bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland. The diocesan coat of arms is pushed to the shield’s own right (or on the dexter) side, while the other half (the sinister) has the equally restricted coat of arms of the residential bishop thus showing that he is the ordinary of the particular diocese. You may see a coat of arms such as this in your parish either painted or in a stained glass window showing who was bishop at the time when your church was built.
This is the current coat of arms for the Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland. Notice the green galero with twelve tassels hanging from it signifying that this is the coat of arms of a bishop. Behind the shield is the processional cross. This bishop’s personal coat of arms is based on the arms of the Dominican’s, St. Dominic being of particular patron of the bishop. The red Celtic cross pays tribute to his Irish heritage. The gold star honors the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception and the eagle honors St. John the Evangelist, patron of the seminary where he was rector. Finally the motto, “Diligamus Nos Invicem” translates, “Let us love one another.”
If you find a coat of arms incorporated into the artwork of your parish it may be that of the pope at the time of the construction or that of the local bishop, the diocese, or some other important person to the parish. If your parish staff does not have the identifying information and explanation, your local diocesan archive office might be willing and able to help.