Thursday, April 28, 2005

Papal Coat of Arms Update

Some have doubted the authenticity of the papal coat of arms that was released by the diocese of Munich and Freising earlier this week, wondering why, if it was the true coat of arms, the Vatican hadn't released it instead. Well, earlier today, L'Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican City, published an article "Lo Stemma di Papa Benedetto XVI" with a graphic of the same coat of arms released by Ratzinger's former Bavarian diocese:

È tradizione, da almeno otto secoli, che i Papi abbiano un proprio stemma personale. Anche il Cardinale Joseph Ratzinger, eletto Papa ed assumendo il nome di Benedetto XVI, ha scelto uno stemma ricco di simbolismi e di significati, per affidare alla storia la sua personalità ed il suo Pontificato.

I would post a link to that article here, but unfortunately since I found it, the newspaper has updated its site with the April 29 edition and it appears that they do not make available old stories in an accessible archive. A higher quality color image of Pope Benedict XVI's coat of arms is available from the Wikipedia here.


Rip Karydas said...

I find it very disturbing that the new Pope eliminated the symbol of the tiara from his his coat of arms. Not only this is a clear departure from all his prodecessor, but it is a clear attempt to portray a spiritual defeat of the Roman Catholic Church. Very upseting.

frn said...

(1) The Triregno (Tiara) still appears on the official arms of the Vatican City.

(2) There are a number of places in the Vatican where Pope John Paul II's arms are depicted with
a mitre.

(3) L'Osservatore Romano is only 'semi-official'.

(4) The official Vatican website has posted a brief biography of Pope Benedict XVI with his arms as a Cardinal, so there are clearly, as yet, no 'official' arms.

(5) Any heraldic artist can render a coat of arms in their own artistic style, provided the rules of heraldry are followed.

(6) It is the technical heraldic description of the arms (the blazon) that is official, not any particular rendering.

J said...

I actually find the removal of the triregno s laudable renunciation of the Pope of the temporal appurtenances of the Papacy that caused so much schism in the middle ages.

Benedict's replacement of the tiara with a bishops mitre is not a departure from tradition. It is consistent with the renunciation of both John Pauls (Papa Luciani and Papa Wojtyla) of the crown symbolizing the Earthly and temporary power of the Vatican in favor of the pastoral and spiritual mandate of the Pope as the Servant of the Servant's of God. The renunciation of the tiara is a renunciation of an icon that brought schism after schism on the church throughout history. This is all consistent with the Pope's continuous message of christian unity.

Christian unity is after all not under the tiara but in the Mystical Body of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Evidently, the coat of arms image is valid, and a good explaination of its symbolism provided through the above link. Christ's Peace.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I would find it rather disturbing as well, if the official coat of arms of the Holy Father did away with the tiara because it is a spiritual symbol as well as temporal, there are three because he is the supreme priest, prophet and king of the Church on Earth.

Fr. Bill said...

I'm confused with two items on the Coat of Arms that seem to change in various renderings.
1) The crosses on the pallium: are they red or black?
2) The symbol with the bear: I've seen a rendering with blue background and a gold bear.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia shows the same coat of arms, but with different colors. Not only golden and red, but also blue.

Anonymous said...

The arms as drawn by Archbishop Montezemolo and shown in L'Osservatore Romano are nothing short of an heraldic abortion. Absent the triregno (tiara), there is nothing to distinguish these supposed arms from that of Protestant Anglican bishops, who use a mitre and crossed keys in their armorial bearings. The universal symbol of the papacy in heraldry has always been the tiara and crossed keys, nothing else. Clearly, B16 is getting terrible advice from amateurs who know, or care, very little about the conventions of heraldry. Archbishop Heim must be spinning in his grave at the grotesque abomination foisted upon the Holy Father here.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous above. Benedict's new coat of arms are an artistic disaster. Heraldry has been set back 50 years. The designer of this mess needs to find honest work.

Jimbo said...

In response to this comment above: "The universal symbol of the papacy in heraldry has always been the tiara and crossed keys, nothing else."

While the tiara with crossed keys is, and very well may forever remain, the coat of arms of the Vatican City, this certainly has not always been the universal symbol of previous popes on their individual coats of arms.

In fact, displaying the tiara with crossed keys on the pope's personal coat of arms is a relatively new trend, begun in 1922 by Pius XI. Prior to that, this "universal symbol" was absent from the designs of popes' coats of arms. This Wikipedia page shows the coat of arms of each of the popes going back to Pius X (1903-1914). Unfortunately, I cannot find a list that goes back further than this.

But take a look at some of the stained glass windows in your church next time, also. If any of them depict a pope from long ago, you may also see his coat of arms. This is the case at my local church where on a particular window a previous pope is depicted (alas, I don't know which one) with his coat of arms (which clearly do not bear the tiara and crossed keys).

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, Jimbo, you are dead wrong. I travel to Rome quite frequently and have business that takes me in the Vatican, hence anonymity here for professional reasons.

All you have to do is look around the city and you will see papal coats of arms from the 15th century and before plastered all over churches, buildings, monuments, etc. The shields contain the Popes' personal arms but the full achievement all have the tiara and crossed keys, virtually without exception. You get to recognise certain recurring family arms, like the Barberini bees, the Medici roundels, etc. Don't go by what you find in some American parish church.

Next time you're in Rome, just stroll through St. Peter's Basilica. The heraldic evidence is all over for you to see.

Don't take my word for it, it's all set out graphically and in excruciating detail in these two out-of-print books, if you can find them:

Heraldry in the Vatican, by the late Jacques Cardinal Martin, former prefect of the Pontifical Household, published by Van Duren in 1987

Heraldry in the Catholic Church: Its Origins, Customs and Laws, by the late Archbishop Bruno Bernard Heim, published by Van Duren in 1978

The Holy See Web site still carries Benedict's previous cardnilatial arms, so hopefully the atrocious version we've all seen is being tweaked or revamped.

Jimbo said...


Thank you for your comment. If what you say is true, you definitely know your stuff, in regards to this particular subject. And then I suppose I definitely would be "dead wrong." For now, I'll have to take your word for it. But I'm going to start looking for those books. Thanks for the tip! :)

Anonymous said...


Try, I have a lot of luck with that site scrounging up used books.

I think what has me peeved is that Benedict XVI is such a traditionalist, has a fantastic grasp of ecclesiastical history, stresses links to the past, yet he's getting literally crap advice here (and maybe doesn't even know it).

I wrote a letter addressed to Archbishop Harvey, prefect of the Pontifical Household, and e-mailed it as a Word document to a friend in Rome. He's supposed to print out a hard copy tomorrow, sign it for me and hand deliver it to the prefect's assistant. I'm hoping Archbishop Harvey, being an American, will read it.

They're in such a world of their own over there and details of the Holy Father's coat of arms is, I'm sure, not at the top of their "to-do" list.

Time will tell. Good luck finding the books!

Jimbo said...

I hope your letter gets through. That would be great if your thoughts can reach in the Vatican, i.e. someone more important than just the readers of this blog ;).

Regarding the books, I found that the Los Angeles Public Library actually has Martin's Heraldry in the Vatican in the reference department. With any luck, I'll find a moment to get over there sometime this week and take a look at it.

Anonymous said...


My letter was hand delivered to Archbishop Harvey's office Friday morning Rome time. Whether anyone will actually read it or whether it will be used to line a birdcage, I don't know. At least I did what I could. While most Vatican dicasteries have an e-mail address, the Pontifical Household Prefecture does not, otherwise we could have started zapping them with e-mails. I'm sure Archbishop Harvey has a private e-mail address, but I couldn't find it published anyway.

The Holy See Press Office Web site still has JP2's coat of arms displayed and in Benedict's short bio page, his cardnilatial arms are still displayed.

Good look with seeing Cardinal Martin's book at the LA library.

Anonymous said...

The Pope's new coat of arms with the stylised mitre has now appeared on the Holy See website's biography page for Benedict XVI, so I guess you can say it's "official." However, the new flag for the Swiss Guard has Benedict's shield ensigned with the tiara and crossed keys and no pallium. This is all a recipe for confusion!

Anonymous said...

This coat of arms is ugly. Who designed it?

Micio said...
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Micio said...
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Micio said...

The Papal COA of HH Benedict XVI is truly a unique one and somehow brought criticism as to its “non conformity to tradition”. Let us remember that it is the privileged and right of the Pope to choose what will his COA look like and what symbols are to be embedded into it. This is my view on this matter: The use of the old insignia of the principality of Freising (the Moor’s Head w/ Crown facing left) reflects the deep roots of BXVI’s native land, the figure of the “Bear of Corbinian” reflects his personification of the characteristics of Bp. Corbinian as being a strong willed individual rising from the hard challenges that comes his way, and that of the Pilgrim’s Seashell symbol that signify his being our co-pilgrim in the path of faith and love to Christ the redeemer in this third millennium in continuation of the works of John Paul II. The use of the Mitre instead of the common Triregnum does not demise his authority as pope, we see still imbedded in the mitre the symbol of the Papal Cross, also with its three lines symbolizing the three crowns that signify the traditional triple authority of the Pope; father of kings, governor of the world and Vicar of Christ, present in the common Pontifical Tiara. This move can be seen as him saying to us that he is a bishop, the fullness of the priesthood which he and his brother bishops share, with the exception of having the responsibility of the Petrine Ministry symbolized by the Gold and Silver Keys handed by Christ to Peter, our first pope. The addition of the pallium signifies further the authority conferred to him as pope and the rich tradition that comes with it. Until such time that the Holy See does “officially” release the COA of BXVI, let us be considerate for the time being and continue to state our opinion on the matter. Who knows, this may be read by one of those close to the pope’s ear.

Il COA Papale di HH Benedict XVI è allineare unico e una critica in qualche modo portata quanto alla relativa "discordanza angolare a tradizione". Ricordiamosi di che ha il privilegiato e ragione del papa da scegliere che cosa vogliono il suo sguardo di COA come ed i che simboli devono essere incastonati in esso. Ciò è il mio punto di vista su questa materia: L'uso di vecchi insignia del principato di Freising (la testa di attracco con la parte superiore che affronta a sinistra) riflette le radici profonde della terra natale del BXVI, la figura "dell'orso di Corbinian" riflette il suo personification delle caratteristiche del punto di ebollizione Corbinian come essendo aumentare specifico voluto forte dalle sfide dure che viene il suo senso, e quello del simbolo di Guscio del pélerin che indica suo essere il nostro co- pélerin nel percorso di fede e di amore a Christi il rédemptori in questo terzo millennio nella continuazione degli impianti di Giovanni Paulo II. L'uso del mitra anziché il Triregnum comune non demise la sua autorità come papa, vediamo ancora incluso nel mitra il simbolo della traversa Papale, anche con le relative tre linee che simbolizzano le tre parti superiori che indicano l'autorità triplice tradizionale del papa; padre dei re, regolatore del mondo e del Vicari di Christi, presente nel Tiara pontifical comune. Questo movimento può essere visto come lui che dice a noi che è un vescovo, la pienezza del sacerdoce che lui ed i suoi vescovi del fratello ripartiscono, con l'eccezione di avere responsabilità del Ministero di Petrine simbolizzato dalle chiavi dell'argento e dell'oro passate da Christi a Pietro, il nostro primo papa. L'aggiunta del pallium indica più ulteriormente l'autorità ha conferito a lui come il papa e la tradizione ricca che viene con esso. Fino a tale tempo che il santi vedono libera "ufficialmente" il COA di BXVI, siamo considerate per il momento e continuiamo a dichiarare il nostro parere sulla materia. Chi sa, questo può essere letto da uno di quelli vicino all'orecchio del papa. Ciao!