Thursday, April 28


More debate, on the American Heraldry Society's web forum, over the Pope's new coat of arms, along with yet another hypothetical variant from Fr. Selvester's talented pen (above). It looks like the tinctures have changed from, to put it in heraldese, predominantly or and azure to or and gules. My guess is that thing (the schizophrenic mitre/tiara) on top of the current unofficial design was Archbishop Montezemolo's attempt to hedge his bets without knowing for sure the future of the tiara.

What makes this even stranger is that the pamphlet on which the "mitre version" appears is for the installation mass, and at that mass, there was a relief of a papal tiara on the back of the throne Benedict used. Furthermore, the pallium on the arms resembles the one actually used by John Paul II rather than the "new" (actually ancient) design revived for Benedict XVI, which to me suggests the design was thrown together at the last minute, without knowledge of the new pallium. It seems the mitre and pallium were wholly Archbishop Montezemolo's idea; it's difficult to say whether it will be adopted wholesale. John Paul II occasionally used both tiara and mitre interchangeably in coats of arms, so that remains a remote possibility.

So far, there's been no official pronouncement, just a few comments in German newspapers and a French-language article from Zenit which probably derive from the possibly inaccurate drawing. There are rumors of something appearing in L'Osservatore Romano tomorrow (also only a semi-official publication, mind you), but no word for sure.

The fact that there is no word from the Vatican makes me think that Benedict himself hasn't decided what heraldic insignia will top his arms, and may also still be jiggling with the insignia on his shield. (The Moor insignia, for example, may yet prove problematic to the non-initiated). There's still a tiara on the Vatican webpage. I would find it a puzzling gesture, abolishing the heraldic tiara, because the only people who are likely to really notice such a gesture will be traditionalists who are into heraldry, and they're likely to be dismayed by such a move. Since Benedict is trying to promote reunion with conservative schismatic elements, such a movement seems counter-intuitive, especially since neither the liberals nor the Orthodox will put much stock in such a gesture. To progressives, heraldry itself is pretty anachronistic, tiara or no; and the Eastern churches have no history of heraldic insignia and thus probably will not be interested in such a change.

Furthermore, as an attempt to show collegiality with the bishops, the mitre doesn't quite work as the bishops themselves no longer place the mitre over their arms (since the simplifications of Paul VI) but instead use the flat, tasselled Italian gallero. That being said, I'm sure whatever choice Benedict makes will be for the best in the long run. I may be puzzled, but then I'm a 22-year-old American layman, and he's the Vicar of Christ.

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