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Vatican Expert Explains Papal Heraldry

Vatican, Apr. 28 ( - A Vatican expert on heraldry has offered a full explanation of the coat of arms chosen by Pope Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, who designed the coat of arms for the new Pontiff, explained their symbolism in an article for the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano .

The Pope's coat of arms is red and gold, and does not include a motto. Also, for the first time, the heraldic device does not include the papal tiara-- which had remained in the coats of arms of previous Pontiffs, although the ceremonial use of the tiara had been abandoned by Pope Paul VI.

In place of the tiara, the new papal arms includes a silver miter, decorated with three golden stripes. These stripes, the Italian archbishop said, denote the threefold office of the papacy: to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful. The three stripes are connected by a gold vertical band, "to indicate their unity in the same person," he explained. Another symbol of the papacy, which has not been included in previous papal coats of arms, appears in that of Pope Benedict. The pallium-- the white woolen vestment worn around the neck to symbolize the authority of a metropolitan archbishop-- is draped on the lower part of the device.

Also included in the Pope's emblem is the pair of crossed keys which symbolize the spiritual authority of the papacy-- a common symbol in the papal crests over the centuries. Archbishop Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo remarked that Popes have designed their own coats of arms for several centuries, and Benedict XVI has included emblems that are "rich in symbolism and meaning."

Above the keys is a shield divided into three sections: one showing a scallop shell, one the head of an Ethiopian, and the third a bear carrying a pack. The symbolic significance of these elements was explained in an earlier CWN story. [The new Pope's coat of arms is not yet available online, but should soon appear on the Vatican web site.]

Pope Benedict's episcopal motto, "Cooperatores Veritatis," does not appear on the coat of arms. But Archbishop Cordero Lanza du Montezemolo pointed out that recent Popes have generally not made their mottos a part of their heraldic devices. Pope John Paul II frequently referred to his own motto, "Totus Tuus," but it was not part of his coat of arms.



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved