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What is a Bishops Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms date back all the way to the 11th century. They were first used on the battlefield so warriors could identify their comrades. In the Catholic Church, when a bishop is appointed to lead an archdiocese, he receives his own Coat of Arms as he begins his life of service. These are more formally known as the “episcopal heraldic achievement”.  Each bishop has a personal coat of arms designed for them by a professional heraldic designer. Each one is different, but they all have a few key elements in common.

First, every Coat of Arms bears a Bishop’s episcopal motto, along with various other symbols that have significance to him personally, as well as the diocese in which he serves.

Here’s a quick breakdown of a Clerical Coat of Arms for bishops:

  • The shield is the central part of the Coat of Arms.
  • A gold processional cross extends above and below the shield.
  • The top of the shield, known as a chief in the designs for our #newLAbishops, represents a very rare event in the life of the church–an episcopal ordination which takes place with a titular cathedral, a diocese, and within a city—all three elements of the same name: Our Lady of the Angeles. To the knowledge of their heraldic designer, there is no other place on earth where these three elements converge in such a unique occurrence. Only in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and only there since the new cathedral was constructed and consecrated has this happened. Therefore each bishop ordained for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles since that time has borne a special badge of honor representing this historic fact.
  • The formal pontifical hat is known as the galero. The interior of this hat is always rendered in red, representing the clergy’s possible martyrdom for the vocation they have chosen.
  • The cord attached to the galero is called a focchi, and it has at least 12 tassels. These are the same color as the galero and referred to as “heraldic insignia” and signify the rank of each bishop.

These elements are just a few of the many details that go into these intricate episcopal designs. There are so many unique and intricate details that go into each Coat of Arms, and it is an important part of the bishop’s launch into his episcopal ministry.

Coat of Arms are not only beautiful expressions of faith, but they are also formally used on documents, letterheads, and other items pertaining to each particular bishop.

Get Familiar with our #NewBishop’s Coat of Arms:

Episcopal Ordination

Learn more about this significant occasion where Msgr. Albert Bahhuth, Father Matthew Elshoff, OFM. Cap., Father Brian Nunes and Father Slawomir Szkredka, will become auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Learn More Here