Change to the coat-of-arms of the Roman Curia?

I found something you should know about.

Preamble:  Surely someone with little intellectual flexibility will opine that all the heraldry stuff is meaningless in our sophisticated modern world, or that people who are interested in it are, well, as effete as they really are behind closed doors.

I respond that symbols make a difference.  They herald something.

That said… you will remember the dust up a few weeks ago when for the Papal Sunday Angelus, a new drapery was suspend at the Holy Father’s window at the Apostolic Palace.  The drapery, with the Pope’s personal coat-of-arms, included the traditional papal tiara rather than the miter which was adopted at the time of his election.

The coat-of-arms was designed by soon-to-be Card. Montezemolo.  The miter, rather than the tiara, is an innovation.  The change means something.

Furthermore, there is a difference between the Pope’s personal coat-of-arms and the coat-of-arms of the Holy See and therefore the entities of the Holy See.  You will see, for example, on the letterhead of a Vatican dicastery the crossed keys surmounted by the papal tiara.

Now take a look at this:

Papal Tiara

When the papal coat-of-arms was introduced as the Pope’s personal symbol the Secretary of State said that the tiara remains in use for the offices of the Holy See.

It would be good to know precisely what the policy of the Holy See is in this regard.

Changing important symbols means something.

In this case we are considering a heraldic “grammar”, if you will.  In my view, that grammar should be respected.  In our liturgical worship formal changes caused a change in identity.  Some changes are simply not good even when they are well-intentioned.

A change of the tiara to a miter seems to have something to do with a change in someone’s view of the authority of the Roman Pontiff.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Prof. Basto says:

    I submit that the coat of arms of the Roman Curia has not changed.

    This is probably just an “agenda” thing on the part of the webdesinger.

    By the way, just as the donaton to the pope of a tapestry to hang from his window during the angelus that features his personal Arms with a tiara instead of the mieter (the mieter being the correct symbol merely because its the one that corresponds to the pope-approved and official version of the coat of arms, chosen by Benedict XVI) was kind of “agenda”-ish.

    On the very same page, the true Arms of the Holy See appear above the words “La Curia Romana”.

    Also, remember that the Arms of the Holy See match those of the Vatican City State (with the golden and silver keyes in changed positions), and those arms, found in the Vatican Flag, haven’t changed also.

    But I must say that, for a pope that was about to set out a program of “hermeneutic of continuity”, the introduction of one more extrinsic sign of discontinuity between the Church of today, the papacy of today, and the pre-Vatican II times of Church and papacy was without question a bad move. If it weren’t a papal decision I would call it stupid.

  2. VetusMores says:

    As you say, heraldry heralds something, but what exactly is it? The implication seems to be a return to Tradition, but the trappings of Tradition are less important than Tradition itself. Deeds, not words.

  3. Fr. Basil says:

    A mother once told her wound-up politically daughter, “There’s only one issue to consider. Can little children die from it? If not, it’s not worthy of getting into a snit over it.”

    Considering the violent attacks by mahometans against Christians where they are in a majority, such as the massacre in the Syrian Catholic Cathedreal on 31 October, this is a rather petty issue, don’t you think?

    Little children won’t die from changing a heraldic emblem. They DID and WILL die in mahometan attacks.

  4. arsregia says:

    Please have a look at:

    It’s an interesting article by Baronio, a roman Prelate always updated about the Vatican.

  5. Flambeaux says:

    Words are deeds. And symbols have meaning.

    Fr. Basil, no I do not.

    I think the aversion to the tiara is indicative of a reflexive cowardice on the part of the Church Militant. For over 40 years, and in some quarters far longer, we have embraced dhimmitude in many forms in our attitude and relations with both the secular world and the evil thralls of Mohammed’s diabolical lies.

    This has emboldened our enemies. Further retreat, and exchanging the tiara for that is just one more example of that retreat, will only serve to encourage them to kill more of us.

    We must once again rediscover what it means to be the Church Militant and wage unceasing war against our enemies, both fleshly and ghostly. The tiara is part of that.

  6. Fr. Basil says:

    \\I think the aversion to the tiara is indicative of a reflexive cowardice on the part of the Church Militant\\

    Since the triple tiara was NOT adopted until Clement IV, the first of the Avignon popes, it’s actually an innovation, as far as the history of the Church goes.

    The traditional prayer at the bestowal of the mitre says something about how the new bishop is armed with the horns of both Testaments to scare the devil. No such sentiment was expressed at the reception of the triregnum.

    While I don’t see any point in changing the emblem of the Holy See to the mitre that Pope Benedict adopted for his arms (which has resulted in the deaths of no Christian children), it’s not as important as the utter silence from the press and governments over the slaughter of Christians in mahometan countries.

    Most Holy Theotokos, save us!

    New Martyrs of Baghdad and the mahometan yoke, pray for us!

  7. Revixit says:

    It’s odd, isn’t it? As you phrased it, “the utter silence from the press and governments over the slaughter of Christians in mahometan countries.” Compare it to all the attention one preacher in Florida got by saying he was going to burn a Koran. I believe Obama even spoke out on that. I doubt he’ll have anything to say about the massacre in Iraq. But we know he has emotional attachments to Islam from childhood. What is the media’s excuse? They weren’t all raised in Muslim countries and sent to special classes to learn to read the Koran in Arabic.

  8. Joshua08 says:

    Fr. Basil unfortunately repeated an historical error. The tiara as such has a very ancient use. It developed over time. It is not clear and several various theories exist when the third crown was added (the wikipedia article says Clement V iirc, but that is not really fact so much as conjecture) and in any case the tiara existed with two crowns and one crown before that. It was not an innovation but a development of what by then was already an ancient tradition (and if we are going to call something 700 years old a novelty, the Byzantine Rite is a novelty—but that would not be very sane thinking)

    It is also a red herring to try to treat this as it doesn’t matter. Sure, yes the death of children matters more. But did anyone say, hey look there is a question about the tiara, let us forget about the martyrs? It is a slick political tactic to paint any subject as trivial by bringing up something that gains emotional reaction, but normally only those who really do care about what they paint as trivial do this–by painting it as trivial there side is left less challenged

    Many things matter. It would be utter stupidity to neglect the need for beauty in the liturgy merely because a polyester chasuble never killed a child

  9. Mitchell NY says:

    Thank You Joshua…I love the development knowledge. I did not know that before or even think of it. A one “layered” crown probably was used since earliest of times. As a simple lay Catholic it saddens me to see yet again the disappearance of the Tiara. It is bad enough the Pope won’t wear it, which does seem to break that lens of continuity with which we are supposed to view things. And I think any who advocate that from the first century, or even first decades a Tiara was not used, nor a crown, well I think Pope Pius XII had something to say about returning to such an extreme view of how things were or go back to such primitive and ancient days. Also the Vat II Council siad something about changing things for the sake of change. Or truly in the best interest of the Church. Is erasing any sign of a Tiara little by little really in the Church’s best interest? It is harming the idnetity of many Catholics and causes upsets whenever it happens. As if we could go back to day 1. For anyone that advocates that I would like them to write their explanation in Aramaic. And advocate Mass is said language.

  10. It probably means nothing more than trying (and failing) to make the page look better. That or the pope is indicating that he wishes to use the tiara for himself and the mitre for the see since his relationship to the holy see is as its bishop. He could be telling us that he is the real boss down here and no one gets to use the tiara but him.

  11. To mitchel
    I am in fact rather fond of Aramaic (Syriac) but my phone does not yet support the font. I really wish more Latin of us Latin Catholics would get interested in the language of Christ. The east doesn’t just mean Greek. Maronites, Chaldeans, Armeniaans, Coptics,and Eithiopians have very interesting litugies. If course Aramaic should have pride of place as the language of Christ.

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