In case you were wondering…

… the episcopal motto chosen by the new Prefect of the Papal Household, His Excellency, George Gänswein. Titual Archbishop of Urbs Salvia, is …

Testimonium Perhibere Veritati.

This is from John 18:37:

Pilate therefore said to him: Art thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.

The presence of the term, veritas in the motto, harks to the episcopal motto of Joseph Ratzinger, Cooperatores Veritatis, 3 John 8:

We therefore ought to receive such: that we may be fellow helpers of the truth.

You will notice right away that the dexter side (the heraldic “right hand” is on the viewer’s left) of the stemma is the stemma of Benedict XVI, which seems appropriate, given that he was at his right-hand for some years.  Perhaps, given that his name is “Georg”, the other side is a reference to St. George who slew the dragon?  As an interesting aside, my family’s also has a blue background, a star in chief and a pointy weapon.  In my case there are crossed cross-bow bolts, but no critter.  The hat is green, because green is the color for bishops and archbishops.  The number of tassels is ten on each side, as befits an archbishop, as does the cross with two transverse bars.

So… there’s your trivia for the day.

Small gestures and signs have cumulative effects.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmum says:

    Very cool, and thanks.

  2. benedetta says:

    Yes thanks, interesting!

  3. Allan S. says:

    Father, do you as a priest have an ecclesiastical arms? I understand they are available to all clerics. May we see them? Black hat, right?

  4. New Sister says:

    Maybe one day he’ll be our Pope…

  5. James Joseph says:

    I immediately noticed he has the same thing going on as His Holiness.

    It just goes to show you that working slobs are completely ignorant or incapable of knowing things… like how to pronounce consubstantial.

  6. James Joseph says:

    Apparently I cannot type.

  7. I really like that motto; obviously, an episcopal motto can give a clue as to what a bishop’s agenda will be, and this seems like a good direction for all bishops.

  8. trespinos says:

    The Latin motto rolls off my tongue well, but as one who neither speaks German nor hangs out with anyone who does, I need to ask, is GHENSH-vine a close approximation to the correct pronunciation of his name?

  9. Hidden One says:

    Trespinos, you can the new archbishop’s name pronouned properly here:

    Basically, get rid of that “h”.

  10. FrJLP says:

    Just a minor correction: The dexter side of the stemma is not Benedict’s coat-of-arms because +Gänswein worked with Benedict for a number of years; rather, +Gänswein’s personal coat-of-arms is “impaled” with Benedict’s because he is the Prefect of the Papal Household. This is done in much the same style as a diocesan bishop’s personal coat-of-arms is impaled with that of his diocese for such a time as that bishop serves as the Ordinary of said diocese. So, when +Gänswein receives a new assignment or retires, he’ll just have the blue stemma with dragon, etc. If he becomes a diocesan Ordinary, then his coat-of-arms will be impaled with that of his new diocese. If he exercises this ministry with a new pope, his personal coat-of-arms will be impaled with that of the new pope. [Could you back that up? Is that what now Card. Harvey’s stemma reflected?]

    I don’t know how to post pictures here, but I studied heraldry as a hobby whilst doing Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Mayo Clinic and then designed my own stemma. An ordinary diocesan priest can charge his stemma with the black galero and one tassel on each side.

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  12. anna 6 says:

    I must say that I wish that Pope Benedict had used the same artist to create his coat of arms as Archbishop Ganswein. The Holy Father’s crest has the 1-dimensional look of a digitally rendered image, while Ganswein’s has finer details with a richer color palette.

    It was a touching ceremony with Ganswein appearing to be visibly moved by Pope Benedict’s gesture of confidence and gratitude.

  13. 1catholicsalmon says:

    Fits together perfectly. Just beautiful.

  14. VexillaRegis says:

    @trespinos: Well, that would sound like Gähnschwein, which would mean Yawn-swine!!

  15. Inigo says:


  16. Titus says:


    As a non-member of the college of cardinals, not in this (or any recent) century.

  17. Hidden One says:

    I have read that then-Archbishop Montini got a few votes.

  18. Legisperitus says:

    The dragon seems to be going after the bear.

  19. RichardT says:

    From the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia:
    “As arms of patronage, cardinals have frequently impaled with their personal arms those of the pope who has raised them to that rank, but the practice (except in the case of the majordomo of the papal household) is now falling into disuse.”

    Assuming the Prefect is the successor to the Majordomo, impaling the Pope’s coat of arms with his own would seem to be traditional. But I don’t know whether “arms of patronage” would be dropped when he leaves the office.

  20. RichardT says:

    Wikipedia says “As Prefect of the Pontifical Household, Jacques Martin impaled his personal arms with those of three successive pontiffs.”

    The reference given in support is Martin’s own book “Heraldry in the Vatican” (1987), which doesn’t seem to be available online. Does anyone have a copy to check?

    [Very interesting! I learned something new today.]

  21. Fr. Selvester says:

    Your other commenters are quite correct. It is always the custom for the Prefect of the Pontifical Household to impale his arms with those of the reigning pontiff. So that changes if the pope changes and it is done only while he serves as Prefect. Cardinal harvey’s arms certainly changed when JPII died and BXVI was elected. I have images of the coats of arms of these prelates going back to the pontificate of Pope Pius VII. Archbishop Gänswein wouldn’t be allowed simply to adopt the pope’s coat of arms because it already belongs to someone else. If he wanted to borrow from the pope’s coat of arms he’d have to difference them somehow. A great example is Archbishop Capovilla who was the faithful secretary to Bl. John XXIII. When Capovilla became an archbishop he assumed the same arms as John XXIII except he removed one of the two fleur-de-lis in John XXIII’s arms in order to create a sufficient difference.

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