1. Notion. — 2. Heraldry is a Science. — 3. Prelates are Noble. — k. A Principle. — 5. Arms. — 6. Shield or Escutcheon. —7. Heraldic Style. — 8. Tinctures. — 9. Furs. — 10. Rule Often Violated. — 11. External Ornaments of the Escutcheon. — 12. Motto. — 18. Use of the Coat of-Arms.
1. Heraldry is the art, practice or science of recording genealogies, blazonning arms or armorial ensigns, and also of devising coats-of-arms. It is said also to be the science which teaches one how to blazon, that is, explain in proper terms, all that belongs to coats-of-arms. (a)
2. Heraldry is a science, inasmuch as it lays down correct principles, and draws conclusions which properly flow from them.
Since Prelates use armorial ensigns, it will be useful to lay down some practical rules for guidance in their selection. (b)
3. A coat-of-arms being a privilege of nobility, Bishops, (c) and Prelates bear one, for they are regarded as nobles.
The episcopal character of Bishops, the eminent dignity of Cardinals, even if they are not of noble descent, places them on a par with the "rulers of this world." By their appointment to this high position, they take rank among the "princes of the people," a rank which has never been called in question.
The offices of the Prelates of the Roman Court were formerly reserved for persons of noble blood. At present, though the above rule is far from being so absolute, these dignities, however, remain "noble offices." Therefore, Roman etiquette, faithful to tradition, requires that such Prelates as have no hereditary right of nobility prepare for themselves an escutcheon, if not as a sign of nobility, at least as a symbol of high dignity and prelatical functions. In this way, all Prelates will appear equal, and there will be no external distinction between Prelates who are of noble birth and those who are not.
4. Since Bishops and Prelates have an escutcheon bearing their arms, it may prove interesting to know how to explain these arms, and also, occasionally, to know how to compose a coat-of-arms without sinning against the rules of heraldic science.
To avoid mistakes, it is well to start out with the principle that a coat-of-arms is not and need not be symbolical. (d) A coat-of-arms is only a distinct personal mark or sign. Any or every sort of drawing can not be used as a heraldic bearing; it must conform to the laws of Heraldry in regard to shape, colors, disposition, etc.; but a "meaning" is not necessary.
5. Heraldic bearings are called "arms," because they were first worn at war and tournaments by military men, who had them painted on their shields and embroidered on their banners. They are also called "coats-of-arms" from the custom of the mediaeval knights to have them embroidered on the coats they wore over their armors.
Among the different sorts of arms, those of Prelates, in this country, may be "arms of family," if the Prelate is of noble descent, or "assumptive arms," if he adopts them when receiving his appointment. (e)
6. The figures that make up the coat-of-arms are represented on a "field," or ground, cut in the shape of a shield, and called for that reason shield or escutcheon (in Latin, scutum or stemma), for, as is said above, these marks were originally painted on bucklers or shields. For most of these figures, there is a traditional, conventional shape, and a proportional size, which must be adhered to. "Landscape arms," so much in favor in the eighteenth century, and still to be seen in some diocesan seals, should be forever put aside, as opposed to the accepted principles and traditions of Heraldry. (f)
7. English Heraldry has a peculiar vocabulary, chiefly derived from the old French, owing to the fact that Heraldry was developed in England especially after the conquest of that country by William, Duke of Normandy. The terms used in Heraldry may be easily found in Manuals treating of that matter, and in Dictionaries and Enyclopaedias under the heading "Heraldry
8. The various colors of arms, which are common both to shields and their bearings, are called tinctures. There are ordinarily but seven tinctures in armory, of which two are metals, the other five are colors.
The metals are: Gold, termed Or, and Silver, termed Argent.
The colors are: Azure (blue), Chiles (red), Vert or Sinople (green), Sable (black), and Purpure (purple). Purpure is very seldom used. English Heraldry admits two other colors, viz.: Tenny (orange) and Sanguine (blood-color); but, they are to be found only in British bearings, and even there but rarely.
Engravers should not ignore the fact that since the sixteenth century there is a conventional system of dots and lines to represent the tinctures in monochrome engravings and drawings. This system is universally adopted and must necessarily be used; otherwise it is impossible to know from a black drawing what are the colors of the bearing. The system is this:
Or (gold) is represented by dots.
Argent (silver) needs no mark and is, therefore, plain.
Azure (blue) is represented by horizontal lines.
Chiles (red), by perpendicular lines.
Vert (green), by diagonal lines from dexter to sinister. (g)
Purpure (purple), by diagonal lines from sinister to dexter.
Sable (black), by horizontal and perpendicular lines crossing each other (a combination of Azure and Gules).
Tenny (orange), by diagonal lines from sinister to dexter, crossed by horizontal lines (a combination of Purpure and Azure) .
Sanguine (blood-color), by diagonal lines crossing each other from dexter to sinister and vice versa (a combination of Vert and Purpure).
9. Besides the metals and the colors, several furs are used as tinctures, those most generally used being ermine and vair. Ermine is white, with black spots of conventional shape. (The counter-ermine is black, with the same spots in white). Vair is expressed with blue and white skins, cut into the form of little bells ranged in rows and opposite to each other, the base of the white being always next to that of the blue. When the base of the blue pieces is next to that of other blue pieces, the fur thus represented is called counter vail If other colors than blue and white are used, they must be expressed, this way, for instance: "Vairy Or and Gules."
The shield, being supposed to be carried by a man, the right side of the drawing, as you look at it, is called sinister (left), and the left side is called dexter (right).
The British nobility has adopted a certain number of other furs which are not used in other nations.
The colored plate illustrating these principles shows, on the right of each "tinctured" shield, its equivalent in black; and the complete armorial bearing of a Bishop, printed here in color and in black, shows how easy it is to represent, in a monochrome design, all the different tinctures of a real shield of arms. Anyone may, with the help of these few principles, easily find out the actual tinctures, not only of the shields which illustrate this chapter, but of all other heraldic bearings properly designed.
10. A rule too often violated, in making a coat-of-arms for a Prelate, is that "Color should never be used upon color, or metal upon metal, or fur upon fur." (Furs may be used both upon colors and upon metals). When an exception is made to this rule, it is a mark of high distinction, and the motive prompting its concession is, as a general .thing, historical. Such an exception can hardly be found elsewhere than in the arms of concession granted by a Sovereign on a particularly important occasion, the remembrance of which he wishes to perpetuate.
The rule does not apply to small accessories like the langue (tongue) of the lions, the talons of birds of prey, etc.
It is important also to mention that the simplest arms are the best. Complicated bearings are very often difficult to interpret, to draw or engrave, and the number of pieces being greater, the chances of error are thereby multiplied. The most ancient bearings are as a rule very simple. (g)
(a) Consult: Guillem, Display of Heraldry (1610). Menestrier, S. J., La nouvelle methode du blason (Lyons, 1696).—G. DE Genouillac, L'art Heraldique (Paris, 1880).— Simon de Boncourt, Grammaire du Blason (Paris, 1885).— John Woodward, A Treatise on Ecclesiastical Heraldry (London, 1894).—F. B. Hulme, The History, Principles and Practice of Heraldry (New York, 1898).—P. de Chaignon La Rose, Ecclesiastical Heraldry in America (two articles In "Christian Art," May and November, 1907), etc., etc.—See also Encyclopedias, at article "Heraldry."
(b) Whether It [heraldry] be indeed the "noble science," as one of Its enthusiastic votaries has termed it, or, as a later writer has affirmed, "the science of the fools with long memories," may be a more or less open question; but as it is guided by positive rules, which can not with impunity be violated, so long as it is employed at all, either in the restoration of old buildings, illumination, glass-painting, or any other field of art, it can only be properly employed after some little attention has been paid to requirements which, though arbitary in their character, have received the sanction of centuries; and it is not a sufficient reason for the violation of these rules to deride the study as obsolete and absurd, for if the thing be Introduced at all, it must be rightly done.—(F. B. Hulme, The History, Principles and Practice of Heraldry, ch. 1., p. 2). .
(c)The arms are personal to the Bishop, and do not belong to his See, as is often believed. Formerly, when the diocese was a feudal corporation, the Bishop "impaled" his personal arms with those of his diocese. Such is still the case for the Episcopal Sees of the Anglican church. But this practice has ceased to be observed in the Catholic church. Therefore, a newly-appointed Bishop should not use the seal of his predecessor.
(d) "Heraldry appears as a science at the commencement of the thirteenth century; and although armorial bearings had then been In existence undoubtedly for some time previous, no precise date has yet been discovered for their first assumption. In their assumption the object of the assumers was not, as It had been generally asserted and believed, to symbolise any virtue or qualification, but simply to distinguish their persons and properties, to display their pretensions to certain honors or estates, attest their alliances, or acknowledge their feudal tenure."— Planche, Pursuivant of Arms. —"It can not be too clearly emphasized that, at a period when one warrior cased in mall, with lowered visor, was practically indistinguishable from another similarly habited, the primary, essential, function of the heraldic charges, on his shield and banner, was simply to 'Identify* him to his followers. And, therefore, today, If a shield of arms is so decorated with fitting heraldic forms, as to distinguish It from other shields, it fulfills the only requirement that the most exacting herald can legally demand of it, 'Arma sunt distinguendi causa.' "— Pierre de Chaignon La Rose, Ecclesiastical Heraldry in America, in "Christian Art," May, 1907, pp. 64-65.
(e) A Prelate belonging to a Religious Order "impales" his own arms with those of his Order, or puts the arms of the Order "In chief over his own bearing.
(f) Some of these "landscape arms" could be given a heraldic form by a slight modification of the design.
(g) Few persons are really capable of composing a correct coat-of-arms; and an Incorrect coat-of-arms Is, In the eyes of the man who knows Heraldry, something not less ridiculous than a page written in a pretentious style and full of misspellings. Therefore, when a Prelate chooses a heraldic bearing, he should take care to have it designed by some person thoroughly acquainted with the principles of Heraldry.