Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stephenian and Marian symbolism in Patriarchal heraldry

Catholicism is filled with symbolism. Heraldry of the Church is no exception. The traditional Old Roman Catholic Patriarchal See of St. Stephen has some of the most diverse examples of heraldry brimming with symbolic and historical meaning. One of the common themes in the heraldry of the Patriarchal See and in its insignia is the ombrellino (Italian for umbrella). This was first granted by Emperor Constantine the Great to Pope Saint Sylvester I, and later became used by Cardinals and Princes. Bishops even have some limited use of a similar canopy called a baldacchino, such as at a solemn arrival to their cathedral church. The Blessed Sacrament is carried, particularly indoors, underneath a white, gold, or white and gold ombrellino.

Usually only one ombrellino appears in heraldic drawings. However, in the full coat of arms of the Patriarch of St. Stephen, there are actually two. On the left, the ombrellino is topped with the red cross of St. Stephen, which also appears on the yellow panels. The pole of the ombrellino issues from a stack of three stones, which represent the stones of martyrdom of Stephen the Deacon and Protomartyr. The right ombrellino is topped with the blue cross of Mary Immaculate, which also appears on the yellow panels. The pole issues from a small tuft of earth and three lilies, representing Our Lady of Walsingham. Together these two ombrellini represent the See of St. Stephen and the Court of Saint Mary of Walsingham and thus the Anglo-Roman patrimony and religious, ethnic, and cultural identity of the See.