|Ecclesiastic heraldry presents two peculiarities with
respect to classic heraldry.
First of all, ecclesiastic heraldry, for its office, has a seal and
therefore must create a coat of arms, meaning this characteristic is
tied to the dignity of the offices held within the Institution, which
are freely accessible to all.
By observing the coats of arms of the Roman Pontiff, we have examples
of ex novo coats of arms and ancient traditional ones: to mention just
one; Leone X, in 1513 took on the coat of arms of his dynasty, the Medici
of Florence, with the six balls (or apothecary’s pills).
Other Popes took on those of the congregation they belonged to, like
Benedict XIII, Dominican, Clement XIV, Franciscan, Pio VII, Benedictine,
Gregory XVI, Camaldolite.
This habit is also used in local customs – of central Europe and
the Holy Roman Empire right back in the times of Charles IV – to
place the personal coat of arms and that of the dignitary in a quartering
which, in current regulations of the Anglican Church, means the family
coat of arms is joined with that of the Bishop.
The other distinguishing feature of ecclesiastic heraldry is that the
helmet has disappeared, as it is considered of military heritage, being
replaced by the wide brimmed hats of the ecclesiastic dignitaries –
which marked the hierarchy by the colours – cords, the order of
tassels, the pastorals (with or without shroud) and crosses (with two
or even three crosspieces).
The Pope is the only ecclesiastic dignitary who is allowed to stamp
his shield with a crown, called a tiara or papal tiara, surmounted by
the two keys of Peter, one gold and one silver, which, according to tradition,
Christ authorised the apostle to tie and untie.
The abolition of the mitre – the last headdress which, in the
19th century, was used to stamp the shield besides the hat – is
the result of the less formal air given by ecclesiastic heraldry in the