Genealogy, Heraldry and Documentary Sciences
INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE OF INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCES
Please see the college website at http://www.internationalcollegeofinterdisciplinarysciences.org
"A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth. The coat of arms on an escutcheon forms the central element of the full heraldic achievement which consists of shield, supporters, crest and motto. The design is a symbol unique to an individual person, and to his family, corporation, or state. Such displays are commonly called armorial bearings, armorial devices, heraldic devices, or simply armorials or arms.
Historically, armorial bearings were first used by feudal lords and knights in the mid-12th century on battlefields as a way to identify allied from enemy soldiers. As the uses for heraldic designs expanded, other social classes who never would march in battle began to assume arms for themselves. Initially, those closest to the lords and knights adopted arms, such as persons employed as squires that would be in common contact with the armorial devices. Then priests and other ecclesiastical dignities adopted coats of arms, usually to be used as seals and other such insignia, and then towns and cities to likewise seal and authenticate documents. Eventually by the mid-13th century, peasants, commoners and burghers were adopting heraldic devices. The widespread assumption of arms led some states to regulate heraldry within their borders. However, in most of continental Europe, citizens freely adopted armorial bearings." [WIKIPEDIA]
Note Dr. Durie's article at Heraldry.
Coat of Arms
of His Holiness Benedict XVI
Armour bearings have been in common use by soldiers and the nobility since the Middle Ages. This has given rise to a very specific heraldic language to regulate and describe civic heraldry.
At the same time, an ecclesiastical heraldry for clergy also developed. This heraldic usage follows exactly the same rules as civic heraldry with regard to the composition and definition of the shield, but surrounds it with religious or Church symbols and emblems according to one's ecclesiastical rank in Holy Orders, jurisdiction and dignity.
There is an at least 800-year-old tradition for Popes to have their own personal coat of arms, in addition to the symbols proper to the Apostolic See. Particularly during the Renaissance and the centuries that followed, it was customary to mark with the arms of the reigning Supreme Pontiff all his principal works. Indeed, Papal coats of arms appear on buildings and in various publications, decrees and documents.
Popes often used their family shield or composed their own with symbols indicating their ideal of life or referring to past events or experiences, or even elements connected with specific Pontifical programmes. At times, they even added a variant to a shield that they had adopted on becoming a Bishop.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, elected Pope and taking the name Benedict XVI, has chosen a coat of arms rich in symbolism and meaning that transmits to history his personality and Pontificate.
A coat of arms consists of a shield bearing several important symbols and surrounded by elements that indicate the person's dignity, rank, title, jurisdiction and more.
The shield chosen by Pope Benedict XVI is very simple: it is in the shape of a chalice, the most commonly used form in ecclesiastical heraldry.
The field of Pope Benedict XVI's shield, different from the composition on his shield as Cardinal, is now gules (red), chape or (gold). The principal field, in fact, is red.
In each of the upper corners there is a "chape" in gold. The "chape" [cape] is a symbol of religion. It indicates an idealism inspired by monastic or, more specifically, Benedictine spirituality. Various Orders and Congregations, such as the Carmelites and the Dominicans, have adopted in their arms the form of the "chape", although the latter only used it in an earlier form rather than their present one. Benedict XIII (1724-1730) of the Order of Preachers used the "Dominican chief" [heraldic term: upper part of the field] which is white divided by a black "chape".
Pope Benedict XVI's shield contains symbols he had already used in his arms when he was Archbishop of Munich and Freising, and subsequently as Cardinal. However, they are arranged differently in the new composition. [taken from vatican.va]