Archbishop Lori’s Coat of Arms

Archbishop Lori Coat of ArmsThe Formal Blazon of The Archiepiscopal Coat of Arms of His Most Reverend Excellency William E. Lori, D.D.
Metropolitan – Archbishop of Baltimore

Azure, a Fess Gules Fimbriated or, Charged With a Lion Passant Guardant or, Armed and Langued Azure, In Chief Three Billets in Bend Argent And In Base a Fleur-De-Lis Also Argent, Impaled With the Arms Of The Archdiocesan See of Baltimore And for a Motto Caritas · In · Veritate

The Most Reverend
Metropolitan Archbishop William E. Lori

The Armorial Achievement of The Most Reverend William E. Lori, Metropolitan-Archbishop of Baltimore in the state of Maryland in the United States of America, ordained a Presbyter of the Metropolitan Archdiocesan See of Washington before being elevated to the episcopacy as auxiliary of that illustrious see and later translated to Bridgeport in Connecticut as Residential Bishop,incorporates the archbishop’s love and respect for his mentor and friend, His late Eminence James Cardinal Hickey for whom Archbishop Lori served as confidential secretary, for his family heritage from the Alsace –Lorraine region in Eastern France and a special homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary in addition to special spiritual and ecclesial symbolism common to bishops and archbishops of the Latin rite of the Catholic Church.

The design of the armorial achievement of Archbishop Lori is impaled with the arms of his new archdiocese in the same fashion that a man and woman who have individual coat of arms at the time of their marriage marshal them together while each remains within that marriage a unique and individual person. This impalement in the church symbolically illustrates the union of a new bishop to his faithful in the same way a man marries a woman who becomes his wife, the two individuals joined spiritually together.

It must be noted that when first becoming a bishop William E. Lori selected a specific design for his coat of arms that he now wishes to alter to better reflect Catholic heraldic traditions and the heraldic laws of the Church. It is not uncommon for a prelate to alter his coat of arms in some way and this the archbishop has selected to do as he moves forward as the Metropolitan of the historically premier see of the United States of America. As such, Archbishop Lori’s coat of arms shall therefore be described in the following manner:

The Lori Design

The archbishop’s side of the shield (right as one views it) has been rendered in brilliant blue representing both the Blessed Virgin Mary and his family heritage. The coat of arms of the Lori family from France incorporated blue and gold. When he was first consecrated to the episcopacy, he differenced the family design by switching the use of those colors with blue becoming more dominant. In Catholic heraldry blue is traditionally set aside as the color of the Blessed Virgin but it is also reserved to represent Catholic teaching, in particular the study of theology and philosophy and Sacred Scripture and canon law. As the bishop of each place is the ultimate teacher of the faith there in that place, blue also is used to represent the bishop as teacher and guardian of dogma and law within his see.

The Church encourages honor to the Blessed Virgin in the coat of arms of her priests and bishops as it does in the design of new parish, basilica and cathedral arms and likewise many new bishops opt to incorporate it. Archbishop Lori’s selection of the tincture blue is for both reasons cited above. The Church also permits references to family heritage in the design of episcopal and presbyteral coats of arms.

Archbishop Lori has retained the fess (the golden bar at center in the original design, now replaced by the color red) found in the Lori family arms. His original episcopal design left this device plain, that is to say not charged with an emblem of any kind. In assuming his new office in Baltimore, Archbishop Lori wished to incorporate a specific homage to his mentor Cardinal James Hickey, late Archbishop of Washington. From the late cardinal’s coat of arms comes to the Lori design a lion passant guardant or, armed and langued azure, which translates into English as a lion standing on three of its four legs, the fourth leg raised forward, with the lion looking out upon the viewer, his tongue and claws rendered in blue all now set upon a red bar. This charge (emblem) was a dominant element of the late cardinal’s coat of arms and thus most appropriate for homage to him by Archbishop Lori. It now rests in a focal point, upon the fess which has now been rendered as gules which translates to red. This is one of the major changes in the new design. Red in Catholic heraldry represents the many sacrifices clerics must make in the exercise of their vocation and apostolates. The red fess is bordered, known as fimbriated, in gold because color cannot rest upon color and therefore red cannot rest upon the blue field without a metal, gold, bordering.

Above the fess are found three heraldic emblems known as billets. These can be used to symbolize a number of things but in themselves are simply rectangular forms used to render a space interesting. These come to the Archbishop’s coat of arms from his family heraldic design. When he first became a bishop he reduced the number of billets to two with the desire to suggest both the law of the church (that is to say the Old and New Testaments) and to represent the curial briefs and documents that represent the Administration of the Church. They were originally included to recall the Archbishop’s role as confidential priest-secretary to Cardinal Hickey.

In changing the coat of arms design to make it more appropriate viz. the customs of Catholic heraldry, the symbolism desired to represent the law of the Church comes into the design by way of the use of the tincture blue, representing the teaching authority of Archbishop Lori as bishop and priest (as fully described above). The desired homage to Cardinal Hickey, as we have now seen, comes into the new design by the introduction of the lion in the Hickey coat of arms. And so, the use of the billets in the new design is solely representative of the Lori family and as such, an additional billet was restored to offer proper balance and beauty to the new coat of arms. They are placed in bend which means in a descending order so as to bring further elegance to the new design.

Having said this, it must also be said that three of any one emblem in Catholic heraldry is always also an honor to the Blessed Trinity so long as each is exact in shape, composition and dignity, and in staggering the three this harkens to the role of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, equal and exact but hierarchical all the same. The color of the billets is silver, again always rendered in white, one of the two Heavenly Attributes; gold and silver always being used for any emblem representing the Three Persons of God.

Below the fess is found a single Fleur de Lys, the emblem of the Blessed Virgin. As in the original design, it is rendered in silver which in heraldry is depicted as white. In heraldry there is no white. This color is represented for items chosen to be rendered in silver. As such, for instance, a silver star, would be described (blazoned) as silver but would actually be painted in white (representing silver) because actual silver would tarnish and thus later ruin a coat of arms panting. White/silver represents purity and truth, and is one of the two Heavenly Attributes, the other being gold which in Catholic heraldry always represents the Divine Wisdom of the Trinity.

In coming to a new design for the Archbishop, a new, more properly Catholic (that is to say a design not typical to general heraldry but one found in historic Catholic heraldic art) Fleur de Lys was selected. The homage is the same, an honor to the Blessed Virgin Mother of God.


In heraldry, a motto has been a personal philosophy of life as well as a family dictum, and sometimes even a cry for battle. But in Church heraldry, a cleric’s personal motto has always been intended to represent his personal spirituality and theologically based philosophy of life and is most frequently grounded in Sacred Scripture or in a prominent prayer or litany. For William E. Lori, this symbolism is found on the banderole (motto ribbon) in three simple yet powerful words:

Caritas · In · Veritate

Archbishop Lori’s original motto as bishop was “In Caritate Servire” which translates to “To Serve in Love.” A motto is never required for anyone and many clerics and prelates do not adopt one. As one is never required it is quite common to adopt a new motto later in life or with a change in apostolate. As such many bishops change their mottos during the course of their lifetimes. Archbishop Lori has opted to select a new motto as he enters his new apostolate in Baltimore: CARITAS IN VERITATE which will surely serve him well in historic Baltimore which also brings to the sitting archbishop the protocol and precedence dignity of “prerogative of place” an honor granted to the first see of America by Pope Pius IX in 1858 and which grants to the sitting archbishop the right of precedence in the United States after all cardinals and the papal legate but before all archbishops regardless of their position or date of elevation (other than the archbishop of the site of a specific ecclesial event). Baltimore was granted this unique honor in lieu of the primatial dignity and title found in other nations in light of our Republic’s democratic sensibilities at the time.

The Externals

There are external elements to every coat of arms design that must also be explained. This is also so in ecclesial heraldry. Surmounting the shield of a Metropolitan Archbishop is the pilgrim’s hat, the heraldic emblem for all prelates and priests of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. For the rank of archbishop, titular, residential and metropolitan, the pilgrim’s hat is always worked in deep forest green. For this rank and office in the episcopacy there are ten tassels suspended on either side of the hat in a pyramidal style. The hat is properly known as the galero and the tassels take the name fiocchi. These cords (cordiere) and tassels are worked in the same hue of green and the interior of the hat is always rendered in red, and has been so for eleven centuries, red representing the clergy’s possible martyrdom for the vocation that they have adopted in life.

Behind Archbishop Lori’s coat of arms is found the archiepiscopal cross. For the bishops, this cross has only one transverse arm, but for all archbishops the cross has a second, smaller transverse arm above. The cross may be jeweled or depicted as plain and most resembles the processional cross commonly used in liturgies. The archiepiscopal cross found behind and above this coat of arms is worked in gold, and has five Fleur de Lys emblems emanating from it. This is known in heraldry as the Cross Fluerity. This was chosen to bring further homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary whose main emblem in Catholic heraldry is the Fleur de Lys as we have seen. The Fleur de Lys in Roman Catholic heraldry is also reserved as symbols for places dedicated to, or honoring, the Blessed Virgin including shrines and cities and as such with the See of Baltimore being within Maryland, a see and state under the patronage of Mary, the heraldic homage to the Blessed Virgin and a recognition of the state of Maryland came to the choice of cross design employed. This design also complements the Archbishop’s personal shield as well.

The star sapphire was selected as this is the heraldic stone of the Blessed Virgin, blue is Her heraldic color and the star harkens to both the Star of Bethlehem when She gave birth to the Savior of the world and to the moment that the Archangel Gabriel carried God’s Message to Mary announcing the coming birth of the Christ. As the basilica in Baltimore bears the titular of the Annunciation, this honor and inclusion is all the more appropriate.

The second stone used in Catholic heraldry for the Blessed Virgin is the pearl, representative of Her eternal purity, and as such both stones are found in the archiepiscopal cross above and behind Archbishop Lori’s heraldic shield. As a consequence, Archbishop Lori’s archiepiscopal cross incorporates all of these particular symbolic references.

Overall, Archbishop Lori’s coat of arms has remained faithful to the style of Church heraldry originally developed in the Middle Ages. It is this ancient style that the Church continues to demand in the seals of office of each diocesan (arch)bishop, and of the co-adjutors and the titular(arch) bishops as well, whose seals traditionally derive from the design of the personal coat of arms.

At the base of the shield is found the representation of the pallium, the insignia of the office of the Metropolitan Archbishop which for centuries was included in Roman Catholic heraldry but which came to lapse during the pontificate of Paul VI. With the election of our current pontiff, Benedict XVI, the pallium has returned to the heraldry of the metropolitan if he desires to include it. The actual insignia known as the pallium is presented to each newly named metropolitan at ceremonies in Rome on the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul each June twenty-ninth. He must wear it above his vestments thereafter but only within his province where his jurisdiction lies. In heraldry it is draped below the shield in a manner that depicts the five crosses found on the actual insignia, each cross representing the wounds of Christ on Calvary.

About The Heraldic Designers

James-Charles Noonan, Jr. is a well-known Church historian and ecclesiastical protocolist as well as one of the few Vatican trained heraldists at work today. He routinely works with the Holy See, with members of the College of Cardinals and the episcopacy. Noonan has published numerous books on these subjects, in the United States and Europe, including the bestselling opus The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Roman Catholic Church (1996) which is being revised and updated for publication in May 2012.

He holds several academic degrees and is an alumnus of numerous prestigious institutions in America and Europe. He has also been highly decorated for his achievements, having received nine orders of knighthood from foreign heads of state, royalty, and from the Vatican. Trained in ecclesial heraldry by the undisputed leaders of this field of study, namely the late Archbishops Bruno B. Heim, the private secretary of Pope John XXIII whose arms Heim designed along with the papal arms of Paul VI, John Paul I and Pope John Paul II and H.E. Cardinale, papal diplomat, author and heraldist, as well as the late Cardinal Jacques Martin (Prefect of the Papal Household during three pontificates), Mr. Noonan is now recognized at the leading Catholic heraldist of our own time. His select clients include cardinals, archbishops and bishops, and he has designed arms for basilicas, cathedrals, seminaries, shrines, and for abbots, priors, priests and minor prelates the world over. Mr. Noonan resides in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania.

Linda Nicholson, who expertly paints the heraldic arms designed by James-Charles Noonan, Jr., completes the partnership of this unique team in Church service. Nicholson’s talented renderings complement Noonan’s rich designs. She is a Craft Painter of the prestigious Society of Heraldic Arts in England and paints grants of arms for the Governor General of Canada. According to Noonan, “Linda Nicholson is one of the great heraldic painters of our time and one of the few remaining experts in this craft”. In addition to her artistic talents, Mrs. Nicholson holds a Master’s Degree in Medieval Studies from the University of Toronto. She resides in Ontario.