Coat of Arms of The State of Vatican City - Origins and Background - Holy See

Holy See

The first blazoning of the arms of the Holy See is in Froissart's Chronicles: "gules two keys in saltire argent". The tiara was included in the arms from the late 14th century. "From the beginning of the 14th century, the two crossed keys constitute the arms of the papacy. The field of the shield is generally gules (red) and the cord is azure (blue). Most often the key placed in bend is gold and the one placed in bend sinister, silver; sometimes they are both gold, or, less often, silver." A 15th-century "scudo della Santa Sede" (escutcheon of the Holy See) with crossed keys and tiara is illustrated also in a publication of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Property and Activities. On the history of the choice of tinctures of the keys, Donald Lindsay Galbreath, writing in 1930, soon after the institution of the independent state of Vatican City, states: "At first the keys are white, then comes a time when gold keys are found, and finally the present usage of placing a gold key in bend across a silver one in bend sinister slowly makes its way" (emphasis added). This practice of placing a gold key in bend over another of silver in bend sinister is found with certainty from the time of Pope Pius II (1458-1464). Another authority gives the blazon of the present arms of the Holy See as "Gules a key or in bend above a key argent in bend sinister, both wards upwards, the bows united by a cord or, above the shield a tiara, its three crowns or, the mitre argent". In his Heraldry in the Catholic Church, Archbishop Bruno Heim describes the same arrangement. These accounts of the arrangement of the keys in the present coat of arms of the Holy See distinguish it from that of Vatican City State by a reversing of the gold and silver keys. The website Flags of the World has this remark: "When what is represented is the Holy See, not Vatican City State, the keys are reversed. Rather, when the state was set up in 1929, the keys in the arms of the Holy See were reversed to provide a distinctive symbol for the new entity. In the personal arms of the popes, the keys are, of course, arranged as in the arms of the Holy See: the other arrangement would be equivalent to treating him as merely the head of that little state."

The gold key is placed in bend also in the arms of the Holy See sede vacante, with the tiara replaced by an umbraculum said to represent the absence of a pope and the temporary governance of the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church over the temporal affairs of the Holy See.

The distinction between the coat of arms of the papacy and that of the territory ruled by it dates back at least to the 16th century. Galbreath states: "From the 16th century on, this, the third coat of the Papacy — which may be blazoned Gules a pair of keys crossed in saltire, one gold, one silver, tied gold, surmounted by a tiara silver, crowned gold — is taken to represent the Papacy as distinct from the Papal States." This statement is quoted with approval by Heim.

The arms of the Papal States differed in having the umbraculum (the emblem of the Pope's temporal powers) in place of the tiara, and were incorporated as the first quartering of the royal coat of arms of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy (1805–1814). This coat of arms was not resumed for the territory over which the Pope's temporal powers were restored in 1929 with the creation of Vatican City State.

The holder of the title of Gonfalonier of the Church was entitled to include in his own arms the same design of the crossed kays and umbraculum on a red field.

According to one source, the coat of arms of the Holy See is distinct also from that of the Church, which since the 16th century displays the crossed keys on the red shield with neither tiara nor umbraculum, but with the tiara as an external ornament; however, another source says that the differences between the arms of the Church and those of the papacy are "hard to interpret, and the confusion between the two arms continues up to the present time".

Read more about this topic:  Coat Of Arms Of The State Of Vatican City, Origins and Background

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