27 Aug 2013

Benedict XVI as pope emeritus

The then pope emeritus Benedict XVI was the first pope to have ever resigned since 1415. A new question was arose: how should be the coat of arms of a pope emeritus?

It's the coat of arms of Benedict XVI while still pope (and possibly still in use):

The external ornaments used are on this coat of arms are:
  • the St. Peter's keys, that represents the papacy (a reference to Matthew 16:19);
  • the mitre, stylized to be similar to a papal tiara (affirming the fact that the pope is also a bishop);
  • the pallium, because the pope is a metropolitan or primate archbishop (in this case, of the Archdiocese of Rome), and to represent the collegiality of all the bishops.
As much of the above ornaments may not be correctly attributed to a pope emeritus, a proposal by cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the same author of the coat of arms of Benedict XVI as a pope, was saw on the media:

I'm not particularly keen of the cardinal's design. The pallium is never used by an archbishop emeritus, and naturally shouldn't be used by a pope emeritus. Moreover, I don't think that the red chief integrates well with the rest of the the shield. Here's my proposal.

For the reason cited on previous paragraph, I don't think it's a good element to the coat of arms, with the additional reason that it doesn't combine with a round shield, that was preferred. The mitre can stay, as a consecration lasts all the life; even though the mitre is very similar to a papal tiara, it's still a mitre, and can be used as a special honor.

The papal keys are removed from the background and kept on the chief, as an honor, but, differently of cardinal's proposal, I kept the whole design in a way that could be traditional but still resembling current coat of arms. So I opted by the partition in saltire, that seems a sharp option for a now-quartered shield. The motto that was, for unknown reason, dropped from papal coat of arms can return.

Your comments are always welcome.
As religion is a very sensitive theme, I'd decided to write this post in a technical perspective. Prejudiced comments won't be allowed.
I'd like to put the motto on a scroll, but my artistic abilities didn't allow me to do so.
I like very much to write about heraldry! If this post have a good response, I'll write more about the theme.


  1. Interesting, you have clearly put a lot of thought into this. I admit that not being a Catholic I would not know too much about the heraldic traditions of the pope. I did fallow the news of Benedict XVI's abdication with great interest as I am sure lots of people around the world did, but I never thought about the heraldic consequences. Something I think I will look at more.

    1. Thanks. It's just a questions of putting it on paper and design many drafts.

      Unfortunately, there's a doubt if the pope emeritus will release a new coat of arms.


Every comment is greatly welcome!