Heraldry in the Episcopal Church of the United States
This article is by Thomas Rightmyer.
The national Episcopal Church has a shield and flag: Argent, a cross gules, on a canton azure nine cross-crosslets argent in saltire. The red cross on white is for the Church of England, of which the Episcopal Church is the American representative, the white cross-crosslets represent the nine originial dioceses and the blue canton with the crosses in saltire is a reminder of the Episcopal Church of Scotland from whom the first American bishop Samuel Seabury received his consecration as bishop.
Each diocese has a seal, and each bishop has a signet ring, used for sealing ordination certificates. The ring normally impales the arms of the diocese and the bishop's own arms, sometimes assumed for the office, and sometimes consisting of his or her intials. The diocesan seals are reproduced in black and while in the Episcopal Church Annual, available at most Episcopal churches.
Most diocesan seals are in a vesica, like an oval with pointed ends. Many include a shield with key and crozier (curved bishop's staff) in saltire surmounted by a mitre. Many have a multitude of symbolic charges cluttering up the shield. Following are some notes on the seals of the dioceses, with the date of organization of the diocese:
Alabama (1844) no shield, mitre, crozier and crossed keys. Alaska (1895) no shield, cross with vesica. Albany (1869) shiled with cross, beaver in canton, surmounted by mitre, no vesica. Arizona (1869) quartered shield with mountains, Indian symbols, phoenix and rose, surmounted by mitre, in a vesica. Arkansas (1838) shield divided bend sinster with star, wheat sheaf, church in cotton (?) field, surmounted by with key handle up and crozier in saltire behind. Atlanta (1907) Eagle isplayed, cross on breast. canton with ciborium (a covered chalice used for the hosts (bread) at Holy Communion) surmounted by a mitre. Bethlehem (1871) sheild with a chevron sable five balls argent, in chief two cross crosslets, in base a 7 pointed star, key wards up and crozier in saltire behind, surmpunted by a mitre. ( Many of the Pennsylvania dioceses include some element from the Penn family's sable three balls argent. Though William Penn was a Quaker, his descendants were Anglicans and supported the Church of England in Pennsylvania. California (1853) shield with crossed keys behind a Celtic cross (latin cross with ring connecting arms) in glory, a dove in chief, surmounted by a mitre. Central Florida (1969, continuing South Florida 1892 which was divided into three parts - Central, Southeast, Southwest Florida) shield no vesica, quartered 1 and 4 dark, 2 & 3 argent, with cross overall, in canton two swords in saltire (for Diocese of London) surmounted by a mitre. Central Gulf Coast (southern Alabama and northwest Florida) shield anchor on wavy white and blue lines, in chief a dove between two St. Andrew's Crosses (X), surmounted by mitre in vesica. Central New York (Syracuse area) quartered 1 and 4 dark, 2 & 3 argent, a cross countercharged between four balls of blue and white (for the lakes). Central Pennsylvania (Harrisburg) argent a dove centered on a Celtic cross, in chief sable a crown of thorns between a crescent and a ball. Chicago (1835) has a shield in a vesica, divided in three parts like a Y reversed by a broad band on which are three fleur-de-lis and three cross-crosslets two in chief one in base, over all an escutcheon with an eagle displayed, key and crozier in saltire behind, mitre over all. Columbia, South America, (1964) has in an oval a shield with a map of that country on which is a cross, with key and crozier and mitre. Colorado (1865) has a shield with a cross argent, in base two mountain peaks, surmounted by a mitre, no keys or crozier. Connecticut (1784) has a saltire with crossed swords in chief midpoint and on an escutcheon at midpoint a key and crozier in saltire, with a chief of three vines (from the state arms), surmounted by a mitre. Dallas (1874) places the whole achievement within a vesica, shield, cross and crozier in saltire, mitre and motto "Sub cruce veritas." The shield has a cross over all, with a 5 pointed star in dexter and crossed keys in sinster chief and a small inescutcheon with a lion standant. Delaware (served by Pennsylvania until 1841) has a shield with a voided cross with a diamond in center, and a chief of blue and white for the river, mitre surmounting. Dominican Republic (1913) has the Episcopal Church shield with an open book in 2, torch (?) in 3, and radiant sun in 4, key and crozier in saltire behind and mitre surmounting. East Carolina (1884) has a shield divided per fess, with a picture of a boat in chief and a picture of a ruined church in base. The shield is centered in a vesica, with a mitre above and a cross below it. East Tennessee (1985) shield with cross and on a chief engrailed (to look like the mountains) three Greek crosses, at center of the cross a design with a dot in center. (strange!) Key and crozier in saltire behind, mitre above, not resting on, shield. Eastern Oregon (1907) argent, a cross, probably gules, on a chief sable three wagon wheels, surmounted by a mitre, in a vesica. Easton (1869) Maryland Eastern Shore - in an oval not on a shield a crozier and cross in saltire with a mitre above and motto "Esto fidelis" below. Eau Claire (1929) Northwestern Wisconsin, shield on a wavy fess adesign like a tree trunk with limbs trimmed close, in chief a muskrat, cross and fish, in base a design incorporating a rose. Key and crozier in saltire, mitre above shield. Ecuador, South America (1971) a cross over all with an open book at centre, in canton a Jerusalem cross, in sinster canton a reproduction of the national flag, in base a twin peaked mountain, key and crozier in saltire, mitre surmounts shield. El Camino Real (1980) San Jose and Monterey area coastal California) wavy blue and white field in chief the sun between two bells. El Salvador. Central America (missionary area from 1967) in a shield shape a canton of the Episcopal Church, 2 the letteers IE, 3 E 4 S. Convocation of American Churches in Europe (1971 and before) shield on a cross over all a cross crosslet, 12 stars arranged 3 in each quadrant at the edges of the shield, key and crozier in saltire behind, mitre surmounting. Florida (1851) Now northern part only. Nonheraldic seal with a saint holding a book and chalice, flanked by 6 palm trees, 3 each side, with 7 stars overhead and either a pelican or an eagle displayed at his feet. Fond du Lac (1875) Northeast Wisconsin. Shield alternating blue and white, sword and key in saltire with a fish palewise over all, key and crozier in saltire behind, surmounted by mitre, no vesica. Fort Worth (1983) divided per fess by a like like battlements, a canton of a griffin rampant holding a staff, in base the skull of a longhorn over three lines and a 5 pointed star. Key and crozier in saltire behind, mitre surmounts. Georgia (1841) On a dark field, between two roses, on a bend a boar's head facing to dexter, shield surmounted by mitre only, no vesica. Guatemala, Central America (1967) Nonheraldic, in a vesica, a mitre over a crozier and cross in saltire, with a bird at the top (perhaps the national bird) Haiti (1874) In a vesica, sable, on a cross argent, a palm tree, surmounted by a mitre only. Hawaii (1862) Shield divided per pale, to dexter a cross patte, in chief two keys in saltire, to sinster a chevron between three 5 pointed stars 2 and 1, surmounted by a mitre. Honduras (1968) Shield only, divided by a Latin cross - 1 a cross between a chalice and host and a mitre in base an open book, 2 - a road between mountains, 3 the Honduran flag, 4 a sword and crozier in saltire. Idaho (1899) Shield divided by a cross overall - 1 the sun rising over mountains, 2 five crosses, 2, 1, 2, 2 four crosses, 4 blue and white wavy for lakes, surmounted by a mitre. Indianapolis (1835) divided per fess, in base a cross overall, in chief a lamb standant, key and crozier in saltire, mitre surmounting. Iowa (1854) Shield divided in four palewise, on a cross with arms fesways cut short four diamonds, between four ears of corn, surmounted by a mitre. Kansas (1864) Shield an anchor cross between the Greek capital letters Alpha and Omega, surmounted by a mitre. Kentucky (1832) Shield a chalice, in chief three scallop shells, surmounted by a mitre. Lexington (Eastern Kentucky) 1896 Argent, a cross, with a canton in base two forearms fessways shaking hands, key and crosier in saltire mitre surmounting. Long Island (1868) (New York) Or, between three crosses a chevron azure and argent, surmounted by a mitre, no vesica. Los Angeles (1896) 3 angel wings 2 and 1, in chief a sword fessways between two bears, surmounted by a mitre. Louisiana (1841) on a cross a pelican in her piety, surmounted by a scroll reading MDCCCXXXVIII a key and crosier in saltire surmounted by a mitre. Maine (1847) on a field of concentric circles, on a cross or a pine tree with roots proper, key and corsier in saltire, surmounted by a mitre. Maryland (1792) Quarterly argent and gules, a cross counter charged, at poin of honor a pheon counter charged, a canton paly or and sable, countercharged bendwise, surmounted by a mitre, no vesica. The pheon is from the arms of Thomas Claggett, the first bishop, the canton for the Calverts, whose arms quartering Crossland were appropriated along with their land by the State of Maryland and now form the state seal and flag, though the Calvert arms are paly of 8 or and sable a bend countercharged. Massachusetts (1797) On a light colored field, on a dark pale, a sword, point in chief, charged with three crosses, key and crosier in saltire, surmounted by a mitre, no vesica. Michigan (1836) Between two pinecones (?) a pale wavy argent and azure, on a chief or three crosses, key and crosier in saltire, mitre surmounting. Milwaukee (1854) (Wisconsin) Between three crosses fleur-de-lis, a beaver standant, key and crosier in saltire, surmounted by a mitre. Minnesota (1859) A Latin cross couped, in base a peacepipe and tomahawk in saltire, surmounted by a mitre. Mississippi (1850) A tree proper in base, in chief dexter on a dark field a cross couped, sinister on a light field an eagle displayed, surmounted by a mitre. Missouri (1841) Non heraldic design of a fish palewise with a crosier issuing from its mouth and a cross for eye. Montana (1866) Non heraldic - in a vesica in base a mitre over a crosier and a patriarchal two bar cross, in center mountains proper, in chief a Jerusalem cross. Nebraska (1865) In front of a crosier and key in saltire a cross couped, surmounted by a mitre. Nevada (1869) In base three cross crosslets 2 and 1, a chief engrailed (like three mountain peaks), key and crosier in saltire, surmounted by a mitre. New Hampshire (1811) Between four crosses, on a cross overall a candle (?), key and crosier, surmounted by a mitre. New Jersey (1815) divided per pale by a crosier which extends above the shield, to dexter striped azure and or bendwise, to sinister three lions passant guardant.=, in a vesica. New York (1787) quarterly gules and argent a cross counter charged, in 1 and 4 an indistinct figure, 2 and 4 a windmill sail, surmounted by a mitre. Newark (1874) (Northern New Jersey) In base a cross between four diamonds, in chief a peacock, key and crosier in saltire, surmounted by a mitre. North Carolina (1819) a ship proper sailing to dexter, with a flag of St. George - argent, a cross gules. North Dakota (1883) Non-heraldic, in base over a crosier and key in saltire a mitre, center a wheat sheaf, in chief the Chi Rho monogram [P over x). Northern California (1874) Azure, between two loaves of bread an IHS in glory issuant from a chalice or. surmounted by a mitre. Northern Indiana (1895) A lighthouse on an island in a sea, with rays, in front of a key and crosier in saltire, surmounted by a mitre. Northern Michigan (1896) A particularly cluttered shield. On a cross over all 7 stars 1, 2, 2, 2 and at center in inescutcheon with three lamps 2 and 1, between 1 a pine cone, 2 two Indians paddling a canoe, 3 a beaver rampant, 4 a shovel and pick in saltire, surmounted by a mitre. Northwest Texas (1910) Quarterly light and dark, a cross over all countercharged, with a 5 pointed star countercharged in 1 and 2, surmounted by a mitre. Northwestern Pennsylvania (1911) argent on a pale 3 balls, a chief wavy azure and argent (for Lake Erie), surmounted by a mitre. Ohio (1819) Divided fesswise, in base argent, a bunch of grapes proper, in chief vert a shock of wheat peoper, over a crosier and key in saltire, surmounted by a mitre. Note that the crosier is dexter, the key sinster, different from most such ornaments. Oklahoma (1893) Per pale dark and light, on a saltire counter charged two Indian hunting implements (?) in chief a star, in base an Indian spearpoint, dexter and sinster two round Indian shields, all countercharged, surmounted by a mitre. Olympia (1880) (Western Washington State) A square rigged galley, on the sail the arms of Washington argent two fesses gules in chief three stars gules, surmounted by a mitre. Oregon (1854) Or, between three cross crosslets on a fess three roses, before key and crosier in saltire, surmounted by a mitre. Panama (1920) A ship in glory proceeding through the Panama Canal, on the sail a cross couped, before key and crosier in saltire, surmounted by a mitre. Pennsylvania (1787) On a cross three crowns or, a border sable with eight balls argent. (The crowns are for the Swedish Lutheran churches which joined the diocese, the sable with white balls for the Penn family.) Pittsburgh (1866) Quarterly dark and light, a cross over all, 1 between three balls 2 and 1 a fess chequy, 2 on a fess three white balls, key and crosier in saltire behind, a mitre surmounting. Quincy (1878) (West central Illinois) Divided in four parts as Iowa, a cross over all with seven flames 3, 3, 1, at center, key and crosier in saltire behind, a mitre over all. Rhode Island (1790) Dark field, on an anchor cross, the crucified Christ, before a key and crosier, mitre surmounting. Rio Grande (1889) (formerly New Mexico and SW Texas) Non-heraldic seal in a vesica A cross on three steps, mitre in base, stylized sun as in New Mexico stste flag dexter, 5 pointed star sinster. Rochester (1931) West central New York State) light field, between a ball azure and argent in chief and three mitres, a dark saltire, above key and crosier, surmounted by a mitre. San Diego (1974) California in base azure and argent for the sea, in dexter chief an open book, i sinster a plant, a cross argent over all, surmounted by a mitre. San Joaquin (1911) Valley California Azure a cross or, crosier and key behind, mitre over all. South Carolina (1795) Quarterly azure and gules, a cross over all argent between four charges, the only identifiable one 2 a pelican in her piety. South Dakota (1873) Argent a Latin cross patty flory, a vesica at the center, key and crosier in saltire, a mitre surmounting. Southeast Florida (1969) (very poor reproduction) Central Florida - see above - with a large inescutcheon divided per pale, dexter not clearly enough pictired to describe, sinster the sea (wavy azure and argent) over all a saltire, at center a large round object, surmounted by a mitre. Southern Ohio, Light field, a bend as a river proper, in chief a plow, in base a sheaf, over key and crosier in saltire, a mitre surmounting a motto Sicut Flumen Pax. Southern Virginia (1892) The tower of the Jamestowne Church proper, key and crosier in saltire, a mitre surmounting the moto Nisi Dominus. Southwest Florida (1969) On Central Florida, above, an escutcheon, in base the sun rising from an heraldic sea, in dexter chief a pelican in her piety, in sinster a five pointed star. Southwestern Virginia (1920) Quarterly, 1 a cross or, 2 divided fesswise engrailed (as mountains) azure and argent, 3 gules two swords in saltire (London), 4 a torch over a book, key and crosier in saltire behind, mitre surmounting. Spokane (1892) (Eastern Washington State and northern Idaho) Dark field, between two shaves, on a dark pale edged argent three cross crosslets, key and crosier in saltire, mitre surmounting. Springfield (1878) (Southern Illinois) Or, a cross on three steps between the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, in base the roots of the cross as a tree, key and crosier, mitre surmounting. Tennessee (1834) Dark field, cross over all or, in chief between two sheaves (difficult to distinguish these) the letters XVI, key and crosier, mitre surmounting. Texas (1859) Dark field, on a cross over all argent, a five pointed star of the field, key and crosier, mitre surmounting. Upper South Carolina (1922) The Sun rising behind mountains overlooking the Piedmont, motto Levati oculos meos in montes, mitre surmounting. Utah (1867) A striking shield, no mitre or key or crosier, on a dark field three billets bendwise, the dexter one having an extension of the same width at a right angle. The effect is two ranges of mountains. Vermont (1832) argent, three piles vert each surmounted by a cross patee, the shield surmounted by a mitre. The present bishop Mary Adelia McLeod has this design on the front of her mitre. Virgin Islands (1963) On a cross fimbrated a spear in pale passing through a crown, on a canton an eagle displayed, surmounted by a mitre. Virginia (1790) Quarterly, a cross over all, 1 three ships 2 and 1, 2 a Latin cross couped. 3 Gules two swords in saltire (London) 4 three keys fesswise, surmounted by a mitre through which a crosier in pale passes, all in a vesica. Washington (1896) (District of Columbia and four southern Maryland counties) The Arms of Washington (argent two bars in pale gules, between two five pointed stars gules, a mural crown or, on a chief azure a Jreusalem Cross or, key and crosier in saltire, a mitre surmounting. West Missouri (1890) Between two ears of corn, a pallium with four crosses (as Canterbury or Armagh) in chief a crescent moon, key and crosier in saltire, mitre surmounting. West Tennessee (1977) Light field, within a ring three crosslets 2 and 1, in chief on a cross overall a flower, key and crosier in saltire, a mitre surmounting. West Texas (1874) Dark field, cross argent over all, charges in four corners and at center of cross, all too small to identify except 2 a five pointed star argent, key and crosier in saltire, mitre surmounting. West Virginia (1878) No vesica, divided per pale, a couped cross dexter, two swords in saltire to sinster, a chief divided fesswise engrailed (for mountains), key and crosier in saltire, mitre surmounting. Western Kansas (1901) Divided per pale, dexter a plow, in chief either stars as in the American flag or or, sinter between two animals courant a fess with an indistinguishable charge. Western Louisiana (1980) A pelican in her piety between two fleur de lys and 9 very small angel wings, in a base a shell, key, crosier and mitre. Western Massachusetts (1902) Between three water roundrels, on a chevron 5 shells, a border engrailed, key, crosier, mitre. Western Michigan (1875) Non-heraldic a boat sailing to sinster beneath the word Pax. No key, crosier or mitre. Western New York (1839) Two swords in saltire, on a chief three water roundels, surmounted by a mitre. Western North Carolina (1895) In a vesica, a shield Purpure a cross over all or, beneath a mountain vert above which a hand proper holds a cross vert. Wyoming (1887) Light field on a bend cotised three crosses, in chief a lamp, in base a five pointed star, key, crosier, mitre.
Some of the Episcopal seminaries have seals, sometimes worn on the tippet or black scarf used for Morning and Evening Prayer services, either at the bottom or sometimes over the left breast. Military chaplains have the Great Seal of the United States embroidered on both ends of the tippet and on special occasions wear either campaign ribbons or medals on the tippet over the left breast.
Like the diocesan seals, some are heraldic, some not.
General Theological Seminary, New York City, has a shield and motto: azure over twelve cross-crosslets in saltire argent, on a cross ermine, a mitre or, with motto "sermo tuus veritas est" Thy word is truth. The azure is the medium blue of the Episcopal Church shield and the cross crosslets recall the canton of that shield and recall the twelve dioceses in the church when the seminary was founded. I think the design was made by the late Canon Edddie West of New York, one of the Episcopal Church's great heralds. The Protestant Episcopal Seminary in Virginia, Alexandria, has in a vesica not on a shield on a white field on the three steps of a latin cross the Greek capital letters Alpha and Omega. The Episcopal Theological Seminary in Kentucky, now closed, had on the seal of the Diocese of Lexington a lamp or resting on the clasped hands in base. Berkeley Divinity School, now associated with Yale University, has azure a cross gules edged or, in canton a sun with its rays or. In the small illustration it appears to be in front of two crosiers in saltire and surmounted by a mitre. Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, has gules, between four open books a cross interlaced or. From a distance this looks like a cross of the field edged or, but it is composed of four rods interwoven. Bexley Hall, now in Rochester, NY, has sable. a Celtic cross argent, surrounded by 10 small crosses (almost looks like erminois), on a chief gules, over a crosier fessways head to dexter, an open book. Nashotah House has gules on a cross or a lily with three blooms, in chief two roundels of water. The cross is wider than usually seen. Church Divinity School of the Pacific has or, a Celtic cross gules, on a chief gules an open book. The Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest has azure a cross couped argent. Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois has in a vesica on a cross azure between four crosses rose a three ring symbol of the Trinity. Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, Ambridge, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has the shield of the Episcopal Church surmounted by a lamp or, with a flame of three triangles meeting at their apexes, or in base, azure to dexter, gules to sinster, in a vesica.
Some parishes have arms. St. Philip's Church, Durham, NC, for example, has gules, a dalmatic argent, a bend countercharged.
I'd be glad to correspond with anyone interested in Episcopal Church heraldry.
Return to the Ecclesiastical Heraldry Page.Thomas Rightmyer
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Last modified: Apr 01, 2000