Even Catholics are largely unaware that each new Pope is responsible for creating his own heraldic escutcheon, which includes a crest and other accoutrements. It is, in other words, a Holy Coat of Arms.
When he became Pope Benedict XVI, the Father Formerly Known As Ratzinger called upon his Germanic heritage when designing the escutcheon that would rule the world’s Catholics for the nextâ€¦ohâ€¦let’s give himâ€¦say, ten years. No, make that eight. No, six. (He really looks like hell.)
Impress your Catholic friends with these facts:
1: Pope Benedict XVI made waves among old-schoolers when he dropped the traditional tiara that sat atop many of his predecessors’ heralds, including that of John Paul II, aka, That Nice Polack Who Got Along With Everyone. See it here. Mr.
XVI opted instead for a miter with three stripes, representing the Pontiff’s superhero powers of order, jurisdiction and magisterium.
2: The keys reference Matthew 16:19, wherein Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.”
3: Jumping to the bottom for a moment, His Holiness inserted what has been described as “absolute novelty“â€“ a pallium, which is the white stole traditionally worn by bishops. Why the nod to his lesser theologians? God only knows.
4: In the so-called “sinister” corner of the shield, Pope Benedict XVI chose what looks like a bear wearing a backpack. Which is exactly what it is. One of two shout-outs to his homeland, this image has been part of Germanic heraldry for several hundred years, and references the legend of St Corbinian of Freising, whose horse was killed by a bear. The holy man then tamed the beast, so the story goes, and forced it carry his luggage â€“ all the way to Rome. Pope Benedict used this image in his coat of arms when he was Archbishop, and then Cardinal, of Munich and Freising.
5: The best word to describe the image in the “dexter” corner of the shield is, well, queer. In the old sense, if you don’t mind. According to the Vatican, the image of the Moor, also known as caput Ethiopicum, is shown in “natural” color and is another traditional Germanic image. Like the backpacking black bear, the Moor was a Papal favorite back when he was still PapaRatzi. Considering he’s prone to pulling boners when it comes to Islam, it’s not unreasonable to question his decision to feature a Muslim minstrel on his official shield.
6: The scallop shell has something to do with pilgrims. And Bavaria.