The Heraldry of Sacred Music (Part IV) Musical Armigers

Author: Duane Galles


Musical Armigers

by Duane L.C.M. Galles

We have outlined the origin and elements of heraldry in the earlier parts of this series and described sacred music's contribution to the armorial alphabet. Now we survey the history of sacred music for a rapid selection of the armorial bearings of musical armigers. Our armigers will include both individuals and juridical persons, both patrons and other important figures in the history of sacred music as well as composers and other makers of music.

In Part III we saw the figure of Christ used as a passive subject of armory-as an armorial charge. But to the medieval mind Christ was also an armiger or person possessed of a coat armour. Indeed, He along with a host of other figures who historically never could have borne arms had arms attributed to them by the medieval world.

The medieval herald approached the matter much is a manner of the medieval theologian. The latter employed a line of theological reasoning summarized by the Latin phrase, , , (it was possible, it was fitting, it was in fact). Similarly to the medieval herald, given Christ's impressive genealogy back to "Adam, son of God" in Saint Luke's gospel, it seemed possible that Christ was a gentleman of coat armour. Moreover, as the scion of the royal House of David, it was fitting that Our Lord be armigerous. They, therefore, concluded that the Supreme Musician was in fact armigerous and for His armorial ensigns assigned to Him the instruments of His passion, the .

Likewise, His mother could not have been without coat armour and so to the Lily of Israel arms were also attributed consisting of a bunch of white lilies, symbol of her Immaculate Conception, in a gold pot against a blue field. There are a number of variations (including a cross crosslet fitchy between a pair of silver wings to symbolize the Word made flesh at the message of an angel) but the three silver lilies in a pot on a blue field borne by the City of Dundee in Scotland would seem to be arms of patronage inasmuch as Our Lady is titular of its ancient parish church.

In the middle ages, King David ranked among the Nine Worthies of the world and so to this outstanding sacred musician of the Old Testament arms were attributed, namely a golden harp on a royal blue field. The Christian muse, Saint Cecilia, virgin and martyr, could not be treated otherwise and so to this Roman gentlewoman was attributed the same charge but on a field colored red with her blood.

Saint Gregory the Great, the saintly pope who lent his name to the chant proper to the Roman Church, also had arms attributed to him. But the great doctor of the western Church got his arms in a fashion different from King David. During the renaissance among the Italian families in search of illustrious and ancient lineage were the Frangipani. They claimed descent from the ancient Roman family, the Anicii, one of whose members was Pope Gregory the Great. The Frangipani arms depicted two golden rearing lions facing each other and holding aloft a golden loaf of bread against a red field. Clearly these Frangipani arms were canting arms, a pun on their name which means "bread-breakers." In time the cracks in the loaf came to be blazoned more piously as a cross and so this late medieval coat was anachronistically attributed to the sixth-century pope from whose family the Frangipani claimed descent. Counter colored per chevron black and silver for difference, in this century this coat was borrowed by Dom Wilfrid Bayne for the arms of the English Benedictine Abbey of Saint Gregory the Great in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

The monasteries were, of course, the great centers for sacred music in the early medieval period. Beginning with his monastery at Monte Casino in 529, Saint Benedict became the father of western monasticism and his motto of pray and work, set the musical stage for a marriage between western monasticism and plainchant which has only been dissolved in our own day. It was largely through Benedictine monasteries that the Roman liturgy was transmitted to the barbarian peoples of western Europe through monastic foundations at Fulda, Reichenau, Einsiedeln and other places. As the hymn has it, (the Benedictines) , through the Benedictines the barbarians learned to resound Christ with a Roman heart. The arms of Monte Casino show a trimount surmounted by a Latin cross beneath which is the word , peace. In time this became the arms of the Benedictine Order, and Pope Pius VII (1800-1823), who was a member of that order and who was the first pope to erect a minor basilica outside Italy-the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre Dame de Paris-impaled the Benedictine arms with those of his own Chiaramonte family, a practice not unusual among religious who are raised to the prelacy.

Besides the Benedictines, monks and nuns alike, other religious orders might also be ranked among the great practitioners of plainchant. The canons regular represented an eleventh-century reform of the secular canons into whom they sought to infuse the monastic discipline whilst retaining the active pastoral ministry of the canons. Among the new canons regular were those of Premontre founded by Saint Norbert of Xanten and today often called the Norbertines. They bear a pair of crossed golden croziers upon a blue field strewn with golden lilies and a canon regular of Premontre will ensign his arms with a black ecclesiastical hat of three tassels.

The Dominicans regarded themselves as both monks and canons and so saw themselves as devoted to the pastoral office of preaching as well as to the choral office. Thus they wore a woolen habit like monks in the white color traditional among canons and in choir for warmth added a or large black cloak. Because of that cloak in England they were called Blackfriars. Dominicans interestingly live an armorial "double life." By the fifteenth century they used arms divided per chevron black and white to resemble a thrown over a white Dominican habit. South of the Pyrenees the Dominicans used a different coat more closely emblematic of Saint Dominic. It consists of a black and white cross fleurdelysee, emblematic of Saint Dominic's chastity, counter-colored on a field of eight triangles called gyrons, alternately black and white. The Dominicans were privileged to use a distinctive rite, which like the reformed Vatican II missal, omitted psalm 42, , in the opening rite of the Mass, and their prelates place the black and silver cross fleurdelysee behind their armorial shield.

In late antiquity and in the early middle ages the or chant schools attached to the cathedrals in Rome and in the great provincial cities were also the important centers of learning and music. During this period the Roman chant school proved the great training ground for future popes and Saint Gregory the Great was among its most illustrious alumni. Besides music, it provided instruction in literature and philosophy and like the Ecclesiastical Academy (papal school of diplomacy) in our own time, served as the great training center of popes and Roman curialists.

A change in the Roman came about as a result of the Avignonese papacy or Babylonian Captivity as Luther called it. Whilst living in France the popes engaged French musicians who employed the or new polyphonic style. Pope Gregory XI (1370-1378), born Pierre Roger de Beaufort, bore a blue bend within a border of six red roses on a silver field. When he ended the Babylonian Captivity by returning the papacy to Rome in 1377, he merged his group of French musicians with the which had remained in Rome. As a result thereafter the papal singers, called the , now expanded their repertoire to include polyphony as well as plainchant. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries proved a remarkable period in the choir's history: Its golden age lasted until the mid seventh century. Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484), a Della Rovere who bore their uprooted golden oak on a blue field, founded the Sistine chapel as the fixed abode for ordinary papal ceremonies and ended the traditional peregrinations of the popes and their retinues to the various stational churches of Rome. As a result his musicians came to be known popularly after the chapel in which they sang and so became the Sistine choir. The choir was the patronage of music.

Among the choir's founders may be noted two of its great lawgivers, Paul III (1534- 1549) and Sixtus V (1585-1590). In his bull, of 1545, the former reformed the choir after the devastating sack of Rome in 1527 providing firm footings for its glory to come. This Farnese pope bore six blue fleurs de lys on a gold field.

Sixtus V made the office of elective and thus released it from the toils of nepotism and venality which engulfed so many ecclesiastical offices during the early modern period. Sixtus also fixed the number of the singers at 21 and assigned to them for their support the revenues of three abbeys. This important act regularized the finances of the choir. Candidates for the choir had to be clerks in minor orders and, after an audition, were selected by the maestro with the advice of the of the choir. At the admission ceremony the new member was clothed with a (shortened form of surplice) and took an oath of fidelity to the pope. Thereafter the singer would sing exclusively for the pope and "moonlighting" was strictly forbidden. Sixtus, born Felice di Peretto Ricci in Montalto in the Marches of Ancona, bore canting arms. Against a blue field a golden lion, carrying a pear tree branch for Peretto, was covered with a red bend charged with in chief a gold star and in base a silver trimount. The trimount probably referred to his birthplace, Montalto.<1>

Besides Rome other sees, like that of Metz, which bore a black lion on a silver field, also maintained an illustrious . Metz's heyday was especially in the days of Saint Amalarius (815-825). Lyons had a famous and its own rite. The primatial chapter of Lyons bore a golden griffin facing a silver lion, crowned gold, on a red field. These beasts the canons were privileged to use as armorial supporters for their personal arms and above their shield they placed the coronet of a count, a rank that came with their canonry. The cathedral schools long remained the great centers of music education, and the cathedrals and collegiate churches the great centers of sacred music performance. Staffed by colleges of secular canons, these great churches had the material and human resources needed for great music.

In charge of the music at collegiate churches was the precentor or first chanter. To this benefice or church office (which canonically was a considered a juridical person) arms were sometimes granted. Thus in the English cathedral of Exeter the precentor's arms of office consisted of a blue saltire charged with a gold fleur de lys on a silver field. This coat of office the incumbent would have impaled with his own family arms.

But even where he lacked a coat of office, the precentor usually placed his cantorial staff upright behind his shield as a badge of office. Thus we find Alain de Biron, an eighteenth-century precentor of Notre Dame de Paris, placing his cantorial staff behind his quartered gold and red family coat to denote his cantorial office.

Besides the secular canons their counterparts, the secular canonesses, were important practitioners of church music and preservers of plainchant. Among the most famous institutes of secular canonesses was the foundation at Buchau which bore on a green field a gold cross between in dexter chief a sun and in sinister chief a crescent. Its abbess ranked as a princess of the Holy Roman Empire and ensigned her arms with a red and ermine-lined princely cap and had, as supporters for her arms, a pair of golden lions. A crozier and a naked sword (of justice) were crossed in saltire behind her shield to indicate both her ecclesiastical rank and the broad acres which she ruled with justice and judgment.

By the late middle ages canonries came to be seen as sources of income more than opportunities for service, and the canon occupying the precentor's stall was not always learned in sacred music. But at least one such precentor was learned in armory. The precentor of Salisbury Cathedral from 1446-1457 was Nicholas Upton, a priest with degrees in both Roman and canon law. A clerk in the service of the royal Duke of Gloucester who had traveled with his master in France during the Hundred Years War, his is a treatise on the international law of war and the rules of heraldry entitled completed while he was precentor. He is said to have been one of the Uptons of Newton Feries, Devonshire, who bore a silver cross flory on a black field.

From the cathedral schools sprang the universities and the universities often were notable centers of music. One of the great medieval patrons of church music was Archbishop Henry Chiceley of Canterbury, the founder in 1443 of All Souls College, Oxford. In the statutes for his college, His Grace specified that no scholar be elected a fellow of All Souls who was not competently instructed in plainchant. All Souls College bears a red chevron between three red cinquefoils or five-petaled flowers on a gold field.

More enduring has been the musical labor of King Henry VI who in 1441 founded King's College, Cambridge. In the statutes of his royal foundation Henry made provision for sixteen choir boys who could competently read and sing as well as for six clerks similarly skilled. One of the latter, moreover, was to be a capable organist. King's College still bears three silver roses on a black field. The chief is divided into blue and red halves. On the blue part is a golden fleur de lys and on the red part is a golden lion passant, both taken from the arms of the college's royal founder.

One of England's great patrons of church music was Cardinal Wolsey. In 1525, he founded Cardinal (now Christ Church) College at Oxford and endowed it (as Sixtus V would endow the Sistine choir) with the revenues of several small monastic houses which, as papal legate, he suppressed for the purpose (a manoeuvre which in fact served as precedent for Henry's later more thorough-going dissolution of English monasteries). The statutes of Cardinal College endowed twelve scholarships for clerics at least one of whom was to be , an expert organist. Reorganized by his royal master in 1532 after Wolsey's fall. Christ Church College was to have in charge of the singing men and choristers a precentor who was to know plainchant and be a competent instrumentalist withal.

Wolsey's private chapel or ecclesiastical establishment purveyed the finest church music in England and amongst the choice spoils after his fall were his musicians. Many of these were quickly snapped up by the chapel royal. The arms of this great patron of church music were a silver engrailed cross charged with a red lion between four blue lion's faces on a black field with a red Lancastrian rose in chief between two Cornish choughs or blackbirds. The shield was ensigned with the Cardinal's red hat, his legatine and metropolitan's crosses, and was supported by a pair of gold and silver griffins. The college he founded still bears his arms-including his red hat.

Besides those who rank as patrons of music through their largess there are others whose , demonstrated in wise legislation, entitles them to rank as patrons of church music. We might note Pope Clement V who at the Council of Vienne in 1313 ordered all institutes of religious and all cathedral and collegiate churches to chant the divine office daily and without fail. He bore three red bars on a gold field. The famous bull, , of Pope John XXII (1316-1334) ranks as one of the first papal documents calling for the reform of church music. It forbade the use in the liturgy of profane music, preserved plainchant, and reserved polyphony for solemn feasts. John XXII (born Jacques Dueze at Cahors) bore quartered arms. In the first and fourth quarters a blue lion within a border of red roundels ranged about a silver field. In the second and third quarters two gold bars rested on a red field.

The Tridentine reforms of church music owe a great deal to Saint Charles Borromeo, cardinal-archbishop of Milan, whose provincial decrees set forth in practical norms the desires of Trent on church music. Saint Charles' noble Borromeo family bore a complex coat of several quarters. From his mother, Margherita dei Medici who was a sister of Pope Pius IV, he inherited their famous orle of five red balls on a gold field with a larger blue roundel in chief charged with the French royal lily. This last represented an augmentation of honor bestowed in 1465 by King Louis XI on Duke Piero di Medici. In the second and third quarters were his quartered paternal Vitaliani- Borromeo arms. The Vitaliani bore a shield "bendy of six, vert and vair counterchanged," i.e., divided diagonally into six sections alternately green and silver with blue patches of squirrel fur mounted back to back on the silver pieces. The Borromei themselves bore a shield composed of six alternate red and green horizontal strips surmounted by a silver diagonal strip. In the centre of the quartered coat is an inescutcheon displaying a golden bridle-bit on a red field. This appears to represent a Sicilian branch of the Borromeo family. Above this shield went his red cardinal's hat, which was often decorated with twelve red tassels until 1832, when the Sacred Congregation of Ceremonies decided that cardinals should have the distinction of thirty tassels.[2]

In the eighteenth century Pope Benedict XIII (1724-1730) laid down the norm that during Advent and Lent, except on and Sundays, only church music might be sung. He bore the Orsini-Gravina impaled arms. The Orsini arms were three red bends on a silver field with a red rose in the silver chief. For Gravina a silver tower rested on a blue field. Above all was a chief of the Dominican Mantelarmen.

In our own century the great legislation on sacred music has been Pope Pius X's , and Pope Pius XII's encyclical, The former pope bore a silver anchor of hope on a raging sea beneath a blue sky displaying a six-pointed gold star of Our Lady. Above in chief was the lion of Saint Mark in homage to his former patriarchal see of Venice. The latter pope, sprung from a long line of Roman canonists of the Rota, bore on a blue field a silver dove atop a trimount holding in its beak a sprig of olive, obviously a pacific pun on his family name of Pacelli.

Besides the patrons of music there also exist many makers of music among the company of musical armigers. John Dunstable (1390-1453), the noted fifteenth century English church musician described by Joannis Tinctoris as , bore an ermine chevron between three silver staples against a black field. Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521), graduated in 1511 by Oxford as doctor of music, was among the celebrated English renaissance composers and a member of Henry VIII's chapel royal. Sprung from the Fayrfaxes of Lincolnshire who bore four bars and a canton red on a silver field, this composer of six extant Masses was made a military knight of Windsor in his last years. William Byrd (1543-1623), who bore on a green field three stags heads and an ermine canton, was another early graduate in music and composer of both Roman Catholic and Anglican church music for Elizabeth. Three Masses are extent of this composer dubbed by a contempory .

Beginning with the renaissance there arose the practice of ennobling celebrated musicians. Among the first church musicians so honored was Orlando di Lasso (c. 1530-1594) who in 1570 received a grant of arms including a sharp, a flat, and a natural sign on a silver fess between two crosslets in gold resting on a field divided per saltire silver and blue.

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber von Biber (1644-1704) in 1670 entered the chapel of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg and fourteen years later rose to become its . In 1690 he was ennobled by Emperor Leopold I. A versatile composer, he wrote Masses in both the and in the new concertant style. He bore quartered arms. In the first quarter above a green meadow was a blue sky and clouds. In the second and third quarters was a beaver proper rising from a green hill on a red field. In the fourth quarter above a stream was a blue sky and clouds. The beaver () was clearly a canting device.

In the next century Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), sometime organist of Clermont cathedral, wrote some Magnificats and motets but more operas. He was posthumously ennobled and his family granted arms which included a silver dove holding a golden branch (in French ) of olive against a blue field.

Some musicians continued to come from armigerous families. Jean Baptiste Lully (1632- 1687) in 1661 became superintendent of music for Louis XIV and used for arms a silver sword with point down and hilt gold on a blue field with a silver bend charged with two red five- petaled flowers over all. This musical armiger ought to be remembered by church musicians as the man who martyred himself for his art. While directing a of his own composition sung in thanksgiving for the recovery of Louis XIV from surgery, Lully transfixed his great toe with his great cantorial staff. The toe became gangrenous and in that age before antibiotics Lully died soon thereafter.

Archangelo Correlli (1653-1713), often styled the , was buried in the Pantheon next to Raphael. He was born of a noble family and bore a red heart enflamed on a golden field over which extended a blue bend or diagonal strip charged with three silver cinquefoils or five-petaled flowers. In the blue chief were the three golden French lilies.

Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) is today remembered more for his operas than his church music. Nevertheless, from 1703 to 1708 he served as of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The composer of some ten Masses, he is also remembered for his Saint John Passion. His son Domenico (1685-1747) served briefly as of the Cappella Guilia in Saint Peter's before leaving for Portugal where he acquired the like post in the sumptuous patriarchal chapel there. In 1738, he was admitted to the celebrated military religious Order of Santiago by royal command. The Scarlattis bore a red chevron between three red stars of eight points on a silver field and on a blue chief three golden fleurs de lys between the four points of red label.

Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) was said to descend from Johan Baptist Weber, ennobled in 1623 by Emperor Ferdinand II. In fact it appears that the noble was merely assumed by his father, Franz Anton Weber, about the time that he was dismissed as by the Prince-Bishop of Luebeck in 1784. The Weber arms were divided vertically into gold and blue halves. On the gold half was a silver crescent and on the blue half was a gold star. Among the works of this gifted romantic composer are three Masses.

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) is said to have come from a Hungarian noble family which bore a quartered coat of arms, viz., a silver unicorn on a red field quartered with three silver pallets (or vertical bars) on a blue field with a red fess charged with a gold sixpointed star over all. This romantic composer who dreamed of a religious music that would unite "the theatre and the Church on a colossal scale" became a cleric in 1865. His in the style of Beethoven and his , written for the coronation in 1867 of Franz Joseph as King of Hungary using plainchant and Hungarian melodies, are still remembered today.

Another musical armiger, Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989), had the distinction in 1985 of leading the Vienna Philharmonic in the first performance during a liturgy in Saint Peter's Basilica of Mozart's . The von Karajan family, ennobled by the Holy Roman Emperor in 1792, descended from a Macedonian cotton merchant and bear a somewhat complex coat. It is divided in four quarters, silver, green, green, and gold with a red heart overall. In base is a crane proper on a green hill, the head of the crane touching the point of the heart.

Surely worthy of mention among sacred musicians is Dom Prosper Gueranger (1805- 1875), Abbot of Solesmes and founder of the liturgical revival which of course included the revival of Gregorian chant. He bore arms chock full of Marian allusions: A red rose with green stem and leaves surrounded by a border of twelve gold star on a field of blue.

Among the armigerous juridical persons which are makers of music one must make note of the Benedictine Abbey of Solesmes. Founded in 1010 by the and restored in 1833 after its dissolution by the French revolutionaries, its soon became the leading center in the nineteenth century of the liturgical revival and of sacred music in France. The abbey bears quartered arms. The first and fourth quarters include the blue eagle on a gold field of Sable and the second and third quarter include the three gold lilies of France and the lions of England for the abbey of Coutures (of which Sable was a dependency). Over all is a thorn on a silver escutcheon to recall the abbey's relic from the Crown of Thorns. As a mark of favor in 1889 Pope Leo XIII gave the abbot of Solesmes the privilege of wearing the violet zucchetto or skullcap. At the same time Solesmes' abbots were privileged to ensign their arms, not with the black ecclesiastical hat used by other abbots, but with the green hat with six green tassels pendent on either side of the shield. This ecclesiastical hat is used by bishops and by territorial abbots-which Solesmes' abbot is not. In fact, the Solesmes abbot's green hat represents an armorial augmentation of honor. That is to say, it is an honorable addition to the abbot's armorial achievement granted in special recognition for Solesmes' service to sacred music.

One might cite other examples of such augmentations. Established in 1911 as the School of Church Music to oversee the musical reforms of Pope Pius X, in 1928 it was granted the predicate "pontifical" and became the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. The institute does not appear to make use of a coat of arms as such but, as a pontifical institute, it enjoys the privilege of using armorially the papal tiara and keys, which it does use.

Similarly, the Benedictine Conception Abbey church in Missouri was raised to the rank of minor basilica in 1940 because the liturgy was celebrated there with consistent beauty and reverence; the apostolic letter added "as is customary among the religious family of Saint Benedict." This concession included the grant of the use armorially of the yellow and red striped silk , which before the post-conciliar reforms was the emblem of a minor basilica. The device, which protected the popes from inclement weather during papal cavalcades to the stational churches of Rome, was also an augmentation of honor. Dom Gregory Huegle, O.S.B., recipient of the Liturgical Music Award in 1949 and editor of this journal's predecessor, , from 1934 to 1944, was a monk of Conception Abbey and an important teacher of music. Conception Abbey bears three fleurs de lys on a blue field and in chief a silver star of eight points charged with the monogram of Our Lady.

The Sacrosancta Basilica Abacial de Santa Maria de Monserrat bears simple canting arms, viz., a saw above a jagged mountain range, all gold, on a red field. To this coat the venerable Benedictine shrine also added the when it became a minor basilica.[3]

Especially in the time of Virgil Michel, O.S.B. (1899-1951), Saint John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, was a noted center for the study and performance of Gregorian chant. The abbey bears a quartered coat. In the first and fourth quarters is a golden fleur on a red field, emblematic of the purity and bloody end of Our Lord's precursor. In the second and third quarters is the bendy fusily coat of the Wittelsbach kings of Bavaria, who were early patrons of the foundation.

Finally, we may note that the Church Music Association of America has recently adopted arms which reflect its dual organizational heritage. The organization represents the product of a 1964 merger of the American Caecilian Society established in 1874 and the Society of Saint Gregory of America established in 1913. Thus it bears on a red field between two harps of Saint Cecilia and two pairs of golden (Frangipani) lions of Saint Gregory the Great a silver cross, voided blue.

The crest is an open , inscribed , held aloft by a hand vested in (black) cassock and surplice and issuing from a coronet composed alternately of organ pipes and trumpets. The crest is a reminder of the injunctions of that "choirs be assiduously developed" (Art. 114) (through the choirmaster's hand), that Gregorian chant be given "the lead spot in liturgical services" (Art. 116) (through the ), that polyphonic music is "by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations" (Art. 116) (through the trumpets of the coronet), and that "the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin church (Art. 120) (through the organ pipes of the coronet). The armorial achievement is supported by a chorister vested in a black cassock and surplice and a doctor of music habited in his red doctoral cap and gown, representing both the operative and speculative branches of church music.

This, then, has been a rapid overview of the heraldry of sacred music. Like music, heraldry is a system of special signs which echo a special sense. Hopefully, both systems will echo the glory of the Supreme Musician to whom be psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs now and evermore.



1. R. Schuler, "Cappella Sistina," 90 (1963) 143.

2. Pierre de Chaignon LaRose, "A Study of the Arms of Saint Charles Borromeo," 62 (1920).

3. I. Vicente, Barcelona, 1956, p. 42.

This article appeared in the Spring, 1994 issue of "Sacred Music." Published by the Church Music Association of America, 548 Lafond Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55103.

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