Episcopal Coat of Arms
The coat of arms is the bishop’s brand. It communicates, through graphic elements and words, the bishop’s view of the church, the main points of emphasis of his ministry, and what he aspires to be as the leader of a diocese.
Upon being chosen by The Pope, the bishop is given the distinct honor of designing his coat of arms. A bishop’s coat of arms consists of the following elements:
- Shield with its charges (design elements)– positioned in the center
- Motto- located at the bottom
- External ornamentation– adorning the top and left and right sides of the coat. The ornamentation used reflects the position held within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church: bishop, archbishop or cardinal
The coat of arms will change if The Pope appoints the bishop to lead a different diocese or elevates him to the position of archbishop and/or cardinal. Archbishop Murphy developed three different coats of arms during his episcopacy:
- Bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls, MT: 1978-1980
- Bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, MT: 1980-1987
- Archbishop of Seattle, WA: 1987-1997
As the Ordinary of a See (archdiocese), heraldic tradition dictates that the archbishop’s personal coat of arms is to be joined (impaled) with the coat of arms of his archdiocese to form a shield symbolizing that the archbishop is the personification of the archdiocese. The shield is located in the center of the coat of arms. Viewed from the front, the left half of the shield is the coat of arms for the Archdiocese of Seattle, and the right half of the shield is the personal coat of Archbishop Murphy.
Archbishop Murphy’s personal coat of arms was influenced by a number of factors including his first name Thomas, the Murphy family coat of arms, the city of Chicago where the archbishop was born and spent his formative years, his vocation to the priesthood, and his position as Rector of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary.