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Ecclesiastic heraldry presents two peculiarities with respect to classic heraldry.

First of all, ecclesiastic heraldry, for its office, has a seal and therefore must create a coat of arms, meaning this characteristic is tied to the dignity of the offices held within the Institution, which are freely accessible to all.

By observing the coats of arms of the Roman Pontiff, we have examples of ex novo coats of arms and ancient traditional ones: to mention just one; Leone X, in 1513 took on the coat of arms of his dynasty, the Medici of Florence, with the six balls (or apothecary’s pills).

Other Popes took on those of the congregation they belonged to, like Benedict XIII, Dominican, Clement XIV, Franciscan, Pio VII, Benedictine, Gregory XVI, Camaldolite.

This habit is also used in local customs – of central Europe and the Holy Roman Empire right back in the times of Charles IV – to place the personal coat of arms and that of the dignitary in a quartering which, in current regulations of the Anglican Church, means the family coat of arms is joined with that of the Bishop.

The other distinguishing feature of ecclesiastic heraldry is that the helmet has disappeared, as it is considered of military heritage, being replaced by the wide brimmed hats of the ecclesiastic dignitaries – which marked the hierarchy by the colours – cords, the order of tassels, the pastorals (with or without shroud) and crosses (with two or even three crosspieces).

The Pope is the only ecclesiastic dignitary who is allowed to stamp his shield with a crown, called a tiara or papal tiara, surmounted by the two keys of Peter, one gold and one silver, which, according to tradition, Christ authorised the apostle to tie and untie.

The abolition of the mitre – the last headdress which, in the 19th century, was used to stamp the shield besides the hat – is the result of the less formal air given by ecclesiastic heraldry in the last decades.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Città del Vaticano Benedetto XVI
 
Adriano V Adriano VI
Alessandro IV
     
Alessandro VI Alessandro VII Alessandro VIII
     
B. Benedetto XI
B. Gregorio X
B. Innocenzo V
     
B. Innocenzo XI
B. Urbano V
Benedetto XII
     
Benedetto XIII
Benedetto XIV
Benedetto XV
     
Bonifacio VIII Bonifacio IX Callisto III
     
Celestino IV
Clemente IV Clemente V
     
Clemente VI
Clemente VII Clemente VIII
     
Clemente IX Clemente X Clemente XI
     
Clemente XII Clemente XIII Clemente XIV
     
Eugenio IV
Giovanni Paolo I Giovanni Paolo II
     
Giovanni XXI
Giovanni XXII Giovanni XXIII
     
Giulio II
Giulio III Gregorio IX
     
Gregorio XI
Gregorio XII Gregorio XIII
     
Gregorio XIV
Gregorio XV Gregorio XVI
     
Innocenzo III
Innocenzo IV Innocenzo VI
     
Innocenzo VII
Innocenzo VIII Innocenzo IX
     
Innocenzo X
Innocenzo XII Innocenzo XIII
     
Leone X
Leone XI Leone XII
     
Leone XIII
Marcello II Martino IV
     
Martino V
Niccolò III Niccolò IV
     
Niccolò V
Onorio III Onorio IV
     
Paolo II
Paolo III Paolo IV
     
Paolo V
Paolo VI Pio II
     
Pio III Pio IV Pio VI
     
Pio VII Pio VIII Pio IX
     
Pio XI
Pio XII S. Celestino V
     
S. Pio V
S. Pio X Sisto IV
     
Sisto V
Urbano IV Urbano VI
     
 
Urbano VII
Urbano VIII