Thursday, January 1, 2009



The Solemnity of Christmas is the patronal nameday of Prince of Peace Abbey. The refrains or antiphons at the First Vespers of Christmas repeatedly invoke peace and refer to Christ as Rex Pacificus— meaning “King of Peace” or “Peaceful King.” Depicting a crown over the waves of the Pacific Ocean, the shield in our coat of arms is a pictorial play on the words “Prince of Peace”.

The Church Has Norms for Coats of Arms

A diocese has a right to a diocesan coat of arms that does not change as bishops succeed each other in the diocese. However, every bishop has a right to his own personal coat of arms distinct from the diocesan coat of arms; and an abbot may have a personal coat of arms distinct from his abbey’s coat of arms. There are items that belong in a diocesan coat of arms that are not permitted in a monastery’s coat of arms, and vice versa. Likewise the elements permitted in an abbot’s personal coat of arms are not the same as those of a bishop. None of our abbots so far has had a personal coat of arms.

When the Holy See elevated our monastery to an abbey in 1983, we assembled a coat of arms for our abbey, but without knowledge of correct Church norms. In other words, our coat of arms is incorrect.  It is configured as the coat of arms of a diocese, not an abbey.

A Veiled Crozier

Interestingly, modern Church norms forbid the crozier in the personal arms of cardinals, archbishops, and bishops. Instead, those persons are to use a jeweled processional cross behind their individual shields. A bishop’s cross has one horizontal bar, while that of an archbishop has two. A cardinal’s cross has two bars if he was an archbishop at the time he was made a cardinal, and only one bar if he was a bishop at the time he was made a cardinal. An abbey’s coat of arms and an abbot’s personal coat of arms are not to have a processional cross, but are to have a golden, veiled crozier behind the shield.  At one time in history, the actual crozier of an abbot had a veil hooked to its knob to distinguish the abbot from a bishop. The crozier in an abbatial coat of arms still must have a veil hooked to the knob of the crozier. Therefore our coat of arms as we have had it from the start has been incorrect on this point, since it includes an unveiled crozier. The veiled crozier is the essential sign that a coat of arms belongs to an abbey or an abbot, rather than to a diocese. It is the crozier without a veil that makes our coat of arms incorrect. A final technical note: the bottom of a heraldic crozier is to be pointed, since that is historically how croziers were made.


An abbey itself may include a white miter above the shield in the abbey’s coat of arms, but it is not required. However, an abbot himself is prohibited from including a miter in his personal coat of arms.  In heraldic depiction the miter is always to have a red lining.

The Shield

Our shield is divided vertically down the center. The technical term for this is “partitioning the fields per pale.” A “pale” is a vertical line or post.

The right side as one views the front of a shield is called “sinister,” from the Latin for “left,” since that is the left side for a man holding his shield in battle. Conversely, the left side as one views the front of a shield is called “dexter,” from the Latin for “right.”

Our shield has two ravens in sinister, essentially reproducing the coat of arms of Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland. Ravens figured in the lives of St. Benedict and St. Meinrad. Einsiedeln stands on the site of the ancient hermitage of St. Meinrad, the Benedictine monk who lived the final years of his life as a solitary in the Black Forest above Lake Zurich. The monastery of Einsiedeln is also a pilgrimage shrine housing a centuries’ old image of “Our Lady of Einsiedeln”. Monks from Einsiedeln founded St. Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana, in 1854; and monks from St. Meinrad Archabbey founded Prince of Peace Abbey in 1958. The title and patron of the church at both St. Meinrad Archabbey and Prince of Peace Abbey is Our Lady of Einsiedeln, and a copy of her statue from Switzerland is enshrined in the churches of both monasteries.

In heraldry, the upper left as the viewer sees it is the place of honor. On our shield, this place has a gold crown to represent the Prince of Peace (Rex Pacificus). The blues waves below it signify the Pacific Ocean that is within view from our monastery’s church.


The traditional rules of color in heraldry require strong contrasts with certain colors only against certain backgrounds.

The following image constitutes a correct configuration of our coat of arms.

The angled draping of the miter's lappets (or tails) and of the crozier's veil are in keeping with the angled draping of the Lord's tunic in the sanctuary icon of our monastery's church.

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Here is the shield of St. Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana, that founded Prince of Peace Abbey in 1958.

This is the shield of the abbey of Einsiedeln, Switzerland, that founded St. Meinrad Archabbey in 1854.