[Achievement – the name given in heraldry to the full pictorial representation of a coat of arms.]
Being Easter Day, the most
important day in the Christian calendar, I thought the following coat of arms
would be highly appropriate, and because it’s Women’s History Month it is the
arms of the first lesbian diocesan bishop in the world.
Below is the heraldic achievement
of Rt. Rev. Eva Brunne, Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm since 2009. Those of you
familiar with other coats of arms that I’ve done will notice straight away that
the shield is oval. In traditional European heraldry women were not allowed to
use a shield. Instead they placed them on a diamond-shaped lozenge. An oval
shape has become more frequent in recent decades, and helps to display
quartered arms more clearly without them being distorted into four triangle
shapes. A lot of heraldic authorities now use a shield to display women’s coats
Bishop Brunne could have
had chosen from three different methods of showing her coat of arms. First, she
could have just used the arms of her diocese on a shield. Second, she could
have placed the diocesan arms on one half of the shield and her personal arms
on the other half. Thirdly, she could have quartered the shield, and this is
the way she has chosen, and the way I’ve depicted it below.
A lot of the design shows
obvious Christian symbolism. In fact, there’s only one part of the whole
achievement that does not have any specific religious meaning.
Let’s start with the
quarterings on the oval. Those in the first and last quarter, the yellow cross,
are the arms of the Lutheran diocese of Stockholm. In the second and third
quarters, with the rose and heart, are the personal arms of Eva Brunne. The
design of her personal arms is very simple and distinctive. The part which I
mentioned as having no specific religious meaning is the background of blue and
white waves. These may have been inspired by one of the quarterings of the
Swedish royal coat of arms, where one of the quarters also has a background of
blue and white waves, albeit diagonal not horizontal as here. The rose and
heart design, however, has a very clear meaning.
The rose and heart is a
variation of one of the most common emblems used by the worldwide Lutheran
Church. This particular rose is called the Luther Rose and it was an emblem
used by Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant church. It is a simple
device designed for him in 1530. The original version is shown left. In a
letter to a friend in 1530 Luther explained the symbolism of his rose. The black
cross is, of course, a very old Christian emblem and Luther chose a black cross
to remind him of the pain of suffering. The heart reminded him that it keeps
things alive, like his faith. The white rose symbolises peace and joy.
Surrounding the rose is a gold ring symbolising that “blessedness in Heaven
lasts forever”. The rose is on a sky blue background symbolising heavenly joy.
Eva Brunne had adapted the
Luther Rose. Rather than use the whole design she chose just the rose itself.
The cross has been changed from black to white which is a better heraldic
method to show a colour against the red heart. The rose is changed to gold.
For her personal motto Eva
has chosen a line from the New Testament, “Gör inte skillnad på människor”,
which in English is “Don’t show favouritism”. I decided to show the motto in
both languages in my picture.
The arms of the Lutheran
diocese of Stockholm also has Christian symbolism. The first impression given
is of the Swedish national flag on which it is based. Again, the cross is a
common symbol of Christianity in heraldry, as is seen in the crosses of St
George and St Andrew, for instance. And like those crosses the origin of the
Swedish cross is surrounded in legend. According to tradition a medieval king
of Sweden called Erik IX was going into battle against the pagan Finns. He saw
a vision in the blue sky of a shining, golden cross and he took this as a good
omen from God. He had the cross painted on the shields of his army and went
into battle and they were victorious. From then on the gold cross on blue
became a national emblem. King Erik is a great national hero and was canonised
as St Erik of Sweden. His head is placed in the arms of the diocese of
As for the rest of Eva
Brunne’s achievement little needs to be explained. It has the bishop’s mitre
and crozier, though unlike English heraldry where the mire is gold the Swedish
Lutheran church prefers a simpler white mitre with gold trim.
All that remains for me to
say is Happy Easter, and don’t eat too much chocolate at once.