Corporate heraldry
November 2006 / December 2013

Ecclesiastical arms

THE heraldry of the many church denominations in South Africa takes several forms. Some use coats of arms, some use seals, a few use badges or logos.

In some, a single emblem applies throughout the whole church, while in others the individual divisions and congregations have their own arms.

On this page : the Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed , Roman Catholic, and other churches, and bible colleges.

Anglican Churches

Anglican Church of Southern Africa — Since 1847, the Anglican Church (Church of the Province of Southern Africa) has followed the English tradition of using diocesan and, occasionally, parish, arms. The province as such has no arms, and uses the compass rose of the Anglican communion in general.

Anglican Church heraldry Anglican : Dioceses of Cape Town, Free State, and Highveld - Christ Church - St Dunstan's Cathedral - St Katherine's.

Diocesan arms consist of a shield ensigned of a bishop's mitre. Those of the Diocese of Cape Town (1847, CoA 1952, BoH 1972) are a combination of those of the English sees of Durham and Lincoln, with the anchor of Good Hope and a stag's head from the arms of Baroness Burdett-Coutts. The anchor has also been used in the arms of other dioceses, and has become a CPSA emblem of sorts.

The arms of the Diocese of the Free State (formerly Diocese of Bloemfontein) (1860s, CoA 1951, BoH 1993) bear symbols of St Andrew and St Michael. The Diocese of Highveld's arms (BoH 1990) are one of the simpler modern designs.

Between 1949 and 1954, the dioceses had their arms formally granted (and, in some cases, altered) by the College of Arms, at the College's request. Some were later registered at the Bureau of Heraldry.

The arms of Christ Church (Arcadia, Pretoria) (BoH 1995) depict a cross and a Chrismon. St Dunstan's Cathedral (Benoni)'s arms (BoH 2004) display a chalice and pincers. An unusual feature, not mentioned in the blazon, is that the arms stand on a compartment representing steps. Appropriately, those of St Katherine's (Uitenhage) contain a Catherine wheel.

Traditionally, archbishops and diocesan bishops impale their personal arms with those of their dioceses, and place a mitre above the shield in lieu of a helmet and crest, and one or two croziers behind the shield. A bishop who does not have a diocese may also use a mitre and crozier(s) with his personal arms.

Lower-ranking clergymen may use black clerical hats instead of helmets and crests, the different patterns for the different grades having been laid down in England in 1976. A few clergymen have registered their arms with these hats.

Church of England in South Africa — This small Anglican church, which formally separated from the CPSA in 1938, uses an oval seal-like emblem depicting an open Bible, inscribed god's word above all things, on an inverted sword.

Ethiopian Episcopal Church — Originally the Order of Ethiopia, this Church functioned under the auspices of the CPSA from 1899 to 1990, and adopted its present name a few years later. Its arms (BoH 1995) depict an African mother with her baby. The tinctures of the arms were changed in 2001.

Lutheran Churches

The emblem of the various Lutheran Churches is the Luther Rose : a white rose charged with a red heart bearing a cross.

Lutheran Church — Two dioceses have adopted arms, and two German congregations in Pretoria have registered seals.

Lutheran Bapedi Church — This church has registered arms (BoH 2003) depicting two crows on either side of a tree charged with a Latin cross.

Reformed Churches

The (predominantly Afrikaans) reformed churches generally follow the Dutch tradition of using seals.

Afrikaanse Protestante Kerk — Its seal (BoH 1989) depicts a dove, the Greek letters alpha and omega, and the motto Lig in duisternis ("Light in darkness"). The APK's theological college, the Afrikaanse Protestante Akademie, registered arms in 2001.

Afrikaanse Reformatoriese Kerk This church has registered a seal (BoH 1988) depicting a Huguenot Cross and Noah's ark (an allusion to the church's initials?).

Gereformeerde Kerke van Suid-Afrika — The GKSA, established in 1869, uses a seal which depicts a church building on a rock, with the words Die poorte van die hel sal dit nie oorweldig nie ("The gates of hell shall not prevail against it").

Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk — The NHK was formed in 1853 by the Afrikaners who settled in the Transvaal after migrating from the Cape Colony in the 1830s and '40s. From 1858 to 1886 it was the official state church of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, and it bore – and still bears – the ZAR arms on its seal. As the ZAR, and its successor the Transvaal province, no longer exist, the NHK seal may be the last surviving use of these arms.

Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk — This is the largest of the Afrikaner reformed churches. Established in 1652, it uses congregational seals and synodal seals, and a few congregations have registered arms. The seal of the General Synod, depicting a candelabra and a dove, serves as the emblem of the NGK as a whole, and has recently been adapted into a logo.

Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church has been in South Africa since 1837. Since 1951, it has been organised into dioceses, grouped into four ecclesiastical provinces. Each diocese and archdiocese is entitled to a coat of arms, which is ensigned of a mitre, and has a cross and a crozier behind the shield. In practice, though, only the archdioceses appear to have assumed arms. At least one parish has assumed arms.

Roman Catholic Church heraldry Roman Catholic : Archdioceses of Durban and Pretoria - Oratory of St Philip Neri - SA Catholic Bishops Conference.

An archbishop's pallium is the principal charge in the arms of the Archdiocese of Durban and the Archdiocese of Pretoria (1951). Their secondary charges are respectively a Natal star, and three bees, probably derived from the Pretoria civic arms.

The Oratory of St Philip Neri arms (BoH 2004) bear a flaming heart, stars, and protea flowers. The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference arms display a crown and a star.

It's customary for (arch)bishops to bear a personal coat of arms, and those who are not already armigerous assume arms (or pseudo-arms) when they are consecrated. A galero (clerical hat) is placed above the arms; the colour and the number of tassels hanging from each side indicating rank, e.g. an archbishop's is green with ten tassels on each side. Their arms often allude to their faith and Church background, and many include the emblems of the religious orders to which they belong.

At one time, archbishops impaled their personal arms with those of their archdioceses, placing a mitre above the arms and a crozier and cross behind them. The mitre and crozier were discontinued in 1969, and impalement with the diocesan arms became optional in 1978.

Other Churches

Congregational Churches — There have been several groupings of Congregational churches. The Congregational Union of South Africa used a quasi-heraldic device depicting a seven-branched candelabrum standing on a closed Bible, with the words Lux fiat ("Let there be light"). The United Congregational Churches of South Africa, formed in 1967, has quasi-arms depicting a Latin cross and a dove ; the tinctures appear to be blue and silver.

Methodist Church of South Africa — The MCSA uses a badge, consisting of a white escallop charged with a voided Latin cross whose upper half is red and whose lower half is black.

New Nazareth Apostolic Assembly Church in Zion — This Church's seal (BoH 1995) depicts a simple cross.

Zion Christian Church — The largest church in South Africa. It uses a seal depicting a five-pointed star (BoH 1966). A green and ochre (or orange?) flag, depicting a cow and a star, has been registered (BoH 1986) for the use of its presiding bishop.

Bible colleges

Arms of some South African bible colleges Evangelical Reformed Church Seminary - Federal Theological Seminary - Josua Bible Institute - Theological College of SA

Some bible colleges and theological seminaries use coats of arms.

The Evangelical Reformed Church Seminary's arms (BoH 1996) feature an ornate cross, a bible, and a flame. The arms of the Federal Theological Seminary (BoH 1969) display a dove, a bible and an aloe plant.

Those of the Josua Bible Institute (BoH 2000) and the Theological College of SA (BoH 1967) feature Latin crosses only, and are among the simplest designs in South African heraldry. The latter is also a rare example of the use of purple as an heraldic colour.

Legal protection

From 1935 to 1963, bible colleges and seminaries could register their coats of arms as 'badges' under the Protection of Names, Uniforms & Badges Act. Heraldic correctness was not required. Since 1963, churches, bible colleges and seminaries have been able to register their arms and seals under the Heraldry Act, if they are heraldically correct. In the event of misuse, the registered owner can take legal action to obtain an interdict and / or damages plus costs.

You'll find further information about registrations here. Very few ecclesiastical arms and seals have actually been registered. Details can be found on the Bureau of Heraldry Database on the National Archives website.

References :

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