Thursday, April 28, 2011

Which Do You Believe?

There's always a dilemma to be thought about, if not solved, whenever you run a across a coat of arms where the emblazon (the drawing) of the arms does not match the blazon (the verbal description) of those same arms.

I recently ran into this problem with the following coat of arms.

These are the arms of Bishop Kenneth D. Steiner, Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon.  They can be found on the Archdiocese's website at

The dilemma comes when you read the blazon of this coat of arms on that page and compare it to the arms shown just above.  The arms are blazoned as: "Gules a Ibex passant argent on three coupeaux Vert in dexter chief a dove volant of the second, in sinister chief two crossed keys of the last."

I'm not going to get into the fact that there should be an "n" following the "a" of "an Ibex", or whether the charges in base are "three coupeaux" or might be better blazoned in English as "a mount of three hillocks," or that the dove is not "volant" but is rather "descending."  No, I'm going to take issue with the fact that in the emblazon, the ibex is clearly rampant (rearing, standing on one leg, with the body basicaly vertical), while the blazon clearly states passant (walking, three legs on the ground and one foreleg elevated, with the body basically horizontal).

So, which should we believe?  In this case, the overall design of the arms leads me to think that rampant is a better "fit" for the posture of the ibex than passant is.  But, really, you'd think that someone would have double-checked this before it went up on the internet for all the world to see.  Wouldn't you?


  1. I thought that when all else fails, default to the blazon?

  2. You can't default to the blazon when there is a drawing that has something different. Clearly whoever wrote the blazon doesn't know how to!