An uncle of mine by marriage, who was a very distinguished historian, once asked me, when I was a young man, whether I was interested in Heraldry. I said that I was not. ‘I'm glad of that,” he said, “heraldry strikes me as being for a historian about on the same level of interest as stamp collecting.” – Maurice Keen, in the Preface to Origins of the English Gentleman
I'm an Academic Herald. I'm not a "real" herald; I don't register people's coats of arms (though I can certainly suggest designs for those who might be interested). What I do is study, research, teach, and write about heraldry. And I like to share what I have learned about heraldry, hence this blog. I hope that you'll find it informative, interesting at least occasionally, and worth your time to come back. Got a question? Comments? Feel free to let me know. I'd love to hear from you. You can find my contact information in my Profile.
At the time I posted that, I didn't know what the arms held by the angels were meant to symbolize, and I had my doubts that they were "real" heraldry.
It turns out that I was correct; they are not arms, but are instead instruments of the Passion of Jesus Christ. According to Humphrey-Smith's An Alphabetical Catalogue of Coats of Arms in Canterbury Cathedral, the shields held by the angels are:
Azure three dice proper. Argent a cock proper. Gules thirty plates [the 30 pieces of silver]
Argent a ladder between a hammer and a pair of pincers all palewise proper. Gules a pillar between a whip and a birch palewise proper. Or the letters IHS sable.
Or a crown of thorns vert. Sable a lantern proper. Gules a wooden cross superinscribed I.N.R.I. all proper. Sable a staff with a sponge and a spear in saltire proper. Or three nails their points meeting in base proper.
So there you have it! If you compare the blazons here with my guesses, in the majority of the cases I was way off base. (In my defense, the paint on many of them is badly faded, making them difficult to identify.) It's nice to have some closure on these shields, though; if only I'd known enough to look up "Instruments of the Passion" when I originally wrote that post.