Monday, June 8, 2020
The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium
One of the things that I enjoy most about our travels to foreign places is the opportunity it gives me to wander about the towns we are visiting and look at the art (and heraldry!) there.
Having arrived a few days before the XXI Colloquium of the International Academy of Heraldry (l'Académie Internationale d'Héraldique) was to begin, we took the opportunity to visit one of the historic landmarks of the city, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal).
A brief overview of its history is given in several languages on a sign immediately outside the building.
Of course, it is called a "cathedral" because it hosts the cathedra, the seat or chair of a bishop. Here is the cathedra of the bishop of the Diocese of Antwerp.
On the face of the back* of the cathedra is the achievement of arms of the 22nd (current) Bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, who was appointed as Bishop in 2008 and installed on January 4, 2009.
I do not know the "official" blazon of Bishop Bonny's arms, or if there even is one; my attempt would make it: Quarterly azure, azure, azure, and barry wavy azure and argent on a lozenge throughout vert a lamb passant gardant argent maintaining a bishop's crozier or, in dexter chief a mullet of seven points argent. Behind the shield is the Latin cross of a bishop, and surmounting the entire achievement is the green galero (ecclesiastical hat) with six tassels on each side of a bishop. The motto beneath the arms is Agnus pascet illos ("[the] lamb feed them").
The green lozenge throughout is probably not the best choice - it violates the heraldic Rule of Tincture** and at a distance, as you can see in the image of the full chair above, tends to "muddy" the identification of the colors - but I feel certain that the colors and charges hold deep personal meanings for Bishop Bonny. However, it seems to me that the meanings could have been retained while improving contrast and identifiability by making the first three quarters white and changing the mullet to blue. (The barry wavy in the fourth quarter doesn't seem to me to be a contrast issue particularly, only one of identifiability because the lozenge covers up so much of it. But what do I know?)
Anyway, it's not often that I get to see a cathedra in person, and even less often one done in so modern a style, so this was an enjoyable "find" for me.
* Is that an oxymoron? The achievement is not on the back side of the back of the chair; it is on the front side of the chair back.
** "Color shall not be placed upon color, nor metal upon metal." The colors are: blue, red, black, green, and purple. The metals are gold and silver (yellow and white). Colors contrast well with metals, and metals with color, which allows for easier and quicker recognition.