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Section: Vol.IV: the Ecclesiastical Heraldry

Parish of the Collegiate Church of Our Lady of St. Theodore

Artist: Michael Medvedev, GHA[R]

Arms were recently assumed by the parish of the collegiate church of Our Lady of St. Theodore in St. Petersburg. This church was built under the Imperial patronage to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanov in 1913, so the arms are “respectfully close” to those of the Romanovs.

The architecture and decorations of the church (which also had to perform an additional function of a museum) followed ancient Russian patterns. The church was partly destroyed in the soviet times and the services are held almost in ruins, but the parish council and the patronage committee are arranging restoration to revive and even to augment the old handsome architectural forms ad majorem Dei gloriam.

The arms were approved (as it is canonically required) by the ruling bishop, the Most Reverend Vladimir, Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga, and recorded, among other symbols of private corporations, with the Heraldic Council to the President of Russia.

The arms were created by Michael Y. Medvedev, GHA[R], who also painted them in the certificate of the Heraldic Council (see below).

As it has been explained by the author of arms, the creation of parish arms presented a problem.

On one hand, there was a natural wish to make the arms distinctively parochial by suggesting some appropriate external attributes. On another hand, not only no such attributes were known the existing ecclesiastic armorial tradition, but the very introduction of it was problematic.

The Russian heraldic custom normally does not provide private corporations with any external adornments, leaving their shields either totally naked, or completed with a motto only. Actually helmets, mantlings and crests are not to be borne by Russian bodies corporate at all, and any other external attribute, save motto, is considered as a honourable additament which may be either achieved by a grant (but currently no Russian grants are made to private bodies, and no parish got a grant from a ruling Russian monarch) or established by a longtime practice (being used as distinctive insignia by a body, or a class of bodies). The third way is the “import”: a foreign practice may be extended to the Russian armigers corporate if this does not affect the existing norms; thus, say, a “Geneva bonnet” could be of heraldic use for the Russian reformed communities.

At the first glance, no attribute may be earned by a parish according to these conditions. However it came to my mind that, regarding insignia used from time immemorial, it is not necessary to have an insigne established heraldically; it may be derived directly from public ceremonial. Any publicly held divine service may be regarded, in one of its aspects, as a ceremonial, and thus there is a good spectrum of objects which are used in services and could serve as insignia in parochial arms.

The element selected was the asteriskos (Russian “zvezditsa”) – that is, the dome-shaped crosscover which is placed on a paten to protect the bread prepared for the sacrament and to make it intact from the covering veil’s tissue*. The suggested position of the asteriskos over a parochial shield is intended to define the parish as a liturgical community, united by the Sacrament, forming a “lesser local Church” and thus the Body of Christ.
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* Nominally tied to the star of Bethlehem which heralded the appearance of Christ, the asteriskos is usually made of two movable arches which may be conjoined – this, apart from being practically convenient for transportation, symbolizes the two natures of Christ. In the “most public” moments like the Offertory Proccession the asteriskos is present but hidden under a veil, but it is also used in a self-standing ceremonial capacity, being, for example, used for making a sign of cross over a paten in the course of the Eucharist Canon. The introduction of the asteriskos is traditionally ascribed to St. John Chrysostom.

In the heraldic aspect, asteriskos appears to be fitting within the composition as a kind of a “coronet”. As a mere heraldic convention not based on liturgical practice, a golden asteriskos may be borne by parishes of collegiate churches (the “sobors”) and an asteriskos Arg adorned Or by ordinary parishes. The parishes of cathedral churches may add two crossed ripidia (liturgical fans), and the patriarchal parishes exempt are entitled to the Patriarch’s processional cross (single-traversed), the latter being based on a recent precedent.

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»» Do you wish Michael Medvedev to make a unique, original painting of your coat-of-arms, flag or any piece of heraldic art?
»» Contact the artist for commission: crusilly@gmail.com
You may do it right here! Or just enjoy more heraldic artwork by the artist!

© 2006 The.Heraldry.Ru / D.Ivanov, M. Medvedev