Sunday 27 March 2016

Queer Lutheran Achievement

[Achievement – the name given in heraldry to the full pictorial representation of a coat of arms.]

Being Easter Day, the most important day in the Christian calendar, I thought the following coat of arms would be highly appropriate, and because it’s Women’s History Month it is the arms of the first lesbian diocesan bishop in the world.

Below is the heraldic achievement of Rt. Rev. Eva Brunne, Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm since 2009. Those of you familiar with other coats of arms that I’ve done will notice straight away that the shield is oval. In traditional European heraldry women were not allowed to use a shield. Instead they placed them on a diamond-shaped lozenge. An oval shape has become more frequent in recent decades, and helps to display quartered arms more clearly without them being distorted into four triangle shapes. A lot of heraldic authorities now use a shield to display women’s coats of arms.
Bishop Brunne could have had chosen from three different methods of showing her coat of arms. First, she could have just used the arms of her diocese on a shield. Second, she could have placed the diocesan arms on one half of the shield and her personal arms on the other half. Thirdly, she could have quartered the shield, and this is the way she has chosen, and the way I’ve depicted it below.

A lot of the design shows obvious Christian symbolism. In fact, there’s only one part of the whole achievement that does not have any specific religious meaning.

Let’s start with the quarterings on the oval. Those in the first and last quarter, the yellow cross, are the arms of the Lutheran diocese of Stockholm. In the second and third quarters, with the rose and heart, are the personal arms of Eva Brunne. The design of her personal arms is very simple and distinctive. The part which I mentioned as having no specific religious meaning is the background of blue and white waves. These may have been inspired by one of the quarterings of the Swedish royal coat of arms, where one of the quarters also has a background of blue and white waves, albeit diagonal not horizontal as here. The rose and heart design, however, has a very clear meaning.

The rose and heart is a variation of one of the most common emblems used by the worldwide Lutheran Church. This particular rose is called the Luther Rose and it was an emblem used by Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant church. It is a simple device designed for him in 1530. The original version is shown left. In a letter to a friend in 1530 Luther explained the symbolism of his rose. The black cross is, of course, a very old Christian emblem and Luther chose a black cross to remind him of the pain of suffering. The heart reminded him that it keeps things alive, like his faith. The white rose symbolises peace and joy. Surrounding the rose is a gold ring symbolising that “blessedness in Heaven lasts forever”. The rose is on a sky blue background symbolising heavenly joy.

Eva Brunne had adapted the Luther Rose. Rather than use the whole design she chose just the rose itself. The cross has been changed from black to white which is a better heraldic method to show a colour against the red heart. The rose is changed to gold.

For her personal motto Eva has chosen a line from the New Testament, “Gör inte skillnad på människor”, which in English is “Don’t show favouritism”. I decided to show the motto in both languages in my picture.

The arms of the Lutheran diocese of Stockholm also has Christian symbolism. The first impression given is of the Swedish national flag on which it is based. Again, the cross is a common symbol of Christianity in heraldry, as is seen in the crosses of St George and St Andrew, for instance. And like those crosses the origin of the Swedish cross is surrounded in legend. According to tradition a medieval king of Sweden called Erik IX was going into battle against the pagan Finns. He saw a vision in the blue sky of a shining, golden cross and he took this as a good omen from God. He had the cross painted on the shields of his army and went into battle and they were victorious. From then on the gold cross on blue became a national emblem. King Erik is a great national hero and was canonised as St Erik of Sweden. His head is placed in the arms of the diocese of Stockholm.

As for the rest of Eva Brunne’s achievement little needs to be explained. It has the bishop’s mitre and crozier, though unlike English heraldry where the mire is gold the Swedish Lutheran church prefers a simpler white mitre with gold trim.

All that remains for me to say is Happy Easter, and don’t eat too much chocolate at once.

1 comment:

  1. It might interest you to know that the blue and silver waves are meant to resemble the heraldic fountain, as this makes the arms canting.