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Coat of Arms Original Logo Design

Since I have been the diocesan archivist, one of the questions I have been asked on many occasions regards the meaning of the various elements of the diocesan shield. We are all familiar with this symbol of the diocese, but few know its origins and what the artist had in mind as he created this emblem of our diocese.

The story begins in 1906, at the Seventeenth Annual Council of the diocese. At this point in our history, the official title of this diocese was The Diocese of Kansas City. According to the journal of that Council (now known as the Annual Diocesan Convention), the following resolution, offered by the Reverend Edmund A. Neville, rector of Calvary Church, Sedalia, was passed:

“Resolved, That the Chair be asked to appoint a committee of three of which the Bishop shall be one member, to select a design for an official seal for the Diocese of Kansas City, and that if necessary, said committee employ an experts on seals, his services to be paid by the Diocese. The Committee to report at the next Council.”

As recorded in the journal of that meeting, “The Bishop, chairman, appointed the Rev. Mr. Neville, Mr. H.D. Ashley, additional to himself, to the Committee.”

The following year, at the meeting in Kansas City, the Committee was continued until the next Council, with the Rev. Edward Henry Eckel, rector of Christ Church, St. Joseph, replacing the Rev. Neville, who had left the Diocese. The Committee did file a report with the Nineteenth Annual Council in 1908 detailing the history of their efforts. This report closed with:

“Your committee would respectfully report that they have two or three designs in hand and are about to secure expert advice thereon. They, therefore, offer the following resolution: Resolved, That the Committee on Diocesan Seal be continued to the next Council.”

That resolution passed and a final report was presented to the Twentieth Annual Council, held in Kansas City, June 1 and 2, 1909. On the first day of that meeting, the Rev. Dr. E. H. Eckel introduced the following report in part:

“Your committee has carried out its instructions, and herewith presents to the Council as part of its report (1) a water-color design for adoption as the official coat of arms of the Diocese, and (2) a black-and-white design or adoption as the official seal of the Diocese.”

Dr. Eckel went on to announce that they had secured the services of Mr. Pierre de Chaignon La Rose of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was described as “perhaps the greatest authority on ecclesiastical heraldry, certainly in America.” It was Mr. La Rose who actually created the design for the seal. As part of his work, Mr. La Rose submitted the following explanation of the elements of the design.

“The technical blazon of the coat of arms herewith submitted would be ‘Azure, between, in chief, a crescent argent, and, in flanks, two pendent ears of maize leaved and slipped, or, a pairle of the second, thereon four crosses gules.”

west mo diocesan shield Hi Res

In short, Mr. La Rose made the following points:

  • “I have chosen the crescent, (1) because by its position “in chief” it is the more significant figure heraldically; (2) because it has a religious significance on an ecclesiastical coat, being one of the symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  • “Looking at the map of Missouri it struck me as interesting to note that at Kansas City, the Missouri and Kansas rivers meet in the form of an heraldic charge, viz. the ‘pairle’ (or pall) Y.
  • “In the flanks I have placed pendent ears of maize to indicate that the Diocese is situated in the midst of a great corn-growing district.
  • “Finally, I have placed on the pairle four small St. George crosses, just as the Canterbury is charged with four black crosses ‘pattes.’ (There is nothing to prevent one from considering the number to represent the Lambeth Quadrilateral).
  • “This shield, ornamented with mitre, key, and crozier, will be at once good heraldry and good decoration.”

On the seal, which is derived from this coat of arms, the central form was surrounded by the inscription, “Sigillum Diocesesis Kansanopolitanae. MDCCCLXXXIX.” When the name of the diocese was changed, this inscription was changed to read, “Sigill Dioc Missouriensis Occidentalis MDCCCLXXXIX.”

The Very Rev. Chandler Jackson III is Priest-in-Residence at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Ozark, and serves as Dean of the Southern Deanery and as Diocesan Archivist. 

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