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Ecclesiastical Heraldry

Historically, the Church hierarchy was not slow to follow the example of the noble classes in the adoption of heraldry, primarily for the use of seals in important documents. Currently, the practice of the Lyon Court with regard to church heraldry is as follows.

The Church of Scotland

The Church of Scotland uses as its official arms the burning bush of Exodus chapter III, which "burns but is not consumed", over a St Andrew’s Cross, all displayed in a vessica. The burning bush has been a popular symbol among Reformed churches since the Huguenots adopted it in 1583. The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has an official coat of arms awarded by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. It includes a shield showing the burning bush. The shield is surmounted by a black Geneva bonnet. If the Moderator has recorded arms at the Lyon Court, s/he may impale these with the moderatorial arms. Ministers who petition for arms can choose to ensign them with a Geneva bonnet with two black tassels in lieu of a helm and crest and may also request a crest to be used by their descendants. Individual churches and presbyteries may also petition for arms and some have done so.

The Roman Catholic Church

Roman Catholic clergy are required by the laws of their own Church to seek formal registration of their arms by the civil authority where, as in Scotland, such exists. The Catholic Church has a complex system of clerical additaments, substantially codified in 1832, in relation to rank or role within the Church. The Lyon Office is happy to follow this practice where it does not conflict with the law of Scotland and would particularly draw the attention of new members of the Catholic hierarchy to the Apostolic Letter of Pope Paul VI , Ut Sive Sollicite of March 31st 1969 which supressed the use of the mitre and crosier in episcopal arms. Instead all episcopal arms must be ensigned solely of a clerical galero of the appropriate hue, a processional cross with two transverse bars and pallium for a metropolitan archbishop, and a processional cross with one transverse bar for a bishop.   Most of the RC dioceses in Scotland have been granted arms, always ensigned with a mitre and having the appropriate cross and crozier in saltire behind.

The Scottish Episcopal Church

The Scottish Episcopal Church also displays its arms in a vessica. Individual dioceses ensign their arms with a mitre only.                                                                                                                  Scottish Episcopal  Diocese                                   Bishop impaled with his diocese Individual bishops may impale their personal arms with the arms of their diocese, ensigned of a mitra pretiosa and two croziers in saltire.
         Cardinal                     RC Diocese
  Bishop                          Archbishop