The Coat of Arms of the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Visitation of Piat, Philippines
is finally released!
The Basilica’s Coat-of-Arms
(the description by Fr. Victor Emmanuel Quintos)
The Coat-of-Arms of the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Visitation of Piat is a heraldic representation of the rich heritage of the devotion to Our Lady in the Cagayan Valley and beyond.
The argent (silver) shield commemorates three facts: (1) Our Lady of Piat, (2) the Cagayan Valley; and (3) the role of Our Lady of Piat as Mother and Patroness of the region.
(1) The upper area features the heraldic representation of Our Lady of Piat: the crown, the three red roses with a handkerchief, and the eight-pointed star.
Roses are traditional representations of the Blessed Virgin (i.e, Mystical Rose [cf. Litany of Loreto]); in fact, Pierre Chaignon La Rose, an eminent ecclesiastical heraldist in the United States, referred to it as the Blessed Virgin’s fairest symbol. The roses follow heraldic custom by portraying it as five-petalled with five small points for leaves. In addition, the three red roses allude to Mary’s cooperation with the Trinity in the work of salvation: as daughter of God the Father, mother of God the Son, and temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lumen Gentium, 53).
On the other hand, the handkerchief inculturates the Marian symbolism by appropriating the handkerchief borne by Our Lady of Piat as a heraldic device. For generations of pilgrims, this handkerchief represents Our Lady’s maternal comfort and love, as she dries the tears and wipes the sweat of those who call for her help.
Below the handkerchief is an eight-pointed star, referring to the “great sign that appeared in the heaven” (cf. Rev. 12:1), the Stella Matutina (in English, Morning Star) preceding the rising of the Sun of Justice, which is Christ (cf. Redemptoris Mater, 3). The points of the star is drawn in gyronny-style, in black-and-white, reminiscent of the gryonny cross used as a heraldic device by the Order of Preachers. This commemorates the Dominican legacy not only in bringing the venerated image of Our Lady of Piat, but also in evangelizing the Cagayan region.
The entire Marian emblem is topped with an or (golden) crown, emphasizing Mary’s title as Queen of Heaven and Earth and a commemoration of the Pontifical Coronation of the image of Our Lady of Piat on 20 June 1954.
(2) On the lower half of the shield are two green mountains drawn in a geometric style, with a river flowing in between. This is a symbol of the rich and fertile Cagayan Valley - the high mountain ranges hemming on the east and the west, together with the Rio Grande de Cagayan in the middle. This clearly situates, in a geographical manner, Mary’s patronage over the Cagayan Valley, and her special role as guide and help of its people.
The superscutcheon (i.e., the devices above the shield) features two heraldic devices traditionally bestowed upon Minor Basilicas, to underscore its relationship and bond to the Supreme Pontiff and the Holy See - the umbraculum and the Papal Cross-Keys.
(1) the umbraculum (in Italian, ombrellino) is a symbol of Papal temporal authority introduced as a Papal regalia by Pope Alexander VI Borgia. In heraldry, the umbraculum is used not only in coats-of-arms of Papal Basilicas, but also in the insignia of the Holy See during an interregnum, (i.e., sede vacante, the period between the death or resignation of a Pope and the subsequent election of a new one.) The umbraculum is depicted in alternating bands of yellow and red.
(2) the Papal cross-keys are also familiar Papal heraldic symbols. They refer to the promise of Christ to Peter, “I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” (cf. Matt. 16:19). They are adopted in the flag of Vatican City, the seals of the various organs of the Holy See, and the personal coat-of-arms of the Supreme Pontiff. The keys are depicted in silver and gold.
Finally, the Basilica’s coat-of-arms features a banderole (scroll) with the motto “Exaltavit humiles”, (in English, [He] has lifted up the lowly) taken from the Virgin Mary’s canticle of praise, the Magnificat (cf. Luke 1:52). The motto is a particularly moving choice, a further assurance to the poor and the downtrodden that Our Lady, “as a true mother... walks at our side, ... shares our struggles and ... constantly surrounds us with God’s love.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 286)
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