THE BOMBAY SEMINARY: The Coat of Arms
As you walk across the wide portals and tall pillars of the Bombay Seminary you are ushered into the parlour where you await your appointment. Glancing around the room, your gaze rests upon a unique shield set against the wall. Its iconography adds a burst of colour to the white surface. Intrigued, you walk up to the icon for a more detailed glance.
Your absorbed attention is interrupted by a kind hello. You turn to find a seminarian who introduces himself and gives you a little booklet that contains a detailed understanding of the shield. Thanking him, you zestfully get back to explore the shield, its unique symbols, and interesting history. The text begins:
The Diocesan Seminary of Bombay at Goregaon has its Coat-of-Arms designed by Rev T. Molina S. J in 1960. But first, let’s consider the question ‘What is a Coat-of-Arms’?
A Coat-of-Arms is an important hereditary device borne on a shield dating back to the medieval period. The term in origin refers to the surcoat worn by combatants with a heraldic design. It serves to denote identity, purpose, family descent, profession, alliance, etc. However, we need not enter into the intricacies of heraldry.
It is important to note this art that developed in the Middle Ages was not restricted to the royal families, the princes, and the knights. The ecclesiastics, who also shared in the love of symbolism imported Heraldry in the Church which was further developed and termed ‘Ecclesiastical Heraldry’. While there is freedom in the selection of symbolism, the fundamental rules to be followed are common to all, lay adepts included.
‘In preparing the Goregaon Crest, the ecclesiastical character of the college has been the chief idea borne in mind. The Institution had to be given a prominent place. To begin with the last mentioned objective, the question was to bring into the general scheme the Coat-of-Arms of St. Pius X’. – Rev T. Molina S. J
Let’s examine the Coat-of-Arms of the Saintly Pope – The shield is charged into two parts. Since the saintly Pontiff was the Patriarch of Venice, he added the Lion of St. Mark on the top band and continued to use the same during his Pontificate. However for reasons of convenience, in the seminary scheme, the lion was suppressed.
The coat-of-arms of the Pope also includes an anchor proper cast into the stormy sea but guided by a single six-pointed star of gold. This imagery was adopted by the Pope when he was the Bishop of Mantua. It is inspired by Hebrews Chapter 6, Verse 19 – ‘We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…’
Considering the above, we now examine the Bombay Seminary shield. It is devised in the 17th-century French style. The topmost rectangular part of the crest bears the Dove, a symbol of the Third Person of the Trinity.
‘It is hardly necessary to comment on the propriety of this symbol in the Seminary Crest. Not only is the Third Person of the Trinity the presiding power over the election and sanctification of the candidate to the priesthood, but He is the giver of light in the acquisition of true knowledge’- Rev T. Molina S. J. The red background is expressive of the liturgical colour of the Pentecost.
The body of the shield is divided into equal halves. The first section displays the Cross planted on the world. The overall development of the imagery and the colours are meant to harmonize with the Coat-of-Arms of the Saintly Pope.
‘Every detail has been studied scrupulously, but one, in particular, has to be mentioned here; THE CLOUDS. Apart from artistic considerations, here represented (the clouds) symbolize error, thus enhancing the power of the Cross. The Cross evidently stands for the message which the ambassador of Christ brings to the world. Although in all its forbidding frigidity, the Cross is truth, the Cross is light and the clouds of error are unable to stand the secret rays that effectively dissipate their blinding influence. That the clouds are white instead of black, that looks an anachronism, but in reality, it is not, for the cloud’s brightness is due in the invisible light emanating from the Cross. Moreover the further the clouds from the Cross, the darker they picture’. – Rev T. Molina S. J
The second half of the shield adopts the iconography from the Patron’s crest, namely the anchor of hope set into the stormy sea, guided by a six-point star. Finally ‘we should like to draw attention to a coincidence, which was not originally intended in the planning scheme…it will be found that the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity) are clearly symbolized in the Coat-of-Arms’. – Rev T. Molina S. J
The motto of the Seminary rests below the shield. Taken from 2 Corinthians 5:20 it reads in Latin – ‘Pro Christo Legatione Fungimur’ which is translated as ‘Ambassadors for Christ’.
As you glance once again at the colorful Coat-of-Arms set against the white wall, you cannot help but admire how a simple shield could bear such profound meaning. The second part of the booklet describes the story of the Patron himself – Saint Pope Pius X. Stay tuned!
Please feel free to share this story with others and your story of the Seminary with us! You will get regular updates at this blog site on this exhibition.
© – Archdiocesan Heritage Museum
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