Friday, April 22, 2011

Heraldry at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

In early April, I toured the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC, with the St. Nicholas Society of NY. Our guide, the excellent and well-informed Father Thomas Pike, led us through the length and breadth of the building, where I took photos of most of the shields embedded in the floor (having wandered away on my own, no disrespect intended). I also photographed the baptistry. Here are a few images, with more to come.

First, here is the Stuyvesant shield from the baptistry:

The inscription reads: "This baptistry is erected to the glory of God and in loving memory of Augustus Van Horne Stuyvesant and Harriet Le Roy Suyvesant by their children Catherine E.S. Stuyvesant, Augustus Van Horne Stuyvesant Jr. and Anne W. Stuyvesant. Dedicated anno Domini MCMXXVIII.

The motto, I believe, reads: "Jovae praestat filere quam homini." The best translation I can give is "In excellence as possible by man," which is not elegant. [Man should strive for excellence?] Does anyone have a better one? I'd be grateful ... This is the same inscription that appears on the tomb of Rutherford Stuyvesant.

Here are two shields sent into the floor of a side aisle:

This is a stripped-down version of the arms of the City of Cologne, Germany, emphasizing the Three Kings, but without the eleven flames that are said to signify Saint Ursula.

The bones of the Three Kings (Magi) are said to be kept in a golden tomb in Cologne Cathedral. I leave it to you to discover whether this is true, though the story has its roots as far back as the twelfth century.

Finally for today, here is a rendering of the arms of the municipality of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain:

This rendering features the tomb of St. James, strongly associated with this city, and the star shining above his resting place. Omitted are the Host, chalice, and seven crosses that appear on the left side of the arms of the city. What you see above appears on the right half (as you view it) of the shield.

Comments, corrections, additions, anyone? Always grateful for your time and consideration.

A very happy Easter to all!


  1. Hey, thanks! I have more photos from this tour, just have to get 'em up!