The Cathedral of Saint Paul has a coat of arms, which communicates something of our history and identity using traditional heraldic devices and symbols. In short: the palms refer to our parish patron and principal diocesan patron, St. Paul (traditional symbol of martyrdom), as well as the sword (the cause of St. Paul’s death and also a reference to the “sword of the Spirit” – Ephesians 6:17); the blue and gold coloring is both Marian and relates to the coat of arms of the village of Ars, France, where our secondary diocesan patron, St. John Vianney, was renowned for his holiness; the crown also refers to martyrdom and picks up on imagery used in County Roscommon, Ireland, where Fr. Coyle, our former pastor, was from; the “X”-shaped cross in the background refers to St. Andrew, on whose feast the current church was dedicated in 1893; finally, the anvil is a reference to the city of Birmingham, famous for its steel industry, where our Cathedral is located. A more complete description, using the traditional terms of heraldry, follows below:
ARMS OF THE CATHEDRAL OF ST. PAUL, BIRMINGHAM
Blazon: Azure, on a saltire or, two palm branches vert, over all a sword argent palewise, enfiling an eastern crown of the second, the crown and sword lined and gripped gules, in chief an anvil of the fourth.
The new coat of arms of the Cathedral of St. Paul, Birmingham pays tribute through its symbolism to the Catholic faith professed by its members and the parish’s long history in the state of Alabama. The tinctures (colors) selected, azure and or (blue and gold), were selected because they also appear in the municipal arms of Ars, where the diocese’s auxiliary patron St. Jean Vianney spent much of his life as the town priest. The principal charge (element) of a saltire or X-shaped cross is a discreet reference to the church’s initial dedication on the feast of St. Andrew (November 30), 1893.
Atop the saltire are placed two crossed palm branches in vert (green), symbols of the heavenly victory of martyrdom, and an argent (silver) sword set palewise (upright). These recall St. Paul, who died a martyr’s death under the blade of a sword, and who wrote of the “Sword of the Spirit” in his Epistle to the Ephesians. The crown or (gold) enfiled (bisected) by the sword also recalls the promise of an “imperishable crown” in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. This type of crown is known as an eastern crown in heraldry, and here also recalls the parish’s late pastor Fr. James Coyle (1873-1921) who was assassinated on the steps of the rectory. County Roscommon, where Fr. Coyle’s birthplace of Drum is located, has a similar crown on its arms.
Lastly, the city of Birmingham’s industrial heritage is recalled by the argent (silver) anvil in chief (at the top of the shield). The anvil can also be seen as symbolic of God shaping us through His Providence.
We are grateful to Mr. Matthew Alderman, K.M., of Matthew Alderman Studios, for his fine work in designing and executing our Cathedral coat of arms!