Coat of Arms

The Coat of Arms of Donald Cardinal Wuerl


Arms impaled. In the dexter: Quarterly azure and gules, a cross bottony over all quarterly or and argent; 1, a crescent argent; 2, three mullets of six points fesswise in chief argent; 3, as many mullets of five points fesswise in chief argent; 4, a head erased affronté and winged all argent. In the sinister: Gules, a tower or charged with a cross alisé of the field.


The dexter impalement (on the observer’s left) displays the arms of the Archdiocese of Washington, which consist of a shield quartered in blue and red, charged with a cross bottony – each limb terminating in three knobs – quartered in gold (yellow) and silver (white), based on the cross in the arms of Maryland. The cross, in the traditional papal colors, together with the red, white and blue of the overall design, symbolizes the presence of the Catholic Church in Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, and in the Maryland counties of Montgomery, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles.

In the first quarter is a silver crescent, a traditional symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of the United States under the title of her Immaculate Conception. The three six-pointed silver stars in the second quarter are based on those in the arms of Pope Pius VI, who reigned at the time of the Declaration of Independence. The three five-pointed silver stars in the third quarter are adapted from the arms of George Washington. The man’s face between two wings in silver in the fourth quarter is an ancient symbol of Saint Matthew the Apostle, patron of the Cathedral.

The sinister impalement (on the observer’s right) displays the arms of Cardinal Wuerl, which consist of a red field charged with a gold tower, upon which in turn is a red globical cross.  The tower stands for the City of God, as well as for titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary as found in the Litany of Loreto: Tower of David, Tower of Ivory and House of Gold. The cross is from the coat of arms of the Diocese of Pittsburgh (changed from gold to red), of which Cardinal Wuerl is a native, and of which he was Bishop before he became Archbishop of Washington.

Behind the arms is placed a gold double-traversed processional cross, symbolic of the archiepiscopal or metropolitan rank. Over the whole achievement is a cardinal’s hat, scarlet in color, with fifteen scarlet tassels on each side arranged in five rows, one more row than appear on an archbishop’s hat, and two more than on that of a bishop.

The motto THY KINGDOM COME is taken from Saint Matthew’s recollection of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:10), and represents Cardinal Wuerl’s commitment to the Church’s conviction that the personal effort of each believer actually builds up in our lifetime the kingdom of God.

The arms of the Archdiocese of Washington were devised in December 1947 by William F. J. Ryan (1903-1981) of New York, and slightly modified in September 2001 by the Cardinal Archbishop in concert with the College of Consultors, when the cross bottony was substituted for the original cross of chain links in silver. The emblazonment of the arms was undertaken by Anthony W. C. Phelps (1931-2005) of Cleveland, Ohio. Cardinal Wuerl’s arms were devised in 1986, when he was ordained as a bishop, by Professor Géza Grosschmid (1918-1992) of Duquesne University.