Basilica Coat of Arms
The word basilica means “royal house.” In Christian history the word has two fundamental senses, one architectural, one canonical. In architectural terminology, a basilica is a church constructed according to a certain ancient Christian floor plan. In canonical language, a basilica is a church to which the Holy See has accredited that name as a total of honor.
One of the privileges of receiving the honor of Basilica status is the right to have a Coat-of-Arms. With the help of Oratorian Fr. Bochanski of Philadelphia, the Coat-of-Arms for the Basilica Shrine of Saint Mary has been created.
The red and gold umbrella atop the shield, the symbol used in all basilica coat-of-arms, and the “Keys of the Kingdom” represent the papacy.
The Star is an ancient Christian symbol of Mary, the patron saint of our basilica shrine.
The Sun with the “IHS” inside is from Pope Francis’ Coat-of-Arms. The Sun is a symbol of Jesus, and the “IHS” refers to the first three letters of “Jesus” in Greek.
The Cross of Raleigh on red field is composed of 8 diamonds that refer to the 8 deaneries of our diocese (Albemarle, Cape Fear, Fayetteville, New Bern, Newton Grove, Piedmont, Raleigh, and Tar River).
The Ship at Sea is an ancient symbol of the Church. In our case, we chose the ship because Wilmington is an East Coast seaport, and the immigrants who built our basilica came primarily from Europe by ship. The ship is a very humble one, symbolizing St. Mary parish’s long-time commitment to the poor, the marginalized, and the immigrant.
The feast of Sts. Peter and Paul will be celebrated at the Basilica of St. Mary the weekend of June 28th with a special procession at each of the weekend masses.
The new umbrellino and tintinnabulum will be carried in and take their place on the altar as a visual reminder of the privilege and honor bestowed on our church by being named a basilica.
Both gifts have been generously donated by Dr. Ted Gasper and his family. The umbrellino is given in honor of Sr. Isaac and the tintinnabulum is given as a memorial to Dr. Mary Dix McDuffie Gasper who passed away almost a year ago.
The Umbrellino (“little umbrella”) is a distinctive symbol used in basilicas throughout the world. Designed with stripes of yellow and red (traditional papal colors), the silk canopy is a symbol of the Pope’s authority. During the Middle Ages, the Umbrellino would be carried above the Holy Father during processions.
Once placed, the Umbrellino remains partially open in as a symbol of readiness to welcome the Holy Father. The panels along the bottom display the Coat of Arms of the Basilica of Saint Mary, as well as the Coat of Arms of Pope Francis, the Coat of Arms of the Bishop of Raleigh, and the Coat of Arms of the Raleigh Diocese. These designs have been embroidered on the beautiful silk fabric. The following gallery shows how it was created:
The Tintinnabulum, like the Umbrellino, indicates that the Basilica of Saint Mary has a special relationship with the Holy Father. The Tintinnabulum, a bell mounted on a pole, is placed in a Roman Catholic Basilica to signify the church’s link with the Pope. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the Tintinnabulum was used to alert the people of Rome of the approach of the Holy Father during papal processions.
The Tintinnabulum consists of a small gold bell within a hand carved wooden frame accented with gold leaf surmounted by the Papal Tiara (the crown traditionally worn by the Pope) and the Papal Keys (see Matthew 16:13-19). Above the bell is a hand carved Coat of Arms of the Basilica of Saint Mary. The reverse side of the Saint Mary Coat of Arms medallion is a hand-carved figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she appears above the altar of the basilica. The photos below show the stages of hand-carving and craftsmanship involved in creating this beautiful piece of art.