Coat of Arms
of Bishop Claude Champagne, O.M.I.
The upper part of the shield is called "undy" in heraldry. It evokes the Atlantic coastline which defines the archdiocese of Halifax and the diocese of Yarmouth.
The star is the Stella Maris, the Star of the Sea, a major Marian symbol adopted in 1884 as the principal Acadian symbol. As such, it was incorporated in the coat of arms of the diocese of Yarmouth in 1953.
The fleur de lys was the emblem of the kings of France. It became part of their royal heraldry during the reign of Philip Augustus (1165-1223). During the High Middle Ages, the fleur de lys acquired a strong Christological and Marian dimension, based largely on the Song of Songs: "I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys" (Sg. 2.1) and "As a lily among the thistles, so is my love among the maidens" (Sg. 2.2). Its inclusion in Bishop Champagne’s armorial bearings recalls his native province; he was born in Lachine, Quebec, in 1947. The fleur de lys is also found in the Yarmouth diocesan arms.
Since 1937, the white trillium is in Ontario’s floral emblem. It recalls that Bishop Champagne’s pastoral career was chiefly in Ontario and principally in the archdiocese of Ottawa. The Latin cross adorned with the instruments of Christ’s Passion is the principal element of the armorial bearings borne by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a religious Institute founded in 1815 by Bishop Eugène de Mazenod to serve the missions and to run seminaries. It occupies the place of honour in Bishop Champagne’s coat of arms to indicate his membership in this religious institute which has been active in Canada since 1841.
The lower part of the shield is called, in French heraldic terminology, a "Champagne", hence its use in Bishop Champagne’s coat of arms. It evokes the former French province of Champagne, the birthplace of his first ancestor who migrated to Canada.
An open book is emblematic of the Gospels. A bishop has the responsibility of keeping intact the Word of God and of spreading its message. The book bears the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the Alpha and Omega, meaning that Jesus is the beginning and the end of all things: "I am the Alpha and the Omega", says the Lord God, who is, who was, and is to come, the Almighty". (Revelation 1,8)
The Latin motto "Verba vitae aeternae habes" is translated as: "You have the words of eternal life". It is the Apostle Peter’s profession of faith (John 6.68).
A cross with a single bar behind the shield is specifically assigned to bishops as a heraldic symbol of their dignity, as is the green hat with twelve tassels, six on each side.
Robert Pichette of the Académie internationale d’héraldique - May 7, 2003