Coat of Arms

Both particular law and traditional practice require that those elected to the episcopate assume heraldic insignia or so-called “coats of arms.” Once finalised, the individual bishop uses his coat-of-arms as his personal seal. The design of ecclesiastical arms usually follows the heraldic tradition of the country in which the bishop has his diocese. However, in the major faith communities conventions have developed which govern the overall design. Thus, it should be immediately obvious if the arms belong to a Roman Catholic or an Eastern prelate. Usually, the symbols or charges chosen will tell us something about the bishop, his background and interests.

Usually, there is a quote from Sacred Scripture or other source used as a personal motto.

Whilst there is considerable freedom allowed in the selection of the symbols or charges, the Holy See takes a direct interest in anything that indicates a prelate’s rank and jurisdiction. The arms adopted by Bishop Robert have been prepared in the English style used in Australia with the external signs common to Byzantine ecclesiastical heraldry.

The shield is divided horizontally by a castellated or fortified wall. This is a visual play on the bishop family name Rabbat suggestive of the Arabic word, ar-ribaat, ارّباط, a fortified place, that which is strongly walled and closely guarded. Above the bettlemented wall is the blue sky of the Mediterranean, and against the wall, there is a book. There can be no more potent symbol of learning and knowledge than an open book. The two seals are reminders of the Old and New Testaments; thus, the book portrayed becomes a symbol of both secular and religious knowledge.

On the left hand page of the book, there are the two tablets of the Mosaic Law, and on the right a heart representing the virtue of love. This is not to contrast the law with love, but to show that in a community these two realities must be harmoniously interwoven.  

Above the shield there is a Byzantine episcopal mitre richly embroidered and bejewelled. Once a restricted privilege, even for the episcopate, the mitre is now worn by all bishops.

From the mitre there is draped an episcopal mandyas – the Byzantine equivalent of the Roman Catholic cappa magna. Although amongst the Slavs, the colour of the mandyas indicates the bishop’s rank, this example follows the usual Byzantine practice of being a red-purple colour.

Crossed behind the mandyas is a bishop’s serpent crozier originally peculiar to the Byzantine Churches. Several explanations for the serpents are offered, however, they serve as a reminder of our Lord’s words to the apostles that, in their dealings with the world, they must be “wise as serpents but gentle like doves.” (Mt 10:16)

The scroll below the shield carries Bishop Robert’s personal motto taken from the Prophet Isaiah (Is 40:3-5) as quoted in the Gospel of St John (Jn 1:23) – “A Voice crying in the Wilderness.”    


The serpents also remind the bishop to be wary of both the clergy and laity who seek to be most involved in managing the eparchy.