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Campus Life

History of The Hill School Chapel logo

ChapelLogo.jpg

In April 2009, a new heraldic seal was unveiled for use in The Hill's Alumni Chapel. Designed by Ellen O'Shaughnessy Nelson, instructor of the Arts, from a sketch by The Rev. John Wm. Houghton, Ph.D., Hill Chaplain, the new graphic is used on vestments and other appointments of the Chapel. As seen on this page, the seal incorporates The Hill coat of arms, originally designed by Mrs. John Meigs (wife of Hill's second headmaster), and a gold and red Celtic-style inspired cross used in the inscription behind the altar in the Chapel itself.

Fr. Houghton, whose career as a medieval scholar began with a Cub Scout project on heraldry, explains that the new design has roots in the thirteenth century: "When wax seals became the accepted way of authenticating a document, ecclesiastical figures—bishops, abbots, cathedral deans, and the like—typically used a matrix in a pointed oval shape, as opposed to the round seals of secular magnates." He notes, "Art historians call this shape a mandorla, while heralds more often call it a vesica piscis, or just a vesica. Originally, seals carried a picture of the owner, but when heraldic seals became popular, replacing the portrait with a shield of arms, church officials went along with the trend. Esthetically, the vesica was particularly well-suited to church heraldry, with the pointed shield fitting into the bottom half and the pointed mitre of a bishop or abbot occupying the top area."
 


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