François de Laval

A bishop, a visionary, a bold man, a founder… and a Saint!

His Coat of Arms

Even today, a new Roman Catholic bishop has to choose his coat of arms… and all of the meaning and symbolism behind it !

Against a gold shield...

The dominant colour, covering almost the entire surface of the escutcheon, signifies a family of the noble class. François de Laval was the descendant of one the eight great families of France.

Against a gold shield, a cross gules charged with five silver shells, creating four cantons bearing sixteen alerions azure

a cross…

The Greek cross is composed of four equal segments. This symbol of the Christian faith – a cross made of red fabric – was sewn onto knights’ clothing during the Crusades, hence the name given to this period.


Red, as in a throat or the inside of an animal’s mouth.

charged with five silver shells…

Seashells, also called "coquilles de St-Jacques [scallops]" – a reference to pilgrimages made to St-Jacques de Compostelle (Santiago de Compostela) or the sacred sites. The shells, hung on a pilgrim’s hat, were used as plates or drinking bowls. A symbol of persistence and abiding faith in Providence. The number of shells – five – signifies his great determination.

creating four cantons…

In heraldry, the word "canton" refers to one of the four empty spaces created when a cross is placed on an escutcheon.

Bearing sixteen alerions azure.

Small eagles with neither beaks nor feet – i.e., stripped of their means of combat – represent the conquered enemy. François de Laval’s family took part in the Crusades.

François de Laval’s Ensign

An escutcheon topped with a hat symbolizes the rank of Bishop in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy.

The bishopric is also denoted by the hat’s green colour – red represents a cardinal’s rank.

The standing of the diocese in the bishop’s charge is represented by the number of rows of tassels (3=diocese, 4=archdiocese, 5=cardinal bishop).

In the 17th century, the Church and the State were closely linked together. In several countries, the monarch was required to finance Church operations, thus gathering certain prerogatives regarding the selection of bishops and the missions they were assigned. The evolution of New France unfolded against this backdrop. This has been borne out by history.

When François de Laval was appointed bishop, his choice of escutcheon was his family’s coat of arms – an existing affirmation (since his forebears had participated in the Crusades) of his willingness to defend the Catholic faith.

The five shells added to the design demonstrated his determination and deep faith in Providence (Compostela).

Séminaire de Québec


Collège françois-de-laval


Université laval