The coat of arms of Pope St John Paul II (r. 1978-2005) takes the form of a simple cross and the letter 'M'.
However, the form of the cross does not correspond to any of the usual heraldry models. The reason for the unusual shift of the vertical part of the cross is to accommodate the large and majestic capital letter 'M', which symbolises the presence of Mary at the Crucifixion of Christ. The gospel of St John states: 'Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother' (John: 19:25, KJV).
The pope's intense devotion to the Virgin Mary is duly manifested in his coat of arms as well as his motto: 'Totus Tuus' ('Totally Yours').
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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