The Franciscan Coat of Arms

“Be champions of the Tau!”

tauVaried artistic renderings of the Franciscan Coat of Arms can be found throughout the ministries, friaries, missions and sites served by the many Orders of Franciscan Friars. All have the same key elements: the image of the crossed arms with nail wounds in the hands – one representing Christ and the other St. Francis of Assisi who bore the Stigmata (wounds of Christ). There is also a form of the cross often depicted as the letter “T.” It is actually a “Tau,” the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
A favorite passage for St. Francis of Assisi was Ezekiel 9:4 “... and the LORD said to him: Pass through the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark a T (X in English translations) on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the abominations practiced within it …” The faithful of God were signed with the ‘tau’ and spared. “… But do not touch anyone marked with the T …” (Ezekiel 9:6)
St. Francis’ love of this verse was cemented through Pope Innocent III’s use of this imagery during his November 11, 1215 homily at the Fourth Lateran Council, the most important religious event in the time of St. Francis. Every Catholic in the Church of that time was challenged to take the symbol of the Tau Cross as the sign of their own Passover and Pope Innocent III ended his homily with “Be champions of the Tau!”
St. Francis of Assisi  made the Tau his own and was known to even end letters, signing them with a T. It is a symbol used today by those who follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi and who strive to spread the understanding of it’s use among all those who walk that same path.