Friday, April 12, 2013


People are asking what is this flower on the Holy Father's Coat of Arms, called nardo?  There seems to even be confusion as to which plant it actually is. Perhaps as time goes by someone will get it sorted out for us!

Supposedly it is true spikenard and  the Italian name for spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi) also called nard, is nardo. It is a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India. It is used in the manufacture of an intensely aromatic amber-colored essential oil. The oil has, since ancient times, been used as a perfume, as a medicine and in religious contexts, particularly in connection with historical Judaism.

The Scriptures contain several references to spikenard:
In the Old Testament we have in the Song of Songs:

While the king was at his table, my spikenard sent, its fragrance. (1:12)
Song of Songs- Marc Chagall

You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard...
Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices. (4:12-14)

In the New Testament we have the story we had on the Monday in Holy Week where Mary, sister of Lazarus, uses a pound of pure nard to anoint Jesus's feet. Judas Iscariot, the keeper of the money-bag, asked why the ointment was not sold for three hundred denarii instead.

St. Joseph, patron of Families
In the Hispanic iconographic tradition of the Catholic Church, the spikenard is used to represent Saint Joseph, which is why Pope Francis includes the spikenard on his coat of arms.
St. Joseph always seems to be associated with lilies in a variety of different ways so what is it about spikenard?

It would really help to know a Spanish iconographer, but there is one solitary hint that there may actually be something to connecting St. Joseph to nard. In a book of Spanish poetry, A Woman in Her Garden: Selected Poems, by Cuban, Dulce Maria Loynaz, is found this verse:

"Planted in your spell-bound earth, dry twigs turn to spikenard, white flower of Saint Joseph, the wedding flower."

There actually is a flower called nardo (Polianthes tuberosa, our tuberose). Nardo or Vara de San Jose (Staff of St. Joseph) is its common name in Spanish. It is originally from Mexico. Some statues or pictures of St. Joseph depict him with a staff with a flower on top. Most of the time the ones toward the bottom are in bloom and those at the top are closed.

In my Consecration crown I had this flower and everything around me smelled heavenly throughout my ceremony. When I made perfumes at the Abbey, this scent was often used in my formulae.

Tuberose or nardo

Nardo is a night blooming plant and is fragrant. It is about 18 inches long that produce waxy white flowers that bloom from the bottom towards the top. What is interesting in the Pope's Coat of Arms is that the nardo is represented before the flower is in full bloom. So what we see are clusters of unopened flowers because that is how it looks during the day since it blooms at night.

We associate St. Joseph with a Lily because what we are familiar with is the flower in bloom and we call it a Lily. That's not necessarily wrong because nardo is from the Lily family.

Since the flower is white it is a symbol of purity. The Fathers of the Church use nardo as a symbol of humility. Purity and Humility are of course virtues that we find in St. Joseph. And the staff is a symbol of  his authority, since he was given authority as Foster father of Jesus.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I was given some "Nardo Oil" from my masseuse in Mexico for my mosquito bites. It is a liquid that looks like milk. She told me to dilute it with a little oil or alcohol. It does smell a bit like tuberose. I want to get some more when this runs out. She told me she bought it in Mexico City.