SHIELD: Argent an open Book garnished Gules clasps and buckles Or thereon inscribed the words SICUT SERPENTAE SICUT COLUMBAE between three crosses pattee of the second on a Chief of the last a Key in bend sinister of the first surmounted by a similar Key in bend dexter Gold between to the dexter a Serpent nowed and erect and to the sinister a Dove both proper.
MOTTO: Sicut Serpentes Sicut Columbae
In ordinary language the blazon (heraldic description) means that on a silver shield is an open book bound in red with clasps and buckles of gold with the words of the motto on its pages. Above the book are two red crosses with splayed limbs cut straight across the ends (pattee) and below it a similar cross. On the upper third of the shield (the Chief) which is ‘of the last’ colour mentioned in the blazon, that is, red, are two crossed keys, the one sloping from the viewer’s right to his left (in bend sinister – sinister being the left of the bearer of the shield) being ‘of the first’ colour mentioned, that is, silver, that sloping from left to right (in bend dexter) being on top of the other and made of gold. The keys are between a serpent coiled into a knot (nowed) and with raised head (erect) and dove, both being in natural colours (proper).
The open book is taken from the arms of the University of Oxford, and is both a symbol of learning and of the Bible. It has been calculated that there are over two hundred varieties of cross used in heraldry – the cross pattee was probably used here as best fitting the design of the shield. The serpent and the dove refer to the motto written on the book. The crossed keys are symbols of St. Peter – in full the College’s name is the College of St. Peter at Radley.
The shield obeys the strict rules of heraldry in which colour (ie. the red) is placed on metal (silver) and then reversed in the chief and the keys. In heraldry the convention is always colour on metal or metal on colour NEVER colour on colour or metal on metal.