The Right Reverend Michael J. Keyes, S.M., D.D.

Eighth Bishop of Savannah, 1922-1935

Bishop Michael J. Keyes was appointed to the See of Savannah on July 8, 1922. He was consecrated on October 18, 1922 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah. He adopted a conservative financial policy, which enabled him to leave a substantial reserve fund to his successor. He fostered the aims and work of the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia. Bishop Keyes resigned the See of Savannah on September 23, 1935 due to ill health. The reigning pontiff, Pius XI, in accepting his resignation, appointed him Titular Bishop of Areopolis in Palestine and Assistant to the Pontifical Throne. In the ensuing years, Bishop Keyes’ health improved enough for him to resume teaching moral theology at Marist College, Washington, D.C., where he remained active until 1958. On July 31, 1959, Bishop Keyes died.

Motto: Ave Maris Stella [ “Hail Star of the Sea” from a hymn composed by Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers]

Blazon: Impaled, Dexter: Argent, a cross throughout between four crosses coupled gules (See of Savannah, old form); sinister: Gules, on a chevron between three fleurs-de-lis argent, as many escallops of the field; a canton of the Society of Mary; parted per fess azure and argent, in chief and the letter M entwined with the same inverted in base counter-charged of the field (Keyes).

Significance: In the dexter impalement are the arms of the Diocese of Savannah which is in the State of Georgia, and shows the arms of Saint George (Argent, a cross gules), accompanied by four smaller crosses, the whole arranged as are the crosses in the arms of (the Kingdom) of Jerusalem, which supposedly symbolized the five Sacred Wounds. In the sinister impalement are displayed the personal arms of the Bishop who used those of the Keyes clan of Ireland, “differenced” by a simple reversal of the tinctures with the addition of the Marist arms, and the shells which are among the heraldic attributes of Saint Michael, the Archangel, Prince of the Celestial Militia and the baptismal patron of the Bishop. To distinguish between the “escallops’ of Saint James the Apostle and those of Saint Michael the Archangel, the seventeenth century heralds drew Saint James with “ears” and Saint Michael without, and called the latter “vannets” – a needless refinement of the terminology.

Go to top