The College Arms represent those of the founders and of the diocese in which Oxford lay when the College was founded. They are an example of the rare form of tierced arms, that is three coats of arms set side by side.
The arms of William Smyth
Description: argent a chevron sable between three roses gules seeded or barbed vert
Meaning: a silver background [which can be represented in white], a black chevron [inverted V] and three red roses with gold seeds and green thorns. These are the arms of William Smyth (?1460-1514), Bishop of Lincoln and co-founder of the College. Smyth's arms, alongside those of the diocese of Lincoln can be seen on his portrait, which hangs in the College Hall.
The arms of the diocese of Lincoln
Description: or an escutcheon of the arms of the See of Lincoln (gules two lions of England in pale or on a chief azure Our Lady crowned seated on a tombstone issuant from the chief in her dexter arm the infant Jesus in her sinister arm a sceptre all or) ensigned with a mitre proper.
Meaning: a gold background with an escutcheon [a representation on a shield] of the arms of the Diocese of Lincoln. These are a red ground with two gold lions with blue tongues and claws, and above them on a blue ground a figure in gold of the Virgin Mary seated on a tombstone holding the infant Jesus and a sceptre. The arms are distinguished by a mitre, which appears in proper, or natural, colours. When Brasenose was founded Oxford lay in the huge diocese of Lincoln, and a representation of the arms of the diocese forms the centre of the College's arms. Oxford diocese was not founded until 1542.
The arms of Richard Sutton
Description: quarterly first and fourth argent a chevron between three bugle horns stringed sable second and third argent a chevron between three crosses crosslet sable Quartered arms [in which the devices are repeated on diagonal corners].
Meaning: one is a silver/white background with a black chevron and three black bugles with strings. The other is also a silver/white background with a black chevron; this has three crosses 'crosslet', that is with a cross bar at the end of each arm. These are the arms of Sir Richard Sutton (died 1524), co-founder of the College. He appears in a literal 'coat of arms' in his portrait in Hall.