Have you ever looked closely at a coat of arms and wondered what all the different elements and charges meant? Coats of arms have been around for centuries and are used to represent individuals, families, organizations, and even countries. They are made up of various design components and charges, each with their own unique symbolism. Understanding the meaning behind these charges can provide insight into the values and history of the people or group represented by the coat of arms. In this beginner’s guide to identifying charges on coats of arms, we’ll explore the basics of coat of arms design and delve into the meanings behind some of the most common charges and symbols found on them.
What is a Coat of Arms?
A Coat of Arms is a unique heraldic design. It is used to identify individuals, families, or organizations. These designs were typically found on shields, banners, and other armorial bearings. Coat of arms designs have been used for centuries and were originally created for use in battles. The designs have evolved over time and became used for more general purposes such as identifying families or organizations. Coat of arms are traditionally passed down through families. The designs typically incorporate heraldic symbols and charges. These symbols represent certain qualities or characteristics. The significance of each charge or symbol is usually tied to the history or geographical location of the family or organization.
Coats of arms feature a variety of design elements which include:
– The Shield: It is the main focus of a coat of arms design. The shape of the shield can vary depending on the country and time period. Different types of shields can also be used such as the heater shield, which is commonly associated with medieval knights.
– The Mantling: It is a decorative element that hangs from the helmet. It is made up of a series of ornamental folds of cloth or leather, which were originally added to protect the bearer’s back from the sun and rain.
– The Crest: It is a symbol or figure placed on top of the helmet. It was used as a way to identify the bearer on the battlefield when their face was covered by the helmet.
– The Helmet: It is positioned above the shield and crest. It was originally worn by knights to protect their head during battle.
– The Supporters: They are usually two animals standing on either side of the shield. They are often intimidating or fierce animals that represent strength and courage.
– The Motto: It is a phrase that is placed on the ribbon below the shield. It represents the ideals or values of the family or organization.
Coat of arms designs are unique to each family or organization. Depictions of animals, crosses, stars, crowns, keys, ships, tree trunks, chalices, horns, roses, fleurs-de-lis and other charges, tinctures and divisions, and the symbolism of colors all have their own significance in heraldry. The history and meaning behind each of these symbols can provide a fascinating insight into the story of the family or organization.
The Basics of Coat of Arms Design
Designing a coat of arms may seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple once you understand the basics. A coat of arms typically consists of a shield, crest, helmet, mantling, supporters, and motto. The shield is arguably the most important aspect of a coat of arms and serves as the centerpiece of the design. It can be divided into different sections or divisions depending on the family’s history and values. The mantling, which looks like a draped cloth, adds a decorative element and represents the fabric that knights used to cover their helmet and shield. The crest, located above the helmet, is a symbol of honor and is often designed to represent something important to the family, such as their occupation or location. The helmet can also vary depending on the family’s rank or occupation, and the supporters are usually animals that symbolize courage or strength. Finally, the motto is often a short phrase that represents the family’s values or beliefs. Understanding these basic elements of a coat of arms can help you design a personalized and meaningful emblem for your family.
The shield is the most important part of a coat of arms. It is the central design element where the charges are placed. The shape of the shield varies depending on the region and historical era in which it was created. There are many types of heraldic shields, including the heater shield, the kite shield, the round shield, and the escutcheon, among others.
The charges on the shield are arranged in a specific way to create a unique design that represents the individual or organization. The shield can be divided into different areas, called partitions, using lines and shapes. The most common partitions are the bend, the fess, and the chevron. The partitions can be combined to create more elaborate designs.
The colors and symbols on the shield have specific meanings in heraldry, such as red symbolizing courage and blue symbolizing loyalty. The choice of colors and symbols can also represent the individual’s or organization’s history, beliefs, or aspirations.
It’s important to note that the same charge can have different meanings depending on its position on the shield or which side of the shield it’s on. For example, a lion may symbolize strength and courage when facing right, but it may symbolize royalty and dominion when facing left.
Understanding the significance of colors and symbols on the shield is important for interpreting the meaning behind a coat of arms. If you want to learn more about the symbolism of colors and charges in heraldry, check out this article for further reading.
The Mantling is a decorative piece that flows from the helmet on the coat of arms. It represents a piece of cloth or a cloth mantle hanging from the helmet. The purpose of mantling was to protect the wearer’s head from the sun and rain. The mantling became more elaborate over time and eventually became purely decorative.
The mantling also serves as an indicator of the rank and status of the person represented by the coat of arms. The materials, colors, and designs of the mantling varied depending on the rank of the person. For example, the mantling of a lord or baron would be made of expensive materials, such as silk or velvet, and adorned with lace or fur trim. Commoners would have simpler mantling made from wool or other more affordable materials.
The colors and design of the mantling were also significant. The colors used were often the same as those used in the shield, and the design could incorporate symbols or charges from the shield or crest. For example, a coat of arms that featured a lion in the crest could have mantling that includes a lion’s tail.
The motto often appeared on the mantling as well, embroidered along the bottom edge. The motto was a brief phrase that encapsulates the ideals or values of the person or family represented by the coat of arms.
The mantling was an important component of a coat of arms, serving both practical and symbolic purposes. Its design and materials reflected the status and rank of the person represented, and it added both depth and beauty to the overall heraldic achievement.
To understand the significance of colors mentioned in the mantling, read the article about tinctures in heraldry. To understand the evolution of the crest over time, read the article about crests in heraldry. To learn more about the symbolism of heraldic animals, read the article about heraldic animal symbolism. Discover the importance of the mantling along with shields and crests in heraldic achievement, reading the article about heraldic achievements significance. Or clarify some other terms from heraldic that you may encounter, reading the article about heraldic terms meaning.
The Crest is the decorative emblem that sits above the shield in a coat of arms design. It can take the shape of various designs, such as an animal, a plant, or a shape that represents a trait of the owner. The crest is usually placed on top of a wreath called a torse, made up of two twisted bands of cloth with the same colors as the main charges of the shield. The crest and torse together are sometimes also referred to as the crest.
The materials used to create the crest were originally limited to carved wood, woven fabric or painted leather, but crest design has evolved over time and today, they are often made from a variety of materials such as metal, stone, and even plastic.
The crest can add an extra layer of meaning to a coat of arms design, as it can represent the owner’s values, accomplishments, or a story important to the family. For example, a lion crest might represent courage and bravery, while an oak tree crest could symbolize strength and stability.
In some cases, the crest may also have a special meaning or use. For instance, sometimes a knight’s helmet is used instead of an emblem as the crest, or a crest may be used as a special insignia on specific family members’ garments.
It’s important to remember that the design of the crest should match the overall design language of the coat of arms. Additionally, there should be a good balance between the size and placement of the crest in relation to the rest of the design elements.
The helmet is an important element found on many coats of arms. In heraldry, the helmet plays a crucial role in adding character and distinguishing between different ranks or levels of the nobility. Depending on the country, a different style of helmet may be used to indicate the status of the bearer. For example, a barred helmet with six bars is the helmet of a sovereign, while a tilting helmet is used for knights.
One of the most common helmet styles used in heraldry is the “great helm.” The great helm is a fully enclosed helmet that was commonly worn by medieval knights in battle. It features a flat top with a curved back and is usually depicted in profile. The great helm is often used to represent a knight’s military prowess and serves as a symbol of protection and safety.
Another popular helmet style is the “tilting helm.” This type of helmet features a visor that can be lifted and lowered. It was originally designed for jousting and was used by knights to protect their faces during competitions. The tilting helm is commonly used in heraldry to symbolize bravery, chivalry, and martial skill.
In addition to the great helm and tilting helm, there are several other helmet styles that can be found in coats of arms. These include the “closed helm,” the “open-faced helm,” and the “barbute.” Each of these helmets has its own unique design and meaning, and they all add a sense of personality and distinction to the coat of arms.
The helmet is an important component of a coat of arms and is used to symbolize various virtues and characteristics. Whether it represents military prowess, bravery, or chivalry, the helmet serves as a visual reminder of the values that are important to the bearer of the coat of arms.
The Supporters in a coat of arms are figures or objects that stand on either side of the shield, adding further symbolic representation to the design. They act as “supports” and were originally designed as part of the coat of arms to provide a sable for the shield to rest on. These figures are traditionally depicted as animals, humans, or mythological creatures and are often related to the family in some way.
Animals as Supporters
Animals are a common choice for supporters in heraldic designs. These can include lions, griffins, horses, and eagles. The choice of animal often reflects certain traits or characteristics that the family wants to convey. For example, the lion is a symbol of bravery, while the eagle represents strength and nobility.
Humans as Supporters
Humans can also be used as supporters, often depicted as warriors or historical figures. They can be male or female and are often shown wearing armor or carrying weapons. Historical figures may be chosen to represent the family’s lineage or ancestry.
Mythological Creatures as Supporters
Mythological creatures are also popular choices for supporters. These can include unicorns, dragons, and mermaids. These figures often have symbolic meanings and can represent certain virtues or ideals. For example, the unicorn is a symbol of purity and grace, while the dragon represents strength and power.
Usage of Supporters
Supporters can be used in various ways in a coat of arms design. They can be shown holding up the shield, standing on either side, or supporting a crest above the shield. They can also be depicted in different positions, such as rampant, sejant, or couchant.
In some cases, supporters can also be used to represent certain family members. For example, a husband and wife may be depicted as supporters on either side of the shield, holding it up together.
The use of supporters in a coat of arms design adds an extra layer of symbolism and meaning. The choice of figures or objects should be well thought out and reflective of the family’s values and beliefs.
The motto is a brief phrase that accompanies the coat of arms. It’s usually displayed on a ribbon beneath the shield or above the crest. Mottos are often written in Latin or another language, and they have significant importance in heraldry.
The motto can represent the values, beliefs, or aspirations of the individual or organization that the coat of arms represents. It can also serve as a battle cry or a statement of intent.
Here are some examples of popular mottos and their meanings:
|Perseverantia||Perseverance||To persist in the face of adversity|
|Fortitudo||Strength||To demonstrate courage and resilience|
|In veritate libertas||Freedom in truth||To uphold the importance of honesty and integrity|
|Audentes Fortuna Juvat||Fortune favors the bold||To encourage risk-taking and bold action|
Mottos can also include references to religious or mythological figures, national or regional pride, and family traditions. They can be humorous or serious, and they often reflect the personality and values of the owner.
Keep in mind that the motto is an essential part of the coat of arms and should be chosen with care. It should be easy to remember and meaningful to the owner. A well-chosen motto adds depth and significance to the coat of arms, making it a powerful symbol of heritage and identity.
Heraldic Animals: Charges and Their Meanings
One of the most fascinating aspects of coat of arms design is the use of heraldic animals, also known as charges, each bearing their own unique meaning. Lions, for example, often symbolize courage, strength, and royalty. Eagles, on the other hand, can represent nobility, leadership, and victory. Dragons are associated with power, wisdom, and ferocity, while griffins are seen as guardians of treasure and are known for their vigilance and courage. Unicorns are a symbol of purity, and wolves represent loyalty and bravery. Bears are often associated with strength, ferocity, and protection, while snakes can signify wisdom and healing. These animals, and many more, can be depicted in the coat of arms through either full-bodied or partial representations. It is important to choose the right animal to represent one’s family, organization, or country, as each animal holds great significance and can convey powerful messages to those who view it.
One of the most common charges seen on coats of arms is the lion. These majestic creatures have been associated with heraldry for centuries and can represent courage, bravery, and strength.
There are many variations of lions that can appear on a coat of arms, each with their own unique meaning. Here are a few of the most common:
|Rampant||A lion standing on its hind legs, with its front paws raised in the air. This is one of the most common lion poses in heraldry, and represents courage and strength.|
|Passant||A lion walking, with one paw raised in the air. This symbolizes a sentinel or a guard, and represents vigilance.|
|Couchant||A lion lying down with its head raised and alert. This symbolizes a guard dog, and represents loyalty and watchfulness.|
|Sejant||A lion sitting on its haunches, with its front paws resting on the ground. This symbolizes a sentinel at rest, and represents tranquility.|
|Statant||A lion standing on all four legs, with its head turned to the side. This symbolizes a sentinel on duty, and represents vigilance.|
In addition to these poses, lions can also appear in different colors, each with its own meaning. A red lion typically represents royalty and courage, while a green lion represents hope and joy. A black lion can symbolize both strength and wisdom, while a white lion can represent peace and purity.
The lion is a powerful and versatile charge that can add a sense of strength and nobility to any coat of arms.
Eagles have been an integral part of western heraldry for centuries and are one of the most commonly used charges. Bald eagles, in particular, are often used in American heraldry due to their association with the United States. Eagles in heraldry are typically depicted with wings outstretched, talons extended, and head turned to the side. They are considered symbols of strength, courage, and freedom.
In addition to bald eagles, other species of eagles are also commonly used in heraldry. The double-headed eagle is a popular symbol in Eastern and Orthodox European heraldry, while the golden eagle is often used in Scottish and German heraldry. The eagle’s association with nobility and leadership has made it a popular addition to coats of arms for universities, sport teams, and even countries.
When designing a coat of arms that features an eagle, it’s important to consider the eagle’s position and color. Eagles can be shown in many different positions, including rampant (standing), displayed (wings spread), and passant (walking). Additionally, eagles can be shown in many different colors, including black, silver, gold, and red.
Eagles are a powerful and symbolic addition to any coat of arms. Their association with strength and leadership makes them a popular choice for those looking to create a strong and memorable shield.
Dragons are some of the most popular and recognizable heraldic animals. In heraldry, dragons are often depicted with wings, sharp claws, and a long, snakelike tail. They frequently appear in coats of arms, crests, and other heraldic designs as symbols of strength, wisdom, and power.
In heraldry, dragons can be portrayed in a variety of ways, depending on the specific design. Some dragons are depicted with their wings extended, while others are shown with their wings folded. They may also be displayed in different poses, such as rampant (standing on their hind legs), passant (walking), or sejant (sitting).
The color of a dragon in heraldry can also carry meaning. Traditionally, red dragons were associated with Wales, while green dragons were seen as symbols of nature and growth. Black dragons, on the other hand, were often used to represent evil or danger.
In terms of their symbolism, dragons are often seen as guardians or protectors. In some cultures, they are believed to have beneficial powers, such as the ability to control the elements or bring good luck. Others see them as malevolent beings that must be defeated or appeased.
The use of dragons in heraldry is a rich and complex tradition that has evolved over many centuries. While their exact meaning and significance may vary depending on the context, one thing is clear: these powerful and mysterious creatures continue to capture the imagination of people all over the world.
Griffins are mythical creatures that have the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. They are a common charge on coats of arms, symbolizing courage, intelligence, and strength.
Here are some examples of the different positions and variations of griffins on coats of arms:
|Rampant||A griffin standing on its hind legs with its wings raised and its forelegs outstretched. This position is often used to represent courage and strength.|
|Passant||A griffin walking with one foreleg raised. This position is often used to represent watchfulness and alertness.|
|Segreant||A griffin standing on all fours with its wings raised and its tail curled. This position is often used to represent guardianship and protection.|
|Displayed||A griffin with its wings and legs spread wide. This position is often used to represent dominance and power.|
Over time, griffins have also become associated with wisdom and intellect, as well as being protectors of treasure. In some cultures, griffins are also believed to have healing powers and are associated with the sun.
If you come across a coat of arms with a griffin charge, pay attention to its position and any other symbols or colors used in combination. These elements can provide clues to the family history and values represented.
Unicorns are a widely recognized symbol of heraldry. These mythical creatures, depicted as a horse with a single horn on its forehead, symbolize purity, virtue, and strength. In heraldry, a unicorn is often portrayed rampant (rearing up on its hind legs), with its head held high, and with a flowing mane and tail. The color of the unicorn can vary, but it is usually depicted in white or silver.
The unicorn is often associated with royalty and nobility, and it has been a popular charge on coats of arms for centuries. The unicorn was first used as a symbol of Scotland in the 12th century, and it has since been used by many other families and organizations.
In heraldic design, the unicorn can be depicted in various ways, including with wings, a crown, or a collar. The unicorn can also be combined with other charges, such as a shield or a crest. One popular depiction is the unicorn holding a shield, which represents strength and protection.
The unicorn is often seen as a symbol of purity and innocence, and it is often used in Christian symbolism. In medieval times, the unicorn was believed to be a real animal, and its horn was often considered to have magical properties, including the ability to purify water and detect poison.
The unicorn is a powerful and meaningful symbol in heraldry, representing nobility, purity, and strength. Its unique combination of grace and power make it a popular choice for those seeking to create a coat of arms that is both elegant and meaningful.
Wolves are popular heraldic animals, known for their cunning and intelligence. They are often depicted in a fierce manner, with sharp teeth and aggressive eyes. Their symbolism in heraldry is varied, but often include fierce loyalty, courage, and endurance. Some of the different ways wolves can be represented in coats of arms include:
- Passant or rampant: This means that the wolf is standing with one paw raised or walking, conveying strength and alertness.
- Head: The head of a wolf is often used as a smaller charge, symbolizing intelligence, cunning, and vigilance. It can also represent a hunting trophy.
- Bearing: In some cases, a wolf may be depicted carrying an object such as a branch or spear to indicate strength or ferocity.
- Supporter: Wolves as supporters usually come in pairs and can be depicted either rampant, passant, or sitting. They often symbolize protection and loyalty.
- Rampant or passant: These attitudes signify power and watchfulness, and are frequently used to indicate a wolf’s strength and ferocity.
Wolves often feature prominently in the heraldry of Scotland, where they have been a significant part of the country’s history and culture for centuries. One famous wolf depiction is the “Wolf of Badenoch,” which appears on the coat of arms of the Duke of Edinburgh. This wolf is shown wearing a crown and a collar, representing its authority and strength.
Wolves are a popular choice for heraldic charges, conveying themes of strength, loyalty, and powerful cunning. Their striking appearance and fascinating symbolism have made them an enduring part of the world of coats of arms.
Bears are one of the most popular heraldic animals, symbolizing strength, power, and bravery. There are several types of bears often depicted in coats of arms, such as the brown or grizzly bear, the polar bear, or the black bear. Depending on the specific bear featured in the coat of arms, it may represent different qualities. For instance, the grizzly bear is often associated with fierceness, while the polar bear can signify adaptability and resilience.
Bears in heraldry are typically depicted standing on their hind legs with their front paws raised, ready to attack or defend. They are often shown with the tongue and claws protruding, which adds to their ferocious look.
Although bears are frequently featured in coats of arms, they are not always the central charge but are sometimes used as supporters or part of a larger composition. In these cases, the bear may be holding an object, such as a sword, or standing on a particular background, such as a mountain or a plain.
One example of a coat of arms featuring a bear is the city of Bern in Switzerland, which depicts a black bear in its crest. The bear is said to have been the first animal hunted by the city’s founder, and it has been a symbol of the city since the 13th century. Another example is the coat of arms of the Russian province of Karelia, which depicts a polar bear standing on a green and white background.
Bears are a prominent and meaningful symbol in heraldry, representing a range of attributes from strength and power to fierceness and adaptability.
One of the most contentious charges on a coat of arms is that of the snake. This animal has been associated with both good and evil through many cultures, so it can be challenging to determine its precise meaning on any given coat of arms.
In general, however, the snake represents knowledge, wisdom, and rebirth. Its ancient presence in mythology often depicts it as the link between human beings and the realm of the gods. Additionally, it may also represent healing thanks to its ability to shed its skin and appear new again, making it a popular symbol for medical professions.
When looking at a coat of arms featuring snakes, it is essential to consider its position and attitude. A snake erect or rampant indicates power and evidence of strength. A coiled snake typically depicts a peaceful and protective creature, whereas a wavy snake may represent danger or cunning.
In some cases, the appearance of a snake may have a more sinister meaning. The biblical serpent, for instance, is often portrayed as a figure of temptation and destruction. Consequently, it is crucial to consider the overall context of a coat of arms before making any judgments.
Snakes are an essential element of heraldic design. They can evoke powerful emotions and ideas in the viewer through their association with healing, wisdom, and often dangerous creatures. When interpreting the meaning of a snake in a coat of arms, careful attention should be paid to its position, attitude, and context.
Heraldic Symbols and Other Charges
In addition to heraldic animals, coats of arms also feature a variety of symbols and other charges to convey meaning. Crosses are a common charge, representing faith and Christianity. Stars can symbolize guidance, excellence, or aspirations to nobility. Crowns represent royalty and sovereignty, while keys often symbolize authority or access. Ships can represent voyages or naval strength, while tree trunks are a symbol of strength and stability. Chalices may represent religious faith or spiritual communion, and horns can signify strength, wisdom, or power. Roses are commonly used to represent love and beauty, while fleurs-de-lis are a symbol of royalty and purity. These charges are just a few examples of the rich symbolism that can be found in coats of arms.
Crosses are one of the most common charges on coats of arms. They can vary by shape, size, and color, giving them a lot of versatility in heraldic design. Here are some of the most common types of crosses found on coats of arms:
|Type of Cross||Description|
|Saltire||A diagonal cross that looks like an “X”.|
|Cross Pattee||A Latin cross that has rounded or flared arms.|
|Cross Crosslet||A cross made of four Latin crosses, with each arm ending in three bars.|
|Cross Moline||A Latin cross with arms that end in two points, resembling a millrind.|
|Cross Flory||A Latin cross with the ends of the arms flared outward.|
|Cross Formee||A Latin cross with each arm ending in a triangular shape.|
These are just a few examples of the many types of crosses that can be used as charges on a coat of arms. Each type may have its own significance or meaning, making them an important part of a coat of arms’ symbolism. Strong and bold, they are often used to represent strength, faith, or spirituality.
One of the popular charges in coats of arms are stars. They are frequently used to represent prominent individuals or achievements, symbolizing guidance or destiny. Stars can be seen in different forms, including five-pointed, six-pointed, and eight-pointed stars. Each type has its own meaning according to heraldry tradition. In general, though, stars represent excellence, accuracy, and high status.
A five-pointed star is sometimes called a mullet, and is typically used to represent divine quality or celestial power. Meanwhile, a six-pointed star, or a Star of David, is a common Jewish symbol that can be seen in various coats of arms. It represents the relationship between God and humanity. An eight-pointed star is known as a estoile, and symbolizes the night sky and the starry heavens.
Stars also have variations in color, which adds more meaning to its representation. A gold star exemplifies honor, especially when it’s used as an augmentation to an existing coat of arms. A black star is often a symbol of tragedy and destruction. A silver star, on the other hand, represents purity and sincerity.
Despite the different meanings, stars have undeniable popularity in heraldry. They are often used in combination with other charges to form unique, distinctive coats of arms. Whether it’s a five, six or eight-pointed star, it can add a sense of aspiration and grandeur to a coat of arms when used properly.
When it comes to coats of arms, crowns are a common charge used to represent royalty, nobility, or authority. In heraldry, crowns can take on different designs and meanings depending on their shape and the number of points they have.
One of the most common crowns used in heraldry is the royal crown, also known as the closed crown. This crown features a gold circlet with eight arched points spanning from the top, each adorned with a pearl. The royal crown is often used to symbolize kings, queens, and other members of the royal family.
Another popular type of crown is the noble coronet, which is often used in coats of arms to represent the rank of a nobleman. This coronet is made up of a gold circlet with four or six points, topped with gold balls or strawberry leaves.
The eastern crown is another commonly used charge in coats of arms, especially in Eastern European countries. This crown has a distinctive pointed design and is often used to represent rulers of eastern countries.
In addition to these types of crowns, there are also several other types of coronets that may be used in coats of arms. These include the civic coronet, the naval crown, and the mural crown, each with its own unique design and meaning.
Crowns are a versatile and popular charge in heraldry, used to represent authority, nobility, and royalty. Whether it’s a royal crown, a noble coronet, or another type of coronet, the use of crowns in coats of arms adds a regal and distinguished touch to any design.
Keys on Coats of Arms
Keys are common charges on coats of arms and can represent a variety of meanings. Typically, keys symbolize knowledge, authority, or access. In heraldry, keys are often depicted as crossed, representing the unlocking of secrets or the opening of doors.
Keys can also be shown in different positions. A key facing upwards means that it is a symbol of science or spiritual knowledge, while a downwards-facing key represents the protector of secrets.
Examples of Keys in Heraldry
Here are a few examples of how keys are commonly used in heraldry:
- The coat of arms of the Vatican City features two crossed keys, one gold and one silver, representing the keys to heaven
- The coat of arms of the city of York in England includes crossed keys, a symbol of St. Peter, the patron saint of the city
Keys can also be combined with other charges to create unique coat of arms designs. For example, a shield with a key and a cross could represent a religious order or a religious leader.
Keys can be depicted in different shapes and sizes, making each coat of arms design unique. Common key shapes include the traditional key shape with a handle at the bottom and a jagged bit at the top, or a more modern key shape with a round handle and a sleek, simple design.
No matter how keys are depicted on a coat of arms, they always have significant meaning and symbolism.
Ships are a common charge found on many coats of arms. They can symbolize the naval prowess of a family or city, or they may represent a family’s seafaring heritage. In heraldry, ships can be depicted in a variety of ways, but they generally appear as sailboats or galleons.
One of the most common ways that ships are depicted on a coat of arms is with three masts, which represent a sailing vessel that was commonly used during the age of exploration. The water on which the ship is sailing can also be depicted in a variety of ways, with waves, fish or even monster-like creatures emerging from the depths.
The color and positioning of a ship on a coat of arms can also have significance. For example, a ship on a coat of arms may be depicted sailing towards the sinister (left side) or the dexter (right side), which can represent the past or the future, respectively. Additionally, a ship on a coat of arms may be colored to match the colors of the family’s crest or may have specific flags or sails that indicate the family’s nationality or affiliation.
A ship on a coat of arms represents adventure, exploration, and the family’s maritime heritage. It can also symbolize success in trade or commerce, as many families who were successful in these fields had their own fleets of ships.
Tree trunks are another common charge found on coats of arms. These charges represent trees that have been cut down, leaving just the trunk. The imagery of tree trunks can have several meanings such as strength, growth, and prosperity.
When used in conjunction with other charges, the meaning of the tree trunk charge can change. For example, a tree trunk with a branch can represent a particular profession or industry, such as carpentry or logging. A tree trunk with roots can symbolize family, heritage, and ancestry.
In some coats of arms featuring tree trunk charges, multiple trunks can be seen. This can represent a forest or woodland, and may also suggest abundance and wealth.
It is important to note that the type of tree depicted in a tree trunk charge can also hold significance. Oaks, for example, are often associated with strength and endurance, while willows are often associated with mourning and sorrow.
The tree trunk charge is a versatile and meaningful symbol that can be customized to represent a wide range of ideas and concepts in a coat of arms.
A chalice is a type of cup that has been used for a variety of purposes throughout history, including for religious ceremonies and as a symbol of royalty or nobility. In heraldry, a chalice typically represents the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is a central component of the Catholic Mass.
The design of a chalice in a coat of arms can vary widely depending on the specific family or organization being represented, but there are a few common elements that are often included:
- The Cup: This is the main part of the chalice, and is typically depicted as a goblet or similar vessel. The cup may be engraved or decorated with other symbols or patterns.
- The Base: The cup is usually supported by a base or foot, which may be simple or ornate.
- The Stem: The stem connects the cup to the base, and is often depicted as a simple and elegant column or pillar.
- The Paten: In some cases, a chalice may be shown with a paten (a small plate used for holding the bread or wafers used in communion) resting on top of the cup.
When a chalice is included in a coat of arms, it is usually placed in a prominent position to indicate the importance of the sacrament of the Eucharist to the family or organization being represented. It may be shown with other religious symbols or in combination with other charges to create a more complex design.
The inclusion of a chalice in a coat of arms is a powerful symbol of faith and can represent the importance of religious principles to a family or organization. Whether simple or ornate, the visual representation of the chalice can be a striking addition to any heraldic design.
In heraldry, horns are considered as popular charges that are commonly used in designing coats of arms. They can be depicted in different styles, sizes, positions and colors, depending on the heraldry rules and the significance that the wearer intends to convey. Horns can be used to represent different meanings, such as strength, power, courage, and determination. They can be portrayed as a single horn, a pair of horns, or even more.
One of the most common depictions of horns in heraldry is the bull’s horn. This symbol is often used to represent strength and power. The bull’s horn can be depicted in different positions, including upright or inverted. The position of the bull’s horn can also signify different meanings. For example, an upright bull’s horn may represent steadfastness and determination, while an inverted bull’s horn may represent defeat or disgrace.
Another popular depiction of horns in heraldry is the ram’s horn. Rams’ horns are often used to represent leadership, aggression, and bravery. The horns can be depicted in different positions, such as crossed or standing alone. In some cases, the ram’s horns may be entwined with other symbols, such as a wreath or a ribbon.
A bugle horn is also a common charge in heraldry. This symbol is often used to represent military or hunting prowess. The bugle horn can be depicted in different positions, such as standing alone or slung on a belt. It can also be depicted in different styles, such as straight or curled.
Horns can also be used in combination with other symbols to create a unique coat of arms. For example, a coat of arms featuring a bear with horns may represent courage, strength, and ferocity. Similarly, a coat of arms featuring a tree with horns may represent growth, stability, and longevity.
Horns are a common and versatile charge in heraldry. They can be used to represent different meanings and can be depicted in different styles and positions. By understanding the symbolism and rules surrounding the use of horns in heraldry, one can design a coat of arms that accurately represents their family, organization, or personal values.
Roses are a commonly used charge in coat of arms design due to their cultural significance and aesthetic appeal. Roses can represent beauty, love, and passion. There are different ways roses can be depicted in the coat of arms. Here are some of the variations:
|Red Rose||The red rose is a symbol of love and passion. It can also represent martyrdom and sacrifice.|
|White Rose||The white rose is a symbol of purity, innocence, and chastity. It can also represent peace and loyalty.|
|Yellow Rose||The yellow rose is a symbol of friendship and happiness. It can also represent jealousy and infidelity.|
|Black Rose||The black rose is a symbol of death and darkness. It can also represent rebellion and farewell.|
|Blue Rose||The blue rose is a symbol of mystery and the impossible. It can also represent attaining the impossible or the unattainable.|
Roses can also be depicted in different ways, such as a single stem with a bud or several roses in bloom. The position and orientation of the roses can also vary in the coat of arms design. Some of the popular ways to show roses include rose slipped and leaved, rose with stem and leaves, and the Tudor rose, which was popular during the Tudor era in England. The Tudor rose is a combination of the red and white roses, symbolizing the union of the House of York and the House of Lancaster.
It is important to note that the color and the number of roses can also convey a different meaning. For example, a bouquet of five red roses can represent the Five Wounds of Christ. It is essential to understand the context and symbolism behind the use of roses in the coat of arms.
One of the most widely used charges in heraldry, the fleur-de-lis is a stylized representation of a lily. This floral emblem has been associated with the French royalty for centuries, and it still maintains its prestige and popularity in modern heraldry.
The term ‘fleur-de-lis’ literally means ‘flower of the lily’ in French. The charge is characterized by a stylized representation of a lily flower that usually features three petals. The tips of the petals are often pointed, while the center is rounded. The fleur-de-lis can have various iterations, from a simple and elegant design to a more elaborate and decorative emblem.
In heraldry, the fleur-de-lis often conveys a sense of regality, nobility, and purity. It is often used to symbolize French heritage and culture, as well as religious devotion and faith. The charge is popular not only in French heraldry but also in the heraldry of other countries, especially those with a historical connection to France.
The fleur-de-lis can be used as a stand-alone charge, or it can be incorporated into a larger coat of arms design. It can appear on the shield, as well as on the crest or mantling. The charge can be depicted in various colors, although gold or yellow is the most common.
In addition to its heraldic significance, the fleur-de-lis has also been used in various other contexts throughout history. It has appeared in art, literature, and fashion, and has been a popular decorative motif in many cultures.
The fleur-de-lis is a versatile, elegant, and popular charge in heraldry, and its rich history and symbolism continue to make it a beloved emblem across the world.
Now that you’ve learned the basics of identifying charges on coats of arms, you can begin to appreciate the rich history and symbolism behind these designs. Each element of a coat of arms was carefully chosen to represent the values, achievements, and history of the person or family it represented, making them not only beautiful but deeply meaningful as well.
Remember that charges can take on different meanings depending on their context and the colors they’re depicted in. If you’re ever unsure what a charge or element of a coat of arms represents, a little research can go a long way in uncovering its significance.
As you continue to explore the fascinating world of heraldry, keep in mind that the rules of designing and interpreting coats of arms are complex and steeped in tradition. However, combining your newfound knowledge with creativity and imagination can lead to some truly unique and wonderful designs that honor your family or personal values.
So go forth and let your creativity run wild, all while paying homage to the ancient art of heraldry!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the origin of coat of arms?
The use of coat of arms can be traced back to medieval times when they were used to identify knights on the battlefield.
What is the purpose of a coat of arms?
The purpose of a coat of arms is to identify a person, family, or organization. It is also used to display accomplishments, titles, and achievements.
Are coat of arms still in use today?
Yes, coat of arms are still in use today. They are often seen on government buildings, universities, and other institutions.
What is the meaning behind the colors used in coat of arms?
The colors used in a coat of arms have different meanings, for example, white symbolizes peace and sincerity, while red represents strength and courage.
What is the significance of the animals used on a coat of arms?
The animals used on a coat of arms, also known as charges, can represent various qualities or attributes. For example, lions represent strength and courage, while eagles represent wisdom and power.
Can anyone create their own coat of arms?
Technically, anyone can create their own coat of arms, but it is typically reserved for those who hold a title or belong to a royal family.
What is the difference between a coat of arms and a logo?
A coat of arms is a symbol or design that represents a person, family or organization, whereas a logo is a design that represents a company or brand.
Do different countries have different rules regarding coat of arms?
Yes, different countries have different rules and regulations regarding coat of arms. It is important to research the specific guidelines for the country you are creating a coat of arms for.
Why are coat of arms important in genealogy?
Coat of arms can provide valuable information about a person’s family history and lineage. It can also help to identify individuals who may be related.
Can coat of arms be used in modern advertising and marketing?
Yes, coat of arms can be used in modern advertising and marketing to give a sense of history and tradition. However, it is important to respect the original meaning and significance of the coat of arms.