The alphabet is one set of arbitrary symbols. The figures of heraldry are another set of arbitrary symbols. In the fourteenth century every gentleman knew one: in the twentieth century every gentleman knows the other. The first gentleman was just precisely as ignorant for not knowing that c-a-t spells "cat," as the second gentleman is for not knowing that a St. Andrew's Cross is called a cross saltire, or that vert on gules is bad heraldry. -- G.K. Chesterson
I'm an Academic Herald. I'm not a "real" herald; I don't register people's coats of arms (though I can certainly suggest designs for those who might be interested). What I do is study, research, teach, and write about heraldry. And I like to share what I have learned about heraldry, hence this blog. I hope that you'll find it informative, interesting at least occasionally, and worth your time to come back. Got a question? Comments? Feel free to let me know. I'd love to hear from you. You can find my contact information in my Profile.
This is what happens when an heraldic artist has never seen anything more than a very rough description of an heraldic beast when painting ...
Genealogical Speakers Guild
Genealogical Speakers Guild
Thursday, November 11, 2010
An Heraldic, well, Mystery
During our short stay in Chicago, we drove by the Chicago campus of Northwestern University. The University itself does not use a coat of arms, but rather has adopted a seal as its logo. However, on the southeast corner of the downtown campus there is a large iron gate which has the University’s seal upon it, as well as three coats of arms.
The gate itself is really quite a piece of art. What struck me especially, though, is that I immediately thought I recognized one of the three coats of arms (the one in the far left panel in the photograph above), but not as one that belonged in the area.
Having photographed it and then played around with the contrast and brightness a little bit to better bring out some of the details, I realized that I was correct in my identification of this bit of heraldry.
Though hard to make out from where I took the photograph, the three books on the shield have the letters VE - RI - TAS on them, making this shield the arms of Harvard University. Harvard is, of course, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is a long way by any measure from Chicago, Illinois.
It was a most unexpected find, to say the least. I have not been able to find (at least in my searches on-line) any information about the gate itself, nor of the coats of arms upon it. So I have, at least at this point in time, no idea why the arms of Harvard are emblazoned in metal on a gate on the Chicago campus of Northwestern University.
But it does just go to show, I suppose, that when you are looking for heraldry, you just never know what you’re going to find!