Thursday, March 31, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Twenty-Six

Today, for your viewing pleasure, here are couple of other "foreign" arms which we found in our wanderings about the city of Florence: the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the arms of the Republic of Estonia.  Note the pensive lion and the happy unicorn supporters with the UK arms!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Twenty-Five

The offering for today is a series of arms set into roundels in the exterior of a church in the heart of Florence. Some are simply painted (and weathered!). Others look like they have been done in ceramic. All of them are beautifully done.

da Calamaria: Or a ram clymant sable [one armorial states that the ram is charged on the shoulder with an inescutcheon of argent a cross sable].

Agolanti: Gules an eagle displayed or.

I am not certain of the identity of these arms. The canting arms of Portinari are: Or a door between two lions combattant sable, but the arms here do not match that blazon. The field here seems to be argent; the door is argent set in a stone frame that I think is gules (red).

The paint is faded and thus the tinctures are trickier to identify. It may be Del Rosso: Vairy argent and gules, or Marchi: Vairy sable and argent.

Florence (Commune): Per pale gules and argent. (This coat is also seen as the reverse, Per pale argent and gules.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

It May Not Be "Real" Heraldry ...

... but it's kind of cool nonetheless.

A firm called Milk & Eggs Co. has a line of tee shirts with some quirky, often humorous designs on them.  You can see their selection of these shirts at  (I especially line the one entitled "Caught Red Handed" near the bottom of the page.)

Anyway, one of them, entitled "Pencil Corp", had a sort of heraldic theme to it, and so I thought I would share it with you today.

Like I said, it may not be "real" heraldry ... but it's kind of cool nonethless.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Twenty-Four

While walking down one of the streets of Florence, we ran across these very three-dimensional depictions of an uncommon heraldic charge, a fireball. (A fireball is a type of grenade, but where an heraldic grenade has but one flame out its top, a fireball will have flames at the sides and, in two-dimensional drawings, at the bottom, as well.)

This one was placed above the doorway to the building, and it just drew me in. What a tremendous rendering of this charge, with the flames spurting from it in several directions! (The little metal spikes set into the concrete around it are designed to keep the pigeons off. The pigeons in Florence, like pigeons everywhere, seem to have very little respect for either art or heraldry.)

Another version of the fireball was found along the metal fence in front of the building. The sections of the fence were of upright bars each terminating in a fleur-de-lis. At each post to which these sections were attached was placed a fireball.

What a great use of this heraldic charge!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Twenty-Three

Lest you think that all of the heraldry that we saw in Florence are just painted or just carved in stone (or both carved in stone and painted), here are a couple of coats of arms we ran across which are done in metal.

This first one is interesting because it is a relatively complex quartered coat. Based on what I could find in the Florentine armorials and ordinaries I have, the first and fourth quarters (the ones in the upper left and lower right) are the arms of Lucas Bartoli Ricciardi: Gules a griffin segreant or overall on a bend azure three [sometimes, four] fleurs-de-lys or. The arms in the second and third quarters look like they might be a variation of the arms of Pelli: Azure a fess between three wheels or, but the “fess” has a couple of waves on its upper edge, and I have not been able to find any variants with the cross and ladder/cross of Calvary surmounting the unusual fess. (I also looked under things like "wall" and "church" and came up with nothing.) So, at least at this point in time, I haven’t been able to positively identify those arms. Back to the books, I guess!

The second coat of arms will also require some more time going through armorials, if only to identify the main charge on the field. (It reminds me of some kind of a pith helmet, but I’ve not been able to find it in the Florentine ordinaries that I have, either under “hat,” “helm” or “helmet.” I’m confident that it is not a tree. Still, isn’t is a great rendering? I’d love to have my coat of arms done this way for a doorway or window at home. What a beautiful piece of work!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Heraldry in the News

An article on February 16 in the on-line newspaper notes that a recent meeting of the Captain Thomas Carter Chapter, Colonial Dames 17th Century, in Knoxville, Tennessee, featured members explaining how to research and document a colonial ancestor’s heraldry coat of arms.

It's great that they're doing that, but I did notice that in the photograph accompanying the story (found on-line at:, one of the pieces being demonstrated looked like a print from one of those "Your Family Coat of Arms" purveyors.  Ah, well, you win some, you lose some.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Heraldry in the News

On February 7 (yes, I know this is a little late, but I've been working very hard on selecting all of the pictures and writing the text for all of the posts on the heraldry of Florence, Italy.  I still can't believe how much heraldry there is there, or how many photos I took!), the town of Burnham-on-Sea in England celebrated fifty years of its officially-granted coat of arms.

There's a whole article about the history of the grant of arms, with lots of photographs and even a shot of Diana Lee, who designed the coat of arms 50 years ago, with her original artwork.

The article and photographs can be found on-line at:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Twenty-Two

With all the heraldry we saw in our perambulations (now there's a word I don't get to use in everyday conversation!) about the city of Florence, every once in a while we would run across a coat of arms (or, as here, three.  No, wait!  Four!) that were surprising if only because they seemed so far from home.  As we strolled down the Via Alfonso la Marmora we came upon a church with a square bell tower which had several coats of arms carved on its sides.

So far, not much out of the ordinary, right?  Then we got close enough to identify those coats.  On three sides of the tower were the arms of Ireland (Azure a harp or stringed azure), Scotland (Or a lion rampant within a double-tressure flory-counteryflory gules), and England (Gules three lions passant guardant in pale or)!

The explanation for the presence of these coats of arms was discovered after turning the corner where the Via Marmora meets the Via Per Antonio Micheli.  Number 26 at the corner is the Chiesa Evangelica Valdese, the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity (Chiesa Anglicana della Trinitá).

And as if the sign were not sufficient explanation, one of the coats of arms flanking the main door was that of the Archepiscopal See of Canterbury (Azure a pastoral staff or ensigned with a cross patty surmounted by a pallium argent fimbriated and fringed or charged with four crosses patty fitchy sable.)

So, maybe not quite so out of place as they originally seemed when we first saw them while walking down the street in Florence.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Uh-oh! Heraldry in the News

An article from February 5, 2011, in the on-line Dubai newspaper The National ( notes that Buckingham Palace has warned the Dubai-based British Highways and Roads that it was using the Royal Arms of Great Britain without authorization and could be viewed as a trademark violation.

"I'm wasn't trying to steal anyone's copyright," said the director of the company, who didn't want to give his name. "I'm proud to be British and I'm flying the British flag."

Well, no, he's really not.  As you can see from the picture above, he's using the arms of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (along with the eagle of the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a part), which is not at all the same as "flying the British flag."

Admittedly, though, someone at the Lord Chamberlain's noted that restricting the use of the Royal Arms overseas could be difficult.

And in fact, here we are, more than a month later, and the Royal Arms still appear on the internet page of the firm.  See it, at least for now, at

Monday, March 14, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Twenty-One

As you may have noticed, a lot of the heraldry in public places in Florence can be monochromatic, being simply carved (generally in stone or sometimes wood) and left unpainted. There are, however, a number of exceptions to this general statement. So today we present for your viewing pleasure, some of the full-color renditions of coats of arms that we found as we walked the streets of Florence. (I’ve placed them in alphabetical order by surname.)

The first is a very modern-looking rendition of the arms of Buondelmonti: Per fess azure and argent.

Here’s another very simple coat of arms, Capponi: Per bend sable and argent.

A striking coat for Ferrucci: Bendy bretessy or and azure.

The argent portions of the field seem to me to be a bit more bleu-celeste in this depiction of the arms of Pitti: Barry nebuly argent and sable, charged at the honor point with a cross couped, in chief a label gules.

And finally, Viviani: Or three chevrons checky argent and azure.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Heraldry on TV

Last night's (Friday, March 11, 2011) episode of CSI:NY (Season 7, Episode 17, "Do or Die") on CBS featured a (I assume, fictional; I can't think that any private school would want itself connected with eve a fictional "murder") private academy which had it's own "crest".

The opening scene had one of the school's administrators showing a group of parents of prospective students around the school, "Archford Academy", "established in 1918", and was showing them a large depiction of "our school crest".  Alas, it was only seen nearly from the side; apparently the director thought that more people would be interested in the people in the picture, completely leaving out the "heraldry enthusiast" demographic!

However, there were other opportunities to see the school's coat of arms: once in color on a computer screen;

a couple of times on blazers worn by students;

and on a couple of brass plaques placed on either side of the main entrance.

As you can see from these (not terribly great, I know) screenshots, it's a pretty run-of-the-mill design for an educational institution, with the lamp of knowledge and a book placed prominently on it.

There was also, in the first scene, a nice shot of a large stained glass window containing, among other things (including another difficult to make out coat of arms at the bottom right and what appears to be the seal of the State of New York at the bottom center), what I am assuming are either the arms of the real school being used for the location shots or the arms of its founder, perhaps differenced with the addition of an open book on the chief (at the right center).

But that's all just speculation.  In any case, it was great to run across the use of heraldry, even if misnamed as a "crest", in a television show.

For those of you who didn't see it last night, the full episode can be seen on-line at CBS's CSI:NY website at:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Heraldry for Sale!

Well, it's for sale for any of you who may have a fair bit of extra cash lying around loose needing something to be done with it.  This obviously does not include me, alas.

In any case, should you have an interest, the original (but temporary) 1953 Garter stall plate (the plaque containing the coat of arms which was placed in the stall in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle marking the place of each Knight of the Garter) of Winston S. Churchill is up for bid.  More information on the history of this stall plate can be found at the auctioneer's website:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Twenty

Part Twenty?? Whew! And we’re not done yet! (And we were only there for five days! Just think what I could have found for you over the course of a full week or two or more!)

Anyway, this is yet another depiction of the well-known de’ Medici arms, this time in an interior up in a corner of a ceiling, surmounted with a coronet and surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

I wonder how much it would cost to get someone to do my coat of arms like this in the corner ceiling of my living room at home? Yeah, I guess if I have to ask, I can’t afford it.

Still, isn’t this a great display of heraldry?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Nineteen

Another building that is on the “must see” list for visitors to Florence is the Palazzo Vecchio, the “Old Palace.” Originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the Signoria, the ruling body of the Republic, it has also been known by several other names over the years: Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori, and Palazzo Ducale, depending on its function at the time.

Naturally enough, while all of the other tourists were looking at the replica of Michelangelo’s David out front of the main entrance, I was photographing the heraldry and coats of arms with which it is decorated.

This impressive display sits over the main entrance from the Piazza della Signoria out front of the Palazzo. In addition to the blue background covered with gold fleurs-de-lis (more likely in respect of the Duke of Anjou and not the King of France), there is also, front and center, the arms of the Populace of Florence (Argent a cross gules) flanked on each side by the arms of the City of Florence (Argent a fleur-de-lys florency gules).

But the real display of heraldry is underneath the overhang of the top floor of the building, where under each arch is a coat of arms, including all of the usual public heraldry: the current arms of Florence (Argent a fleur-de-lys gules); the arms of the Commune (Per pale argent and gules); the first arms of Florence (Gules a fleur-de-lys argent); the arms of the Populace (Argent a cross gules); and the Duke of Anjou (Azure semy-de-lys or a label gules). There are in addition several other coats of public interest: Gules two keys in saltire argent; Azure in bend the word Libertas argent; and Argent an eagle gules holding in its talons a dragon reguardant vert vomiting flames gules, in chief a fleur-de-lys or.

But the part that I found the most interesting was the section where windows had been installed in the wall (and through the coats of arms), as you can see in the photo immediately above. Indeed, the window cut into one of the shields (the third from the right) makes it very hard to determine what it is supposed to be. I think it is: Per pale, Or three bars sable, and Azure semy-de-lys or (without the gules label for Anjou).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Eighteen

In our wanderings about the city, we came across the Basilica of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito (St. Mary of the Holy Spirit), more often referred to simply as Santo Spirito, Though it has a very plain exterior – especially when compared to some of the other churches in the city – it has one feature that is very attractive to heraldry enthusiasts: there is above each of the windows on the ground floor an inset plaque containing a coat of arms.

Some of them are more worn than others; on some the colors have faded so far as to have nearly disappeared. But all in all, I found it to be a great, if a bit understated (at least compared to some of those that can be found in the city), display of heraldry. The following are three of the coats of arms along the exterior, selected basically at random from the photographs of all of them that I took while there.

This first is the arms of del Riccio: Or a bend between two cinquefoils gules.

This one is the arms of Velluti: Gules three annulets and a chief or. (The gules having faded to nearly white, I’m afraid that I think of “Mr. Bill” from the old Saturday Night Live show,, whenever I look at it. “Ohh, nooo!”)

And finally, the arms of Biliotti: Gules on a chief argent a fox statant gules.