Monday, December 31, 2012

Unexpected Heraldry in Maastricht

One bit of heraldry that I did not expect to run across in Maastricht was the following, used as a house sign; that it was the house sign for a shop called Jacks and Jeans was even less expected.

As you can see, the man in the ship is Edward, King of England, the legend around the image being the Latin (often abbreviated here) for, well, I'm not certain what the IBE stands for, but then we have "Edward by the Grace of God King of England and France" and then we have the DNS (the tilda above the N generally is scribal shorthand for another N; I don't know what that stands for, either.

Nor do I know which King Edward this is supposed to represent.  The French quarters of the Royal Arms have only three fleurs-de-lys (often called France Modern).  If this is accurate (and not just an error for the use of the earlier France Ancient, Azure semy-de-lis Or), the first Edward to use this version was Edward IV (reigned 1461-1470, 1471-1483).

If that is not the case and the earlier version of the French arms is meant (for example, the depiction of Edward III in William Bruges' Garter Book shows France Modern rather than France Ancient), then this is Edward III (reigned 1327-1377), who was the first English king who quartered France with England on his shield.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Heraldry-Like Items in Maastricht

One of the things foreigners in the Low Countries notice, especially those keeping an eye out for coats of arms and heraldry, are the house signs one sees on the facades of buildings.  Maastricht was no exception to this; it seemed that every street I walked down (or up) there had buildings with these emblems on them, each one unique, and often also marked with a date (presumably that of the construction of the building).  Such signs used to serve in the place of house numbers; one didn't look for a house number and street name, one looked for, e.g., the Golden Ram on X street.

And, of course, many of these house signs could be considered heraldic in nature; certainly many of them share many of the same traits as good heraldry: good contrast, distinctiveness, animals in stylized postures, and easy identifiability.  So with that introduction, here is a selection of these house signs I discovered in my wanderings about the streets of Maastricht.

The above is on the facade of the appropriately-named
Hotel du Casque
(Hotel of the Helmet)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas-related Post

So I was thinking about what I might post as a celebration of the season that also related to heraldry, and I was reminded while looking through a recently downloaded armorial that coats of arms were attributed to many pre-heraldic individuals. (Because, don’t you know, that if important people use heraldry today, or even in the late middle ages, then, by golly!, people throughout history must also have used coats of arms.)

So in keeping with the Christmas season, here are two different renditions (and two versions - one the black and white original and the second one hand-colored) of the arms of the Magi, wise men "from the East" who brought gifts to the newborn child in Bethlehem.

I've added my own translations from the German of the descriptions below.

First, the black and white version from Virgil Solis’ Wappenbuchlein, published in Nuremberg in 1555. (A reprint of the entire “heraldry booklet” is available to purchase softbound or in .pdf format at:

The Holy Three Kings: Caspar, Balthaser, and Melcher

The second version is also from the Wappenbuchlein, this one is available to view on-line or as a free download in .pdf format from the website of Heidelberg University:

And finally, from the Wernigeroder Wappenbuch, created in the late 1400s, available to view on-line or as a free download in .pdf format from the website of the Bavarian State Library at:

The holy three kings
     The holy king Caspar of Arabia
     The holy king Balthasar of Tarsus (I think; the placename is not that easy to parse)
     The holy king Melchior of Saba

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good (heraldic) night!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Heraldry in the News

A recent article in the Evesham Journal (dated November 23, 2012) asks the question, “Is town’s old coat of arms worth £2,500?”

The article notes that £2,685 will be the cost to the town council to have the old Pershore Rural District Council coat of arms (transferred to Wychavon District Council in 1974 during a local government reorganization) re-granted to the town by the College of Arms.

While many of the town councilors are in favor of re-adopting the coat of arms, others members felt it was dated and needed a redesign. Others expressed the view that it wasn’t worth paying for at all, suggesting that the money might be better spent on the local library. Councilman Derek Watt is quoted as saying, “It seems to me that as it was designed many years ago it would be useful that the town council have it for historical value. I think we need something more modern.”

[Sarcasm on] Why, yes, by all means, you should spend a lot of money to a graphic design firm to come up with a “more modern” logo, something that will look outdated in five to seven years, instead of realizing that an “old” coat of arms can and may be interpreted by different artists in a “more modern” style and continue to be kept up to date in that way, thus allowing you to keep both the historical and new renditions to suit all of your purposes. [Sarcasm off]

The full story (without my sarcasm) can be found on-line at:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Heraldry in the News

I’ve been so busy lately, what with working full-time, keeping my website up-to-date (well, sort of; it really needs a good going-over), doing all of the necessary weekly chores that come with owning a home and living a life, plus going through my photos from Maastricht heraldry to share with you here, that I’ve gotten a little behind in keeping up with some of the news items that crop up that discuss heraldry and coats of arms.

In an article on November 20, 2012, by BelTA, the Belarusian Telegraph Agency, at, we learn that “The symbol of Grodno will appear in all iconic places of the regional capital, BelTA learnt from the ideology department of the Grodno City Council.”

The city of Grodno had held a contest for the best ideas to decorate the reconstructed Privokzalnaya Square. The winner was a sculpture of St. Hubert’s deer, a symbol depicted in the coat of arms of the city (a depiction of the city's arms appears below). According to the BelTA article, dozens of proposals from artists and sculptors for decorating tourist routes in the city had been submitted. In the end, though, it was decided that the image of St. Hubert’s deer will remain the primary symbol of Grodno.
St. Hubert is called the "Apostle of the Ardennes," and was the first Bishop of Liège, Belgium. According to his legend, on one Good Friday morning, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubert sallied forth to the chase. As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: "Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell". Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, "Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?" He received the answer, "Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you." He then renounced all of his honors, gave up his birthright to the Aquitaine to his younger brother Odo, and studied for the priesthood under Lambert in Maastricht. His symbol since then has been a deer or stag with a Latin cross or a crucifix between its antlers.

Isn't it great to see a city not only using, but expanding the usage of, its coat of arms?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Heraldry in Maastricht, Part Fourteen

Next door to the Museum aan het Vrijthof (the red building just barely showing on the right in the photograph below, and which I discussed in my last post) is a white brick building housing the GE Artesia Bank.

What is really cool about this building is that across the front (above),

down the side (above),

and across the back (above) is a row of some sixteen coats of arms (one is a duplicate; two of the arms, one on the front and one on the back, are the arms of the City of Maastricht), each set into the wall on a concrete (I believe) square.

Each coat of arms is painted as well as hatched.  They are, in order from right to left, beginning on the front of the building, going down the side, and then across the back:

The City of Maastricht

The City of Rotterdam

The City of Amsterdam

 The Province of North Holland

 The Province of Friesland

 The Province of Grongingen

 The Province of Overijssel

The Province of Drenthe

 The Province of South Holland

 The Kingdom of The Netherlands

 The Province of Zeeland

 The Province of North Brabant

 The City of Maastricht (again)

 The Province of Limburg

 The Province of Gelderland

  The Province of Utrecht

Isn't that all a great display of heraldry?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Heraldry in Maastricht, Part Thirteen

Leaving the Basilica of St. Servaas and walking along one side of Vrijthof Square, we come to the Museum aan het Vrijthof (previously the Museum Spaans Gouvernement), a museum of local history, art and artifacts housed in the old Spanish government building.  (The Museum also has a great set of entrance doors, but non-heraldic and thus not particularly related to the topic of this blog.  Still, if you are ever in the neighborhood, you should consider visiting.)

The facade of the building is dominated by a row of windows, the three on the right of which each have an arch above them which house heraldic elements.

The central of the three has a rendition of the double-headed eagle, on its breast a shield marshalling the arms of Austria (the Hapsburgs were also known as the House of Austria and they used the arms of Austria extensively; the family arms were different: Or a lion rampant Gules armed, langued, and crowned Azure) and Castile.  While impressive, it does seem to be a bit crudely painted.

The windows on either side have the imperial crown between the crowned pillars of Hercules, a badge adopted by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, along with his motto, Plus Oultre (in Old French, it is often written as the Latin Plus Ultra; in either case it means "further beyond").  The pillars and motto can still be found used in the achievement of arms of Spain, where the pillars are used as supporters for the shield.  (See, e.g.,

(The netting in the close-ups is to keep the pigeons from roosting or nesting there; pigeons everywhere seem to have no respect at all for art.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Heraldry in Maastricht, Part Twelve

For the final heraldic offering from the ridiculously large number of photographs I took in the Basilica of St. Servaas in Maastricht, is this beautiful triptych set in a side (presumably private) chapel in the basilica.

The central panel shows the martyrdom of St. Sebastian, with the side panels portraying the husband and men of the household on the left and the wife and women of the household on the right, each group with their own saint.

The left-hand panel also bears the arms of the husband (Quarterly, 1 and 4, Vert? three lions rampant Argent? armed, langued and crowned Gules?, 2 and 3, Sable six Xs three, two, and one Or),

while the right-hand panel bears the marshalled arms of husband (as above) and wife (Or on a bend Sable three mullets Or) on a lozenge (as was appropriate for a woman, but certainly cramping the design of the husband's quarterly coat!).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Heraldry in Maastricht, Part Eleven

Continuing with more highlights from our heraldic tour of St. Servaas Basilica in Maastricht, there were lots and lots of carved armorial (and a bunch of non-armorial) memorials set into the floors.  Some of the following may look like they were cast in metal, but they are all carved in stone, polished by the soles of the hundreds of feet which have walked across them over the years.

The arms to sinister (to the right as you look at it) are reminiscent - though they do not match, as this one appears to be wearing a boot and the one below is wearing only a sandal, plus there is a star in dexter chief in the coat in Florence - the following coat of arms that I photographed in Florence, Italy a couple of years ago.

We now return you to the armorial memorials found in the Basilica of St. Servatius.

Because of where some of these memorials lay in the basilica (under chairs, under portable pews, etc.), I was not always able to photograph the text accompanying the arms.  And in others, the text was simply too worn to read well.  However, for the last coat of arms above, I obtained a clear photograph of the the text, which read (in Latin, of course):

Hic iacet sepultus reveren
dus dominus Michael Crusens
iul huius ecc~liæ canonicus
obiit 1 Martii 1626 requiescat
in sancta pace amen

And finally, there was this example, which has been cut down (and probably moved from its original location in the basilica) to serve as a paving tile.  (Leading me to the question: "If they saw heraldry in half in a basilica, is it still considered to be heraldic heresy?")  Admittedly, it does not appear that the arms of the individual buried there were cut down (those would be in the circle of which you can see the bottom arc here), but "only" those of some of his ancestors down the left-hand side of the memorial.