Monday, April 29, 2013

Heraldry in the Holy Spirit Church, Heidelberg

Are you getting tired of photograph after photograph of some of the heraldry I saw in Heidelberg?  Me neither.  But all good things must come to an end; we were really there for only two and a half days, and were spending a fair bit of time looking for addresses and sites related to my German ancestors there, so there really is only so much heraldry that I could have photographed during our stay.

Anyway, this will probably be the last post of heraldry in the Heiliggeistkirche off the main Market Square in Heidelberg.  And there may be one more post with some miscellaneous heraldry seen in and about the city, but that will be the last of it.  (Unless I go through the photographs one more time and find something that I simply have to share, of course!)

Anyway, there are some great carved heraldic monuments in the Holy Spirit Church, fine examples of both German heraldry and the stonecarver's art, most done in the red sandstone from which so many things in the city are made.  Enjoy!

The arms over her right shoulder, on the left as you look at the picture above, are very similar to the arms of Nuremberg with the main charge being a crowned frauenadler (in English, harpy), only here there are four mullets of six points surrounding the frauenadler.

I very much doubt that the lower shield here is the arms of Ireland, Azure a harp Or.  (Just a suspicion on my part, but I bet I'm right.)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Heraldry in the Movies!

Facebook poster, fellow blogger, and heraldry enthusiast (among several other things) Father Guy Sylvester pointed out that, in light of the new Iron Man 3 movie opening next weekend, discussions will start up again about what the coolest thing about Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey, Jr.).  Father Guy notes that the first Iron Man movie has already revealed "THE. coolest. thing. ever. In the scene showing Tony in his private jet we see on the wall behind him that TONY STARK HAS A COAT OF ARMS!!!"

I'd blazon it as Azure a double-headed eagle displayed and on a chief Argent three mullets Azure.

Unfortunately, it appears to follow a common "bucket shop" motif of placing the surname on what should be the motto scroll beneath the shield.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Coat of Arms for Ascension Island

In a news item in Coin Update, a coin has been issued marking the grant of a new coat of arms for Ascension Island. Last August, Queen Elizabeth II approved a new coat of arms for Ascension Island, a design drawn up by the College of Arms in London. Prior to this approval from the Queen, Ascension Island used the coat of arms of the United Kingdom for official purposes.

The £2 coin was issued on March 8 by the Government & Treasury of the Ascension Islands.

A volcanic island in the South Atlantic, Ascension Island is governed as part of the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. It is named after the day of its recorded discovery, Ascension Day.  (Not unlike Easter Island in the Pacific.)

The fewer than 900 Islanders were asked what they would like to see on the coat of arms, and the design was based on the features they suggested, including the sea turtles (used here as supporters) that lay their eggs on Ascension’s beaches.

The complete article can be found on-line at

Monday, April 22, 2013

Heraldry in the Holy Spirit Church, Heidelberg

The interior of the Holy Spirit Church in Heidelberg has a beautiful Gothic vaulted ceiling, and in many of the places where the arches meet they have placed heraldic bosses.  These bosses are a mixed bag; some of them are very well done, while others are somewhat crudely painted.  I’m sure this is fine for most of the tourists they have visit there, but as a heraldry enthusiast - and someone who has a telephoto lens and isn't afraid to use it - I have to admit that I was disappointed in some of them.

Be that as it may, it’s nice to see a good attempt at using heraldry as a decorative element, and I appreciate the effort.  I will leave it up to you to decide which ones you think succeed and which ones you think ought to be redone.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Heraldry in the News!

In an article in the Central Somerset Gazette, Councillor Jon Cousins of Glastonbury, England is quoted as saying that the town’s current coat of arms is “a device of cruelty and intolerance” and may breach equality legislation. He says it has strong anti-Catholic sentiment and pinpoints a puritanical time in the town’s history.

Admittedly, the motto (which is placed on the shield, and not below it as would normally be expected) Floreat Ecclesia Anglicana (Let the Church of England flourish), might be considered to be anti-Catholic, but it’s not a particularly Puritan sentiment. (Trust me on this; I’ve got Puritans in my family tree.  Dour bunch for the most part.) And, in fact, it could certainly be argued that the bishop’s mitre and cross croziers are not “puritanical,” either. Councillor Cousins says he believes (without saying why he does so) the crossed croziers and red background were a reminder of the treatment of the last abbot of Glastonbury, who was hung, drawn, and quartered on Glastonbury Tor following the dissolution of the Abbey.

But what does Councillor Cousins want to trade this coat of arms in for? The shield (well, one of the shields) attributed to King Arthur. No, not the blue (or sometimes, red) one with three golden crowns on it;

the green one with a cross throughout and the image of the Virgin Mary in the first quarter,
which shield the Councillor suggests should be placed beneath an image of the sun rising behind Glastonbury Tor and with the motto Unitate Per Diversitas (Unity through diversity).

Which is all arguably less “puritanical,” but I fail to see how it would be more “acceptable to Christians, Goddess and Pagan groups alike.” Councillor Cousins says that the image of the Virgin was considered acceptable to Christian faiths and pagan faiths, some of which believe Christians drew inspiration for her from the pagan mother goddess. So I guess that’s all right, as long as the pagans don't have any objection to the cross, and also so long as you don’t want to also include some of the other religions now found in England and also presumably in Glastonbury: Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, and so on. (Elsewhere, the paper notes that there are now “70 different faiths, creeds, and spiritual paths in the town.”)

Glastonbury Mayor Ian Tucker has agreed for a group of representatives from various faiths and town historians to consider if the current shield should be changed.

The full article can be found on-line at At the end the article, the Central Somerset Gazette asks “What do you think? Is the current emblem cruel and intolerant, or should it be kept for the sake of tradition?” and includes an email address to send responses.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Heraldry in the Holy Spirit Church, Heidelberg

Trying now to get back to and finish up on our heraldic tour of Heidelberg, we returned to the church and some of its heraldry that I have written about before, way back in December 2010 (December 16 and December 20, the Heiliggeistkirche, the Holy Spirit Church.

Over one of the doors to the church is this great carved coat of arms-like display consisting of a sunburst surmounted by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove rising wings displayed, with supporters of two, well, they’re not heraldic cherubs, which consist of an infant’s head with angel wings, so I’m not quite sure how these might be blazoned.  (But then, I’m a little sleep-deprived right now, and may be looking in the wrong place.

I also like the way the carver has taken the loop of garland of roses from either side and strung it “through” a pair of holes in the chief of the shield.

All in all, in addition to being a nice example of the woodcarver’s art, it’s also a nice example of canting arms and entirely appropriate for a church, don’t you think?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Heraldry in the News!

In a recent (April 9, 2013) news article, noted the display in the Natural History Museum in London of the first substantially complete dinosaur skeleton to be unearthed anywhere in the world. Found in Maidstone, Kent, England, the skeleton of the plant-eating iguanodon, so-named because its teeth resemble those of an iguana, was originally recognised in 1834 by a man named Gideon Mantell.

The correct name for the skeleton is now mantellisaurus named, obviously, after its discoverer.
Maidstone requested an iguanodon be incorporated in its civic coat of arms in 1946. The request was granted in 1949 and the College of Arms proclaimed: “I, the said Garter Principal King of Arms, do by these presents further grant and assign to the Borough of Maidstone the Supporters following, that is to say: on the dexter side an Iguanodon proper Collared Gules suspended therefrom by a chain or a scroll of Parchment....”
How they know what the proper coloration for an extinct sauropod (apparently, it's green) is, I don’t have a clue. On the other hand, the College of Arms has in the past defined “proper” tinctures for such mythical creatures as a phoenix and a griffin, so why not an iguanodon?
The full article can be found on-line at:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Another Heraldic Tee Shirt

Once again TeeFury ( offers an heraldic tee shirt. This one for Star Wars fans and, as always, is on sale for just a single day.
The design, entitled Higher Education System, is by Wenceslao A. Romero, and features elements from the 1977 movie Star Wars, now known as Episode IV: A New Hope.  While very pale against the tan background here, it shows up well on the black tee shirt on which they feature it.

It’s an interesting design, but really the only heraldic thing about it is that it is on a shield. Unless you want to count crossed light saber hilts as being heraldic.  (And crossed weapons - swords, axes, etc. - actually is a pretty old heraldic motif.)

Blazon it for you, I will not.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Heraldry in the Blogosphere!

In a February 27, 2013 post over at the blog First Things, Tristyn K. Bloom asks (and answers) the question, was “Hugh Hefner Inspired by Fifteenth-Century Prayer Book”?

The answer is, of course, “probably not,” but the juxtaposition of the arms of Hastings (from the Hastings Hours in the British Library) and the logo of Playboy, Inc. are striking.

The coat of arms of Hastings is Argent a maunch sable.  A maunch is a stylized medieval sleeve from a dress ("severed at the shoulder" according to J.P. Brooke-Little's An Heraldic Alphabet); the way it frames the central part of the white shield looks remarkably like the white bunny head on black that is the Playboy logo.

I don’t know about you, but I may never be able to look at a maunch quite the same way ever again.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Heraldry in the News!

In an article The Canberra Times, Dr. Hatice Sitki, a "national myths and symbols consultant," recommends changing the City of Canberra’s coat of arms to have it more closely reflect the city’s multicultural identity.  She recommends beginning by moving the yellow box gum tree (currently hiding behind the portcullis in the crest) to somewhere more prominent.  She feels the current coat of arms, designed by C.R. Wylie in 1928, represents the then newly-formed city's perceived national identity: white, British, monarchical, and European; making it mono-cultural rather than inclusive and/or multicultural.

Wylie wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald explaining the reasons he chose these European/British symbols to be the external identity of the city. He explained why he had rejected other Australian symbols as “being too bellicose; kookaburras, lyre birds, parrots, goannas, mopokes, and platypuses all lacked dignity; kangaroos and emus had been ruled out as overdone, and there seemed to be too little left of Australia's fauna...”  Dr. Sitki feels that the city was let down by Wylie, who thought the coat of arms had to appear ''British'' to be able to gain approval.  (Well, yeah, since approval had to come from the College of Arms in London!)

The full article, with even more background and further arguments by Dr. Sitki for changing the city’s coat of arms can be found at

Monday, April 1, 2013

Another Good Heraldic Research Site Found

From a link in an article entitled “A Call to Arms! Heraldry in Renaissance Florence (And a Mystery You Can Help Solve)” by Bryan Keene in the The Getty Iris, the on-line magazine of the J. Paul Getty Museum came a discussion of heraldry in general, and a link to a really great site for Italian arms in Tuscany.

Ceramelli Papiani, blasoni delle famiglie toscane descritte nella Raccolta Ceramelli Papiani

The Ceramelli Papiani Collection, a collection of Tuscan heraldry by Henry Ceramelli Papiani (1896-1976), and now kept in the Archivio di Stato di Firenze, is now available on-line.  The project created a database of blazons and emblazons of the coats of arms of Tuscan families, drawn from various archives of Archivio di Stato di Firenze and other Tuscan Archives, many also accompanied by an  account, where possible, of historical and/or genealogical information.  The digitized database can be browsed by surname or searched by surname the blazon of any portion of the shield (in Italian, e.g., bandato, not bendy).

Unfortunately, the site is not letting me see the images of the arms. I get an error message telling me that I am “forbidden;” I assume that’s because I’m entering the site from the U.S.  Still, I can get to the blazons, and can use the site’s heraldic dictionary (or the copy I have of di Valfrei’s Dizionario di Araldica) to help determine what the arms look like.

Yes, I’ve already added the link to this website ( under “Some Good On-Line Armorials and Ordinaries” in the left-hand column of this blog (as well as to the Favorites bar in my web browser).