Monday, April 28, 2014

Some Florentine Heraldry Revisited

I received a picture recently from a correspondent in the midst of a nice back-and-forth conversation about some Florentine heraldry.  She was kind enough to send me the following:

From the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, this is the coat of arms of Venturi.  I had written about this coat before, in my first posting back in January 2011 about our week in Florence (and all of the heraldry that can be found there!)  the previous fall (  This coat, in color, was found on and in the hotel at which we stayed in Florence, the Paris.  The arms are Azure a fess between three chess rooks Or.

And here, since I now had a name to go with the arms, is a scan of the Venturi arms from the Stemmario Fiorentino.

I remarked at that time that I didn’t really see any obvious connection to the City of Paris, France, but the first photograph above explains that; it’s the arms of the Venturi family, who may have or, likely did, own the building now housing the hotel there.

I swear, all this just makes me want to go back, if only to see how much heraldry I may have missed during our last trip there.  But it’s not in the cards for this year, at least.  So I’ll have to get my Florentine heraldry “fix” vicariously, through the emails of some of my friends and correspondents.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Heraldry (Back) in the News!

I've covered the controversy about the current "coat of arms" used by the town of Glastonbury in England just over a year ago,

The Glastonbury coat of arms, in place since around 1705, includes a red shield with two crossed croziers in gold, beneath the coat-of-arms of Queen Anne and above the motto Floreat Ecclesia Anglicana – Let the Church of England Flourish

As you can see from the above, it's a bit of a mashup, though that alone is not the whole problem that some folks see with it, as noted in that post of a year ago.

Well, a year has passed since then, and the working group created then to make recommendations about changing the town's arms has given its report to the town council.  The working group consulted the College of Arms in London and were told that the arms are "unlawful" so far as the College is concerned, and recommended that the council apply to it for a legal coat of arms.  A majority of the members of the council agree that the arms need changing.

But after a long discussion at the meeting of the council when one member suggested an amendment to "note" the recommendations of the working group rather than to "accept" them, things devolved a little, and finally the town clerk had to step in and explain what it was that the council was voting on.  The majority finally voted to "note" the recommendations, and a new committee was set up to look at a new design; a committee which each council member chose to join.

But the antics, and confusion, of the town council at the meeting about this issue have sparked some controversy and a couple of hot letters to the local newspaper, the Central Somerset Gazette, about it, one by one of the members of the working group.  The story of the meeting and the scrutiny it is under now can be found on-line at, while the two letters can be found at and

Monday, April 21, 2014

We were just heading back to the car ...

... from the restaurant after a late dinner with family in Las Vegas, Nevada,* when we noticed this coat of arms decal in the back window of another car in the parking lot.  And to mangle a phrase from the old movie Love Story, "Having a smart phone means never having to miss a photographic opportunity."

It's not really a coat of arms that one would normally expect to see in desert environment like Las Vegas, since it's the arms of the State of Hawaii, and thus about as opposite environmentally as you can get.  (To give you an idea, the humidity in Las Vegas normally runs around 15-17%.  I've seen any number of rain clouds there that I could see were actually releasing rain, but the rain never hit the ground, since it evaporated completely in the dry air on the way down.  Hawaii, of course, is completely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, and thus pretty humid!)

And here's a color depiction of the arms from an old postcard for comparison.

So, how cool was finding that!  And just stumbling across it so unexpectedly, too!

*  As my wife often says to her co-workers when she tells them that we are going to Las Vegas, and they get all impressed: "No, we're not going to the fun Vegas.  We're going to the dusty, little desert town Vegas, where all the people live and shop and stuff."
    My parents moved out there in 1963, my father to teach school there, so we're always going there to visit family and stuff, not to stay on the Strip and take in shows and gamble and sightsee and all the other stuff one expects to do in the "fun" Vegas.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

An Unexpected (and Flattering) Acknowledgement

I recently finished reading a new (copyright 2014) mystery book, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, a Flavia de Luce novel (the sixth in a series) by author Alan Bradley.

It was a fun read; Mr. Bradley has a unique writing style that you can't help but like.  Indeed, having finished this one, I am going to have to see about acquiring copies of his other novels in this series.

But what caught me unawares was a short paragraph in the second (of three) pages of Acknowledgements, mentioning one ...

David Appleton, of Appleton Studios, for his invaluable expert assistance in blazoning the de Luce coat of arms.  The trails and footpaths of heraldry are littered with traps and pitfalls for the unwary, and it was comforting to have David along to illuminate so happily some of the darker corners.

Wow.  I find myself at a loss for words.  (Some of my closest friends will find that shocking, I know.)  But, really, Mr. Bradley and I just corresponded by email a bit about heraldry and a blazon for an heraldic design he had in mind, and I did what I always try to do with such correspondence, which is to share my love of heraldry and answer the inquirer's questions to the best of my ability.  So, as I say, Wow.

Thank you, Mr. Bradley, for your very kind words.

If you'd like to know more about The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, or are interested in obtaining a copy for yourself, hardcover, Kindle, and audio editions are available at, and ebook versions are available at

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Really Don't Think I Understand

No, really, I don't think I understand the reasoning.  If a logo is not the least bit heraldic, then why place it on a shield shape?  What can the motivation for that be?  It's not like the standard heater shield shape is at all intuitive, not like a square, or a rectangle, circle, or oval is.  And yet, I regularly see non-heraldic logos placed on shields.

The example that got me to thinking about this anomaly was on a business card that I picked up several years ago while attending a conference on heraldry in North Carolina.  As an adjunct to that conference, those attendees who wished had the opportunity to visit the rare books collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Since I'm never one to pass up the opportunity to peruse old books, I went along.  But while there, my eye was caught by the UNC Greensboro logo on the business cards there.

And here's a sharper version from the University's website:

See what I mean?  I find myself regularly drawn to shield shapes, since I'm always on the lookout for heraldry and its use in the United States today and in the past.  But this isn't heraldry, is it?  Yes, it's on a shield shape, but that is its only relationship to a coat of arms.

The colors of the logo are the school colors: gold, white, and navy blue.  The date, 1891, refers to the school's establishment (at that time, as the State Normal and Industrial School.  It's had several name changes since then).  The primary figure I first took to be Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, but it may simply be a representation of "Spiro, the Spartan," the student body there being the Spartans.  (As was the student body at my old college, Michigan State University.  But our colors were green and white.)  The figure being female, it may also refer back to the university's founding as a women's college.

But for all of that, it's not heraldry.  So why is it on a shield?  (And its not even an old Greek shield, or a roundel, which would at least keep the theme of "Spartans" going.  But a heater shield?  Not so much.)  To steal a line from the movie Shakespeare In Love, "It's a mystery."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Another Bit of Heraldic Serendipity

Puttering about on the internet the other day, as I occasionally do, I ran across another sports team with a coat of arms-like logo:

The Charleston Battery is an American professional futbol (what we call "soccer" here) team based in Charleston, South Carolina. Founded in 1993, the team plays in the third-tier USL Professional Division.

Charleston is one of the more successful minor-league soccer teams in the United States, having won the final season of the USL Second Division in 2010 and the USL Pro Championship in 2012.

The team has played its home games at the soccer-specific Blackbaud Stadium since 1999. The team's colors are yellow, black and red.

The team's logo mimics somewhat the arms of the United States, with its paly field (here, Sable two pallets Or) and chief (here, Argent charged with the word "Battery").  The crossed cannons no doubt refer to the City of Charleston as the place where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired upon Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, and of course the soccer ball is self-explanatory.

A fun bit of heraldry, and history, to have run across while searching the web for something else entirely!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Serendipity Leads to a "Heraldry" Discovery

I clicked on a link the other day that stated "You must watch this amazing guy playing Star Wars on a pipe organ."  I did, and it was.  But while watching Jelani Eddington play the Star Wars Symphonic Suite on a Sanfilippo Wurlitzer theater pipe organ (located at the Place de la Musique, a private museum in Barrington, Illinois), I noticed the following bit of "sort-of" heraldry:

It's pretty clear that it's not a "real" coat of arms.  Still, though, I thought that it was once again proof that you can find heraldry everywhere.  Even when you're just clicking on a link to see an extremely talented artist playing on an extremely versatile musical instrument.

If you'd like to see this bit of on-line video, and see a bit of heraldic decorative art at the same time, you can do so at

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The (Incorrect) Arms of the United States

I know, I told you I was going to leave this topic alone.  But I'm still doing research for my proposed paper on the arms of the United States, and I keep running across examples where, as they say down here, "it's just not raht."

This example comes from the facade of the San Diego, California, Museum of Art.  (It's a great exterior for heraldry; the example above is only one part of the building, and it's got a lot more heraldry than this panel shows.)

Once again, it's got the right number of stripes (13, although the last one to heraldic sinister - to the right as you look at it - is harder to make out), but like so many other examples, it also placed 13 stars - a row of six and a row of seven - on the chief, which in the actual arms of the United States is plain blue.

Then, too, it looks like they've taken the eagle supporter and turned it into a crest, sitting atop the shield, supporting on its breast an entirely different coat of arms.  Without hatching or anything else to give us clues as to the tinctures, it's hard to guess what this secondary coat of arms is supposed to be.  Is it St. George?  (Argent a cross Gules.)  For that matter, why is the cross so thin, instead of a wider cross, which is more to be expected of the only charge on the field?  Is that a bordure around the shield, or is that just the shield's delineation, as appears in the arms of the U.S. below the eagle?

There are other unanswered questions, too.  Why is there a rose above the eagle's head, where the crest of the United States (a constellation of 13 stars appearing in a glory) would normally be expected to be?  Why are there 17 leaves on the olive branch held by the eagle?  (In the U.S. arms, there are 13.)  And why are there only six arrows in his sinister talon?  (Again, the expected number is 13.)  (Are you seeing a pattern here with the number 13?  Good, you should.  The achievement was designed that way.)

Okay, I'll go shut up once again about the many inaccurate depictions of the arms of my native country.  At least until I can't stand it anymore and just have to share some particularly egregious example with you.  (It's like the cartoon about the man sitting at a computer, with his wife's voice coming from the other room asking him if he's coming to bed.  "I can't come to bed yet; someone is wrong on the internet!")