Monday, September 29, 2014

Norway, Part Five - City of Oslo

First, a little background.  It helps to understand the coat of arms of the City of Oslo if you know that they are based on the story of St. Hallvard.

Hallvard gave sanctuary on his ship for a woman who was fleeing from three men accusing her of theft. Hallvard and the woman were both killed by arrows from the men. The woman was buried on the beach. Hallvard was bound with a millstone around his neck and thrown in Drammensfjord, but despite millstone as weight, Hallvard’s body miraculously floated to the surface and the men’s crimes were discovered.  St. Hallvard has been associated with the city of Oslo since at least the 14th century, when his image appeared on the city’s seal.

In the images of the city’s arms, found here from all about the city (even including on some of the manhole covers on the city's streets), you can see the saint with his attributes, the millstone and three arrows, with the woman he tried to save lying beneath his feet.  Sometimes the shield is scattered with a few stars, and usually his seat shows bear or lion's heads to each side.

In most cases, as you can see from the above images, if there are supporters with the shield, they are swans.  But I did find one image from the Christiania Sparebank building (right across the street from our hotel, as it happened), in which the supporters are lions rampant reguardant.

Finally, there is a simplified version of the arms, showing only the saint's attributes, the millstone and the arrows, while leaving out everything else.

It was really nice to be able to walk about the city, and visit the City Hall, and see all the uses made of its coat of arms/seal.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Norway, Part Four - A Bit of British Heraldry

I managed to run across one other non-Norwegian bit of heraldry during our stay in Oslo.  And though not as big or impressive as the arms of Bavaria on a German ship in port, it was nonetheless a pleasant surprise.

Seen in the bookshop at the Fram Museum, housing the polar ship Fram ("the strongest wooden ship ever built and still holds the records for sailing farthest north and farthest south"), on the cover of The Wicked Mate: the Antarctic Diary of William Campbell, was a picture of his pennon ...

... bearing his crest of a boar's head couped close.

Of course, I can never see a boar's head without remembering this little bit of verse by C.W. Scott-Giles in Motley Heraldry:

The boar's head couped in English fashion
Includes the neck--a generous ration;
In Scotland, when this charge appears
It's cut off close behind the ears;
But with the herald's wonted tact
I draw no moral from this fact.

But back to being serious, wasn't that a nice little bit of British heraldry to find in a museum shop in Norway?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Norway, Part Three - A Bit of German Heraldry

Of course, whenever you go looking for heraldry, you are likely to find some, even - or sometimes especially - when what you see is totally unexpected.

While we were visiting Oslo for the Congress, the city had another visitor, the FGS Bayern, a German Type 123 Brandenburg class Frigate.

And though its lower hull was partially blocked by cargo containers and whatnot, I managed to find the arms of Bavaria which mark this ship.

And here's what the arms would look like if there weren't a cargo container in the way, taken from the website at

Don't be confused because the placement of the arms in relation to the gun turret looks "off" in the photo above compared to those on the Seaforces website; in the picture above they had the gun turret rotated to face aft while they were working on it.

It was a neat thing to see, combining two of my loves as it did -- heraldry and naval ships.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Norway, Part Two

Still at the Akershus Fortress, near a guard house at the main vehicle and pedestrian entrance, was a folding freestanding sign holder with this coat of arms at the top.

I just thought this was a really great heraldic representation of the function of this particular position, guarding the border (heraldic bordure) of the Fortress and the kingdom.

And from the rampart of the Akershus Fortress I saw this sign on a building near the waterside, with the word "Customs" in Norwegian and in English.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Okay, It's On! Norway, Part One

I've finally gotten some time to start going through the 2,300+ pictures I took during our two weeks in Norway and England in August.  Fortunately for all of us, not all of them are heraldry (for example, a bunch were from churches where various ancestors were christened, married, and/or buried.  Ask me about "Chasing Chiltons Tuesday" sometime!), and even then, many of heraldry are duplicates, because I've learned that not every picture taken with a digital camera is properly in focus, but if you take two or even three, the odds are that at least one will be ideal.  But that still leaves a whole lot of heraldry for me to share with you, so brace yourselves!

First stop, Oslo, Norway, where we attended the XXXI International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences.  The Congress was held at the Akershus Festning (Akershus Fortress) at the head of Oslofjord.  Being a still-active military facility, the arms of Norway were to be found in a number of places:

On a command building there.

On a sentry hut just outside of the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum.

Even on a military forces automobile in one of the parking lots.

Over the entrance to the Banner Hall, where most of the lectures took place, and Artillery Attic.

And this nice carved version in the Banner Hall itself.

As well as at the Old Military Academy.  (I suspect it was the Academy and not the arms which are dated to 1750!)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Article on U.S. Military Insignia

There was a recent (August 20, 2014) article entitled “Military customs, traditions inspire unit cohesion” published in The Redstone Rocket, a periodical “published in the interest of personnel at Redstone Arsenal, AL” [Alabama], that briefly discusses how the use of unit insignia in the U.S. military helps to build esprit de corps, as well as giving a few examples of such insignia (mind you, the examples shown in the article, and copied immediately below, are not especially heraldic) and unit mottos.  Mention is also made of The Institute of Heraldry, the closest thing the United States has to an heraldic authority.

Albeit brief, it’s a nice little article, and can be found on-line at the website of The Redstone Rocket at

Monday, September 8, 2014

Another Heraldic Website to Know

As part my on-going effort to keep you informed of websites of heraldic interest and on-line armorials and so on, I recently saw a short item (dated two years ago!  Well, I can’t keep up with everything!) about The National Archives of Finland updating its Europeana Heraldica database.  That article can be found at

The Europeana Heraldica database is a compilation of the municipal coats of arms of Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and other states – both historical and in official use currently.  It includes more than 2,200 civic coats of arms (cities, provinces, regions) and over 1,000 wax and paper seals. The oldest seal is from 1309 and the most recent from 2009, so there’s a good range of examples to look up.

All of the arms can be searched by keywords categorized in terms of heraldic concepts, including the division of the shield, the colors of the coat of arms, and so on.  For example, the keyword "lion" returns 40 coats of arms from four countries. Coats of arms can also be searched as a text search according to the name of the possessor.

The database can be searched in 13 languages, so no one has the excuse of being unable to read Finnish (or Italian, or Dutch, or Polish, or …).

Anyway, I thought it an interesting website, and wanted to share it with you.  The English-language entry page for the database can be found on-line at


Thursday, September 4, 2014

An Heraldic Mystery - Unsolved

Well, maybe solved, but only in part.

I was approached (electronically) a little while ago by reporter Emily Balser with a question she had about this bit of heraldry in New Kensington, Pennsylvania:

She'd seen an earlier post I'd done on this blog about another Art Deco-style depiction of the arms of the United States on a Post Office building in High Point, North Carolina ( and had some questions and wanted my thoughts about the one in New Kensington for an article she was writing for the Valley News Dispatch in western Pennsylvania.

She emailed me just before we left to attend the XXXI International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences in Oslo (heraldry pictures of the trip, which included a week in England following the Congress, will be forthcoming), and I haven't had the time to read her article or post about it until now.

Anyway, if you'd like to learn more about what little history is known about this work of heraldic art, or are interested in what several people - including me - had to say about it, Emily's article can be found on-line at

As my alter ego Da'ud Bob ibn Briggs, Historical Drive-In Movie Critic, would say, "Check it out!"

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Long-Anticipated Website Is Now On-Line

A long-awaited development in on-line heraldry has finally occurred.  The Committee on Heraldry of the New England Historic Genealogical Society has created an on-line presence.

The Committee's website discusses its history, has an index to its full Roll of Arms, and has links to: the NEHGS' pictures from the Gore Roll of Arms (you have to be a member to access these pictures); Harold Bowditch's survey of the Gore Roll; to the one-volume book recently published containing all ten parts of the Committee's Roll of Arms, with a forward by Chairman Henry L.P. Beckwith; and downloadable .pdfs of The Heraldic Journal, a short-lived journal on heraldry in America which was published for four years in the 1860s.  These downloadable copies come in two parts: Volumes 1 and 2, and Volumes 3 and 4.  (And for the record, I am no relation to Samuel Appleton, one of the editors of The Heraldic Journal.)

More information, and a bunch of other stuff, can be found on the website of the Committee on Heraldry at

This is a great development for those of us interested in heraldry in the United States, and I look forward to future additions to this website.