The alphabet is one set of arbitrary symbols. The figures of heraldry are another set of arbitrary symbols. In the fourteenth century every gentleman knew one: in the twentieth century every gentleman knows the other. The first gentleman was just precisely as ignorant for not knowing that c-a-t spells "cat," as the second gentleman is for not knowing that a St. Andrew's Cross is called a cross saltire, or that vert on gules is bad heraldry. -- G.K. Chesterson
I'm an Academic Herald. I'm not a "real" herald; I don't register people's coats of arms (though I can certainly suggest designs for those who might be interested). What I do is study, research, teach, and write about heraldry. And I like to share what I have learned about heraldry, hence this blog. I hope that you'll find it informative, interesting at least occasionally, and worth your time to come back. Got a question? Comments? Feel free to let me know. I'd love to hear from you. You can find my contact information in my Profile.
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.
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?
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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 …).
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 (http://blog.appletonstudios.com/2011/07/heraldry-in-high-point-north-carolina.html) 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.
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.)