An uncle of mine by marriage, who was a very distinguished historian, once asked me, when I was a young man, whether I was interested in Heraldry. I said that I was not. ‘I'm glad of that,” he said, “heraldry strikes me as being for a historian about on the same level of interest as stamp collecting.” – Maurice Keen, in the Preface to Origins of the English Gentleman
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.
Well, technically, is the arms of the Cathedral Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral, which arms are also used by some closely related entities, such as The King's School (said to be the oldest continuously operating school in the world, having been founded in 597 A.D. by St. Augustine).
In any event, this coat of arms is to be found on and around the Cathedral in Canterbury, in several different media: painted on wood and metal, carved in stone, cast in metal, and painted/printed on a flag.
The arms are blazoned variously as: Azure on a cross argent the letters I/X sable and Azure on a cross argent the letter X surmounted by the letter i sable. The arms were recorded by the College of Arms during the Visitation of Kent in 1619 (400 years ago!), where they are listed in the heading as "Canterbury: Dean & Chapter" (with the text giving the full name as "the Denery & Chapter of the Cathedrall church of Christ in Canterbury") and blazoned as: Azure on a cross argent a Roman letter X surmounted by the letter I sable.
Some accounts say that the letters on the cross are Greek (iota, chi) and stand for the initial of Jesus Christ. Others say that they are an abbreviation of Christi, and thus properly chi, iota; hence the lower case "i" in some versions.
However blazoned, and whatever the meaning, though, here's a collection, in the order that I found them, of the arms that I saw while roaming the streets of Canterbury:
The Canterbury Cathedral Shop has a very nice selection of souvenirs, mementos, artwork, etc. all available for you to buy.
The tower at the entrance of The King's School flies a flag of its arms:
This is your official warning:
And here we have the arms on and in the Cathedral itself. There is even a small copy of the arms on the blue sign by the side of the gate into the building:
All in all, a fine display of these arms, having been in use for more than 400 years, having been recognized by the College of Arms in 1619.
In the small square immediately outside the gate to the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral stands a memorial "Dedicated to the honoured memory of the men of Canterbury who fell in the Great War 1914-1919"
Each of the four sides bears the image of a soldier, sailor, etc., as well as a coat of arms relevant to the city and county.
The first side bears an image of a medieval man at arms, and the arms of the City of Canterbury:
The next side bears the image of a soldier, and the arms of the Archbishopic of Canterbury:
The third side bears the image of a pilot of the then Royal Flying Corps, and the arms of Edward of Woodstock, son of King Edward III, the "Black Prince" (1330-1376), who is buried in Canterbury Cathedral.
This side of the memorial also bears four other smaller shields, with the floral emblems of (top to bottom, first left and then right) England (a rose), Wales (a leek), Scotland (a thistle), and Ireland (a shamrock).
The fourth side of the memorial bears the image of a sailor, and the arms of the County of Kent.
I found it a touching armorial tribute to the men of Canterbury who lost their lives in the service to their country during World War I.
Kent College in Canterbury is a co-educational independent school for boarding and day pupils between the ages of three months and 18 years. It was founded in in 1855 as the Wesleyan College, Canterbury, and in 1920 was acquired by the Board of Management for Methodist Residential Schools.
It sits on a 70-acre tract on the edge of the City of Canterbury.
But, of course, what caught my attention was the school's coat of arms, which by incorporating elements from both the City of Canterbury and the County of Kent, allows you to identify its location without knowing anything else about it.
I would blazon the arms as Gules a demi-horse couped forceny argent on a chief or three Cornish choughs sable, with the crest A pair of ostrich plumes argent charged with a Cornish cough sable. The motto is Lux tua via mea (Your light is my way).
I thought it was a nicely designed coat of arms - simple, and readily identifiable - that is certainly evocative of its location in the City of Canterbury and the County of Kent in England.
It wasn't just the arms of the City of Canterbury that can be seen in the old city, but also the arms of the County of Kent, in which the city is situated.
The County arms, Gules a horse forceny argent, were officially granted in October 1933 and re-confirmed in 1975. The white horse is said to be the symbol of the old Saxon kingdom of Kent dating from the 6th to 8th Centuries. The County's motto, Invicta (Unconquered), is based on a legend that a year after the Norman Conquest, in 1067, a band of Kentishmen ambushed and surrounded the new King William. In return for his life, he promised that the county would be able to keep its ancient privileges, thus making Kent the only part of England "unconquered" by the Normans.
Whatever you may wish to make of that, the arms of the County of Kent can be found in and about the old city of Canterbury.
For example, here's one found on High Street (on the same building housing a Tex-Mex restaurant, a type of eatery which I did not expect to see there), though given the same respect that pigeons seem to give to all art forms, whether full sculpture (my wife took a picture of a Florentine statue with a pigeon roosting on its head when we were in Italy a few years ago) or highly three-dimensional carving, as here:
As you can see, there are a couple of pigeons roosting here, one atop the arms, and the other presumably acting as a sinister supporter (in the manner of a number of late 18th Century English achievements, where the supporters aren't really "supporting" the shield, but simply lying or lounging about it).
The building may originally have been a firehouse, given the picks, axes, hoses, and bucket (labeled "Kent") surrounding the arms.
Other versions of the County arms in different media were:
Once again, it's always nice to see heraldry in use!
Following our week in Arras, France, we hopped aboard the Eurostar train and took rode through the Chunnel (the Channel Tunnel) to London and then on to Canterbury in the County of Kent, England, where we spent several day wandering about the town and visiting with friends.
We had decided to return to Canterbury on this trip, because the last time we were there, we only had a day in Kent, and spent it visiting three parish churches - one in Sandwich and two in Canterbury - where I had ancestral ties. As a consequence, we had no time at all for the primary tourist attraction in the city, Canterbury Cathedral. So we decided to make up for that this time, and in addition to visiting a lot of the city within the old city walls, spent the better part of a full day at the Cathedral.
Naturally, I was looking forward to seeing what heraldry could be found in and around the city. I already knew that the Cathedral itself was chock full of coats of arms (some of which I'll get to in a later post), but I wanted to see what other uses of heraldry could be found. And I was not disappointed!
The arms of the City of Canterbury (Argent three Cornish choughs proper on a chief gules a lion passant guardant or) were, according to the website Heraldry of the World, first registered at the College of Arms in London in 1619 (exactly 400 years ago!), but they appear on official documents as early as 1380. The birds are taken from the arms ascribed to Thomas Becket, and the lion and chief denote Canterbury's status as a royal city since the 6th Century. The motto is Ave mater angliæ (Hail Mother England).
And the city's arms are to be found depicted in a number of different media all around the old city, not always to denote official government buildings or functions. Witness the arms found on the facade of the Sidney Cooper Gallery, for instance:
But this next one is definitely for a public accommodation. (If only the public toilet facilities here in the States were denoted with such class!)
The City Arms Inn:
This cast iron box and post are marked "Canterbury Corporation Electricity Supply."
Another "unofficial" use, on the sign of The Old Coach House. (Well, at least they resisted the temptation to name it "Ye Olde Coach(e) House".)
This brass plaque marked the entrance to the Westgate Gardens (just a block down from our hotel, which was just outside of the west gate to the old city).
On a City building just off the Westgate Gardens:
And finally, on two markers on the Guildhall, a former church, where the City Council often meets:
All in all, the City makes a good display of its civic arms, and it was fun to run across all of these versions of it.
In addition to the flags of Flanders and Picardy, discussed in my last post, there was some more heraldry hanging on the wall of the restaurant.
I tend to have mixed emotions about images, even heraldic ones, that I think were taken out of a book and the matted and framed. I mean, I like seeing heraldry displayed, but the purist in me hates the thought of a book being cut up into parts.
Still, it was clearly far, far too late for me to tell them not to cut a book up, so I'll have to settle for trying to enjoy the heraldry that was once printed in it.
First, there was this page, the arms of the region of Artois, which we have seen several times before during this trip, both alone and on the inescutcheon of the arms of Arras. Here, though the color of the label looks like or;* it should be: a label of three tags gules each tag charged with three towers in pale or.
* It appears that there has been some color shifting on each of these pages; in several of the arms what should be gules (or red) looks like or (gold).
The other page was that of the arms of cities in the area.
Here, the arms of the City of Arras is almost exactly that of the arms of Artois, above, except that the gold label has one or two hard to identify charges on each of the tags. If it were Artois, one would expect three towers in pale on each of the tags, but I cannot make them out here even when I enlarge the image significantly.
The other cities whose arms are given here (though often the colors are incorrect; I give the correct blazon with each city) are: St. Omer (Gules a cross of Lorraine argent), Bethune (Argent a fess gules), Aíre (Aire-sur-la-Lys, Gules an eagle displayed argent beaked and membered or), Lens (Azure a castle between in fess two fleurs-de-lys or), Bappaume (Azure a pair of hands and a sinister hand couped appaumy two and one argent), Hesdín (Per pale argent and gules in chief two mullets counterchanged), St. Paul (Gules three pallets vair on a chief or a label of three tags azure), Lílers (Lillers, Gules three (here, four) chevronels or), and Perne (Pernes-en-Artois, Argent a lion rampant gules crowned or).
Once again, it was very nice to have a little heraldry with our lunch!
Following the several days of the Congress in Arras, France, we signed up for an all-day excursion to some of the World War I battlefields and sites in the area.
Included in the excursion was lunch at a little restaurant next to one of the larger wartime cemeteries. And there waiting for us, along with our meal, was some heraldry! (Because, as I have often said, "You can find heraldry everywhere!")
In this specific instance, at one end of the smaller room that we were in were some heraldic flags.
The central flag is, of course, the national flag of France.
The flag to the right (I got someone to take pictures while I held out the flags to see them better) contains the arms of Picardie (or Picardy, as we spell it in English), an historical territory and former administrative region of France. (It is now a part of a new region of Hauts-de-France.) Quarterly: 1 and 4, Azure three fleurs-de-lis or; 2 and 3, Argent three lions rampant gules.
The other flag is that of the Department Nord, created from the western halves of the historic counties of Flandre (Flanders) and Hainaut, and which uses the arms of Flandre, Or a lion rampant sable armed and langued gules.
What a nice display of armory to go with a very pleasant lunch!