Thursday, December 31, 2020

How to Decorate a Balcony

Toward the corner of the building we looked at last time, there was a small balcony overlooking the street. It looks to me like a great place to sit of an afternoon, taking in the sights and sounds of the old city of Ghent, sipping tea (or having a Belgian ale), and watching all the tourists go by.

Once again, though, it's the heraldry that we are all about, and this balcony has three coats of arms carved into its balustrade.

From left to right, we find:

the arms of the city of Eeklo in East Flanders, Argent a wreath of oak vert an inescutcheon Or a lion rampant sable;

either Laarne or Elsegem, both in East Flanders, and both using the same coat of arms, Or a lion rampant gules; and Lokeren, also in East Flanders, Argent a gridiron sable in chief a turnip argent leaved vert. (I recommend clicking on the image above to see a larger version with better detail. The width of the columns on this blog page only allow me a certain width before it simply starts cutting off the edges of the pictures.)

As a bonus, on far right we see the arms of the city of Tienen, Argent a fess azure.

Now, here's a closer view of the balcony with all three coats of arms:

Next time, we go around the corner of this building, to see what we can see.

Monday, December 28, 2020

A Building With a Wonderful Display of Civic Heraldry

Continuing our walking tour of Ghent, Belgium, we came across this building (below), which may take three or four posts to fully cover all of the civic coats of arms found on its façade.

It is, as you can see, a very impressive building! But, as usual, it was the heraldry across its face (and, as it turns out, around its side) that really caught my eye.

For example, here's a closer view of the three coats of arms across the frieze above.

You can, as always, click on the image to see a larger version with more detail.

From left to right, we find the arms of:

the town of Sint-Niklaas in the province of East Flanders: Azure figure of a bishop between in dexter base three children in a tub and in sinister a turnip or;

what, as far as we have been able to determine (because they are not correctly depicted here), are the arms of the Congo Free State, later the Belgian Congo, mis-painted here as: Azure a fess argent in dexter chief a mullet or overall an inescutcheon Or a lion rampant sable crowned or (Flanders). The fess on the arms of the should be wavy, and inescutcheon should be the arms of Belgium, not Flanders (e.g., Sable a lion rampant or).

The city of Erpent, in Namur province, has a similar shield, theirs being Azure a fess and in dexter chief a mullet or, thus having the fess (the horizontal band) being gold instead of white, and without the inescutcheon of Belgium or Flanders. And finally, we have:

the city of Leuven, in the province of Flemish Brabant: Gules a fess argent. (Yes, I know that most of us will also recognize this shield as the arms of Austria. Trust me, here they are the arms of Leuven.)

Next time, how to armorially decorate your balcony, Belgian-style.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

It's Good to Be the ... Emperor

One of the advantages of being the Big Cheese, The Man, the CEO, the Boss, etc., etc., is that people will try to flatter you. Sometimes this will take the form of people bowing to your every whim. And other times, it means that they will put your coat of arms on fancy buildings, as we saw in our post of December 7 (

And then, sometimes they will put your coat of arms on a very fancy building, like on this one beside the main canal in the heart of the old city of Ghent, Belgium.

I know, there's a lot to look at on that façade. Look further up.

No, not the bottom row with the four figures of bishops and saints surrounding the arms of the guild whose house this is.

No, not the middle row, with the arms of Ghent and Flanders flanking the central figure.

Yes, the one on the top row. The arms of the Holy Roman Emperor, specifically Charles V, Or a double-headed eagle displayed sable, surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and flanked on each side by pairs of the Pillars of Hercules entwined with a scroll bearing the motto PLVS OVLTRE (as we discussed in that earlier post on December 7, meaning roughly "Further beyond"). As before, please feel free to click on the image above to see a larger version, which will give you a better idea of the scope of the detail in this heraldic carving.

Yes, indeed, it is good to be the Emperor, and have people create this kind of lasting statement for you. If only we could all be so lucky!

Monday, December 21, 2020

A Foreign Coat of Arms in Ghent

Continuing the theme of some of our recent posts, here's another food-themed bit of heraldry that also happens to be a coat of arms which is foreign to Belgium.

These are, of course the well-known arms of Brittany (Bretagne) (from northwestern France), which have the extremely simple, one-word blazon Ermine.

What does Brittany have to do with food in Belgium, you ask?

Well, it's painted on the front of this fun little establishment in Ghent:

This is the Bretoens Gwenola panne[n]koekenhuis, or Breton Gwenola Pancake House. Though they serve a few other things, too, they seem to be best known for their sweet and salty Breton pancakes and galettes (savory pancakes made from potatoes or buckwheat).

And that, my friends, is how you manage to find yourself facing the coat of arms of Brittany in the old city of Ghent, Belgium!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Heraldry? I'll Drink to That!

As we have seen many times in the past, many wineries and breweries will use heraldry, or at least something that looks like heraldry, as their logos.

In our walking tour of Ghent, I came across two of these, the first of which we have seen before in Antwerp.

Omer ("Traditional Blond") Beer, which uses an almost heraldic Sable a chevron within a bordure gules as its trademark.

And Tongerlo, a product of Brouwerij Haacht (the Haacht Brewery), which has a shield with three chevrons on it.

I don't have a blazon for Tongerlo; they seem to place the shield with either white or gold chevrons and shield outline on a wide variety of background colors. So, not really heraldry, but a quickly and easily identifiable trademark that looks and acts a lot like heraldry.

So kick back, relax, and have the cicerone, the beer sommelier, pour you a nice big glass of Belgian beer.


Monday, December 14, 2020

And, Some Not Heraldry

Not everything on a shield, and not everything that looks like it might be kinda, sorta heraldic, is heraldry.

Here are a couple of items of "not heraldry".

Here, on the façade of the Koffiebranderij de Draak (The Dragon Coffee Roastery), is a really very cute little dragon/wyvern.*

The dragon appears in a few other places around Ghent, most notably at the peak of the Belfort.

And this one, being slain by Saint Michael the Archangel.

Our other piece of today's "not heraldry" won't tell you who the owner is, but it will at least give you the time of day.

I was thinking that it was a little later than 09:15 a.m. that day that we passed by this statue, but who am I to argue with an angel bearing a sundial on a shield?

* English heraldry differentiates between a four-legged dragon (a dragon) and a two-legged dragon (a wyvern). On the Continent, almost all dragons are of the two-legged variety, and no differentiation is required.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Wouldn't That Make a Good Pub Name?

What would, you ask? Well, something along the lines of "The Cap and Rose", or "The Hat and Rose", or even more specifically, "The Bycocket and Rose".*

I mean, really, doesn't that sound like a good inn or pub name?

Anyway, this all came about because we came across this in our travels around Ghent that day.

The two coats of arms over the doorway are (left) Argent a bycocket gules, and (right) Or a rose gules barbed slipped and leaved vert.

Do I know who these arms represent? I do not. Do I think that this place is an inn or pub? I do not. But these shields are, indeed, heraldry, or at least, pseudo-heraldry, and so I include them for your viewing pleasure here.

* Bycocket: Think actor Errol Flynn's "Robin Hood" hat. That's a bycocket. "A bycocket or bycoket is a style of hat that was fashionable for both men and women in Western Europe from the 13th to the 16th century. It has a wide brim that is turned up in the back and pointed in the front like a bird's beak. In French, it is called a chapeau à bec due to this resemblance." We have seen bycockets earlier in this trip, on the monument to Jacob van Artevelde, several posts back, which has his arms, Sable three bycockets [within a bordure engrailed?] argent, on its face.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Making an (Heraldic) Impression

Continuing in our "heraldic walkabout" of Ghent, Belgium, we came to see this amazing building (in the center) and sculptures on its façade.

Well, that's a little hard to make out what is going on there. Then we came a little closer, and it rapidly became a bit more Breugel-esque.

This building is the Mason’s Guild Hall (or at least a replica thereof). The Masons’ Guild built this flamboyant little place to show off their builder abilities and entice wealthy merchant clients. It features some exceptional carvings and is called Den Enghel or "the Angel". (Apparently, the same building is found on the Graslei, number 8. People thought the original was simply lost for a long time, so Ghent builders placed this replica alongside the scenic canal.)

You might note a bit of color in the center of one of the lower levels in the picture above. Here's a close-up:

These are the arms, of course, of the Holy Roman Empire (Or a double-headed eagle displayed sable), with the supporters taken from the arms of Spain on each side (a visual representation of the Pillars (of Hercules). You can click on the image above to see a larger and more detailed version of this photograph.) 

Surmounting each pair of pillars near their bases is a scroll bearing the words “Plus oultre” (more often seen as “plus ultra”), literally meaning "More more". (“There’s not enough 'more' here; I need more 'more', said Charles”.) Ah, no, I see. It is generally more loosely, and probably more accurately, translated into English as “Further beyond”. It is taken from the personal motto of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, and is a reversal of the original phrase Non plus ultra, "Nothing further beyond"; in a sense, a warning: Don't sail beyond this point. (I swear, I learn so much in researching these pictures that I take on these trips.)

Anyway, I guess if you're trying to get people's attention, and their money, there's hardly a better way to do it than to erect an eye-catching building and then throw in the arms and supporters of the man in charge of it all for good measure.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Art, History, and Heraldry

Wandering about the streets of old Ghent, Belgium, you will see buildings with statues of various individuals on their façades. And, as you look, you find that some of these statues also have heraldry.

Here, for example, if you look closely at the three pairs of individuals literally carved in stone (you may want to click on the image below in order to see a full-size version with greater detail) ...

... you might notice that the third figure from the right is holding a shield with a design on it.

Looking more closely, and we see this:

The legend carved below his feet tells us that this is Robrecht de Fries (Robert the Frisian). He is better known in English as Robert I Count of Flanders (c.1035-1093). (For those of you who don't read much history outside of England, his sister Matilda was married to William the Conqueror. Yes, that William.)

Though he himself lived prior to the age of heraldry (as did his brother-in-law), on the kite shield he is holding you will see a Maltese cross* (colors unknown), and even better, on his right shoulder he bears a small heater shield with the old, historical arms of Flanders, Gyronny (usually of 10 or 12) or and azure an inescutcheon gules. (We have seen these arms earlier, though with two of the three colors incorrectly painted, on the façade of the Café den Turk.)

* Because he died before the establishment of the Order of the Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (the Knights Hospitaller) around the time of the First Crusade (1099), whose later base on the Island of Malta gave this type of cross its name, it might be more accurately termed a cross formy swallowtailed or a cross of eight points. But that's getting awfully picky. The name by which it is best known today is Maltese cross, and that name is probably the clearest to modern heralds and heraldists.

Monday, November 30, 2020

More Food, Fun, and Heraldry.

Yeah, you know me too well; mostly heraldry.

Right next door to the Cour St. Georges that we looked at in my last post is another eatery, the Café den Turk, "Ghent's oldest café" according to their website, which says they were established in 1228.

Here, hiding behind their sign, you can see the upper half of the arms of Ghent, Sable a lion rampant argent crowned or. Next to it is a shield, Gules a cross argent, which I have not yet identified for certain. (Crosses, like lions, are ubiquitous in European and Flemish heraldry.)

And a little higher on the façade of the building we find these painted shields:

From left to right, we have the coats of arms of:

the Duke of Burgundy as used by Philip III the Good (reign 1419-1467), Charles I the Bold (reign 1467-1477), and Mary the Rich (reign 1477-1482);

the old historical arms of Flanders, Gyronny (usually of 10 or 12) or and azure an inescutcheon gules (yeah, I don’t know why the blue has been moved from the field to the inescutcheon either);

and the historical arms of the Counts and County of Flanders, Or a lion rampant sable armed and langued gules. Nowadays these last two coats of arms are marshaled onto a single shield as the arms of West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen), for which see

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Good Food, an Old Building, and Heraldry

It's Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, where we celebrate a tradition - going back to the year 1621 - of cooking a really big meal, eating until we can't eat anymore, and then taking a nap.

No, wait, that's the modern version. The original, held in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts, involved a big feast with lots of good food stretched out over three days.

But even just thinking about all that food and old traditions and stuff reminds me of some good food set in an old building with coats of arms on its exterior that we saw in Ghent.

Coming around the corner from the City Hall, what did we see but this:

This is the Sint Jorishof, the Cour St. Georges restaurant, which has been an inn and restaurant for centuries. It is located in "a venerable old house dating from 1228." It also gets pretty high marks from reviewers for its food, service, and value.

But you know me! I barely registered what it was because I was too busy looking at the heraldry affixed to its face.

To the left, we have a shield of the arms of Sardinia.

The arms of Sardinia are blazoned: Argent a cross gules between four heads couped sable; here, the heads are crowned or and are all facing towards the center of the shield (what heralds would blazon as respectant). And if that cross is truly gules (red), it has faded badly.

To the right are the arms of Corsica:

The arms of Corsica are blazoned: Argent a head couped sable wreathed about the temples argent; the head here is affronty couped at the shoulders and wreathed argent and or.

I have no idea why the (somewhat incorrectly drawn and painted) arms of Sardinia and Corsica are on the exterior walls of this restaurant.

I do, however, really like the metal sculpture of the man sitting atop a large keg and brandishing a fork in one hand and a mug in the other. He really looks like he is enjoying himself, and even perhaps, as I am today, following an old tradition of giving thanks for good food, good drink, and good friends.

Monday, November 23, 2020

And, Of Course ...

So, having shared images of the arms of the City of Ghent, and of the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium which was once a County, Flanders (though there will be another example of these arms coming soon to a blog post near you!), there remains another example of civic heraldry to be seen in Ghent.

And that would be ... tada! The arms of the nation itself, Belgium!

First, to give you a little idea of the context of this rendition of the arms of Belgium, here's the full façade of the building on which it is placed:

I know, it's a lot to take in. (You can click on the image above to see a full-size picture that will show you a lot more of the details contained herein.) There are a number of statues on the face of the building, each holding or standing next to a coat of arms.

But the one bit of heraldry that we're looking for right now is placed directly above the double arches in the center: the arms of Belgium.

The arms are blazoned: Sable a lion rampant or armed and langued gules. (These are the same as the arms of the Duchy of Brabant, which we have seen a number of times in Antwerp.) The supporters are, unsurprisingly, two lions rampant gardant or. Behind the shield are, in saltire, a hand of justice and a scepter topped with a lion. The crest is a royal crown. The motto on the scroll beneath the arms is Eendracht maakt macht (Unity is Strength). The arms are surrounded by a Collar which I have not yet been able to identify. It consists of alternating lions and crowns with the intertwined initials "BE". (The Collar surrounding the arms these days is that of the Order of Leopold, but both the collar and the dependent medal differ from the collar and medal here.)

And that, my friends, is how you do a national coat of arms, deeply carved and colorfully painted on the façade of a building!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

In Flanders Fields ...

Of course, the City of Ghent, whose arms we have been looking at in the last two posts, is located in Flanders, which has its own coat of arms, which can also be seen here and there about the city. Because you can never display too much heraldry, don't you know?

These two examples come from the same building where we saw the arms of the City of Ghent: the Belfort, one of three medieval towers overlooking the old city center. It's 91 meter (298 feet) belfry is the tallest in Belgium.

Here we have the arms of Flanders (Or a lion rampant sable) along with the arms of Ghent (Sable a lion rampant argent) on the tower's shutters:

And here, the arms of Flanders being supported by a single lion on the façade of the Belfort:

Elsewhere, the storefront of a souvenir shop displays the flag of Belgium and the flag of Flanders:

And finally, on the façade of another building, the paired arms of Ghent and Flanders (we will see this building again, in connection with some of the other heraldry on its exterior):

Here you can see (please click on the image above to see a larger version of this photo to get all of the details) the arms of the City of Ghent (on the left) and those of the County of Flanders (on the right). Each bears a crest above the shield of a winged lion's head affronty; the crest on the arms of Ghent has the lion's head crowned, and the arms of Flanders are surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

You have to love heraldry! If you were, by some chance or quirk of fate, to be rendered unconscious and flown from wherever you live, to awaken in the square in front of this building, you could have no doubt about exactly where you were. Those two coats of arms would tell you, every bit as much as a sign at the edge of town, "Welcome to Ghent, Flanders"!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Ghent: The Full Achievement of Arms

Having looked at some of the many instances of the arms of the city of Ghent to be found in the town, we now come to a couple of buildings on which is displayed the full achievement of arms; that is, arms, motto, and supporters. You know, artistic frou-frou extraneous to the shield.

Anyway, the first example is found on the front of the City Hall:

Here we see the arms of the City of Ghent (Sable a lion rampant argent crowned and collared with a cross depending from the collar or), being supported by a lady dressed in red and ermine and a lion argent crowned or, the two supporting a banner of the arms, all within a park (a circular space enclosed with pales and having a gate in front, per Parker's A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry). Below the achievement is a scroll with the motto Trouw en liefde (Loyalty and love).

And, in addition to Loyalty and Love, I might add Trust. Because it would take a lot of trust to permit a real lion to basically sit on your lap and put your arm about its neck, all while within an enclosure that would not be simple to escape from quickly should the lion decide for some reason that maybe you looked like lunch. Just saying.

On another building nearby, there was a carved stone version of this achievement of arms:

Here we are missing the banner and motto, and there is no gate to the park, which here is made of woven laths rather than pales, and the lion supporter looks like he might rip a leg off (you can click on the image above to see a larger, more detailed photo to get the full effect), but the arms (Sable a lion rampant argent crowned and collared with a cross depending from the collar or) are still clearly those of the City, and the effect of the whole, especially with the mantle behind the figures and the city wall above, is both dynamic and yet somehow still at the same time.

In the end, two more nice examples of the display of the City's heraldry!