Monday, August 31, 2020

More Civic Arms

Are you getting tired of all of these armorial stained glass windows yet? Never fear, we are nearing the end, and can then move on to other heraldry (e.g., some of the painted arms on the walls and fixtures of the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp). But for now ...

Here we have two windows, neither of which has a lot of heraldry in it, but the four coats of arms that do appear there are civic coats. Three of them we have seen already, two of them many times in our heraldic tour of Antwerp, because they are the arms of the city.

For our first one, we see:

Right there in the center, between the two coats which consist of merchant marks, is the coat of arms of the City of Antwerp.

And in our next window, we find:

Here, in the center we have the arms of the Duchy of Brabant, flanked on the left by the arms of the City of Antwerp, and on the right by arms we have not yet seen in Antwerp, those of Brugge (Bruges), Belgium.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

I Know, I Know! I'm an Awful Person

Or at least, I've been informed that I am, because apparently I ruin some people's fun by telling them that something that they've done could have been better and more historically accurate without any more time and energy than they invested in doing it inaccurately. 

The people whose parade I am going to rain on today are a group of nine volunteers who back in 2014 in their village of Walkern, East Hertfordshire, England (population 1,541. Salute! as they used to say on the old American TV show Hee Haw), decided to create a tabard* to commemorate the village's link to Magna Carta in the person of William de Lanvalei. A worthy project, right?

But did they place the coat of arms of William de Lanvalei on the tabard? No, they did not.

The design of the tabard was "taken from elements on the newly designed Walkern flag." So, not especially historical, then, and no obvious connection to the Magna Carta.

I note also that instead of repeating the main coat of arms from the front (and back) of the tabard onto the sleeves, they opted for a half-circle sleeve of blue bordered with red on the right sleeve and red bordered with blue on the left. Generally, tabards display the arms on the front, back, and both sleeves, something like this:

Or this:

Or even this:

Now, don't get me wrong. This tabard is a beautiful piece of work, and they put a lot of detail work into it. (Their post about the creation of the tabard, with plenty of photographs of its progress and those details, can be found on-line at

But wouldn't it have been better to have taken all of that time, money, and energy and created something that more clearly does what they said they wanted it to do? That is, to "commemorate the village's link to Magna Carta." I mean, it's not like we don't know what William de Lanvalei's coat of arms looked like:

William de Lanvalei III (d. 1217) was lord of Walkern, governor of Colchester Castle, and a Magna Carta surety, in addition to being related to several of the Magna Carta barons.

I mean, sure, ermine isn't a lot of fun to embroider. (Just ask my wife, who has done it before!) But wouldn't William's arms - Ermine two bars vert - on the front, back, and both sleeves of this tabard be a more historically accurate, as well as more historically meaningful, commemoration of "the village's link to Magna Carta"? Instead of putting all of that time, money and energy into a non-historical tabard "taken from elements on the newly designed [and thus, very modern] Walkern flag"?

But don't mind me. Apparently, I'm an awful person just trying to ruin people's fun by suggesting more historically accurate ways to do what they are trying to do.

* Tabard: A coarse sleeveless (or with short sleeves) garment worn as the outer dress as a surcoat over armor or by heralds acting on behalf of the person whose arms were emblazoned on the tabard.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Well, This Is Frustrating

This next window is a bit frustrating, in part because there is no inscription giving the name(s) of the donor(s), and in part because, as one site noted, "[t]he way their respective blazons were filled in ... is the result of misinterpretations."

The central figures in this window are Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. The window was restored by Jean-Baptist Capronnier in 1863. The central figures are flanked by the two donors, Cornelius and Agnes, whose given names are recognizable by their patron saints, who stand behind them. 

You might think that the presence of the coats of arms of the donors would make them easy to identify. But this is where the second part of the first paragraph above comes into play: "[t]he way their respective blazons were filled in ... is the result of misinterpretations." In other words, what you see may not be what was originally there, but the arms have been modified in unknown ways from what may have originally placed there. (This is a not uncommon phenomenon, where a painter or glazier comes in decades or even centuries later and misunderstands the often faded tinctures of the original, and miscolors the shield and/or charges on it.)

I found nothing in Rietstap's Armorial Général for the husband’s arms. The closest I could find in the Wapenboek van de Belgische Adel (a wonderful, and very colorful, and very thick - 887 pages! - ordinary of Belgian arms, which I refer to often when researching heraldry in the Low Countries) is that of de Wilmars: Gules a bend counter-compony argent and azure between two roses argent. So, a different color for the field, and a different color for half of the squares on the bend.

Rietstap gives 37 examples of Gules three crescents argent, several of whom might be Flemish. The Wapenboek van de Belgische Adel does not have this coat, but does have several instances of de Bailli: Azure three crescents or. Here, we have a different color of the field, and a different color of the crescents on it.

So, I don't know whose coats of arms these are, and neither, apparently, do any of the on-line sources I have used to help me better understand all of these stained glass windows in the Cathedral. If the donors wanted to remain anonymous, despite having placed their heraldry into the window, they have succeeded.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Two Saints, a Martyr, and Six Coats of Arms

Well, technically, two martyrs, only one of whom is a saint. So, two saints, two martyrs, in three individuals.

The three men, whose images are surmounted by the coats of arms of their respective orders, are, l-r:

St. John Berchmans, SJ (Dutch: Jan Berchmans), died 12 August 1621 in Rome, at the age of 22; 

Luis Flores, preacher, native of Antwerp, martyr of Japan, killed 19 August 1622; and

St. Francis of Roye, one of the Martyrs of Gorkum, a group of 19 Dutch Catholic clerics, secular & religious, who were hanged on 9 July 1572 in the town of Brielle (or Den Briel) by militant Dutch Calvinists.

This detail showing the arms of their orders are, l-r: the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), the Dominicans, and the Franciscans.

Below the figures of the three men we find six civic coats of arms:

There are two rows of three cities each:

In the top row, we find (l-r): Diest, Antwerp, and Brussels, all in Belgium (I assume these are their respective birthplaces). In the bottom row we have (also l-r): Rome, Italy, another city I haven't yet identified (but which is probably to represent the city in Japan where he was killed), and Gorkum, The Netherlands, where they died.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Guilds and More Guilds

The next window we're going to look at in our heraldic tour of the Cathedral of Our Lady is sometimes called "The Historic Window of the City of Antwerp." It is more properly called "Our Lady at the Stake" and was donated in 1878 by a prominent family that wished to remain anonymous. The legendary Our Lady at the stake can be recognized by the tree trunk (‘stake’) that bears the medieval statue of Mary.

At the peak of the window in the tracery we find: the Margraviate of Antwerp and the Dean of the Cathedral; below them we see the Margraviate of Antwerp and the Diocese of Antwerp; and below them a number of others, both civic and religious. 

Finally, framing the central scene are the arms, two by two, of a number of guilds, brotherhoods, and crafts, including, Capittel van O.L.V. (Onze-lieve-vrouwe = Our Lady), the Smiths, the Shipwrights, the Bakers, the Candlemakers, the Sawyers, the Barbers, the Coopers, and many more.

See how many you can recognize! (As always, you can click on an image above to see a larger, more detailed view, where you can also double-check to see if you guesses were correct!)

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Founding of a Guild

The next armorial stained glass window in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium that we're going to look at memorializes the founding of the Guild of Our Lady’s Praise in 1478.

This 1881 window was donated by a member of the Venerable Chapel, Petrus Heesmans, and his wife Eugenia Ceulemans, who, according to the caption, had a great devotion for Our Lady of Lourdes. The central panel of the window shows, in Saint-Joseph’s Chapel in the cathedral, the founders of the guild are blessed by a priest.

In the tracery at the top of the window, flanking the image of Our Lady of Lourdes, we find the arms of Lourdes, France (to the left) (blazoned in French as De gueules à trois tours d'or, maçonnées et ajourées de sable, celle du milieu plus élevée et sommée d'une aigle essorante contournée d'argent, tenant dans son bec une truite du même; à la champagne cousue d'azur chargée d'une chaîne de six montagnes d'or, posées sur une rivière d'azur, ondée d'argent mouvant de la pointe), and the City of Antwerp (to the right).

The central tableau framed by arms of noble families that used to be connected with the guild, with their names in scrolls underneath each shield.

Left column, top to bottom:                   Right column, top to bottom:

Jacob van Savoyen                                 Peter van Hennin
Philip van Brabant                                  van Rochefort
Jan van Bloys                                         Jan van Dinter
Walraven Draeck                                    Jan Colgensone, Jr.
Jan Colgensone                                      Adriaen van Delft
[not legible]                                           Jan Tiegelere
Jacob Mannaert                                      A. van Maugelaer

As always, you can click on one of the images here to go to a larger version to see more detail. And there is a lot of detail in this window to see!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Well, I Certainly Erred on That One!

At least the first time, anyway.

I guess that will teach me to take a cursory glance at a coat of arms and immediately decide I know what it is, without taking a closer look to be certain that I truly am seeing what is there. Here's the background:

A friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook of a portion of a project that he's working on; specifically, black and white drawings of seven coats of arms. One of the coats was this one:

One of the first comments on the post was: "How is that tressure in the middle picture blazoned?"

I glanced at the photo (which was actually smaller on-screen than the image above, and thus slightly less distinct), and quickly wrote a reply: "It's a 'double tressure flory counter-flory', seen in a number of Scots arms, most especially the King of Scotland."

The poster responded, "I thought so but I was thrown off by the alternating flowers."

And I went, "alternating flowers? What alternating flowers?", and took a closer look at the image.

Imagine my surprise! Roses, and thistles, and fleurs, oh, my!

So I went searching through my Scottish and British armorials for “Hamilton-Gordon” (since the arms were labeled "John Hamilton-Gordon", and came up empty.

Then I had the bright idea to check one of my copies of Burke’s Peerage under the title, “Aberdeen and Tem…”, which turned out to be “Aberdeen and Temair,” where I found it! And, of course, an actual blazon for the tressure.

So I responded, a little more humbly and a lot less condescendingly, "You are correct; I had not looked closely enough to notice the thistles and roses alternating with the fleurs-de-lis. Checking my Burke's Peerage under 'Aberdeen and Temair,' the tressure is blazoned: 'a double tressure flowered counterflowered interchangeably with thistles, roses and fleur-de-lys."

(That said, I would have blazoned it as "thistles, roses and fleurs-de-lys" as being the "proper" plural of fleur-de-lys. But that in no way makes up for my earlier misidentification.)

So there you have it! I messed up, by not really looking at the picture to see what was there.

But as J.P. Brook-Little put it so well in his Introduction to An Heraldic Alphabet:

You can study heraldry until you are azure in the face but inevitably discover, from time to time, that you are really quite vert. I have found this over and over again and I have been a herald for forty years, but never despair, herein lies the fun and if heraldry ceases to be fun -- chuck it.

Monday, August 10, 2020

I Tried. I Really Did.

Honestly. But, alas, I only have so many hours in a day, and only so long that I can spend trying to identify coats of arms in a single window in a single cathedral in Europe. A place which is filled with many cathedrals, many of which have armorial stained glass windows, most of which have more - and sometimes far more - than one coat of arms in them.

Am I happy about this situation? No, I am not. I much prefer to be able to identify each and every shield in a window. (Because I have an emotional need to, that's why!) But pressing deadlines and other projects needing my attention mean that sometimes I just have to admit that I don't have the time to do that. So for today's entry in the heraldry to be found in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium, I will have to be satisfied with those arms which I have been able to identify. (Some, of course, were easy, like the arms of Antwerp, which we have seen a number of times in recent posts here. Others, not so much.) Anyway, to continue:

The next armorial stained glass window we're going to look at has as its central theme The Last Supper. It was installed in the cathedral shortly after the 1566 Iconoclast Fury. It may be either a reconstruction or a re-interpretation of the original stained-glass window installed in 1503, and contains additions to the early Renaissance architectural background and the arms in the tracery added during a major restoration in 1870.

The commissioner of the window was Engelbert II of Nassau (1451-1504), the son of Jan IV of Nassau and his wife Maria of Loon-Heinsberg. He is portrayed, on his knees, wearing a tabard of his arms, in the lower front right, adding himself as a fourteenth figure to those of Christ and the Twelve Apostles.

The central scene is framed by the sixteen quarters of his coat of arms. In the original tracery were his personal blazon and his motto Se sera moy nassau. Now they are surrounded by the coats of arms of the counties and domains that he owned, with viscountcy of Antwerp, at the top.

From the top, and then moving down and going from left to right, we have the arms of (where I am uncertain of the attribution of a coat of arms, I have marked it with a question mark [?]):

Antwerp: The version we have seen several times before, with the hands in chief being displayed on banners issuing from the castle, and not placed directly on the field above it. 
Nassau: Azure billety a lion rampant or.
Vianden: Gules a fess argent. (Identical to Austria, but not Austria.)

?: Gules a fess argent overall an escarbuncle or.
Breda: Gules three saltires argent. (Englebert II is buried in the Grote Kerk in Breda.)
Diest: Argent two fesses sable.
?: Argent three chevrons azure.

Nassau and Vianden: Quarterly, 1 and 4, Azure billety a lion rampant or (Nassau); 2 and 3, Gules a fess argent (Vianden).

As mentioned above, framing the central scene on the left and right are the arms of Engelbert II's domains. (If you want to see better, more detailed images of any of the parts of this window, click on the image that you want above.) From the top center, they are:

Framing arms (left): 

Nassau (again)
Mark: Or a fess checky gules and argent.
Vianden (again)
Cleves?: Gules an inescutcheon argent overall an escarbuncle or.
Lek (Krimpen aan de Lek): Argent three crescents sable.
?: Gules crusilly argent two fish haurient addorsed or.
?: Or three (horseshoes inverted?) gules.
?: Argent a lion rampant gules.

Framing arms (right):
?: Quarterly: 1 and 4, Per pale barry or and gules, and Gules crusilly argent two fish haurient addorsed or; 2 and 3, Gules a lion rampant argent; overall an inescutcheon Sable a lion rampant or.
?: Or a lion rampant sable. (Is the field an error for Nispen: Argent a lion rampant sable crowned gules?)
?: Or in bend two lions rampant sable (or, Quarterly or and or?). 
England?: Gules three lions passant guardant in pale or.
?: Or a lion rampant azure.
?: Or a chief gules.
Roosendaal?: Argent a rose(?) gules(?).
?: Quarterly: 1 and 4, Or a chief gules; 2 and 3, Azure a wheel argent.

So, there you have it. A wonderfully armorial window, and a great way to show off your domains!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Heraldry: A Doorway into History

The next armorial stained glass window we're going to look at in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp is a lavish commemoration of a significant event in the city's history which was also a part of historical events on an even grander scale.

In this window, the central panel commemorates Alexander Farnese presenting the keys of the city to Our Lady.  On 27 August 1585, after he had reconquered Antwerp, Governor General Alexander Farnese, duke of Parma, went to the cathedral to assist at the sung Te Deum, as was the custom then when a new sovereign or governor took office. He also explicitly honored Mary "for the victory that she was to be thanked for," an important symbolic gesture, which showed that from then on Antwerp would adhere to Catholicism again. Pious tradition has wanted to give even more impact to this move by representing it as the presentation of the city keys.

The prelate wearing a miter, who represents the approval of the Church, can only be the abbot of Saint Michael’s Abbey, since the Antwerp bishop’s seat was vacant at that moment.

At the top of the window there are four coats of arms:

The one at the peak is, of course, the arms of the Margraviate of Antwerp, which we have seen a number of times before.

Directly below the arms of the Margraviate are those of Pope Sixtus VI (1585-1590) (Felice Peretti): Azure a lion rampant argent holding in its dexter forepaw a palm branch or overall on a bend gules mullet of eight points and a trimount couped argent.

To the right of the Pope's arms are those of the Diocese of Antwerp and Chapter of the Cathedral of Our Lady, which we have also seen a number of times already.

And to the left, topped by the coronet of a duke, and a collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, are the arms of Alexander Farnese (1545-1592), Duke of Parma. Sometimes blazoned as tierced in pale, a more concise way of blazoning these arms might be: Quarterly, 1 and 4, Or six fleurs-de-lis azure (Farnese); 2 and 3, Gules a fess argent (Louvain) impaling Bendy or and azure (Burgundy ancient), on a pale gules the Papal umbraculum surmounted by two keys in saltire wards to chief and outwards argent.

Framing the central panel are sixteen coats of arms: those on the left military (the top three have their arms encircled with the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece); and those on the right mostly ecclesiastical. (The bottom two have no ecclesiastical insignia, as the others on that side do.) The surname of the bearer of each coat of arms is written on a scroll beneath each shield. (You may click on the images here to see a larger, and more easily readable, version of each.)

But what of the "historical events on an even grander scale" does this window relate to? As it turns out, we are referring to the international events surrounding the sailing of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the proposed invasion of England. The plan was that the Duke of Parma's troops would cross the channel in barges, protected by the Armada. The Armada reached the area, but poor communication between Parma and the Armada's commander, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia, made effective coordination difficult. Parma's troops were also threatened by the presence of Dutch forces in flyboats, who hoped to destroy the barges and drown Parma's army at sea. The English attack on the Armada in the Battle of Gravelines, followed by an unfavorable change in wind-direction, made link-up impossible. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Heraldry in the News!

Some of you may have seen this article already (I've seen it linked on at least two places on the internet that I frequent), but in case you haven't:

There's a very nice little article by Harry Wallop posted a few days ago entitled "What would be in your coat of arms? A heraldic designer reveals how the family emblems are created" includes portions of an interview with Adam Tuck, Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of Arms at the College of Arms in London. I particularly liked one quote: 

The main thing I say to people is that it needs to be elegant and simple. A lot of people have this idea that a coat of arms is a shield divided into four, like a cross, and you have a different theme in each corner like the Hogwarts crest. But that is not how English heraldry works.
And I would add, "That's not how pretty much any heraldry works."

Anyway, it's a fun little article to read, with some good points to remember and quite a bit of accurate information in it. Not to mention the two illustrations of heraldry: one of the College of Arms' herald painters drawing up Kate Middleton's coat of arms, and this little gem from the stern of the Royal barge Gloriana:

So please, head on over to the website of INews and spend a few minutes perusing an article about heraldry. You can find it on their webpage at: