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!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Many Uses of the Arms of the City of Ghent

Not surprisingly, as you wander about the old city of Ghent, Belgium, you can see it's coat of arms used so frequently that you believe it must be everywhere. It isn't, not really, but it does feel a bit like that.

The arms of the city are Sable a lion rampant argent crowned or, sometimes shown with a gold collar around its neck from which hangs a cross, also gold.

And here are some wonderful examples of how the city uses it heraldry.

On traffic-controlling pylons:

And, of course, on street signs:

In different places on the Belfort, one of the three medieval towers that overlook the city:

On some of the shutters on the Belfort:

Marking a spot in a pedestrian walkway:

Or commemorating "Governance of Benevolence" in 1908. The Latin motto translates to "Faith and Love".

Carved on the façade of a building:

And as a free-standing flag supported by a crowned lion as on the shield:

So there you have it! A selection of the arms of the city of Ghent, in different media, with uses from the purely decorative to the practical, large and small.

How cool is all that?

Monday, November 9, 2020

Is It Heraldry? Or Is It a Political Statement?

Moving past the heraldry, and non-heraldry, on the façade of the Institut Laurent, we found ourselves being led down an alleyway which was covered with all kinds of graffitied artwork. It is named Werregarenstratt, but everyone just calls it Grafittistraatje. The city has designated this walkable alley as a space where graffiti paining is not only allowed, but encouraged! It is very colorful, and some of the artwork shows a lot of skill and imagination.

Nonetheless, one of the pieces that caught my eye was not very large, but because it was "on" a shield, it attracted my attention. (See my post of November 2, 2020 for a more complete description of how this works on me.)

See? Shield, surmounted by a coronet. Instantly attractive to all but the most jaded heraldist. But what's happening on, and even more off, the shield?

The critter on the shield looks more like a ram statant to me than it does an heraldic bonacon,* but what's the deal with the, umm, "ejecta" flying off the shield to sinister?

Is it heraldry? Or is it a political statement, one that I, as a foreigner there, don't quite catch?

In some ways, it really doesn't matter. It is a statement, artistic or political or whatever, that uses heraldic imagery to make it's point. Thus demonstrating that heraldry, in one form or another, is still alive and kicking here in the 21st Century.

* As we learn in Monsters Of Heraldry by Donald R. Barnes: "The BONACON has a body and head like a bull, but with a horse's mane. It curled horns are useless for attacking, so (as it retreats) it releases the contents of its large intestine, and this fiery excretion covers 3 acres (that's 1.2 hectares if you want it in metric) and burns to a crisp anything or anyone in that area." Not something you'd want to stand behind, then.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Heraldry and Not-Heraldry in Ghent

As we walked away from the Friday Market Square towards our next destination in Ghent, Belgium, we passed by the building of the Institut Laurent, housing the Basisschool François Laurentinstitut elementary school at 10 Ondeerstraat.

The front of the school has a large coat of arms flanked by the name of the institute.

Here's a better "face on" view of the name and coat of arms on the facade.

The coat of arms is, of course, the arms of the city of Ghent (Sable a lion rampant argent crowned or) surmounted with an embattled or "mural" coronet.

There are also a number of decorative figures of children sitting at desks with open books and cartouches with symbols of some of what they are learning at the Institute.

Here we have two children, one writing and one reading, with putti on each end holding up scrolls with the words Orde (Order) and Tucht (Discipline) on them.

The somewhat Baroque cartouches, though not truly heraldry, display some of the subjects taught at the Institute which the students are learning:

Reading and writing, symbolized by the book and quill pen, with laurel branches encircling the central motif,

and Geography, symbolized by the globe, with palm leaves:

All in all, an interesting display of carved heraldry and non-heraldry.

Monday, November 2, 2020


Whenever I'm walking the streets of a new town - like, for instance, Ghent, Belgium - I feel like my head is on a swivel. I mean, I can usually be seen walking along, camera in hand, looking this way and that for potential heraldry.

Unless, of course, I find a coat of arms, and then I'm pretty much focused on it until I've taken a good look and sufficient photographs, and then I start "swivel-necking" again until, like my little 15 pound terrier, I see another "Squirrel!"

In this specific instance, we were still congregated in the Friday Market Square (Vrijdagmarkt) in Ghent, and I had finished walking completely around the statue of Jacob van Artevelde and taking plenty of pictures (more than I have shared with you in the previous three posts), when I spotted a coat of arms on the side of a truck that was parked and peeking out from behind a van at the edge of the square.


The arms are, of course, and as it is written on the side of the truck, those of John I of Brabant (also called John the Victorious) (1252/53 – 3 May 1294), Duke of Brabant (1267–1294), and Duke of Lothier and Limburg (1288–1294).

His arms as painted here are blazoned: Quarterly: 1 and 4, Argent a lion rampant gules (Limburg); 2 and 3, Sable a lion rampant or (Brabant). More often, you will see his arms with the quarters reversed from the order here, with Brabant in the first and fourth quarters (upper left and lower right), and Limburg in the second and third (upper right and lower left). That said, the Codex Manesse or Great Heidelberg Book of Songs, Cod. Pal. germ. 848, 18r (, shows his arms as here on the truck. So who am I to say that one is "correct" and the other is "incorrect"?