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.