Thursday, December 28, 2023

Have I Been Doing Heraldry Too Long?

It always makes me ask, whenever I see a coat of arms (or a heraldry-like logo) and can tell you right away whose coat of arms (or logo) it is: Have I been doing heraldry too long?

In this instance, I was driving around the west side of Dallas, Texas, when I ended up behind a vehicle that bore a coat of arms in the rear window. And even before I got close enough to make it out in detail (or to take the photograph below), and even though the arms are in monochrome here, I thought to myself, "That's the arms of FC Barcelona." And as you can see, I was correct!

So someone is a big Barcelona fan!

According to Wikipedia, "Futbol Club Barcelona, commonly referred to as Barcelona and colloquially known as Barça, is a professional football club based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, that competes in La Liga, the top flight of Spanish football."*

An here is their logo in full color:

Anyway, as fun as it always is to see heraldry out "in the wild", again, based on my immediate recognition of this coat of arms/logo as that of FC Barcelona, I have to ask: "Have I been doing heraldry too long?"

* When I say "football", I do not mean the North American game called "football", which given its rules and the ovoid shape of its "ball" really ought to be called something else, like "handegg". Just sayin'.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Some Arms on the Exterior of York Minster

Arriving at York Minster,* formally the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, one of the things that you notice is a frieze running across the façade consisting of a number of different shields.

Across the top picture, from left to right, I believe we have: St. Peter (crossed keys); a blank shield; St. Paul (two swords in saltire); St. Peter again (as the first Pope, with the crossed keys surmounted by a papal tiara); and St. Wilfrid (three suns, and whose arms we have seen before in my post of November 9 (, and which we will see again inside the Minster).

Across the bottom picture, from left to right, we have: an unidentifiable shield; St. Paul; St. Peter as Pope; St. Wilfrid; St. Peter as Pope (again); St. William of York (seven mascles conjoined three three and one); and two shields unidentifiable from being worn away. St. William was Archbishop of York not once, but twice: first from 1141 to 1147 and then again from 1153 to 1154.

And here are close-ups of some of these shields. (Of course, you an also click on the images above to see a larger, more detailed photo of the rows of shields.)

First, St. Peter:

and St. Paul:

and St. Wilfrid:

We will meet more reprresentations of these three attributed coats of arms inside the Minster as well.

* Why is it not called a "cathedral"? By definition a cathedral is the site of a bishop's throne (a cathedra) but the word "cathedral" did not come into use until after the Norman conquest. Hence, "minster", a large or important church, typically one of cathedral status in the north of England that was built as part of a monastery. And now you know.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

We-e-e-e-e're Off to See the Minster ...

The wonderful Minster of York.
We found it is an heraldic whiz
Just brimming with co-oats of arms.

I'm sorry about the title (and the first few lines of this post), but when I get a song in my head (in this case, from the movie The Wizard of Oz), and modify the lyrics, I sometimes can't get it to stop until I go ahead and sing it, or in this case, type it up to share with others. I apologize for inflicting you with this malady of mine.

Anyway, having finally now finished up our heraldic tour of the old City of York, we headed off to the cathedral, York Minster, which, as you can see (below), literally towers over the inner city.

As we came closer, we found a modern logo-style version of the modern arms of the See of York:

The arms of the See of York (ancient) are effectively the same as the arms of the See of Canterbury, Azure, an episcopal staff in pale or surmounted by a pall proper edged and fringed or charged with four crosses patty fitchy sable, though sometimes shown with a red field instead of the more common blue.

The modern arms of the See are Gules two keys in saltire wards to chief argent in chief a royal crown or, which came into use about 1520. (So not all that modern, being about 500 years old. It is always fun, as an American, to visit someplace where something 500 years old is called "modern" to differentiate it from something even older!)

As we get inside the Minster, we'll get to see depictions of both the ancient and modern arms of the See.

Then, as we came nearer the Minster, we found this "modern" heraldic wall and gate:

On the left of the gate, we have the attributed arms of St. Peter, Gules two keys in saltire wards upwards argent and or.

And on the right, we have the See of York (modern), Gules two keys in saltire wards to chief argent and in chief a royal crown or, impaling the pronomial arms of Arthur Purey Cust, Dean of the Cathedral 1880-1916, Ermine on a chevron sable three fountains proper, for difference in chief a martlet sable.

Feel free to click on either of the images above to open a larger photograph where you can see the arms in greater detail.

Again, a little later, inside the Minster, we will get to see another version of the arms of Dean Cust.

So we have all of those, and many more, to look forward to!

Monday, December 18, 2023


I just love it when two (or more) of my interests come together in a single package!

In this specific instance, it was the combination of secret agent "Bond. James Bond", and heraldry, into something comfortably wearable.

It was my running across an advertisement for The London Sock Exchange, which has created a line of 007 socks. Most of them were okay, but not all that interesting to me. Until ... they showed a set of two pairs of socks related to the book and movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service with (1) the arms of Sir Thomas Bond, Bt., and (2) the arms of de Bleuchamp to which 007's arch-enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld was trying to establish a claim.

And I have written about both of these coats of arms before on this blog: The Bond arms back in 2009 ( and again in 2015 (, and the de Bleuchamp arms in 2009 (

So, as a heraldry enthusiast, and a James Bond enthusiast (why, yes, I do own all of the Fleming 007 books and all of the movies -- even the "non-canonical" ones like the David Niven-Peter Sellers Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again -- on CD or Blu-Ray. Why do you ask?), well, you can see that I pretty much had to buy these socks as an early Christmas present to myself.

And they arrived from England just a few days ago, as you can see below, sitting atop the 007 tissue paper they came wrapped in.

Now all I have to do is wait for an appropriate time or event to wear them!

Merry Christmas to me!

Thursday, December 14, 2023

One Historic Site, Two Different Coats of Arms: Part Two

The other way to get to the Merchant Adventurers Hall in York is to go via the Gatehouse on Fossgate.

Not as old as the Merchant Adventurers Hall, the Gatehouse is mid-17th century in origin, with the doorcase and coat of arms over it added in 1854.

There are two different but similar coats of arms on the Gatehouse. The first, on the sign hanging in front of the Gatehouse, is once again the arms of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York. However, there is at least one subtle difference between this coat of arms and the one over the gate in front of the Hall which we saw in our last post.

Have you noticed it? The Pegasus on the arms on Piccadilly Street make the wings blue; here the wings are less obviously blue, and they are charged with a white rose.

Now here's a photo of the Gatehouse and the arms over the door:

These arms on the Gatehouse are those of The Company of Merchant Adventurers of London, a trading company founded in the City of London in the early 15th century. The company had members from York, Norwich, Exeter, Ipswich, Newcastle, Hull, and other places. The merchant adventurers of these towns were separate but affiliated bodies.

These arms, in a molded surround and painted high-relief carving are: Barry nebuly of six argent and azure, a chief quarterly gules and or on the first and fourth quarters a lion passant guardant or on the second and third two roses gules barbed and seeded proper. The crest is A pegasus rampant argent charged on the wings with two roses gules. The shield is supported on each side by A pegasus argent charged on the wings with two roses gules seeded or. Beneath, and serving as a compartment on which the supporters stand is the motto: Dieu nous donne bonne adventure (God give us good adventure).

And isn't that some very ornately carved mantling behind it all!

And there you have it! The historic Merchant Adventurers Hall, with two ways to approach it, and two different but similar coats of arms denoting the Merchant Adventurers of York and the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London with whom they were affiliated.

Monday, December 11, 2023

One Historic Site, Two Different Coats of Arms: Part One

There are two way by which to get to the historic Merchant Adventurers Hall in York.

Definition: A Merchant Adventurer was someone who risked or ‘adventured’ his or her own money in overseas trade in the hopes of bringing home goods and wealth. Indeed, it was just such a group of Merchant Adventurers, English investors, whose capital funded the Pilgrims' voyage to America on the Mayflower in 1620.

The first, of course, is just to walk down Piccadilly Street until you come to the Hall itself. (We will cover the other way in our next post.)

As you can see from this photograph, the Hall is hard to miss, even if you don't see the coat of arms to let you know that you have arrived.

The Merchant Adventurers Hall in York was built between 1357 and 1361, earlier than most of the craft or trade guild halls in Britain, and is one of the largest buildings of its kind and date in England. More information about the Hall, including some photos of its impressive interior, can be found on-line at

Naturally enough, there is a coat of arms over the main gate to the site.

This is the coat of arms of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York: Barry wavy of six argent and azure, on a chief per pale gules and azure a lion passant or between two roses argent seeded or. And for a crest: On waves of the sea barry wavy argent and azure a Pegasus rampant argent winged azure.

The symbolism of the arms is all pretty obvious: the waves of the sea, over which the ships they financed sailed; the chief red and blue from the Royal arms, with a lion of England (even though not passant guardant as are the lions in the Royal arms); and two white York roses. The crest, too, symbolizing the long distances the ships they financed had to travel over the seas.

Next time, the other way to get to the Merchant Adventurers Hall, and a different-but-similar coat of arms there.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Some Even Less Heraldic Heraldry-Adjacent Logos

Plus, the dreaded "empty cartouche"!

Following on our last post containing some "heraldry-adjacent" business logos, today we're going to visit some even less heraldic, but vaguely heraldry-adjacent" business signs.

First up is the roughly shield-shaped logo of The Star Inn:

The shield itself is shaped rather like a turret on a city wall, complete with embattlements on top. This makes some sense, really, since it's not that far from the old city walls of York.

And the design is really nearly blazonable in heraldic terms, discounting the angle and embattlement of the tope of the shield: Or a pale sable overall a mullet of six points argent, or perhaps, gyronny argent and sable.

Next, we have the "well, if you put it on a shield it might be heraldry" shop sign of the Mali Unisex Hair Salon on Colliergate in York:

Again, it's an arrangement that could be blazoned if it were placed on a shield: An open pair of scissors points downward surmounted in base by a straight razor chevronwise inverted [or, reversed] all proper.

In any event, it is a shop sign in the classic tradition, a visual means of advertising the services offered quickly and understandably, without the need for words or explanatory text. I mean, I knew what the shop offered just from the sign, without even knowing its name or having to look in the window to see.

And isn't that the underlying premise of all good heraldry?

And finally, we come to the frequently seen, but to a heraldry enthusiast, highly annoying, motif: the dreaded "empty cartouche".

This one is on the façade of the Grand Hotel, part of which we have looked at before because of its very colorful North Eastern Railway heraldry.

But higher up, we find this:

An empty cartouche. Complete with a carved frame and flanked by palm fronds.

A blank canvas, really, just waiting for someone to come along and put some heraldry into it.

It's a shame, really, but I've complained about such empty shields and cartouches here often enough in the past. And the temptation remains, to get a tall ladder and some paint and draw a coat of arms into the frame.

But, alas, my wife will not let me climb up on tall ladders anymore, and the civic authorities look upon such improvements as a form of "vandalism", so all I can do is stand and ground level and think about what might have been, or what could be with a little daring willingness.

So much potential for a wonderful display of heraldry, only to be let down by what is effectively a blank wall.