Ah, the Coat of Arms. You’ve all seen them before. They’re those iconic shields hung over the entrance of grand castles, or carefully embroidered on the sleeves of a knight’s armor. The imagery depicted on these coats of arms holds a deeper meaning than just being a fancy decoration. Each element of the Coat of Arms is designed to communicate something about the person, family, or institution it represents.
The Coat of Arms represents the essential qualities of the entity in question. The central image typically represents a dominant family feature such as a house, animal or figure of significance, all carefully chosen to reflect the qualities of the individual, family or organization like loyalty, courage, and strength. The shield’s colors are also important, often indicating varying levels of prestige, purity or peace. Heraldic symbols or charges were also added to achieve great symbolism like the oak tree denoting strength, the scaling ladder representing the ascent and descent of fortune, the hand upholding a heart signifying sincerity, and a bird symbolizing nobleness, just to name a few.
So the next time you lay your eyes on a Coat of Arms, just remember: it’s more than just an embellished shield worthy of admiration. It’s an emblem to communicate the essential characteristics of the person or institution it belongs to. A symbol that speaks volumes of the values, beliefs, and principles they hold dear by showcasing them in a world where words can be fleeting and often misunderstood.
Historical origins of coat of arms
The use of heraldry, which is the practice of designing and using coats of arms, has been documented as far back as ancient Egypt. However, the modern concept of a coat of arms originated in medieval Europe, particularly in the 12th century. Coats of arms were used by knights to distinguish themselves in battle, as well as to assert their social status and lineage. These symbols were painted on shields, banners, and other personal belongings, and were used as a way to identify soldiers on the battlefield.
As the use of coats of arms became more widespread, it evolved into a complex system of symbols and designs that represented everything from family heritage to individual accomplishments. The colors, shapes, and emblems used in a coat of arms were carefully chosen to convey specific meanings and values. For instance, the color red was often associated with courage and strength, while the fleur-de-lis was a common symbol of royalty and nobility.
Key elements of a coat of arms
- Shield: The shield is the central element of a coat of arms, and is typically divided into sections that represent different aspects of the owner’s life or lineage.
- Crest: The crest sits atop the shield, and usually consists of a decorative element such as a crown or helmet, along with symbols that represent the owner’s values or accomplishments.
- Motto: The motto is a short phrase or slogan that accompanies the coat of arms, and is often in Latin or another language. It can reflect the owner’s personal philosophy or beliefs.
Coat of arms today
While the use of coats of arms has declined in modern times, they still hold cultural and historical significance in many countries and families. Many organizations and institutions continue to use coats of arms as a way to identify themselves, such as universities and sports teams. Additionally, some families continue to display their coat of arms as a symbol of their heritage and lineage.
Sample coat of arms and their meanings
|Lion||Strength and courage|
|Eagle||Nobility and leadership|
|Chessboard||Intelligence and strategy|
|Fleur-de-lis||Royalty and nobility|
|Olive branch||Peace and harmony|
As you can see, the symbols and designs used in a coat of arms can carry deep meaning and significance. Understanding the history and origins of this practice can help to deepen our appreciation for the beauty and complexity of heraldry.
When it comes to studying coat of arms, it is essential to understand the language and terminology used in heraldry. The following are some of the most common terms you need to know.
- Blazon: A written description of a coat of arms.
- Azure: The heraldic color blue.
- Gules: The heraldic color red.
The colors used in heraldry are significant as they can symbolize various virtues or characteristics. For instance, blue signifies loyalty and truth, whereas red represents courage and strength. Therefore, it is essential to understand these colors’ meanings when interpreting a coat of arms.
Another crucial heraldry terminology to keep in mind is the use of charges. Charges refer to the various symbols placed on the shield or crest of a coat of arms. These symbols can be animals, plants, or objects and can represent a wide range of meanings. Some of the common charges include:
- Lion: Symbolizes courage, strength, and royalty.
- Eagle: Signifies nobility, fierceness, and strength.
- Rose: Represents love and beauty.
It is important to note that the placement and orientation of charges also have meanings in heraldry. For example, a lion facing left signifies a past battle, while a lion facing right represents a future one.
Heraldry terminology also includes the various components of a coat of arms. The shield is the primary component and can be divided into sections, each with a different charge or color. A crest is also usually present and can include additional charges and a helmet.
|Shield||Main component of the coat of arms, divided into sections.|
|Crest||Addition above the shield, includes charges and a helmet.|
|Motto||A phrase or sentence that accompanies the coat of arms.|
In summary, understanding heraldry terminology is crucial when studying and interpreting a coat of arms. Without knowledge of the language used in heraldry, it is easy to miss crucial details and meanings behind a coat of arms.
Colors and their Meanings
Coat of arms is a unique symbol that tells tales of a family’s history and heritage. It is composed of different elements, and one of the significant parts is the colors used. Each color has its meaning and significance, and together with other design elements, they tell a story of a family’s achievements, social status, and other notable facts.
Colors used in a coat of arms are usually divided into two categories – metals and colors. Metals include gold and silver, while colors include red, blue, green, purple, and black. Each hue used has a unique meaning and symbolism.
The Meaning of Colors Used in Coat of Arms
- Red: It represents military strength, courage, and fortitude. It can also symbolize warrior or martyr.
- Blue: Signifies truth and loyalty, wisdom, and integrity. A light blue color often represents the sky and heaven and is associated with serenity and peace.
- Green: Denotes hope, joy, and loyalty in love. It is also associated with growth and fertility and represents the healing power of nature.
- Purple: Represents royalty, majesty, and sovereignty. It is often used to denote authority and power.
- Black: Signifies wisdom, knowledge, and stability. It is often associated with mystery, death, and grief.
The Combination of Colors
The combination of colors used in a coat of arms is also pivotal as it brings various meanings and symbolism. For instance, if red and blue are used together, this represents justice in power, while yellow and green mean growth and hope in difficult times.
It is also important to note that the placement of colors is significant. If metals are placed next to colors, they can symbolize a family’s willingness to protect their wealth and status.
Coat of Arms and the Use of Tinctures
The use of tinctures or colors in coat of arms is guided by specific rules and laws. In European countries, there are specific laws that govern the usage of colors, and families must adhere to them. For instance, it is against the rule to place metals on metal or color on color.
Overall, colors used in a coat of arms carry significant meaning and symbolism. It is essential to choose colors that accurately depict a family’s history, heritage, and achievements.
Animals depicted on coat of arms
In medieval times, animals were often used to represent a family or a specific ruler on a coat of arms. Each animal depicted had its own symbolic meaning and was carefully chosen to represent the family’s values and traits. Below are some of the most commonly used animals and their meanings:
- Lion – Strength, courage, and nobility
- Eagle – Power, freedom, and courage
- Bear – Strength, protection, and bravery
- Unicorn – Purity, grace, and virtue
- Stag – Strength, purity, and independence
- Dragon – Power, wisdom, and ferocity
- Wolf – Loyalty, guardianship, and bravery
- Falcon – Swiftness and agility
These animals were often depicted in a certain position or posture that would also carry meaning. For example, a lion facing toward the right side of the shield symbolized the past, while facing the left side represented the future. A lion rampant (standing upright) represented courage and strength. A lion passant (walking) represented dignity and grace.
|Lion||Strength, courage, and nobility|
|Eagle||Power, freedom, and courage|
|Bear||Strength, protection, and bravery|
|Unicorn||Purity, grace, and virtue|
|Stag||Strength, purity, and independence|
|Dragon||Power, wisdom, and ferocity|
|Wolf||Loyalty, guardianship, and bravery|
|Falcon||Swiftness and agility|
It’s interesting to note that these same animals and meanings have been used throughout history and across different cultures in various forms of symbolism, such as art, literature, and mythology. They continue to be relevant and meaningful today.
Symbols and Their Meanings
A coat of arms is a symbol of identity and heritage. It consists of a shield, crest, helmet, and other elements such as supporters and mottos. Each element of the coat of arms represents something specific and meaningful. Here are some common symbols found on a coat of arms and their meanings:
The Meaning of the Number 5
The number 5 is a significant number on a coat of arms and represents several different meanings. Here are some of the most common meanings:
- The five wounds of Christ – the nail holes in his hands and feet and the wound from the spear in his side
- The five senses – touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing
- The five noble virtues – generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry, and piety
- The five fingers on a hand – representing the power and ability to accomplish things
The number 5 is also a common choice for the number of charges (symbols) on the shield of a coat of arms. These charges are often arranged in a specific pattern, such as a cross or a saltire (diagonal cross).
|Example Coat of Arms||Meaning of the Symbols|
|Azure, five mullets of six points, or||Azure is the heraldic color blue, which represents loyalty and truth. The mullets (stars) symbolize a person of high spirit, nobility, and achievement.|
In summary, the number 5 is a powerful symbol on a coat of arms that can represent spiritual, physical, and personal attributes. Its inclusion often indicates a family’s desire to convey strength, achievement, and loyalty.
National symbols on coat of arms
A coat of arms is a symbolic representation of an individual, family, organization, or nation. It typically comprises various images, colors, and other elements that convey a specific message or meaning. National symbols on coat of arms are often used to depict the unique culture, history, and values of a particular country. Here are some of the most common national symbols found on coat of arms:
- The eagle: Often found on coat of arms globally, the eagle is a symbol of power, strength, and clarity of vision.
- The lion: Representing courage, leadership, and ferocity, the lion is also a common national symbol on coat of arms.
- The oak tree: Standing for strength, longevity, and steadfastness, the oak tree is another popular national symbol.
Besides these, other images and symbols commonly used include helmets, crowns, swords, and flags. Each of these items is intended to represent something different and unique about the country that is touting them on the coat of arms.
It’s worth noting that many of these symbols have become entrenched in their respective countries and have come to symbolize national pride and identity. Often, they are used on everything from official documents, logos, and other materials that signify affiliation with that nation.
Below is a table showing some examples of national symbols on coat of arms and what they represent:
|The eagle||Power, strength, vision|
|The lion||Courage, leadership, ferocity|
|The oak tree||Strength, longevity, steadfastness|
|The flag||Identity, patriotism, loyalty|
|The sword||Justice, valor, authority|
|The crown||Royalty, sovereignty, power|
Overall, national symbols on coat of arms are a crucial part of a country’s identity, representing its values, traditions, and people. They reflect a sense of pride in one’s country and serve to instill a sense of belonging and attachment in its citizens.
Crest vs. Coat of Arms
Coat of arms and crests are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. While both are symbols that represent a family, organization, or individual, they have different meanings and functions.
- A coat of arms is a full heraldic achievement that includes not only the graphic symbol but also other elements such as a helmet, mantling, and supporters. It is a combination of different symbols that represent various aspects of the bearer’s identity, such as their ancestry, status, profession, or achievements.
- A crest, on the other hand, is a component of a coat of arms. It is the graphic symbol that sits on top of the helm (a helmet) and represents the top part of the achievement. The crest can be a natural or artificial object, such as an animal, a plant, a weapon, or a decorative item.
For example, the coat of arms of the United Kingdom features a shield with different elements such as a lion and a unicorn. On top of the shield, there is a helmet with a crown and a mantling. On top of the helmet, there is a crest with a lion. The shield represents the country’s different kingdoms, while the lion crest represents England.
While a coat of arms is usually associated with a family or an individual who has been granted the privilege of using it, a crest can be used by anyone to identify themselves or their organization.
In conclusion, the main difference between a coat of arms and a crest is that the former is a full heraldic achievement that combines different symbols and elements, while the latter is just a graphic symbol that sits on top of the helm. Both are important symbols that represent identity and heritage.
Evolution of Coat of Arms
Coat of arms have been around since medieval times, and they were originally worn by knights in battle to help identify who was who on the battlefield. As time went on, the coats of arms became more elaborate and detailed, incorporating various symbols and designs that were specific to the person or family that they represented.
The Number 8
The number 8 has played a significant role in coat of arms symbolism throughout history. It is often associated with abundance, prosperity, and good fortune, which made it a popular choice for many families when designing their coats of arms. Here are some examples of how the number 8 has been incorporated into coat of arms designs:
- Eight-pointed stars: These stars were often used as a symbol of good fortune. They were sometimes referred to as “stars of redemption” and were believed to bring protection and guidance to the wearer.
- Eight-sided shields: The eight-sided shield was a common design element in coat of arms. It was believed to represent balance and harmony, and it was also associated with the idea of infinity or eternity.
- Eight animals: Animals were a popular theme in coat of arms designs, and the number eight was sometimes used to represent a group of eight animals. For example, a coat of arms might feature eight lions or eight eagles, which were powerful and noble animals that were often associated with royalty or leadership.
|Coat of Arms||Description|
|This coat of arms features an eight-pointed star in the center of a shield. The star is surrounded by an intricate design of vines and leaves, which symbolize growth and prosperity.|
|This coat of arms features a shield with eight sides, which is surrounded by a wreath of laurel leaves. The laurel leaves are a symbol of victory and achievement.|
|This coat of arms features a group of eight lions arranged in a circular pattern. The lions are fierce and powerful animals that represent strength and courage.|
The use of the number 8 in coat of arms designs shows how important symbolism was to the people who created them. Each element was carefully chosen to represent a specific idea or value that was important to the family or individual that the coat of arms represented.
Religious Symbols on Coat of Arms
Coat of arms, or heraldry, has been used for centuries to represent families, organizations, and even countries. As such, they are full of symbolic meaning that often includes religious elements. Below we will explore the significance of religious symbols on coat of arms, specifically the number 9.
- Number 9 Symbolism
- Symbols with Number 9:
Number 9 is a powerful and mystical number in many cultures and religions. In Christianity, it represents the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) multiplied by the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity). Additionally, there are nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). Therefore, having nine represents the embodiment of the divine and spiritual perfection.
One example of a coat of arms that prominently features the number 9 is that of Don Diego de Haro, the Lord of Biscay. The coat of arms displays nine ermine tails on a red field, symbolizing the virtue of charity. Another example is the French House of Orléans, which displays nine gold fleurs-de-lis on a blue field, symbolizing the nine original provinces of France.
Other religious symbols that can be found on coat of arms include crosses, doves, angels, lions, stars, and many others. Often, the placement of these symbols has great significance. For example, if a dove is holding an olive branch, it represents peace and reconciliation, while an angel holding a sword symbolizes divine retribution. The color of the symbol can also have meaning, such as red being associated with martyrdom and sacrifice.
Overall, religious symbols on coat of arms can add depth and meaning to what is already a powerful and complex symbol. Through the use of religious imagery, a coat of arms can represent not only the individual or organization it stands for, but also their faith and values.
|Cross||Represents faith, often used to symbolize Christian faith specifically|
|Dove||Symbolizes peace and reconciliation|
|Angel||Symbolizes divine protection or assistance, often associated with the presence of God|
|Lion||Symbolizes courage, strength, and justice|
|Star||Can represent hope, guidance, or divinity|
Overall, the inclusion of religious symbols on coat of arms adds to their rich history and meaning. Whether it is the use of the number 9 to symbolize the divine, or the placement of angels and doves to represent divine protection and peace, the use of religious imagery can make a coat of arms all the more powerful and memorable.
Famous Coat of Arms Throughout History
Coat of Arms were initially created to identify individuals in battle and tournaments during the Middle Ages. However, they quickly became a way of displaying power, heritage, and influence. The symbols used on a coat of arms can range from animals, plants, to mythical creatures. Here are some famous coat of arms throughout history:
- The Coat of Arms of King Henry VII – The Tudor Rose represents the union of the House of Lancaster and the House of York after the Wars of the Roses in England
- The Coat of Arms of the Medicis – The six balls symbolize moneylending which the Medicis were known for. The crest includes a shield with fleur-de-lis, representing their rule in France
- The Coat of Arms of the Habsburgs – The two-headed eagle represents their power and rule over the Holy Roman Empire. The eagle is also holding a sword and scepter, representing authority
Apart from these famous coat of arms, there are many more that have been used throughout history to represent individuals, families, and nations. Some even incorporate specific numbers that hold a deep meaning to the owner.
One such example is the Coat of Arms of the royal family of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. The number 10 appears multiple times, including the two lions supporting the shield, which each hold ten red apples in their paws, and their crowns, which have ten points. The number 10 represents the Ten Commandments and also symbolizes perfection and completeness. The use of this number on their coat of arms shows their deep commitment to their faith and their pursuit of perfection.
|Coat of Arms||Symbolism|
|House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies||The number 10, lions, apples, crowns|
|House of Hohenzollern||The Prussian eagle, the Iron Cross, the Order of the Black Eagle, the Order of the Red Eagle|
|House of Savoy||The white cross on a red field representing the Crusaders, the royal arms of France, five golden coins representing the ancient Savoy region, a blue chief with a white eagle symbolizing the empire of Austria|
Overall, coat of arms have evolved from their original purpose of identifying individuals in battle to representing power, heritage, and faith. The symbols and numbers used hold deep meanings and allow us to learn about history and the values of those who used them.
FAQs about What Does Coat of Arms Symbolize
1. What exactly is a coat of arms?
A coat of arms is a unique symbol or design used to represent a specific person, family, organization, or country.
2. What do the different elements on a coat of arms represent?
The different elements on a coat of arms, such as the shield, crest, motto, and supporters, each have their own specific meanings and symbolize different aspects of the family or entity they represent.
3. Why were coats of arms created in the first place?
Coats of arms were originally created in medieval times as a way to distinguish between knights during battle. Over time, they evolved into a way to represent families and organizations.
4. Can anyone create their own coat of arms?
Technically, yes, anyone can create their own coat of arms. However, certain rules and guidelines need to be followed to ensure that the design is unique and appropriate.
5. Are there any famous coats of arms that I might recognize?
Yes, there are many famous coats of arms, such as the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, the coat of arms of the Vatican City, and the coat of arms of the United States of America.
6. Do coats of arms still have any practical use today?
While coats of arms are no longer used in battle, they are still used today as a way to distinguish between families and organizations. They can also be used in ceremonies or as part of official documents.
7. Can the symbols on a coat of arms vary based on location?
Yes, the symbols used on a coat of arms can vary based on the region or country that it represents. For example, certain animals or colors may be more commonly used in one area than in another.
Closing: Thanks for Exploring the World of Coat of Arms
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about what coat of arms symbolize. Whether you’re interested in history, genealogy, or just enjoy learning new things, understanding the meaning behind these powerful symbols is an enriching experience. If you’d like to learn more, be sure to check out some of our other articles on the topic. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you again soon!