Arms of Ammerbuch, Germany

Ammerbuch

Granted 1971

Blazon: Or a beech tree eradicated vert, overall a fess wavy in base azure

This is fairly typical imagery for municipal arms – local features with a touch of canting. The beech tree (buche) stands for the Schönbuch, a forest and nature park in the area, while the fess represents the Ammer river. While this particular municipality doesn’t use any symbols from the previous villages that were incorporated into its present form (which is common for modern German municipal arms), there’s still a nod to its origins; the beech tree is drawn with six roots and branches, each of which symbolizes a former town.

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Arms of Ricard de Ore

de Ore

From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Argent three bars azure surmounted by a bend gules bezanté

The full name appears to be Richard de Grey; some sources assert he was “Lord of Ore,” but I’m not entirely sure where that is. It’s possible that “Ore” is a corruption of Codnor Castle, the ancient seat of the family. Richard’s son Henry was later recorded as the first Baron Grey of Codnor. At some point, Richard or his son dropped the bend recorded here, and the arms changed to barry of six argent and azure.

Arms of the French Republic

French Republic

In use since 1905; officially adopted 1953

Blazon: Azure a fasces between two branches of laurel and oak, all intertwined with a ribbon or bearing the motto “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” sable

Finally, the current symbol of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth French Republics. Technically, France didn’t officially have national arms after the end of the Second Empire in 1870. This design was formally adopted in 1953 as a response to a request from the United Nations, who wanted to display all the coats of arms of their member states. I’ve found different opinions as to whether or not this counts as a national coat of arms, but I figure if it’s good enough for the UN, it’s good enough for this blog. I’d also like to mention that the design itself dates back to at least 1905, and was intermittently used for formal state occasions, embassies, and consulates. My point here is that the use of the fasces as a national symbol happened well before Mussolini went and ruined it by making it a symbol of authoritarianism, repression, and violence.

Arms of Valdemanco del Esteras, Spain

Valdemanco del Esteras

Granted 1992

Blazon: Per pale argent a cross of Calatrava gules and vert two bars wavy of the first, in chief a beehive between two bees displayed and in base a sheep statant or

As you might expect from the charges, both agriculture and beekeeping are extremely important to the municipality, all the way back to its founding. The very first settlers were apparently beekeepers and ranchers, so while it might not be particularly exciting, I can’t really fault them for using those as charges. (At this point, I’m more surprised I can’t find anything that claims the bars wavy symbolize two rivers in the area, though I definitely wouldn’t rule it out.)

Arms of Doren, Austria

Doren

Granted 1970

Blazon: Argent two bendlets sinister wavy azure, in the sinister chief an antler bendwise sable

The two bends represent the Weissach and the Rotach, two local rivers. The antler is a symbol of the local forests and wildlife. The arms were designed in 1969 by artist Konrad Honold, who designed over 40 other Austrian municipal coats of arms.

St. James’ Day

Today is the feast of St. James the Greater, also known as Santiago de Compostela, patron saint of Spain. The Bible describes him as one of the first apostles to follow Jesus, and later as a martyr at the hands of Herod. His connection to Spain is… disputed, but tradition stretching back to the 12th century alleges that James went to Spain to preach the Gospel, and after his death, his body was transported back to Spain, where it was interred at Compostela. (Sources differ on whether some of his fellow disciples or a contingent of angels did the transporting.) There is, provably, a cathedral in Compostela with a shrine to the saint. This serves as the termination of the Way of St. James or the Camino de Santiago, a famous and far-reaching pilgrimage network that stretches across a large part of Europe.

Two of the most famous symbols of St. James are extremely common in heraldry. The first is the escallop, or scallop shell. Why, precisely, this is a symbol of St. James is unclear. It may have to do with his origins as a fisherman, but there are other legends about the saint rescuing a knight covered in scallops. In any case, the connection between Santiago and scallops is so well-established that “scallop” in French is coquille St. Jacques, “St. James’ shell,” and in German, it’s Jakobsmuschein, “James’ mussels.” Eventually, the scallop shell became closely associated with the Camino de Santiago, although a lot of that seems to come from pilgrims bringing home shells as souvenirs. However, it’s a very common symbol in architecture and heraldry in northern Spain and southern France where the paths of the Camino de Santiago start to converge. Supposedly, when the escallop is used as a charge in familial or personal arms, it signifies that the bearer or an ancestor went on pilgrimage to Compostela, but I’m highly skeptical of that claim.

Secondly, of course, is the cross of Santiago, the badge of the Order of Santiago. The precise origin of the shape is not especially clear; it might be a sword combined with a scallop shell, or with multiple fleurs-de-lis for honor and purity, or a cross with a sharpened base that could be stuck into the ground, as the Crusaders allegedly carried. Depending on who you listen to, the sword could also symbolize the military valor of the Order’s knights, or the martyrdom of St. James, since he was beheaded with a sword. (I’d personally advise taking all claims of heraldic symbolism pertaining to some intangible virtue and/or more than a couple centuries old with an extremely large grain of salt.) Anyway, the Order was originally founded to protect pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, but it soon expanded into fighting the Moors, which is how the cross of Santiago ends up on so many Spanish municipal arms.