Arms of Piedmont, Italy

Piedmont

Adopted 1995

Blazon: Gules a cross argent, a label of three points azure

This is actually pretty straightforward, as Italian arms go. Gules a cross argent are the arms of the house of Savoy; in 1424, Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy granted his oldest living son (also named Amadeus, because of course) the title Prince of Piedmont. And, as the eldest son, Amadeus bore the arms of his father with the traditional label for difference. There have been slightly different configurations of the arms over the years (mostly adding, removing, and changing the tincture of bordures), but the cross and label have remained consistent.

Arms of Jettenburg, Germany

Jettenburg

Probably in use since 1987

Blazon: Azure two staves topped with bunches of oak leaves palewise in fess argent

I wish I could have found something about these arms, because the charges are fascinating. I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like them before. There is apparently a very impressive oak forest in the region, but I can’t tell whether that has anything to do with these unique charges, since they are specifically not trees. It apparently shared the name “Jettenburg” with a nearby bridge and/or corduroy road until 1558.

Arms of Robert de Mortimer

Mortimer

From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Gules two bars vair

First off, this is Robert de Mortimer, not Roger de Mortimer. You may know of the latter, the first Earl of March, for his stint in the Tower of London and his overthrowing of King Edward II in the Despenser War, or potentially his own subsequent overthrow by Edward III, or his execution at Tyburn. Roger de Mortimer and his line are the Mortimers of Wigmore Castle in Herefordshire; the Roberts de Mortimer are also of a Castle in Herefordshire, although theirs is Richard’s Castle, and the two families do not appear to be related.

I’m afraid Robert is not quite as exciting as Roger. There are three Roberts – great-grandfather, grandfather, and grandson. Either the first or the second served in the Third Crusade. However, due to the dates, I think the third Robert de Mortimer is the one referenced here. He served several times in Wales, and might (emphasis on the might) have been involved in the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales at Builth Wells in 1282. He also married Joyce de la Zouche, and acquired several manors in Northamptonshire.

Arms of Deux-Sèvres, France

ALT

In use since at least 2008

Blazon: Gules two bars wavy argent between five towers in saltire or

I’m somewhat skeptical of the official status of these arms, but they’re pretty widely cited. I assume (possibly incorrectly) that the two bars represent the two rivers referred to in the department’s name – the Sèvre Nantaise and the Sèvre Niortaise. You know, two Sèvres. Also, this particular depiction is not great – the two towers in base are not supposed to be cut off by the edge of the shield. I suspect the creator just didn’t resize the tower charge appropriately.

Romanian Great Union Day

Today marks the day that the Romanian Kingdom incorporated the territories of Bessarabia, Bukovina, Transylvania, Banat, Crișana and Maramureș with the Kingdom of Romania in 1918. Technically, Bessarabia and Bukovina had been incorporated earlier that year, but December 1st brought the most new territory to the crown. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that many of those territories are represented in the arms – and there are a lot of them, so let’s get started!

Romania

Blazon: Azure an eagle displayed with wings inverted, in its beak a passion cross patonce at foot or, armed gules, in the dexter talon a sword and in the sinister a sceptre argent, crowned with the Steel Crown proper, overall an escutcheon per quarterly I azure an eagle displayed with wings inverted, in its beak a passion cross patonce at foot or armed gules between in chief a sun in splendor and a crescent increscent of the second (Wallachia); II gules an auroch’s head caboshed between in base a cinquefoil and a crescent decrescent argent, in chief between the horns a molet of five points or (Moldova); III gules issuant from water in base azure a bridge of two arches embattled, thereon a demi-lion rampant or brandishing a sabre proper (Oltenia and Banat); IV per bar gules azure and or, issuant therefrom an eagle displayed argent between in chief a sun in splendor or and a crescent decrescent of the fourth, in base seven towers gules (Transylvania); pointé in base azure two dolphins urinant respectant or

Okay. Obviously, there is a lot going on here, but the major motif (repeated twice) is the eagle or. The eagle charge is, unsurprisingly, derived from the Romans and also featured in the regional arms of Wallachia, although there it was sable (and thus somewhat closer to the Holy Roman Empire’s eagle). Wallachia’s eagle also has the cross in its beak – and exactly what that cross is is a whole separate conversation. I’ve gone off the depiction in the larger eagle, but it also shows up as a simple passion cross, a cross paté, etc. It’s described in some places as an “Orthodox cross,” but that phrasing doesn’t have any real heraldic meaning, and should not be confused with the double-barred cross patriarchal of the Russian Orthodox church. The eagle, cross, sun, and moon have been consistent Wallachian symbology since at least the Middle Ages. As one of the two principalities in the United Principalities that later became Romania in 1866, I suppose it’s only fair that Wallachia get double representation, though I suspect the Roman associations are really why it’s the larger background charge.

In the next quarter of the smaller escutcheon are the arms of Moldova (or, formerly, Moldavia), which have also remained pretty much exactly the same since it was a voivodeship. It looks like a bull’s head, and I was perfectly ready to blazon it as a bull’s head, but all the sources I found were very insistent about calling it an aurochs instead. The aurochs and the star have their own little legend, which holds that Dragoș, the first voivode of Moldavia, chased a bull marked with a star from his native Maramureș all the way to a river, where he killed it with the help of his hunting dog, Molda. Molda’s accomplishment resulted in both the river and later the principality receiving her name.

Banat and Oltenia appear to come as a unit, and certainly their symbols are very similar; Banat just used a lion, while Oltenia’s lion bore a sabre and appeared over Trajan’s Bridge. I guess it makes sense to combine those two, and I really like Oltenia’s arms, but I do feel a bit bad for Banat. I also just want to mention Dobruja, briefly, before we get into Transylvania; I don’t think there’s any deeper meaning behind the dolphins besides “this part’s next to the sea.”

Okay, Transylvania! Which I have covered on this blog before, but not in detail. They were granted in 1765 by the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa. The towers, sun, and moon are all pretty straightforward; the towers represent the ethnic Saxons, and the sun and moon, ancient grave symbols, represent the Székelys. The eagle is less clear; there are a number of very, very old coats, seals, and symbols that are connected to Transylvania and feature an eagle, but it’s unclear whether these were truly heraldic. It could be a version of the Polish eagle, or it could be intended to represent the Hungarian ethnic group.

The Romanian quarters were first established in 1866, though some were swapped out for others as their territorial dominion changed. In 1948, the Soviet Union did in fact grant Romania its own emblem, and it was so terrible that the symbol of resistance to communism was the USSR Romanian flag with the emblem literally cut out. (Yes, I know there are probably many more reasons that “empty flag” was adopted besides the visual nails-on-a-chalkboard of Soviet heraldry, but I like to think that was part of it.) The overall arms were adopted in almost their present form after the fall of communism in 1992, and the steel crown was added in 2016.

St. Andrew’s Cross

Today is the feast day of St. Andrew, or Andrew the Apostle. Christianity holds that Andrew was one of the first two apostles called to accompany Jesus Christ, along with his brother Peter. There’s a lot going on with St. Andrew – from his origin as a fisherman, to his later adventures in Eastern Europe, including the idea that he founded the See of Byzantium, which would eventually evolve into the primary patriarchate of the Eastern Orthodox Church – but, as is pretty common with saints, I want to focus on his death. That’s where things start getting heraldically significant.

The various early accounts of Andrew’s martyrdom all pretty much agree that he was crucified at the Greek city of Patras in roughly 62 CE. As with all hagiographies, there’s not a lot of proof that any of this actually happened, or happened in this particular way, but in this case, it’s the story that’s important. Actual details of the crucifixion are sketchy, but the Acts of Andrew has him bound to a cross, the better to extend his suffering. 

However, starting in the 10th century, some depictions of St. Andrew’s martyrdom showed him crucified on a crux decussata (“cross shaped like ten,” i.e. X) or saltire. I can’t find a good or substantiated reason for the shift, but the detail of the saltire became much more popular during the Middle Ages and was solidified into Christian mythology by the 17th century. Some claim that Andrew asked to be crucified in this way because he was not worthy to die in the same way as Jesus Christ, but that particular explanation is also strongly associated with the Cross of St. Peter starting in 200 AD. Maybe it just ran in the family.

The association between St. Andrew and the saltire was well-known enough for the Parliament of Scotland to refer to “St. Andrew’s cross” in 1385. Occasionally, heraldic references from the Middle Ages will use the two terms synonymously to refer to, say, a St. Andrew’s cross gules. The most common, though, and what “St. Andrew’s cross” typically refers to today, is azure a saltire argent. The legend there is that in 832, Óengus II of Scotland prayed for help in battle against the Saxons. When he concluded his prayers and looked up, he saw the white clouds forming a saltire against the blue sky. Taking this as a sign, he pledged to make Andrew the patron saint of Scotland if he won, which he did. (You’ll probably notice the slight anachronism, but, well, legends.)

The white saltire for Scotland has been in use since at least the prior mention of 1385, and the argent-and-azure combination seems to have been well established by 1542. (A 13th-century seal of the Guardians of Scotland depicts Andrew’s off-kilter crucifixion.) Its use has been consistent ever since, including its incorporation into the Union Flag by order of James VI/I in 1606. 

The saltire also shows up in another national coat of arms due to its connection to St. Andrew – that of Barbados. The crest is “an arm of a Barbadian palewise, in its fist two stalks of sugarcane in saltire proper,” and the saltire is a deliberate reference to both the nation’s patron saint and its achievement of independence 53 years ago today.

Arms of Dürnstein, Austria

Durnstein

Granted 1476

Blazon: Azure on a mountainside proper a town argent roofed gules

I thought for sure this was some twentieth-century bullshit, but nope, seems like it’s fifteenth-century bullshit. It’s just very… uncreative. How should we visually represent our town? Just draw it, I guess. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed with this one. Presumably the building in the upper right-hand corner is the castle that gave the town its name at some point before the late 12th century. This was the castle where Richard I of England was imprisoned by Duke Leopold V of Austria after they fell out during the Third Crusade. The imprisonment led to Leopold’s excommunication, and Richard was moved to Trifels Castle, which makes this a very interesting and historical spot that deserves a better coat of arms, dammit!