Czech Statehood Day


I had a few options for national days of the Czech Republic. As you can see, I ended up going with Czech Statehood Day, which commemorates the feast day of St. Wenceslaus, also known as Wenceslaus I or Good King Wenceslaus, who is the patron saint of the Czech Republic. (Sounds a little nicer than, “on this day, over a thousand years ago, the king got stabbed by his brother with a lance.”) Like many countries made up of numerous historical regions, the Czech coat of arms features three individual coats: Bohemia in the first and fourth quarters, Moravia in the second, and Silesia in the third. The full blazon is as follows: Per quarterly, I and IV, gules a lion rampant double-queued argent, armed, langued, and crowned or (Bohemia); II azure an eagle displayed chequy argent and gules, armed and crowned or (Moravia); III or an eagle displayed sable armed and langued gules, crowned of the field, charged with a cross couped issuant from a crescent argent (Lower Silesia). 


The first properly Czech state was the Duchy of Bohemia, which became part of the Great Moravian Empire around 830. Bohemia was established as a kingdom around 1198 by Ottokar I, and by 1300, the double-queued lion with the crown was firmly established as the arms of Bohemia. There’s a legend that in the 12th century, Emperor Frederick granted Vladislaus II the arms of gules a lion rampant argent to symbolize his valor, and the second tail was added later, as recognition for the military assistance Ottokar I provided against the Saxons. It’s a nice story, but it’s exactly the kind of unfalsifiable nice story that a lot of arms have, which is to say that it has the ring of a post hoc justification to me. In any case, the first depiction of these arms was in Gozzoburg Castle, which was probably built in the early- to mid-thirteenth century.


Not that the lion isn’t cool and all, but I can’t not mention the arms of the Přemyslid dynasty. They ruled Bohemia, first as dukes, then as kings, and other assorted parts of Eastern Europe for a good four and a half centuries. St. Wenceslaus, was a member, and their arms were a full-on FLAMING EAGLE. Er, argent an eagle displayed sable armed or enflamed gules. I will confess that, while I understand the desire to represent all the areas of the Czech Republic in the national arms to honor their unique histories and legacies, if I were designing these, I would not be able to resist the temptation of the flaming eagle. It’s just really cool! There are also some great myths around its origin, including one where Břetislav I gets the right to light his father-in-law’s lands on fire for some reason.


Ahem. Anyway. Moving on. Moravia (second quarter) got its start as Greater Moravia in 833; in the 890s, it covered a significant amount of territory and became known as the Great Moravian Empire. It was then promptly overrun by Magyars in 907. After Emperor Otto I defeated the Magyars in 955, Moravia found a second life as part of the Bohemian crown, and reached the status of a margraviate in 1182. The eagle chequy shows up shortly afterwards in 1233, on the seal of the Margrave Přemysl, a younger son of Ottokar I. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to assume this eagle might have some relation to the Přemyslid eagle, but it’s not completely clear. However it got there, it stayed pretty much the same until the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Some depictions have the chequy as or and gules, but it doesn’t seem like the distinction has any particular meaning.


Lastly, in the final quarter, are the arms of Lower Silesia, which we’ve touched on before. In my opinion, it’s far more justifiable on the Czech arms than on those of Liechtenstein, given that the Czech Republic does actually include parts of Silesia (though most of it falls in Poland). Silesia came under control of the Greater Moravian Empire sometime in the 9th century. It later passed to Poland and Germany before becoming part of the Crown of Bohemia in 1434. The exact ownership of Silesia fluctuated along with the rest of the borders in Eastern Europe, but it is today split between Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. The Silesian arms date back to around 1335; they seem to have derived from the Duchy of Wroclaw. I’m not entirely sure where the eagle comes from, but honestly, there’s no shortage of eagles in this part of the world. Could be the Přemyslids; could be the Piasts; could be the Holy Roman Empire. In the absence of a direct blood tie (like there is with Moravia), it’s not clear.


Arms of Villamanrique, Spain


Granted ?

Blazon: Gules a cross of Santiago voided argent between two cauldrons chequy or and sable, each containing six serpents facing the exterior, in base a point dancetté vert, all within a bordure chequy of the first a castle triple-towered of the third windowed azure and of the second a lion rampant of the field crowned of the third

Whew, okay. Sadly, that blazon is probably going to be longer than anything I can write about it (if I cut out my frustration about the mystery of the snake cauldrons, which I will.) The city was actually named after a Manrique – specifically, Rodrigo Manrique, Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, which probably explains the cross of Santiago. He evidently split the town off from Torre de Juan Abad, and the citizens renamed it in gratitude.

Arms of Hamon Bonet

Hamon Bonet

From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Chequy gules and or a chief azure

The Bonets were a family of knights hailing from Sussex. In addition to Hamon, we also have records of a Sir Robert Bonet as owning Wappingthorn Manor in Steyning. The family continued to hold the manor until the mid-1360s, when it passed to the Wilcombe family, who had married into the Bonets. By 1399, the Wilcombes had lost possession of Wappingthorn to the Codingtons, though it was back with Alice Wilcombe and her husband John Leeds by 1427.

Arms of Wald, Germany


Granted 1971?

Blazon: Per pale sable a bend chequy argent and gules and argent a mascle gules in base a triple mount vert

The dexter half of the arms are those of the abbey of Salem, while the sinister half is based on the arms of Burkard von Weckenstein, with the tinctures changed to avoid placing the mounts on a field gules. It should also be noted that the von Weckenstein arms are canting; the German word for “mascle” is “Wecke.”

Arms of Dietmanns, Austria

In use since at least 1965

Blazon: Gules four palets argent and a chief of the last chequy of the field, overall issuant from a mount in base a pine tree proper surmounted by a baton in bend sinister, interwoven with the palets or

The town has been in existence since 1496, with official incorporation coming in 1783. The region’s lush pine forests may be the source for the tree in the arms.

Arms of Ostrach, Germany

Granted 1978

Blazon: Per fess argent a spearhead bendwise, point in chief gules and sable a bend chequy argent and gules

The spearhead derives from the arms of a local nobleman, Schwendi von Ostrach; one seal of his arms dates to 1309. The bend chequy comes from the arms of the abbey of Salem, who owned the town from the 13th through 19th centuries. The bend has its ultimate origins in the arms of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who founded the Cistercian order to which the abbey belongs.