Arms of Villarta de San Juan, Spain

Villarta de San Juan

Granted 1969

Blazon: Gules a city or, church and houses windowed of the field, in chief a Maltese cross argent

These aren’t the most elaborate or exciting arms I’ve seen, but there’s something very satisfying about them. They are, as you might have guessed, canting arms – a city, or villa, and a Maltese cross, the symbol of the order of St. John, or San Juan. The town’s name also encapsulates both its history and structure: the land where the town currently lies was granted to the Order in 1173, and a church was later built on the ruins of one of their fortifications. The fortification apparently enclosed enough of the town for it to become known as villa harta, or a tightly walled city. There’s no need to be fancy about it – you can just call the town what it is, and then represent that on its arms.

Arms of Donnerskirchen, Austria


In use since at least 2006

Blazon: Azure on a mount in base proper a church argent roofed with an onion dome gules

Following the long tradition of municipal arms showing (relatively) well-known local buildings, the church depicted here is presumably the distinctive parish church of St. Martin’s, which was completed in 1680. These are also canting arms (“kirch” meaning “church”). I can’t find any record of these arms being used before 2006, but the town was incorporated in 1659, so I would assume they’re significantly older.

Arms of San Carlos del Valle, Spain

San Carlos del Valle
Granted 1995

Blazon: Per pale azure a representation of the local church of Christ of the Valley argent and of the last a cross of Santiago gules, pointé in base or a bunch of grapes slipped and leaved vert

The characteristic church featured on the arms was built in the sixteenth century on the site of the former hermitage of St. Helena, where (according to legend) Christ appeared in the form of a strange traveler.

Arms of Breitenfurt bei Wien, Austria

Breitenfurt bei Wien

Granted 1954?

Blazon: Azure on a mount in base proper, in dexter a ruin argent, in sinister a church or, domed gules; in chief a throwing axe of the field bendwise

The ruins depicted on the arms are those of an imperial hunting lodge in the region that burned down during the Turkish siege in 1683.The building on the sinister may be intended to represent the parish church.

Okay, these arms bug the crap out of me. Not only are they way, way too representational for my taste, there’s the fucking blue-on-blue throwing axe just hanging out in the sky like a massive, lurking symbol of doom. I’m sorry, but you don’t get to paint a huge weapon in the empty space on a postcard picture and call it armory. I’m not even going to touch the offensively ornate not-bordure hanging out around the actual “arms” or the stupid-ass river thingy in the foreground. Just no. Stop. Rethink your choices.

Arms of Kirchberg an der Jagst, Germany

Kirchberg an der Jagst

Granted 1953

Blazon: Argent a lion rampant sable holding in its paws a church gules

There are some visual similarities between the church in the arms and the city tower (built in 1384), but it is more likely that the choice of a church derives from the name of the town (“Kirsch” being German for church).

Kudos to Kirchberg for leaning into the canting arms connection rather than giving in to the temptation to depict any one of the numerous castles that existed nearby. Most of them are destroyed now, so we wouldn’t have known anyway, and I can always appreciate a good set of canting arms. (I really wish I could figure out where the lion comes from, though.)