Day of the Establishment of the Slovak Republic

Blazon: Gules a cross patriarchal paté argent surmounted by a triple mount in base azure

Twenty-seven years ago marked the establishment of the modern Slovak Republic, which makes today the :checks notes: Day of the Establishment of the Slovak Republic, so let’s take at their arms! If you think they look awfully similar to the arms of Hungary moderne (on the sinister), you are absolutely correct! The cross patriarchal was a symbol of Stephen I, King of Hungary; his territory included both present-day Hungary and present-day Slovakia. His reign began around 1000, so it’s been in use for a while. The Árpáds, the ruling dynasty of Hungary, continued to use the cross patriarchal on and off for the rest of their tenure (sometimes alternating with Hungary ancien, which was barry of eight gules and argent). By the time the Habsburgs took control of the area in 1526, the cross patriarchal was pretty firmly associated with both territories.

The triple mount was first used around the turn of the fourteenth century by Wenceslaus III, who still ruled both Hungary and Slovakia. It was green (like the Hungarian arms) for a very long time, but in 1848, the Slovak National Council changed it to blue to fit with the pan-Slavic color scheme. This created the Slovakian coat of arms as it exists today. (Yes, it does violate the law of tincture, but the patriotic energy of 1848 really didn’t have time for such antiquated nuances – and yes, I did fudge the blazon a bit so the violation is less obvious.)

There were a few interruptions in the use of these arms since 1848, the first of which occurred upon the establishment of the Slovak Soviet Republic in 1919, which used a molet of five points gules. In 1920, Slovakia was incorporated into Czechoslovakia and no longer used its own arms.

When the First Slovak Republic was established in 1939, they went back to the prior arms, but they were banned starting in 1960 as a symbol of fascism. They were replaced by a Soviet heraldic design that holds the dubious distinction of being possibly the least hideous example of the genre. After the Velvet Revolution and the dissolution of Czechoslovakia three years later, though, the old cross patriarchal and triple mount returned.

Arms of Hailfingen, Germany


Probably in use since at least 1987

Blazon: Per pale gules a fess argent and of the last a cross patriarchal throughout, arms in bend sinister of the first

These arms are not to be confused with the house of Hailfingen, who bore pily of three in fess argent and gules (sometimes gules and argent), though it’s certainly possible they were the source of the tinctures. I’m tempted to attribute the cross patriarchal to the heavily Catholic population of the region, but I doubt that’s actually true; the cross patriarchal was much more strongly affiliated with Orthodox Christianity.

St. Stephen’s Day

Today is the feast day of St. Stephen of Hungary, the very first King of Hungary, canonized in 1083. (In addition to Hungary, he is also the patron saint of kings, masons, bricklayers, and severely ill children.) In honor of him and the nation he founded, I figured we’d take a look at their arms.


The nation of Hungary bears per pale barry of gules and argent and of the first, a cross patriarchal paté of the second issuant from a crown upon three mounts in base all proper. I appreciate that it’s a union of old and new(er) arms, and the repeated gules and argent help give the arms a visual unity. 

The dexter arms, barry of eight gules and argent, were used by the Árpáds dating back to 1202. Supposedly, the four white stripes represent the four major rivers – the Danube, Tisza, Dráva, and Száva, which is just boring enough to be plausible. The explanation could just as easily be a post hoc rationalization, though. Depending on the particular ruler and who was drawing the arms, sometimes the red stripes were charged with lions of various positions (passant, respectant, etc.). There are also a few depictions that add linden leaves, such as the Golden Bull of 1222 displaying the seal of Andrew II.

The use of the patriarchal cross is only slightly younger than the bars; Béla IV used it on a royal seal around 1235. However, the mount doesn’t show up for another 35 years or so until the reign of Stephen V. The patriarchal cross was in fairly consistent use until the Catholic House of Anjou came to power in 1308. They impaled the arms of Hungary ancien with the azure semé de lis or of France. With the exception of Louis the Great, the patriarchal cross didn’t reappear in the royal arms until Władysław III in the 1440s. After that, Hungary ancien and Hungary moderne were both in fairly common use in various royal arms (please don’t make me talk about the Habsburgs, please don’t make me talk about the Habsburgs, you thought Liechtenstein was bad, have you seen some of the Habsburg arms?). The combination was popular enough that it was also used by republican governments, and it was reestablished as official in 1990. (From 1957 to 1990, the arms were tierced per fess gules, argent, and vert, which just seems like a cheap knockoff of Italy to me.)

Interestingly, what’s going on around the base of the cross in any particular version can tell you a lot about what was going on with the political situation of Hungary at the time. Louis the Great seems to have been the first to add the crown to the patriarchal cross, and it stuck around until the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. At that point, the crown was removed from the arms as a symbolic rejection of the monarchy, and replaced with a laurel wreath instead. Similarly, the First Hungarian Republic used the ancient-and-moderne combo, but without any crown at all. The crown didn’t really come back until the current version of the arms, and it sounds like it was a minor point of contention, but they obviously ended up going with the crown.

Arms of Fuenllana, Spain


Granted 1987

Blazon: Per pale argent a cross of Santiago gules and azure a castle triple-towered or on a mount in base proper, surmounted in base by a basin argent of water barry wavy of the field and the last; pointé in base or a galero vert, in the fess point an alms bag, in base a croizer and a patriarchal cross in saltire sable

The archbishop’s regalia in base is presumably a reference to St. Thomas of Villanova, who was born in Fuenllana in 1488, and later canonized in 1658.

Arms of Stephen Bocskai


Prince of Transylvania 1605-1606 (1557-1606)

Blazon: Per pale, 1 per fess gules a cross patriarchal pate issuant from a crown upon three mounts in base all proper (Hungary moderne) and barry of eight gules and argent (Hungary ancien); 2 Per fess azure a demi-eagle issuant from the partition sable, armed or, langued gules, in chief a sun of the third and of the last seven towers 4 and 3 gules, in chief a crescent increscent argent (Transylvania); overall in the fess point an escutcheon azure, on a base vert a lion sejant erect or, holding in the dexter paw a bone argent (Bocskai)