Arms of Seebronn, Germany

Seebronn

Granted between 1900 and 1972

Blazon: Gules a fountain spouting water and crowned with a dolphin bowed embowed, head in base argent

In 1900, Seebronn was apparently using a rooster in their arms, but by the time 1972 rolled around and the town was incorporated into Rottenburg am Neckar, the fountain was clearly pretty well-established. Unsurprisingly, it does appear to be a representation of an actual fountain in the town center.

Arms of Lecce, Italy

Lecce

Granted 1933; in use since at least 1601, possibly since 1481

Blazon: Or four palets gules overall a dolphin embowed, head in base, bearing in the mouth a crescent argent

I love this, and not just because I have a deep affection for all heraldic dolphins. (Hysterically, the blazon specifies that it is an “irritated” or “pissed off” dolphin. There is, sadly, not an equivalent term in English blazon.) The palets are, of course, from Aragon; they get to Lecce by way of Sicily, Naples, and the figuratively and literally incestuous political climate of the Middle Ages. The dolphin bearing a crescent in its mouth is a fascinating and unique design that has both historical and mythological roots. The dolphin is a popular motif in the region due to its connection to the founding of the city of Taranto. It was, so the legend goes, founded by Taras, a son of Poseidon. His father sent a dolphin to show him where to build his city.  The crescent has been a popular symbol of Islam for centuries, and having it in the dolphin’s mouth supposedly symbolizes the Christian victory at the Battle of Otranto in 1480.

I also cannot resist linking these more entertaining depictions of Lecce’s arms from a couple of seventeenth-century texts. I don’t know how much credence I give to the author of the post’s theory that the monstrous appearance of these “dolphins” is somehow symbolic. I truly do think most heraldic artists just drew dolphins that way, whether out of a surplus of loyalty to tradition, or a lack of talent. Or both.

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.

Arms of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France

Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur

Granted 1999

Blazon: Per pale or four palets gules and per fess of the first a dolphin azure finned of the second and argent an eagle displayed and crowned of the last upon a triple mount sable surmounted by water in base barry wavy of the third and the fourth*

*Per the official blazon, it looks like the sea in the County of Nice’s arms is supposed to be barry wavy argent and azure, so that’s how I’ve blazoned it, despite this depiction not reflecting that.

The arms used for Provence are those of Aragon, which is understandable; many of the early counts of Provence were from the House of Aragon via Alfonso II, Count of Provence, the second son of Alfonso II of Aragon. (These arms are sometimes called Provence ancien, with Provence moderne being the arms of the dukes of Anjou, who evidently took over as counts of Provence in 1245. “Moderne” is relative.) The dolphin is a canting element from Dauphiné, which used to be an independent principality before Humbert II sold it to the French crown in 1349. Part of the deal was that the eldest son of the French king had to take on the unique title, which is why the heirs of France are called dauphins.

Finally, the eagle is the arms of the County of Nice. Supposedly, the tinctures are derived from the arms of the House of Savoy, and the crowned eagle spreading its wings over the mountains is a representation of the House of Savoy extending its dominance over Nice. (It’s a nice explanation, but I’m somewhat skeptical.)

It looks like both Île-de-France and Pays de la Loire don’t have official arms, so next week, we’ll return to Bourgogne-Franche-Comté to start looking through their departments.

Arms of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes

Granted 2017

Blazon: Per quarterly, I or a gonfanon gules fringed vert (Auvergne), II gules a cross argent (Savoy), III gules a lion rampant argent (Lyonnais), IV or a dolphin embowed azure finned gules (Dauphiné)

The gonfanon of Auvergne has been in use since at least the 12th century, as evidenced by several seals. There’s a story that it’s taken from the banner that Eustace III, Count of Boulogne (brother of Godfrey of Bouillon and Baldwin of Boulogne) took on the First Crusade, but it’s more likely derived from the banner of the abbey of Saint Géraud d’Aurillac.

This is (as the name implies) combined with the coats of arms featured in the former flag used by Rhône-Alpes. The Lyonnais coat of arms is derived from the arms of the city of Lyon, which is pretty obviously a canting charge; I’m skeptical of the claims that it’s derived from the arms of Marc Antony, allegedly a patron of the city – not least because the Romans didn’t have coats of arms in the same way that we think of them. By contrast, it seems like Dauphiné got its name from the arms, rather than the other way around; it was formerly ruled by the Counts of Albon, who have borne a dolphin since the 1100s. (The charge does seem to derive from a possible relative of the family named “Dolfin.”) And, of course, the Savoy arms have been that since the Crusades; they’re probably an inversion of the red cross that all crusaders wore as a symbol of their mission.

The designer of these arms says something here that I really like, which is that a coat of arms is “a way of anchoring an institution in history.” I think that’s a great way of thinking about heraldry in both the ancient and modern eras: as a way of understanding where a particular nation/region/family/organization stands in relation to the larger tide of history. What are its allegiances, its inheritances, its legacies? What has it chosen to keep, and what has it chosen to discard? What’s the story the arms convey? I hope to keep these questions in mind as I continue to research and practice this weird, wonderful little discipline.

It looks like Hauts-de-France hasn’t been officially granted arms yet, either, which wraps up the new administrative regions. Next week, I’ll start revisiting some old friends.

Arms of Beccles Town Council, England

Beccles

Granted 1956

Blazon: Azure a bend wavy between two pairs of arrows in saltire each pair enfiled by an ancient crown or

Crest: On a wreath of the colors in front of a clump of rushes proper issuant therefrom a demi-lion azure a dolphin argent

Supporters: On the dexter a dragon wings inverted and addorsed gules gorged with a mural crown and supporting a staff or flying a banner argent charged with a cross pommée of the first; on the sinister a like dragon of the second gorged with a mural crown of the first and supporting a staff of the second flying a banner of the first charged with two keys in saltire of the second

Motto: Prosperity through fidelity