Arms of Potenza, Italy

Potenza

In use since at least 2001; possibly since 1927

Blazon: Or a demi-eagle crowned proper issuant from three barrulets wavy in base azure

There is something absolutely hysterical about this eagle’s expression. It looks like it’s pointedly ignoring the fact that it either has no body or is stranded at sea. The one in this depiction is slightly more ruffled. We generally do not get this level of detail in heraldic charges, so this is delightful. Which is nice, because I couldn’t find much else about them. They do seem to be official arms, and that’s about it. I’d speculate they could have been granted in 1927, when Basilicata split into two provinces, instead of the one region it had always been; in 1948, when it was officially made an autonomous region; or possibly in 1970, which actually started implementing the 1948 law.

Arms of Matera, Italy

Matera

Granted 1958

Blazon: Per pale azure five Doric columns, base and entablature proper and argent an eagle displayed with wings inverted, crowned sable; a chief of the second

There is astonishingly little detail on these, especially for Italian arms. I would assume that the columns in the dexter half of the shield are intended to be a depiction of the spectacular Tavole Palatine, the ruins of an ancient temple to Hera. The architectural terminology was specified in the original blazon, so I’ve chosen to preserve it. The eagle seems likely to be a visual reference to the Romans, but that’s just speculation.

Arms of Cilmin Croed-Du

Croed-Du

From Encyclopedia of Heraldry by John Burke and John Bernard Burke (1844)

Arms of Cilmin Croed-Du

“Quarterly, first and fourth, ar. an eagle displ. with two heads sa.; second and third, ar. three fiery ragged streaks* gu.; over all, upon an escutcheon of pretence, ar. a man’s leg, couped a-la-cuise, sa.”

Once again, I can’t find any solid evidence that this was a real actual human being, and not a legendary figure, and the stories that feature both Cilmin and elves/wizards/giants don’t really contradict that. In fact, the escutcheon probably derives from one of those legends, where Cilmin stole a book of secret magic from some wizards. They gave chase, but could not hurt him unless he touched running water – which he did, of course. He skimmed the surface of a brook with his right foot, which immediately turned black. Based on what I could find, “troed-du” means “black foot” in Welsh. I might give the Burkes half credit on this for at least referencing a consistent legend. The arms themselves appear to be those of John Glynne, whose family did claim descent from Cilmin – although that doesn’t make it true.

*Could be thunderbolts; could be billets raguly; there’s really not enough detail here to be sure, but I’m not especially fond of how the Burkes worded this. It doesn’t sound like blazon to my ears.

Arms of Obernau, Germany

Obernau

In use since at least 2010; possibly since 1300

Blazon: Azure three eagle’s heads erased argent, armed or, langued gules

There is some kind of connection between these arms and the ones often attributed to the thirteenth-century poet and author Hartmann von Aue. It doesn’t seem like Hartmann had his own arms, but he’s often depicted in later manuscripts as bearing the same arms as shown here. My intuition says that the three eagle heads probably belonged to an unknown nobleman (von Aue?) who was involved both with the village of Obernau and also a patron of Hartmann, but I have absolutely nothing to back that up. It’s also possible that these are, in fact, Hartmann’s own arms, and the town adopted them as a nod to a favored son. However, there’s significantly less documentation than I’d expect in that case, so I’m not really sure what to make of these.

Serbian Statehood Day

Today, Serbian Statehood Day, marks 185 years since the adoption of the First Serbian Constitution (one of the first democratic constitutions in Europe) after the revolution against the Ottoman Empire. So you all know the drill – let’s take a look at their arms!

SErbia

Blazon: Gules a double-headed eagle displayed argent armed, in base two fleurs-de-lis or, overall an escutcheon of the field a cross between four firesteels addorsed of the second

While the eagle has its roots in Byzantine symbolism, it does not actually go back that far; it was probably adopted as a callback to the ancient might of Rome. It was probably first used in the late twelfth century by the Nemanjić dynasty, but it quickly became associated with the Serbian state, and several subsequent dynasties also used the double-headed eagle. It’s not clear that the specific tinctures were well-established or consistent until the 15th to 16th century. 

The cross and firesteels probably also have their roots in Byzantine iconography – specifically, the final Palaiologan dynasty. In that context, the firesteels were probably Betas, standing for the motto “King of kings, ruling over kings,” or Basileus Basileōn, Basileuōn Basileuontōn in Greek. The direct transmission of these symbols from Byzantium to Serbia is possible – the timelines just about line up – but I’m not very confident in that. It really came into established use in the mid-to-late fourteenth century, and has been pretty much ever since. (Even the Soviets didn’t break the streak!)

The arms were initially adopted in 1882, upon the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbia, and used with some minor modifications through 1945. From 1918 through 1941, as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), the inescutcheon incorporated the Croatian chequy argent and gules and azure three molets of six points in chevron or, in base a crescent argent to represent the Slovenes. The component pieces were discarded after the Axis powers split up the kingdom, and General Milan Nedić was installed as the head of a puppet government under Nazi Germany. 

After the end of World War II, the Socialist Republic of Serbia was established as part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This, too, continued the tradition of extremely ugly Soviet heraldry, although they get very partial credit for incorporating the firesteels. (Presumably the cross was removed due to the religious symbolism.) The Republic of Serbia was established in 1992, and finally went back to the former 1882 arms in 2004.

Arms of L’Aquila, Italy

ALT

Granted 1927

Blazon: Azure an eagle displayed wings inverted argent, armed, crowned, and perching on three mounts in base or, langued gules

These are extremely obvious canting arms – aquila is “eagle” in both Italian and Latin. Interestingly, though, the name did not start out as an homage to the iconic imperial eagle (though it certainly ended up there). The province is named after its capital city, but the city started out as a settlement named Acquilis or Acculi (no idea what those mean). It wasn’t a big jump, linguistically, to rename the whole thing to Aquila, and later L’Aquila.

Arms of Mössingen, Germany

Mössingen

Granted 1952

Blazon: Sable a bend sinister wavy between in chief three escutcheons argent, the first charged with as many antlers fesswise in pale of the field, the second per quarterly of the second and the first, and the third charged with an eagle displayed of the field, and in base a fountain of the second

I really like this one! It’s maybe a little heavy on the representative elements (not everything has to stand for something), but the triple shields in the dexter chief are a nice touch. They symbolize a local mountain, the Dreifürstenstein, which touches the borders of Württemberg , Hohenzollern, and Fürstenberg – i.e. the three territories whose arms are shown here. I think it’s a clever and visually succinct way to convey that. Aside from that, the bend sinister represents the Steinlach river, which flows through the town, and the fountain stands for the local sulfur springs.

Arms of Lot-et-Garonne, France

Lot-et-Garonne

Granted 2003

Blazon: Per quarterly I gules in the dexter an eagle rising, wings addorsed and inverted, bearing in the talons a banner argent with the motto “Agen” sable, in the sinister a castle triple-towered, each tower flying a pennon or (Agen); II gules four towers conjoined at the base in cross by a cross paté argent, on a chief azure three fleurs-de-lis or (Marmande); III azure a sun in splendor or (Nérac); IV azure over water in base a bridge of five arches supporting three towers argent (Villeneuve-sur-Lot)

The four quarters each correspond to an important city in the region. I’ll probably cover each city in more detail when the time comes, but for now, four brief overviews: I don’t have a good explanation for the quarter of Agen, but it seems the eagle and castle were used since the mid-thirteenth century, when the city was granted a fair amount of self-rule and privileges. Marmande is a fortified town originally built by Richard I of England; the towers represent the four gates of the city, and the chief of France was granted by Charles VI in 1414. I’m not sure why Nérac has a sun, but Villeneuve-sur-Lot has used the depiction of its local bridge since 1547.

Arms of Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

Trentino-Alto Adige

Granted 1972

Blazon: Argent per quarterly I and IV an eagle displayed sable armed or enflamed gules, II and III an eagle displayed gules armed or

The eagle in the first and third quarters is one we’ve touched on before – the flaming eagle of the Přemyslid dynasty. The eagle also became known as a symbol of St. Wenceslaus (since he was also a member of the dynasty). The Přemyslids died out in 1306, and in 1339, the king of Bohemia permitted the prince-bishopric of Trent to use their arms. This later evolved into the province of Trentino, which was incorporated into the region. Similarly, the red eagle has been the symbol of the region of Tyrol since 1205. Tyrol is currently split between North Tyrol and South Tyrol; the latter forms the province of Bolzano – Alto Adige, which is the other part of the region.

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.