Arms of Hemmendorf, Germany

Hemmendorf

Probably in use since 1987

Blazon: Azure a lion rampant or, armed and langued gules; in the dexter chief a Maltese cross argent

I’m pretty confident in saying that the Maltese cross derives from the Knights Hospitaller, given their long association with the town. The Knights Hospitaller owned the town outright from 1281 through 1805, though they had a presence in the area dating back to 1258. I’m not sure about the lion, though.

Arms of Hailfingen, Germany

Hailfingen

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.

Arms of Frommenhausen, Germany

Frommenhausen

In use since at least 2007

Blazon: Gules a beehive with bees volant or

I don’t have much information on these arms, but it does seem like there are some wild beehives in the town’s arboretum. (I’m not quite sure what a “wild bee place” or “Wildbienenlage” refers to, and I’d welcome any further input on that. My German isn’t very good.) They do seem very proud of the beehive’s traditional symbolism – diligence, cooperation, and hard work. While I know coats of arms aren’t typically granted or adopted due to the more esoteric symbolism, I can’t prove these weren’t, and I can’t bring myself to be the wet blanket.

Arms of Felldorf, Germany

Felldorf

In use since at least 2007

Blazon: Argent a lion salient or langued gules on a base sable

It’s really an open question whether these are official arms or not; they don’t seem to have any tinctures specified, and I have no idea how long they’ve been in use, but look at them! That has got to be one of the weirdest lions I’ve ever seen, and I have seen some weird lions. It’s not just this depiction, either. The pose! The head! The tongue! It’s glorious, and I needed it on my blog. Thank you for sharing this absolute fucking horror with me.

(Right, I should also say that the family who originally ruled the area from the 1300s through 1695, the Megenzers, had some really beautiful and unique arms that I’m not entirely sure how to blazon – but you’ve got to respect a town that says no, never mind that, we’re going with that goddamn lion.)

Arms of Ergenzingen, Germany

Ergenzingen

In use since at least 2010

Blazon: Per fess azure issuant from the partition line five branches with heart-shaped leaved conjoined in base argent and of the last a lattice sable

I wouldn’t be surprised if these arms were much older than I could verify, since apparently Ergenzingen was awarded the right to hold a market in 1789. I opted to blazon the base half as a lattice rather than fretty since that seemed to be the best translation of the word in German (Rautengitter), and it lacks the characteristic interweaving of frets. I went back and forth on whether to mention the small dots or roundels on the joints, but they don’t seem to be consistent across depictions.

Arms of Eckenweiler, Germany

Eckenweiler

In use since at least 2007

Blazon: Azure a house with stepped roof argent, windowed sable on a base vert, on a chief or an antler fesswise sable

I don’t have a ton of information on these arms, probably at least partly due to the fact that Eckenweiler seems to be more of a suburb than a city in its own right. I’m guessing the oddly-shaped house is a reference to a specific local building, which is incredibly common in municipal arms. It could well be the village church; it’s apparently been around since 1789, and, as the only Protestant-majority district in the city, that seems remarkable enough to feature. (This particular bit of land belonged to the Duchy of Württemberg when Duke Ulrich converted his lands to Protestantism, rather than to the Catholic Austria.)

Day of German Unity

Today commemorates the 29th anniversary of the unification of East and West Germany to form the present-day German state. It was the culmination of a process that had begun in 1989 with the famous fall of the Berlin Wall. So yes, of course we’re going to be talking about the eagle.

Germany

The German coat of arms is iconic, and as such, has a very long and well-documented history. In fact, these can probably be traced back much farther than most other arms I’m familiar with, all the way back to the Roman Empire. Now, the Romans didn’t have heraldry in the same way that we think of it today – it wasn’t systematic, the emblems didn’t pass in a genealogical line, and it was by no means widespread. We do have some examples from the ancient world of people painting pictures on their shields, though it’s unclear whether these were unique or intended to be used as identification. However, what we’re interested in right now are the military standards.

Prior to 107 BCE, we have records of the Roman legions using five animals as their standards: a wolf, an eagle, a horse, a boar, and, somewhat bafflingly, an ox with a man’s head. In 107 BCE, the Marian reforms took place, founding a standing army, offering employment as soldiers to the lower classes of Roman society, and implementing the practice of land grants for retired soldiers. As an admittedly small part of these reforms, the other animals were discontinued, and the eagle became the sole standard of the Roman army. Given Rome’s strong ties between the army and the state, it’s unsurprising that the eagle soon became a symbol of the empire as a whole, appearing on coins, monuments, and tombs.

After the western Roman Empire fell in the late 480s CE, the Byzantine Empire kept the symbol of the eagle alive, though it was never as popular as more explicitly Christian iconography. Still, we can see the eagle on Byzantine coins, imperial regalia, and manuscripts. The association of the eagle with Rome made it a natural choice of insignia for Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, who wanted to emphasize his state as the heir of ancient Rome. And, well… after that, it’s pretty much set. There’s evidence that Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, used the eagle in what we would recognize as a heraldic fashion during his reign from 1191 to 1197. 

From there, there were a few modifications of the German eagle, including giving it two heads to symbolize the Empire’s dominion over West and East; this seems to have been in place by the mid-thirteenth century. Many emperors would display their personal arms as an escutcheon charged on the breast of the imperial eagle, or use it as a sort of single supporter if they had too damn many arms to fit in a smaller shield. (See Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, for a dizzying example of the latter.) It’s also used in the Quaternion Eagle, an extremely common heraldic convention that depicts the arms of the Holy Roman Empire (or, later, the component states of Germany) as shields on the wings of a double-headed imperial eagle.

Unfortunately, we do have to talk about the Nazis.* After over a thousand years of almost continual use, the Nazis were not about to abandon the eagle, especially considering their fetishization of the mythic German past. They adapted it into a fairly stylized design of the eagle displayed perching on a wreath containing a swastika, versions of which were used as both the national emblem and the Nazi Party’s official symbol. 

After World War II, in 1950, the Federal Republic of Germany readopted the previous form of the eagle (sable on or) as the nation’s coat of arms in a decision that used exactly the same wording as the last time the eagle was formally adopted by a non-fascist government in 1919. Its use has been consistent and uninterrupted for nearly 70 years now. (One last thing that I found absolutely delightful – the version of the eagle in the Bundestag building is a little on the chubby side, and as such, is nicknamed “Fette Henne,” which translates exactly how you think it does.)

*Nazis are bad. Fascism is bad. White supremacy is bad. Argument on these points is not welcome, and will get you blocked.