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 Ralph Basset

Ralph Basset

From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Or four palets gules a canton ermine

In a delightfully convenient turn of events, the Ralph Basset featured on the Dering Roll is also fairly well-known, and the timelines line up perfectly. His father, also named Ralph, was also part of the Second Baron’s War on the losing side, and died at Evesham. Simon de Montfort had named the senior Ralph Baron of Drayton, and the title eventually passed, or was regranted, to this Ralph in 1295. This may or may not have had something to do with Ralph Jr.’s service as the governor of Edinburgh Castle under Edward I.

Some depictions of the Basset arms have paly of six or and gules instead, and by the time of this Ralph’s grandson (yet another Ralph, because why mess with a good thing?) towards the end of the fourteenth century, it looks like the arms had morphed into or three piles points meeting in base gules, a quarter ermine – but the visual similarity is still very strong.

Arms of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France

Pyrenees-Atlantiques

In use since at least 2007

Blazon: Per quarterly I gules a chain in saltire, cross, and orle or, charged with a center point vert (Navarre/Basse-Navarre); II or two cows passant in pale gules, armed, collared, and belled azure (Béarn); III per pale or a lion rampant bearing a baton gules and azure a fleur-de-lis or (Labourd); IV gules a lion rampant or (Soule)

I’m not entirely clear on whether this is an official coat of arms or not, but let’s be honest, that hasn’t stopped me before. It consists of four regional arms; Béarn was a former province which was combined with Labourd, Basse-Navarre, and Soule in 1790 to form the department of Basses-Pyrénées, renamed to Pyrénées-Atlantiques in 1969. The Béarn arms date back to pre-1290, and were either a reference to a legend of a count of Foix carrying the body of St. Volusianus on a cart pulled by two cows, or (more plausibly) a canting reference to the Vaccaei, whose descendants settled the region. I don’t want to dig too much into the arms of Navarre, since I expect I’ll revisit them in the near future, and, unfortunately, I don’t have much information on the other two quarters.

Arms of Rhys ap Tewdwr

Rhys ap Tewdr

(c. 1040 – 1093)

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

Blazon: Gules a lion rampant within a bordure indented or

This week, we’re going from the almost-historically-grounded arms attributed to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd to the absolutely spurious arms attributed to Rhys ap Tewdwr and the House of Dinefwr. It is a pretty common attribution, but given that the power of Dinefwr and their realms of Deheubarth had faded considerably by the time heraldry started to gain traction in Wales, I’m somewhat skeptical that these arms have any basis in historical fact.

Anyway. Given that Rhys ap Tewdwr died in literally the eleventh century, we don’t have a whole lot of information about him. He was descended from Rhodri the Great via Cadell ap Rhodri and Hywel Dda. His last wife, Gwladys ferch Rhiwallon of Powys, had a daughter named Nest, whose descendants include the families of FitzGerald and de Barry. Unfortunately, Rhys’ death led to the breakup of his lands, with his heir Gruffydd ending up with some, and the Normans ending up with a whole lot more.

Arms of Alcalá de la Vega, Spain

Alcala de la Vega

In use since at least 2010

Blazon: Gules a tower or within a bordure azure charged with four trees proper; pointé in base argent a cross paté of the first

The tower is probably a representation of the ruins of an Arab castle, formerly called al-Qala. It’s old enough that we don’t know exactly when it was built, but it’s referenced in an 872 document. The same document also notes that the area is densely wooded with stone pine trees that were used for construction and shipbuilding; I’d guess that’s why the arms include trees. The cross gules on a point argent seems like it could be a reference to the 68 or so years that the town spent under direct control of the Templars.

Arms of Ebenau, Austria

Ebenau

Granted 1962

Blazon: Per pale gules a cross paté throughout argent and of the last a palet couped, terminating in chief with a bendlet sinister couped, and in base with a bendlet couped, crossed in the middle by three bars also couped, all gules.

The sinister half of these arms was tricky to blazon, but it also is a great opportunity to talk about house marks (Hausmarken). They hail primarily from Germanic and Scandanavian cultures. House marks do have some things in common with heraldry – they were intended to be unique and often (though not necessarily) represented families or municipalities. However, colors were irrelevant to house marks, and they weren’t granted by anyone’s authority; you could just make up your own as long as it was visually distinct. (There’s absolutely a class component here; coats of arms, which belonged almost exclusively to the upper classes, were/are considered more prestigious than the house marks of the lower classes.) Most house marks were made up of straight lines, the better to be scratched into a wide variety of surfaces. In many ways, they were similar to the merchant’s marks that presaged today’s brand logos, although house marks were more personal than commercial. The house mark in Ebenau’s arms belonged to the Steinhauser family, who founded a nearby bronze factory; the mining and armory industries were central to the local economy. The cross in the dexter half honors the local patron saint, St. Florian.

Arms of Umbria, Italy

Umbria

Granted 1973

Blazon: Gris three ceri palewise in fess gules surmounted by four fillets argent

Gris, or gray, is typically not used in heraldry, but given that there are argent charges laid on the field, I didn’t have much choice. This is (surprise, surprise) the result of another competition, this one won by architects Gino and Alberto Anselmi in 1971. I can’t quite find a good English translation for ceri; the charges here are intended to represent large wooden pedestals used in the annual celebration of Saint Ubald’s Day. Small statues of St. Ubald (the patron saint of Gubbio, Italy), St. Anthony, and St. George are mounted on the pedestals and “raced” through the town to the basilica.