Arms of Alarcón, Spain

Alarcon

Granted 1991

Blazon: Gules a castle double-towered or windowed azure, in dexter chief a crescent and sinister chief a molet of eight points argent

Presumably, the castle in the arms is a reference to the castle of Alarcón. It was already an impressive fortification when the forces of Alfonso VIII captured it in 1184. By the 1700s, it was pretty run down, but it managed to survive, and was declared a site of cultural interest in 1992. There’s a legend about the sister of an ancient lord and a suitor she rejected; he schemed to murder her and her brother, but when he arrived at the castle in disguise, he was discovered and killed. The servants mixed his blood into the mortar for some repairs they were doing on the castle, which is allegedly why there are black and red spots in the mortar.

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 Molise, Italy

Molise

Granted 1970?

Blazon: Gules a bend sinister, in the dexter chief a molet of eight points argent

The star is derived from the former arms of the County of Molise. They may have gotten it from the Del Balzo family, a cadet branch of the House of Baux, which evidently held a number of fiefdoms in the region. Gratifyingly, there are a couple of entertaining legends about where the star of Baux came from: in the most common, they purportedly descended from Balthazar – as in the Magi Balthazar, who gave myrrh to the infant Jesus – and the star represents the Star of Bethlehem. Another tradition holds that they were descended from the first kings of Armenia, the Artaxiads, and the star indicates that they personally knew Jesus. The latter explanation has a tiny bit more historical grounding than the former, but that’s really not saying much.

The bend is somewhat less exciting; it’s apparently derived from the arms of Rodolfo di Moulins, Italianized to di Molisio. He was the first Count of Molise in the mid-eleventh century; the del Balzos don’t appear to have ever held the title of Count. The bend sinister still appears in the di Molisio coat of arms, albeit as azure on or.

Arms of Liguria, Italy

Liguria

Granted 1985

Blazon: Tierced per pale vert, gules, and azure, in the fess point a caravel silver*, on a sail argent a cross of the second between four molets of six points of the fourth

I know, I know, technically it’s a flag, but Liguria doesn’t technically have arms. They have an emblem, which is the stylized caravel in the center, without any field. (The octagon was pushing it; I don’t think I can justifiably call something without a field a coat of arms.) That being said, it’s not a bad choice; much of Liguria has a long maritime history, especially the Republic of Genoa (i.e. the birthplace of Christopher Columbus). The cross on the sail is drawn from the Genoese flag, and the four stars represent the four component provinces of the region. And yes, the colors are also symbolic – green for the mountains, blue for the sea, and red for the blood spilled in the Italian Resistance.

*While “argent” and “silver” are usually synonymous, this blazon specifically differentiates between them.

Former arms of Pfäffingen, Germany

Pfaffingen

Granted 1925 – 1971

Blazon: Azure a fess argent between two molets of six points or

I had this whole thing written out about how the arms could derive from the arms of prominent noble families in the region, namely the Neunecks (gules a fess or, in chief a molet of six points argent) and/or those of the Lustnaus (azure a stag’s head caboshed bendwise sinister), but it turns out that these are the arms of Andreas von Kröwelsau, another local lord. It’s not clear why they went with these family arms in particular instead of one of the numerous other families who lived in the local castles at one time or another, but there it is.

Arms of Torre de Juan Abad, Spain

Torre de Juan Abad

Granted 1273

Blazon: Argent a tower and lion rampant gules, in chief a molet of five points azure, all within a bordure of the first charged with eight saltires couped or

Unfortunately, I have no idea who Juan Abad might have been, and it seems like nobody else does, either. It seems reasonable to speculate that the tower is a canting element (“torre,” or “tower” in Spanish). The lion is possibly taken from the arms of Alfonso X of Castile, who granted the town’s arms, but I don’t have anything on the saltires or the molet. One last fun fact – Francisco de Quevedo, a prominent satirical Baroque poet, ruled the town for a while after his mother purchased the title for him. While the town apparently didn’t take too kindly to him at the time (read: they sued him, and he won, but only after he died), they now host an “International Graphic Humor Center” in honor of his snarky legacy.

Arms of Felice Rospigliosi

Rospigliosi

(1639-1688)

Blazon: Per pale azure six molets of as many points in pile argent within a bordure indented throughout of the first and the second and per quarterly or and azure, four lozenges counterchanged

The arms on the dexter half of the shield are those of the Altieri family. This may be due to the fact that Felice Rospigliosi, the brother of Pope Clement IX, was elevated to cardinal by Pope Clement X (born Emilio Altieri) in 1673.