Arms of Ebenfurth, Austria

Ebenfurth

Arms of Ebenfurth, Austria

In use since at least 1932, possibly since 1417

Blazon: Argent on a triple mount in base vert a stone tower proper, roofed gules, masoned sable, portcullis or, ported of the second a fess of the third, and charged with an escutcheon of the second a lion rampant or

Even the official town website doesn’t include anything about why these arms are the way they are. The escutcheon on the tower feels like it should belong to a specific family or region, but I can’t find any evidence of who it could be, and “gules a lion rampant or” is general enough that it might not refer to anyone or anything in particular. The tower bears a superficial resemblance to Ebenfurth Castle; it seems plausible that it’s a representation of that building. I’m very interested, but also puzzled, by the Austrian fess on the tower doors; I have no idea where that comes from!

Day of the Establishment of the Slovak Republic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coat_of_arms_of_Slovakia

Blazon: Gules a cross patriarchal paté argent surmounted by a triple mount in base azure

Twenty-seven years ago marked the establishment of the modern Slovak Republic, which makes today the :checks notes: Day of the Establishment of the Slovak Republic, so let’s take at their arms! If you think they look awfully similar to the arms of Hungary moderne (on the sinister), you are absolutely correct! The cross patriarchal was a symbol of Stephen I, King of Hungary; his territory included both present-day Hungary and present-day Slovakia. His reign began around 1000, so it’s been in use for a while. The Árpáds, the ruling dynasty of Hungary, continued to use the cross patriarchal on and off for the rest of their tenure (sometimes alternating with Hungary ancien, which was barry of eight gules and argent). By the time the Habsburgs took control of the area in 1526, the cross patriarchal was pretty firmly associated with both territories.

The triple mount was first used around the turn of the fourteenth century by Wenceslaus III, who still ruled both Hungary and Slovakia. It was green (like the Hungarian arms) for a very long time, but in 1848, the Slovak National Council changed it to blue to fit with the pan-Slavic color scheme. This created the Slovakian coat of arms as it exists today. (Yes, it does violate the law of tincture, but the patriotic energy of 1848 really didn’t have time for such antiquated nuances – and yes, I did fudge the blazon a bit so the violation is less obvious.)

There were a few interruptions in the use of these arms since 1848, the first of which occurred upon the establishment of the Slovak Soviet Republic in 1919, which used a molet of five points gules. In 1920, Slovakia was incorporated into Czechoslovakia and no longer used its own arms.

When the First Slovak Republic was established in 1939, they went back to the prior arms, but they were banned starting in 1960 as a symbol of fascism. They were replaced by a Soviet heraldic design that holds the dubious distinction of being possibly the least hideous example of the genre. After the Velvet Revolution and the dissolution of Czechoslovakia three years later, though, the old cross patriarchal and triple mount returned.

Arms of Ebelsberg, Austria

Ebelsberg

Granted 1938; roughly similar versions in use since 1554

Blazon: Per fess argent a demi-wolf rampant issuant from the partition line and holding in the forepaws a fish of the field and azure a triple mount in base or.

This is tricky. In different depictions of the town’s arms, the tinctures and the chief charge are different. In both an 1809 and 1932 version, the wolf is a boar sable, and the triple mount in base is also sable. However, the oldest version of the arms (a seal dated 1554) shows a wolf. It seems like in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the boar was used instead as a canting element (Eber), but it doesn’t seem to have been official. The mountain (Berg) is also canting.

Arms of Dunkelsteinerwald, Austria

Austria

Granted 1982

Blazon: Per pale gules a cross paté argent and of the second, overall a triple mount in base, issuant from the sinister mount a pine tree vert

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that forestry has long been a foundational industry of the town… but I have no evidence that that has anything to do with the arms. It is a shame that they went with the fairly common charges of mountains, trees, and crosses when there is apparently a local family, the Maissau, who bear or a unicorn rampant sable. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that dark, mysterious woods give rise to local legends of mythical beasts wandering around in them.

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.

Armenian Independence Day

In honor of the twenty-eighth anniversary of Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union, I figured we’d take a look at their highly symbolic coat of arms:

Armenia

There’s a lot going on here, so let’s go bit by bit, in roughly chronological order.

First of all, in the escutcheon, there’s a depiction of Mount Ararat with Noah’s Ark. Though this was possibly a mistranslation, tradition holds that the Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, which is also Armenia’s national symbol. In one shape or another, Mount Ararat has featured on Armenian arms and seals consistently since 1918. Even the Soviets kept the iconography, which ought to say something about its deep national importance.

We venture from myth into (distant) history with the Artaxiad dynasty, symbolized by the dexter base quarter. The Artaxids ruled from 189 BCE through 20 BCE, when Armenia became a Roman protectorate. The last Artaxid client king was overthrown in 12 CE. The two eagles and the eight-pointed star is a fairly well-established emblem of this dynasty – somewhat surprisingly, given its antiquity. From the examples here, it’s pretty clearly a star; I’m not sure how it ended up as an octofoil on the arms, which is typically a more floral shape. (I will say that the artists who designed the arms seem to have played around with the tinctures of the fields; the author in the linked article makes a pretty good argument that the ground for the Artaxiads should have been gules instead of azure, and a prior version of the arms had the same charges, but with the opposite tincture for the field.)

Moving on to the sinister chief quarter, we see the very common symbol of the double-headed eagle. This is apparently intended to represent the Arsacid dynasty, who ruled from 52 to 428 CE, and included the first Christian ruler of Armenia. I’m a little skeptical of the attribution of the double-headed eagle to the Arsacids for a couple of reasons: first, proof of what kind of symbols they used (if any) is thin on the ground, and second, the double-headed eagle is so, so commonly affiliated with the Roman (and later Byzantine) Empire that it’s hard for me to believe that association didn’t have any influence on this choice of charge. I am willing to believe that the Arsacids got it from the Romans, and passed it on here, but they were originally Parthian, so I’m not sure how well that holds up.

The dexter chief quarter, the lion and cross, was the symbol of the Bagratuni dynasty. They came to power in 861, when Ashot I was recognized as Prince of Princes by the Baghdad caliphate, and hung on until 1045, when the Byzantine Empire seized control of Armenia. The Bagratid princes evidently used the same device, though it was (possibly) argent on gules. Presumably, the tincture of the charge was sensibly updated to match the other three charges.

Lastly, the sinister base quarter holds the crowned lion and cross-tipped staff of the Rubenid dynasty, who did not actually rule Armenia. Instead, they established an Armenian state in Cilicia (called the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia), which they ruled from 1080 to 1375, when the Mamluks conquered the state. The Rubenid arms were or a lion rampant gules armed, langued, and crowned argent; if I had to speculate, the staff may have come from the kingdom’s allyship with the other Crusader states. The Rubenids also claimed descent from the Bagratunis, though this would be very difficult to prove.

I know this is long, but I can’t not talk, albeit briefly, about the elements surrounding the shield. The supporters, the eagle of the Artaxiads and the lion of the Bagratunis, mirror the charges on the shield. The elements of the compartment were all chosen for specific symbolic reasons, which I think are worth going through. The sword in pale is for power and strength; the broken chain, the struggle for national freedom; the wheat, hard work and industry; the feather, culture and intellectual heritage; and the ribbon, the Armenian flag, whose colors are represented in the arms. (Hence, I suspect, the unusual use of orange in the arms.)

Arms of Draßburg, Austria

Drassburg

Granted 1998

Blazon: Per fess azure a passion cross or upon a triple mount in base proper and per pale of the first a griffin counter-segreant crowned and bearing a scimitar in the left of the second and in the right three roses gules, slipped and leaved proper, and of the second between a stag’s attires a cross paté of the first.

I don’t have a direct source for the cross, but it seems like a pretty standard thing to put on your municipal arms if you are a small Christian community. However, I do have sources for the base half of the shield. The griffin – crown, scimitar, roses, and all – is taken from the Esterházy arms, which are fucking amazing. I will have to come back to those sometime in the future, because WOW. The Esterházys controlled roughly one-third of the area that currently forms Draßburg from sometime in the 1620s through 1848. Similarly, the other quarter of the shield is derived from the Zichy arms; they controlled the other two-thirds of the area from 1672 to 1715 and from 1795 to 1848. (The Zichys sold the area to the Mesko family in 1715, but after eighty years’ worth of legal proceedings, the Meskos were ordered to give it back.) If you’re wondering what happened in 1848, well… let’s just say the Austrian nobility went into a sharp decline right around then.