Arms of Catanzaro, Italy

Catanzaro

Granted 1938

Blazon: Per saltire I and IV or four palets gules and II and III argent a cross potent sable 

The palets in the first and fourth quarters reflect the arms of Aragon. The house of Aragon ruled Catanzaro as part of the Kingdom of Sicily since 1372 (1313 if you listen to Frederick III of Sicily), uniting it to the crown of Aragon in 1412. While I don’t know for sure, I’d guess that the cross potent sable, like the same figure in the arms of Calabria, refers to Bohemond I of Antioch and his service on the First Crusade.

Arms of Lecce, Italy

Lecce

Granted 1933; in use since at least 1601, possibly since 1481

Blazon: Or four palets gules overall a dolphin embowed, head in base, bearing in the mouth a crescent argent

I love this, and not just because I have a deep affection for all heraldic dolphins. (Hysterically, the blazon specifies that it is an “irritated” or “pissed off” dolphin. There is, sadly, not an equivalent term in English blazon.) The palets are, of course, from Aragon; they get to Lecce by way of Sicily, Naples, and the figuratively and literally incestuous political climate of the Middle Ages. The dolphin bearing a crescent in its mouth is a fascinating and unique design that has both historical and mythological roots. The dolphin is a popular motif in the region due to its connection to the founding of the city of Taranto. It was, so the legend goes, founded by Taras, a son of Poseidon. His father sent a dolphin to show him where to build his city.  The crescent has been a popular symbol of Islam for centuries, and having it in the dolphin’s mouth supposedly symbolizes the Christian victory at the Battle of Otranto in 1480.

I also cannot resist linking these more entertaining depictions of Lecce’s arms from a couple of seventeenth-century texts. I don’t know how much credence I give to the author of the post’s theory that the monstrous appearance of these “dolphins” is somehow symbolic. I truly do think most heraldic artists just drew dolphins that way, whether out of a surplus of loyalty to tradition, or a lack of talent. Or both.

Arms of Ariège, France

Ariège

Designed around 1950

Blazon: Or three palets gules, overall an escutcheon azure a bell argent

The larger arms are those of the county of Foix, which has a long history as an independent fief during the Middle Ages before it was incorporated into the French crown in 1607. The escutcheon with the bell is intended to represent Couserans, but this may have been a misattribution; these arms were sometimes connected to the territory of Couserans, but some sources connect them with the city of Saint-Lizier, which was also called Couserans. The viscounty of Couserans, though, definitively bore or a bordure gules.

Fiesta Nacional de España

There are actually two important Spanish holidays on this date; the Fiesta Nacional, chosen to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Americas, and the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar. The former might be more official, but the latter is apparently more popular culturally – understandable in a majority-Catholic country. She is the patron saint of the Civil Guard, and also of the region of Aragon, which provides a nice segue into discussing the Spanish national arms!

Spain

Blazon: Per quarterly, I gules a castle triple-towered or windowed argent (Castile), II argent a lion rampant purpre crowned or (León), III or four palets gules (Aragon), IV gules a chain in saltire, cross, and orle or, charged with a center point vert (Navarre); enté en point argent a pomegranate slipped, leaved, and seeded proper (Granada); overall in the fess point an escutcheon azure three fleurs-de-lis or within a bordure gules (Bourbon-Anjou)

Supporters: Two columns argent, capitals and bases or, standing on five waves azure and the first, the dexter surmounted by an imperial crown and the sinister the Spanish royal crown proper, and entwined with a ribbon gules charged with “Plus ultra” of the second

The current depiction of the arms was formally granted in 1981, but the individual elements are all very old. The first two quarters of Spain are the best counterargument I’ve ever seen against the idea that canting arms are somehow ‘lesser.’ (Canting arms are arms that are essentially puns on the name of the family, country, etc. – think mountains for Bergs, eels for Ellis, etc.) There’s a weird idea in some heraldic texts that canting arms are less “noble” than non-canting arms. But Spain features three coats of canting arms, beginning with the somewhat obvious Castile and León. 

Castile and León were two of the more powerful states in medieval Spain. They went back and forth between unified and not for a few centuries until they were formally unified under Ferdinand III in 1230. The lion and castle show up in a lot of Spanish arms, usually as quarters or smaller sections, although often the lion will be rendered gules instead of purpre. (Gules is a much more common and easily-rendered tincture in heraldry than purpre.)

 

The third quarter, the widely-used Bars of Aragon (not bars in the heraldic sense), joined the arms along with the Crown of Aragon when Isabel I of Castile – the several-times-great-granddaughter of Ferdinand III – married Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469. The pomegranate (the third canting element) was added shortly afterwards, perpetually enté en point, after the conquest of Granada was concluded in 1496 and it was added to the Spanish crown. 

 

It is with immense gratitude that I can skip over the two hundred years of Habsburg rule in Spain, because while their arms are mind-bendingly complicated, none of the several dozen coats with which the Spanish arms were combined stuck around. However, the kings of Spain used the title “King of Navarre” after the War of the League of Cambrai, and some of the variants of the Spanish arms (especially those used in Navarre) incorporated the chain figure, especially as an escutcheon. A smaller version of Navarre officially survived as an independent kingdom until they were incorporated into Spain in 1833, which is also when the Navarre arms start showing up as a full quarter in the Spanish royal arms.

 

The last of the current elements of the Spanish arms appear when Philip V inherited the Spanish throne in 1700. Philip was a Bourbon – specifically, of the cadet line of the dukes of Anjou. Because everyone in European royal circles was pretty inbred at this point, his arms as the King of Spain also included Austria, Burgundy, and Flanders, among others. However, he bore the arms of Anjou in an escutcheon, and that’s stuck around since then. My theory is that they’ve also stayed in the escutcheon due to the agreement laid out in the Peace of Utrecht that the French and Spanish crowns would never be unified. Because of that, the Spanish monarchs could only “pretend” to the French throne, and never have any territorial claim.

 

Finally, while the unique supporters aren’t quite canting, I think they’re worth a mention. They are, specifically, the Pillars of Hercules, which flank the Strait of Gibraltar, i.e. Spain’s gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. The motto “Plus ultra,” or “Farther beyond,” is a reference to the legend that the pillars were carved with “Non plus ultra” to warn seafarers to stay on the side of the strait without (as many) storms and sea monsters and other such dangers. The removal of the negative is a nice nod to Spain’s history as a seafaring and exploratory nation.

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.

Arms of Villanueva de los Infantes, Spain

Villanueva de los Infantes

Granted 1421

Blazon: Argent a cross of Santiago gules between in bend two escutcheons or four palets of the second, and in bend sinister a lion rampant of the last and a castle triple-towered of the third windowed azure

There might be a better way to describe the positioning of the charges, but I’m not entirely sure what that would be. I’m hesitant to say they’re laid out in saltire, since most of them are different, and describing the individual position of each charge (eg. in dexter chief, in sinister chief, etc.) seems excessive. I ended up going with the bends because the charges seem to naturally fall into two groups – the lion and castle of Léon and Castile, and the shields of Aragon for Enrique and Alfonso, Infantes of Aragon.

Arms of Occitanie, France

Occitanie

Granted 2017

Blazon: Gules a cross of Toulouse or; the fourth quarter of the last, four palets of the first

This blazon was formerly, if unofficially, used by Languedoc-Roussillon, but the combination was obvious, given that Midi-Pyrénées used gules a cross of Toulouse or. I accept that I am slightly biased by both the shading in this particular depiction (definitely not a part of traditional blazon, but it sure does add a nice touch) and my fond memories of the region, but damn. This is Good. You’ve got your cross of Toulouse, and your palets from Aragon by way of Catalonia, combined into something that’s modern, visually distinctive, and obviously derived from something much older.

(NB: Yes, I know I skipped Grand Est. They don’t formally have arms yet, but let me express my hope that they’re using this time to design something more visually appealing than the proposed flag, holy shit. That is too many bends, y’all. Pick one.)

Arms of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Granted 2016

Blazon: Argent in dexter three palets wavy azure, in sinister a lion rampant gules

Another new coat of arms for the administrative regions! Personally, I prefer the former arms of Aquitaine (gules a lion passant guardant or, armed and langued azure), and Limousin was pretty sharp, too (ermine a bordure gules), but design-wise, this is pretty good. In terms of the charges selected… well, I suppose I understand the reasoning. The palets are probably intended to represent the rivers that run to the Atlantic, much like the lion’s mane in the new logo. They also could be a canting charge, if you subscribe to the etymology that has “Aquitaine” derived from the Latin for “water.” I feel that it’s worth mentioning the competing theory – that it’s actually named after the pre-Roman tribe of the Ausci.

The lion has been used for Aquitaine since at least the twelfth century, and possibly earlier, so it isn’t like they could leave it out. And I guess if we’re going to get picky about the law of tincture, and we really want those palets wavy, then fine, gules works. There are several cities in the region that use a lion gules, so it’s not like it’s coming from nowhere. (I really did like the former arms, though.)

Arms of Dietmanns, Austria

Dietmanns
In use since at least 1965

Blazon: Gules four palets argent and a chief of the last chequy of the field, overall issuant from a mount in base a pine tree proper surmounted by a baton in bend sinister, interwoven with the palets or

The town has been in existence since 1496, with official incorporation coming in 1783. The region’s lush pine forests may be the source for the tree in the arms.

Arms of Ottavio Piccolomini

Piccolomini
Duke of Amalfi 1639-1656 (1599-1656)

Blazon: Per quarterly I and IV argent on a cross azure five crescents or (Piccolomini); II and III paly of four i or four palets gules (Aragon), ii barry of eight gules and argent (Hungary ancien), iii azure semé de lis or, a label of four points gules (Anjou ancien), iv argent a cross paté between four crosses or (Jerusalem)

Ottavio inherited the quarters of Aragon, Hungary ancien, Anjou ancien, and Jerusalem from his ancestor Antonio Piccolomini d’Aragona, who married Maria d’Aragona, the illegitimate daughter of Ferdinand I of Naples. Many representations have Ferdinand’s arms in the first and third quarters, as Maria’s lineage was (though illegitimate) more noble than Antonio’s.