Arms of Calabria, Italy

Calabria

Granted 1992

Blazon: Per saltire or and argent; in chief a larch pine eradicated vert, in dexter a cross paté pommettée of eight, in sinister a cross potent sable, in base a Doric capital azure

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that every one of these charges has a specific symbolic and/or historical meaning. The pine tree is both a common species in the region (Pinus nigra laricio, if you’re curious) and a symbol of the region’s natural beauty. The capital is, unsurprisingly, a reference to the area’s legacy as part of Magna Graecia. The dexter cross is representative of the time the region spent as part of the Byzantine Empire, and the sinister cross represents Bohemond I of Antioch and those who accompanied him on the First Crusade. (Bohemond was the son of the count of Apulia and Calabria before he headed off to the Holy Land and founded his own principality.)

The dexter cross seems to be described variously as a Greek cross (no), pommé (sort of?), and a Byzantine cross (maybe, if there was any kind of consensus as to what that means). I don’t think any of those accurately describe what’s depicted here, so I did my best to describe it with the terms I’m familiar with. (In case you can’t tell, I borrowed some of the language from the traditional description of a cross of Toulouse.) The sinister cross is almost definitely supposed to be a cross potent, due to the reference to Jerusalem, but it seems to be drawn more like a very weird cross crosslet.

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Arms of Centre-Val de Loire, France

Centre-Val de Loire

In use since at least 2005

Blazon: Azure three fleurs-de-lis or and a label of as many points argent within a bordure compony argent and gules

Weirdly, I can’t find much information on the origin of these arms, though I’ve found identical files going back to 2005. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’ve been in use for much, much longer, though. The arms themselves look like a composite of the arms of two former provinces: the three fleurs-de-lis and the label are the arms of both the House of Orléans and the former province of Orléanais. These are, of course, just the royal arms of France differenced, since the House of Orléans is a cadet branch of the Bourbons.The bordure compony seems to come from Touraine, though I don’t know how that originally got started.

Arms of Basilicata, Italy

Basilicata

Granted 1973

Blazon: Argent four barrulets wavy azure

The barrulets are specifically intended to represent the four major rivers of the region – the Bradano, Basento, Agri, and Sinni. This was apparently one of three proposed coats of arms in the region. I can’t find any previous arms for the region; it looks like it took on the arms of whatever individual or organization was ruling the region at the time.

Arms of Brittany, France

Brittany

In use since at least 1316

Blazon: Ermine

Oh, Bretagne. Never change. (I mean, you haven’t since around the fourteenth century, and even then, not by much.) The first arms I can find belonging to Brittany are those of Peter I, Duke of Brittany, also known as Peter de Dreux or Peter Mauclerc (i.e. “bad cleric”; he dropped out of his clerical career.) His arms were chequy of or and azure within a bordure gules, a canton ermine. The canton was added as a difference, possibly as a reference to his brief stint as a man of the cloth. Allegedly, the pure white of ermine was supposed to be a reference to the moral purity of the Church, though I’m skeptical of this attribution. Peter’s great-great-grandson, Jean III, dropped the chequy-and-bordure of Dreux in favor of the ermine canton in 1316, but no one seems to know why. Given that the decision has persisted for literally more than 700 years, I’m inclined to say it was a good one.

Arms of Puglia, Italy

Puglia

Granted 1988?

Blazon: Azure on an octagon argent within a bordure gules an olive tree eradicated proper, on a chief or six pommes

:deep breath: Okay, here we go: the blue represents the sea, the octagon is the eight-sided medieval Castel del Monte, the olive tree actually does symbolize “peace and brotherhood” in this context, at least according to the municipal website, and the six pommes stand for the six provinces of the region :exhales: I think I covered everything! My God, Italians really are this extra, at least when it comes to their heraldic symbolism. This is both delightful and moderately exhausting; not everything has to have a larger meaning, y’all! Sometimes things can just look good!

Arms of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes

Granted 2017

Blazon: Per quarterly, I or a gonfanon gules fringed vert (Auvergne), II gules a cross argent (Savoy), III gules a lion rampant argent (Lyonnais), IV or a dolphin embowed azure finned gules (Dauphiné)

The gonfanon of Auvergne has been in use since at least the 12th century, as evidenced by several seals. There’s a story that it’s taken from the banner that Eustace III, Count of Boulogne (brother of Godfrey of Bouillon and Baldwin of Boulogne) took on the First Crusade, but it’s more likely derived from the banner of the abbey of Saint Géraud d’Aurillac.

This is (as the name implies) combined with the coats of arms featured in the former flag used by Rhône-Alpes. The Lyonnais coat of arms is derived from the arms of the city of Lyon, which is pretty obviously a canting charge; I’m skeptical of the claims that it’s derived from the arms of Marc Antony, allegedly a patron of the city – not least because the Romans didn’t have coats of arms in the same way that we think of them. By contrast, it seems like Dauphiné got its name from the arms, rather than the other way around; it was formerly ruled by the Counts of Albon, who have borne a dolphin since the 1100s. (The charge does seem to derive from a possible relative of the family named “Dolfin.”) And, of course, the Savoy arms have been that since the Crusades; they’re probably an inversion of the red cross that all crusaders wore as a symbol of their mission.

The designer of these arms says something here that I really like, which is that a coat of arms is “a way of anchoring an institution in history.” I think that’s a great way of thinking about heraldry in both the ancient and modern eras: as a way of understanding where a particular nation/region/family/organization stands in relation to the larger tide of history. What are its allegiances, its inheritances, its legacies? What has it chosen to keep, and what has it chosen to discard? What’s the story the arms convey? I hope to keep these questions in mind as I continue to research and practice this weird, wonderful little discipline.

It looks like Hauts-de-France hasn’t been officially granted arms yet, either, which wraps up the new administrative regions. Next week, I’ll start revisiting some old friends.

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.)