Jab over Java: Color Symbolization in Medieval Coats of Arms


Coat of arms of the city of Ghent in the sixteenth century. / Photo courtesy Universiteitsbibliotheek UGent, Wikimedia Commons

Heraldry was an art born out of necessity and developed out of symbolic thought.


Presentation by The Apocalyptic Knight


Heraldic designs came into general use among European nobility in the 12th century. Systematic, heritable heraldry had developed by the beginning of the 13th century. Exactly who had a right to use arms, by law or social convention, varied to some degree between countries. Early heraldic designs were personal, used by individual noblemen (who might also alter their chosen design over time). Arms become hereditary by the end of the 12th century, in England by King Richard I during the Third Crusade (1189–1192).

Burgher arms are used in Northern Italy in the second half of the 14th century, and in the Holy Roman Empire by the mid 14th century. In the late medieval period, use of arms spread to the clergy, to towns as civic identifiers, and to royally chartered organizations such as universities and trading companies. The arts of vexillology and heraldry are closely related.

The term coat of arms itself in origin refers to the surcoat with heraldic designs worn by combatants, especially in the knightly tournament, in Old French cote a armer. The sense is transferred to the heraldic design itself in Middle English, in the mid-14th century.

Some nations, such as England and Scotland, still maintain the same heraldic authorities which have traditionally granted and regulated arms for centuries and continue to do so in the present day. In England, for example, the granting of arms is and has been controlled by the College of Arms. Unlike seals and other general emblems, heraldic “achievements” have a formal description called a blazon, which uses vocabulary that allows for consistency in heraldic depictions. In the present day, coats of arms are still in use by a variety of institutions and individuals: for example, many European cities and universities have guidelines on how their coats of arms may be used, and protect their use as trademarks as any other unique identifier might be.

Heraldry has been compared to modern corporate logos.


Published on YouTube, 04.30.2017, by The Apocalyptic Knight, republished with embed permission. Text originally published by Wikipedia, 06.07.2002, under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

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