Authentic Coats of Arms & Treasures

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Even more so than today, religion was one of the primary driving forces of the Middle Ages. The Crusades is one of the most prominent examples of this, but not every expression of a person’s relationship with the divine was quite so dramatic.

Just like today, many families had deep roots in the Christian faith. Rather than wearing their faith on their sleeve, they wore it emblazoned on family crests and personal coats of arms. But the appearance of a cross upon a shield didn’t just stand for faith, and a symbol could have multiple complex meanings that told a story and explained the faith of a knight.

Read on to learn more about the symbolism of spirituality on a coat of arms design.

  • Angels and cherubs weren’t simply symbols of glory. They also represented dignity, honor, and the imminent arrival of joyful tidings.
  • A cross crosslet is a symbol where each point of the cross is itself crossed at each end. This is a signifier of the eternal fourfold mystery of the cross.
  • A standard cross was an expression of faith and a message that the wearer had served during the Crusades.
  • Celtic crosses additionally symbolized the eternal unity between the heavens and Earth.
  • A cross fitchee is a cross that is pointed at the base. It’s meant to be a combination between sword and cross, and it implies eternal faith.
  • A cross flory has flowers at each end of the cross, and it announces that the wearer has been a conqueror.
  • The cross pattee, or cross formee, has arms that narrow at the center. This is a symbol of military valor.
  • The cross maltese featured 8 points, and it signified blessings, as well as being the badge of the Knights Hospitaller.
  • The cross moline had ends that resembled the iron clamp of a millstone. It represented the Order of St. Benedict and stood for the mutual communication within humanity.
  • A cross raguly had ends that resemble the shaft of an arrow, and it symbolized that the wearer encountered difficulties.
  • The seraphim was an angel with 3 pairs of wings. This heavenly host represented joyful news, as well as dignity, honor, and God’s glory.

We hate to be the ones to tell you, but unicorns aren’t real. Neither are dragons, mermaids, harpies, and centaurs. While today’s world operates mostly on empirical evidence, the Medieval world was quite different. Unconfirmed reports and rumors could very quickly turn into unassailable truth. Everybody knew mythological creatures were real, even if they’d never seen one in the flesh.

When designing a family crest, fantastic beasts were often found emblazoned upon them. Much like more mundane flora and fauna, these creatures had very specific meanings, and they were a direct reflection of the reputation and exploits of a knight and his family.

Keep reading as we talk about the symbolism of a few creatures that existed in legend and were larger than life.

  • A centaur was a creature that was half man and half horse, and it symbolized prominence upon the field of battle.
  • Dragons and wyverns (a two-legged dragon) were highly popular symbols. They represented bravery, protection, and the steadfast defense of treasure.
  • Griffins were strange beasts that possessed the body of a lion, and the talons, head, and wings of an eagle. While it symbolized valor, it also was a symbol of extreme and death-defying bravery.
  • Harpies had the face, neck, and chest of a woman, and the body of a large bird. These strange creatures were a symbol of ferocity in battle due to provocation.
  • The seven-headed hydra symbolized the ultimate conquest of a very powerful enemy.
  • Those who had the mermaid upon a family crest were known to be highly eloquent and wise.
  • The winged horse Pegasus was a divine messenger of God. It also symbolized artistic inspiration and the genius of poets.
  • The phoenix was the mythic firebird that died in flames and rose again. It was a representation of resurrection, whether spiritually or in life.
  • Egypt’s mysterious sphinx was a creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion. It was a symbol of ultimate knowledge, as well as extreme secrecy.
  • Many people associate unicorns with virginity. Alongside that attribute was strength, honor, and boundless courage.

It’s one thing if your family has its own coat of arms. However, most of us didn’t descend from a family associated with nobility. At Fine Legacy, we think everyone should be able to have their own family crest, and we believe that it’s not only fun and educational but also a unique way to bring families together

However, if you’re going to create your own coat of arms, you want to do it right. During the last few days, we’ve talked about what images of animals mean when they’re represented on a coat of arms. You’ll find part 1 here, and part 2 here. This iconography can be used as a representation of the spirit of your family, as well as a record of past accomplishments.

Since there were traditionally a wide variety of animals used, today we’ll discuss a few more and what they signified to the knight and his family.

  • The panther was a symbol of not only fierce bravery in battle, but also the willingness to defend her children at the cost of her own life.
  • Stags, or the antlers of a stag, appeared as a signifier of the desire for peace. Stags also possess strength, fortitude, and will not seek a fight, yet they will not back down from one.
  • The swallow is a symbol of the imminent arrival of good tidings, as well as a messenger of good news.
  • Swans are a more romantic symbol. They represent beauty, harmony, grace, and perfection. Along with the physical aspects, they also represent the love of learning and desire to live in harmony.
  • The tortoise represented steadiness and utter invulnerability in battle.
  • Tigers have multiple meanings. Their positive traits are bravery and fierceness in combat. The dark side of their symbolism is lingering resentments of slights and a willingness to lash out if provoked.

A coat of arms can be a serious point of pride for a family. Back in the old days, the rules of heraldry only permitted the firstborn son to receive the family crest held by his father after the death of the father. If the man had no sons, the crest would be passed to the firstborn grandson of his daughter.

In some ways, we now live in more enlightened times. Not only can a woman pass down a family crest to a daughter if she pleases, but families also have the option to create a family crest of their own. But to design your own crest correctly, it helps to understand the symbolism at play.

Yesterday, we discussed some of the meanings of animals upon a coat of arms, and we’ll continue that today.

  • The fish represented not only unity with Christ and immersion in spirituality, but also a generosity of spirit and a virtuous mind.
  • The fox is an easy one, in that it symbolizes cunning and cleverness. It also represents the willingness of a person to use all their intelligence and wit in their own defense.
  • Hawks and falcons represent tenacity, and the single-minded desire to achieve an objective.
  • Horses are steadfast and true, willing to do whatever is asked in the service of king and country.
  • A lamb on its own represents gentleness and the willingness to suffer without complaint. If a lamb carries a staff or a banner showing a cross, it represents innocence, faith, and a spirit that’s pure and resolute.
  • Leopards were frequent representations of fearless warriors who braved danger without hesitation.
  • The lion is one of the most well-known, and it represents unlimited courage.

Come back tomorrow and join us as we continue our discussion about animal representation on crests and coats of arms.

When someone mentions a family crest, the default image seems to be an image of a lion emblazoned on a shield or the tunic of a knight. If you’re researching your family crest meanings, it’s not only fascinating to learn why specific fauna were used for certain crests, but you’ll also get into a little bit of Medieval history.

For example, a coat of arms worn by a knight wasn’t simply an identifier of the family name. Rather, they were status symbols dripping in prestige. It might have something to say about the wearer’s achievements, any property he held, and his occupation or professions. At competitions, when heralds would announce specific knights, the crests found on their shields, capes, and helmets were used by audience members to tell them apart.

Read on to learn about the symbolism of certain animals found on crests and on coats of arms.

  • The bear frequently symbolized strength, ferocity, and the fierce protection of family.
  • Boars stood for bravery, the willingness to battle to the death, as well as the desire to offer hospitality.
  • While dolphins primarily stood for speed and swiftness, they were also associated with love, salvation, and diligence.
  • The dove is one of the most well-known symbols, used to symbolize The Holy Spirit and the love of peace. When clutching an olive branch in its beak, it symbolizes the imminent arrival of good news.
  • Eagles are usually known for nobility, bravery, strength, alertness, and a love of justice. If the wings of an eagle are spread, it symbolizes protection. If a two-headed eagle is portrayed, it represents forces coming together.
  • Elephants weren’t just known for strength. They were also a symbol of wit, royalty, good luck and lifelong happiness.

Join us tomorrow as we continue learning more about animal symbolism on crests.

We’ve all seen pictures of coats of arms. Simply put, a coat of arms is a unique design frequently found on a shield, a surcoat (a loose outer gown or coat), or a tabard (a garment attached to a tunic or cape). They were used by knights in the Middle Ages to identify themselves and their families.

Yesterday, we discussed what role color played in the designs of coats of arms, and what the various shades symbolized. Today, we’ll discuss depictions of plants. In a general sense, flowers represented joy and the belief in hope, while fruit signified peace.

Keep reading and we’ll get into some specifics.

  • Acacia branches and leaves symbolize the eternal remembrance of those who have passed.
  • Apples, along with berries, signify peace, liberality, and felicity, due to their potential of huge growth from tiny beginnings. Grapes also signify these concepts, but they were additionally used to celebrate those who made wine.
  • Bay leaves were often used for constructing victor’s laurels, as well as laurels for poets.
  • Cypress leaves signify the promise of eternal life after death,
  • Laurel leaves signified triumph and peace, which is why they were used in sporting events.
  • An oak tree or its leaves and branches symbolized strength and wisdom due to great age.
  • Olive leaves and branches signified concordance and peace, which is why “extended an olive branch” has come to stand for a gesture of peace.
  • Roses have dual meanings depending on their color. White roses stand for faith and love, whereas red roses mean beauty and grace.

Maybe you’ve been inspired to create your own coat of arms. It can help you to harken back to a more noble time, to bring a little chivalry into your home, or maybe just add a touch of the Middle Ages to your home.

For centuries, the design of a family crest truly meant something. It would convey a message to the world about the standing and demeanor of the family it represented. In some ways, we live in a coarser era, and family crests imply a past degree of nobility that hadn’t faded from the world.

Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have one, and you’re curious about your family crest meanings. Crests have a great deal of symbolism, not only in terms of the meanings of the colors but also the meanings of plants and animals that are portrayed as well.

Keep reading and we’ll go into a bit more detail about the imagery that appears on family crests. In today’s blog, we’ll discuss color.

  • Gold was a color that symbolized nobler emotions such as generosity, and the desire to elevate the mind through learning and study.
  • Silver and white both symbolize purity, along with sincerity and the desire for peace.
  • Red is a more martial color. It represents strength in battle, and it was used for crests of families that had both warriors and martyrs.
  • Blue represented truth in life, along with loyalty towards family, comrades, and king.
  • Green was a traditionally cheery color, representing hope in life, happiness, and loyalty within love.
  • Black, as you can imagine, stood for mourning. However, it also represented consistency and steadfastness.
  • Purple was the ancient color of royalty, and justice, sovereignty, and the majesty of the nobility were among its meanings.
  • Orange symbolized ambition, however, it was ambition tempered with decency and nobility, as opposed to naked greed.
  • Maroon also represented strength in battle, but it tended to embody militarism that was more strategic and patient, yet ultimately victorious.

If you decide to design your own coat of arms for your family, what colors truly represent your best characteristics? Start planning today, and give your home and family a touch of nobility.

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