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Heraldry is an Art which can take years to master. The purpose of this page is to outline the basic terms and rules as they relate to our products. For those who wish to study in greater depth there are links at the bottom of this page.    

Details of Jousting knights from an English Manuscript circa 1545

HISTORY
  The term Heraldry is believed to come from the German words heer- meaning host or army and held-champion. The first roles of Arms appear the mid 13th century. The practice was probably inspired by early tribal /political emblems, such as cult figures in ancient Egypt and the military flags-Vexilions, of the Roman Legion.

  As the art of warfare progressed in it's use of armor it became difficult to tell an enemy from an ally on the battlefield.  Warriors began to put personal symbols on their shields instead of ones representing groups. The designs needed to be bold and brightly colored to distinguish individuals at a distance as vision through helmets was limited.

 Soon it became commonplace to wear an open sided garment called a surcoat over ones armor with a emblem unique to each knight-the origin of the term Coat of Arms.
  Originally devices could be chosen without restriction. But as the practice spread throughout Europe the need arose to record/limit their use so that no two knights used the same design. Eventually the right to bear arms could only be granted by the king and approved by the college of heralds.

Quality Vector graphic images of your personal Coat of Arms are available from the IMAGE page.

 

 


RULES OF TINCTURE:
The colors used in Heraldry were limited by mid-evil technology. Arms/Devices are subject to rules concerning the placement of colors, known as "tinctures", on the background-"field" and are restricted to the following;

METALS
Two "metals" were used, Gold-"Ore" , represented by a shade of yellow and Silver-"Argent" depicted as white. In most cases one is not allowed to be displayed on top of or touching the other.

 

TINCTURES
Five colors known as "Tinctures" are generally used: Red = "Gules", Green = "Vert", Blue ="Azure", Purple = "Purpur" and Black was called "Sable".

The normal rule is; no tincture can be placed on top of another tincture and may only be placed next to another if the combination shows a distinct contrast. Usually tinctures are used to contrast metals or furs.

FURS

Two Fur patterns were utilized in heraldic art. Ermine, generally displayed as a white-argent field with a repeating black-sable motif representing the animals tails.
This practice recalls early periods when pelts were attached to the covers of shields. The other pattern more rarely used is "Vair", believed to mimic squirrel skins sewn together. Usually is shown as a white-argent field with a bell/shield shape in blue/azure spaced evenly across the surface.  

Both furs can occasionally use different  tinctures but must observe the rules regarding contrast & metals versus tinctures.

ORDINARIES:

In Heraldry the way the shield-field is divided would be called an "Ordinary". There are many more ways to section a field than we can show here. Below are some of those more commonly used that we consider basic.
BASIC ORDINARIES

There are wide variety of general ordinaries included in the Basic Gonfalon price, available on the Banner page.


Here is a selection of Ordinaries that we consider complex and must charge an additional fee to produce.
COMPLEX ORDINARIES

If the ordinary is devided into more than 4 sections or contains angles other than 45 dgrees we would probably consider it complex.

BORDERS:
Some Heraldic Devices include a border as well as Ordinaries. Here are some of the better known ones.
 

As you can see borders can often be very complicated so we must charge more to create them in fabric.

CHARGES:
Arms often display symbols known as "charges". These could represent; tools of an occupation, animals, plants, buildings,  crosses and other religious items, etc.
Some objects had meanings relating to the birth order called "cadency" and others were simply shapes. Below is a few simpler charges.

If a charge indents more than 8 times or wouldn't look clean about this size it probablly isn't simple.

SIMPLE CHARGES
Many animal charges were used in the art of heraldry, the creatures chosen were as often fantasy/mythological as real. Sometimes they were real but never seen by the artist and wouldn't be recognized by modern eyes.

ANIMAL CHARGES
Animal charges are described by the pose in which they were shown such as "rampant"- rearing up in a combative stance or "passant"- a more docile pose. The direction they faced was noted in their description; "dexter" means to face to their right and "sinister" to face to their left.

The Charges we create are usually based on the standard depictions used in Heraldry since early times, but if your's is not we can work with you to create something great.

BLAZONING:

The system for describing a device is known as blazoning. It is believed that the term comes from the German word- blazen-to blow a horn. Display of arms were often accompanied by the sound of a horn- "calling to arms". In heraldry to "blazon" means to write a description of a device while to "emblazon" refers to an artistic representation of arms.
The rules regarding the way a device is blazoned are very specific . In a "simplified" way the order is as follows:

  • Listed first is the color/tincture of the background/ordinary- if the ordinary is more than one color then the upper right/dexter ( left as you view it) tincture is listed after the ordinary/division name, followed by the next color.

  • Second the border style if any is listed with the color/s (upper left first).

  • Next the charge/s are listed, preference given to how close they are to the outside edges and height ( the names of the positions on a shield factor in but will not be discussed here) followed by their color/s.

  • Finally the charge/s placed in the center is/are named with the tincture/s listed last. Simple (wink).

As an example this device below would be blazoned in the following way:

 Ore in fess Gules two mullet of 6 in chief (top) and one in base Sable. 

Remi Arms circa 1540 - French

As stated only the basics of heraldry are covered. For those interested in more on the subject here are some good links:


Heraldry Links
 

 

Meaning of Coats of Arms           Studies in Heraldry           Heraldica Site Map

 

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