The Epic History of the Coat of Arms
The history of coats of arms is epic in every way. It's a history of heroes, battles, castles and families. Every coat of arms tells the story of a family, a house, a country or a nation. The story is told using symbols, colors and other carefully chosen elements that follow rules that are particular to a coat of arms design.
What Is a Coat of Arms?
A coat of arms is a special design on a shield that tells others about the family or the group that owns that coat of arms. The coat of arms of a family is often displayed on the wall. We can also buy clothing that has the coat of arms as a crest or logo. A coat of arms communicates to others about values, about what we hold as important, using pictures and colors instead of words.
When Was the First Coat of Arms Designed?
Coats of arms were designed during the Middle Ages. They were used to identify knights during battle. There were many battles during the Middle Ages, and when the knights were in their armor on the battlefield, it was very difficult to tell them apart.
Knights began painting their shields and their coats with symbols to show what house or country they were fighting for. A new job was created as coats of arms became used by many countries and many families. The job of the herald was to keep track of what family and what country each coat of arms belonged to.
Each new coat of arms had to be unique. The herald also made sure that new coats of arms were completely unique and as time went on, governments created very strict rules about coats of arms. Those rules actually became laws. Every new coat of arms is registered with the government.
Designing a Coat of Arms: Glossary of Terms
Designs for coats of arms range from very simple to very complicated. Each one is unique and every coat of arms must have the following elements:
Escutcheon: The escutcheon is the main shape of the coat of arms. It is often in the shape of a shield, but the exact shape can vary.
Field: The field is the background color of the shield. Originally, the field was a solid color, but later patterns began to be used for the field. The colors in coats of arms are called tinctures.
Charge: The charge is the main picture, the main symbol, in the center of the shield. It might be an animal, a sword, a ship or something else that represents the family or the group.
Ordinaries: Ordinaries are the other designs that appeared on the shield. They add color and uniqueness to the coat of arms.
Where Do We See Coats of Arms Today?
You may not have noticed how many different places display a coat of arms today. Coats of arms, some designed during the Middle Ages, can be seen on money, on buildings, on flags, on signs and on letters.
Many families in many different countries display their official coat of arms in their home. It is very likely that your town has a coat of arms, and so does your state and your country. If you look at flags from around the country and around the world, you will notice that many flags have a coat of arms on them.
Your school might have a coat of arms, too. Sports teams often have a coat of arms and so do most universities and colleges. Academic schools and sports teams use the coat of arms to show that they are a team and to indicate what motivates and inspires them. We've come a long way from the Middle Ages, but the coat of arms remains very important to people in many countries around the world.