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Heraldry and Vexillology - What is Coat of Arms?

A coat of arms is a distinguishing and ever-present chromatic and pictorial mark with a symbolic meaning and a heraldic declaration.

A monochromatic shield does not stand for a coat of arms, and the design of a coat of arms without showing any colours is not entitled to any reference of legitimacy.
A coat of arms is a constant representative of a person, a kinship, a club, an ecclesiastical organisation, as well as of a site, a country and a state.

The image in the shape of a sign/pattern (granted, adopted or voluntarily chosen) may be considered as a coat of arms only under certain conditions:

- The image is represented on the original, acknowledged heraldic shield. In this case heraldry speaks of six different, acknowledged forms/variations, which can bear slight differences.

2. - The image/design, which the shield is showing, is to be represented in accordance with the international laws and the restituted heraldry of a coat of arms. The charges are chosen from well-known and acknowledged collections stemming from the middle Ages, such as heraldic images, items and objects. All their pictorial imitations are put together in a simplified pattern or design in order to represent an easy understanding.

3. - The image has to be presented in heraldic colours and metals.
The heraldic colours are: black, red, blue, green.
The heraldic metals are:
     *gold, which is often used as an alternative to the word “or “ in blazon.
     *Silver, argent, represented in art by white
The non-heraldic colours, such as grey and brown, are acknowledged only when being presented with the original authentication papers.

4. - The composition and separability of the heraldic colours as well as the metals are connected to certain laws: A combination of red, green and blue is strictly forbidden; and it is impossible to put gold and argent next to each other. In a coat of arms gold and argent are only used as a decoration/embellishment for the symbols and emblems that are not included in the blazon.

5. - The heraldic image has to be immaculate. The aesthetical or ‘’poetic’’ effect of the heraldic impression must not interfere with the whole complex heraldic image. The essentials of a symbol or emblem have to be shown in a striking way, leaving out or neglecting the unnecessarities
The singularity of the telling ornament of a coat of arms has to be distinguished. The image of a coat of arms should offer a sympathetic, visually friendly impression regardless of the whole meaning or significance.

- The image of a heraldically admitted design or charge has to be secured in its own singularity and unique origin. The heraldic charges of the same kind must nevertheless differ from each other in shape and in colour (e.g. the eagle: Poland: a silver eagle; The Tyrol: a red eagle; Carniola: a blue eagle)

7. - The pictorial presentation of a coat of arms involves a certain kind of artistry, which secures both the understanding of heraldic symbolism and the pictorial message.
If a coat of arms is designed in a cursory way - although it includes the necessary symbols and specifications - it will still represent a “bad” coat
of arms.

- If - in spite of the above-mentioned rules - an imitated or self - designed symbol/term evolves without any proof of origin (without any bearer) it can’t be treated as a valid or legal coat of arms. Any physical or juridical person is just allowed to bear a single coat of arms.

- Only when a graphically presented coat of arms and its blazon are in accord with the above-mentioned rules can they be considered to be in heraldic unity.
(The term ”blazon” means a concise and complete verbal description of a coat of arms century. A coat of arms only represents a pictorial imitation of the blazon).
Once this state of heraldic unity is achieved, the legitimating of a coat of arms can take place. 

Coats of arms are unique. Other similar symbols that are used in advertising or for other ends, and conform only to the mainstream desires and trends of the modern market (or it’s users) are considered to be emblems. An emblem cannot bear a blazon, and can only be described using geometrical methods. As a matter of fact, an emblem can be used as a symbol.


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