Archive for September 2009

Heraldry is like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good

In a thread over at the American Heraldry Society forum, we were discussing heraldry and how one can be put off when the artwork is bad.

Some give more weight on the emblazon (or visual aspect), as they are visual types, and some focus on the blazon and leave the graphical depiction to a competent artist.

My opinion is that the blazon is what’s important, the emblazon could lie anywhere from absolutely horrid all the way to Louvre calibre masterpiece. An good artist could make even the most mundane and uninspired arms look spectacular while, at the same time, an untalented hack can ruin the most original arms.

The point is, when looking at a shield or full achievement, try to see beyond the image and try to paint it in your head with all the flourishes you want. That’s when it will “pop”!

Even when it comes to [lucky charms] heraldry, you can still see the good points. Granted, you have to try a heck of a lot harder but, it’s there. Trust me!

So, like pizza, even when you come across what may be bad heraldry, it’s still pretty good.

Some lucky charms arms

Back in January, I had written about “lucky charms” heraldry and had dreamt up an shield that had everything but the kitchen sink in it.

However, I was told that it wasn’t lucky charmish enough.

I had let it go until a few days ago when I came across some truly inspired (in a LCD laced, psychedelic way) arms.


First off, we have the shield above from the City of Gloucester. According to the article on the City’s website talking about their “civic heritage”, there is a very interesting story talking about how the City obtained two grants of arms. The first was during the reign of King Henry VIII Tudor in 1538 and the second during the period of the Commonwealth in 1654. Oddly enough, the “unusual” arms above were granted by the Garter King of Arms of the Tudor period.


Fortunately, under the Commonwealth, Gloucester got another grant with the arms above and after the restoration of the monarchy, insisted on keeping the newer arms rather than the interesting Tudor shield.

I apologize for the small sized images used above but, those were the largest I could find and, honestly, didn’t have the time to create new ones from scratch.


Then we have the arms of the County of Banff or Banffshire (seen above) that, shall we say, provoke a reaction on the viewer’s side.

Magni Magistri


That most excellent Greek heraldic artist, John P. Vlazakis, whom I have mentioned in the past here and here, has another heraldic art exhibition on September 25 in Rhodes, Greece.

As you may have guessed, the title of the exhibition is “Magni Magistri” and the topic is, of course, the Grand Masters. Being in Rhodes, it’s about the Grand Masters of Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta.

In the long history of the Order, there have been many Grand Masters. Vlazakis, in this event, has focused on the period 1305 through 1522 and has emblazoned the arms of all the Grand Masters of that served during that time.


But, you might ask, why just those two centuries when the Order was established in 1099 by the celebrated Blessed Gerard and it is still in existence today?

The answer is simple, when you look at its long history and location. It was in 1305 that Foulques de Villaret became Grand Master of the Order, succeeding his uncle Guillaume de Villaret. It was Foulques that conquered Rhodes in 1308-1309 and moved the Order’s headquarters to the island.

In the same vein, it was Philippe Villiers de L’Isle-Adam (Grand Master 1521-1534) that lost the island of Rhodes to the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522. The nitpickers amongst you may say that it was actually 1523 that the capitulation occured (in Crete, by the way) but, my answer would be that it was January 1, 1523 so Vlazakis’ date is still correct!

As a side note, Villiers de L’Isle-Adam was the first Grand Master to rule over the Order based in Malta.


Back to the exhibition however.

The exhibit will open on September 25 and will run through October 23, under the auspices of the Rhodes Museum of Modern Greek Art and the Heraldic and Genealogical Society of Greece, at the “D’Amboise” gate of the old city. In addition to the coats of arms of all the Grand Masters of the period, Vlazakis will also exhibit miniatures and illuminated manuscripts, all inspired by the Middle Ages.

If you happen to be in Rhodes at the time, it will be well worth your while to pay it a visit.


Note: The images accompanying this post are from the exhibit.