Archive for January 2010

Serbian Orthodox Church

It was just in November of 2009 that His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia, the 44th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church passed away. He was very much loved in his country and widely respected.

Last week, on January 23rd, the 45th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox, His Holiness Patriarch Irinej, was enthroned. He is a humble man and, from what I can tell, very much deserving of the honor and will definitely do an excellent job during his tenure.

What of the heraldry though?

As opposed to the Churches of the West, the bishops of the Eastern Churches don’t normally adopt a Coat of Arms unless they come from armigerous families.

This is the case with Patriarch Irinej. As the son of peasant farmers, his family was not armigerous and never adopted personal arms while rising through the ranks of the Church. Therefore, he uses the arms of the Office of the Patriarch displayed above.

What immediately stands out is the cross in base that appears to be the same as that found on Byzantine arms, also known as the tetragrammatic cross.

As was described in a previous post, the objects in each quarter are called “firesteels” or fire starters. The reason these were used in Byzantine arms (and later influenced all the Easter Churches) was because of Greek Fire. In any case, these firesteels are artistically depicted as letters. In the case of the Byzantine Empire and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, they were interpreted as “B”s and having the text “Βασιλεύς Βασιλέων Βασιλεύων Βασιλευόντων” or “King of Kings Ruler of Rulers”.

However, in the Serbian case, these symbols are called očila and in the Serbian tradition have also come to be interpreted as letter with a specific meaning. The letter it is interpreted as is the letter “C” which is the equivalent to the “S” in English. The text is “Само слога Србина спасава” or “Only Unity Saves the Serbs”. This is a text attributed to St. Sava from the 12th Century, a Serbian prince and ascetic who also was the first archbishop of the Church. This saying has united the Serbs for centuries and, it is said, that it was a rallying cry for the faithful Orthodox Serbs in their efforts to remain Orthodox in the face of the increasing pressure from Rome to convert to Catholicism.

(Note: images above are courtesy of Wikipedia)

Haiti earthquake of January 2010

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should have heard about the devastating 7.0 Mw earthquake that hit Haiti on the night of January 12, 2010.

In response to this, the College of Arms has made the very admirable move to send money collected from the sale of the book “The Armorial of Haiti” to those in need in that island country. Clive Cheesman, Rouge Dragon of the College of Arms made the following posting on January 13 in rec.heraldry:

In response to the calamitous earthquake that struck Haiti yesterday evening, the College of Arms has decided that all proceeds arising from future sales of The Armorial of Haiti: Symbols of Nobility in the Reign of Henry Christophe (ISBN 978-09506980-2-1) will be donated to the relief effort.

The book is an edition, with commentary, of an extraordinary heraldic manuscript created in Haiti in the second decade of the nineteenth century and now held in the College of Arms. It was published by the College in 2007 and is available on-line for 45 pounds sterling (plus despatch costs) at and through Production costs for the book have been met, and all sums received by the College over and above normal packing and postage costs will be held for the benefit of a recognised charity working towards the international relief effort, the charity to be selected on the basis of official advice.

I would urge those who have not yet acquired a copy of this book to consider doing so, and to mention it to others who may be interested either in New World heraldry, in Caribbean history or specifically in the politics and culture of Haiti. Doing so will raise money directly for the relief of the nation that produced this unusual and fascinating artefact.

If you have already purchased a copy of the book, or as an alternative to doing so now, please consider donating directly to the effort to the relief campaign through a charity of your choice.

Clive Cheesman
Rouge Dragon
College of Arms
Queen Victoria Street

Painful heraldry

As I was visiting the various blogs I regularly visit, I came across this post from the blog Georgian Heraldry by Alexander Mikaberidze.

The image above is of the coat of arms of Istvan Varallyay of Hungary. According to Mikaberidze, the armiger was a master farrier and gelder.

A farrier is a person who specializes in the care of a horse’s feet. However, the inspiration for the arms most probably came from Mr. Mikaberidze other specialty, gelding or castrating equines.

Heraldry originated in the European battlefields of the Middle Ages as decorated shields as a means of identification and is derived from the earlier practice in such places as Greece and elsewhere to instill fear in the enemy. The shield above identifies the family and most definitely instills fear in any male that gazes upon them!