Archive for October 2011

His All Holiness, Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch awarded the Grand Collar of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia

 As reported by the Royal House of Georgia, in a ceremony held at the Church of St. George in Constantinople (Istanbul) on October 22, His All Holiness, Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch was awarded the Grand Collar of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia by HRH Prince Davit himself.

In attendance were the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II and His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej

The Order was given with the opportunity of the celebration of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s 20th anniversary of his enthronement and for his lifetime of service to Christianity. It is well deserved indeed.

Ioannis Vlazakis heraldic art exhibition in Vienna, November 2011

Heraldry is not an exclusively Christian nor an exclusively European phenomenon

There are many misconceptions and even falsehoods out there about heraldry, such as the notion that heraldry is restricted to nobility or that a coat of arms can only be acquired via a grant from a sovereign or only used by snobs.

One other such misconception is that heraldry is restricted to Christians to the exclusion of all other religions.

It is true that heraldry as we know it today emerged in Europe and was primarily a Christian phenomenon but, it was not exclusive to Christians nor restricted to Europe. There is evidence of Jews using coats of arms throughout the history of heraldry, even as far back as the 1300’s (per fess a lion issuant and barry of six or and azure,  belonging to a Daniele di Samuele of Forlì, Italy found on a manuscript from 1383 kept in the British Museum). There has also been significant scholarly research done that (inconclusively) demonstrates that heraldry was adopted by the Crusaders from the Muslims it fought in the East!

Regardless of where heraldry originated from, the fact remains that heraldry was not and is not restricted to any particular religion just like it was not and is not restricted to any particular social class.

Let’s not forget that the three major religions have been living next to each other, if not in enclaves within each other’s territories, for as long as the three religions have existed. As a result, the communities interacted and adapted to the norms needed. There are ample examples of, say, heraldic achievements belonging to prominent Jews being depicted on seals on official documents throughout Europe.

Even outside of Europe there is a long history of heraldic usage as has been documented by islamic scholars, the most famous of which is the treatise “Contribution à l’étude du blason en Orient” by Yacoub Artin Pacha. In this monumental work, Yacoub Artin Pacha compiles an impressive armorial of ancient Islamic shields and demonstrates the long history of heraldry in the Islamic world. As a side note, in this same text a case is made for the Islamic origins of heraldry but, that’s a topic for another post (maybe).

Thankfully, the tradition of heraldry continues to our own times where families and individuals continue to use coats of arms that have either been inherited, newly granted or freely assumed.

The arms above are those of Hassan Kamel-Kelisli-Morali who bears the arms that have been in use by his family for at least two centuries: Vert two bendlets between as many mullets Argent.

The arms above are those of David E. Cohen who freely assumed his arms in 2008: Bleu Celeste a Bar nebuly Argent a Base enarched Vert overall a Key palewise double wards to base Or within the bow a Sapphire Cabochon proper. As an indication of how the misconception persists, he once shared that he has a hard time getting artists to emblazon the key on his shield without a cross!

Both gentlemen above not only gave me permission to post their arms but they also were very helpful in providing some of the information in this post.

Below is a short list of online resources I recommend for anyone that wants to read more about this:

And I just covered Islamic and Jewish heraldry. There are numerous examples of heraldry, both historic and modern, for all other groups from around the world!


de Moffarts International Award for Heraldic Art

The de Moffarts Foundation in coordination with the Belgian Federation for Genealogy and Heraldry has announced the theme for the 2012 contest of this prestigious international award in heraldic art.

For those who are not familiar with the award, this is the international incarnation of the originally triennial award created in 1992 by the Baron André de Moffarts (1925-2004). The award was initially created to promote the heraldic arts in Belgium and was award to Belgian artists.

Later on, the de Moffarts Foundation decided to expand the award to the international arena and the first International Award was given during the 2006 International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences.

The winner of the competition is awarded with a medal (displayed at the top of this post) and a cash prize of €5000. Additionally, the de Moffarts Foundation will sponsor the winning artist to participate in that year’s International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences.

The rules and theme for the 2012 competition is the following (taken from the booklet published by the Foundation):

Candidates have to submit (1) an original work in accordance with the theme specified below, (2) a portfolio containing a representative selection of their heraldic creations and (3) a curriculum vitae. The portfolio will be delivered in electronic format. Submissions have to be made before 1st March 2012. Submissions made after that date will not be accepted.

The late Baron André de Moffarts was a great amateur of books. He designed his own book-plate, which has inspired the medal of the International Award.

Candidates for the 2012 International Award are invited to design an heraldic bookplate for the de Moffarts Foundation. The original work has to be made on a A4-sized paper.

The following coat of arms are to feature (in their entirety, or some of their constituent parts):

Baron de Moffarts: Or, on a fess Argent, fimbriated Sable, four saltires throughout of the same. A baron’s coronet with nine visible pearls placed on the rim. Two helmets respectant Argent, grilled and garnished Or, lined Gules, with mantling Or and Sable.

Crests: dexter: out of a ducal coronet Or, on two wings addorsed Or, a fess as in the shield; sinister: out of a ducal coronet Or, a lion crowned Or, langued Gules, between two elephant’s trunks paly bendy Argent and Azure.

The van Willigen family: Argent, a chevron Gules, in base a hare passant proper on a base Vert. A helmet Argent, grilled and garnished Or, lined Gules, with mantling Argent and Gules. Crest: a pollarded willow tree Vert.


For those interested parties, you can contact:

Fondation de Moffarts – de Moffarts Foundation
Burggrachtstraat 20-21, 3560 Lummen, Belgium
Tel.: + 32 (0) 13 33 80 36 – Fax : + 32 (0) 13 67 44 07


Regarding the Marques de La Floresta’s authority to certify personal arms

Joseph McMillan, the noted American heraldic scholar (whose arms are displayed above), proposed that as an extension of the recent conversations regarding the Marques de La Floresta, it may be of interest to read the decision by the Spanish Council of State from 1995 (Número de expediente: 2437/1995 [JUSTICIA E INTERIOR]) regarding the Marques’ authority to certify personal arms. The original text can be found here:

Back in 2006, Mr. McMillan had posted a thorough summary of the decision on the Usenet group rec.heraldry in English in a thread discussing the topic. Here is the text in his own words (posted here with his permission and with minimal edits for context & formatting – any emphasis is mine):

This very interesting report clarifies the Marques de la Floresta’s authority (or rather lack thereof) to issue certifications of personal arms.

The document at the site is an opinion of the Spanish Council of State, issued on 30 November 1995, in response to a request from the Ministry of Justice.

On 19 January 1995, La Floresta submitted a brief to the Ministry of Justice asking for the confirmation of his credentials as Cronista of Castile and Leon and for the convocation of a tribunal to examine his qualifications for the title, so that he could receive the certificate from the Ministry of Justice required by the decrees of 1915 and 1951 governing the appointment of Cronistas.

On 26 June, nearly six months having passed without a response, he resubmitted his request, stating that despite exercising the duties of Cronista of Castile and Leon since 1991, it had been made known to him that obtaining the certificate from the Ministry of Justice was necessary for him to continue in this role. He argued that the Ministry had the obligation either to convoke the examining tribunal or to confirm his appointment by use of the transitory provisions of the 1951 decree, as it would otherwise be preventing him, contrary to law, from exercising his profession, and would also cause him to suffer significant damages in terms of both income and reputation.

As part of his submission, the Marques included copies of the decree of the C&L government naming him to the post and of his commission as Cronista of C&L, which stated that La Floresta would posess all the powers and competencies of the ancient Chronicler-Kings of Arms of Castile and Leon, including the power to issue certifications of genealogy, nobility, and the right to use coats of arms.

The view of the Ministry of Justice, as submitted to the Council of State, was that Don Vicente de Cadenas was at that time the only person entitled to exercise the duties contemplated by the 1915 and 1951 decrees. The Ministry went on to say that “the matter of the Cronistas de Armas has been examined on more than one occasion from diverse perspectives, always arriving at the conclusion that the present moment does not appear ideal to raise this matter because of the social repercussions it would obviously have.”

What the Council of State ruled was that the 1982 royal decree that gave the autonomous communities jurisdiction over “the awarding to local corporations of styles, honors, and distinctions, as well as the granting to municipalities and provinces of municipal coats of arms” effectively created a second kind of Cronista, which it called a “chronicler of municipal arms.” The 1915 and 1951 decrees did not apply to chroniclers of municipal arms, since chroniclers of municipal arms do not issue certifications or grants on their own authority; they only make recommendations to the community junta (government), which makes the final decision on the grant of the arms. Moreover, they have no need for qualifications in genealogy and nobiliary law, since their duties do not require expertise in these subjects.

On the other hand, an appointment by an autonomous community as a chronicler of municipal arms does not entitle a person to carry out the duties of a chronicler of family arms, which is the term the Council applies to Cronistas appointed in accordance with the 1915/1951 decrees. The autonomous communities do not have authority over family heraldry or rights to noble titles; that authority continues to reside exclusively in the Ministry of Justice. The Junta of Castile and Leon therefore exceeded its authority when it purported to grant the Marques de la Floresta the powers to issue certifications of personal arms, genealogy, and nobility, and the Marques could not lawfully exercise such powers.

So the Marques’s contention that the refusal of the Ministry to validate his credentials was interfering with his ability to carry out his duties was rejected. He did not need the approval of the Ministry of Justice to carry out his legitimate functions of advising the Community government on matters of provincial and municipal heraldry and vexillology. It went on to say, in very firm terms, that an autonomous community government’s having unlawfully exceeded the bounds of its authority could not logically constrain the Ministry’s free discretion in exercising its own prerogatives under the 1915/1951 decrees.

The Council also stated that:

  1. The Ministry had the exclusive right to decide when and whether to hold examinations in which all aspiring Cronistas could take part. No individual person had legal standing to demand the convoking of the examining tribunal.
  2. The transitory provisions in the 1951 which the Marques had suggested could be used to validate his appointment applied only to persons holding the position of Cronista at the time the decree was issued–the Marques de la Floresta had not yet been born at that time. Moreover, they were required to submit their credentials for validation within 30 days of the publication of the decree. The Marques de la Floresta had not met that deadline.
  3. “It is possible to differentiate clearly between the two competencies [of chronicler of family arms and chronicler of municipal arms] without losing sight of the fact that the circumstances that in large measure were responsible for the issuance of the Decree of 1951, namely the reestablishment of the nobiliary laws in 1948, are replicated today with the [1988] changes to the 1922 decree on nobiliary succession] and with the new stricter norms for the proof of relationships.” [Comment: This could be construed as suggesting that it may be an opportune time for the Ministry to reconsider its position on raising the issue of new Cronistas of family arms.]

The above is an excellent write-up that sheds some light on the topic for those who are interested in the topic.