Posts tagged ‘bruno heim’

Do arms need to be granted to be “real” heraldry?

The short answer is a resounding No!

Let’s examine why.

Heraldry has existed since the mid 12th century and spread throughout Europe. Records of heraldic devices have been found from the 1100’s everywhere from Germany to England to Spain. In all these jurisdictions and more, though there were rules of heraldry there wasn’t a central authority controlling the granting or registration of arms. Whoever wanted arms was free to assume them.

Perhaps the oldest heraldic authority is that of Scotland, the Court of the Lord Lyon, founded in 1318 by King Robert the Bruce, a full 170 years before the College of Arms was founded in England. By this time, heraldry was alive and well in most of Europe, even in England. So much so was the tradition of free assumption in England that from 1530 to 1688 the Kings of Arms of the College of Arms undertook a series of tours of the country to record all assumed arms. These tours are collectively known as the Heraldic Visitations.

By this time, heraldry in the British Isles had become stratified and tightly controlled. But, what of the other countries with just as long a heraldic tradition?

In Germany, ever since the time of Charlemagne, anyone was free to assume arms and display them and use them as needed. Carl von Volborth has gone so far as to make the assertion that it was the burgher arms of Germans that help shape Swedish heraldry. Germany never had a heraldic authority and that didn’t change throughout the history to this day. However, regional registration did and continue to exist.

In France, a similar history as that of Germany. Once again, no “granting” of arms but registrations did exist.

In Switzerland, a country with an exceptionally long and broad heraldic history, there never was a heraldic authority and the concept of having arms granted is as foreign as a Viking in central Africa.

Notice a pattern?

One can examine almost any country in Europe and find the same pattern.

Even within the Catholic Church, the same pattern exists. The position in the Church is so strong on the free assumption of arms that the giant of Catholic heraldry, Archbishop Bruno Heim was adamantly against the creation of a “Vatican Heraldic Authority”.

Well, as it is plainly seen, if free assumption of arms is “fake”, then Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland and the Catholic Church never had and still don’t have “real” heraldry.

It is my personal opinion that those who are against the free assumption of arms tend to discount the traditions of Europe and base their opinions solely on the heraldic history of the British Isles. I tend to think that the example of Britannia is the exception rather than the rule.


Bruno Heim’s “Or & Argent”

Or and Argent

Bruno Heim’s “Or & Argent” is a fascinating book that explores what is perhaps the most fundamental rule in heraldry: the rule of placing metal on metal (Or and Argent in heraldic terms) on a shield.

In the entry on the rule of tinctures, we explored the reasoning behind these rules and also saw a few examples of where these rules were simply tossed out the window. This book goes one step further however, focusing on the rule of metal on metal.

Bruno Heim was a Cardinal in the Catholic Church and for a number of years the Papal Nuncio in England. Heim is considered to have been the foremost authority on heraldry in the Catholic Church and his work has influenced the area of heraldry in a great way.

In this book, Heim explores the heraldic axiom of not placing metal on metal on a shield and questioning its validity. Almost all the literature expounds upon this rule as if it is the most significant of them all and it is refreshing to read a book that takes that rule head on; especially from an authority such as Bruno Heim.

What he accomplishes in this book is to show that the rule did not always exist and that, like many other rules, it is ignored more that it is observed. He quotes and presents many of the arms found in Rietstap’s Armorial Général (in which we find over 1500 examples) and Papworth’s Ordinary (over 200 examples) as well as arms documented elsewhere.

In this book, Heim also demonstrates examples from countries across Europe in clear violation of the rule, proving that the famous arms of the Crusader Kingdom of Jersulam is not the only exception. Countries such as England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Sweden are well represented.

Now, one may ask what would drive someone to write such a book? The answer is given by Heim himself on the very last page and I will quote him directly:

13. HEIM: Argent, on a “Dreiberg” (triple mount) Vert a lion rampant Or holding a horseshoe Azure surmounted by a mullet of the third. These arms were painted on a stained glass for Joh. Heimb in 1640. Joh. Heimb is the author’s direct ancestor, n. 1024 on the pedigree, who died 15th February 1659. This explains why I have been looking for other instances of Or and Argent arms for very many years, and this book shows part of the harvest of my endeavours. (These arms are still publicly exposed in Boningen, Solothurn, Switzerland, two miles from where Johannes Heimb lived and had his house and land).


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