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Blazon is the technical description of a coat of arms in heraldry .


The blazon has its origin in the Middle Ages , when it was one of the tasks of a herald to determine the origin of the coat of arms of arriving or passing knights .

The word Blazon derives from the French Blason ( "coat of arms") (cf.. Blasonner / Blazon for "Emblazon" in French or English). This ancestry exists indirectly through the Middle High German blasenieren, bleseniere .

As early as the 13th century, a very precise language for describing coats of arms was established in France, and based on it in England, which is still used today in heraldry . The English heraldic language is hardly understandable for non-trained English speakers due to the use of many old French words and the word order borrowed from French with subsequent adjectives. In Germany in the 17th century , Philipp Jacob Spener laid the foundations for a uniform description of the coat of arms in German, which largely dispensed with foreign words.

Originally, the appearance of coats of arms was officially described only with words. It was only with the use of coats of arms as symbols of sovereignty that images also acquired an official character, since the pure description of figures still allows certain creative freedom.

Basic rules

Basic heraldic elements

In principle, one understands by common figure all visually "perceptible appearances" of the real world. They are in contrast to the Herald's picture, which consists of a simple geometric division of the shield by dividing lines that divide the shield into differently colored "places". Many heraldic shields combine heraldic images with common figures. Common figures can be shown in natural colors, even if that should be avoided. The heraldic rules prescribe the most extensive stylization possible with the best possible recognizability of the motif.

If the heraldic shield is divided into fields, the blazon begins with the description of the shield division , the herald's image (s). Monochromatic shields are single . Often fine patterns are introduced so that the field is damascened .

Right / left and front / back in heraldry

Sword in right hand, shield in left
The red side is (heraldically) on the right or in front , the golden side on the left or behind

“Heraldic right” is the left side from the viewer (sometimes also referred to as the front ). Accordingly, “left” or behind is the right side of a coat of arms.

This page designation is derived from the time when the coat of arms was worn on the shield in combat or tournaments. It therefore always refers to the sign holder (that is, the person standing behind the sign) and not to the viewer.

Since the right-handed knight carried his sword in his right hand and his shield in his left hand, the right edge and side of the shield, when viewed from the wearer, point forward and the left edge and side of the shield points backward.

The side on which the coat of arms of the father or grandmother was on the paternal side is marked with the sword side on tombs . Spill or Kunkel side is the name of the female or maternal side. This designation also relates to the historical context.

In modern heraldry , the term dexter, which comes from Latin, is increasingly used for “heraldic right”, both in common use and internationally .

Building a blazon

It starts with the right side if the shield is divided into several fields . The adjacent shorter cutting line determines whether the horizontal division or the vertical division has to be mentioned first. “First short, then long” is the order: half-split and divided means that fields 1 and 2 are small (upper coat of arms field) and the lower part of the coat of arms is not disassembled. In the other version, half-divided and split, the right / front side is only divided and the left / rear side is in one field. Proceed in the same way for other sign divisions. A once split and divided shield is quartered .

The shield division has developed into a real "pattern sheet" over the years. The boundaries of the fields are named after the cutting line shown. The scale of the heraldic cuts ranges from curved cuts to serrated cuts. Shamrock, monkshood, pinnacle, sawtooth, scale, stepped gable, wave and lily cuts are also possible with the designation "double". The colors are named in the usual reading direction from front to back and from top to bottom. Repeating alternating colors of a quartered or nested division are not mentioned again. Applied shield divisions, in particular the widespread heart shield , are named below insofar as they lie directly on the shield base and are not carried by figures. Parts separated from the rest of the shield base, such as a special shield base or shield head , are mentioned in advance. Due to the standardization, the shield itself is usually not mentioned literally, but the blazon begins directly with the concept of shield division.

split by red and silver
Split twice over a green shield base
split under a golden shield head
Divided diagonally / diagonally left by a green wavy ribbon

The fields of the herald's picture and each individual field are then fully described before moving on to the next field. The order corresponds to the naming of the herald's picture. In many cases there is a common figure in the field . In the case of simple shields, the location information can be omitted, otherwise each field description begins with the field being named, followed by the covering of the shield ground in this field and the figure on it. Many pictures of heralds, especially the "standard animals" such as eagles, lions, griffins, bears, unicorns or horses have a standard position in the field. It is only mentioned if this is different. An animal can be looking forward or en face (opposite), looking back or turning back, flying up or ready to fly, jumping (four-legged friends standing on their hind feet), rising, falling or lowered ( standing upside down), mutilated (the " reinforcement " claws, tail, legs are missing) or walking (animal with forefoot raised). The representation of an upper part of animals (and other figures) is growing . In the case of the leopard it is very pronounced: walking on all fours and looking, it is called the looking lion . From this, the lioned leopard or leoparding lion is derived according to the modification . A special bear representation is the dancing bear (bear with ax) or Landsknecht (bear with halberd). Two animals facing (these look at) or against turning, back turned or resist seeing his. In flowering representations is called painted, inseminated or bebutzt (Rose) when the interior is colored differently.

in front in red a golden lion turned to the left
in the second field in gold a black boar
divided at the back five times by black and gold

In the case of more complex fields, the elements are described according to their size, the most important and regularly centered figure first. Further figures are introduced with the note “hung up” and “accompanied”, which often describes the position sufficiently. Terms such as occupied, equipped, angled, excessive and removed are also common here. The standardized introductory terms make the blazon easy to read, even for more complex coats of arms.

A black boar in gold
accompanied by five red stars.
Divided five times behind by black and gold,
topped with a slanted green diamond wreath .

Sequence for complex coats of arms

Order of blazon for complex coats of arms

The order of complex coats of arms is after the main character (back shield ) middle shield , then heart shield . Here the highest-ranking part is also emblazoned first. After completing the shield coat of arms, the description of the attached elements follows. A crown or a helmet with a crest often "rests" on the head of the shield .

The number of helmets determines the order in the description. If there are two helmets, they are mentioned from right to left (1-2); if there are three helmets, the middle one is described first, then the right, then the left helmet (2-1-3). If more than three helmets are emblazoned, the number is decisive: if the number is even, start in the middle and then alternately right-left-right ... describe the helmets (5-3-1-2-4-6). Uneven number of helmets are placed in sequence (6-4-2-1-3-5-7). The helmets are not necessarily mentioned in the description of noble families (crowned Spangenhelm ) and middle-class families (uncrowned Stechhelm ).

After the helmets, the gems such as shield holders , coat of arms , motto or currency and finally medals and flags are mentioned in the coat of arms description.

The shield can be held by a heraldic bearer and framed by a heraldic tent. The description goes from the inside out, each element introduced with a verb that denotes the connection to the coat of arms . Helmet or blanket ( helmet cover ) usually rest on the shield, so that this position is omitted when the sentence is introduced with it:

  • a red three-tower wall crown rests on the shield,
  • on the blue-gold helmet with blue-gold blankets a blue jumping horse .

Basically, a description of the coat of arms should be kept as brief as possible. An element that adopts a natural position does not need a position specification, and where the alternating color is typically assumed, there is no need to name the color again. Heraldic carefully created coats of arms are limited to a combination of a few or only one color with a metal for the herald's image and show at most one figure in each field. More complex coats of arms are of course created by marrying two older coats of arms by bringing them together in a subdivided shield. Often one also takes over the older blazon of the parts.

  • Split; in the front sheathed in green and white, behind in silver an upright red panther.

The vocabulary of blazon should take up the traditional terms of heraldry. Due to the centuries of use, this no longer corresponds to the typical use of today's language. The naming as vertical, horizontal and diagonal can hardly be found, since the naming as erect, lying and inclined is sufficient.

Typical names

Heraldry has produced associated proper names for many figures and arrangements. In principle, any element can be used for a coat of arms, from which it can be assumed that the badge on the actual shield can also be recognized from the mention of the term in the blazon. Many coats of arms around the turn of the century 1900 in Europe have a toothed ring as a sign of industrialization. But there were also coats of arms with modern high-rise buildings and nuclear power plants as a sign of progress, but many of them were put out of use again with growing skepticism about technology.

One of the proper names of special coats of arms is the “ Franconian rake ”, which replaces the description as three silver tips in red .

The “ Württemberg ” and the “ Bavarian lion ” can easily be distinguished in their typical design features by experts - the latter typically appears erect in gold with red bezung and red-armored, while the Württemberg Staufer lion in black appears striding with red .

The Hessen lion is nicknamed Bunter Löwe . The lion of Thuringia is also a colorful lion . Both are distinguished by the “1. Stripes on the head. White (silver) is the Hessian variant, red the Thuringian variant.

The heraldist understands Mark's lion (for Venice ) to be a winged golden lion with a halo (nimbus - nimbated) and holding an open book in its paws .

The Meißner lion (black lion with red armor and also tongued) can be found in the coats of arms of Dresden and Leipzig.

Delitzsch coat of arms

Worth mentioning are the Landsberg stakes in the arms of Delitzsch , Leipzig and Landsberg , the Stargard arm as an armored sword-carrying (older coats of arms) or ring-holding ( Neustrelitz ) female arm .

The Mainz wheel (also in the Erfurt coat of arms), the Tomsk white horse . The Saxon diamond wreath in the Saxony coat of arms is another example.

One with boiler Rinken occupied Cross is a church clasp or Kirchheimer Kreuz become known.

Since the coats of arms regularly illustrate relationships between the ruling houses, these terms are found in many blazons instead of the general description, even if the latter must be used if the coat of arms does not originate from that coat of arms.

The coats of arms of many families are derived from knights who typically wear a tournament helmet ( Tjosten ) with a colored helmet cover that covers the coat of arms. The student coats of arms, on the other hand, are not accompanied by helmet covers, but by ostrich feathers, as is usually found among the lower Spanish nobility.

Instead of the helmet on the head of the shield , many urban coats of arms use a colored wall crown , which is used instead of the golden royal crown, while many bourgeois nations replaced the royal crown with a gold leaf crown. On the basis of the coat of arms companion one can derive information about the carrier authorization of the coat of arms holder .

The aurochs or Ur can be found as the national symbol of the “Moldovan aurochs” in many of the coat of arms of the Principality of Moldova . It can also be found in the coats of arms of Moldova and Bessarabia .

List of heraldic terms


See also

Web links

Commons : Atlas of Heraldic Terms in French and English  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Illustration of Heraldic Terms  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Wiktionary: Blazon  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Johann Georg Krünitz : Economic Encyclopedia . 1773 to 1858. 242 volumes.
  2. ^ Bernhard Peter: Correct and good blazon. In:, accessed on June 21, 2018.