Lion (heraldic animal)

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crowned lion in the Vienna Hofburg

The lion is a common figure in heraldry and the most popular heraldic animal . He symbolizes courage and royalty, as he is considered the "king of animals".

Symbolism and use

The winged lion of the evangelist Mark has been the symbol of Venice and its national emblem for centuries (detail from a painting by Vittore Carpaccio , 1516)

The lion has been depicted since the Stone Age . This is how the ice age hunters depicted the lion in the culture stage of the Aurignacien more than 30,000 years ago. The characteristic of the lion as the “king of animals”, which is widespread in many cultures, goes back to the influence of the Physiologus , an early Christian book on animal symbolism that had a great general influence on Western culture. The royal symbolism has been repeatedly taken up in history to register or reinforce claims to power, for example by Henry the Lion . The fascination emanating from this is still evident today through the large number of coats of arms on which the lion is depicted in various colors and shapes (see below).

In ancient times, the lion was common throughout the Mediterranean. In Greek mythology , lions appear in various functions: The Nemean lion was depicted as a man-eating beast, and killing it was one of Herakles' twelve tasks . In the story of Androclus , one of Aesop's fables , the hero, a runaway slave, pulls a thorn from a lion's paw; When he is later thrown to the lions to eat as a punishment for his flight, the animal recognizes him and refuses to kill the man. The winged lion is mentioned in the Bible (Daniel 7.4) and assigned to the evangelist Mark in Christian iconography . The lion also played a role in numerous other ancient cultures. In Egypt , pharaohs were represented as sphinxes , lions with a human head. The most famous such representation is the Great Sphinx of Giza . Egyptian mythology also knew Dedun , the Upper Egyptian god of wealth.

Calligraphic representation of ʿAlī ibn Abī Tālib , called the "Lion of God"

The lion has been depicted frequently in Persian art for over 3000 years. Also there and later in Islam the animal or a person with this nickname is considered proud, courageous, authoritarian, (mostly) masculine and terrifyingly strong.

Heraldic lion

As is typical for heraldic depictions, the lion is also depicted in a strongly stylized manner. Typical body features such as the head, the paws and the tail are worked out very clearly, on the other hand the body is strongly slimmed down in the heraldic representation. In particular, the typical lion's mane is reduced to a few fringes, sometimes completely omitted.

In contrast to the heraldic leopard , the heraldic lion is erected or rising in profile , i.e. H. shown standing on the hind feet. He looks straight ahead. This representation is the basic form and does not have to be reported when blazoning . If the lion is depicted walking and looking straight ahead, heraldry speaks of a walking or leoparded lion. If he is standing on his hind feet (erect or rising), but has turned his head towards the viewer (looking around), it is a lioned leopard. In addition, there is the lion looking backwards and only the leopard head looking forward. Rarely are seated or lying lion. The lion's tail is shown singly or twice in the coat of arms. It is then a double-tailed lion, and there are even more tails. The curvature of the tail is emblazoned only in exceptional cases. A maned lion is described as a lioness .

The heraldic lion is usually shown in gold, red or black. Silver or blue lions are rare. Sometimes the lion's weapons (especially the claws) and the knocked out tongue are tinged in a different color. This must be reported when blazoning . It is then called, for example, "a golden, red armored lion". The fact that the lion wears a crown must also be indicated accordingly, also with the color. Depictions of the animal with its tongue knocked out appear in coats of arms only after 1340. Before that and on seals, the tongue was not yet a distinguishing feature.

Lion head

Occasionally, only the lion's head is shown in the coat of arms. A distinction must be made between two basic variants. One variant shows a head with a straight cut at the neck and is emblazoned with "cut off" in the description of the coat of arms . With the other option, the mane covers this interface and it is described as "torn off". A head turned towards the viewer, i.e. placed en face, is a leopard head. This representation has been used at least since the 13th century. In modern heraldry, the term leopard head is not popular.

All heads can be changed with crowns or other decorative things or colors. However, it should be mentioned in the description of the coat of arms.

The lion leopard

Leopard in an upright position, looking at the viewer. This difference did not exist in the Middle Ages.

Leoparded lion

Striding lions, heraldic look to the right.

Special forms

The following mythical creatures are considered independent figures:

  • Man lion and woman lion: With the torso of a man as a man lion and with the torso of a woman as a woman lion, known in heraldry. The latter representation of a lion is also called the Sphinx .
  • the griffin is a fantasy figure in heraldry, an eagle torso combined with a lion's abdomen
  • the panther , a lion-footed, mostly dragon-headed animal
  • the sea ​​lion is a heraldic animal with the lion's front part and the rear part as a fish tail
  • Another mythical creature with the head of a lion is the manticore
  • the chimera in heraldry is represented with a girl's face, lion's mane, lion's feet, goat's body and a dragon's tail.
  • the eagle lion , combination of eagle head and lion body


Lions with special names

image Surname Appearance and / or meaning
Emblem of India.svg Ashoka Lion Heraldic animal of India . This lion has three heads facing in different directions that have a body.
Coat of arms district Haßberge.svg Bamberg lion In gold, a red armored black lion covered with a silver sloping bar (also left-facing with a left sloping bar). Heraldic animal of the bishopric of Bamberg.
Coat of arms of Bavaria.svg Bavarian lion The Bavarian lion holds the Bavarian state coat of arms and is a symbol of Bavaria, among other things on monuments and awards.
Bergischer Loewe.svg Bergischer lion In silver a double-tailed, blue-armored, blue-tongued and blue-crowned red lion.

The Bergisch lion was the heraldic animal of the Duchy of Berg .

Small coat of arms of the Czech Republic.svg Bohemian lion In red a double-tailed, gold-armored and tongued silver lion with a gold crown of leaves.
Brunswick Coat of Arms.png Brunswick lion Braunschweig's heraldic animal modeled on a statue in Braunschweig . In a silver shield there is a black-armored, silver-toothed red lion ( heraldically turned to the right ).
DEU Kerpen COA.svg above Brabant lion
below Limburg lion
In black, a golden, red-tongued and red-armored lion.
In silver, a red, double-tailed, gold-crowned, tongued and armored lion.
Coat of arms of Thuringia, svg Colorful lion Heraldic animal of the federal states of Hesse and Thuringia
Flag of Flanders.svg Flemish lion , also Flemish lion In gold, a red-armored and red-tongued black lion. In the coat of arms of Flanders .
Great coat of arms of Sweden.svg Folkung lion Shield holder in the large Swedish national coat of arms
Armoiries Gueldre.svg Geldern (sch) er lion ( Duchy of Geldern ) In blue a red-armored, red-tongued and red-crowned golden lion.
Counts of Habsburg Arms.svg Habsburg Lion In gold, a blue-armored, blue-tongued and blue-crowned red lion. Althabsburg, later with the Bindenschild family coat of arms, and from there into the coats of arms of the Roman-German and Austrian emperors from the 12th to the 20th century, frequently throughout Europe.
DEU Waldfeucht COA.svg Heinsberg lion In red, crowned, double-curved silver / white lion, turned right.
Everstein Coat of Arms.png Itterscher Löwe ( Haus Itter ), also Eversteiner Löwe ( Haus Everstein ) In blue a red-tongued and armored, gold-crowned, silver lion.
Jerusalem emblem.svg Lion of Judas A blue lion in gold. The Lion of Judah.
Arms of Flanders.svg Jülich lion In gold a red-tongued and red-armored black lion.
Alex K Halych-Volhynia.svg Ruthenian lion Heraldic animal of the Ruthenian Kingdom , the Ruthenian Voivodeship and the Western Ukrainian People's Republic .
  1. In blue a silver-armored and silver-tongued golden lion (also crowned with gold ) or
  2. In blue a red-armored and red-tongued golden lion (also crowned with gold ).
Coat of arms of the Kingdom of León, svg Lion of León In silver a red-armored, red-tongued and gold-crowned purple lion.
DEU Fuerstentum Lueneburg COA.svg Lüneburg Lion ( Principality of Lüneburg ) In gold, sprinkled with red hearts, a double-tailed, red-armored and red-tongued blue lion.
Coat of arms of Oberickelsheim.png St Mark's Lion The St. Mark's lion - a winged, golden-nimbed silver lion lying here - is the symbol of the evangelist Mark and heraldic animal of Venice .
Marzocco.jpg Marzocco The Marzocco lion is the shield holder in the coat of arms of Florence .
Coat of arms district Meissen.svg Meissen Lion ( Margrave of Meissen ) In gold, a red-armored and red-tongued black lion.
Coat of arms Abfaltersbach.gif Carrot lion With the head of an African ( Moor for black skin color). Moorish lion in the coat of arms of Abfaltersbach (Tyrol) .
Arms of Nassau.svg Nassau lion The Nassau lion is particularly common in the Westerwald and Taunus . A red-armored, red-tongued golden lion. Mostly in a blue field sprinkled with golden shingles.
DEU Neustadt an der Weinstrasse COA.svg Palatinate lion The Palatinate Lion is particularly widespread in southern Germany in the federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. A red-armored, red-tongued and red-crowned golden lion.
Blason Sayn.svg Sayner lion The Sayner lion can be found in various coats of arms of the Westerwald. In red a blue- armored and -tongued , golden, looking, double-tailed lion (lioned leopard).
Schleswig Arms.svg Schleswig lions The Schleswig lions appear in various Schleswig coats of arms. In gold, two striding, red-armored and red-tongued blue lions in stakes.
Coat of arms of Baden-Württemberg (lesser) .svg Staufer lions Three Staufer lions in the coat of arms of Baden-Württemberg .
Coat of arms Grafschaft Veldenz.svg Veldenzer Lion (County Veldenz) In silver a red-tongued, gold-armored and gold-crowned blue lion.
State seal of Myanmar.svg Guardian lion As a shield holder in the coat of arms of Myanmar .

Lion coat of arms

List of other lion coats of arms:

Shield holder lions

See also

Web links

Commons : Lions in Heraldry  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : crowned lions in heraldry  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : double-tailed lions in heraldry  - collection of images, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl Schlamminger, Peter Lamborn Wilson : Weaver of Tales. Persian Picture Rugs / Persian tapestries. Linked myths. Callwey, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-7667-0532-6 , pp. 145-147.
  2. ^ Walter Leonhard: The great book of heraldic art. Development, elements, motifs, design. 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Georg DW Callwey, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-7667-0345-5 .
  3. Gert Oswald : Lexicon of Heraldry. VEB Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig 1984.
  4. ^ Milan boys : Heraldry. Edited edition. Albatros, Prague 1987.