Coat of arms

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COAT OF ARMS – A sign determined according to specified rules. Combat, distinctive and proprietary sign. In the Western Europe the first coats of arms appeared in the second quarter of the 12th century. They were first assumed by knights, later by princes and kings. In Poland it was the opposite – the first c.o.a. appeared in the first quarter of the 13th century on the princes’ seals, and they were later adopted by the knighthood. Historically, apart from the most numerous group of knighthood c.o.a. (of the nobility) there were also bourgeois c.o.a., c.o.a. of corporations, municipal c.o.a., peasantry c.o.a.. The classification of coats of arms: they can be divided according to many criteria. According to the type of user they can be divided into: national emblem, c.o.a. of territorial units (cities, municipalities, counties, villages, lands, etc.); ancestral c.o.a. (families or clans, most often noble but also bourgeois, peasant); c.o.a. of corporations (organisations, unions, corporations, monasteries and other legal entities). According to the legal status: c.o.a. of the land owned or governed; c.o.a. of lands to which the claimant makes a claims (e.g., c.o.a. of France in the old c.o.a. of England); c.o.a. of lands over which the holder exercises patronage (e.g., c.o.a. of provincial governors); c.o.a. of marriage – associating the c.o.a. of the owner with the c.o.a. of the spouse; complex c.o.a., showing genealogical relationships often associated with inheritance or the right to inheritance. According to the rank of the coat of arms: the great c.o.a. – especially ceremonial, showing all the inherent qualities; medium c.o.a. – shows some of the inherent qualities; small c.o.a. – represents only the necessary elements of the coat, often only the shield with or without a crown. In Poland, c.o.a. were introduced in the 13th century. Heralds appeared with the coats of arms, whose work gave rise to a new branch of knowledge that became heraldry. Heraldry is an auxiliary science of history dealing with the study of the origins and development of coats of arms, the related legal relationships and the rules of their artistic formation. The main components of the coat of arms are a shield and an emblem placed on it, often composed of several elements. The emblem is placed centrally. It must fill the shield area, but not reach its edge. According to the basic principle of heraldry, every c.o.a. must be sole, unique and different from others. Urban coat of arms – a distinctive sign of the urban local government community, constructed in the form of a territorial sign according to specific heraldic rules. Coats of arms of cities may also be coats of arms of municipalities and other territorial units. U.c.o.a. appeared in Poland at the end of the 14th century, and thus much later than the seal imagery of the city seals. The relationships between the two signs are evident – they were both shaped like a territorial sign, but most often it was the adopted c.o.a. of the superior lord, enriched with elements representing the defensive urban architecture. Equally often as the c.o.a. emblem, especially in the earlier period, the image of the patron saint was adopted, who was usually identical with the patron of the parish church. Like all other coats of arms, the u.c.o.a. were specific graphical means of conveying specific information, in this case regarding cities, and not only general information about the existence of specific cities, but also detailed information about the legal-ownership status, religion, geographical location or economy. The range of use of u.c.o.a. has expanded over the last two centuries. In the 19th century bridges, street lanterns and covers of catch pits have been decorated with u.c.o.a. The traditions of urban symbols growing from the preheraldic period marked by the strong influence of the hagiographic iconography, as well as the different genesis of u.c.o.a., the chancellery and not the military as in the case of the knight c.o.a. – brought and fixed the instability of the heraldic form of urban emblems. U.c.o.a. were and are important elements of propaganda and promotional activities of the city, creating its positive image [ J.G. Otto ].

Literature: H. Seroka, Herby miast małopolskich do końca XVIII wieku [Coats of arms of the Małopolska cities until the end of the 18th century], Warszawa 2002 ■ J. Szymański, Nauki pomocnicze historii [Auxiliary sciences of history], Warszawa 2008 ■ W. Strzyżewski, Treści symboliczne herbów miejskich na Śląsku, Ziemi Lubuskiej i Pomorzu Zachodnim do końca XVIII wieku [Symbolic content of urban coats of arms in Silesia, Lubuskie and Western Pomerania until the end of the 18th century], Zielona Góra 1999 ■ A. Znamierowski, Insygnia, symbole i herby polskie [Insignia, symbols and Polish coats of arms], Warszawa 2003.