Coat of Arms Tattoo
Often confused with the “family crest,” the coat of arms actually includes a crest in addition to several other components. Even at their simplest, the family coat of arms can be a complicated piece of artwork, one that is often rendered in tattoo designs with great detail. If you’re considering a family coat of arms tattoo, here a few things you should probably know.
Depending on the country and the time period, a coat of arms can belong to individuals, families, and institutions and in different places can also be inherited, bestowed, or self-created. All varieties, however, have at their heart a symbolism that speaks about genealogy or achievement, something specific to that person (or family, etc.).In the Beginning
Heraldry had its beginnings at a time when most people could not read. They could, however, recognize bold, simple, and colorful designs. European and Japanese knights, in their somewhat generic and usually concealing armor, could generally only be known by their heraldry, be it on a pennant, helmet, or shield. At the outset, the individual nature of heraldry symbolism was easily accomplished, even when creators of that heraldry had no knowledge of or comprehensive collection of the other heraldry of the era. With emblems that included objects, animals, and plants combined with backgrounds that were patterned or solid with multiple colors, it was almost unthinkable that two bearers of coats of arms would have duplicates.
Over time, though, as heraldry survived the era of armor, it became codified and also regulated, even as its use spread from the castes of royalty and warriors to the clergy, the nobility, guilds of craftsman, and also to the average person. As the heraldic symbols spread, so did the chances for duplication, which does occasionally still happen. However, today’s coats of arms have become so complex, that the occurrence is rare. Below, we deconstruct a typical family coat of arms (or “full achievement”) and its symbolic meaning.
Starting at the top, the crest of the coat of arms is a direct descendant of the battlefield. Attached to the top of the helmet, it helped to distinguish a commander from his troops in the fog of war. In the case of the Adamo family coat of arms, the crest is made up of three plumes or feathers, generally of ostrich, which have the meaning of obedience and serenity.
Continuing down the design, the wreath (or torse) is just under the crest and above the helmet. It is a twisted band of lace and silk that may have been copied by the crusaders from the Saracens and it was used to to tie the crest to the helmet.
Although a helmet (aka, helm) isn’t actually a requirement for a coat of arms, they are not unusual. All sorts of shapes and sizes of helmet were used throughout history.
As the name implies, the mantle was a sort of cloak. It was used to cover and protect the helmet and, since the helmet is not a requirement for a coat of arms, it is no surprise that the mantle (or mantling) is not required either. Often the mantle uses the same colors as those seen in the shield. Red is a color associated with military strength, warriors, martyrs, and magnanimity.
With its roots in the world of jousts and tournaments, the supporter was once a knight’s servant or page. Not only did they carry the shield but they also dressed as animals such as lions or bears or, in this case, unicorns. Magical beasts who could reportedly purify water by making the sign of the cross with its horn, the unicorn stood for power, in all its magnificence and purity.
Often a family motto is placed in a scroll, which can either be above or below the coat of arms. In modern displays, the family’s name is often substituted.
This area of the coat of arms is simply an area where the supporters can stand. Often it is stone or earth but it can also sometimes be a scroll.
At the center of the coat of arms, and drawing near the core of the symbolism as well, is the shield. Just as it might seem, the shield was carried into battle as both protection and as an identifier for those who carried it. The three horizontal bands in the background of the shield in the the Adamo family coat of arms are known as the Fesse, a French word that refers to a belt of honor whose origin may lie in the awards bestowed by military leaders on certain deserving soldiers. The three colors of this Fesse are red (for the warrior), yellow (for generosity) and blue (for truth).
Finally, we come to the center of the coat of arms symbolism. The charges (or devices) are the icons displayed on the shield that typically pertain to something specific about the person, family, or institution that the coat of arms represents. The Lion Saliant, or the lion that is springing forward, represents majesty, might, and courage in a pose of valor. A five-pointed star has been used in heraldry to symbolize a spur but, in general, heraldic stars represent constancy and heavenly goodness.