Chivalry and coats of arms


Christine de Pisan presents her “Book of Military Feats and Laws of Chivalry” to Queen Isabella of France

He is worthy of praiseworthy words,
Who is ready to strike and fall!
Helmets and shields crush
With a blow of clubs and swords.
The ranks of the warriors are thinning,
And many horses are rushing about,
Not restrained by the bridle.
Who keeps his honor,
Must be obsessed in battle
One concern –
Smash heads a little more.
And there is no fear for the brave!
Life in the world is not dear to me:
I don’t like to eat, drink and sleep.
I love screaming “At the enemy!”
And listen to the neigh of the horses
(Bertrand de Born (1140-1215) “I love to see how the people …”)

Coats of arms and heraldry. Heraldry is so closely related to the phenomenon of chivalry that one should also mention this before talking about the coats of arms. Who is a knight? In the beginning – the one who has a lot of leisure and therefore exercises a lot with weapons, that is, a professional warrior-rider, or a person whose wealth allows him to have a horse with all his equestrian equipment and equipment worthy of such a warrior-rider. Since the coat of arms was applied primarily to the shield (and what else could it have been applied to?), It was he who became the main element of heraldry at all times.

Chivalry and coats of arms
You read the poems of the knight and minnesinger Bertrand de Born and it just becomes scary for … his psyche. However, for the time when he lived, such a vision of the world was the norm for most people, and those who did not share it went to monks and became priests. And like any knight, de Born also had his own coat of arms – an oblique cross in a scarlet field! (From the manuscript “Songs of the Provinces” 1250-1300 years. Padua, Italy. National Library of France, Paris)

It was the knights in the Middle Ages who formed the basis of the European armies. A knight’s cavalry strike could decide the outcome of almost any battle, but only if certain circumstances developed for this. That is, the commander of the knightly army (as, indeed, the one who commands the armies today) had to think with his head every time he had to fight. He should not have sent knights into the rubble (and tanks against anti-tank hedgehogs and right through the field under fire!), Drive them into a swamp (the same with tanks and infantry!), Send them cautiously against entrenched archers, and , of course, have enough authority to declare that they will execute anyone, regardless of nobility, who is the first to rush to plunder the enemy camp before the trumpet blows three times!


Today we have miniatures from the famous “Manes Codex” as illustrations. Here in this “picture” we see the knight and poet Walfram von Eschenbach (about 1170 – about 1220). On his coat of arms, as well as as a kleinode, there are two cleavers for chopping meat

It is clear that professional warriors, no matter how much they train, in the intervals between wars, could well get bored and become a serious burden for both the ruler and the church. And what was the way out of this situation? Of course, a kind of “moral code” and “set of knightly rules”, which at least nominally would instruct the knights on the right path. Well, any need is satisfied in one way or another. So this topic aroused the most keen interest among such famous writers and thinkers of that time as Raymond Llull, Honore Bonet and even the woman Christine de Pisan.


A copy of the Codex of Manes from the Cesky Krumlov castle. It is clear that it is under glass, and you will not look through it if you want to. But it’s good that all the illustrations are digitized today.

As for Raymond Llull (between 1232 and 1315), he was such an interesting figure that he needed to write a separate article about him. In the meantime, in short, we can say about him that he was from Aragon, of noble blood, he sang the heroic deeds of knights in poetry, wrote about love, and all this in the style typical of the troubadours of Southern France. He was a womanizer and often unfaithful to his wife, but only until he saw Christ crucified in a dream and considered it a sign sent to him so that he would change his life. And he changed it, first of all in 1275 by writing a treatise “The Book of the Knightly Order”, which became the best textbook “on knightly morality”, so that it was translated into many languages. He also invented the “first computer” (but this also needs to be discussed separately and in detail!), And ended his life in Tunisia, where he openly preached Christianity and was stoned to death.


Heinrich von Tittingen (years of life unknown). There is a peasant sickle on the coat of arms. There are two sickles on the helmet as helmet-mounted adornments!

Christina de Pisan (between 1364 and 1430), who studied under Honore Bonet (at least he lived in 1380), who in 1408-1409 wrote “The Book of Military Feats and Knightly Laws”, made no less for the development of the spiritual component of chivalry. ”, In which she considered, for example, the ethics of using poisoned arrows by Christians or the question of saving the souls of soldiers who died without the priest’s parting words. And some of the issues she is looking at are amazing. For example, “Can a madman legally be a prisoner?” Her negative answer to this question shows us such a high level of humanism – we can’t even believe that a person of that time showed it.


And here we already see the helmet itself on the shield, along with its kleinod. Belonged to Minnesinger Litschauer

It is clear that no books, as well as codes, can change a person if he wants to drink and eat, or, say, it will be beneficial for him to rob his neighbor by force, for which he will also have the opportunity. And nevertheless, the striving for the high and pure, serving God, serving the Beautiful Lady, protecting the disadvantaged and the poor – all this, as a direct path to the Kingdom of Heaven, visited many knights and became for them the moral ideal to which they should strive. Well, heraldry … heraldry helped them along the way. After all, the coat of arms was usually given to the knight for some noble, highly moral act, and for the low and unworthy he was punished, and the punishment was reflected in his coat of arms. For example, the knight Jean de Aven insulted his mother, and by the royal order in his coat of arms, the proud lion lost his tongue and claws! So heraldry once again helped the knights “to be good”, which, of course, was of great importance in the time of loose morals, unbridled violence and inexorable cruelty.


Bartel Regenbogen (1250-1320). On the coat of arms there is a hammer, a dragon and pincers! And what does it all mean?

It was the knightly service that left an exceptionally noticeable mark in heraldry, consisting of many heraldic symbols, which were used as items of the same knightly equipment. First of all, perhaps, the shield itself became such an object, because coats of arms are known without any details, that is, just shields of some one color. In addition, on the shield it was possible to depict another shield and even several shields, which was quite allowed by the rules of heraldry.


One shield on the other. Coat of arms of the city of Utrecht

Then a helmet was depicted on the shield. It could be just a helmet, but more often a helmet with lush helmet decorations. The helmet also became one of the most important external elements of the coat of arms. They, as a rule, are crowned with a coat of arms, and by the shape of a helmet one can judge the rank of the owner of the coat of arms. There is such an emblem as the gar-de-bra – but this is nothing more than an elbow pad. Champhron – a forehead for a knight’s horse, was included in the number of heraldic symbols, as well as aventail – a chain mail cover for the neck, and a lambel – a “tournament collar”. Even such a very specific detail as the head of the scabbard was used in heraldry. By the way, the elbow pad sign (another name “kute”) can be seen in the coat of arms of Lord Fitzwater, the aventail in the coat of arms of Lord Montague, and the sword and crown in the coat of arms of Joan of Arc, granted to her and her descendants by King Charles VII. By the way, crossed swords are constantly found in coats of arms. For example, the town of Abensberg in Bavaria, two crossed swords in the coat of arms were granted for helping the allies in the war against Napoleon!


Joan of Arc at the coronation of Charles VII in a coat of arms with the image of the coat of arms bestowed upon her. It is difficult to say how historical this picture is. Painting by Jean August Dominique Ingres, 1854 (Louvre)

In general, probably, there were no such objects and objects surrounding the knights at that time, which would not have been used as emblems for identification. Swords, axes, clubs, bows, arrows – all of this was drawn in a wide variety of variations. But the most popular emblem, of course, was the cross, and the simplest one was the emblem of the knights who went to liberate the Holy Sepulcher in Palestine. However, a waterskin was also a popular emblem among the army of Christ in memory of the thirst that the knights were constantly experiencing there! By the way, some experts believe that there are 30 crosses used in heraldry, others – that 50, but some zealous scientist found that there are … (I hope you are all sitting) 450 !!! There is a cross “clawed”, “cross-tau”, wedge-shaped, lily-shaped, clover-leaved, the well-known “Maltese cross”, and also “mill” … well, probably enough to list them. Let’s have a better look at them, there will obviously be more sense from this.


Thirty of the most famous crosses in heraldry: 1. Greek; 2. Double, also called patriarchal, archbishop and Hungarian; 3. Lorraine – the emblem of the Duchy of Lorraine in the middle of the 15th century; 4. Papal – not found on the coats of arms of the popes, but got its name by analogy with the patriarchal cross in the 15th century; 5. Cross of the Kingdom of Jerusalem – the red Jerusalem cross was a symbol of the Order of St. Spirit, founded in 1496; 6. Cross from the coat of arms of the Manfredi family – a rare form of the cross; 7. Cross with ball ends; 8. Shank, the beams of which end with stylized images of crow’s feet; 9. Anchor; 10. One of the varieties of the anchor cross; 11. Maltese – eight-pointed cross of the Knights Templar; 12. Lily cross with lily flower-shaped endings – belonged to the Spanish knightly order of Calatrava, founded in 1158; 13. Symbol of the Spanish knightly order of Alcantara; 14. Cross of St. Jacob – a symbol of the Spanish knightly order of St. Jacob, founded by King Ramiro II of Aragon; 15. Cross of St. Anthony – a blue cross on black cloaks was worn by members of the Order of St. Anthony, founded in 1095 (the cross of St. Anthony was also one of the emblems of the Knights Templar); 16. Martyr’s Cross of St. Paul; 17. Wedge; 18. Wicker; 19. Cross in a halo – a Celtic image of a cross that was popular in Ireland in the Middle Ages; 20. The simple black cross of St. Mary of Teutonic is the most famous image of the cross; 21. Faceted; 22. Rare cross with crosshairs in the form of bird’s heads; 23. Nodal; 24. An oblique cross, depending on the color, could symbolize different saints: gold – the first British Great Martyr St. Alban, white or blue – St. Andrew, black – St. Osmund, red – St. Patrick; 25. Fork-shaped; 26. Toe cross of the most common form; 27. Supporting, or arched cross; 28. Shadow (outline) Maltese cross; 29. Christmas tree – this form of the cross was very popular in Finland; 30. Eight-pointed Orthodox, or Russian cross.


Schenck von Limburg was clearly a great fashionista and understood a lot about the beauty of a knight’s outfit: the surcoat on it is green with an embroidered letter in white, the horse blanket has a completely different pattern, different from the one on surcoat, which, in general, is atypical, but quite acceptable ; on the coat of arms there are three tops of six-feathers, on the helmet there are horns decorated with peacock feathers. It is clear that the lady depicted in the same illustration, most likely, could not resist him …

To be continued…

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