Heraldry Symbols Medieval Rallying Points, Family Heirlooms

The use of heraldry symbols is a holdover from the middle ages that often brings families great pride, showing their roots and proclaiming past deeds. From elaborate designs of mythic creatures to more simple recreations of plants or woodland animals.

Heraldry symbols, often emblazoned on standards, tunics and even shields, helped identify a knight’s family heritage. They also quite quickly enabled others to recognize a knight on a battlefield.

Hundreds of different color combinations and shapes adorn the symbols, which became popular in the 13 century when advances in personal armor, such as full face helms, made it extremely difficult to determine if a knight was an ally or a foe. Imagine trying to decide within a split second if the person brandishing a blood-dripped long sword next to you on a battlefield is a friend or foe? These symbols of heraldry helped remove the confusion, much in the way military uniforms do today.

Unlike uniforms, however, the heraldry emblems had great meaning to the person or people wearing them. The symbols used on the battlefield to signify an individual or a family ranged from very complex drawings of animals – real and mythic - to simple geometric shapes with different color combinations.

As the use of these symbols caught on, the symbol along with the knight title became one of heredity. It passed from father to son or with the family’s name itself. The heraldry symbols eventually became symbols of kingdoms, provinces, and even duchies – leading the way for national standards.

The significance behind the many colors and designs found within the symbols is great. They served as an instant way for others to understand the heritage and personality of the individual donning the coat of arms.

Common in heraldry symbols was the use of color to denote major traits. Yellow or gold, for example, stood for generosity and purple as often was the case in the Middle Ages was reserved for royalty. Different animals also bore varying meanings with a proud dog standing for loyalty and a lion for bravery and ferocity on the field of battle.

The use of heraldry symbols to help warriors stand out on the field of battle, to identify individual families and for the rallying of a kingdom under a certain banner continued through the medieval period and beyond. The replication and use of these symbols is still quite common today.

As many people flock to the past to understand their roots, a rather large gathering of those who research heraldry symbols for individuals has arisen. Many companies profess to be able to provide people with a glimpse at their family’s past by researching the family’s individual symbol, or coat of arms. Although sometimes the history turned up is somewhat questionable, the end product, a heraldry symbol, can be a neat addition to family lore, lending itself to some great speculation and day dreaming about what ancestors really did during the age of the Crusades and chivalry.

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