Coat of arms of Berlin

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Coat of arms of Berlin
Coat of arms of Berlin.svg
Country symbol of Berlin color.svg
Escutcheon-only version
Armiger City of Berlin
Crest A city coronet Or with five leaves and a gate
Escutcheon Argent a bear rampant Sable langued and armed Gules
Use The state logo may be used by the general public while the coat of arms proper is only eligible for use with authorities.

The coat of arms of Berlin is used by the German city state as well as the city itself. On top of the shield is a special crown, created by the amalgamation of the mural crown of a city with the so-called people's crown (Volkskrone), used in Germany to denote a republic. Berlin's various boroughs use their own emblems.

The bear was for many centuries only the charge in one out of three fields in the shield, the others displaying the eagles of Brandenburg and Prussia, respectively.

Heraldic beast[edit]

The usual coat of arms, in use in different styles until the year 1920, showed the Prussian eagle in the first field, the eagle of Brandenburg in the second field and the bear in the third field.[1]

Berlin's citizens, however, wanted their own symbol and coat of arms. How or why they chose the bear remains unknown. Most likely they were thinking of Albrecht I, nicknamed "the bear", who is considered to have been the conqueror and founder of the Margraviate of Brandenburg. Another possibility is that Berliners decided on canting arms since the first syllable of Berlin sounds like "Bär" (bear), although the two are not etymologically related. In medieval times canting arms, arms which displayed a charge correspondent to the name, were a favorite; people tried to depict names by use of phonetically similar symbols or rebuses. The real connection between the name and the charge didn't matter much. The name "Berlin" was created when Slavic tribes settled in the area and is an old Slavic name meaning "place at the swamp" or "in a swampy area".[citation needed] Actually, a pearl may have been a more likely choice for canting arms given that the Middle High German word for pearl is "berle".[citation needed] Middle High German was the language spoken at the time and, indeed, pearls were often used in coats of arms.[citation needed]


When more and more cities were being founded in the 12th and 13th centuries, cities wanted official seals to seal official documents such as covenants or orders. Often, the seals incorporated heraldic charges, which soon led to coats of arms being adopted for cities. A seal or coat of arms was usually awarded by the sovereign.

Medieval Berlin and neighbouring Cölln (not to be confused with Cologne) as well as the surrounding cities of the Margraviate of Brandenburg were governed by the Brandenburg Margraves, whose symbol was the red eagle. The oldest preserved and known seal of Berlin is from 1253. It depicts the Brandenburg Eagle spreading its wings in a clover-shaped archway. The text on the seal is SIGILLVM DE BERLIN BVRGENSIVM (seal of Berlin's citizens). It supposedly was the seal of Berlin's first mayor Marsilius.


To enable civilians and non-governmental institutions to express their affinity with Berlin, the Senate of the Interior and Sports provided a logo which features the arms' shield without the crown in black and white or coloured versions.

Legal status[edit]

The coat of arms was laid down in a law of 1954:

§ 1

(1) The coat of arms shows on a silver (white) shield, a black bear rampant with tongue and claws in red. On the shield rests a golden five leaved crest coronet, whose tiara of brickwork is provided with a gate in the center. ... § 4 Decisive for the design of the state's coat of arms, the state’s flag... are the patterns, added to this law. According to the state’s coat of arms, an artistic design is reserved to special purposes.

— Federal Government, Law on the State Symbols of the State of Berlin of 13 May 1954 (GVBl. S. 289) [2]
One of these T-shirts, from 1984, shows the bear as a symbol of Berlin. The other features an occupation map and the bear in its official guise. The stuffed bear wears a sash with the words Berliner Bär (Berlin bear) on it.

Symbol of Berlin[edit]

The bear has become the symbol of Berlin.[3] Especially the Berlin Buddy Bears: They are all over Berlin, colourful cheerful bears with their arms stretched up high. They have become Berlin's symbol for tolerance and "Weltoffenheit" (world openness). With the Buddy Bears, the centuries-old heraldic animal of Berlin took on a new shape and adopted a new role: The bears are a cheerful welcome for Berliners and their guests as well as ambassadors promoting tolerance and living together in peace all over the world.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Media related to Coats of arms of Berlin at Wikimedia Commons