Coat of arms of Lithuania
|Coat of arms of Lithuania |
Vytis (Pogonia, Pahonia)
|Armiger||Republic of Lithuania|
|Adopted||First documented in 1366.|
Current version official since 1991.
|Blazon||Gules, an armoured knight armed cap-à-pie mounted on a horse salient holding in his dexter hand a sword Argent above his head. A shield Azure hangs on the sinister shoulder charged with a double cross (Cross of Lorraine) Or. The horse saddles, straps, and belts Azure. The hilt of the sword and the fastening of the sheath, the stirrups, the curb bits of the bridle, the horseshoes, as well as the decoration of the harness, all Or.|
|Earlier version(s)||see below|
The coat of arms of Lithuania, consisting of an armour-clad knight on horseback holding a sword and shield, is also known as Vytis (pronounced ['vîːtɪs]). It is recognized as the official coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since the 14th century reign of Grand Duke Vytautas the Great and is also known in other Lithuanian language names as Waikymas, Pagaunė or as Pogonia, Pogoń, Pahonia in the Polish and Ruthenian languages. Vytis should be translated as Knight or Horseman, related to the Slavic word Витязь (vityaz' - Definitions of ВИ́ТЯЗЬ: В древней Руси: отважный, доблестный воин/ Old East Slavic: brave, valiant warrior). Historically – raitas senovės karžygys (mounted epic hero of old) or in heraldry - raitas valdovas (mounted sovereign).
The statehood of a powerful state of the Duchy of Lithuania, Kingdom of Lithuania, and Grand Duchy of Lithuania was created by the pagan Balts (Lithuanians), who spoke the Baltic languages, in reaction to the Teutonic Order and Livonian Brothers of the Sword pressures as they conquered the Balts inhabiting the areas of Estonia and Latvia and converted them forcibly to Christianity.
Article 15 of the Constitution of Lithuania, approved by national referendum in 1992, stipulates, "The Coat of Arms of the State shall be a white Vytis on a red field". The heraldic shield features the field gules (red) with an armoured knight on a horse salient argent (silver). The knight is holding in his dexter hand a sword argent above his head. A shield azure hangs on the sinister shoulder of the knight with a double cross/two-barred cross or (gold) on it. The horse saddle, straps, and belts are azure. The hilt of the sword and the fastening of the sheath, the stirrups, the curb bits of the bridle, the horseshoes, as well as the decoration of the harness, are or (gold).
Origins of the word Vytis and other names
In early heraldry, a knight on horseback is usually depicted as ready to defend himself and is not yet called Vytis. It is unknown for certain what Lithuania's coat of arms was initially called; Edmundas Rimša claims that the Ruthenian word Pogonia was used for it for the first time in the 16th century. In 1551, Polish chronicler Marcin Bielski named the Lithuanian coat of arms as Pogonia, Pogoń for the first time and with the spread of the Polish language and culture, the term gradually became established. Another popular Polish term was pogończyk. The meaning and appearance of the symbol also changed: the old defender of the land became more and more like a rider chasing an enemy. The name Pogonia was first recorded in the Third Statute of Lithuania of 1588.
The origins of the Lithuanian proper noun Vytis are not clear either. At the dawn of the Lithuanian National Revival, Simonas Daukantas employed the term vytis, referring not to the Lithuanian coat of arms, but to describe a horseman (knight) for the first time in his historical piece Budą Senowęs Lietuwiû kalneniu ir Żemaitiû, published in 1846. The etymology of this particular name is not universally accepted; it is either a direct translation of the Polish Pogoń, a common noun constructed from the Lithuanian verb vyti ("to chase"), or, less likely, a derivative from the East Slavic title of the knight, vytiaz'. The first presumption, raised by the linguist Pranas Skardžius in 1937, is challenged by some, since Pogoń does not actually mean "chasing (knight)". In support of the second proposal, the Lithuanian language has words with the stem -vyt in such personal names as Vytenis; furthermore, vytis has a structure common to words constructed from verbs.
Already in the 13th century, the Old Prussian language word vitingas had a meaning of an Old Prussian nobleman, knight. In Lithuania, it is found in place names, personal names and by naming an action. It is believed that in the ancient times there could have been such a Lithuanian language word referring to reality – chasing an enemy or an armed horseman chasing an enemy. It is also possible that Grand Duke Butvydas named his son Vytenis by knowing the Old Prussian language word vitingas (nobleman, military commander). Therefore Grand Duke Vytenis reign (1295-1316) is also associated with the word Vytis as the Ruthenian chronicle (so-called Hypatian Codex) mentions that after beginning to rule the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th century, he came up with a seal with an armored horseman and a sword raised above his head (in the original Old Church Slavonic language text of the codex it is written that Vytenis named it as Pogonia). Interpretations that his name can be associated with the coat of arms of Lithuania name in Lithuanian language – Vytis are strengthened by some historical sources in which places were named after him. For example, a term Wythes Hof was used in the collection of historical sources of the Teutonic Order Scriptores rerum Prussicarum (English: Authors of Prussian history), which in the German language means the Court of Vytenis (royal household) that was located close to the Lithuanian fortress of Bisenė as with its support Grand Duke Vytenis attacked the Teutonic fortress of Christmemel in 1315. Another example is that Konstantinas Sirvydas in 1629 written a place name Vutec Kalnsь (English: Mountain of Vytis or Vyties) on the basis of a document from Kęsčiai, Karšuva County and associated it with personal names Vygailas, Vytenis, Vytautas. This version is also supported by the fact that the Grand Dukes of Lithuania itself were depicted on the early Lithuanian seals, therefore it is likely that the horseman on the Seal of Vytenis was named after him.
The earliest known Lithuanian language name for the coat of arms of Lithuania Waikymas (Vaikymas in the modern Lithuanian orthography), mentioned by Konstantinas Sirvydas, is a 17th century equivalent of Pogonia, which was used until the 19th century together with another Lithuanian name – Pagaunia. He also indicated its two meanings: waykitoias (English: pursuer) in the case of a person and waykimas (English: pursuing) in the case of an action.
In 1884, Mikalojus Akelaitis referred to the coat of arms of Lithuania per se as Vytis in the Auszra newspaper. This name came to popular use and was eventually legitimized and became official in the independent Republic of Lithuania. Originally called Vytimi in 1st person Sg. Dat., by the 1930s Vytis came to be called Vyčiu in 1st person Sg. Dat.
In the Russophone world and the East Slavic culture there is a similar word, Vityaz, which means a brave knight or a bold hero. According to the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, that word is derived from the Old Germanic word Witing. In western South Slavic languages (Hungarian, Slovenian, Croatian/Serbian/Montenegrin and Macedonian) vitez denotes the lowest feudal rank, a knight.
The history between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Lithuanian Jagiellonian dynasty and the Kingdom of Hungary and Kingdom of Croatia is closely related as Władysław III Jagiellon, the eldest son of Władysław II Jagiełło, was crowned as the King of Hungary and King of Croatia on 15 May 1440 in Visegrád, moreover, following his father's death, he also inherited the title of the Supreme Duke (Supremus Dux) of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, held it in 1434–1444 and presented himself with it, as such share of powers was agreed in the Union of Horodło of 1413 between his father and Grand Duke Vytautas the Great. Futhermore, the Royal Seal of Władysław III Jagiellon includes a Lithuanian Vytis (Pahonia) with the wings of a Hussar laid out above the coat of arms of Hungary and alongside the Polish Eagle.
Lithuanian ethnologist and folklorist Jonas Trinkūnas suggested that the Lithuanian horseman depicts Perkūnas, who in the Lithuanian mythology was considered as the god of the Lithuanian soldiers, thunder, lightning, storms, and rain. In the mythology, Perkūnas was imagined as a horseman very early and the archeological findings in Lithuania testifies that the residents of Lithuania had amulets with horsemen already in the 10th-11th centuries.
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The old Lithuanian heraldry was characterized by the fact that the stamp symbols of the Lithuanian nobles consisted of various lines, arrows, framed in shields, colored and even passed down from generation to generation (they were mostly used until the Union of Horodło in 1413 when 47 Lithuanian families were granted the Polish coat of arms, however in Samogitia only in the middle of the 16th century some noble families began using the Polish heraldry).
The Columns of Gediminas or the Columns of the Gediminids are one of the earliest surviving national symbols of Lithuania and its historical coats of arms. It was suggested by historian Edmundas Rimša, who analyzed the ancient coins, that the Columns of the Gediminids symbolizes the Gates of the Trakai Peninsula Castle. There are no data that they were used by Grand Duke Gediminas himself, and it is believed that their name originated when Gediminas was considered the founder of the Gediminids dynasty. Since 1397, the Columns of the Gediminids were undoubtedly used on the coat of arms of Grand Duke Vytautas the Great, and it is believed that a similar symbol may have been used by his father Kęstutis, who was Duke of Trakai and Grand Duke of Lithuania, from whom Vytautas inherited them. After Vytautas' death, the symbol was taken over by his brother Grand Duke Sigismund Kęstutaitis. At first, the Columns used to represent the family of Kęstutis, and since the 16th century, when the successors of Grand Duke Jogaila started using them in Lithuania as well, the Columns became the symbol of the whole dynasty of Grand Duke Gediminas (the Gediminids). It was Grand Duke Alexander Jagiellon who made the Columns of the Gediminids as the coat of arms of his dynasty after becoming the Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1440. In heraldry, the Columns of the Gediminids were usually pictured in gold or in yellow on a red field, while they were occasionally portrayed in silver or in white since the second half of the 16th century. There is no doubt that the Columns of the Gediminids are of local origin as similar symbols can be found on the insignias of the Lithuanian nobility. It is believed that the Columns of the Gediminids were derived from the signs that had been used to mark property. Compared to the Double Cross of the Jagiellonian dynasty, the Columns of the Gediminids had been used more predominantly in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Columns of the Gediminids were featured on the Lithuanian coins of the 14th and subsequent centuries; the banners of the regiments who were led by Grand Duke Vytautas and who fought in the Battle of Grunwald; the 15th and 16th century church paraphernalia given to Vilnius Cathedral; the 15th century seals of the Lithuanian Franciscans and major state seals in 1581–1795; book graphics; and the pieces of work by Vilnius' goldsmiths. Combined together with knight on horseback, the Columns of the Gediminids were also embedded on the Lithuanian cannon barrels in the 16th and 17th centuries. The symbol was also used to decorate horse bridles and landmarks of the dominions of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. Following the death of Grand Duke Sigismund II Augustus, the last male descendent of the Gediminids dynasty, in 1572, the Columns of the Gediminids remained in the insignias of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as the secondary (alongside the knight on horseback) coat of arms of the state. In the later years, the Columns of the Gediminids were called simply as the Columns (it is known from the early 16th century sources).
In 1337, a Lithuanian banner is mentioned for the first time in the chronicles of Wigand of Marburg, who wrote that during the battle at Bayernburg Castle (near Veliuona, present-day Lithuania) Tilman Zumpach, head of the riflemen of the Teutonic Order, burned the Lithuanian banner with a flaming lance and then mortally wounded the King of Trakai, however he did not describe the appearance of the banner of the King of Trakai.
The knight on horseback without a specific name was mentioned in the Chronicles of Lithuania and Samogitia (so-called Tobolsk Chronicle), found in the Archives of Tobolsk, as a symbol of Duke Narimantas: "...that Narimantas had in his seal a coat of arms, some kind of Horseman, which was made as a sign of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It depicted a brave man on a white horse on a red bottom, with a naked sword, as if he was chasing something...". The national coat of arms of Lithuania, Vytis, is one of the few coats of arms that originate from seals portraying images of dukes rather than dynastic coats of arms. Grand Duke Algirdas of Lithuania may have been the first duke to have used a seal with an image of himself on horseback, however his seal, attached to the Treaty with Kingdom of Poland of 1366, has not been preserved. Historian Tadeusz Czacki claimed to have seen such a Seal of Algirdas attached to the 1366 Treaty. Grand Duke Jogaila's brother Vygantas, who at the time was Duke of Kernavė, was the first one in Lithuania to have used a shield painted with a riding knight in 1388, thus giving the knight image a status of a coat of arms.
Jogaila, who became the Grand Duke following the death of Grand Duke Algirdas in 1377, and Jogaila's brothers each had several seals with horseman-type images. At first, the charging knight was depicted riding to left or right, and holding a lance instead of the sword: two seals of Lengvenis of 1385 and of 1388 exhibit this change. The establishment of the sword in the heraldry of Lithuanian rulers is related to the ideological changes of the ruling Gediminids dynasty. The lance was more often exhibited on the seals of Skirgaila and Kaributas. In 1386, after Jogaila was crowned as King of Poland, a new heraldic seal was made for him, with quarterly first eagle, representing Kingdom of Poland, and quarterly second knight on a horse, with lance in hand and a Double Cross on his shield, representing the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Double Cross was adopted by Jogaila after his baptism as Ladislaus and marriage with a Hungarian princess and Queen of Poland Hedvig Angevin in 1386, therefore the Double Cross was taken over from the Kingdom of Hungary where it spread in the 12th century from the Byzantine Empire. The symbolism of the Double Cross was connected with this event significance for both Jogaila and the entire land. A similar cross in Western heraldry is called the patriarchal Cross of Lorraine, and it is used by archbishops while the cross itself symbolizes baptism.
The meaning of the Lithuanian ruler coat of arms and the coat of arms of the Lithuanian state was given to the horseman not by Jogaila, but by his cousin, the Grand Duke Vytautas the Great. Firstly, around 1382, he changed the infantry on his coat of arms, inherited from his father Grand Duke Kęstutis, to a horseman, then made the portrait heraldic – in Vytautas' majestic seal (early 15th century), he is surrounded by coat of arms of lands belonging to him, in one hand he holds a sword, which represents the power of the Grand Duke of Lithuania, in the other hand – a raised shield (on which a horseman is depicted), which, like an apple of royal power, symbolizes the Lithuanian state ruled by him. In the 15th century, Jan Długosz claimed that Vytautas brought forty regiments to the victorious Battle of Grunwald in 1410 and that everyone used red flags of which thirty regiments flags had a embroidered armored horseman with a raised sword riding on a white, sometimes black, bay or dappled horse, while the rest of ten regiments flags had embroidered the Columns of Gediminas with which Vytautas marked his horses. According to Długosz, those flags were named after lands or dukes: Vilnius, Kaunas, Trakai, Medininkai, Sigismund Korybut, Simeon Lingwen, and other. It is believed that the regiments with the Columns of Gediminas were brought from Vytautas' homeland (the Duchy of Trakai), and with a horseman – from other areas of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Sigismund Korybut during his visit to Prague at the invitation of the Czech Hussites in 1422 as delegate of Grand Duke Vytautas the Great, was depicted in a drawing wherein he carries his armorial banner decorated with a white charging knight on a red field; at its top there is a narrow streamer, which the Germans in particular were fond of depicting in the 15th century.
Several very rare Lithuanian coins were found with a lion or leopards and the Columns of Gediminas, dated to the reign of Vytautas the Great and Jogaila in the 14th century (one of them was found in Kernavė). There is still disagreement where these coins were minted, with the most likely locations being Smolensk (most likely), Polotsk, Vyazma, Bryansk, and Ryazan. Such coins symbolized vassal relationships of the Ruthenian lands. The leopards were depicted with lily-shaped tails, which symbolizes a sovereign ruler, therefore such Vytautas' coins must have been minted after the Pact of Vilnius and Radom in 1401 when Vytautas became fully in charge of the Lithuanian affairs. Vytautas minted such coins with leopards in the Principality of Smolensk before its Uprising of 1401 and after 1404 when it became a permanent part of Lithuania. Another type of Lithuanian coins with lion and node symbol are found in Eastern Lithuania and Vilnius, which by researchers are associated with Skirgaila or Jogaila, however such associations lacks genuine evidence as the Seal of Jogaila attached to the Union of Krewo and the 1382 Seal of Skirgaila were not preserved. Despite that, it is possible that the Ruthenian lion also was one of the early coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as Jogaila in the Union of Krewo entitled himself as: "Nos Jagalo virtute Dei dux magnus Litwanorum Rusieque dominus et heres naturalis" (English: With God's will of the Grand Duke of Lithuania and the natural lord and heir of Rus). It was suggested by historian Eugenijus Ivanauskas that lion was abolished as the coat of arms of Lithuania after the Union of Krewo because in medieval heraldry it was equivalent to the Polish Eagle (lion is the king of animals, while eagle is the king of birds) and Lithuania at the time became a vassal state of the Kingdom of Poland, thus had a lower status. Although, it is important to note that the Lithuanian dukes and nobles declined Uliana of Tver's, mother of Jogaila, suggestion to baptism the Lithuanians as Orthodox before the Union of Krewo and sought Catholicism instead.
At the end of the 14th century, the knight on horseback appeared on the first Lithuanian coins, however, this figure had not yet fully formed, therefore in some coins, the knight is depicted as riding to the left, in others – to the right. In some he holds a spear while others depict a sword; the horse can either be standing in place or galloping. The Double Cross was used in isolation on the Lithuanian coins of the late 14th century and on the banner of the royal court referred to in Lithuanian language as Gončia (English: The Chaser). During the reign of Grand Duke Alexander Jagiellon, who ruled Lithuania from 1492 to 1506, the depiction of the direction of the knight was established – the horse was always galloping to the left (in the heraldic sense – to the right). Also, the knight was for the first time depicted with a scabbard, while the horse – with a horse harness, however the knight does not yet have on his shoulder a shield with the double cross of the Jagiellonian dynasty. Moreover, Alexander's coins also depict an eagle as the symbol of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania's dynastic claim to the Polish throne. During the reign of Grand Duke Sigismund I the Old, who ruled Lithuania from 1506 to 1544, the image of the horseman was moved to the other side of the coins – the reverse, thus marking that it was the coin of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The knight was also for the first time depicted with a shield with the Double Cross of the Jagiellonian dynasty. In heraldry, such an image of the horseman is only associated with the Lithuanian state.
At the beginning of the 15th century, the colors and composition of the seal became uniform: on a red field a white (silver) charging knight with a sword raised above his head, with a blue shield with a double golden cross to his left shoulder (during the reign of Kęstutaičiai dynasty – red shield with golden Columns of Gediminas); horse bridles, leather belts and a short girdle – colored in blue. Metals (gold and silver) and the two most important colors of medieval coats of arms were used for the Lithuanian coat of arms – Gules (red) then meant material, or earthly (life, courage, blood), Azure (blue) – spiritual, or heavenly (heaven, divine wisdom, mind) values.
Only in the 16th century a distinction between the ruler (Grand Duke) and state emerged (it was the same entity previously), from which time one also finds mention of a state flag. In 1578, Alexander Guagnini was the first to describe such a state flag, according to him the state flag of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was made of red silk, and had four tails, its principal side, to the right of the flag staff, was charged with a white mounted knight underneath the ducal crown; the other side bore an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The highly revered Blessed Virgin Mary was considered the patron saint of the state of Lithuania, and even the most prominent state dignitaries favoured her image on their flags, thus the saying: "Lithuania – land of Mary". Later only the knight is mentioned embroidered on both sides of the state flag.
After the Union of Lublin, which was signed on 1 July 1569 in Lublin, Poland, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was established, thus a joint coat of arms of the new country was adopted. Its four quarterly fields portrayed, in diagonal, the eagle and the riding knight as the symbols of the two constituent states. As a consequence, the old colors of the coat of arms of Lithuania, probably influenced by the colors of the coat of arms of Poland (red, white, and yellow), began to change: sometimes the horse blanket was depicted in red or purple, the leather belts in yellow; however the horseman's shield with the golden Double Cross changed less. In 1572, following the death of Grand Duke Sigismund II Augustus, the last male descendent of the Jagiellonian dynasty as he did not left any male heir to the throne, the Double Cross remained as a symbol in the national coat of arms and was started to be referred to as simply the Cross of Vytis after losing the connection with the dynasty.
The Renaissance introduced minor stylistic changes and variations: long feathers waving from the tip of the knight's helm, a long saddle-cloth, the horsetail turned upwards and shaped as nosegay. With these changes, the red flag with its white knight survived until the end of the 18th century and Grand Duke Stanislaus II Augustus was the last Grand Duke of Lithuania to employ it. His flag was colored in crimson, had two tails, and was decorated with the knight on one side and the ruler's monogram – SAR (Stanislaus Augustus Rex) on the other side. SAR monogram was also inscribed on the flagpole finial. In 1795, after the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Grand Duchy of Lithuania was annexed to the Russian Empire and traditional coat of arms of Lithuania, which represented the state for more than four centuries, was abolished and the Russification of Lithuania was imposed.
Vytis (Pahonia) on a knight's coat of arms. From the 15th-century Codex Bergshammar. Attributed to Grand Duke Žygimantas Kęstutaitis
The first page of the Latin copy of Laurentius (1531) of the First Statute of Lithuania. Vytis (Pahonia) is drawn on a damasked shield.
Third statute of Lithuania featuring Vytis (Pahonia)
Coat of arms of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (modern reconstruction)
The Great Lithuanian Seal of Grand Duke Stanislaus II Augustus with Vytis (Pahonia)
Tapestry with the coats of arms of Poland and Lithuania and a figure of goddess Ceres, circa 1555
Authentic Vytis (Pahonia) depicted on the Gate of Dawn, which survived annexations
Authentic Vytis (Pahonia) depicted on the outer wall of the Chapel of Saint Casimir
A coin of 15 ducats of Grand Duke Sigismund III Vasa from 1617
However, in 1845 tsar Nicholas I confirmed a coat of arms for the Vilna Governorate that closely resembled the historical one. A notable later change was the replacement of the Double-Cross of the Jagiellonians with the red Byzantine cross on the knight's shield.
At first, the charging knight was interpreted as the ruler of the country. As time passed, he became a knight who is chasing intruders out of his native country. Such an interpretation was especially popular in the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century, when Lithuania was part of the Russian Empire and sought its independence. A notable example of the coat of arms of Lithuania usage during the Tsarist period is on the bridge railings above the Vilnelė River in Vilnius.
Following the partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, most of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was absorbed by the Russian Empire and the Pahonia (Pogoń, Vytis) was incorporated into the Greater Coat of arms of the Russian Empire. The Pahonia (Pogoń, Vytis) was the coat of arms of the Vilna Governorate following the incorporation of Vilnius and surrounding lands into the Russian Empire. Statues of the Pahonia (Pogoń, Vytis) placed on the White Columns of Vilnius greeted visitors at the entrances to Vilnius from 1818 until 1840, when the statues were replaced with the double-headed eagles – the state symbol of the Russian Empire. In 2019, it was suggested by the Mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius that the White Columns of Vilnius in the city's eldership of Naujamiestis should be restored.
Uprisings to restore the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth like the 1830–31 November Uprising and 1863–64 January Uprising saw the Pahonia (Pogoń, Vytis) used as a symbol of rebellion against the Russian Empire. The coat of arms of Lithuania Pahonia (Pogoń, Vytis) was widely used alongside the Polish White Eagle throughout the uprisings on flags, banners, coins, banknotes, seals, medals, etc. After the dethronement of Emperor Nicholas I Romanov (Emperor of Russia since 1825, King of Poland 1825–1831) by the Sejm during its proceedings in Warsaw on 25 January 1831, the coats of arms of the Russian Emperors were removed from the mint dies and Polish złotys with Eagle and Pahonia were introduced into circulation, which were manufactured at the Warsaw's Banknote Factory and minted at the Warsaw Mint, as on 9 December 1830 the Provisional Government appointed the Bank of Poland to manage the Warsaw Mint. In the Soviet times, the 1863–64 January Uprising was interpreted as a class struggle between peasantry and landed aristocracy, while since 1990, it came to be seen in Lithuania as a strife for liberation from the Russian rule.
On 22 November 2019, upon the rediscovery of their remains on the Gediminas' Hill, the 1863–64 January Uprising commanders Konstanty Kalinowski and Zigmantas Sierakauskas were buried at the Rasos Cemetery in Vilnius, while the flags covering their coffins were presented to the President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda and the President of Poland Andrzej Duda.
Several authentic coat of arms of Lithuania survived the occupations and annexations. For example, on the side wall of the Vilnius Cathedral, on the main portal of the Dominican Church of the Holy Spirit and on the Gate of Dawn.
The White Columns of Vilnius (1818-1840) with Vytis (Pahonia), which were later replaced with the double-headed eagles
Coat of arms of Vilna Governorate (1845)
Coat of arms of Polotsk Viceroyalty from 1781
Coat of arms of Vitebsk from 1781
Coat of arms of Vitebsk Governorate (1856)
Painting commemorating Polish–Lithuanian union; ca. 1861. The motto reads "Eternal union".
Coat of arms of November Uprising
Emblem of the Uprising of 1863
Vilnius Conference in 1917 with the flags of Vytis (Pahonia)
Republic of Lithuania in the Interwar
When Lithuania restored its independence in 1918–1920, several artists produced updated versions of the coat of arms. Almost all included a scabbard, which is not found in its earliest historic versions. A romanticized version by Antanas Žemaitis became the most popular. The horse appeared to be flying through the air (courant). The gear was very ornate. For example, the saddle blanket was very long and divided into three parts. There was no uniform or official version of the coat of arms. To address popular complaints, in 1929 a special commission was set up to analyze the best 16th century specimens of Vytis to design an official state emblem. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky was the chief artist. The commission worked for 5 years, but its version was never officially confirmed. Meanwhile, a design by Juozas Zikaras was introduced for official use on Lithuanian coins.
The Columns of the Gediminids were particularly widely used in the first half of the 20th century following the restoration of the independent state of Lithuania on 16 February 1918. The symbol, as a distinctive sign, was adopted by the Lithuanian Land Forces, Lithuanian Air Force and other public authorities. It was used to decorate Lithuanian coins, banknotes orders, medals, and insignias and became an attribute of numerous public societies and organisations. To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Grand Duke Vytautas the Great, flags decorated with the Columns of the Gediminids were hoisted in Lithuanian cities and towns.
The Vytis was the state emblem of the Republic of Lithuania until 1940 when the Republic was occupied by the Soviet Union and national symbols were suppressed. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Vytis, together with the Columns of Gediminas and the national flag, became symbols of the independence movement in Lithuania. In 1988, Lithuania's Soviet authorities legalised the public display of the Vytis.
Juozas Zikaras' design (1925), widely used on the interwar independent Lithuania coins
A banknote of 5 Lithuanian litas with Vytautas the Great and Vytis (Pahonia), 1929
A foreign passport of the Republic of Lithuania with Vytis (Pahonia), used until the 1940 annexation
A fireplace of a sitting-room of Vytautas the Great at the Kaunas Garrison Officers' Club Building
An arc decorated with the Columns of the Gediminids during the unveiling ceremony of the Monument of 10th anniversary of Independence of Lithuania in Rokiškis (1931)
The Lithuanian partisans fought with the occupants in 1944–1953, wearing the interwar Lithuanian uniforms and symbols
Republic of Lithuania in the Post-Cold War era
On March 11, 1990 Lithuania declared its independence and restored all of its pre-war national symbols, including its historic coat of arms. On March 20, 1990 the Supreme Council of Lithuania approved the description of the State's coat of arms and determined the principal regulations for its use. The design was based on Juozas Zikaras' version. This was to demonstrate that Lithuania was resuming the traditions of the state that existed between 1918–1940. On September 4, 1991, a new design by Arvydas Každailis was approved based on the recommendations of a special heraldic committee. It abandoned romantic interwar interpretations, harkening back to the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It re-established the original colors, but placed the horse and rider in an ostensibly more "defensive" posture, airs above the ground rather than leaping forward and sword simply elevated rather than poised to strike. However, Lithuanian coins featured Zikaras' design until they were replaced by the euro in 2015.
In 2004, Lithuania's Seimas confirmed a new variant of the Vytis on the historical flag of Lithuania. It is depicted on a rectangular red fabric, recalling the old battle flags of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The flag does not replace the yellow-green-red tri-color national flag of Lithuania. It is used on special occasions, anniversaries, and buildings of historic significance.
It is currently proposed that a larger version of the coat of arms be adopted. It would feature a line from "Tautiška giesmė", the national anthem of Lithuania, "Vienybė težydi" ("May unity blossom"). The Seimas already uses a larger version of the coat of arms with this phrase as its motto, along with two supporters: the dexter one a griffin argent beaked and membered or, langued gules, and the sinister one a unicorn argent, armed and unguled or, langued gules, and the ducal hat on top of the shield. The President of Lithuania uses the shield and supporters only.
Lithuania joined the Eurozone by adopting the euro on 1 January 2015. The designs of Lithuanian euro coins share a similar national side for all denominations, featuring the Vytis and the name of the country, "Lietuva". The design was announced on 11 November 2004 following a public opinion poll conducted by the Bank of Lithuania. The horse is again leaping forward, as in more traditional versions.
Gintautas Genys released a three-tomes historical adventure novel book Pagaunės medžioklė (English: The Hunting of Pagaunė), which analyzes different periods of the history of Lithuania: the first tome, released in 2012, is about the last decade of the 18th century (close to the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), the second tome, released in 2014, presents the vision of the restoration of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the sticky web of intrigues and conflicts of the monarchs of France, Russia, and Prussia, while the third tome, released in 2019, presents the 19th century course of the history of Russia, Poland, and Lithuania in the 2nd–7th decades, consistently and vividly reveals the terrible drama of mutual relations between them.
A banknote of 500 Lithuanian litas with Vytis (Pahonia), 2000
A coin of 1 Lithuanian Euro with Vytis (Pahonia), used since 1 January 2015
The Lithuanian soldiers with the Columns of Gediminas during the Battle of Grunwald reconstruction
Flag of the Lithuanian Armed Forces with the Columns of the Gediminids
An armoured fighting vehicle Vilkas (Lithuanian variant of Boxer) with the Columns of the Gediminids
Jonas Trinkūnas, the leader of neo-pagan movement Romuva, believes that in the Lithuanian mythology Vytis represents Perkūnas, a god of thunder. It is believed that the Vytis may represent Perkūnas as supreme god or Kovas who was also a war god and has been depicted as a horseman since ancient times. Gintaras Beresnevičius also points out that a white horse had a sacral meaning to Balts. These interpretations coincide with one of the interpretations of the German coat of arms, that suggests an adler being the bird of Odin, a god of war, which is commonly depicted as a horserider.
Similar coats of arms
The Pahonia coat of arms of Belarus, which was used in 1918 and again from 1991 to 1995, is very similar to the Vytis, with slight differences. In particular, the patriarchal cross with arms of uneven length is displayed on the shield, the saddle blanket is of the Renaissance style, the horse's tail points down instead of up, and Azure is absent from it altogether.
Recently adopted coats of arms of Vilnius and Panevėžys counties use different color schemes and add additional details to the basic image of the knight. Several towns in Lithuania use motifs similar to the Vytis. For example, the coat of arms of Liudvinavas is parted per pale. One half depicts the Vytis and the other, Lady Justice.
Liudvinavas coat of arms
Vilnius County coat of arms
Panevėžys County coat of arms
Veiviržėnai coat of arms
Josvainiai coat of arms
Marijampolė coat of arms
Kurkliai coat of arms
Prienai coat of arms
Daugailiai coat of arms
Adutiškis coat of arms
The horseman was featured on the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, on the Seal of King Yuri II Boleslav with the Ruthenian lion on the coat of arms, on the Mykhailo Hrushevsky's proposal of the coat of arms of the Ukrainian People's Republic, and on the other Ukrainian coats of arms.
Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, 1313
Seal of King Yuri II Boleslav denoting a horseman with lion on the coat of arms (14th century)
Mykhailo Hrushevskyi's proposal for the coat of arms of the Ukrainian People's Republic
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- Pogoń Litewska coat of arms
- Emblem of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
- Flag of Lithuania
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Transliteration: Teź' my, g[o]sp[o]d[a]r', daem' pod' ger'bom' togo pan'stva nasogo, velikogo kniazstva litov'skogo, "Pogoneju" pečat' do koź'dogo povetu
Translation: We, the King, bring the seal with "Pogonia", the coat of arms of our state of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, for every powiat
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