Coat of arms of Portugal

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Coat of arms of Portugal
Coat of arms of Portugal.svg
Coat of arms of Portugal (Lesser).svg
Version without laurel branches, for use on the National Flag, naval jack and some governmental flags
Military CoA of Portugal.svg
Version with the motto, for use on the national colors of the military units
Armiger Portuguese Republic
Adopted 30 June 1911
Escutcheon Argent, five escutcheons in cross azure each charged with as many plates in saltire, all within a bordure gules charged with seven golden triple-towered castles
Motto Esta é a ditosa Pátria minha amada
Other elements Behind the shield, an armillary sphere between two olive branches embowed Or bound together in base by a ribbon vert and gules.

The coat of arms of Portugal is the main heraldic insignia of Portugal. The present model was officially adopted on 30 June 1911, along with the present model of the Flag of Portugal. It is based on the coat of arms used by the Portuguese Kingdom since the Middle Ages. The coat of arms of Portugal is popularly referred as the Five Quinas or simply the Quinas (quinas being the five escutcheons of the Portuguese shield).

History and evolution[edit]

The national heraldry of Portugal evolved from the royal heraldry, with the royal coat of arms gradually coming to be considered a national coat of arms.

The Portuguese coat of arms itself is the result of almost a millennium of modifications and alterations. Starting with the cross azur on field argent, which constituted the putative shield of Henry, Count of Portugal in the 12th century, successive elements were added or taken, culminating with the complex heraldic design that was officially adopted in 1911 (after the Republican Revolution of 1910).

Evolution of the Portuguese shield[edit]

The main and constant element of the coat of arms of Portugal is and has always been the Portuguese shield. This resulted from around 300 years of evolution, from the 12th to the 15th centuries.

The putative initial shield used by Afonso Henriques, who became the first King of Portugal, was apparently the same as the one used by his father, Count Henry, being so a field argent with a cross azur.

The initial shield evolved to a field argent with five escutcheons azur forming a cross, the dexter and sinister ones pointing to the center, with each escutcheon semée of plates. This is the first confirmed model of Portuguese shield in use. Apparently, it was introduced still in the reign of Afonso Henriques (Afonso I) and definitely was used in the reign of Portugal's following King Sancho I (1185-1211). There are several legends that explain the origin of the five escutcheons and of the plates. The escutcheons are said that they represent either the five wounds of Christ in the Cross, the five wounds suffered by Afonso Henriques in the Battle of Ourique or the five moor kings defeated by him in this same battle. Regarding the plates, it is said that either they represent the pieces of silver received by Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus or the sovereignty of the Portuguese Kings symbolized by the right to issue their own money. A more mundane theory explains the origin of this shield in the original material shield of Afonso Henriques, which included a cross made by two blue leather bands nailed to a white field and which, after being successively hit in battle, had these bands ripped off, except the five pieces more close to the clusters of nails. These five pieces of blue leather and the heads of the nails, being so allegedly the origin of the five escutcheons azur, each semée of plates.

When the future Afonso III of Portugal claimed the throne from his brother Sancho II, he adopted as his coat of arms the then Portuguese shield defaced by the addition of a bordure gules semée of castles or. When Afonso III became King in 1247, he maintained this defaced shield, instead of adopting the original shield without the bordure. There are several theories about the meaning of the bordure with castles, the most popular one being that it represents the last castles conquered in the Algarve to the moors by this King, ending the Portuguese Reconquista. The most common presently accepted theory is however that the bordure was a mark of cadency to signify the fact that Afonso was not the head of the Royal lineage, the elements being probably taken from the arms of his mother Urraca of Castile.

During the 1383–1385 Portuguese interregnum, one of the emerging candidates to the throne was John, master of the Order of Aviz, who was an illegitimate son of King Peter I of Portugal. John was elected Regent and Defender of Kingdom in 1383 and acclaimed King of Portugal in 1385, as John I. With John, the Portuguese shield was added by the insertion of the insignia of the Order of Aviz (cross vert with fleur-de-lis in its points), with its points appearing in the bordure gules, between the castles or. Although more commonly represented inserted in the shield, occasionally the cross of the Order of Aviz was represented outside the shield with this laying over it.

The semée of plates of each of the five escutcheons gradually evolved to fixed five plates disposed in saltire. Because of this, each of these escutcheons started to be known as quina (the face "five" of a dice). By synecdoche, the Portuguese shield started to be referred as the five quinas or simply as the quinas.

Finally, in 1481, King John II ordered the correction of the Portuguese shield, eliminating its features identified as heraldic errors. So, the cross of the Order of Aviz was taken off and the dexter and sinister escutcheons were set upright. Later the semée of castles or of the bordure evolved to seven fixed castles, this being the version of the shield still in use today.

During some periods of effective or claimed Royal union of Portugal with other states, the Portuguese shield was used marshaled with the coats of arms of those states. Beatrice of Portugal, who claimed the Portuguese crown during the 1383-1385 interregnum, used the Portuguese arms in the II and III positions of the shield, marshaled with the arms of her husband King John I of Castile in the I and IV. King Afonso V of Portugal, who claimed the crown of Castile during the 1475-1479 period, used the Portuguese arms in the I and IV, marshaled with the arms of Castile and León in the II and III. During the period of the Iberian Union (1580-1640), the Portuguese shield was placed in the honour point of the complex coat of arms of the House of Habsburg. These marshaled coats of arms had, however, a very limited use, with the simple Portuguese coat of arms being used in the national context and the marshaled arms being only used when they intended to represent personally the monarch.

When the status of Brazil was raised from that of state to a constituent kingdom of the Portuguese Monarchy, giving origin to the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, the Royal coat of arms was altered by the addition of an armillary sphere or over a field azur, these being the Brazilian arms. The new Royal achievement of arms consisted therefore of the Portuguese shield (representing Portugal and the Algarves) over the armillary sphere (representing Brazil), all topped by the Royal crown. Although displayed as a supporter of the Portuguese shield and not as part of it, it is controversial if the armillary sphere should be considered or not part of the main field of the new achievement. This achievement of arms was used in Portugal from 1815 to 1826 (despite Brazil having achieved independence in 1822, only when King John VI died in 1826 did Portugal revert to the use of the old coat of arms).

The elements surrounding the shield[edit]

Until the early 14th century, the achievement of arms of Portugal consisted solely in the shield, with no external elements surrounding it being represented.

A crown over the shield started to appear in some representations of the Portuguese coat of arms in the 14th century. Initially, a crude open crown was represented, this evolving to a crown similar to the present coronet of duke, so consisting of a circlet surmounted by leaves. The crown come to appear more and more in the representations of the coat of arms of Portugal, becoming an increasingly constant element of the same. In most of the cases the crown was represented laying directly over the shield, although in the rare occasions in which the helmet was represented, the crown was placed over it. From the 16th century until the establishment of the republican coat of arms in 1910, the Royal crown was almost always present in the coat of arms of Portugal, being also the only constant external element of the shield. In the reign of King Sebastian (1557-1578), the open Royal crown was replaced by a crown closed with a single arch. This latter evolved to a crown with two arches. The final model of herladic crown was adopted in the reign of Peter II (1683-1706), this being a crown closed with four arches, surmounted by a globe topped with a cross. At the same time, the previous crown with two arches became the crown of the Prince apparent heir of the Portuguese crown.

Other external elements surrounding the shield, started to be also represented in the Portuguese coat of arms from the 14th century, although none of them has reached the status of a constant element, as the Royal crown.

One of the most important of these elements was the heraldic crest, which at least from the reign of John I became a dragon, probably associated to the adoption of Saint George as the patron saint of Portugal. Until the 17th century, the dragon was represented in or, but since then, it started to be represented in vert. This change of color was probably due to the ascension to the throne, in 1640, of the House of Braganza, which had the green as its livery color, this also becoming the national color of Portugal. During the period of the House of Braganza, two dragons vert became frequently used as the supporters of the Portuguese Royal shield.

Other of the external elements was the helmet or with bars, that was frequently represented between the 14th and the 16th centuries, but rarely appearing in the achievement afterwards. Both the torse and the mantling that appeared in the helmet were represented in argent and gules during the reign of King Manuel I (1495-1521), these being his livery colors. In latter representations of the Royal achievement of arms, the torse and the mantling included the four colors of the Portuguese shield argent, gules, or and azur.

Supporters also were frequently represented in many artistic representations of the Portuguese coat of arms. The most frequently represented supporters until the 18th century were the angels. Usually two angels were represented, one in dexter and the other in sinister, but in some representations the shield is supported by a single angel. Occasionally, the supporter angel was represented using a tabard or surcoat with the Portuguese arms, what may indicate that he was not a generic angel but specifically the Guardian Angel of Portugal. From the reign of King Manuel I forward, it was common to represent the angels handling armillary spheres and crosses of the Order of Christ or handling flags with those badges. From the 18th century onwards, the dragons vert that served as the Portuguese crest became also the most often represented supporters in the achievement of arms of Portugal. In latter representations of the Portuguese coat of arms, the dragons dexter and sinister carry each one a flag with elements of the Portuguese shield, the dexter being argent with the five quinas and the sinister being gules with seven castles or.

In the reign of King Manuel I, his personal heraldic badge (the armillary sphere) and his insignia as master of the Order of Christ (the cross of this order) started be intensively represented, usually as elements surrounding the Portuguese shield. These two heraldic insignia were so intensively used that they evolved from being mere personal insignias of Manuel I to be considered national insignias, continuing to be used even after the end of the reign of this king. Occasionally, the armillary sphere was represented as the supporter of the Portuguese shield, in a similar composition to those that, centuries latter, would be used in the arms of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves and of the Portuguese Republic.

During the reign of Henry, a peculiar Royal achievement of arms was used, which included a red ecclesiastical hat (galero) and respective tassels, combined with the Royal crown, to reflect the cardinal standing of the King.

During the 1815-1825 period, the Royal coat arms were changed to reflect the establishment of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, starting to include also the armillary sphere or over a field azur, which was adopted as the coat of arms of the newly created Kingdom of Brazil. The new achievement consisted so of the Portuguese shield (representing Portugal and the Algarve) over the armillary sphere (representing Brazil), all topped by the Royal crown. The armillary sphere appeared so as a kind of supporter of the shield, although it is controversial if it should be really considered a supporter or part of the main element of the arms.

From the second half of the 19th century, the Royal coat of arms became commonly represented with the shield covered by a mantle purple lined ermine issuing from the Royal crown.

The present model of the coat of arms[edit]

The present model of the coat of arms of Portugal was designed by the commission appointed on the 15 October 1910 to present the project for a new National Flag, following the establishing of the Portuguese republic on the 5 October 1910. The models chosen by the commission were approved by the Provisional Government of the Republic on the 29 November 1910, confirmed by the Constituent Assembly by the decree of 19 June 1911, with its details being specified in the Diário do Governo (official journal) no 150 of 30 June 1911.

Three versions of the coat of arms were established, intended for different types of use. All three include, as its central element, the traditional Portuguese shield placed over an armillary sphere or. The Portuguese shield being a field argent with five escutcheons azur forming a cross, each escutcheon with five plates in saltire, a bordure gules with seven castles or.

The basic version consists of only the Portuguese shield over the armillary sphere. This version was intended to be used on the National Flag and on the naval jack. From the 23 September 1911, this version was also used on the naval distinctive flags of the President of the Republic, ministers and other state authorities, latter being also used on some governmental and state flags created afterwards. Occasionally, this version is unofficially referred as the "lesser arms of Portugal".

The second version consists of the Portuguese shield over the armillary sphere, with this being surrounded by two branches of laurel, tied in the base with a white scroll with the Camões verse "Esta é a ditosa Pátria minha amada" (This is my beloved famous Motherland). This version was intended to be used on the regimental colors of the military units.

Finally, the third version is similar to the second one but the scroll does not includes the verse and is usually represented in red and green. This version was intended to be used in seals, coins and other emblems.

Present and past elements of the arms of Portugal[edit]


Quina (plural quinas) is the Portuguese term for a quincunx, being used to designate each of the five escutcheons of the arms of Portugal.

After the official recognition of the Kingdom of Portugal as an independent country in 1143 (it had been self declared as so in 1139), silver bezants were added to the blue cross of the shield, symbolising coins and the right of the monarch to issue currency, as leader of a sovereign state. Eventually, and given the enormous dynamism of medieval heraldry, it is believed that the shield degraded and lost some elements in battle, eventually losing the cross format. This is how King Sancho I inherited the shield from his father, Afonso Henriques, with the cross replaced by escutcheons with the silver bezants. A traditional legend explains that these escutcheons represent the five moor kings defeated by King Afonso I of Portugal in the battle of Ourique.

The number of silver bezants in each escutcheon varied extensively, with versions having represented from four up to eleven. In the late 14th century however, the number of bezants was fixed in five. Late explanations interpret them as the five wounds of Jesus Christ and/or the thirty pieces of silver (with the five bezants in the middle escutcheon counted twice), although this is highly improbable.

From the fixation of the number of bezants in five, each of the escutcheons of the Portuguese shield became popularly referred as a quina (quincunx). By synecdoche, the term "Five Quinas" or simply the "Quinas" came to be used as an alternative designation of the coat of arms of Portugal and came even be used as a reference to anything that represents Portugal (e.g. the Flag of Portugal being often referred as the "Flag of the Quinas").


It was during the reign of Afonso III that the red bordure with golden castles (not towers, as some sources state) was added. Although the number of castles could vary between eight and twelve, Afonso IV would define them as twelve, and Sebastian I would finally fix them as seven. They supposedly represent the Moorish castles conquered by the Kingdom of Portugal during the Reconquista. Their origin is probably Castilian, but unlike Spanish castles, which usually have their gates coloured blue (hence opened), Portuguese castles were always depicted with gold gates (hence closed). As a matter of fact, Afonso III was the second son of King Afonso II of Portugal and thus was not expected to inherit the throne, which was destined to go to his elder brother King Sancho II of Portugal. As a second son, the coat of arms of Afonso III included both the arms of his father and the arms of his mother Urraca of Castile, thus the Castillan red border with golden castillan castles, around the Portuguese shield inherited from his father.

Armillary sphere[edit]

An important element of Portuguese heraldry since the 15th century, the armillary sphere was many times used in Portuguese naval and colonial flags, mainly in Brazil. It was a navigation instrument used to calculate distances and represents the importance of Portugal during the Age of Discovery, as well as the vastness of its colonial empire when the First Republic was implemented.

Although it is commonly regarded as a "republican" element, as opposed to the monarchist crown in the blue/white flag (see Flag of Portugal), its usage predates the republic by several centuries; it was the personal emblem of king D. Manuel I. Some flags of the monarchic era, such as the flag of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, already depicted armillary spheres. The incorporation of the armillary sphere into the 1816 flag of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarves is related to the adoption of the first flag of the Kingdom of Brazil, an armillary sphere on a blue background.


The coat of arms sported different crowns during imperial rule of Portuguese and foreign crowns.

Representations of the Portuguese coats of arms[edit]

See also[edit]