Fess

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"Argent a fess gules"

In heraldry, a fess or fesse (from Middle English fesse, from Old French faisse,[1] from Latin fascia, "band")[2] is a charge on a coat of arms (or flag) that takes the form of a band running horizontally across the centre of the shield.[3] Writers disagree in how much of the shield's surface is to be covered by a fess or other ordinary, ranging from one-fifth to one-third. The Oxford Guide to Heraldry states that earlier writers including Leigh, Holme, and Guillim favour one-third, while later writers such as Edmondson favour one-fifth "on the grounds that a bend, pale, or chevron occupying one-third of the field makes the coat look clumsy and disagreeable."[4] A fess is likely to be shown narrower if it is uncharged, that is, if it does not have other charges placed on it, and/or if it is to be shown with charges above and below it; and shown wider if charged. The fess or bar, termed fasce in French heraldry, should not be confused with fasces.

Gallery[edit]

Diminutives[edit]

In English heraldry, two or more such charges appearing together on a shield are termed bars, though there are no definitive rules setting the width of the fess, the bar, nor their comparative width.[3] A shield of (often six or eight) horizontal stripes of alternating colour is called barry. Narrower versions of the bar are called barrulets ("little bars"), and when a shield of horizontal stripes alternating colour is composed of ten or more stripes, it is called barruly or burely instead of barry.[3] A cotise, defined as half the width of a barrulet, may be borne alongside a fess, and often two of these appear, one on either side of the fess.[3] This is often termed "a fess cotised" (also cottised, coticed or cotticed).[5] Another diminutive of the fess called a closet is said to be between a bar and barrulet, but this is seldom found.[3]

Other uses[edit]

A shield party per fess (or simply per fess) is divided in half horizontally (in the manner of a fess). A charge placed horizontally may be termed fesswise or fessways, and two or more charges arranged in a horizontal row are blazoned in fess or in bar.

Notable and unusual forms[edit]

A mural fess, that is a fess embattled and masoned of the field, can be seen in the arms of Suzanne Elizabeth Altvater.[6]

The arms of Baroness Fritchie provide an example of three Barrulets fracted and there conjoined to a Chevronel.[7]

A flag which has a central horizontal stripe that is half the height of the flag is sometimes said to have a Spanish fess. The name is based on the most well-known example of this style of flag, the flag of Spain.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Fouché, Pierre (1961). Phonétique historique du français (in French). Vol. III: Les Consonnes et index général. Paris: Klincksieck. p. 921.
  2. ^ "Fess 1". American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000. Archived from the original on 2005-09-26. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  3. ^ a b c d e Woodcock & Robinson (1988), Oxford Guide to Heraldry, p. 60.
  4. ^ Woodcock & Robinson (1988), Oxford Guide to Heraldry, p. 58.
  5. ^ Parker, James (1894). "Cottise". A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  6. ^ "Suzanne Elizabeth Altvater Grant of Arms". The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada. The Canadian Heraldic Authority. 1998-10-29. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  7. ^ "Heraldry of New Life Peers". The Heraldry Gazette. The Heraldry Society (June 2007): 3. 2007-11-24. Retrieved 2009-03-29.

Further reading[edit]