Welcome to the Heraldry and Vexillology Portal!
Vexillology (from the Latin vexillum, a flag or banner) is the scholarly study of flags, including the creation and development of a body of knowledge about flags of all types, their forms and functions, and of scientific theories and principles based on that knowledge. Flags were originally used to assist military coordination on the battlefield, and have evolved into a general tool for signalling and identification, particularly identification of countries.
Heraldry encompasses all of the duties of a herald, including the science and art of designing, displaying, describing and recording coats of arms and badges, as well as the formal ceremonies and laws that regulate the use and inheritance of arms. The origins of heraldry lie in the medieval need to distinguish participants in battles or jousts, whose faces were hidden by steel helmets.
The Raven banner (in Old Norse, Hrafnsmerki; in Old English, Hravenlandeye) was a flag, possibly totemic in nature, flown by various viking chieftains and other Scandinavian rulers during the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries CE. The flag, as depicted in Norse artwork, was roughly triangular, with a rounded outside edge on which there hung a series of tabs or tassels. It bore a resemblance to ornately carved "weather-vanes" used aboard Viking longships.
Scholars conjecture that the raven flag was a symbol of Odin, who was often depicted accompanied by two ravens. Its intent may have been to strike fear in one's enemies by invoking the power of Odin. As one scholar notes: "The Anglo-Saxons probably thought that the banners were imbued with the evil powers of pagan idols, since the Anglo-Saxons were aware of the significance of Óðinn and his ravens in Norse mythology." (more...)
Selected coat of arms
The coat of arms of Munich (Münchner Wappen) depicts a young monk dressed in black holding a red book. It has existed in a similar form since the 13th century, though at certain points in its history it has not depicted the central figure of the monk at all. As the German name for Munich, i.e. München, means of Monks, the monk in this case is a self-explanatory symbol who represents the city of Munich. Appearing on a document of May 28, 1239, the oldest seal of Munich has a picture of a monk wearing an open hood. While all seal impressions show the monk with the book in one hand and three outstretched fingers in the other, the monk has varied slightly, appearing in profile, then later full-faced and bare-headed. By the 19th century the figure was portrayed as youthful and became known as the Münchner Kindl or Munich Child. The coat of arms in its current form was created in 1957 and is still an important symbol of the Bavarian state capital. (more...)