Sun (heraldry)

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The sun as a charge
Sun of May as depicted on the flag of Uruguay

A representation of the sun is used as a heraldic charge. The most usual form, often called sun in splendour or in his glory, consists of a round disc with the features of a human face, surrounded by twelve or sixteen rays, alternating wavy and straight.[1][2] The alternating straight and wavy rays are often said to represent the light and heat of the sun respectively.[3]

It is a common charge in the heraldry of many countries; e.g. the bearings of Armstrong, Canada, and the arms of Banbury Town Council, England.

It often appears as a rising sun as in the arms of East Devon District Council, England, and as a demi sun as in the coat of Aitchison, Canada.

It was used as a badge by Edward II of England, and was later adopted by Edward IV following the appearance of a parhelion or "sun dog" before his victory at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross in 1461.[2][4] It also had significance in alchemy, and may be a symbol of the Roman deity Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun).[5]

The Sun of May shown on the national flags of Uruguay and Argentina is identical in form to the "Sun in Splendour".

Some Asian countries represent the sun in some of their symbols, the term Asia possibly deriving from the Akkadian word (w)aṣû(m), which means 'to go outside' or 'to ascend' — referring to the direction of the sun at sunrise in the Middle East and also likely connected with the Phoenician word asa, meaning 'east'. A similar etymology has the term Europe as deriving from Akkadian erēbu(m) 'to enter' or 'set' (of the sun).


In splendour[edit]

Other forms[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James Parker, A glossary of terms used in heraldry. Accessed 13 December 2009
  2. ^ a b Dictionary of Vexillology. Accessed 13 December 2009
  3. ^ Fox-Davies, A.C., (1969) A complete guide to heraldry. Aylesbury: Thomas Nelson and Sons. p. 222.
  4. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica: Edward IV and the Alchemists. Accessed 13 December 2009
  5. ^ Banbury Faith Trail. Accessed 13 December 2009