Saturday, 11 January 2014

A word on Polish heraldry

The first thing to note is that heraldry of the Polish nobility (or szlachta) of the early to mid Thirteenth Century is that it is nothing like the heraldry of western Europe. Theirs is much more basic in design and stems from ancient tribal markings to denote territorial boundaries and ownership. For longevity, these would have to be simple to carve on wood or stone, so the heraldic designs are usually a series of lines or gentle curves. For example, one clan –the Korczak Clan from the Kraków area- has a series of three white lines with each succeeding line shorter than the one above on a red field. Another example is a stylised white arrow, sometimes with lines across the shaft, again on a red field, as used by the Lis Clan. All of this will be made clear as the entries are written. I will also include some relevant notes on the heraldry as well as a picture of the heraldic shield as they are displayed on Wikipedia for the clans I have used.
The devices used are specific to a single clan which is made up of a number of families, sometimes not even from the same area of Poland. For example, there are about 1740 names or families that make up the Jastrzębiec Clan (or Herb Jastrzębiec in Polish) and there were no differences in the device used by various members of the family; they all carried the same device on their shields. These types of changes were gradually worked into the system at a later date, sometime around the time of the Polish Commonwealth of the Seventeenth Century.
Another thing about Polish heraldry is that the predominant colour for the shield is red with the charges mainly in white but sometimes in yellow. The other colour is blue and in Polish heraldry blue means azure or sky blue. Again, this will be made clear as I progress.

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