You all have it seen already. The Bavarian coat of arms. A quite fascinating coat of arms with lots of details. And every detail has a certain meaning. Read on to get to know the meanings.
“Coat of arms of Bavaria” by Freistaat Bayern
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This vector image was created with Inkscape. – Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Unterricht und Kultus: G8. Das neue Gymnasium in Bayern (PDF-Broschüre). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Here it is… the official Bavarian coat of arms. Quite impressive, isn’t it? And as many flags and coat of arms also this has a meaning. So here we go explaining:
Bavaria consists of seven districts, the so called “Regierungsbezirke which can be translated to “gouvernmental district” or “administrative district”. Every district also has it’s own “Gouvernment”, but actually these district gouvernments don’t have any power. They are part of the Bavarian ministry of the inner and work as normal regional authoritiy for things like planning and building laws (roads, rails, buildings…). They are also rsponsible for schools, immigration, emergency services, and some more things like hunting and fishing or lottery.
But let’s get back to the coat of arms. As said, Bavaria consists of seven gouvernmental districts:
– Upper Bavaria (Oberbayern)
– Lower Bavaria (Niederbayern)
– Swabia (Schwaben)
– Upper Palatinate (Operpfalz)
– Middle Franconia (Mittelfranken)
– Lower Franconia (Unterfranken)
– Upper Franconia (Oberfranken)
In former times, Bavaria had one more district (Palatinate), which is now part of the german state of “Rhineland-Palatinate” (Rheinland-Pfalz).
Now Let’s have a look at the two golden lions holding the coat of arms. Their meaning is not clear. Even the Bavarian Ministry of the Inner only says in an official script: “The lions resume an old tradition coming from the 14th century”. At that time it was very trendy to use wild animals as signs of power for flags and coat of arms. So Bavaria used lions, while for example Prussia has a strong tradition with eagles.
Then lets have a look in the first quarter (top left) of the coat of arms. There we see a golden lion on black ground. This part represents the district of Upper Palatinate (and in former times the district Palatinate). The golden lion was the official heraldic animal of the Wittelsbach family (who ruled Bavaria or parts of it since about the year 1000 until 1918).
Now let’s look at the second quarter (top right). There we see a red and white sign. This is called the “Franconian Rake”. This represents the three districts of Upper, Lower and Middle Franconia. This sign appeared about 1350 as the sign of the bishopric Würzburg. Some people say, that the three white teeth or prongs stand for the three districts. This is a nice aide-memoire, but not true.
Now the third quarter (bottom left). Here we see a blue Panther on white ground (sometimes also silver ground). This sign represents the districts of Upper- and Lower Bavaria. The blue Panther was the official sign of the palsgrave of Ortenburg. A part of this family lived in Kraiburg, a city in Upper Bavaria. Later the Wittelsbach Family took over this sign.
The last quarter (bottom right): Here we can see three black lions on yellow (or gold) ground who look at the viewer. This sign represents the district Swabia. In former time these lions were official sign of the Staufer-family (also called Hohenstaufen) who ruled in Swabia. The best known member of this family is emperor Friedrich Barbarossa.
So we have all seven (or eight) districts. Why is there another sign in the middle?
Well…. what can I say. Wikipedia explains it the best: “The escutcheon of white and blue oblique fusils was originally the coat of arms of the Counts of Bogen, adopted in 1247 by the House of Wittelsbach. The white-and-blue fusils are indisputably the emblem of Bavaria and the heart shield today symbolizes Bavaria as a whole”
And there is another thing. The middle part where all districts are shown is crowned with a so called people’s crown. This corwn appeared in 1923 to symbolize that Bavaria is a free state (old word for republic) and ruled by the people. So it symbolises the sovereignty of the people following the abolition of the monarchy.
– In the well known TV-Show “Hart of Dixie” Season 3, episode 15 “Ring of Fire”, there is a medieval festival in the small Alabama town. They organize a medieval joust and the winner shall date the princess. When you look close, you’ll notice that the TV-Show producers used the official Bavarian coat of arms as random “medieval” flag. This is quite funny as you know now, this coat of arms first appeared in 1923… ;-). Later in that show you’ll also notice the flag of the german state “Hesse” inside of a restaurant
– Most “souvenirs” try to use the Bavarian coat of arms, but most times they mess it up. For example here: The franconian rake is bottom right, the golden lion is top right, the blue panther is completely missing and the middle shield was transferred to the top left corner.