A Quick List of Standard Characteristics of Spanish, Italian, Islamic, and Polish Heraldry

At times there will be someone who wants their arms to be specific for one of these regions instead of for the more common English and German heraldry in the SCA. These bulleted lists below denote some of the more distinctive characteristics of various regions around the world.


Early Islamic Heraldry
Later Islamic Heraldry



Spanish / Portuguese(2)

  • _____ The charges shown on Spanish armorial bearings could depict historical events or deeds of war.
  • _____ They were characterized by a widespread use of orles and borders around the edge of the shield.
  • _____ Spain and Portugal marshalled arms more conventionally by quartering instead per pale.
    Out of thirty Arms listed in reference (1), ten were quartered with identical arms in 1/4 and 2/3 quarters.
  • _____ Spain and Portugal also marshalled arms per saltire, though it was more rare. Of the many in reference(8), three were marshalled per saltire.
  • _____ They allowed words and letters on the shield itself, a practice that was considered incorrect in northern Europe.
  • _____ If a field division was used, it tended to be more complex like per bend and barry, or per fess and checky.


  • _____ The majority of fields in Italian blazons were gules or azure
  • _____ Scaly, though unique to Italian heraldry, was rare.
  • _____ Almost without exception, natural charges, such as fauna and flora, were rendered “proper.”
  • _____ An ordinary or subordinary, though commonplace would rarely be the only feature of the device.
  • _____ Stars and comets were very common, usually metal, and of that usually Or. A comet or star proper in Italy was six rays.
  • _____ Other regular charges were the greyhound, hare, Neapolitan mastiff and serpent.
  • _____ The composition of many Italian coats of arms was almost pictorial with trees and dogs or birds.
    • This, however, is not allowed in SCA armory per SENA although with enough evidence, exceptions may be made as a compatible regional style exception(4).
  • _____ Based on empirical evidence of the royal houses of the italian free states (5), these appear to have been the most common charges:
    • The lion was usually rampant and usually Or or sable.
    • The eagle was usually displayed soetimes two-headed.
    • Roundels were either charged or not.
    • Fleur-de-lys


Early Islamic Heraldry

  • _____ A rosette with a varying number of petals was perhaps the most common charge
  • _____ The lion was almost always shown walking.
    One leg, usually the right, was raised and the animal had a curled tail.
  • _____ Occupational origins were emblazoned as people rose to the nobility.
    • Cup: The number of cupbearers was greater than any other group of pages therefore most common on blazons.
    • Pen-Box: Denotes a secretary. Variants include an inkwell, sand pot and starch paste pot, thread holder, and receptacles for reeds. The men of the pen could not pursue a military career, but were coming to dominate political life. The pen box was more common than the sword. (Could this have been a possible origin of “the pen is mightier than the sword”?)
    • Sword: Occured in a variety of forms, from a double-edged weapon to a scimitar (or even a dagger), either singly or in pairs. It signified the armor bearer.
    • Bow: either an armor bearer or a bowman. Sometimes arrows accompanied it.
    • Napkin: Either a delf or a lozenge. Usually it was a lozenge. Could this have been a cook or taster?
    • Table: Commonly round and might not have had supports. Maybe a another symbol for taster?
    • Polo-sticks: The polo master was an important court post as would make sense for a nation based on equestrian activities.
    • Saddle
    • Horns always appeared in pairs, and they seemed to be hollow.
    • Crescent: was possible symbol for the master of the stable or perhaps a mathematician.

Later Islamic Heraldry:

  • Due to Islamic prohibitions against figural representation, elaborate calligraphy came to replace heraldry.
  • Passages from the Koran and names of saints came to be used as symbols

Polish Armory(7)

  • _____ Divisions and partitions were very rare
  • _____ Animals, birds, buildings, human figures and plants were most popular
  • _____ Heraldic bests and monsters were used rarely
  • _____ Had distinct charges not seen in western heraldry whose western blazon is almost impossible.
    • _____ a bend couped curved at each end bent in chief basewise and in base chiefwise would be the closest description of what is called a krzywasn. It kind of looks like a backward, flattened “S-curved” ribbon.


(1) Francesc Tarafa’s Armorial of the Canons of the See of Barcelona

(2) Wikpedia Commons

      Al Sosa’s Spanish Heraldry was the original source but has since moved from here

(3) Medieval Italian Heraldry – Regalis

(4) SCA Standards for Evaluation of Names and Armory

(5) Italian Peninsula and Western Mediterranian Royal Arms (in French)

(6) Introduction to Islamic Heraldry (This page has some actual emblazon examples.)

(7) Polish Nobility and Its Heraldry: An Introduction

(8) Heraldica Portugues


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