A History of Heraldry – Times of Malta

A chatty coat of arms? According to the French, it is. Known as arms parlant or ‘canting’ arms, these shorthand emblems of identification play a visual pun on the family surname. It is up to the observer to fill in the blanks.

Bees carved into a limestone coat of arms, atop a façade in Għarb, reveal the occupant’s family name to be Apap − ape is Italian for a bee.

Naturally, an olive tree features prominently in the coat of arms for the Testaferrata Olivier family and a pear tree for the de Piro coat of arms. A cat is the obvious choice for the Caruana Gatto family (cat being the literal translation from the Italian gatto) and no prizes for guessing the symbol used by the Fontani family. Take a stroll through the noble streets of Mdina and Valletta and look up. Some walls do talk!

Better still, get up close and personal with the language of heraldry in a masterclass on the subject being held this week and get to order your unique coat of arms.

Associated with the pomp and circumstance of pageantry, a seemingly archaic relic from the age of chivalry, the use and study of coats of arms, better known as heraldry, has, over the years, expanded and gained an institutional presence in various countries around the world….

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As published in the Times Of Malta, Monday 3rd May 2021

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