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Why Did Heraldry Start?

If you are wondering "why did heraldry start," you might be curious to learn why the practice of coat of arms was introduced for families and groups. It might seem like a strange tradition — choose a few symbols, place them on an oddly-shaped banner, and use this symbol in all parts of your family’s official life.

Why Did Heraldry Start

Heraldry was something taken very seriously for many centuries because it was an officially-recognized way to sign documents, represent a family or group at an important meeting, or show your affiliations while at war. Heraldry did not start overnight: for more information about why did heraldry start, read more below.

Heraldry: A Way to Symbolize and Recognize

Today, you usually ask to see someone’s identification papers if you need confirmation of who they are and what they are doing. In simple terms, you often you have to show documentation of your name and age, such as on a license or passport, if you want to buy beer or cigarettes. However, the technology associated with heraldry was much simpler: to represent a family, kingship, or royal line, a coat of arms was created that put together meaningful symbols in order to represent lineage. This coat of arms was official and taken very seriously in its day.

Why Did Heraldry Start

Most scholars agree heraldry began out of the traditions of battle. In order for opposing sides of a war, battle, or fight to keep order, they had to be recognizable. Of course, it wasn’t always simple to wear matching uniforms, especially when the fighting would get very brutal. However, metal and wooden weapons were more permanent than flesh, and carvings and decorations on these would help people recognize one another much more easily. It became tradition in Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and other ancient cultures to use symbols to show which side they were fighting for in battle.

Heraldry became a way to document a lineage and to show that families were of certain stature, blood, and had certain political power as shown by their ancestry. The trend of understanding the past is not new: humans have always seemed to define themselves on who they come from. Coats of arms and similar heraldic symbols offered an artistic, official, and regal way to do just that throughout many cultures around the world, for centuries.

Some of the best examples are the royal coats of arms that have been preserved in Europe. Very popular in particular during the Crusades when members of parties, groups, and families would go off to war in small battalions, coats of arms helped people recognize each other very easily. Heralds, people who were employed specifically to know which coat of arms was owned by a particular family, group, or kingship, helped the process of recognition. It didn’t matter what language you spoke – the symbols made it clear beyond written words what a family was and what they represented. The tradition of symbolism has morphed over the centuries but, in some senses, it is still exactly the same. It is a tradition of displaying relationships and power dynamics in an artful way for everyone to recognize.

Learning More about Heraldry

If you are interested in heraldry, there is a lot of research you can do on the subject. You can find research agencies that will find the heraldic traditions of famous lineages. You can also consider paying an agency to do research on your family to learn about what coats of arms were used in your family’s traditions.

You might make an important discovery about your family’s history and you might discover more about why heraldry originated for your family in the first place. To learn more about why did heraldry start or to get more background information on the subject to further peak your interests, consider speaking with a researcher at a local university who specializes in the subject.