Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Arms of Portugal & a Cement Mixer

Big smile! As I mentioned on Facebook today, I just saw a bright yellow cement mixer with the arms of Portugal painted on its side, driving east on 59th Street in Manhattan. Here is the shield:

Photo by Douglas Kiddie

Here are the full arms:

Thanks to Jorge L. Rivera, III, for supplying this image and the following information:

First documented coat of arms dates from the eleventh century, during the time of Sancho I and Sancho II. That coat showed these same five blue escutcheons charged by silver dots. Ca. 1252, under Alfonso II, the shield was added with the red border and golden castles, as seen here.

From 1385-1816, elements were added until this coat of arms (above) was adopted in 1911. As you can see, it is based on the arms (especially the shield) in use since the eleventh century.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Brilliant Shields in St. Thomas Church

On Monday evening, 11/9, I was honored and pleased to present a program about the 16 heraldic shields that hang in Saint Thomas Church, 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. They are the shields of America's World War I allies.

Here are a few of them:

Leo Belgicus, the Lion of the Kingdom of Belgium

New Zealand

and one of my favorites,

the Lesser Arms of Imperial Russia

If you would like to see all 16 shields in person, visit St. Thomas Church and look for the World War I Memorial on your left facing the altar, as you enter the church. If you would like more information about specific shields, please email me at

My deepest thanks to Douglas Kiddie for photographing all of the shields so beautifully.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hanging around South America

Here are the beautiful arms of Rio de Janiero and Buenos Aires. There are several of these paired mosaics on #1 Broadway. More to come soon. For now, enjoy the view!

Photo by Floyd Smith Sanford, III

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Down to Montevideo

Here are the arms of the City of Montevideo, Uruguay, as depicted on #1 Broadway

Photograph by Floyd Smith Sanford, III

and on an image I grabbed (with appropriate permissions, of course) from Wikipedia. If anyone has a more traditional rendering, please let me know and I will be happy to post it.

These arms depict "el Cerro" (the hill) with the city's grand fortess and lighthouse. The motto, attributed to Jose Gervasio Artigas, translates as "With liberty I neither offend nor fear."

José Gervasio Artigas Arnal (June 19, 1764 - September 23, 1850) is a important national figure, sometimes called "the father of Uruguayan independence." You can read more about the country, its culture, and people at

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What Is It about Lions?

This lion rampant appears on one of the most interesting structures on Riverside Drive, Manhattan: an old horse-watering trough near 77th Street. Perhaps an equine figure would have been more appropriate? But then again, lions seem so much more appealing as evidence of "having arrived" in Manhattan!

Photo by Maria A. Dering

Friday, July 3, 2009

Liverpool Conundrum - Solved!

Heartfelt thanks to heraldist Luc Duerloo of Antwerp (and, frequently, Connecticut) for emailing the answer to my question of July 2 about the Liverpool arms:

"The arms depicted are not quite those of the city (granted in 1797). They are, in fact, the arms of the Church of England bishopric granted in 1882. The blazon reads: argent, an eagle rising sable, beaked and legged and a glory round the head or, holding in the dexter claw an inkhorn proper; a chief per pale azure and gules, charged on the dexter side with an open book or, inscribed in letters sable 'Thy word is truth' and on the sinister side an ancient ship with three masts, sails furled, also or."

It is fantastic that heraldry professionals and lovers of the art communicate across the globe about intriguing puzzles, discoveries, and mysteries. Luc, thank you for your illuminating information. I know that the visitors to this blog will appreciate your knowledge and interest. Luc is a member of a new group on Facebook, New York City Heraldry. If you would like to join the group, log on and search for the group by name or look for me as the Administrator.

A happy Independence Day to all! Stay tuned for a post about an element of Huguenot art that became a defining symbol of the United States.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lovely Liverpool

Next on the roster of arms are those of the City of Liverpool. In doing my research, I found some interesting facts on Flagspot , to wit:

"It seems that Liverpool has no flag. The arms are a gold liverbird bearing an olive branch in its mouth on an argent field." -- Ensign & Jack #8, Jaume Ollé, 24 Jan. 2001

Photo courtesy of Floyd Smith Sanford, III

I also found this on Flagspot:

"It is a cormorant on the arms of Liverpool. It was inspired by an American flag with a bald eagle on it, and developed with a hint of the famous Liverpool humour. The "liver birds" are Oliver and Olivia - she looking out to sea waiting for her true love to return, he looking into the city to see if the pubs are open!" -- Valerie Sullivan, 16 June 2004

However, here we see only one of the loving pair -- Oliver or Olivia? -- and two images at the top of the shield: the motto "THY WOPD IS TRUTH" (minus a tile or two on the tail of the "p") and a fine sailing ship. Does anyone know where or when these were first used? Or perhaps the artist of #1 Broadway added them.

A bit of background on the Liverpudlian arms, and another illustration:

"Carr, 1961, says 'Liverpool's arms date from 1797, when the heralds, having never heard of Litherland close by, were left to choose between the pool of laver - that is, the seaweed Porphyra - and the pool of the liver, a bird unknown to naturalists; and, failing to find a figure of the imaginary bird, they invented a sort of short-necked cormorant, into whose beak they put a couple of fronds of Porphyra in case it was Liverpool after all.

"This very neat instance of heraldic hedging did not, however, meet with the success it deserved, for the old name was discovered to be Litherpool - that is, the sluggish pool - yet the cormorant and the seaweed remain, for they are in the grant.' Carr therefore suggests that cities may use banners of arms." -- Jarig Bakker, 2 Apr. 2002

So, what do YOU think? Does anyone have any more information?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

For My Facebook Friends

I just started a new group on Facebook: New York City Heraldry. Log in, join the group, and post your photos of heraldry -- good, bad, surprising -- that you've encountered in the five boroughs. This is an informal group in which we can share our discoveries, questions, and comments.

More soon about Liverpool.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More from England

Here is another lovely example of heraldry from #1 Broadway, in two versions.

First, Plymouth in Manhattan:

Photo courtesy of Floyd Smith Sanford, III

and the full-blown arms of the City of Plymouth thanks to (complete description at that site):

The motto is 'Turris fortissima est nomen Jehova' translating as "The name of Jehovah is the strongest tower" and is taken from Proverbs.

Nice to see a direct correspondence between the two versions! Next post will deal with the puzzling arms of Liverpool on #1 Broadway. Stay tuned!

Over to Europe

As I reviewed our photos of the arms on #1 Broadway, I noticed that the only American example was that of New York City. I would like to have seen what the artist used as his models for San Francisco, Baltimore, New Orleans, and other ports.

Let's head over to Europe. The designer of #1 Broadway used the flag of the City of London as the model for this shield:

Photo by Floyd Smith Sanford, III

Here is the flag of the City of London, courtesy of Wikipedia:

An interesting contrast ...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Let's Start with New York City

Photo by Floyd Smith Sanford, III

Today, my husband, Sandy Sanford, and I photographed more than a dozen coats of arms -- representing Cunard Line ports of call -- that grace the building at #1 Broadway. I've glanced up at these often but never thought more than "hmm, nice colors!" Now, with a bit more study under my belt, these works mean much more to me.

I will post one or two photos every week along with comments. So -- let's start close to home. The arms above are labeled "New York," but seem to be more of a rendition or interpretation. They (and all of the designs) are executed in mosaic tile; if you look closely, you can see many missing tiles although the total effect is still beautiful.

The arms on #1 Broadway are not quite as elaborate as those that appear on the official city seal:

For a complete description, visit; on


This is the first post in my new blog about heraldry in New York City. I will post photos of interesting and little-known heraldry and explanations as I find them. I welcome your comments.