From a way to recognize combatants on battlefields, the use and study of coats of arms, better known as heraldry, has throughout the years expanded and gained an institutional presence in various countries around the world. And get this - Malta has now got its very own office!
Malta’s heraldry history
Heraldry owes its origins to the unstable and gruesome nature of 12th century European politics and society. Back then, heavy-bodied armour which completely encased the individual in a coat of metal was used during combat, which led to the need to have personal insignia to identify the persons in action.
With the introduction of heraldry, the need for heralds appeared, who would deliver messages and challenges on behalf of his sovereign or lord and he was, by convention, protected from any personal danger. With the declining use of armour however, the original purpose of heraldry was eventually lost, but it had by now become deeply rooted in society, hence its persistence to this day.
Maltese heraldic history stretches back centuries, starting out around the same time when the concept first emerged. The granting of the first title of nobility- that of Baron of Fiddien, to the Santa Sofia family in 1287 created the first ever set of Maltese coats of arms. The oldest surviving title however, which was created by the Crown of Sicily, dates back to 1350.
Now, Malta has its very own Herald of Arms Office
Malta’s Office of the Chief Herald of Arms was founded very recently, as announced in the Malta Government Gazette in June 2019, by order of the Cabinet of Malta acting through Heritage Malta.
The functions of this office include the registration of arms already formally granted by another recognized heraldic authority, the creation of personal and impersonal heraldic arms, the registration of already established personal or impersonal arms and also ecclesiastical heraldry.
Although some might consider heraldry as a thing of the past, the reality is that it is still relevant to today’s society in many ways. Individuals, companies and institutions use heraldry and its conventions to symbolize their heritage, achievements, and aspirations, through its language, better known as blazon which varies from country to country.
Get to know more about Maltese heraldry!
Heritage Malta is currently preparing for a masterclass on Malta’s heraldry which will be taking place later on next month. This masterclass shall feature Chief Herald Dr. Charles Gauci, who will be guiding the viewer through Malta’s rich heraldic history and its various components.
Further information on Malta’s Office of the Chief Herald of Arms can be acquired here or by contacting the Chief Herald himself on [email protected]