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A Brief History of Slovenian Heraldry
by David Cvet

The evolution and practice of the heraldry was not limited to Western Europe, given that heraldry played a significant role in the history of Slovenia. For example, in what was known as Carantania (old Slovenia, existed as a state since 595AD), the infamous peacock-feathered crest adorned the helm worn by Leopold VI of Babenberg (+ 1230) was visible not only in artifacts from that period, but were visible on the royal seals as well.

He was Duke of Styria in 1195, and from 1198, the Duke of Austria.
The adorned helm with peacock feathers continued to Ulric III of Carinthia, where in 1256, he had adopted his father's ducal shield with the Carantanian black panther which remained until his death in 1269.

In addition to the black panther, Ulric's seal of the same year of his death depicts him on horseback wearing a tuft of peacock feathers as depicted above.

The black panther may have first made its appearance as a heraldic figure possibly since the 6th century AD in Carantania, being prominently displayed on the battle field. Evidence of the panther remains visible in areas such as Verona, Italy, where in the 11th century, the Duchy of Carantania and extended its borders from Bohemia to Verona, Italy. The original figure was in the form of a black panther on a white field, "Argent, a panther Sable rampant", representing the Dynasty of Carantania.
In the central part of what is now Slovenia, the region of Carniola existed, a March of the Duchy of Carantania, which also possessed a history of heraldry. For example, the illustration on the right depicts Duke Frederika II (Grauff Fridrich von Zilli der Jünger) wearing classic tournament armour, and sporting a shield decorated with the colors of Carniola (blue "azure", white "argent" and red "gules") which today, make up the official colors of the Slovenian national flag. The shield also has on the first and fourth quarters, three 6-pointed gold "or" stars which belonged to the noble house of Celje first mentioned in the medieval annals around 1130. The stars today form the principle elements of the coat of arms of Celje. A more recent color rendition on the left of the same clearly illustrates the "official" colors as well as the gold stars. The peacock feathers adorn the Count's helmet, which is consistent with the tradition of including feathers in the crest of armorial achievements in heraldic designs today.

Another example of medieval heraldic influence on modern Slovenia is the Gorizia area, whereby the arms which presently make up the coat of arms for the province of Gorizia (above) can be traced back to the headstone of Leonhard, the Count of Goerz found in the Cathedral of Gorizia dated approximately the end of the 15th century (below).
Aside from the highly evolved armour which appear similar to the style of harnesses constructed by Lorenz Helmschmied, Augsburg, (c1471-1532), he is depicted as holding a shield in his left hand which depicts a heraldic lion on the right portion of the shield, and horizontal bands on the left portion. A similar armorial can be seen on the standard, held by his right hand. The Goerz family had moved to its principal residence in Gorizia sometime around 1120, and assumed the name of Counts of Goerz. Through the next few hundred years of expansion and decline, at the time of the death of Leonhard, who died without heirs, the territories of the family passed onto the Habsburgs. A modern day rendition of the coat of arms for the Province of Gorizia can be seen below.

The closest thing to the duties of a "herald" is the roll of arms in the book entitled "Heraldic Insignia and Devices" or "Opus Insignium Armorumque" containing an archive of 2041 fabulous paintings of coats of arms covering the notable families in the regions of Slovenia and Austria. The arms were originally sketched by Janez Valvasor, and later painted by the heraldic artist Bartholomaeus Ramschisslu creating this magnificent book around 1688. A more deserving detail of the man behind incredible contribution to Slovenian heraldry follows.

The baron Janez Vajkard Valvasor (1641-1693), who became a member of the Royal Society in London in 1687, was a polymath or, more precisely, a historiographer, geographer, ethnographer, cartographer, naturalist and technician; moreover, he was a collector, sketcher and publisher as well as a soldier and military commander. Valvasor's ancestors originated from the province of Bergamo in northern Italy.

They settled in the one-time crown land of Carniola, the central region of the present-day Republic of Slovenia, in the l6th century. Their family's country seat was the Medija castle near Zagorje. Janez Vajkard was born in 1641 in the region's capital Ljubljana, where he was baptized on May 28th of the same year and where he was educated at the Jesuitic grarnmar school.

From his very childhood he distinguished himself with his great eagerness for research, universal scientific interest and strong patriotism. When he realized during his journeys that his country was very little known abroad or was not known at all, he got into his head the idea of presenting Carniola to the world in words and pictures. Besides Carniola, Valvasor also wrote descriptions of Carinthia and published instructional and literary works of art. From 1679 to 1689 Valvasor wrote and published the following works: Dominicae passionis icones, Topographia Ducatus Carnioliae modernae, Topographia arcium Lambergianarum, Ovidii Metamorphoseos icones, Topographia Archiducatus Carinthiae modernae, Topographia Carinthiae Salisburgensis, Theatrum mortis humanae tripartitum, Topographia Archiducatus Carinthiae antiquae et modernae completa, Die Ehre des Hertzogthums Crain. He prepared in manuscript two more naturalistic treatises: Lumen naturae and Flos physicomathematicus, a work of art Satirical Ovid - these works have not been preserved to date - and a heraldic album under the title Opus Insignium Armorumque, which contains paintings of more than 2,000 coats of arms, an example depicted below.

Heraldic bearings continued throughout history of Slovenia leaving an indelible mark on modern day Slovenia in the areas of vexillology (flags), municipal coats of arms, and historical artifacts depicting elements of arms of notable historical Slovenian families. Obvious evidence of influence is visible in Slovenia's coat of arms, depicting three six-pointed stars, which can be traced in origins to the noble family counts of Celje in accounts dating back to 1130. The family's court in the city of Celje had become the center of humanist thought and renaissance in central Slovenia at that time and continued for centuries until the Celje dynasty was brought to an end in the mid-15th century. Such powerful symbols presented within the context of heraldic arms continue to find its place in Slovenia today as evident of the three 6-pointed stars on Slovenia's modern coat of arms, and its official colors of blue, red and white originally sourced from the colors of the nobility of Celje from the medieval period.

As an aside:

In Canada, heraldry is alive and well. Much activity can be had by examining the activities of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada (RHSC) through their website located at Although the approach of the RHSC to personal coats of arms is based on the English tradition, i.e. one coat of arms for one person, the Society will recognize the use of assumed arms based on the tradition in those European nations influenced by the culture of the Holy Roman Empire in terms of assuming arms based on a common surname. Although it is recommended that if one shares the same surname with a family that is in possession of a coat of arms, they must first confirm that they are in fact, direct descendents of that family through genealogy research, and if determined positive, it would be honorable to request to the family permission to assume those arms. The author is in possession of an official grant of personal arms from the Canadian Heraldic Authority in Ottawa, and according to the authority, is the first Canadian-Slovenian to receive such an honour.

Another activity in the area of Slovenian heraldry is a new project, initiated by the author of the creation of a Slovenian heraldry society, by the name of “Societas Heraldica Slovenica”. The objective of this project is to educate, encourage and promote Slovenian heraldry. The project is in its early stages, and progress to date can be seen on the temporary website located at People interested in becoming involved in this project can contact the author through this website.


1. Cankarjeva založba, Ljubljana, "Zgodovina Slovencev", 1979
2. Posta Slovenije d.o.o., 1993 Stamps issued by the Slovene Post, 300th anniversary of death of Janez Vajkard Valvasor, written by Prof. Dr. Branko Reisp
3. Dr. Jožko Šavli, "Slovenia: Discovering a European Nation", Studio RO - Humar d.o.o., 2004
4. Janez Vajkard Valvasor, "Opus Insignium Armorumque 1687 - 1688 Das Grosse Wappenbuch, re-published by the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, January 1993 (999 copies only), ISBN 86-7131-070-1.

About the author:
David M. Cvet, born in Canada of Slovenian parents, is the Founder and President of the Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts (AEMMA) in early 1998, an organization dedicated to the resurrection and formalization of medieval martial arts training systems. For more than 10 years of practice and research, culminating in the founding of AEMMA in 1998, David had learned of the important role of heraldry during the medieval period, and developed an intense interest in the subject. As a result of this interest, he had engaged with the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada (RHSC) in 2003, both as the RHSC Webmaster and Vice President of the RHSC Toronto Branch, later being appointed as a Director and Chief Technology Officer of the Society. This interest further developed by his petitioning for a grant of personal arms, including arms for his two sons with the Canadian Heraldic Authority or CHA. The arms were later granted and conveyed to David (the first Canadian-Slovenian to receive such an honour according to the CHA) at the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada's annual general meeting in October 2004 by the Chief Herald of the Authority.