20 Localities (Villages/Towns/Cities/Districts) in Europe That Still Use A Moor As The Official Seal - Part 2
[Fair Use Disclaimer: This article is based on Independent Research and is for Educational Purposes Only in accordance with Section 107, Title 17 (U.S. Copyright Law).
The author claims no connections whatsoever to any of the government entities mentioned.
The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone.]
20 Localities in Europe That Use a Moor as the Official Emblem - Part 2
Here's some more music to enjoy as you read this section of the article.
It is a performance of the national anthem of Slovenia, Zdravljica ("A Toast"), by the band of the United States Navy.
10. Waidhofen, Austria
(Source: Heraldry of the World)
Waidhofen seems to have dropped its original coat of arms in favor of something "fun and friendly." The rather mysterious scribble of an ice cube that now tops their homepage is a far cry from the traditional Moor and castle, which stood as a trademark of this community for many years.
(Don't get me wrong. I like that one, too.)
The Waidhofen Museum Association details the history of the city and its coat of arms. The Freising bishopric owned part of the lower valley from the 10th century. They expanded their claims with increased urbanization.
The caretaker's seat was originally in the 12th-century Konradsheim Castle, which was destroyed in 1360 due to a dispute between Duke Rudolf IV and the Bishop of Freising.
The Freisings built a new castle in the heart of the city at the confluence of the Schwarzbach stream and the river Ybbs.
The Jewish Rothschild banking family of Austria had considerable influence in Waidhofen. Albert von Rothschild (1844-1911) purchased Waidhofen castle in 1875. With the support of the mayor, Theodor Freiherr von Plenker (1838-1920), he financed major infrastructure developments, including the construction of an electric power plant, a railway, and a system of canals. In the Spring of 1938, the Nazis stripped the Rothschilds of their properties in Waidhofen. Today, "Rothschild Castle" is a major tourist attraction and cultural center.
Why Are The Heads African?
Halina makes mention of a Slovenian settlement called Otok, 'which the Turks captured and burned down in 1473.'
Never again did it rise from the rubble.
He continues to say that prior to this, Otok was a center of influence for the estates of the Freising bishops in Dolenjsko (also known by its traditional name Lower Carniola). Under Eckher's reign, the manor house at Kopfsburg in Germany was converted into a castle and became the second residence of the prince-bishops after the episcopal palace in Freising. The colors of the seal for the old Kopfsburg-Lengdorf village, which is still used by the Bavarian municipality of Lengdorf, are the same colors that decorate the flag of Germany.
Map of Lower Carniola
Vector Graphic by Wikipedia User DancingPhilosopher
Many other towns like Vipavski Križ and Kostanjevica were also devastated by the Turkish incursions. The damage was widespread. Defense was compulsory. For this very reason, castles were raised here.
It is no wonder that this region is known to have the largest castles in all of Slovenia. The town of Črnomelj, both a cultural center and the site of a historic military base, has two.
According to the book A Slovene History: Society - Politics - Culture (2008) published by the Institute of Contemporary History in Slovenia, the Turks arrived in Slovenia in 1408. In 1411, they penetrated Bosnia. In 1415, they breached Hungary. Next up? Croatia. In response to the growing threat, many settlements were promoted to township status and fortified with walls. Each town was responsible for its own defense.
Most of the destruction to Croatia and Slovenia occurred in 1469 when an army of 10,000 Turks marched on what is today the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana. Slovenia was raided on more than 30 separate occasions. Entire villages were burned to the ground.
In Carniola, which suffered most over this period, every valley, however remote and hidden, received the ominous visit of the Turks.
The Turkish army struck a certain fear into the heart of Europe that was unparalleled since the time of the Moors. Even the stronghold of Črnomelj was subjected to looting. It was in this tumultuous period that the people of Europe rose their banners against yet another band of "evil tyrants."
Eva Zankl, the former spokeswoman for the Eisenstraße Museums in Waidhofen, says, "Christian Europe feared for its religion and its identity."
These Christians felt that they were once again facing "the arch-enemies of Christ’s name." As they did to the Moors, they used the worst insults they could think of to describe the Turks. They referred to them as "dogs" and "beggars." Perhaps, they felt it most appropriate to use the Moor's head as a reminder of what they were able to accomplish in times past.
As I discussed in my previous article on the statues of Black Warriors in the Czech Republic, Black Africans served in the armies of the Ottoman Empire, which was based in Turkey.
When the Turkish armies invaded Europe, the African mercenaries among them were regarded as the fiercest of fighters. They were immortalized in Kounice and it is possible that they inspired some of the heraldry from the the 16th century onwards that survives in other communities across Europe.
9. Oberwölz, Austria
Oberwölz is a town with a population of 3,000. Until 2015, it was smallest town in the province of Styria.
In 1007, King Henry II donated this territory to the Freising diocese. Soon after the acquisition, the Freising bishops had Welz Castle built around a Slavic-era watchtower. City rights were granted later on in 1305.
Albert II (1298-1358), as the Duke of Austria and Styria, gave permission for the erection of a circular wall 10 meters high, 5 city gates, and 8 defensive towers. The castle on the town's emblem is a testament to this history. The Moor has taken this land and guards his position against retaliatory attacks.
Once again, here is their website. See it for yourself:
Apparently, due to a lack of activity and abandoned properties, the city has considered closing for good. But with all of the history the town has to offer, government officials reinvented Oberwölz as a holiday destination with the hope that, in time, tourism will breath new life into Oberwölz.
Photos by Wikipedia User Herzi Pinki
Entry into Oberwölz is almost exclusively through the arched gates, which have been preserved almost perfectly from the medieval era.
Of all the locations under their dominion, Rothenfels Castle was the Freising bishops' favorite place to stay. That castle, dating to the 1100s, is positioned on the 'red rock' overlooking Oberwölz and the hiking trail "Legendary Wölzertal," dedicated to the myths and legends about the surrounding woods.
You can see more of Oberwölz here.
8. Sankt Peter am Kammersberg, Austria
(Source: Heraldry of the World)
Sankt Peter am Kammersberg ("Saint Peter under the Mountain Chamber"), a market town of 2,000 residents within the same district (Murau), uses the Moor on their coat of arms.
The Freising Bishops granted patronage rights to the iconic Church of St. Peter on May 29, 1307. However, the church and the surrounding village were described as part of the Freising bishopric since the time of Bishop Konrad I in 1257.
The history of the town and its relations with Freising is detailed in the book St. Peter am Kammersberg: The market town presents its history (1997) by Walter Brunner. You can read an excerpt here.
7. Škofja Loka
(Source: Municipal Government of Škofja Loka)
There is quite an interesting story behind this emblem on the English version of Abfaltersbach's website, which calls the Moor a 'nigger with a crown.'
One of the legends states that a landowner Abraham from Bavaria, has [sic] been traveling through the Poljanska Valley with his servant, a nigger.
Unfortunately, I am not able to locate the original wording for this paragraph on the German version of the website to make any judgments about the intent of the term that is interpreted as "nigger."
In any case, the implication here is that Abraham's servant was a Negro or a Black man.
The Poljanska Valley is located in Slovenia. The "Prince Abraham" here may be a reference to a man who, in 973, 'obtained for his diocese from the Emperor Otto II extensive possessions in Carniola.' Or maybe...just maybe, the legend of Saint Corbinian and the bear is not what it seems.
Could it be that over time, the pilgrimage of Corbinian was somehow conflated with the travels of Abraham? Was it the Moorish servant who performed that great miracle of taming the bear?
The artist who painted the Moor we saw in the Freising Cathedral is the very same artist who made the sketch you see below.
Saint Corbinian of Freising and the Bear
Cosmas Damian Asam
(Source: The University of Michigan Museum of Art)
On the walls of the sanctuary are scenes from the life of Corbinian. This sketch served as the draft for the "Taming of the Bear" episode.
The finished work is painted in vibrant colors. Corbinian is calm and collected. He alone commands the bear. Another man in his entourage threatens the bear with a whip. And amidst the chaos, a servant scrambles to secure his master's property. It appears that Corbinian saves the day,
At least, we have evidence that Black people lived and still live in Slovenia today. Most of these 200 or so residents are immigrants from Africa. As a matter of fact, the first Black person ever to be elected to a political office in Eastern Europe is the Ghanaian-born doctor Peter Bossman. For two consecutive terms, from 2010 until this year, Bossman served as the town mayor of Piran. He continues to run a private practice in neighboring Koper.
Adele Gray, a professional translator from the UK, found another brother who plays a special role in Škofja Loka's Festival of History. Every year, this brother wears a crown, wields a hunting bow, and dons a red jerkin. What more proof do we need that the Moor is a Black man?
This emblem was designed by heraldist Jörg Mantzsch for the German town of Raguhn in 1995. It dates back to 1549.
We can see how the Freising Moor has been replaced by the Freising bear. The bear has stolen the Moor's throne and crown. It appears to be taunting Corbinian's loyal hunter. "Where is your king, now?" it snarls.
Hupp identified several other coats of arms that show the same bear climbing the tower and patrolling the walkway of the castle ramparts.
6. Schauenstein, Germany
Schauenstein is a town in Bavaria with a population of under 2,000.
The town was first documented in 1230.
Under the "history and coats of arms" section of their site, the city identifies the figure on their emblem as 'a moor with a red feather apron, holding up a red stone with his right hand.'
The coat of arms was awarded by Frederick I, Elector of Brandenburg, on December 6, 1422. The right half of the shield represents the arms of his family, the Hohenzollerns, who ruled the city in the 14th century.
Citing Stadler, Hartemink says that the picture on the left could be a visual representation of the town's name (Schau den Stein = "see the stone").
Researchers suspect that the Moor was originally a miner holding an ore chunk. Two seals from the late 16th and early 17th centuries appear to support this assumption. In addition to this, mining and blacksmithing have been identified as major industries in Schauenstein going back to the 15th century.
The man used to be clothed and even wore a pointed hat. From 1812, he was depicted naked with a piece of meat in his hand. Some versions show the Moor holding a mirror instead.
This coat of arms can also be seen inside the parish church of St. Bartholomew on the wall to the right of the altar and in the middle of the church organ.
5. Veigy-Foncenex, France
This is the coat of arms for the French commune of Veigy-Foncenex.
On the website, the emblem is tucked into a corner at the very bottom of the page and it is stripped of all its color. Under the heading "Coat of Arms" in the history section, the 'dark brown Moor head' is identified with a 'North African country.' Not much else is said except that most of Veigy-Foncenex was ceded to Geneva, Switzerland in 1816.
4. Avenches, Switzerland
This is the coat of arms for the Swiss commune of Avenches.
On the official website under "Heritage and History" is the story behind the Moor by the municipal archivist Yoland Gottraux (1912-2001).
Up until the 15th century, the seal of the city was the head of a White man.
A Black man appeared on the seal 'for the first time' in 1564.
In the 18th century, the Moor was accompanied by a "feathered" wild man armed with a bow. It was also depicted on a shield surmounted with a helmet and feathers.
So here we have another head that changed from White to Black. But why? Hartemink suggests that the artist was inspired by local folklore about the "Saracens" who once lived there. 'One thing is for certain,' says Gottraux, that 'mystery...will probably never be solved.'
Town hall of Avenches
Photo by Wikipedia User JoachimKohlerBremen
The ancient metropolis of Aventicum, established in the 1st century BCE, was the capital of Roman Helvecia (Helvetia = Latin, Switzerland = German). It was both a religious and economic center with approximately 20,000 residents. If you ever plan to visit, I would recommend a tour of the ruins and a trip to the Roman Museum, which houses all of the archaeological pieces discovered in Avenches since 1820.
3. Alozaina, Spain
The town and municipality of Alozaina currently uses an emblem similar to the one shown here.
Here is the official explanation:
It represents the figure of María Sagredo, heroine of Alozaina, who from a tower defended the town from the attacks of the Moorish invaders, throwing beehives at them, when they tried to take it during the rebellion of 1570, at a time when it was occupied only by women, children and the elderly.
A bee is also found on the arms for Strullendorf in Bavaria. The Moor's heads above the bee came from the arms of the noble Tockler family. The bee was the symbol of the Zeidlhuben family who owned a local farm.
From Stadler, Hartemink tells us that the Tocklers 'ruled the village until the 16th century as vassals for the Bishops of Bamberg.' The Zeidlhubens were 'required to deliver some honey every year to the bishops.'
Hartemink found over 400 coats of arms with bees on them. Most of these are related to a tradition of beekeeping.
2. San Millán de la Cogolla, Spain
This is the coat of arms for the Spanish municipality of San Millán de la Cogolla, established in 1022.
The landmarks of this community are the twin monasteries Suso and Yuso, dedicated to the monk saint Emiliano of Cogolla (472-573).
On the altarpiece inside the 11th century Yuso monastery is a scene of the saint slaying Arabs with an army close behind him. This painting is attributed to the Spanish priest Juan Ricci (1600-1681). At the top right, we can see the coat of arms.
Elsewhere, in the building is a portrait of "Saint Millán" making a miraculous appearance in the Battle of Simancas, which was fought against the Moors in 923. After the victory of the Christians, they appointed Millán as the patron saint of Castile. He is also the first patron of Navarra and co-patron of Spain with Saint James, the Moor slayer.
Photos by Flickr User horrapics and Wikipedia User Cenobio
San Millán de la Cogolla is most notably the site of the first writings in Spanish, the "Emilianelos Glosas."
1. Baena, Spain
The town of Baena in Southern Spain just has a bunch of heads on it.
Hartemink says of these arms:
The arms are a reminder of the wars between the Catholic Kings and the Moors in the 14th and 15th centuries. The five heads indicate the Moors killed in the battles near the town.
The 9th and 11th editions of Encyclopædia Britannica explain that the purpose of the 'five Moorish heads' on the coat of arms is to commemorate the defense of the city against the forces of Ibn Aljama (Mohammad II of Granada) in 1292. Aljama's father, Mohammad I, established the last Moorish dynasty to rule in Spain before the Reconquista (the Reconquest - when the armies of the Holy Roman Empire finally drove out the Moors).
While the Nasrids were Arabs, both of the ruling dynasties before them, the Almohads and the Almoravids, were Berbers (North Africans).
Baena is another location that is famous for its priceless contributions to the literary heritage of Spain.
According to the Instituto de Historia y Heráldica Familiar (Institute of Family History and Heraldry) in Valencia, a member of the Jewish community in Baena served as court secretary to King Juan II. In 1445, this man, a poet named Juan Alfonso (1406-1454), compiled 583 poems from 55 poets across the kingdom and published them as one massive work. The result was the Cancionero de Baena (Songbook of Baena), widely considered one of the most important works in the history of Spanish literature.
The original coat of arms for the old Kingdom of Algarve featured two Moors, similar in appearance to the Moor of Veigy-Foncenex. Today, Algarve is the southernmost region of continental Portugal and many villages there bear the heads of Arabs in their crests.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of communities that use a Moor. There are other villages, towns, cities, and municipalities with Moors on their coat of arms.
In times past, the Moor was a thing to be feared. He was the Muslim foreigner coming to take the land and to subjugate its people. Today, the Moor is a symbol of three continents. He is African, Arab, AND European.
What was once a source of political and religious division united entire communities under a common identity. We can see it on the streets. We can see it in the churches. We can see it in the highest halls of government.
The Moor lives on.
Rock Mark of 1539 on the border between Bavaria and the county Werdenfels of the Hochstift Freising, with the Freising Moor and "P, E, F," at the base of the summit of the High Grasberg
Photo by Wikipedia User Jost Gudelius
Scientific Researcher, Independent Historian, and Co-Founder of Black Research Central
You can read more about the imagery of the Moor in modern Europe from the following books:
Der Mohrenkopf im Wappen der Bischöfe von Freising
The Moor's head in the coat of arms of the bishops of Freising (1930) by Michael F. Schlamp
Der Freisinger Mohr. Eine heimatgeschichtliche Untersuchung zum Freisinger Bischofswappen
The Freising Moor. A homeland-historical investigation to Freisinger episcopal coat of arms (1975) by Adolf Ziegler
Der Mohr kann gehen. "Der Mohr von Freising". Ausstellungskatalog zur Ausstellung im Diözesanmuseum Freising
The Mohr can go. "The Moor of Freising" (2002) by Sylvia Hahn
Der Mohr im Wappen. Afrikaner als Schildfiguren bayerischer Gemeinden
The Mohr in the coat of arms. Africans as shield figures of Bavarian communities (2003) by Mira Alexandra Schnoor
Black Research Central
When Negritude Meets Pettitude.