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Kings of Jerusalem: Tincture Argent (1/5)

Published by Carlos da Fonte, em 24.09.12
Kings of Jerusalem

After leaving five analyses of attributed heraldry behind us, we start now a new chapter introducing these domanial arms of the medieval Kingdom of Jerusalem. By domanial arms we understand any heraldic arms that represent a personal transmissible domain of a secular territory, accommodating lordships, counties, duchies, kingdoms and empires among others of the same kind.


We've found the surprising number of twelve semantic levels, which seem to act differently according to each primitive appreciation of the arms. More than quantity, what astounds us is geometrical simplicity, able to produce such an opulent semantic result. Besides that, not only the traces may be explained in more than one manner, but also they suggest that the levels were present in disparate amounts along time, if we trust the sources. This large number of organized meanings will be difficult to surpass in the future for single primitive coats of arms.


Although incorporating two dissimilar references - one for Jerusalem and another for Cyprus - we preferred to aknowledge them as a unique representation and keep the conventional title, mentioning the arms only as those of the Kings of Jerusalem. Apparently the change was smooth and conserved most of the initial semantic values.


They appear earlier by mid 13th century in Matthew Paris' Historia Anglorum, where an ordinary white cross is seen against a yellow background remembering the death in 1237 of John of Brienne, Consort King of Jerusalem[1]. His wife Queen Maria died in 1212 and John left the crown for their infant daughter Isabella, in order to reign at the Latin Empire. This author also admits for John the said cross and colours but cantoned by four, four, three and three crosslets[2][3]. The chromatic inconsistence of the thin brown crosslets may be explained by the need of making them small, using the writing pen that delineated shields and other shapes. Moreover the use of white for the castle of Castile in the same page arises the suspicion of some negligence for the tinctures employed.


Other armorials present variations on the main theme, the number of crosslets varies and the central cross, with different shapes, may even exchange tinctures with the field. To simplify the organization of this article we will adopt the traditional coat of arms of the Kings of Jerusalem: argent a cross potent between four crosslets or. It seems to be the interpretation that gives better use for most semantic levels in discussion. Other designs may be regarded as partial versions, dealt in the body of the text whenever opportune.


May we suppose these as the true arms of the Kingdom and credit the sources entirely, even as secondary or tertiary? This is not our task; we only propose solutions for the parophonic inception of shapes and colours seen in blazons. Nevertheless it will be seen that the simplified compositions mentioned above might accommodate comfortably in the heraldic plot recognized by us.


Numismatics could appear to be more illustrative as we know coins of some previous kings of Jerusalem with the advantage of a contemporary identification. Unfortunately those pictorial habits seem to be distinct from those used in heraldry. On the other hand it won't imply that parophony is absent, being attested as early as in the first pieces ever produced by man. We realize this wasn't a systematic practice, it coexisted with inscriptions, monograms, effigies, images of buildings and other symbols. Referents and metonymies probably vary and these matters will need a thorough verification for proper understanding.


Regarding our subject, the Tower of David and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre appear at the reverse of coins whereas a cross, maybe with a generic and undifferentiated use, is always seen at the other side[4]. The kings of Cyprus and Jerusalem used the lion of Lusignan or a cross potent. We will try to appreciate at due time how heraldry and numismatics may converge and assist our enquiry.


French would be an obvious choice for the verbalization step as a language of conquest. The crusaders were mainly francophones, and most rulers who established their power in the Holy Land belonged to the same linguistic sphere. Again, Latin could be hypothetically used as a general verbalizing instrument but no reasonable parophony was found in order to fit the present heraldic traces.


We start our work with an artificial hydronym made by a former king of Jerusalem, the Hezekiah's Tunnel. It transfers water from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam, crossing the underground of the oldest part of the city, as there are no rivers there[5]. This produces the parophony Ézéchias (fra. Hezekiah) ~ Exequies (fra. obsequies) strangely linking a source of life, to the rituals of death.


Regarding the need of a hydronym for the metonymization of the referent, this wasn't a starting proposition from our work, but rather a bewildering evidence that arised after the inspection of many coats of arms. We already saw the Danube in the blazon of Sagremor and the river Itchen in the attributed shield of Edward the Confessor. Other representations may show more obvious hydronymic connections to the respective heraldic traces as the arms of the County of Werdenberg (river Tobel), the County of Burgundy (river Saône), the Duchy of Bavaria (river Regen) and the Viscounty of Rochechouart (river Vayres)[6]. We can't be sure about when and where this started but it seems to be a heraldic peculiarity, not yet seen in coins, early seals or anything that may have preceded coats of arms. Maybe in the future we will distinguish better why hydronyms emerged in heraldry.


The designant exequies needs to be transformed into colour or shape using the concept of obsequies, maybe too open to be drawn straightforward. We believe that this transformation wasn't decided alone, but together with other semantic levels considered as feasible by the creator of the arms. For this purpose a metonymization takes place and selects only the conclusive idea of obsequies, the entombment and its objective representation, a grave, then its stony material, zooming from the complete event to the detail of texture:


obsequies > tomb > stone > white


White and yellow may be considered as immanences of stone as seen in a great number of researched subjects. Grey, pink and brown could also be conjectured but we must abide by the chromatic codes of heraldry. Maybe yellow, instead of white was considered as an alternative choice for the tombstone we see now. Let us know first who the dead person was, for meaning will be better perceived in its full implementation.


The contribution of this level to the visual signification of the blazon isn't limited to tincture. In addition it helps to define the fundamental lines of the heraldic plot. A funeral is a rich visual concept, requesting a ceremony that ends in the tomb we see depicted in the arms. Being so it also demands the deceased person and a contingential epitaph, which will be the argument of our next semantic level. We still don't know the meaning of the remainder but the entire set of crosses could be regarded as belonging to the obsequies in a general sense.


In other restrained conditions it would be plain to derive the personality of Christ from the mentioned obsequies. For the crusaders there would be no doubt: the most meaningful funeral ever in Jerusalem was the one that buried Jesus. Still, the semantic possibilities of this coat of arms are so rich that the name of the deceased will be declared in another dedicated layer. And this is eventually the reason why we never see a plain white shield as an ultimate simplification of the arms of Jerusalem: a cross is always present.


Our methodological perception of [ch] as a [k] in Ézéchias repeats the homographic heterophony found in Itchen ~ I chenne. It's equally possible that the dialects of northern France influenced the linguistic uses or that the Latin accent prevailed, avoiding palatalization since the beginning. It's unknown to us the precise spelling and pronounce of French in Jerusalem at that time but all we need to do is to be fair enough and decide if our parophonies may be admitted or not[7].


The discretion index is much bigger than we've been accustomed before as k = 0.6, yet if we listen naively to the sound of Ézéchias ~ Exequies, the impression is of an acceptable similarity. This helps to explain why we had to appreciate our scale of parophonies more as an admissibility index than as a gradual qualification. The size of the comparable sounds, five phonetic units, surely doesn't help to decrease the estimate, and even if we apply the correction for small extensions as done in Itchen ~ I chenne, it will only give us a slightly lower value: k = 0.56.


These irregularities in the evaluation of discretion indexes are a fact we must admit with the adoption of a heuristic modelling. Just a physical model based on the correspondence of acoustic characteristics could produce a better result. However, we must remember that a great deal of our parophonies is connected with writing, partially weakening this attempt of improvement.


Whoever the dead person was, his condition will be maintained within the arms. In the special case of Christ no other alternative than resurrection after the third day was possible in a Christian environment. We must then consider the heraldic plot to take place between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It shouldn't necessarily compel us to include figurations as wounds in our interpretation. The only primitive sources of inspiration considered were parophonies that resulted from referent's metonymies. Everything else seen in all heraldic traces, even the most obvious complements, shouldn't contradict them.


It's also worth to mention the importance attributed to the Holy Sepulchre in medieval times, one of the main motives for the conquest of Jerusalem. Godfrey of Bouillon, the first ruler of the crusaders, was declared Protector of the Holy Sepulchre and buried at its church that saw crownings and other royal events after that. May we link Jesus with the obsequies stated by the white tincture? We will see it next.


[1] DE VRIES, Hubert - Jerusalem - De Rode Leeuw  - 2011 : Accessed 23 September 2012, available here.


[2] PARISIENSIS, Matthaei; MADDEN, Frederic (ed.) - Historia Anglorum - London: Longman, 1866-1869 : Accessed 23 September 2012, available here.


[3] PARISIENSIS, Matthaei - Historia Anglorum - (manuscript), 1250-1259 : Accessed 23 September 2012, available here.


[4] WIELAND, Simon; RUTTEN, Lars; BEYELER, Markus - Medieval and Modern Coin Search Engine - - 2012 : Accessed 23 September 2012, available here.


[5] CITY OF DAVID - Hezekiah’s Tunnel(video), s. d. : Accessed 23 September 2012, available here.


[6] DA FONTE, Carlos - Semântica Primitiva das Armas Nacionais e alguns dos seus Aspectos Sintácticos e Pragmáticos - Porto: FEUP, 2009 : Accessed 23 September 2012, available here.


[7] BETTENS, Olivier - Chantez-vous Français? - 1996-2012 : Accessed 23 September 2012, available here.



Kings of Jerusalem - Argent
Domanial R Kings of Jerusalem
Hydronym M Hezekiah's Tunnel
Language of Conquest V French
Denominant A Ézéchias
Graphemization A  É  |  Z  |  É  |  C  |  H  |  I  |  A  |  S 
Phonemization A  e  |  z  |  e  |  k  |  iA 
Pairing A  e  |  z  |  e  |  k  |  iA 
A  E  | gz |  e  |  k  |  i 
Coefficient of transposition A 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 
Coefficient of character A 0.5 | 0.5 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.5 
Coefficient of position A 1.5 | 1.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.5 
Addends A 0.8 | 0.5 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.3 
Discretion index A k = 0.60
Homographic heterophony A (Ézé)ch(ias) > [(eze)S(iA)]
A (Ézé)ch(ias) > [(eze)k(iA)]
Phonemization A  E  |  gz  |  e  |  k  |  i 
Graphemization A E | X | E | Q | U | I | E | S
Designant A exequies
Other nouns E obsequies
Simple monosemy S argent
S exequies
Simple metonymy S obsequies > tomb > stone > white
Tincture H whitish Argent
Immanence C stone
Contrast C or
Number H a
Figuration H cross
Aspect H potent
Placement H between
Number H four
Figuration H crosslets
Tincture H or


(next article in this series is II/XII)

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Published at 12:09

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