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Portucalis: Door & Bezant

Published by Carlos da Fonte, em 14.04.12


This shield is mentioned in the Zurich Roll of Arms (Zürcher Wappenrolle) dating from mid 14th century, along with several other attributed arms. For our analysis it has the benefit of being consensually recognized as canting, at least in the first half referring a door (porta). The authors of the text and illustrations seem to be the same person, inferring a simultaneous execution. It also contains some text additions with a distinct calligraphy of the 16th century, including the arms we are studying now. The reading of the corresponding legend would be Portugal rex[1], in Latin, or according to others Portegalien[2], indeed Germanised but uncertain. We favour the first version, in spite of the difficult interpretation; in any case there are few or no doubts that this shield is related to Portugal.


Further than any palaeographic appreciation, some of the said supplementary writing appear in a Latinised form: Hispania, Britania, Arragon, whereas others are decidedly Germanic: Schotten, Rom or Frankreich[3]. Anyway, as a late addition, it would hardly influence the reasoning behind the construction of a denominant. Neither the language used would be decisive in an eventual genuine textual legend, given that the emblazonment could be a copy of an earlier armorial or alternatively its own creation. It wouldn't imply that the verbalization of the referent's metonym followed necessarily the text. The use of Latin seems to be rare for attributed arms, but we believe to occur here.


The comparison with other rolls of arms shows common or quite similar attributed arms as for the shields of Jerusalem, Ruthenia and Satrapy. In the same document we could still attempt an analogy with the entries of Navarre, England and Denmark, which are incomplete or inaccurate, but this is worthless, as they are, probably, new attributed arms. We repeat the question of the first article: Did the author ignore the true blazon of the Portuguese king? The answer must be the same; maybe there was even a bigger unawareness because we can't, in any respect, assert the association of the blue tincture and the bezant of this blazon with the Portuguese coat of arms.


The denominant seems to derive from the referent Portugal as a territory, if we accept the text near to other entries of the Armorial. Next we turn to a lingua franca, Latin, now classified as an imaginary language, modifying Portucalis into a denominant[4]. The solution found for the pair denominant-designant: Portucalis ~ porta cales, is not a perfect parophony as the previous one Portingale ~ porte ingal, treated in Portugal - Attributed Arms II, providing a discretion index k=0,30. We improved, nevertheless, the proposition introduced in the thesis: Portegalien ~ porta galla; not only taking into account our criterion of evaluation, the index k, but due also to the hybridism German-Latin put forward initially and to the lack of integration with the remaining traces of the shield.


Next we detail the calculation sequence starting by pairing the words, in order to verify coherently the comparable sounds, finding a total of n=10 phonemes for each. We already know that identical corresponding phonemes have a null penalty, and in this case they will not provide any addends for the summation, carried out character by character. Similarly we didn't find any phonetical transpositions and the related coefficient is null for all pairs of phonemes. There are only two transformations. The first, most obvious, from /u/ into /a/, will be penalized with a coefficient of character c=1.0; the second, inconspicuous, from /i/ into /e/, assumes the penalty c=0.5. Regarding the place occupied by the phonemes along the word they imply the same coefficient of position p=1.0 because both transformations are internal. We multiply each member and sum, obtaining the intermediate value 1.0 x 1.0 + 0.5 x 1.0 = 1.50, which is multiplied by the quotient 2/max(10,10) = 2/10 = 0.2, resulting 1.50 x 0.2 and k=0.3. As the discretion index k is lower than 1 we may accept the proposition Portucalis ~ porta cales as an heraldic parophony.


The designant porta (lat. door) cales (lat. to be hot) builds a compound monosemy as it articulates two different meanings and produces the same number of distinct heraldic traces, still semantically integrated by means of a metonymic composition. The door is fully apparent in the heraldic trace without any difficulty. The second word, cales, in association with the environment established by porta, will metonymize through to be  hot > hot place. We should then answer the question - How we call a hot place provided with a door? It would seem acceptable to proceed with the metonymization with to be hot > hot place > Hell. This solution shows a nice agreement with the other part of the compound metonymy, converging through the designant into door > address > Hell.


Even if we considered these arguments as reasonable, it would be unreasonable to suppose that the hypothetical sole drawing of a red field with a door could be understood as the address of Satan. Consequently, there was a need to refine the arrangement, without disobeying the basic principle of simplification of the medieval emblazonment. We think the author resourced to oppose a Heaven to the Hell, so that this opposition could exclude any doubts on the theme shown. This heraldic trace was also complemented by the use of a single referent's metonym, disregarding, excessively laborious drawings, as it is advisable and appears insistently in the armorial of imaginary arms.


Hell can be partially seen in the red tincture of the doorway which, by its turn, represents itself in the designant door. The surrounding blue tincture represents Heaven, whereas the Sun, the main heavenly body, in this respect a bit redundant, is supposedly responsible for the heat of Hell, undoubtedly by the grace of God's Hand. The Sun is a simplification, transformed into a bezant or even a ball [5]. The fact that there are no rays goes against the heraldic uses, but this can be explained for its emergence during sematization. It is not a main component, enjoying an absolute semantic capacity, neither a wholly secondary feature displaying a senseless complementation.


As a prop, the Sun is an element necessary to understand the sematization of Heaven, a blue trace, and Hell's, a red trace, inspired accessorily by the solar heat. Notwithstanding, it admits simplification, immanence and contrast, its other attributes as a visual complementation. Some of these ideas may be inspired in numerous biblical passages available to the authors, a common influence at the time, as for example[6]: " ... And they came upon the breadth of the earth and encompassed the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And there came down fire from God out of heaven and devoured them: and the devil, who seduced them, was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone, where both the beast and the false prophet shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever ... ".


Complementation didn't modify the drawing except for minor details, mostly exceedingly superfluous, as the horizontal placement of the door, besides contrasts and immanences. Regarding the two leaves of the door, they are made necessary by the symmetry of the drawing. There is a semantic demand to show the red colour inside, leading to the heraldic trace of an open door, inevitably unbalanced with only one leaf. The tincture of the arch and the door is the same, justifiable by the rule of simplification but also coherent with the corresponding colours of stone and metal. Wood seems maladjusted to a burning Hell. As there are no walls the idea of a disguised or hidden location for the infernal abyss is reinforced. Lastly, we add that there is no chance of considering only the arch, that is, representing the Hell without a door. That would be, literally, to let the Devil on the loose ![7]


[1] RUNGE, Heinrich - Die Wappenrolle von Zürich - Ein Heraldisches Denkmal des Vierzehnten Jahrhunderts - Zurich: Antiquarischen Gesellschaft in Zürich, 1860.


[2] CLEMMENSEN, Steen - The Zürich Armorial (Wappenrolle von Zürich) - Farum: Accessed 31 January 2012, available at: <>, 2009.


[3] BIGALSKI, Gerrit - The Zürich Roll of Arms - Accessed 31 January 2012, available at: <>, [s.d.].


[4] The recurring sequence: referent - referent's metonym - verbalization - accommodation - sematization - specification - heraldic trace - complementation, is the same used in the first example and follows detailed in the adjoining table.


[5] Maybe because it seems to be supported by the door.


[6] Revelation 20, 9-10.


[7] We repeat, for convenience, the less obvious abbreviations shown in the table: Referent (R), Referent's Metonym (M), Verbalization (V), Accommodation (A), Sematization (S), Specification (E), Heraldic Trace (H) and Complementation (C).



Attributed Arms R Portugal
Territorial M Portugal
Imaginary language V Portucalis (Latin)
Denominant A Portucalis
Graphemization A P | O | R | T | U | C | A | L | I | S
Phonemization A [ p | O | r | t | u | k | a | l | i | s ]
Pairing A [ p | O | r | t | u | k | a | l | i | s ]
A [ p | O | r | t | a | k | a | l | e | s ]
Coefficient of transposition A 0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0
Coefficient of character A 0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|1.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.5|0.0
Coefficient of position A 0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|1.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|1.0|0.0
Addends A 0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|1.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.5|0.0
Discretion index A k = 0.30
Phonemization A [ p | O | r | t | a | _ | k | a | l | e | s ]
Graphemization A P | O | R | T | A | _ | C | A | L | E | S
Designant A porta | cales
Compound monosemy S door | to be hot
S door | hot place
Architecture + Notoriety E door + Hell
Tincture H sky Azure
Contrast C argent, or
Opposition S Hell x Heaven
Number H 1 a
Figuration H door door
Filling C shield's area
Symmetry C shield's axis
Orientation C placed horizontally
Centrality C fess point
Connective H door + leaves with
Number H 2 two
Figuration H halves leaves
Immanence C door + Hell
Symmetry C door
Aspect H showing Hell open reversed
Tincture H metallic argent
Contrast C azure, gules
Connective H door + gules the doorway
Compound metonymy 1/2 S door > address > Hell
Tincture H hot gules
Immanence C Hell
Contrast C argent
Compound metonymy 2/2 S to be hot > hot place > Hell
Disposition H 1, 1 surmounted by
Number H 1 a
Figuration H round bezant
Immanence C Sun
Simplification C without rays
Prop C day celestial body
Prop C source of heat
Tincture H golden(or)
Immanence C Sun
Contrast C azure


(next analysis in this blog is here)

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