Heraldic Display

by Dame Zenobia Naphtali

An example of a campsite that is heavily decorated with heraldry.
Detail of furniture and helm crest.

The pageantry and splendor of the Middle Ages went hand in hand with the display of heraldry. The Middle Ages can hardly be imagined without banners flying over castles and pavilions, tournaments made bright by colorful heraldic shields, surcoats and crests, and scrolls sealed with wax imprinted by a noble Coat of Arms.

Heraldic display in the Middle Ages and Renaissance centered around display of Coats of Arms (also known as devices) and badges. As a general rule, a device was displayed to indicate one's self, and a badge was displayed to indicate one's possessions or servants. A noble going to war would dress himself in a surcoat bearing his device, and would dress the soldiers in his army in surcoats bearing his badge. However, one can also find numerous cases where a noble would decorate his possessions with his device, or would use his badge as decoration for his personal jewelry or clothing.

There are many ways in which S.C.A. members can use their heraldry. Both devices and badges can be painted on pavilions, carved or painted on tourney furniture, sewn onto clothing, table linens or wall hangings, cast into jewelry, and etched onto feast gear. The overall heraldic look of an encampment can be enhanced by using the color scheme of the heraldry and design elements from the heraldry for further decoration. Flags and banners can be displayed both indoors and outdoors.

Historical evidence suggests that from the 12th-16th centuries there was no such thing as "too much heraldic display"; heraldry was found everywhere, from stained glass windows to perfume bellows. Have fun with it!

© Leslie A. Schweitzer