Vert (heraldry)

Last updated
Non-heraldic equivalent Green
Monochromatic designations
Hatching pattern 
Tricking abbr.v. - Vt.
Poetic designations
Heavenly body Venus, ♀
Jewel Emerald

In classical heraldry, vert ( /vɜːrt/ ) is the tincture equivalent to the colour "green". It is one of the five dark tinctures (colours). The word vert is simply the French for "green". It is used in English in the sense of a heraldic tincture since the early 16th century. In Modern French, vert is not used as a heraldic term. Instead, the French heraldic term for green tincture is sinople. This has been the case since c. the 16th century. In medieval French heraldry, vert also meant "green" while sinople was a shade of red. Vert is portrayed by the conventions of heraldic "hatching" (in black and white engravings) by lines at a 45-degree angle from upper left to lower right, or indicated by the abbreviation vt. when a coat of arms is tricked.


The colour green is commonly found in modern flags and coat of arms, and to a lesser extent also in the classical heraldry of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Green flags were historically carried by the Fatimid Caliphate in the 10th to 12th centuries, and by Ottokar II of Bohemia in the 13th century. In the modern period, a Green Ensign was flown by Irish vessels, becoming a symbol of Irish nationalism in the 19th and 20th century. The Empire of Brazil used a yellow rhombus on a green field from 1822, now seen in the flag of Brazil. In the 20th century, a green field was chosen for a number of national flag designs, especially in the Arab and Muslim world because of the symbolism of green in Islam, including the solid green flag of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (1977).

Sometimes, the different tinctures are said to be connected with special meanings or virtues, and represent certain elements and precious stones. Even if this is an idea mostly disregarded by serious heraldists throughout the centuries, [1] it may be of anecdotal interest to see what they are, since the information may be used for poetic purposes. Many sources give different meanings, but the vert tincture is said to represent the following:

Middle Ages

The green tincture was left out of some heraldic works in the Middle Ages, but the first known English treatise, the Anglo-Norman "De Heraudie" (dated to sometime between 1230 and 1345), lists vert among the other tinctures. [2]

The French term sinople was in use prior to the 15th century, but it did not refer to green, but rather to red, being identical in origin to Cinnabar , originally the name of a red pigment also known as sinopia . Descriptions of knightly shields as painted at least partly green in Arthurian romance are found earlier, even in the late 12th century. [3] Here, the Chevalier au Vert Escu ("knight with the green shield") often marks a kind of supernatural character outside of normal chivalric society (as is still the case with the English "Green Knight" of c. 1390), perhaps[ clarification needed ] in connection with the Wild Man or Green Man of medieval figurative art. The Anglo-Norman prose Brut (c. 1200) has Brutus of Troy bear a green shield, Brutus Vert-Escu, Brutus Viride Scutum.

Green is occasionally found in historical coats of arms (as opposed to the fictional "green knights" of Arthurian romance) from as early as the 13th century, but it remained rare, and indeed actively avoided, well into the 15th century, but becomes more common in the classical heraldry of the 16th and 17th centuries. [4]

An early example of a green escutcheon was that of the coat of arms of Styria,[ year needed ] based on the banner of Ottokar II of Bohemia (r. 1253-1278), described by chronist Ottokar aus der Gaal (c. 1315) as:

ein banier grüene als ein gras / darin ein pantel swebte / blanc, als ob ez lebte
"a banner green as grass, therein suspended a panther in white, [depicted] as if alive."

A curious example occurs in an early armorial of the Burgundian Order of the Knights of the Golden Fleece (Toison d'Or) where the arms of the Lannoy family are recorded as "argent, three lions rampant sinople, etc." Despite the fact that sinople signified a shade of red in early heraldry, the lions in this 15th century manuscript are clearly green, although rather faded. The fugitive nature of the green pigments of that day may have had some influence on the low use of that color in early heraldry.

Classical heraldry

During the 16th century, green was still rare as a tincture for the field of a coat of arms, but it was used increasingly for the heraldic designs shown in the field, especially when depicting trees or other vegetation. Thus, the coat of arms of Hungary shows a "double cross on a hill" as a symbol of the Árpád kings, where the cross was shown in silver (argent) and the hill in green, from the late 14th century. [5]

The only green shown in the arms of the states of the Holy Roman Empire in the Quaternion Eagle by Hans Burgkmair (c. 1510) are the crancelin of Saxony and the Zirbelnuss of Augsburg. The three lions rampant, verts of the Marquessate of Franchimont are attested in the 16th century.

Siebmachers Wappenbuch of 1605 shows a number of green heraldic devices in the coat of arms of cities. For example, the coat of arms of the town of Waldkappel ("forest chapel") as depicting a chapel in a forest on a red field, with the ground on which the chapel is standing, and four trees behind the chapel, drawn in green. There are a number of other examples where Siebmacher as a green "mount" (the heraldic "hill" at the bottom of the shield on which the heraldic charge is "standing"). For the town of Grünberg, Siebmacher shows a yellow field on which a knight is riding, his horse running on a green "hill" and the knight flying a green banner. [6]

Modern flags

The Irish Green Ensign, used from the late 17th century. During the 18th century, the harp was modified to appear in the shape of a winged female figure. Green Ensign (1701).svg
The Irish Green Ensign, used from the late 17th century. During the 18th century, the harp was modified to appear in the shape of a winged female figure.
Sovereign states with green flags:
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States in the Muslim world, using green either as a reference to Pan-Arabism or as a symbol of Islam
Pan-African colours (red, black, and green)
Other, sometimes representing either lush local vegetation or heraldry Greenflags.svg
Sovereign states with green flags:
  States in the Muslim world, using green either as a reference to Pan-Arabism or as a symbol of Islam
   Pan-African colours (red, black, and green)
  Other, sometimes representing either lush local vegetation or heraldry

Historically, a Green Ensign was flown by Irish merchant vessels from the late 17th century. Green flags flown by revolutionary uprisings include that used in the Vaudois insurrection against Bernese rule in the 1790s (which became the basis of the modern coat of arms of Vaud), the flag of the Irish Saint Patrick's Battalion (1846-1848) and Easter Rising (1916).

In the 20th century, a number of national flags were designed involving green, especially in the Muslim world, based on the traditional symbolism of green in Islam, and as one of the Pan-Arab colours. Green is also common among the national flags of African countries; green is one of the Pan-African colours. Other countries have used the colour green in their flags to represent the "greenness" of their lands and abundance of their nation.

The following contemporary national flags feature a solid green field:

Former national flags with green fields further include the solid green flag of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (1977-2011).

Related Research Articles

Heraldry Profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol

Heraldry is a broad term, encompassing the design, display, and study of armorial bearings, as well as related disciplines, such as vexillology, together with the study of ceremony, rank, and pedigree. Armory, the best-known branch of heraldry, concerns the design and transmission of the heraldic achievement. The achievement, or armorial bearings usually includes a coat of arms on a shield, helmet, and crest, together with any accompanying devices, such as supporters, badges, heraldic banners, and mottoes.

In heraldry, gules is the tincture with the colour red. It is one of the class of five dark tinctures called "colours", the others being azure (blue), sable (black), vert (green) and purpure (purple).

Supporter Figures usually placed on either side of an heraldic shield and depicted holding it up

In heraldry, supporters, sometimes referred to as attendants, are figures or objects usually placed on either side of the shield and depicted holding it up.

Tincture (heraldry) A metal, colour, or fur used in heraldic design

Tincture is the limited palette of colours and patterns used in heraldry. The need to define, depict, and correctly blazon the various tinctures is one of the most important aspects of heraldic art and design.

Variation of the field Heraldic term

In heraldry, variations of the field are any of a number of ways that a field may be covered with a pattern, rather than a flat tincture or a simple division of the field.

In heraldry, or is the tincture of gold and, together with argent (silver), belongs to the class of light tinctures called "metals", or light colours. In engravings and line drawings, it is hatched using a field of evenly spaced dots. It is very frequently depicted as yellow, though gold leaf was used in many illuminated manuscripts and more extravagant rolls of arms.

Coat of arms of Portugal National coat of arms of the Portuguese Republic

The coat of arms of Portugal is the main heraldic insignia of Portugal. The present model was officially adopted on 30 June 1911, along with the present model of the Flag of Portugal. It is based on the coat of arms used by the Portuguese Kingdom since the Middle Ages. The coat of arms of Portugal is popularly referred as the Quinas.

Rule of tincture Rule of color composition in heraldic design

The most basic rule of heraldic design is the rule of tincture: metal should not be put on metal, nor colour on colour. This means that or and argent may not be placed on each other; nor may any of the colours be placed on another colour. Heraldic furs as well as "proper" are exempt from the rule of tincture. The rule seems to have operated from the inception of the age of heraldry, i.e. about 1200–1215, but seemingly was never written down. It was rather deduced by later commentators as a rule which must have existed, based on the evidence it produced. Although the vast majority of coats of arms ever used across the whole of Europe follow the rule, a very few coats which contravened the rule were borne in the mediaeval era by certain families or corporate bodies for many centuries without effective censure by the heraldic authorities. The reason for the original contraventions and for the toleration of them is unknown, although in the case of the arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem clearly extreme high status was involved.

Portuguese heraldry

Portuguese heraldry encompasses the modern and historic traditions of heraldry in Portugal and the Portuguese Empire. Portuguese heraldry is part of the larger Iberian tradition of heraldry, one of the major schools of heraldic tradition, and grants coats of arms to individuals, cities, Portuguese colonies, and other institutions. Heraldry has been practiced in Portugal at least since the 11th century, however it only became standardized and popularized in the 16th century, during the reign of King Manuel I of Portugal, who created the first heraldic ordinances in the country. Like in other Iberian heraldic traditions, the use of quartering and augmentations of honor is highly representative of Portuguese heraldry, but unlike in any other Iberian traditions, the use of heraldic crests is highly popular.

Blazon Art of describing heraldic arms in proper terms

In heraldry and heraldic vexillology, a blazon is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image. The verb to blazon means to create such a description. The visual depiction of a coat of arms or flag has traditionally had considerable latitude in design, but a verbal blazon specifies the essentially distinctive elements. A coat of arms or flag is therefore primarily defined not by a picture but rather by the wording of its blazon. Blazon is also the specialized language in which a blazon is written, and, as a verb, the act of writing such a description. Blazonry is the art, craft or practice of creating a blazon. The language employed in blazonry has its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax, which becomes essential for comprehension when blazoning a complex coat of arms.

Danish heraldry has its roots in medieval times when coats of arms first appeared in Europe. Danish heraldry is a branch of the German-Nordic heraldic tradition.

Finnish heraldry has a common past with Swedish heraldry until 1809 and it belongs to German heraldric tradition.

Árpád stripes is the name of a particular heraldic and vexillologic configuration which has been in constant use since the early 13th century in particular in Hungarian heraldry. It can be seen in the left half of the current coat of arms of Hungary.

Attributed arms Coats of arms given to a person retrospectively

Attributed arms are Western European coats of arms given retrospectively to persons real or fictitious who died before the start of the age of heraldry in the latter half of the 12th century. Arms were assigned to the knights of the Round Table, and then to biblical figures, to Roman and Greek heroes, and to kings and popes who had not historically borne arms. Each author could attribute different arms for the same person, but the arms for major figures soon became fixed.

Helmet (heraldry)

In heraldic achievements, the helmet or helm is situated above the shield and bears the torse and crest. The style of helmet displayed varies according to rank and social status, and these styles developed over time, in step with the development of actual military helmets. In some traditions, especially German and Nordic heraldry, two or three helmets may be used in a single achievement of arms, each representing a fief to which the bearer has a right. For this reason, the helmets and crests in German and Nordic arms are considered to be essential to the coat of arms and are never separated from it.

German heraldry

German heraldry is the tradition and style of heraldic achievements in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, including national and civic arms, noble and burgher arms, ecclesiastical heraldry, heraldic displays and heraldic descriptions. German heraldic style is one of the four major broad traditions within European heraldry and stands in contrast to Gallo-British, Latin and Eastern heraldry, and strongly influenced the styles and customs of heraldry in the Nordic countries, which developed comparatively late. Together, German and Nordic heraldry are often referred to as German-Nordic heraldry.

French heraldry The use of heraldic symbols in France

French heraldry is the use of heraldic symbols in France. Although it had a considerable history, existing from the 11th century, such formality has largely died out in France, as far as regulated personal heraldry is concerned. Civic heraldry on the other hand remains a visible part of daily life.

Icelandic heraldry

Icelandic heraldry is the study of coats of arms and other insignia used in Iceland. It belongs to the German-Nordic heraldic tradition, as the heraldry of Iceland has been primarily influenced by the heraldic traditions of Norway, Denmark and other Nordic countries. Iceland does not have a strong sense of heraldic tradition, however, because the country lacks a governing body to oversee this. As a result, coats of arms registered as such are virtually nonexistent in modern Iceland. While many municipalities use more or less heraldic logos, there are no heraldic standards to which these must adhere, and they are registered as graphic designs rather than as coats of arms.

Crosses in heraldry Cross symbols used in heraldry

A number of cross symbols were developed for the purpose of the emerging system of heraldry, which appeared in western Europe in about 1200. This tradition is partly in the use of the Christian cross an emblem from the 11th century, and increasingly during the age of the Crusades. Many cross variants were developed in the classical tradition of heraldry during the late medieval and early modern periods. Heraldic crosses are inherited in modern iconographic traditions and are used in numerous national flags.

Roundel (heraldry) Heraldry term for a circular charge

A roundel is a circular charge in heraldry. Roundels are among the oldest charges used in coats of arms, dating from the start of the age of heraldry in Europe, circa 1200–1215. Roundels are typically a solid colour but may be charged with an item or be any of the furs used in heraldry. Roundels are similar to the annulet, which some heralds would refer to as a false roundel.


  1. Woodcock, Thomas; Robinson, John Martin (1988). The Oxford Guide to Heraldry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 53. ISBN   0-19-211658-4.
  2. Woodcock, Thomas; Robinson, John Martin (1988). The Oxford Guide to Heraldry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 51. ISBN   0-19-211658-4.
  3. Le Chevalier de la charrette (c. 1170s) mentions an escu vert d'une part "a partly green shield" (v. 5785). Cligès (c. 1176) mentions a case of armes verts "green arms" (v. 4669). See Brault (1997:286f.)
  4. "There was an antipathy towards green until well into the 15th century" Terence Wise, Richard Hook, William Walker Medieval heraldry, vol. 99 of the Men-at-arms series, Osprey Publishing, 1980, ISBN   978-0-85045-348-5, p. 11
  5. the double cross was used from the 12th century, but the "hill" was added by Louis I of Hungary (r. 1342-1382), later expanded to "three hills" ("on a mount vert a crown Or, issuant therefrom a double cross argent").
  6. ed. Appuhn (1989), p. 224.