Bergshammar armorial online!

Stockholm, Riksarkivet, Bergshammar vapenbok, SE/RA/720085/Z, p. 156. Coats of arms of Arnold of Guelders and his four ancestors

Since last week, a digitised version of the Bergshammar armorial has been freely accessible online on the website of the Swedish national archives. This fascinating parchment manuscript contains over 3000 coats of arms, displaying first European high nobles by rank followed by nobles by political entities, with a focus on the Holy Roman Empire, France and England. It is dated to the mid-15th century and it is assumed to have been made in the Southern Netherlands. Regrettably, nothing is known about the maker and context of use.

An interesting aspect of this armorial are a handful of heraldic displays of ancestors of  rulers at the beginning of a number of segments (see image). The coat of arms of the ruler in question is in the center, surrounded by those of his four ancestors (parents and two grandmothers). Such displays can be found as well in the Lyncenich armorial. Indeed, there are some striking similarities between this armorial and others, most notably the Gelre, Lyncenich and Toison d’Or armorials. On these complex relations see Steen Clemmensen’s Editing armorials (pp. 81-97).

The most detailed study on this source is in Swedish: Jan Raneke, Bergshammarvapenboken – en medeltidsheraldisk studie (Lund, 1975). There are also sections on the Bergshammar armorial in Clemmensen’s Editing armorials. Cooperation, knowledge and approach by late medieval practitioners (Copenhagen, 2017).

Weblink to the armorial: https://sok.riksarkivet.se


Heraldica Nova

This is the account of the Heraldica Nova editorial team.

2 Responses

  1. Steen Clemmensen says:

    Many thanks for the reference, but there are two additional tools available for those who do not read Swedish or do not have the Raneke edition of 1975: a semi-edition with blazons in English, identifications by family, index of names and of arms, but no references or comments, on http://www.armorial.dk/french/BHM_blazons.pdf ; and a survey of the frames (images) with page and folio numbers as well as incipit names and arms on http://www.armorial.dk/french/BHM_frames.pdf . There are a few differences in the identifications between Raneke and myself.

  2. This is indeed a quite curious armorial. For its content, but also for its visual appearance and its way of making. It features different states of completion and different layouts. On p. 140, for instance, one can see how the outlines of the helmets were first drawn, before the outlines of the shields. Interestingly, pages 188 and 189 feature only crests, while, on the other hand, other sections of the armorial like p. 322 and following don’t show any traces of helmets and crests. The coats of arms are drawn, from section to section, in different sizes and the captions are sometimes missing, sometimes written above the coats of arms – horizontally, as one would expect it, or vertically, which makes you wonder about the way this armorial was intended to be used. Other particularities are the swan on an enclosed meadow with the Cleves-Mark coats of arms (p. 92), or the “douze pairs de France” (p. 241). Certainly, an armorial which is worth to be studied more thoroughly (or to be read about it in Swedish).

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