The Belfast Coat Of Arms :: Shared Description

The official Belfast Coat of Arms was adopted in the late nineteenth century. An extract from the Grant of Arms issued by the Ulster King of Arms on the 30th June 1890 reads as thus:

“Know ye, therefore, that I, the said Ulster King of Arms, by the power to me given by Her Majesty’s Royal Letters Patent, under the Great Seal of Ireland, and by authority of the same, have assigned and granted, and by these Presents do assign, grant and exemplify to the Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of Belfast, the Arms following, namely – Per fess argent and azure in chief a pile vair, and on a canton gules, a bell argent, in base, a ship with sails set argent on waves of the sea proper. Supporters dexter, a wolf proper ducally gorged and chained or; sinister, a sea-horse gorged with a mural crown proper.

CREST – A sea horse gorged with a mural crown proper
MOTTO – Pro tanto quid retribuamus.”

The exact meanings of the various symbols on the crest are rather vague but probably have roots in the history of Belfast since c1600. The charter of Belfast dated 1613 stated that the town may have “one common seale in such forms and as shall seem best unto them.” This seal was the original for Belfast and was in use until c1842 but neither the Charter nor the Town Book of Belfast records descriptions of the Arms used; there are also no records recorded in the office of the Ulster King of Arms.

The symbols probably have their roots in seventeenth century Belfast as these are found on tokens used by merchants of that time – for example, the bell, the ship, the sea-horse and the chained wolf are all found on the money of Belfast merchants. It is probable that the arms were composed from the merchant’s signs or that the merchants themselves took parts of the arms for use on their coinage.

The sea-horse and ship were almost certainly selected to indicate the emerging maritime importance of Belfast as a trading port. The wolf was probably taken as a compliment to Sir Arthur Chichester who was instrumental in the founding and expansion of Belfast in the early 1600s as wolves featured on his own coat of arms.

The motto “Pro tanto quid retribuamus” may be translated as “What return shall we make for so much” is said to have been taken from Psalm CXVI, verse 12.
by Rossographer
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8 images use this description:

J3170 : Entrance plaque, Balmoral Cemetery by Rossographer
J3374 : Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus by Rossographer
J3170 : Musgrave Park gate plaque, Belfast (October 2014) by Albert Bridge
J3474 : The Queen's Bridge, Belfast (detail) by Albert Bridge
J3374 : Coat of Arms, Belfast City Hall by Rossographer
J3374 : The Belfast Coat of Arms by Albert Bridge
J3474 : Arms and portico, the Custom House, Belfast (October 2014) by Albert Bridge
J3474 : The 'Big Fish', Belfast [detail] by Rossographer


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Created: Mon, 25 Jan 2010, Updated: Mon, 25 Jan 2010

The 'Shared Description' text on this page is Copyright 2010 Rossographer, however it is specifically licensed so that contributors can reuse it on their own images without restriction.

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