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Portugal (1185-1248)

Last modified: 2009-09-19 by antónio martins
Keywords: escutcheon | bezant | quinas: 5 (11 plates) | quina: 11 plates | christ | portugal ancien |
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flag of 1185
image by António Martins, 21 May 1997
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Flag of 1185

King Sancho I changed the design to five eschutcheons (small shields) blue arranged in a cross (the ones in the sides pointing to the center, the other three pointing downwards), each charged with 11 silver circles. These five eschutcheons (quinas) are said to represent the five wounds of Christ (hands, feet and chest).
António Martins, 21 May 1997

This armourial bearings, called “Portugal ancien” (argent, five eschuteons set in cross, the middle ones pointing downwards and the side ones pointing inwards, each charged with 3+2+3+2+1 silver bezants) wre first used in 1185, with king D. Sancho I.
António Martins, 02 Oct 1998

Those bezants were heraldry marks of kingship, symbolizing silver coins (and the royal right to coinage), adopted in 1143, when Count Afonso Henriques was first acclaimed as (the first) King of Portugal. It was not exactly eleven, at the beguining, I suppose. That is the number usually seen on later documents, but until the number of bezants gets fixed at five in 1578 (much later!) it varies. Afonso III (1248-1279), for instants, used sometimes seven (1+2+1+2+1), and sometimes sixteen (4+3+4+3+2, as Duke of Bologna).

So, in the time of Afonso Henriques (1143-1185) it was just a blue cross semmy of bezants. Only a practical (or maybe aestethical or mystical-symbolic) reason could account for the positioning of those silver nails in five distinct areas. Later, when Afonso Henriques died, the old shield (which, out of battle proudness, was not repaired in those days) had lost all of the blue cross material (dyed leather), remainning only attached the parts covered with the nails. Hence the eschuteons…

António Martins, 08 Oct 1998


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