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Lesser (left) and greater (right) coats of arms of Serbia - Images by Željko Heimer, 28 December 2010
The design of the symbols of Serbia is prescribed by "Regulation on the establishment of source illustration of greater and lesser arms and of flag, and of the score of the anthem", adopted by the Government on 11 November 2010 (government website, images). The 2009 Law prescribing the symbols granted authority to the Government to issue such a Regulation.
The Regulation will be offical eight days after its publication in the official gazette of the Republic of Serbia.
The new designs were made by Pr. Ljubodrag Grujić, who consulted Dragomir Acović, the Honorary President of the Serbian Heraldry Society. Both were commissioned to redesign the symbols after the adoption of the 2009 Law.
Compared with the designs in use before, changes were made in the coat of arms' stylization (images) and in the color standardization (source).
Dark red is used only on greater arms, as the color of the red side of the ermine mantling.
The heraldic description of the lesser coat of arms of Serbia is:
"Gules, two fleurs-de-lis or below a double-headed eagle argent, beaked, membered and langued or, bearing an escutcheon: gules, a cross argent between four firesteels or addorsed. Crowned with a royal crown proper".
A news report claims that the 1882 coat of arms, readopted in 2004, was influenced by "German heraldry" and that the new version is now more in accordance with Serbian heraldry, without any "German" influence. The claim can not be proven easily: the fact is that the 1882 design was prepared by the eminent Austrian heraldic expert Ernest Krahl, Imperial Herald in Vienna at the time.
Ivan Sarajčić & Željko Heimer, 28 December 2010
Coat of Serbia used in 2004-2011
Lesser (left) and greater (right) coats of arms of Serbia, 2004-2011 - Images by Željko Heimer, 4 February 2008
The greater and lesser coats of arms are prescribed by the Law of 19 May 2009:
The design of the greater coat of arms
The greater coat of arms is a red shield in which is set, between two golden fleurs-de-lis in its base, a two-headed silver eagle, armed golden and with the tongue and legs of the same, with a red shield on its chests in which is a silver cross between four firesteels of the same with their bases turned towards the vertical beam of the cross. The shield is crowned with a golden crown and draped with a crimson (porphyry) mantle embroidered gold, with a golden fringe, tied up with golden braid with tassels of the same, lined with ermine and crowned with a golden crown.
The design of the lesser coat of arms
The lesser coat of arms a red shield in which is, placed, between two golden fleurs-de-lis in its base, set a two-headed silver eagle, armed golden and with the tongue and legs of the same, with a red shield on its chests in which is a silver cross between four firesteels of the same with their bases turned towards the vertical beam of the cross. The shield is crowned with a golden crown.
Željko Heimer, 22 May 2009
The four C-shaped elements shown on the coat of arms of Serbia are called ocila. Another word in Serbian for
the same device is ognjila, but I do not think that this is
ever used for those elements in this context.
In English, an ocila is called a firesteel, It is an implement for striking sparks from flint and steel, in order to create fire. The firesteel, with its convenient handles, was struck on flint, and also worked on other rocks. It became a heraldic image in connection with the Order of the Golden Fleece, founded in 1430.
The meaning and use of this symbol is said to date back to the 13th century, referring to the life of St. Sava, a Serbian prince, monk, and a patron of the Serbian
Orthodox Church (established in 1219).
During that time of transition in Serbian maedieval history, the state was pressured by the Holy See to convert into Catholicism. Since the state did not have its own independent ecclesiastic establishment, St. Sava called for establishment of a Serbian independent Archiepiscopat, and as well called on all Serbs to unite against the pressure from the Holy See.
St. Sava said, "Only Unity Saves the Serbs", in Serbian, Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava. Every word in that sentence begins with the letter "S", written #x0421; in Cyrillic alphabet. There comes the explanation why there are four C's in the Serbian coat of arms. The Serbian coat of arms represents a reminder for a need for Serbian people to unite with the cause to preserve their heritage and nationhood.
David Adizes, 23 November 1999
Before the 12th century, an almost identical cross with four C- or rather B-shaped firesteels was used by the Byzantine Palaiologos Emperors, the letters standing for the Emperor's motto: Βασιλευς Βασιλεων Βασιλευων Βασιλευσιν, that is, "King of Kings, ruling over Kings".
Santiago Dotor, 25 November 1999
In the Orthodox Church, the cross that has been seen by Constantine the Great (270/288-337) is a very important symbol. Before the battle at Saxa
Rubra (Milvian Bridge) he is said to have seen in the sky a very bright
cross ("bright as many stars"). The message that he's been heard was: In
hoc signo vinces. There is a difference between this cross of victory
(Constantine won the battle) and the cross of crucifixion. In addition, it
is also a representation of the bright cross they believe that will appear in the sky at the end of the World (Matthew 24:30).
There are several different ways to represent brightness of that cross. One of them is with diagonal rays, the second is with the Greek letters IS HS NI KA (Jesus Christ is victor). The third way is with four firesteels. The cross with four firesteels is an old Byzantine/Orthodox symbol and should not be connected to the Palaiologos (the last ruling family). It has nothing to do with four Β (Greek or Serbian Cyrillic alphabet).
Zoran Nikolić, 14 July 2004