The Fojnica Armorial – The Lion as an earthly symbol of Macedonia

MedievalThe Fojnica Armorial - The Lion as an earthly symbol of Macedonia

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Stjepan Antoljak, university professor, historian, member of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MANU) and head of the Institute for National History in Skopje, mentioned the existence of the Macedonian coat of arms for the first time in the textbook “Auxiliary Historical Sciences” that the lion is the Macedonian coat of arms in the intellectual environment. He was citing the well known Fojnica Armorial.

In 1968 the text “Macedonian Coat of Arms from the IVth Century” was published in the magazine “Journal”. The text was published without a note of an author, but it is widely believed that it was the Macedonian priest and historian Slavko Dimovski.

In the “Journal” he described the golden lion of Macedonia, which is represented as an earthly symbol in the so-called “Fojnički grbovnik” (Fojnica Armorial). It was with this text that the Macedonian public was first introduced to the old coat of arms of Macedonia, and several scientific studies on the subject were published in the years that followed. Specifically, in the Fojnica coat of arms, the coat of arms of Macedonia is shown on a red background, with a golden crowned lion, on a German shield, which is shown at the top with a five-pointed crown with precious stones.

The golden lion as an earthly symbol of Macedonia can also be found in the older London Armorial dating from 1595. The earthly coat of arms of Macedonia with the lion can also be found in Korjenić-Neorić’s book of arms from the 16th century. Here, too, a yellow lion is depicted on a red German shield. In Althan’s book of arms from the early 17th century, the lion is shown with a double tail on a red field.

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Also in a book of coats of arms, which is believed to have originated in 1623 the Macedonian lion can be found – a gold crowned lion is also shown with a double tail on a red field. Under the shield is a ribbon that says Macedonia.

The Macedonian lion can also be found in the Olovski coat of arms book from 1689, but this coat of arms is drawn with ink, which means that it is only two-colored. It is believed that it originated from the monastery in Olovo, on the basis of which it is called ‘Olovski grbovnik’.

In the Armorial of Berlin from the 17th century, the Macedonian coat of arms is shown on a German shield, again a golden lion on a red field.

In the stematography by Hristofor Žefarović from 1741, the coat of arms of Macedonia is painted on a Spanish shield, a red lion on a golden field. With this, Žefarović ends the centuries-old tradition with which the earthly coat of arms of Macedonia is depicted as a golden lion on a red field.

With his stematography, Hristofor Žefarović had a great influence on the creation of the coat of arms of the Balkan states, in particular the coat of arms of Bulgaria, which is the successor to the Bulgarian lion penned by Žefarović. In Žefarović’s book of arms, the Bulgarian lion is gold on a red background for the first time and differs from the previous arms in the other works, which are a red lion on a gold field, as in the Fojnica book of arms.

Žefarović made his stematography based on the stematography of the Croatian heraldic Pavao Ritter Vitezović, who probably made this mistake first and is thus the creator of today’s Bulgarian lion.

The Fojnica Armorial

This book of arms is kept in the Catholic monastery in Fojnica in the central part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thereforey it is known as the book of arms of Fojnica or “Fojnički grbovnik/Fojnica armorial”. It is one of the most famous heraldic books and collections of the so-called Illyrian heraldry. On the first page is the common coat of arms known as the coat of arms of the Illyrian Empire.

The coats of arms of Macedonia, Slavonia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Dalmatia, Serbia, Croatia and Raska are depicted. The armorial contains a total of 139 coats of arms, including the Balkan countries and the arms of the Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian aristocracy. It was thought to have been created in 1340 in honor of Emperor Dušan, but research suggests that this work was probably not made until the 17th century.

SOURCE: Macedonian daily paper Nova Makedonija “Лавот како земски симбол на Македонија” 03/03/2021, translated by history.mk

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