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Saint-Malo (Municipality, Ille-et-Vilaine, France): Municipal coat of arms

Last modified: 2005-04-09 by
Keywords: saint-malo | ermine (white) | scarf (yellow) | scarf (ermine) | portcullis (yellow) | dog (white) |
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Coat of arms with the ermine

Modern coat of arms

[Greater arms of Saint-Malo]by Ivan Sache (after the municipal website)

According to the municipal website, the modern muncipal coat of arms uses d'Hozier's shield with either a ducal or mural crown, and sometimes with green palms as supporters. The latter design would be the greater coat of arms . The arms commonly used are said to be similar but without the palms.

[Coat of arms of Saint-Malo]by Ivan Sache (after GASO)

However, on the coat of arms given by several sources, the scarf of the ermine is not yellow but... ermine:

De gueules à la herse d'or, sommée d'une hermine au naturel, lampassée de sable, colletée et bouclée aussi d'or, cravatée d'une écharpe d'hermine voletant sur son dos. (GASO)

De gueules à la herse d'or mouvant de la pointe de l'écu, sommée d'une hermine passante d'argent, lampassée de sable, accolée et bouclée d'or, cravatée d'hermine. (Brian Timms)

In English:

Gules a portcullis issuant in base or ensigned by an ermine passant argent langued sable gorged of the second with a scarf ermine. (Brian Timms)

In Ralf Hartemink's International Civic Heraldry website, the coat of arms of Saint-Malo shows an ermine with a scarf of ermine. The quoted source is Armorial Général des Communes de France, 1995.

Similarly, Philippe Rault shows the two modern flags of Saint-Malo (with or without the portcullis) with the ermine wearing a scarf of ermine.

Ivan Sache, 21 January 2005


Oldest known coat of arms

[Oldest coat of arms of Saint-Malo]by Ivan Sache (after the municipal website)

According to the municipal website, the oldest known coat of arms of Saint-Malo is dated 1591. It shows on a red shield a yellow portcullis standing on a yellow terrace and a white ermine passant on the terrace, with the portcullis in the background. The shield is surmonted by a yellow crown with five points, four of them being topped with a round pearl and the fifth, central one being topped with a trefoil.

Ivan Sache, 21 January 2005


Coat of arms in Armorial Général (1615)

[Armorial's coat of arms of Saint-Malo]by Ivan Sache (after the municipal website)

In 1615, a slightly different coat of arms was registered in d'Hozier's Armorial Général as:

Un écu de gueules à une herse mouvant de la pointe de l'écu, surmontée d'une hermine passante d'argent, accolée et bouclée d'or, et lampassée de sable.

In English:
Gules a portcullis issuant in base [or] ensigned by an ermine passant argent gorged or and lampassed gules.

On this new coat of arms, the terrace has been dropped and the ermine is walking on the portcullis, whose design is more complex. Moreover, the ermine has now a golden scarf.

Ivan Sache, 21 January 2005


Coat of arms with the guard dog

[Watch dog coat of arms of Saint-Malo]by Ivan Sache (after the municipal website)

A seal used in Saint-Malo shows a completely different coat of arms, de gueules au dogue d'argent (Gules a guard dog argent).
Until 1772, those chiens de guet (guard dogs, in more modern French, chiens de garde) were slipped on the shore around the city from curfew to daybreak in order to repel pillagers. The motto of the city was then Cave canem, Latin for beware the dog!.

[Stamp of Saint-Malo]             [Stamp of Saint-Malo]

The coat of arms with the dog is shown on the postage stamps jointly released by France and Canada for the celebration of the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier's landing in Canada. Following an agreement signed by the French and the Canadian postal administrations on 1 January 1984, the stamps were released on 24 April 1984 in the two countries. There were designed by the Canadian Yves Paquin (drawing) and the French Claude Haley (engraver). The First Day release of the stamps took place in Saint-Malo and Québec on 20 April 1984. Two Canadian postmen were invited to Saint-Malo and sold there the Canadian stamp (face value, 32 cents; print run, 22 millions), whereas two French postmen were invited to Quebec and sold there the French stamp (face value, 2.00 francs; print run, 15 millions). On the postage stamps, the coat of arms is shown with a red dogue on a white field, which is probably an artistic license, the background of the shield being red. The description sheet of the Canadian Post says: l'ancien emblème de Saint-Malo: le dougue rampant.

Philippe Rault says that the coat of arms with the ermine and the portcullis superseded the coat of arms with the guard dog in 1696, a theory which is not supported by the data given above and especially Armorial Général. It might be that the coat of arms with the guard dog replaced the former coat of arms with the ermine for a more or less long period, and was eventually dropped in 1696.

Finally, the origin of the red field of the coat of arms is not clear. The municipal website says that the first naval flag of Saint-Malo has a red canton taken from the coat of arms, whereas Philippe Rault says that the coat of arms was derived from the red flag used by the corsairs as the signal of attack.

Ivan Sache, 15 January 2005


Coat of arms with the ermine and the guard dog as supporters

Another image of the coat of arms of Saint-Malo can be seen on different websites, unfortunately without mention of the source. It shows the ermine with a scarf of ermine; the shield is surmonted with a mural crown and supported by two guard dogs and two anchors. The two decorations appended to the shield are the Légion d'Honneur (1948) and the War Cross (1939-1945). This seems to be a "complete" version of the arms, mixing elements from the two historical coat of arms, the ermine and the guard dog.

Ivan Sache, 26 January 2005

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