Lunate Cross

Boris wrote in with the following question:

I am a late medieval reenactor (XV. century) and my goal is to make myself a heraldic device that the knight that I reenact would use. I decided to use the less known Lunate cross (argent), on a pure sable field. My question is this: are there occurrences in the usage of heraldic crosses (especially in this late medieval time frame) that there is a star or a sun in the middle of them? Sort of like on the picture attached. I was thinking of putting the golden star in the middle of the lunate cross on the sable field. Thanks for your answer!

lunate cross pendant
Boris, Thanks for your message.

I don’t know the details for the location of your reenactment, so before we get into this very far, I would like to state that my expertise is in British arms, so I speak with little authority about the arms of Europe. Since you are writing in English, I am going to assume that this English bias is acceptable.

I would like to stress, if your reenactment group has a heraldic authority, you should confer with them for any peculiarities that may exist within the group. Many groups have very particular rules about the acceptability of certain charges which go beyond the rules of traditional heraldry.

With that out of the way, the arms you are proposing would be blasoned thus:

Sable, a Lunate Cross Argent, charged with a Mullet Or.

The first problem with your arms is that it violates the Law of Tincture in that you are putting one metal (Gold) upon another (Silver). The practical reason for this is that it reduces the amount of contrast on the shield, reducing its “readability.” Now there are exceptions to the “Law of Tincture” as it is a bit like the Pirate Code (“more just suggestions, really”). However, if an “authentic” look is important to you, you should consider the more traditional form which would be to make the charge on the cross the same color as the field.

The use of a charge placed upon another charge is common practice in both British and German arms. The two most common reasons I can think of are either as augments or as differences. An augment is something that is added to a coat of arms as a sort of “award” from the sovereign, while a difference is used to give arms a slight change so that brothers might carry their father’s arms, but still be individually identifiable. Differences have been used in British arms since at least the time of Edward III (1327–1377), with a formal system being introduced for non-royals in 1500. In the British system that arose the Moon denotes a second son, while a Star (called a Mullet in English arms) denotes a third son. If you are using British heraldry as your basis, this would make it so you wouldn’t want to use a five pointed star as your charge on the cross, unless your reenactment character is a 3rd son. If you used an eight pointed star, there would be no such problem and might give you an opportunity to make up a good story for the augmentation of the cross that your knight now carries.

German coats armor do not use marks of difference the same way British arms do, instead every member of the family uses the same coat of arms, but with a different Crest. This, of course, elevates the importance of the crest in German arms and is part of the reason German arms are so loathe to appear without a crest. The Star itself seems to be a pretty rare charge in continental heraldry during the medieval period—occurring very rarely in the 14th century, although the Principality of Waldeck had an eight-pointed star as its arms at the time. From there, the Star grew in popularity through the 15th and 16th centuries, until the 17th century it became quite common. So again, if German history is your basis, the star is acceptable, even if unusual for the 15th century.

The last part of your design to discuss is the cross. I can attest that by the 16th century there were a great number of crosses with alternate endings and embellishments, or made out of things like fusils, mascles, lozenges, or some such. Fox-Davies complained that he’d encounters over 400 types of crosses, and it was “useless” to learn them all. While this panoply of crosses is a bit after your period, you could probably get away with being “an early adopter” of a non-standard cross. But the Lunate Cross itself might cause a problem due to its link with Baltic paganism, only you and your reenactment group could determine if that is something you would find socially acceptable—but from a purely heraldic standpoint it should be acceptable.
So the only changes I would suggest would be to make sure the star is of eight points and that it is the same color as the field, blasoned thus:

Sable, a Lunate Cross Argent, charged with a Star of eight points of the field.

I have included an illustration for you. Good luck and have great fun with your reenactment.

Sir Boris of the Lunate Cross

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Originally posted 2014-12-31 11:39:20.

Snarling Wolf
Jackson of Yorkshire

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