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The Naples Coat of Arms

A coat of arms is a heraldic design on a shield or article of clothing. It is traditionally unique to an individual person, family, or state. It may also include a written motto. They have been in use since the Middle Ages as a source of information for public showing and tracing the membership of a noble family, and therefore its genealogy across time. Cities have traditionally had coats of arms as a source of information about the city. It bears noting that these coats of arms may change depending on the whims of those who decide what to emphasize about the city, what to get rid of
or, yes, what to invent. No one really pays much attention to these things anymore, but here is the current coat of arms for the city of Naples.

The coat of arms of the city of Naples consists of a long shield (called a Samnite shield) divided horizontally in half with the upper part in gold and the lower half in red. The shield is stamped with a turreted city crown.

The origins of the city's coat of arms is the subject of several legends, most from the 17th century. One widespread legend says the colors were used to welcome Emperor Constantine I and his mother Elena in 324, when the population converted to Christianity by renouncing the ancient cult of the sun and moon alluded to by the colors. Alternately, the colors may have been symbols of the struggles at the  time of the independent Duchy (755-1027) against the Longobard Principality of Benevento.

The first documented use of the coat of arms (shown) is a seal on a document dated January 31, 1488. It supports the claim that the coat of arms of Naples comes from that of the Aragonese kings (the famous bars of Aragon); the colors of the two symbols are the same, and it was adopted after Alfonso V of Aragon conquered the kingdom of Naples in 1442. The problem with that one is that the symbol also shows up on some documents before that event took place.

All you scan say is that colors and symbols of royalty accrue over centuries 
—gold, red, the horse, the fleur-de-lis, whatever. They then show up, perhaps not randomly but at least haphazardly, in our present desire to have a cohesive picture of the past. You can even make a symbol of the past stand for a modern feature. For example, red and gold represented Angevin resistance to the Holy Roman Empire centuries ago; fine, but you might also say it shows the valor of Neapolitans in resisting German presence in Naples in WWII. You can —and they have done this— superimpose other symbols on the coat of arms, such as a Fascist symbol and then eliminate them when times change.

In 2005, the city launched a competition for ideas to innovate the graphic identity of the city while keeping the coat of arms unaltered. They darkened a color and changed a font. If you had a collection of all of the coats-of-arms used for Naples in the last 500 years, that would be instructive and you could have some fun and learn a lot of history. Would it be compact and cohesive? No. As I say, maybe no one really pays much attention to these things anymore. That includes me.

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