Notes on German Culture

Heralds were the MC’s at Tournaments and experts in military matters, diplomacy, coats of arms and genealogy

Jörg Rugen, master of ceremonies at Jousting Tournaments

The wand held by Jörg Rugen was an important tool, used by Heralds to gain attention and make grand gestures. His tabard with the white-and-blue lozenges design, was originally the coat of arms of the Counts of Bogen, adopted in 1247 by the House of Wittelsbach, rulers of Bavaria for 738 years.

At the time of this image in the late 1400s, the status of Heralds had reached the apex of their medieval careers. Heralds were respected as experts in military matters, diplomacy, coats of arms and genealogy…as well as being tournament and festival managers. Very impressive.

Originally a Herald was a sort of master of ceremonies for Jousting Tournaments, which required Heralds to act as advertisers, cheerleaders, and judges. These Tournaments were very important events that included the highest levels of society as participants… Emperors, Kings, Dukes and noblemen. Heralds who were the MC’s and managers of these popular events had the power to influence the public and naturally needed a great deal of diplomatic skill to survive such highly charged public events.

For these reasons, the duties of some Heralds evolved into bearing important messages or proclamations from monarchs or noblemen. In this sense they were the predecessors of our modern Ambassadors. However, as the age of tournaments declined and the military importance of heraldry decreased, most Heralds were left with the duties of assigning coats of arms to the newly ennobled and tracking the descendents of the old families. For example, Jörg Rugen wrote a chronicle of the rulers of Bavaria, from time immemorial to circa 1500, illustrated with the arms of the rulers and their wives.

The Duchy of Bavaria, which dates back to the year 555, was a member state of the Holy Roman Empire from 800 to 1806. After the dissolution of the Empire in 1806, Bavaria became a Kingdom, existing as such until 1918, when Bavaria became a republic within the confines of the German Reich. 

Although modern Bavaria includes parts of the historical regions of Franconia, Upper Palatinate and Swabia, the white-and-blue pattern that was worn by Jörg Rugen, called the heart shield, is still being used today to symbolize Bavaria as a whole.

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