For each herb [clan shield, coat of arms] the blazon or verbal description of the arms is first given in authentic heraldic style, followed by a translation from the Polish description by Niesiecki. The right and left sides of a shield are identified from the standpoint of the bearer, i. e., the one holding the shield. His right would be your left and vice versa. The tinctures (colors) in heraldry are as follows: azure = blue, gules = red; sable = black; or = gold, argent = silver; vert = green. In heraldry all charges (pictures) on a shield are assumed to be facing dexter (right side) unless otherwise specified. In Polish heraldry all animals or birds are assumed to be in their natural coloring unless otherwise specified.
Blazon: the shield is gules; the charge is Abdank surmounted of a cross, all argent. For a crest the charge of the arms.
The heraldic device of Abdank, in white, should be upon a red shield; however, at the top of the device in the center is a golden cross, and on the helmeted crown is the same white Abdank device as on the shield. This is how it was described by Paprocki in his work O herbach [On clan shields], page 170; by Okolski, volume 3, page 147; and by Bielski, page 277.
All authors agree that this coat of arms was acquired in Poland, and that the cross was added to the ancestral arms of a knight named Syrokomla. He had defeated a pagan Prussian who had been challenging the Polish knights to single combat and cursing the name of Christianity. The cross was added to his arms because he had defended the honor of God crucified.
Some say that this is supposed to have taken place circa 1330, during the reign of King Wladyslaw Lokietek; but that cannot be, since Bernard, bishop of Poznan, who died in 1175, was of Syrokomla arms, according to Treter in Vitae Episcoporum Posnan. [Lives of the Bishops of Poznan], and around that year the Prussians, being afflicted by war, had recognized Christ as God.
Lubienski in Vitae Episcoporum Plocen. [Lives of the Bishops of Płock] dates to 1391 Jakób of Kurdwanów, bishop of Płock, and states that he was of Syrokomla arms, the son of Floryan, and one must say, figuring the years, that the arms were conferred upon this Floryan. This Jakób signed his name as "of Kurdwanów," so I understand that he belonged to the Kurdwanowski Pólkozices. which is where I spoke of him. Długosz in his history under the year 1396 writes that he did not sign his name as "de Kurdwanów" but "de Korzkiew," and was a "man of rare literary gifts, having the gift of discourse. Acta Concilii Constantiensis [Records of the Council of Constance], volume 2, Concil. Edit. Colon. Mihi f. 1042 sessione praecipue 9 writes that Mikolaj, bishop of Płock, had a seat among the other mitered prelates at that council in 1415. He was elected by that synod as judge or deputy commissioner for hearing and judging all cases that were appealed to the synod. From this I conclude that either there was a Mikolaj who was bishop of Płock after Jakób, but Długosz and our other historians omitted him, or else the printer erroneously named him Mikolaj instead of Jakób. It is all the more likely that this was an error because the Acta Concilii calls him Mikolaj, bishop of Płock, and added that he was "ex natione Germanica" [from the nation of Germany], but I have heard of no Płock diocese in Germany. Of this Jakob it was said in the Acta that he had great skill with church law, which he acquired in Bologna, to the extent that he was summoned to Rome by the Pope and created Auditor Palatii Apostolici [Auditor of the Apostolic Palace].
Bearers of these Arms
Not all noble families, however, use this clan shield in the same form. The family of Andronowski displays a arrow pointed upward over the Abdank device, and under the arrowhead are two crosses in a straight line, and atop the helmet are three ostrich plumes. The Wasilewicz family also uses this form. The families of Baranowicz and Jalowski use the same form, except the crosses are placed diagonally on the arrow, forming a letter "X". I described the form used by the Chaleckis in the third volume; the Siehens also use it. The Ilgowskis belong to clan Syrokomla, and along with them the Iwanowiczes and Karnickis, whose arms you will find in Volume IV, page 402. The Holubs have an arrow on the Abdank device, placed vertically, but only half of the arrow is visible, with no arrowhead, on the left side of the shield; it has a crest of three ostrich plumes. The Losowicz shield has one corner of the Abdank device, broken and pointing downward; it has a similar crest with three ostrich plumes. The Wojnilowiczes have only a single arrow, with no cross, and bear three ostrich feathers in the helmet, instead of a cross. The Chominicz and Starosielski families display a single cross on the arrow and a crest of three ostrich plumes. The Sopocko and Wieliczka families have an arrow instead of a cross, with a cross through it but diagonally, with the top at the right and the bottom at the left. The Nieszyjka family places an arrow pointed upward and piercing a heart, above the Abdank device; on the crest are three ostrich plumes. See the Soltans' variation of the arms in its proper place.
Copyright © 2002 Leonard J. Suligowski. Used by permission. This article originally appeared in White Eagle (Spring/Summer 2002), Journal of the Polish Nobility Association Foundation.