The following was prepared from the classic heraldic reference Herbarz Polski (by Kasper Niesiecki, S. J., Lipsk [Leipzig] edition, 1839-1846) by Leonard J. Suligowski, 218A North Henry, Brooklyn, NY 11222-3608. For each coat of arms the blazon or verbal description of the arms below is first given in the authentic heraldic style, followed by a translation from the Polish description by Niesiecki. The right and left sides ofa 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.
Arms: Gules, a Pelican in her piety, argent. For a crest, three Ostrich plumes proper. Upon a red shield, a pelican in silver vulning [wounding itself to feed its young with its own blood]. feeding three of its young.
(See Okolski, vol.2, page 418 and Paprocki O herbach [On Coats of Arms] page 673).
The original bearer of this shield stood by his commander with great courage and almost at the cost of his life, on the model of the pelican, which, they say, will lay down its life for its fledglings. Aldrovandus and Rev. Cnapius, however, say that this is a myth about pelicans. Others understand that there are two kinds of pelicans: one that lives on water and feeds on fish, and one that lives on land and feeds on snakes and other poisonous reptiles. On this see: Szentivanus, In Curious. Miscel. dec. 2 p. 1. dissert. 10 folio 10.
In France the families of the Pilareniorum Conusiorum and Collegium Corporis Christi pride themselves on this coat of arms. Theatrum Urbium, book 6, page 51 attributes to the city of Łowicz a coat of arms with two pelicans up against each other with wings spread, piercing their breasts for their young, against a red shield, but the white pelicans and their young are white on a green hill.*
From his youth John of the Dominican Order, Archbishop of Uppsala, Sweden, was trained for the yoke of God's laws. When St. Jacek [Hyacinth] came to Poland, John was carried away by a desire for a stricter life, and in Kraków accepted the Habit of the Dominicans from St. Jacek's hands. In that habit John displayed with such uncommon virtue in his behavior that in 1233 St. Jacek sent him to Sweden to harvest the souls of the people around him. John was received gratefully by everyone there and did a great service to heaven among the people, expanding the Order. He asked Jarler, Archbishop of Uppsala, for permission to found a Dominican monastery in Sigtuna, in which many virtuous people left worldly ways to devote their lives to the service of God. Jan was an example to them and motivated them toward perfection. When word of his virtue spread, he was elevated to the position of Bishop of Albo [Abo?], and then to Archbishop of Uppsala. He was a man not only of deep learning and recommended by his monastic life; he was also a caring shepherd for his flock, valiant in promoting the glory of God and untiring in attending to the Lord's vineyard. In 1291, he traveled to France, wishing to go to Anagni and ask Pope Nicholas IV for an archbishop's pallius. A saintly death befell the Archbishop there on September 8th. His body was brought from France to Sweden and laid out with reverence at the Sigtuna monastery, accompanied by miracles which God worked due to his merits. Among those who wrote of him were: Joannes Vastovius in Vite Aquilonia, Pruszcz in Fortress,the Dominican Chronicles. Joan Mag. book 18; and Historia Got. c. 18 Baron. Vol 12, page 362.
*Translator's Note—It must be noted here that in the Polish description of this shield, Niesiecki does not indicate any coloring, only what it displays. Further on in this description, it is indicated that families in France use this coat of arms, along with the Polish city's civic arms for the city of Łowicz. Yet the description of this civic shield differs with what was found displayed in two different versions of published Polish civic city shields. The 1960 edition of M. Gumowski's Herbarz Miast Polski [Coats of Arms of the Cities of Poland] shows the two white Pelicans, not facing each other, but back to back, with three conjoined flowers on one stem between them and no baby fledglings shown. The shield is colored Azure. In the 1994 edition of A. Plewako and J. Wanag's Herbarz Miast Polskich [Armorial of Polish Towns] we find yet another version: the two white pelicans are again back to back with a single stemmed flower between them, feeding their three fledglings while standing on a green field. The shield in this version is also blue.
I have found three other sources where the Pelikan shield coloring is displayed as Gules (red): in S. Gorzyński/ J. Kochonowski's Herby Szlachty Polskiej [Shields of the Polish Nobility]; S. Chrzański's Tablice Odmian Herbowych [Table of Heraldic Variations]; and finally Ostrowski's Księga Herbowa Rodów Polskich [Book of Clan Arms of Polish Families]. There are undoubtly other reference sources that show the colors of the Pelikan arms with variations; but in the above reference sources, no one has been able to determine the actual colors of the original arms, or to provide more detailed background history of this shield.
The two cited examples above describing the city of Łowicz's civic arms are to be accepted as variations of the original shield, and drawn by heraldic artists using their "artistic license" prerogatives. As translator of this shield description, I used the coloring from three different sources, all of which displayed the shield as Red.
Copyright © 2004 Leonard J. Suligowski. Used by permission. This article originally appeared in White Eagle (Fall/Winter 2004), the journal of the Polish Nobility Association Foundation.