Edinburgh's Coat of Arms
As with many cities of its age and status, Edinburgh has a coat of arms which can be seen in a variety of forms and depictions around the town. The image dates formally from 1732, although it was probably in use a lot earlier than that.
Here's what the coat of arms looks like on an ancient carving now to be found in the courtyard of the Museum of Edinburgh, on the Canongate:
The figure to the left of the central structure (the dexter supporter, in armorial terminology) is a woman thought to be a reference to Edinburgh Castle's ancient nickname of 'the Castle of the Maidens' - perhaps referring to its defence role where high-status women and royal family members would retreat for protection in the time of war.
On the right hand side (the sinister supporter) is a doe, a female deer, who is the emblem of the city's patron saint, St Giles. In mythology Giles was a hermit who kept only the company of animals, in particular this deer. One day a hunting party had the doe in its sights, but succeeded only in wounding Giles, who is often represented with an arrow in his side.
The castle structure in the centre features three towers, a portcullis gate, and usually has banners flying from its turrets - it represents, of course, Edinburgh Castle which still dominates the city today.
The text on the banner conveys the city's Latin motto: Nisi Dominus Frustra, meaning 'Except the Lord in vain'. It's a shortened version of a line from Psalm 127: "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain".
And the crest, missing from the stone carving shown above, is a ship's anchor, representing the traditional role of Edinburgh's Lord Provost (or mayor), who was Admiral of the Firth of Forth.
Look out for various surviving versions of the city's coat of arms as you explore Edinburgh - it can be found on buildings all around the city.
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