Country : Belgium
The arms date from medieval times and were first officially granted in 1810 by Napoléon. In 1818 the arms were changed and granted by the Dutch government. In 1881 the current arms were granted, which were confirmed in 1985.
The town probably got city rights at the end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th century. The oldest seal of the city dates from 1239 and shows a castle. On top of the castle some flags bearing a hand can be seen. The second great-seal of the city also shows the hands on flags or banners. The hands are seen as a canting symbol (Ant or hand), the castle obviously represents the city.
The oldest known use of arms of the city dates from 1459 and these are seen cast in one of the bells of the cathedral. It shows again a castle, but the hands are now reduced to two, one on each side of the castle, and are not placed on flags anymore. The combination of castle and two hands has not changed ever since, however, the position of the hands has changed from above, besides and from the castle. The colours are also known since 1459 and have not changed since, with the exception of some different colour compositions in (foreign) rolls of arms. See images below.
In the 16th century the supporters and other attributes appear. In the 16th century the city also used the motto 'Fortunata Antverpia', which disappeared at the end of the century again. On a medal/token from 1584 the arms appear behind an eagle as supporter (see below). This eagle has never been part of the official city arms though.
The roses appear in 1515 and they probably refer to the different courts and freedoms of the city : the high court, the civil court, the feudal court, the freedom of the castle, the citizenship of the city and free passage on the river Schelde. Other sources refer to the six virtues : patience, loyalty to the monarch, generosity towards the poor, gentleness, comfort and grace.
During many centuries the arms were shown on buildings with the Imperial eagle above the city arms, which were actually the arms of the Margraviate of Antwerpen (see the provincial arms).
The arms were changed in Napoleonic times, when the arms were augmented with a chief of cities of the first class, three bees. Also, in base a river was added to the arms. These arms were abandoned in 1813 and have hardly been used by the city.
The arms from 1810
In 1818 the historical arms were granted without the chief and river, but also without the historical supporters. The supporters were finally granted in 1881. The present arms were confirmed on March 5, 1985 after the latest municipal mergers, without any change.
The arms in a 16th century manuscript
The arms in a 17th century manuscript
The arms from 1810 on a announcement from 1813 (source)
The arms in the Continentale Verlags-Anstalt album, +/- 1910
The arms in the Wappen-Sammlung (+/- 1910)
The arms in the Koffie Hag/Café Hag albums +/- 1930
The arms in the Abadie albums
The arms on a Dutch Willem II cigar band
The arms on the city hall (source)
Literature: Vries, H. de : Wapens van de Nederlanden, Amsterdam, 1995; Viane-Awouters and Warlop. 2002
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