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The arms of Sardinia are:  Argent, a cross Gules between four moor’s heads Sable blindfolded with white scarfs.


In the 7th century four territorially and politically different jurisdictions, the so-called giudicati  arose on the island namely: Cagliari, Arborea, Torres and Gallura. These giudecati had become hereditary principalities in the 13th century. From the beginning of the 8th century the island was ravaged by the arabs. In the year 1015 Sardinia was captured by the moor Mujahid al-‘Amiri but he was defeated the next year by the united fleets of Pisa and Genoa. In 1017 pope Benedict VIII enfeoffed Pisa with the island cum privilegio et vexillo S. Petri, this vexillum being white with a red cross. [1]

Notwithstanding the papal enfeoffment the island became a bone of content of Genoa, Pisa and sometimes Marseille. For a short time it was tried to establish a central government. To achieve this Barisone II, giudecato of Arborea was made king of Sardinia in 1165. He was succeeded the same year by Welf VI, from 1152 imperial vicar in Tuscany and duke of Spoleto. Welf VI remained a titulary prince of Sardinia until his death in 1191, apparently without having achieved anything. His arms, a lion rampant,  are on the familiy-vault of the Guelfs in Steingaden. [2]


Heraldic stone from the family-vault of the Guelphs in Steingaden (Bavaria)

Bavarian, about 1200. Sandstone, 107Î71 cm.

München, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (MA 121).

The arms of Welf VI called Le Roi de sartagne, are probably in the 13th century Wijnbergen Roll: Gules, a lion rampant double queued, Or.


Supposed arms of Welf VI

in Wijnbergen Roll [3]



Coin of Welf VI,

Struck in Schongau (Bavaria). Obv.: Lion. Rev.: Bust. [4]


Arms and a pennon with what should be a lion was also on his seal on which he called himself Princeps Sardiniae:


Equestrian seal of Welf VI,


Stiftsarchiv St. Gallen (CH)


Equestrian Seal of Welf VI



Enzio Hohenstaufen




            *1215/’16-† 1272

 ¥ Adelasia de Torres 1238

King of Sardinia 1238-1272

Imperial Vicar in Italy 1239-1248


In 1238 two giudicati, Torres and Gallura came in the possession of Enzio, a bastard of emperor Frederick II, by his marriage with their heiress Adelasia de Torres. He proclaimed himself king of Sardinia but his reign lasted only very short. In 1248 he was taken prisoner by the Bolognese and he died in 1272 without having set foot on the island again.

There is a  quote by Mattheus Parisiensis about the arms of Enzio:


1249: Capture of Enzio, king of Sardinia by the Bolognese. Capitur Ensius, filius Fretherici a Bononiensibus. [6]


Arms of Enzio, King of Sardinia

Arms: Per pale, Or and Vert, a two-headed eagle Sable over all.


In the power vacuum caused by te capture of Enzio Sardinia fell back to the papal state. This was affirmed by roman king Rudolf repeatedly in 1275, 1278 and 1279. Attempts of the Holy See after the extiction of the Hohenstaufen to find a new king failed.  In 1269 Philip, a son of Charles of Anjou was nominated at the age of 13 but he married Isabella de Villehardouin in 1271 to come into the possession of Achaia. He died however in 1277, even before he had been able to take one of the territories intended for him into possession.

After the capture of Enzio Genoa and Pisa resumed their contest for the island. In 1250 Pisa gained the supremacy and the city succeeded in maintaining itself on the island for the next almost thirty five years. Apparently the vexillo S. Petri, as granted for the island in 1017, was restored at the occasion. It is documented by Wijnbergen Roll, now with the legend le Roi de sardeigne (instead of Sartagne) and is: Argent, a cross Gules. [7]



As a result of the Battle of Meliora in 1284 between the Genoese and the Pisans, the island was divided into two spheres of influence. Cagliari and Gallura came to Pisa and the rest of the island to Genoa. As the arms of Genoa were (later) also a red cross on a white field this had no consequences for the arms used on the island.

In 1297 pope Boniface VIII decided to enfeoff king James II of Aragon with Sardinia. During his reign documents were sealed with the arms of the kingdom of Aragon which consisted of arms Argent, a cross gules between four moor’s heads proper. This coat of arms appeared on a seal of Pedro III of 1281 and consequently dates of 16 years before the time that there could have been any exertion of Aragon to involve with Sardinian affairs. [8] The moor’s heads are for a long time very negroid with curly hair and bearded. The legend about these arms was recorded during the reign of Alphonso V (1416-’58) and the arms were supposed to be those of Pedro I (1094-1104) who should have adopted it after the Battle of Alcoraz (1196) when he had defeated four  moorish  (Almoravid) kings. [9] This legend however belongs to the aragonese history and not to the sardinian. The arms appeared on aragonese seals until the end of the 15th century and it has to be established that in the first two hundred years of aragonese rule in Sardinia there was no emblem specific for Sardinia, be it probably the red cross on white of the Ecclesia. Instead the arms of Aragon or of the kings of Aragon (Or, three pales Gules) were used on the island. The title of the king of Sardinia only occurs on the seal of 1308 and is a part of the royal title of VALNC SARDIN ET CORSICA AC COMITIS BARCM (Valencia, Sardina, Corsica and count of Barcelona). The oldest seal of the chancellery in the State Archives of Cagliari dates from 1326, shortly after James II had succeeded to drive out the Genoese. The theory that the four moor’s heads are intended to represent the four giudicati on the island for that reason cannot be sound.


A coat of arms for the Kimg of Sardinia was still given as Argent a cross Gules in the beginning of the 16th century. It was probably documented by the Wijnbergen roll or a copy of it.


Arms of the King of Sardinia

In the Livro do Armeiro Mor, fol. XXIII. Ca. 1509

 Instituto de Arquivos Nacionais/Torre do Tombo, Lisboa


In about 1500 a new coat of arms was created for Aragon, the former curls of the moor’s heads replaced by crowns. A coat of arms with the moor’s heads having scarves which was created for Aragon at the end of the 15th century, at the same time became the arms for Sardinia. [10]

This certainly has to do with the partition of the aragonese possessions between Ferdinand II the Catholic and Frederick II of Sicily-Naples (r. 1496-1501) at the Treaty of Granada (1500). Indeed, Frederick II was dislodged in 1501 already by Louis XII of France and Ferdinand II was able to recapture the island in 1504. As a result the aragonese territories in Italy came again to the aragonese crown and later became a part of Spain, restoring the original situation. Nevertheless the new coat of arms of Sardinia was maintained. The arms of Aragon and Sardina are almost identical, the moor’s heads of the arms of Aragon being crowned and those of the arms of Sardina having a scarf around their heads. The crowns occur for the frst time on a seal of king Ferdinand II, probably from the beginning of the 16th century or even from 1500. The arms with the scarfs of Sardinia occurs for the frist time on Maximilian’s Triumphal Arch of 1515-’17 by Albrecht Dürer. The reason why the arms are so similar should be sought in the fact that until 1500 documents were sealed in Sardinia with the arms of Aragon. This explains also why the arms of Aragon with the moor’s heads are so often thought to be the arms of Sardinia. To this misunderstanding the Armorial de Gelre [11] in which the banner of Aragon is represented with the legend ‘Cardaengē’ has certainly contributed. [12]


Afterwards the arms with the scarved moor’s heads for Sardinia became firmly established.



Arms of Sardinia

As on Maximilians’ Triumphal Arch.


Arms of Sardinia

by Virgil Solis,1555

Coat of arms and banner of Sardinia

At the funeral of Charles V  [13]


After the abdication of Charles V in 1555 Sardinia came, as a part of the Spanish heritage, to the Spanish Habsburgs. From king Philip II a coat of arms is known for use in Sardinia. It is on the Ducal Palace in Sassari and it is:


Arms of Philip II, Ducal Palace, Sassari


Arms: Per fess, the chief per pale, the first quarterly of Castile and Leon, the second per pale of Aragon and Sicily-Trinacria, enté en point of Granada and on an escutcheon Portugal.The base quarterly of Austria, Burgundy modern, Burgundy ancient and Brabant with and escutcheon per pale of Flanders and Tirol. And in sinister fess point Sardinia.

Crown: A royal crown

Order: The collar of the Order of the Fleece


Æ Such an arrangement is rare but not unique. Some other examples are known from Friesland and Overijssel in the Netherlands.



Arms of Sardinia

by Martin Schrot, 1582


Arms of Sardinia

As on: Capitols de Cort del Stament Militar de Sardenya, (1572) 1590

Arms of Sardinia, about 1675


After the Spanish War of Succession Sardinia was taken from the Spanish possessions and allotted to Charles VI of Austria. By Treaty of The Hague of 1718 Charles VI exchanged Sardinia for Sicily with Victor Amadeus II of Savoie.

Contrary to Charles VI, Victor Amadeus valued Sardinia very much because it gave him a royal title of a territory of which he was a de facto sovereign. From 1718 the title “King of Sardinia” occupies the first place in his title and accordingly the arms of Sardinia were added to his coat of arms as a duke of Savoie.


Royal achievement of Charles Emanuel III, king of Sardinia [14]


The achievement is:

Arms: Quarterly: 1. ¼: Jeruzalem, Lusignan, Armenia and Cyprus. 2. 1|2: Westfalen and Saxony enté en point of Engern; 3.1|2 Chablais and Aosta; 4. ¼: Piemonte, Montferrat, Genève and Saluzzo. Enté en point of Nizza. In chief point: Sardinia. Escutcheon: Argent, a crowned eagle Sable on his breat Savoie

Crown: A royal crown

Supporters: Two lions guardant

Orders: SS Anunziata, Croce Mauriziana.


Achievement of Charles Emanuel III of Sardinia.

On a silver seal-box, 20.06.1750  [15]


A crowned mantle, lined Gules, strewn with square crosses Argent added, the lions reguardant.


In 1815 a smaller version of the achievement occurs. This was:


Smaller Royal Achievement of Sardinia 1815-‘61.


Arms: Quarterly: 1 Sardinia; 2. Impaled of Lusignan and Jeruzalem; 3. Genoa; 4. Piemonte. Escutcehon: Or, a crowned eagle Sable, on his breast: Savoie.

Crown: A royal Crown.

Orders: Of the Holy Annunciation; of SS. Maurice and Lazarus; Military Order of Italy.

Supporters: Two lions couchant

Garland: Branches of oak and olive.


In 1773 at the death of Charles Emanuel III an augmented and embellished coat of arms of Sardinia occurred. This consisted of the crowned arms of Sardinia with an escutcheon of Savoie, supported by two lions.


Achievement of Sardinia

As on the frontispiece of the Pharmacopea Sardoa, 1773.


Such an achievement, dated 1825 and embellished with trophies is still on the Royal Arsenal in Cagliari:


Photo: Flickr

Achievement of the Arrmy of Sardinia, 1825


After the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in March 1861 all these arms and achievements became obsolete.

However, the achievement as of 1773 became the achievement of the Brigata Sassari after WWI.


In 1910 it was attempted to restore the ancient arms for the territory. The proposal shows the well-known arms but the moor’s heads are blindfolded now. This goes back to a legend according to which four moors were captured by the Sardinians in a battle and were blindfolded before being decapitated. [16]


In February 1948 Sardinia became an autonomous region of Italy and by decree of 5 July 1952 a coat of arms and a banner were adopted for it. The decree reads:


D.P.R. 5 iuglio 1952 (1) - concessione alla Regione autonoma della Sardegna di uno Stemma e di un Gonfalone.


      Articulo unico  Sono concessi alla Regione autonoma della Sardeg­na uno stemma ed un gonfalone descritti come in appresso.


      Stemma: d'argento alla croce di rosso accantonata da quattro teste di moro bendate.


      Gonfalone: drappo di colore bianco riccamente ornato di ricami d'oro e caricato dello stemma sopra descritto con la iscrizione centrata in oro: «Regione autonoma della Sardegna». Le parti di metallo e i cordoni saranno dorati. L'asta verticale sarà ricoperta di velluto dai colori rosso e azzurro con bullete dorate poste a spirale. Nella freccia sarà rappresentato lo stemma dell'Ente e sul gambo inciso il nome. Cravatta e nastri tricolorati dai colori nazionali frangiati d'oro.


That is:

Arms: Argent a cross Gules between four moor’s heads blindfolded [proper].


Æ See illustration in the head of this essay.



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© Hubert de Vries 2014-02-04. Updated 2014-12-26; 2015-01-15




[1] Galbreath, D.L.: Papal Heraldry. London 1972, p. 1.

[2] Other lions from the time of Welf VI on a fresco in the S. Maria Infraportas in Foligno (Spoleto)

[3] Adam-Even, Paul & Léon Jéquier: Un Armorial français du XIIIe siècle, l'armorial Wijnbergen. In: Archives Heraldiques Suisses. 1951 pp. 49-62, pp. 101-110, 1952 pp. 28-36, 64-68, 103-111, 1953 pp. 55-77. N° 1312.

[4] Die Zeit der Staufer. Stuttgart, 1977.   205.16 fig. 18. The lion passant like the lions in Foligno. See note 2.

[5] From: Adler, S.: Herzog Welf VI und sein sohn. Hannover, 1881. Front cover.

[6] Mattheus Parisiensis Hist. Ang. B.L. Ms Roy 14 C VII fol 145v:. L.: Capitur Ensius, filius Fretherici a Bononiensibus. The arms earlier ascribed to King Henry VII: Mattheus Parisiensis CM, Cambridge Corpus Christi College Ms. 16,  fol. 155v: Death of several nobles, 1242.: Henrici filii imperatoris.

[7] Adam-Even op.cit. Wijnbergen n° 1285.

[8] Sagarra, Ferran de: Sigillografía Catalana. Inventari, descripcío i estudi dels segells de Catalunya. Barcelona, 1915. 1281 Heraldic seal: A corss between four moors’heads.. L.: + ser­pens dapna tulit crus tamen hec repulit. (The serpent has caused the curse, the cross has repelled it) 

[9]  Vicente-Cascante, I.: Heraldica General y Fuentes de las Armas de España. Barcelona, 1956, pp. 420-421.

[10]  Guadalberto Fabricio de Vagad in his “Cronica de Aragon”. (Zaragoza, 1499). 

[11]  Armorial du Heraut Gelre. K.B. Brussel ms. 15652.56, fol. 62 v. Banner: Argent, a cross Gules between four moors’ heads.Sable.

[12] Also in recent publications: Arienzo, Luisa d': Lo Scudo dei Quattro Mori. In: Carbonell, Jordi & Francesco Manconi eds.: I Catalani in Sardegna. Consiglio Regionale della Sardegna/ Generali­tat de Catalunya, 1984, pp. 199-206. Fois, Barbara: Lo Stemma dei Quattro Mori. Breve Storia dell'emblema dei Sardi. Carlo Delfino editore. Sassari, 1992.

[13] From: Chifletius, Johan: La magnifiqve et svmptvevse pompe fvnebre avs obseqves et fvnerailles dv tresgrand, et tres victorievs emperevr charles cinqvie’me, celebrées en la ville de brvxelles le xxiv. iovr dv mois de decembre m.d.lviii. par philippe roy catholique d’espaigne son fils. Chistophle Plantin m.d.l.ix. (http://culture.besancon.fr./ark:/48565/a0112900901274hUCxd/1/1)

[14] Source unknown.

[15] Secret Archives of the Vatican, A.A.Arm. I-XVIII, 609.

[16] Bascapé, Giacomo & Marcello del Piazzo: Insege e Simboli. Araldica Pubblica e privata medievale e moderna. Min. per beni culturale e ambientali. Roma, 1983. P. 280.

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