The coat of arms of Przemyśl

Przemyśl’s coat of arms potrays a striding brown bear on a dark blue escutcheon and a gold maltese cross over it. Above the escutcheon there is a gold royal crown, and underneath it is a inscription “Libera Regia Civitas” which means an “Free Royal Borough”.

The coat of arms of Przemyśl, which is alsmot 700 years old, is one of the oldest municipal coat of arms in Poland. It was created when Przemyśl received its municipal rights and officialy became a town by the magdeburg law and raised its first municipal council in the second half of XIV century. It was necessary for Przemyśl to become an official town as any document provided by the council required a stamp with an identificational symbol, in this case the coat of arms.

The coat of arms of Przemyśl maintains the basic rules of heraldry: on a shield with a blue background, as in most of the royal cities’ coats of arms - there is a black bear, and over him a gold maltese cross.

A profile of a bear can be found in coats of arms of many cities, such as: Bern, St. Gallen (Switzerland), Berlin, Bernau, Sandersieben (Germany), Jarosław and Wołga, Nowogród Wielki (Russia). The origin of the bear in Przemyśl’s coat of arms is probably connected with the medieval bestiaries (compedium of beasts), in which it represented power and chivalry. The coats of arms of many different polish cities, such as Warsaw or Lublin, have a similiar origin (bestiaries).

According to a different tradition, the bear in Przemyśl’s coat of arms is connected with the arrival of settlers from hanseatic cities - Cologne and Liineburg which were worshipping centres of st. Ursula (lat. Ursula - a diminutive of the word ‘bear’) - who in the medival times was Przemyśl’s patron.

The least interesting reason of the bear being chosen as a symbol, was the fact that this animal could be easily met in the forests surrounding the city. This opinion influenced the story about the origin of the town and its coat of arms. The story tells of a legendary founder of the city, prince Przemysław, who during one of his hunting trips, saw a bear on the top of a hill and chose that place to raise a borough.

The cross in the coats of arms introduced a christian symbolism, and its golden color was in accord with the heraldic principle of situating metal symbols (gold colour was symbolising gold) on the background (blue).

The current shape of Przemyśl’s coat of arms was established after political system transformation, accordingly to the Act of Przemyśl’s Municipal Council from 7th June 1991.

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