Heraldry and the Bohnstedt Coats-of-Arms;
German Westfalen Bohnstedt Arms

A contemporary representation of the Westfalen German Bohnstedt Coat-of-Arms

As far as we have been able to determine, the oldest registered coat-of-arms in Germany from the Bohnstedt family were the arms used by David Sigismund Bohnstedt. David Sigismund Bohnstedt was appointed to be Pastor of the Essen congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran church. Some of the symbols in his arms are religious in nature, such as the chalice (goblet), and the "star flowers".

A contemporary representation of the Westfalen German Bohnstedt Coat-of-Arms

It is possible that these arms originated with David's father, Sigismund Bohnstedt. Sigismund was also a Lutheran preacher and was at one time a church official in Halberstadt. In fact this seems to have been a family of churchmen; another of Sigismund's sons, Georg Christian Bohnstedt, was a Lutheran pastor in Langerfeld.

We currently know of three of sources for these coats-of-arms.  The first was from a book called Großes Wappen Bilder Lexikon der bürgerlichen Geschlechter Deutschlands, Österreichs und der Schweiz (Comprehensive Coat-of-Arms Picture Lexicon of the Civil Class in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  This lexicon is compilation of coats-of-arms from German-speaking countries, and is a huge book of 1147 pages.  There is only one entry for "Bohnstedt", and is on page 757.  This depicts a coat-of-arms with a chalice with three "star flowers" on the shield, and wings on the helmet.

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1-2.  Großes Wappen Bilder Lexikon der bürgerlichen Geschlechter Deutschlands, Österreichs und der Schweiz (Comprehensive Coat-of-Arms Picture Lexicon of [?] from Germany, Austria and Switzerland). There is only one entry for Bohnstedt, which appears on page 757.
3.  The Bohnstedt Coat-of-Arms from "Wappen-Bilder".

A work found more recently is J.Siebmacher's grosses und allgemeines Wappenbuch, edited by Gustav Seyler.  The edition which lists "Bohnstedt" was published in 1888.  Instead of a lexicon of pictures of coats-of-arms, the "Wappenbuch" employs heraldic language to describe various coats-of-arms.  The entry for "Bohnstedt" says, in German:

im Schilde eine Vase mit drei Sternblumen; auf dem bewulsteten Helm ein off. Flug..
So am Porträt des David Sigismund Bohnstedt, 1710 zu Halberstadt, 1714 u. 1725 zu Essen Pastors

Approximately translated, this says:

in (or on) the shield, a vase with three star flowers; on the braided helmet [?], wings ..
So [it is on] the portrait of David Sigismund Bohnstedt, pastor from 1710 in Halberstadt, and from 1714 and 1725 in Essen

As you can clearly see this is a description of a coat-of-arms found on the bottom of a portrait of David Sigismund Bohnstedt.  And since the elements on both the shield and helmet found in both coats-of-arms match, they are both associated with David Sigismund Bohnstedt, and perhaps his father.

1-2.  J.Siebmacher's grosses und allgemeines Wappenbuch, edited by Gustav Seyler.  This edition was published in 1888.

The third source is the portrait of David S. Bohnstedt, on which the coat-of-arms appears underneath the picture of David.  There are some superficial differences between the two; the helmets are of two different styles, and in the version shown on the portrait, the mantle is "shredded", whereas the version shown in the heraldic books shows the mantle intact. However, these differences are only stylistic differences employed by two different artists. What matters is the content; the nature of the devices and designs on the shield, and the crest. These are absolutely the same Coat-of-Arms.

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1. Portrait of Pastor David Sigismund Bohnstedt, 1685-1756
2 Close-up of small coat-of-arms at below Pastor Bohnstedt's portrait.

This Coat-of-Arms does not seem to bear any relationship to those arms used by the Prussian or Swedish Bohnstedt lines. It appears that they were designed specifically for David, or for his father Sigismund Bohnstedt. The symbols on the shield are religious; the chalice is an obvious reference to the "cup of Christ", the three flowers emerging from the chalice symbolize the trinity, and eagles wings are often associated with St. John the Evangelist.

It is the shield with the chalice and flowers which serve as the inspiration for the "logo" in the upper left corner of the pages in this work.

The records which describe these arms say that the place of origin is Halberstadt. It is therefore conceivable that the arms were originally granted to or adopted by Sigismund Bohnstedt and later used by his son, David Sigismund Bohnstedt. This, however, is only a possibility and is not confirmed. Of all three known Bohnstedt coats-of-arms, the symbols in the shield and crest in this coat-of-arms were, I suspect, the most carefully arranged by the heraldic artist in terms of heraldic rules and symbolism.



The Shield

A Dictionary of Symbols by Cirlot, 1971, says of the Goblet or Chalice; As a Goblet:

In Romanesque times, and especially when, as a chalice, it was furnished with a lid, it was a symbol of the human heart. In a broader sense it is, like the coffer and the chest, a notable symbol of containing

As a Chalice in particular:

The chalice of Christian liturgy is the transcendental form of the cup. Related to the Grail [the cup that Christ used at the Last Supper, and, according to Christian myth, the cup that caught his blood at the crucifixion], it frequently takes the form of two halves of a sphere placed back to back. In this the lower part of the sphere becomes a receptacle open to the spiritual forces, while the upper part closes over the earth, which it duplicates symbolically

Flowers: The Dictionary of Symbols had little to say about flowers which might have some bearing on these arms except for this:

By its very nature it is symbolic of transitoriness, of Spring and of beauty

Pagan or pre-Christian ideas of fertility and birth in springtime quickly became absorbed by Christian culture and blended with the idea of re-birth and new life found in the Easter holiday. The flowers in the shield were probably used by the heraldic artist in this particular sense: new life emerging from the chalice, or cup of Christ.

Numbers were also considered symbolic by the ancients. The number three had powerful symbolism in mystical belief, and there were many interpretations. Since the other symbols displayed in this Coat-of-Arms were Christian in nature, the number three in this case is probably representative of the Holy Trinity; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.


The Crest

It is generally believed that the wings on the helmet are eagle's wings, as this is typical of German coats-of-arms. In this case they may also have an added religious symbolism. According to Cirlot's The Dictionary of Symbols;


In the more general sense, wings symbolize spirituality, imagination, thought. In Christian symbolism it is said that wings are simply the light of the sun of justice, which always illuminates the mind of the righteous. Since wings also signify mobility, this meaning combines with that of enlightenment to express the possibility of 'progress in enlightenment' or spiritual evolution


A symbol of height, of the spirit as the sun, and of the spiritual principle in general. It is further characterized by its daring flight, its speed, its close association with thunder and fire. It signifies, therefore, the 'rhythm' of heroic nobility. In Christianity the eagle plays the role of a messenger from heaven. Theodoret compared the eagle to the spirit of prophecy; in general, it (the eagle's flight because of it's swiftness) has also been identified with a prayer rising to the lord, and grace descending upon mortal man. According to St. Jerome, the eagle is the emblem of the Ascension and of prayer

The eagle is also a traditional symbol of St. John the Evangelist. In some Protestant Lutheran churches the lectern is fashioned in the shape of an eagle.

Eagles wings are also frequently seen in German arms. The Eagle as a national symbol of Germany and some other European countries can be traced to the Holy Roman Empire of Europe beginning with Charlemagne, and even earlier to the old Roman Empire.


The Colors and Metals

Or (gold or yellow): Heroic, valiant, dynamic
Azure (blue): Loyalty, devotion, truth, religious feeling
Vert (green): Fertile, fresh, adaptable (found in the leaves of the flowers)
Argent (Silver or white): Passive, reflective, magical (found in the flowers themselves)

In the case of these particular arms the colors were never verified. It was speculated by a heraldic research organization that the primary color was most likely blue and the primary metal most likely gold. This conclusion was reached through a general experience with heraldic colors; certain colors and metals seem, in most cases, to have been used as they most logically represented the nature of the symbols and charges. In this case, gold seems most likely for the chalice, and it then follows that the wings might also be gold because they are a "A symbol of height, of the spirit as the sun...", therefore gold would naturally correspond to the sun. As for the primary color, this can be reached through a process of elimination; Purple and Black were reserved for royalty (purple) and church clergy (black), which in this case refers to clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. Green is already used in the stems and leaves of the flowers, therefore using green on the shield is extremely unlikely.  Red was symbolic of  passion, activeness, and fortitude, and, since red is associated with Mars, the god of war, red can also be seen as representing aggressiveness, courage and martial prowess.  Although it is possible that the primary color in these arms was red, it is more likely that the primary color was blue which symbolized loyalty, devotion ("true blue"), truth and religious feeling.


Book References
- Cirlot, J.E. A Dictionary of Symbols. 1971 (English translation)
- Seyler, Gustav A. J. Siebmacher's grosses und allgemeines Wappenbuch: Volume 5, Issues 3-5. von Bauer und Raspe. Nürnberg (Nuremberg), Germany. 1888 (includes a description, in heraldic terminology, of the coat-of-arms used by Pastor David S. Bohnstedt)
- Neubecker, Ottfried. Großes Wappen Bilder Lexikon der bürgerlichen Geschlechter Deutschlands, Österreichs und der Schweiz. Battenberg Gietl Verlag, Germany 1992, 1998, 2008. (ISBN 3866460384, 9783866460386) (includes a copy of an image of the coat-of-arms used by Pastor David S. Bohnstedt)


See Also:
1-3 /
The Bohnstedts and the Protestant Reformation
1-4 /
Pastor David Sigismund Bohnstedt
1-10 /
Heraldry and the Bohnstedt Coats-of-Arms; Swedish Bohnstedt Arms
1-19 / Heraldry and the Bohnstedt Coats-Of-Arms; Prussian Bohnstedt Arms

1-41 / Genealogy 1-5: Essen and Western Germany
5-3 / Appendix C: Heraldry and the Bohnstedt Coats-Of-Arm; Overview