Magdeburg Coat of Arms
The Magdeburg Coat of Arms shows, against a silver background, a red castle structure with black mortar which is flanked by two towers, each with pitched roofs. The golden door of the castle gate is wide open and the black portcullis is raised. Between the towers, a virgin (or maiden) stands, dressed in green and holding a green wreath in her raised right hand.
The illustration of maiden (Magd) and castle (Burg) can already be found in the oldest seal of the city. When, in the middle of the 13th century, the first city council came about, the citizenship of Magdeburg began to use their own seal and they continued to use it during the entire period of the Middle Ages. The seal shows a woman with half raised arms standing above the gate of a castle with several towers. The pieces of cloth dangling from her arms and the fact that she wears her hair loose mark her as a virgin. In later illustrations of the seal the virgin holds a wreath in her raised right hand as a sign of purity.
The seal was used to formally document the legal capacity of the municipal community, and it was mentioned for the first time in 1244. This seal is affixed to a preserved deed dating back to 1438, and is also preserved in a document granting rights to the polish city of Wroclaw in 1261. The inscription reads:
+ SIGILLVM BVRGENSIUM IN MAGDHEBVRCH (= seal of the citizens of Magdeburg).
The Magdeburg Coat of Arms belongs to the so-called canting arms, quite common in German civic heraldry, where the virgin and the castle or fortification symbolise the name of the city. The design of the coat of arms changed over the centuries to suit the taste of its time. As a result, various illustrations have been handed down over time.
An essential part of the coat of arms has always been the shield which bears the seal. Since the 16th century, an additional coat of arms has been used where the shield is divided into four quarters. Here, the heraldic figure of the virgin is displayed in the first and fourth quarter whereas in the second and third quarter a five-petal rose is pictured. The so-called “large coat of arms” can still be admired above the entrance of the New Town Hall (erected at the beginning of the 20th century).
Today, a city’s coat of arms is used for various purposes and in a range of contexts. It adds a decorative touch to the stationary used by municipal authorities as well as to local products, flags and banners, information and advertising material, city maps, media, means of transport etc. In fact, a city’s coat of arms represents the municipal community. It is a symbol, serving as a distinctive mark which is easy to recognise for citizens and foreigners alike.