Coats of Arms are Key National Symbols and, Oftentimes, Works of Art

While flags are the best known national symbols, coats of arms are also crucial important symbols of national identity and in many countries rate as just as important as the flag in the people's hearts. Some of these images, however, have captured the attention of those with no connection to the nation because of their intrinsic beauty. Perhaps the top of many people's list is the arms of Thailand, a striking image a "Garuda," a mythical red bird symbolizing the Thai monarchy, with its wings spread wide. Another popular, and perhaps more familiar, design is that of the France, whose arms depict a shield with oak and laurel leaves depicting wisdom and victory. Returning to Asia, another gorgeous set of arms comes from the Bhutan, a circular image rich in Buddhist imagery, with a red background, golden dragons, a jewel and a lotus flower.

Mythological Symbols and National Coats of Arms

Other coats of arms are notable for their inclusion of fascinating myths and incredible creatures on them. For instance the arms of Mexico, dramatically depicts an eagle killing a snake on a cactus. This was a legendary event that the Aztec people believed their ancestors saw at the spot where they were to found their capital, today's Mexico City. Another symbolically rich set of arms is that of Iceland which depicts the nation's four mythical guardians - the dragon "Dreki," the dragon, "Gammur," the griffon, "Griðungur" the bull and "Bergrisi" the rock-giant - holding up the nation's flag on a shield and standing on a slab of volcanic rock. In the Caucus mountains, the nation of Georgia has a coat of arms based on the emblem of the last royal house: it depicts the legendary St. George slaying a dragon with two lions - also symbols of royalty - at his side.

Coats of Arms Can Capture National History

It is often the case that a coat of arms embodies some elements of the national history, this is especially the case with true "coats of arms" that developed from Medieval heraldry. For instance, the arms of the United Kingdom is full of royal symbolism, including the national symbols of England, Ireland and Scotland, as well as a royal crown. While not European, the Plurinational State of Bolivia's coat of arms also captures national history: the nation's indigenous spirit in the Andean condor at its top, and its European heritage in the tricolor flags on its sides, finally in the center is an alpaca (a native mammal), wheat and the silver-rich mountain of Potosí which generated much of the nation's wealth.