Roman Provinces and Christian Archdioceses

The Collection

Achievements, Two Griffins


Back to Bestiarium



The griffin, usually a hybrid of a lion and an eagle, has its predecessor in Mesopotamia in the Imdugud which consists of a bird with a lion's head.



This fabulous being appeared at the end of the 4th millennium BC. and  it is the opposite of a griffin that has the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.

As a direct precursor of the griffin is to regard the falcon-lion consisting of the body of a lion and the head and wings of a falcon. This form occurred in Egypt. Examples are on the Queen Mereret breast jewel that was given to her by Senusret III (1878-1841BC). [1] The combination of the head and wings of a bird of prey and the body and legs of a lion is therefore now at least 4000 years old. In the oldest examples from Greece (15th century BC), the body and the legs are of a lion (or of a feline) and the head and wings of an eagle (or a bird of prey).

Also in the empires of Babylon, Susa and Assyria, many animal hybrids are found to be the source of later fabulous animals. In the example of Susa (6th century BC) from the Louvre, only the hind legs and wings originate of the eagle, the rest is a lion body and head but with ram horns. Furthermore, there is no real griffin in Mesopotamia. Later Greek and Roman griffins always have head, wings and forelegs of an eagle and the lion's body. The head of a griffin is distinguished by two pointed ears.

Herodotus (*490-†420 BC ca) is the first to mention griffins: “The story is that the one-eyed Arimaspians steal the gold of griffins who guard it; Personally, however, I refuse to believe in one-eyed people who in other respects are like other people. [2]  Plinius the Elder (23-79) (Book VII) writes about griffins: “A griffin is as usually reported , a kind of wild animal with wings that digs for gold in tunnels. Griffins guard the gold and the Arimaspi try to get it, both with remarkable greed.” [3] Medieval sources are always based on this story. [4]


Several discoveries in the 6th century BC scythian kourgans indicate that a griffin was an early military symbol. For example, there is a staff crested with a griffin standing in a square frame and this can certainly be the top of a command line. In Persepolis a sheath of a dagger was depicted with two griffins. This weapon is carried by the officer responsible for the weapons of Darius I (521-486). Torques whose ends end up in griffin heads are also offered by Lydians on a frieze in Persepolis, to King Xerxes I (485-465), which could indicate that the griffion belonged to the Hittite than to Persian culture. [5] From the Hellenistic world, the griffy also reached Rome. For example, griffins are also documented on the Kuras of Trajan and that of Septimus Severus. [6] From these pieces of equipment it could be noted that the Griffons are the symbol of the tribunals, the Tribunus Maior and the Tribunus Minor who, according to Vegetius, jointly commanded one legion. In the Byzantine armies, griffians could agree with the rank of brigadier general, either the commander of a half theme or turmoil. Both the East and the West are examples of griffians known that can only be associated with very senior officials. For example, King Harald Blauwtand of Denmark performed a griffin in the 10th century. [7]A griffin also used Bishop Suidger of Bamberg, an important client of Emperor Henry II. [8] And later Rainald van Dassel, Chancellor of Frederik Barbarossa. Griffons are mainly derived from Italy and especially from the kingdom of Sicily under the Hautevilles. There are also many fragments of silk fabrics adorned with griffins and these can only belong to high-ranking persons because of their costlyness.

Unlike the lion and the eagle, the griffin was not canonized by Augustine. His place is taken in the ecclesiastical symbolism by the bull of Persian origin. In the line of the evangelists' symbols, this is the symbol of Luke. In heraldry the bull is mainly found in Eastern Europe within the former cultural sphere of influence of the Kelts 


The 11th century “Elwanger Glosse” thinks:

Grifes: grifen, hoc genus anim. in hiperboreis montibus nascitur.” (Hyperborei = legendary people in the very north).


Wolfram von Eschenbach (ca.1170 - ca.1220)  Parc. 71 vs. 17 - 25.:


            "mit golde er gebildet was

            daz zer muntâne an Kaukasas

            ab einem velse zarten

            grîfen klâ, diez dâ bewarten

            und ez noch hiute aldâ bewarent

            von Arâbî liute varent:

            die erwerbent ez mit listen dâ

            (só tiwerz ist ninder anderswâ)

            und bringentz wider z Arâbî"


Almost at the same time of the fall of Emperor Frederick II the griffins disappears from the heraldic repertory and are exchanged by several other beasts and crosses. Simultaneously literature about griffins develops.using ancient sources.

This explains the fact that in de Sachsenspigel (1220-‘35) the griffin on the place of the second  Heerschild is missing . [9]

Heidelberger Sachsenspiegel fol 1 r:  Lehnrecht

Universitätsbibliothek, Heidelberg


In the left upper corner the shields of the Heershilde from right to left: 1. eagle; 2 bishop; 3. lion; 4. arbitrary beasts (fishes); 5. complicated divisions (barry); 6. simple divisions  (fesses)                 9b.


Griffin kiling pig

St. Peters Bestiary fol 37 v. 1232

St Petersburg Narional Library


The tale of the griffin repeats the story told by Isidor / XII.11.17/ whose version takes rise from Pliny /VII.12: X.49. 70/. Of the antique sourses Herodotus is known to be the first to mention it /III.116/.

Of the old French bestiaries only 13th century Pierre of Beauvais mentios the griffon /II.1226/. He repeats the story byIsidor, Preudo-Hugh /III.4 / and the bestiaries. Albert the Great (~1200-1280) (De Animalibus)  / XXIII. I.46/ who places the griffon in the section about birds, believed that the tale was merely an ancient legend, thus dubting the existence of the real griffin.



Conrad von Megenberg (ca. 1350):

Grifis haizt ain Greife . daz ist ain vogel, sam Jacobus spricht, der ist auzdermâzen grimme und übele und ist des leibes sô starch, daz er ainen gewâpenten man überwindet und in toett . er hât grôz scharpf klâen oder kraeul, dâ mmit er den menschen und andreu tier zereizt und die klâen sint sô grôz, daz in die läut köpf dar auz machent und trinkväzzer . der vogel ist vierfüezig und ist dem adlarn gleich an dem haupt und an den flügeln, jedoch ist er verr groezer . daz ander tail seines leibes ist ainem lewen geleich . und wont auf den pergen, die dâ haizent hyperborei. der vogel ist den menschen gar veint und den pfärden .... Rabanus spricht daz die greifen gold auzgraben vnd sich gar sêr fräuen, wenn si daz golt ansehen.” [10]


Roman Provinces and Christian Archdioceses


Provincial governors

Already in Republican times, certain provinces were reserved for ex-consuls. This tradition carried into the Empire following the division of the provinces into Imperial and Senatorial in 27 BC. Of the latter, two were specifically reserved for consulares, the proconsular provinces of Asia and Africa proconsularis. Consulares could also hold office in Imperial provinces as the Emperor's delegates (legatus Augusti pro praetore), alongside senators who had not advanced beyond praetor rank or equestrian governors, who were styled procuratores. There was no fixed system of appointment for the Imperial provinces, but those where more than one legion was garrisoned usually received a governor of consular rank.[1]

As the formal title of legatus Augusti did not distinguish between holders of consular and praetorian rank, the former occasionally attached the form consularis to their title, a practice which became commonplace in the 3rd century. As a result, the latter, simpler title began to replace the formal title, and to acquire a generic meaning of  “provincial governor”. This evolution was formalized in the reforms of Diocletian (r. 284–305) and Constantine the Great (r. 306–337). Aside from its traditional meaning, designating holders of consular rank, the term consularis now came to designate a class of provincial governors. Its holders outranked the correctores and praesides, but were still at the very bottom of the senatorial hierarchy, with the senatorial rank of vir clarissimus, while a holder of consular rank was styled vir illustris. In a handful of cases, serving consulares were raised to proconsular rank, while Valentinian I (r. 364–375) and Valens (r. 364–378) gave the consulares of Numidia the exceptional right to be preceded by six instead of five fasces-bearing lictores.


According to the Notitia Dignitatum (circa 400 AD), the following provinces were administered by a consularis:

In fifteen provinces in the Eastern Roman Empire

five in the Diocese of the East: Palaestina Prima, Phoenice, Syria Prima, Cilicia Prima and Cyprus

three in the Diocese of Asia: Pamphylia, Hellespontus and Lydia

two in the Diocese of Pontus: Galatia and Bithynia

two in the Diocese of Thrace: Europa and Thracia

three in the Diocese of Illyricum: Creta (Crete), Macedonia and Dacia Mediterranea

the Diocese of Egyptsui generis as the imperial crown domain—is explicitly said to have none


In twenty-one provinces in the Western Roman Empire

one in the Diocese of Pannonia: Pannonia Secunda

eight in the two Italian dioceses: Venetia et Histria, Aemilia, Liguria, Flaminia et Picenum Annonarium, Tuscia et Umbria, Picenum Suburbicarium, Campania and Sicilia

two in the Diocese of Africa: Byzacena and Numidia

three in the Diocese of Spain: Baetica, Lusitania, Gallaecia (Carthageniensis, Tarrconensis: no consularis)

six in the Diocese of Gaul: Viennensis, Lugdunensis Prima, Germania Prima, Germania Secunda, Belgica Prima and Belgica Secunda

two in the Diocese of Britain: Maxima Caesariensis and Valentia


The Notitia gives the following staff (officium)

For a consularis of the West:

princeps officii (detached from the praetorian prefecture), a cornicularius, two tabularii, an adiutor, a commentariensis, an ab actis, a subadiuva, and various exceptores and cohortalini, i.e. menial staff.

For the East, the officium was slightly different: princeps officii, cornicularius, commentariensis, adiutor, numerarius, ab actis, a libellis, and the usual exceptores and cohortalini.


The Synecdemus, written some time shortly before 535, lists the following provinces under consulares:

Europa, Thracia, Macedonia Prima, Creta, Epirus Nova, Dacia Mediterranea, Hellespontus, Phrygia Pacatiana and Phrygia Salutaris, Lydia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, Pamphylia, Lycia, Caria, Pontica Prima (Bithynia), Galatia, Cappadocia Prima, Helenopontus, Cilicia Prima, Cyprus, Syria Prima, Phoenice, Palaestina Prima, Arabia, and one whose name is illegible.


Following the reconquest of North Africa, in 534, Tripolitania was given a consularis, while Numidia was downgraded to a mere praeses. However, in 535 Emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565) carried out a wide-ranging administrative reorganization. The provinces of Palaestina Secunda, Syria Secunda, Theodorias, Osrhoene, Armenia Secunda, Armenia Magna, Cappadocia Secunda, Rhodope, Haemimontus and Augustamnica (this is possibly an error) were placed under consulares, while Epirus Nova, Dacia Mediterranea, Phrygia Pacatiana, Galatia, Syria Prima and Arabia were placed under governors of other ranks.


The christian archdioceses of western Europe were in many cases a continuation of the roman provinces created after the reorganisation of the Empire by Diocletian, to which the northern and eastern christian dioceses were added. These provinces had been governed by proconsuls, consuls, praeses, correctors, duces and comes. Their credentials are represented in the famous Notitia Dignitatum and consisted of a document and a book containing their mandate.

In the Notitia Dignitatum  there is no trace of any badge of rank of an animal kind. On the other hand there were apparently animal badges of military rank of which the eagle was associated with a high military rank of consul or commander of two legions. Also, a pair of griffins was worn by the commander of the first maniple of the first cohort of the first legion.

A lions’ head was worn by the hornblower of the legion. In Roman times a horn was blown by the tubicines and the cornicines who blew horns of different shape like these hornblowers on the column of Trajan (98-117). Publius Vegetius (late 4th century) devotes a short section to the function of these hornblowers in his Epitoma rei Militaris. [11] This in fact is the only proof of a badge of office of the roman Legions. On the other hand many examples of lions are found from the roman era. Vegetius however does not mention badges of rank at all.

Also several statues of Roman generals from the Roman Empire before the reorganisation of Diocetian, wear body cuirasses decorated with pairs of griffins. Later, the griffins disappear and were replaced by christograms which were painted on warrior shields and also on other media.




The chief of the clergy was the bishop, who was placed over a diocese - parochia, as it was called in the Merovingian period. Theoretically there were as many bishops as there had been civitates in Roman Gaul, but the principle was not rigorously carried out. The power of the bishop was very great. All the clergy of the diocese were under his control.


Above the bishop was the metropolitan. With a few rare exceptions, the metropolitan had his seat at the chief town of the Roman province. In the course of the fifth century, the province of Vienne was cut in two: there was one metropolitan at Vienne, another at Arles. The latter annexed to his jurisdiction the provinces of the Alpes Maritimae (Embrun) and or Narbonensis II (Aix). Thenceforward twelve metropolitan sees were distinguished: Vienne, Arles (+Embrun & Aix), Treves, Rheims, Lyon (to which was united Besancon), Rouen, Tours, Sens, Bourges, Bordeaux, Eauze and Narbonne.

The metropolitan had the right to convoke provincial councils, and presided at them. He exercised a certain oversight over the bishops of the province, and it was to him that it naturally fell to act as judge among them. His title was simply that of bishop: the title archbishop does not appear until quite the end of the Merovingian period. The authority of the metropolitans was subordinate to that of the Frankish Church as a whole, which had as its organs the national councils. These councils were always convoked by the king, who exercised much influence in their deliberations. We have the cannons of numerous councils held between 511 and 614, which give us a mass of information regarding ecclesiastical organization and discipline. These canons are not much concerned with doctrine; they recall the clergy to their duties, safeguard the property of the churches against the covetousness of laymen, and censure pagan customs such as augury and sortes sanctorum.

Memorial stone with bust between griffins, 7th. cent..

From Gondorf  (NRW). H. 84 cm

Bonn, Rheinisches Landesmuseum 35.10


The stone of Gondorf is the reason for a hypothesis that the most important religious officials (metropolitans) like the bishops of Trier, Cologne and Mayence were, had a griffin for badge of rank (or office). Proofs are from the 12th century archbishops of Aachen and Cologne. Another bishop in Germany having such a badge was the exempt bishop of Bamberg, the later Pope Clemens, who was presented by Henry II with official dress decorated with griffins (1007).


This occurred within the frame of the Ottonian-Salian Imperial Church System which gave clerics considerable secular power.




As a compensation for the support of the king the bishops received augmented secular power. The bishops had had the traditional privilege of Immunity and since Otto I (936-973) they were given Regalia and countal rights in their residences and in the territories dependend from them. As a compensation the bishops and Imperial abbots, belonging more and more to the class of the Imperial Princes, had to perform the servitum regis, the imperial service which cannot exactly be estimated. In any case it consisted of lending hospitality by priority to the travelling royal court (Gastung), the detainment of contingents for the Imperial Army and diplomatic and administrative services. Therefore the emeperor  was interested in influencing the election which he confirmed with the investiture with ring and staff.

In the light of the feodality this practice had a decisive advantage: as the secular vassals were alway keen on making their fiefs hereditary property this was not the case with bishops and abbots who had no legal offspring and whose fiefs therefore fell back to their suzerein after their death. A condition however was that the emperor had the ecclesiastical supremacy and this was not obvious at all. In Western Francia for example, the king could only dispose of but a third of the dioceses in the 10th and 11th century. The rest was controlled by his vassals.

In Eastern Francia the situation became about the same: At the start of the reign of King Henry I the Fowler, the father of Otto I, in 919, the tribal dukes of Bavaria, Swabia and Lorraine had been given, amongst others, the right to appoint the bishops of their realm. In particular this is true for Henry I himself who had, as a duke of Saxony, turned the dioceses in his realm into a kind of Ducal church. In the following years he used his stronger position to  make the investiture a royal privilege again. This is the more striking as he allowed the dukes a certain measure of autonomy. He may therefore have been convinced about the importance of the control over the dioceses. Hoewever the Ottones had complete control over the dioceses in the empire only after the death of Duke Arnulf of Bavaria in 937 and the deposition of his son.

To be sure of loyal clerics on the offices falling free, the emperors often elected members of the Royal Chapel. This practice goes back to Charlemagne, and the same was practized in other european kingdoms.


After the policy of Otto I of granting the bishops more secular power, particularly in exchange for  military service, griffins appear more and more in connection with archdioceses and dioceses. An early example being the act of marriage of Otto II and Theophanu in 972.




For example the archdiocese of Auch (879) comprised the former province of Novem populana with the capital of Ausci.

L’archevêque d’Auch avait le titre de primat de Novempopulanie comme celui de Lyon portait le titre de primat des Gaules.

Le diocèse d’Auch hérite du titre de Métropolitain en 856, après le saccage de la ville d’Eauze. Mais le premier évêque d’Auch apparaît vers 280.

La liste des archevêques d’Auch voit des personnages prestigieux, de nombreux saints et de nombreux cardinaux.

L’archidiocèse d’Auch dégageait après Strasbourg, Paris et Cambrai le plus de revenus annuels, dus à une dîme importante.

Apart from the lords and lordships in Gascogne (Æ Auch) which had coats of arms there was a single official for all of Gascogne which had a heraldic emblem of ancient origin. This official was the archbishop of Auch who had the status of Primate of Gascogne. The first having this status was Archbishop Airardus in 879. As a metropolitan see by the 9th century Auch had ten suffragan sees: Acqs (Dax),; Aire; Lectoure; Couserans; Oloron, Lescar, Bayonne; Bazas; Comminges Tarbes.


Generally the emblem of rank of a metropolitan bishop was a griffin which was borrowed from the roman duches or officials of the second rank having the jurisdiction in a Roman province as Novem Populana was one. Such a griffin has not yet been found in Auch itself as the Auch cathedral was restructured in the 16th century. Griffins  however are known from Oloron cathedral from one of the suffragan sees of Auch. [5] In the roman portal of that cathedral is an achievement of a bearded man supported by two griffins which could be the bishop of Oloron supported by the metropolitan archbishop of Auch. In any case this achievement symbolizes that Oloron belongs to the archdiocese of Auch.


Achievement of a man supported by two griffins.

Sinister smaller tympan on Oloron, St Mary Cathedral

The tympan is dated around the second decennium of the 12th century


Jacques Lacoste proposed to date the beginning of the realization of the sculptures of the main tympanum to the second decade of the 12th century. He sees a kinship with the ivory reliquaries of San Millán de la Cogolla, that of San Millán made around 1060, and that of San Felices dating from 1090.


The province of Narbonensis I with the capital Narbonne came back into the archdioceses of Toulouse and Narbonne.

From several of these provinces griffins are preserved for example from Bourges, the capital of Aquitania I


A griffin was a preferred emblem of French and German Metropolites and can also be found on the British Isles. Later it was also adopted by some German secular princes


After the beginning of the 13th century the griffins disappear from the clerical heraldic repertory even when some of the prince-bishops retained their armed authority.

Probably the use of the griffin goes back to roman times when it was a badge of rank of an official ruling a diocese.


Archdioceses in Europe

From: Westermann: Grosser Atlas zur Weltgeschichte, p. 88


See also:  France Provinces

To prove this theory we can try to find the griffins of the archdioceses of

Trier, Cologne, Mayence, Magdeburg, Hamburg, Lund, Uppsala, Trondheim etc

Reims, Rouen, Sens, Lyon, Besançon, Vienne, Tarantais, Tours, Bordeaux, Auch, Toulouse, Narbonne, Arles, Aix, Embrun, Milan &c&c

And in Italy: Grado. Aquileia, Venice etc



The Collection


Gold Seal of a Griffin. 1500-1400 BC,

from Pylos. Width 3.5 cm  National Museum Athens.


This griffin  has, after the Egyptian example,  the body of a lion and the head and wings of a falcon


Ivory pyxis (cosmetic-box) carved from a cross-section of a tusk from a tomb at the Agora of  Athens of the fourteenth century B.C. A development of the decoration shows a lively scene of griffins hunting deer. Crouched near the top rim are two small lions, seen from above. H. 16 cm. Stoa of Attalus Museum, Athens.


Two Griffiins trampling their ennemies

From Nimrud, 7th c BC


Suse. Epoque achémenide, fin 6e s. av. J.-C.

Griffon. Palais de Darius. Panneau de briques émaillés. H. 1,45 m. Louvre. Département des Antiquités orientales.



Phrygian Shield. 6th cent. BC.

Kidney-shaped shield with griffin



6th century BC Head of a griffin from a kettle.

Bronze. H.: 35,8 cm Olympia, Greece

Found 1937-’38.

Museum Olympia.

Lullies/Hirmer Griekse Kunst 5


Griffin heads on the headdress of a horse

Wood Æ 12,7 cm. Kourgan 1 of Tuekta, Altaï mountains

Excavation  Rudenko 1954

Museum the Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Inv. 2179/79

Scytian-Siberian  animal style 6th cent. B.C. eeuw v.C.


Griffin head  (Harness ornament)

Wood. H. 5,5 cm W. 5 cm. Kourgan 1 of Tuekta, Altaï moutains.

Excavation Rudenko 1954

Museumt he  Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Inv. 2179/109

Scytian-Siberian  animal style 6th cent. B.C


Griffin head (Harness ornament)

Wood. H. 6,5 cm W 7  cm. Kourgan 1 van Tuekta, Altaïgebergte.

Excavation Rudenko 1954

Museumt he  Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Inv. 2179/96

Scytian-Siberian  animal style 6th cent. B.C.


Fragment of a saddle-cloth: Griffin

Felt, 35 Î 45 cm. Kurgan 2 of  Pazaryk, Altaï mountains. Excavation Rudenko 1947. Inv. 1684/325. Scytian-Siberian animal style, 5th century BC.



Herodotus (*490 -† 420 ca) is the first who mentions griffins:  [12]

“But in the north of Europe there is by far the most gold. In this matter again I cannot say with assurance how the gold is produced, but it is said that one-eyed men called Arimaspians steal it from griffins. [2] But I do not believe this, that there are one-eyed men who have a nature otherwise the same as other men. [3] The most outlying lands, though, as they enclose and wholly surround all the rest of the world, are likely to have those things which we think the finest and the rarest.”


(90) Stone seal with griffin

Engraving probably made by a pupil of Dexamenos of Kos


Chalcedoon. H. 1,7 cm B. 2,2 cm. Kurdzjips-kurgan, Krasnodar, Kuban. Excavation Sjsojev 1886

Museum The Hermitage, St. Petersburg Inv.  n° 2495 /7 Greek, late 5th cent. BC.


Head of a bird, Gold.

Ziwiya treasure (Kurdistan, the ancient country of Manai.) Fifth century bc. Height: 3 1/8 “.

Archæological Museum, Teheran.

The Ziwiya treasure was at first believed to have been buried in the eighth century BC but according to Barnett the vat in which it was found belongs to the seventh or even the fifth century bc.


Xerxes I




A frieze of tribute-bearers decorates the monumental stairways leading to the Apadana at Persepolis. Judging by their head-dress they might be Lydians, former subjects of King Croesus, whose capital was Sardis.


(86) Griffin crest of a staff

Bronze, H. 15,5 cm

Kourgan of Alexandropol (Dnjepropretovsk) Excavation Teresjtsjenko, 1853

Museum the Hermitage, St. Petersburg Inv.  DN 1853 1/3

Greek-Scythian, 2nd half 4th cent. B.C.


Walking griffin within a rectangular frame. From the base of a leafy pattern two bells are hanging. The piece is one of a pair.


Two plaques decorated with griffins. Gold, 5´5, cm. Mixed art of Taman, end of fourth century BC. From one of the Five Brothers barrows (Rostov-on-Don). Excavations by V.P. Shilov, 1959. Regional Museum of Rostov-on-Don.  



Griffin killing a hind

Detail of the ovoid amphora from Chertomlyk (4th century B.C.). Silver gilt, with relief carving and engraving; heighth 70 cm, Æ 40 cm.


(92) Decorated bracelet

Gold and garnet. . H. 19,3 cm Weight. 463,56 g. Beslenyev-kourgan n° 17 Krasnodar OblastExcavation Veselovski 1895. Museum the Hermitage, St. Petersburg Inv. n° 2519/6. Greek, late 4th- early 3rd cent B.C.


The function of this band is unknown. Beautifully modeled pairs of figures of lions and eagles on the lower and upper register

This may be the arm-protector of an archer.



Praetor, was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army (in the field or, less often, before the army had been mustered); and as an elected magistratus (magistrate), assigned various duties (which varied at different periods in Rome's history). The functions of the magistracy, the praetura (praetorship), are described by the adjective: the praetoria potestas (praetorian power), the praetorium imperium (praetorian authority), and the praetorium ius (praetorian law), the legal precedents established by the praetores (praetors). Praetorium, as a substantive, denoted the location from which the praetor exercised his authority, either the headquarters of his castra, the courthouse (tribunal) of his judiciary, or the city hall of his provincial governorship.

The badge of office of a praetor was a griffin.


Griffin on paleochristian sarcophagus. Latium, 350-360 AD

Marble, 65.8´70´212 cm, 945kg. ROL, inv. Pb 35


Memorial stone with bust between griffins, 7th. cent..

From Gondorf  (NRW). H. 84 cm

Bonn, Rheinisches Landesmuseum 35.10


This may be an early portrait of a bishop of Cologne having te usual holy bible in his hand. On his shoulders are pigeons symbolizing a religious office (?). The clipeus is supported by four protomen of griffins which may indicate his military rank.


Gold vessel from Nagy Szentmiklos (West Transylvania), 9th cent (?)

Griffin killing stag

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien.


On one of the vessels in the hoard there is an inscription written in the Greek alphabet which reads: ΒΟΥΗΛΑ.ΖΟΑΠΑΝ.ΤΕΣΗ.ΔΥΓΕΤΟΙΓΗ.ΒΟΥΤΑΟΥΛ.ΖΩΑΠΑΝ.ΤΑΓΡΟΓΗ.ΗΤΖΙΓΗ.ΤΑΙΣΗ (Transliteration: bouēla zoapan tesē dygetoigē boutaoul zōapan tagrogē ētzigē taisē )

The language of the inscription is not clearly known. While there is no consensus as to the meaning of the inscription, several translations have been suggested (see the article on the inscription) and there is general agreement that Buyla and Butaul are Turkic names or titles, and that they are associated with the title of župan.(administrator)  [13]


Harald I Fairhair

King of Norway 858-928


The badge of office of an archbishop is a griffin



Griffin on the Cross of St. Matthew. The cross, once erected in front of the abbey church of Iona (Scotland) but now in the museum there, dates certainly from the 9th-10th century and must be associated with the Empire of the Isles under the suzerainty of the Norwegian King Harald I the Fair (858-928). His military symbol, a griffin, is probably on this stone. On the other side is the ship that later appears in the coat of arms of the Lordship of the Islands.


Other candidates however are the abbots of Iona from the 9th and 10th century [14]


Harald I Bluetooth of Denmark

  940 - 986



Memorial stone of King Harald in Jellinge (Jutland).

On the stone of Jellinge from the time of Harald I (after his baptism in 960) there is a lion on the front. The text on the stone reads: "King Harald had these memorials erected for Gorm, his father, and Tyra, his mother, the Harald who united Denmark and Norway and converted the Danes to Christianity." On the side with the griffin is the part of the text with "completely and Norway". On the third side of the stone is a crucifix.  (Oxenstierna p. 175 fig 73)

At this time a lion may have been the distinguishing sign of a comes in the Byzantine army, a commander who had an army division of 500 to 200 men under his command.

A similar figure, dating from half a century later, has been found in London on the St. Paul’s Rune Stone.

It is not clear why Harald opted for a lion, while he as well could have chosen for an eagle, which would correspond more to his royal rank, or even a dragon. See for this: Norway.


960: Baptism of Harald)

On the third side of the stone is a crucifix. It thus remains obscure with which the figure must be associated (viz. With Denmark and Norway, with Gorm or with paganism.  ðaccording to the theory with a commander of a turmos (5000 men), so with Gorm. ð also: Wenden).


III.16 Theophanu's marriage certificate.

Medallion with griffin and lamb.

Germany (?), 972. Parchment, madder and indigo, black pen drawing and gold writing.

Detail approx. 20 ´ 20 cm


On the occasion of his wedding on 14 April 972, Otto II, with the assistance of his father, Emperor Otto I, gave his wife a morning gift as a widow's property, including all of Istria, Walchern, Nivelles Abbey, five royal estates and 14,000 Hufen land.


In the same document medallions with a lion and a bull. (Otto der Grosse, Magdeburg 2001. pp. 127 u.f.)


Griffin. 10th-11th. Century.

Transenna Panel A. Byzantine, 10th -11th  century. Marble 90 ´ 72 ´ 8 cm.

Provenance: Reused in the sanctuary screen of the katholikon of Vlatadon Monastery.

The Holy Monastery of Vlatadon, Thessalonike, Greece (MB 93).

(Orthodox Archdiocese of Thessalonike) (Evans, 36-37)


Six plaques depicting fantastic animals, from a casket.
Constantinople, 11th c. A.D. Bone.
Inv. no.: Cl 8680.
Mus Cluny




1020 ca Tunica of  Emperor Henry II (1014-1024)

1st quarter of the 11th century. Gift of the emperor to Bamberg Cathedral.

 Diözesanmuseum Bamberg.


The breast patch and the cuffs and lower border decorated with medallions with griffins of gold brocade on a red background.


On 1 November of the year 1007, King Henry II (Emperor from 1014 onwards) succeeded in winning the consent of his 35 bishops, who had been convened by him, on his long-cherished plan of founding a bishopric of Bamberg. Queen Kunigunde, who was present, renounced her dowry of Bamberg, which was to ensure her care as a widow, in support of the new bishopric. Even today, the motivation of the royal couple is controversially discussed. Thus, because of its childlessness, God should be made its heir. This religious motive, however, is probably accompanied by political considerations for the strengthening of the Imperial Church. In addition, a rapid assimilation of the Slavs settling here could be brought about by the Franconian colonization of the Upper Main Valley region. It was also easy to fill the vacuum of power produced after the disempowerment of  margrave Heinrich von Schweinfurt.

In the run-up to the Synod, King Henry already had made himself sure of the consent of Pope John XVIII. (1003-1009). Bishop Henry I of Würzburg (996-1018) had to renounce large areas in favor of the new bishopric; he never received the assured archbishop's dignity, but it went to Bamberg eight hundred years later in the reorganization of the Bavarian bishoprics. The king, however, compensated Bishop Henry materially and thus ensured peace.


Beginning on 1 November 1007, a synod was held in the city of Frankfurt am Main. Eight archbishops and twenty-seven bishops were present, led by Archbishop Willigis of Mainz, as well as the King of the Romans, Heinrich II (Henry II). The king intended to create a new diocese that would aid in the final conquest of paganism in the area around Bamberg. But the territory of the Wends on the upper Main, the Wiesent, and the Aisch had belonged to the Diocese of Würzburg since the organization of the Middle German bishoprics by St. Boniface, so that no new diocese could be erected without the consent of the occupant of that see. Bishop Henry I of Würzburg was willing to go along with parting with some of his territory, as the king promised to have Würzburg raised to an archbishopric and to give him an equivalent in Meiningen. The consent of Pope John XVII (1003-1009) was obtained for this arrangement, but the elevation of Würzburg to an archbishopric proved impracticable also due to Willigis' reservations, and Bishop Henry I at first withdrew his consent.

Nevertheless, after several further concessions, King Heinrich II obtained the consent for the foundation of the diocese of Bamberg from parts of the dioceses of Würzburg and - later – the Diocese of Eichstätt. Bamberg was made directly subordinate to Rome. It was also decided that Eberhard, the king's chancellor, would be ordained by Archbishop Willigis of Mainz, to be the head of the new border area diocese. The new diocese had expensive gifts at the synod confirmed by documents, in order to place it on a solid foundation.

Henry wanted the celebrated monkish rigour and studiousness of the Hildesheim cathedral chapter - Henry himself was educated there - linked together with the churches under his control, including his favourite bishopric of Bamberg. The next seven bishops were named by the emperors, after which election by the cathedral chapter became the rule, as in all the German prince-bishoprics. Eberhard's immediate successor, Suidger of Morsleben, became pope in 1046 as Clement II. He was the only pope to be interred north of the Alps at the Bamberg Cathedral.


  • Eberhard I 1007-1040
  • Suidger von Morsleben 1040-1046 (Later Pope Clement II)
  • Hartwig von Bogen 1047-1053
  • Adalbert of Carinthia 1053-1057
  • Günther 1057-1065
  • Hermann I von Formbach 1065-1075
  • Rupprecht 1075-1102
  • Otto I of Mistelbach 1102-1139


On the Imperial Synod of 1007 in Frankfurt, Emperor Henry II brought about the formation of the new diocese of Bamberg from parts of the dioceses of Eichstätt and Würzburg


Shroud of Liudger, detail

Eichstätt. Kirche St. Walpurgis. Schatzkammer. Grabtuch Liudgers Ausschnitt

Seidendamast, byzantinisch, frühes 11 Jaht (Aufn 1956) + 1 o43 537


Griffins are also on the upper and lower bordure of the Bayeux Tapestry reporting a happening of 1066. (8, 10, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, &c)


The Taifa Era



Pisa Griffin.

Taifa period, 11th century. Bronze. h. 107 cm.

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Pisa.


“This puzzling sculpture, which probably served as decoration for a fountain, has been attributed variously to Fatimid Egypt, Fatimid North Africa, Spain, Sicily, and Iran. The route the griffin traveled in order to reach its resting place atop the cathedral in Pisa is as mysterious as its place of origin. In 1839, in the first scholarly article published on the griffin, J.J. Marcel recorded Pisans’ ideas on the subject. According to one of their legends, the Pisan armies had brought it home as a booty when they returned from their conquest from the Balearic Islands. It was said that the triumphant soldiers arrived in Pisa with their treasure at the moment the foundations of the cathedral were being laid. [...] Whatever its origin, this impressive bronze was probably installed atop the cathedral during the late eleventh or early twelfth cetury; it remained in its place of honour until 1828.


“The inscription, which merely conveys good wishes to an unspecified owner, does not help to resolve the question of the griffin’s provenance. It does however, indicate that the sculpture was secular in nature. It reads (in translation from the arabic): Perfect blessing, complete well-being (left side); Perfect joy, perpetual peace (chest); Perfect health, happiness [support] for the owner. (right side).”


The statue can be compared to other city images such as the Capitoline she-wolf, the lion of Venice, the elephant of Catania, the Salamanca Bull and the Brunswick lion and therefore probably fulfilled the same function i.e. as a symbol of the place of the city in the imperial hierarchy. However, under Frederick Barbarossa, the symbol of Pisa became an eagle and later the coat of arms of Pisa is a white cross on red. Therefore, the Pisan griffin soon faded from attention


It unites three lofty symbols: an eagle on the hind legs, the griffin of the image itself and a lion on the front legs.


The combination of the griffin, the lion and the eagle is evidence that in Spain in the Taifa period, when the former Umayyad empire was fragmented after the deposition of the last caliph, Hisham III in 1031, the martial symbols persisted to exist. The griffin is to be regarded as the symbol of the governor or prince of the Balearic Islands who were independent under the Banu Ghanyia from 1076 to 1115 (in that last year they were conquered by Posa which maintained hegemony until 1184)


150 Textile fragment from the Reliquary of Saint-Siviard.

Byzantine, 11th-12th century. Silk and gilded membrane 89 x 135 cm.

Provenance: Reliquary of Saint Sivard, Cathedral Treasury, Sens.

Trésor de la Cathédrale de Saint-Étienne, Sens, France (B 8)

Sens was the capiyal of the roman province of Lugdunensis II (cap. Senonia) later the archdiocese of Sens.


Griffins, mythical beasts of antiquity, occur very frequently in Byzantine art. Whatever their ancient significance, in the Middle Ages griffins served a predominantly decorative purpose, although, like lions and eagles, they continued to be emblematic of power and might. [15]


The present silk comes from the reliquary of Saint Siviard (d. 687), whose remains reached Sens in the ninth century from Saint-Calais in the Maine, which was threatened by the Vikings. The relics were certainly rewrapped on that occasion; eleventh- and twelfth-century tags indicate subsequent openings of the reliquary, when rewrapping in the griffin silk could have taken place. [16] Although this textile survived wound around relics, its first use in the West was likely as an ecclesiastical vestment.


185 Bowl with Griffin Attacking a Doe.

Byzantine, 12th century

Engraved slipware: earthenware and glaze H. 8,5 cm. Æ 24,3 cm

Provenance: from an unspecified shipwreck

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C. (66.17)


219 Ceramic Tile

A. Griffin

Kievan Rus’ (Halych), 12th  century.

Red clay, 15 ´ 15 ´ 3 cm

provenance: Excavated in Zolotyi Tik, on Krylos Hill in Staryi Halych (the present-deay village of Krylos in western Ukraine), 1951.

L’vivs’kyi Istorychnyi Muzei, L’viv, Ukraine. lim kr 15842.


Fresco with  griffins. Baptistère St. Jean de Poitiers.

The shape of the wings and the qualitry of the paintng point at a date of origin in the 11th-12th cent.



m.c.1200 AVELINA, d. of Alan Fitz-Walter, High Steward of Scotland
d. 13 June 1250

He was created Earl of Carrick by Alexander II between 1225 and 1230 on condition that he resigned all claim to the lordship of Galloway. The descendants of Duncan and his son Neil took the same of de Carrick. His seal, as attached to various original charters, bears the device of a griffin.(3)


Duncan's Seal, 1250


Figure: Griffin



159 Rainald von Dassel als Reichskanzler (1156-1159/1167)

Wachssiegel auf Urkunde (durchgedruckt)

Wohl 1156 unter verwendung einer antiken (?) Gemme.

Æ 4 cm, Æ des Intaglios 2,5-2,8 cm, rund. Braunes über weißem Wachs mit starkem Wachsrand (Æ 6,8 cm) an roten Seidenschnüren.

Figur: Greif. Umschrift: X reinaldvs romanor(um) impe(er)at (oris) cancel(larius). (Z.d.S.)


Foto H.d.V. 2006.08

Griffin on the façade of the Duomo S. Martino, Lucca. Completed 1241


The first bishop of certain date is Maximus, present at the Council of Sardica (343). At the Council of Rimini (359), Paulinus, Bishop of Lucca, was present. In 981 Emperor Otto II,  bestowed on its bishop civil jurisdiction over the entire diocesan territory; but in 1081 Emperor Henry IV made it a free city and conferred other favours upon it, especially in the way of trade.


Dans le transept sud de l’église de St Yves de Louannec (Bretagne):




9) Dans la vitrine, la « Chasuble de Monsieur Saint Yves » date du 12ème siècle. Cette « planeta » ou chasuble ample dans la forme du Moyen Age est faite d'une étoffe mi-soie, mi-lin entremêlés de fil d’or. Les motifs griffon, arbre de vie et rosette, sont d'origine hispano-mauresque. "La coupe du vêtement indiquerait une date antérieure à la vie de saint Yves (1253-1303). La soierie qui a servi à sa confection fait partie de ces mi-soies (soie et lin) que l'on attribue aux ateliers hispano-mauresques ou siciliens du XIIème siècle. Chasuble cloche à décors de griffons affrontés en larges bandes horizontales. Le motif même du griffon, animal fabuleux, mi-aigle, mi-lion, de l'Hom ou arbre de vie et de la rosette qui remplissent les vides entre chaque animal appartiennent au répertoire oriental diffusé ensuite dans le monde méditerranéen. La robustesse du tissu, le hiératisme de ses figures évoquent les costumes de parade des princes et chevaliers ".


...........D'ailleurs, une disposition spéciale adoptée par le concile mérovingien de Tours en 567 y rappelle la subordination des évêchés bretons à l'archevêque métropolitain de Tours. L'évêché de Dol fera sécession en 848 avec la création de la province de Dol, contestée par Tours. Cette province de Dol subsista jusqu'au XIe siècle et le conflit fut définitivement réglé au profit de l'archevêque de Tours par le pape Innocent III en 1199.


In 1174 the abbey of Monreale was declared a prælatura nullius; two years later its abbot was vested with the title and jurisdiction of a bishop. In 1182 Monreale became the metropolitan see for the diocese of Catania and diocese of Siracusa. At first the archbishops were elected by the monks, but were not always Benedictines; since 1275 the election has been reserved to itself by the Holy See.



1186 Onderste cassettes van de bronzen toegangsdeuren van de Dom van Monreale. Linkerdeur met leeuw en griffioen. De bronzen deuren werden gemaakt en gesigneerd door Bonanno Pisano in 1186.De deuren werden in Pisa gegoten en over zee naar Sicilië gebracht waar ze na verdere bewerking in het portaal werden afgehangen. De griffioenen en leeuwen corresponderen met de griffioenen en leeuwen op de zoom van de alba (1181). Misschien zijn de deuren een geschenk van Frederik Barbarossa want zijn zoon Hendrik VI huwde op 27 januari 1186 met de zuster van Willem I, Constance (dus een tante van Willem II).


1186 Onderste cassettes van de bronzen toegangsdeuren van de Dom van Monreale. Rechterdeur met griffioen en leeuw. De bronzen deuren werden gemaakt en gesigneerd door Bonanno Pisano in 1186.


Naast de leeuw komt ook de griffioen als symbool in verband met de Hautevilles voor. Hij staat op de bronzen deuren van de Dom van Monreale (1186), op het plafond van de Zaal van Roger in het Koninklijk Paleis en op de deksteen van de tombe van Frederik II.[17])


Er is een hoofdstukje aan de griffioen gewijd in het

Saltykow-Chshedrin Ms. Leningrad Public Library Ms. Lat. Q.v.VI. English Bestiary of the end of the 12th cent.

The tale of the griffin repeats the story told by Isidor /XII.11.17/ whose version takes rise from Pliny / VII.12: X.49.70/. Of the antique sources Herodotus is known to be the first to mention it   /III.116/.


Fragment of a relief with a Griffin

End XIIth century (?)

Greece, Marble, 60 x 38 x 5,3 cm.

Horizontal fracture at half height, vertical fracture in the lower part (set up and held together by metal dowels)

Origin :Athens, end XVIIIth century

Paris. Musée du Louvre, Département des sculptures, Inv. MR 666


Baptistère St. Jean de Poitiers


Frescoes with griffins. An eagle medallion is also part of the frescoes. The fresco can be dated to the time when Otto IV was Roman King, Count of Poitou and Duke of Aquitaine.


Wilhelm von Querfurt




100 Wilhelm von Querfurt, Propst des Marienstiftes in Aachen (1194/97-1213)

Wachssiegel an Urkunde (anhängend). Aachen, vor 1197.

 Æ 5 cm; rund. Braunes Wachs an roter Seidenschnur. Vorzüglich abgedrückt und erhalten, nur Wachsrand teilweise ausgebrochen. An der Urkunde außerdem das 3. Siegel des Aachener Marienstiftes. (Ewald, Rhein. SiegelIV, 1,7)


Figur: Greif mit hase. Umschrift: XSIGILLV(M) D(E)I GR(ATI)A • WILHELMI AQVE(N)SIS P(RÆ)P(OSIT)I •.


Als Nachfolger seines Bruders Konrad von Querfurt, des späteren Bischofs von Hildesheim und Würzburg und Reichskanzlers Heinrichs VI. und Philipps von Schwaben, war Wilhelm Probst in Goslar und zwischen 1194 und 1197 auch in Aachen geworden.


Düsseldorf, Hauptstaatarchiv, Urk. Aachen Marienstift Nr. 28: 1213. (Z.d.S.)


Sebastocrator Kaloyan



Portrait of a sebastokrator, probably Alexander

From: Niketas Choniates: Historia. (Constantinople, 1st half 14th century)

Hofbibliothek Wien, Cod. hist. gr. 53. Fol. 291 v°.


This leaf represents an offcial dressed in a purple himation Byzantine style, decorated with large medallions enclosing white griffins surrounded by five foxes pursuing each other. The official wears a crown with one large gem, as was worn by sebastokrators in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The griffins are the badges of office of the governors of the (former) roman provinces, Dacia mediterranea with its capital Serdica (Sofia) being one of them. The meaning of the foxes or quadrupeds is not known but very much later such a fox was a beast associated with Bulgaria and Slavonia. [18]

The hypothesis that the badge of rank or office of Alexander was a griffin is supported by some other items from the beginning of the 13th century  also representing a griffin.

The first is a stone slab from ‘central Greece’ showing a griffin within a medallion.


Two images are known that may be a portrait of Kaloyan from the period when he did not yet bear the Latin title of king but was a Byzantine sebastokrator.


1. Niketas Choniates: Historia. (Constantinople, 1st half 14th century) Fol. 291 v °. Hofbibliothek Wien, Cod. hist. gr. 53. This sheet represents a prince dressed in a purple himation with large medallions on which a white griffin surrounded by five chasing foxes. The monarch is crowned with a diadem with one large stone, a diadem worn by sebastokrators in the 12th and 13th centuries.


The person portrayed is commonly identified in literature as Emperor Alexios V Dukas Murzuphlus, the last emperor before the fall of Constantinople in 1204. However, the portrait is so similar to an identifiable portrait of Kaloyan that it is undoubtedly depicting the same person. This is the portrait of Kaloyan and his wife Desislava in the Church of St. Nicholas and Pantelimon in Boyana, painted in 1259.

The resemblance is so great that the images must either be painted over from each other or go back to the same source.


The large medallions on Kaloyan's robes indicate a very high position in the Empire, possibly that of Viceroy of Thrace (prefect of Illyricum).


Konrad von Querfurt

*1160 ca-†1202

Royal chancellor 1194-1201



A chasuble is preserved in the treasury of Aachen Cathedral on which golden griffins and lions are embroidered on a blue background. The shape of the animals corresponds to that of the lions and griffins on the doors of the Duomo of Monreale. The tendrils motif is very similar to the tendrils on other Sicilian garments. Apart from this, the established opinion is that the mantle has a strong Byzantine character. Why the mantle is dated to the second half of the thirteenth century and not to the twelfth century is because it is thought that it has belonged to the gift of Richard of Cornwall to Aachen Cathedral. The silk may have been taken from Palermo by Henry VI and may have been given to Konrad of Querfurt, Chancellor of Henry VI and Philip of Swaben, Imperial Envoy and Bishop of Hildesheim. and Würzbug († 1202) and ended up in Aachen (1198).

The Byzantine cut of the piece may be explained by his office as a General envoy for Apulia, Italy and Sicily.(1196)


Konrad von Querfurt (*around 1160; † 3 December 1202 in Würzburg) was an important church prince of the late 12th century. He was Bishop of Hildesheim (1194–1199) and Bishop of Würzburg (1198–1202) and served two kings as Chancellor (1194–1201).


On the Sicily campaign of Henry VI. in 1194 his chancellor Sigelo died and Konrad, once one of the emperor's tutors, was appointed as his successor. The following year Konrad was also elected Bishop of Hildesheim.

In 1196 the emperor appointed him general legate for Apulia, Italy and Sicily. He played a key role in the enforcement of Hohenstaufen rule in southern Italy and Sicily. At his instigation, Petrus de Ebulo wrote his Liber ad honorem Augusti sive de rebus Siculis, the illustrated verse epic in which the events are depicted and the merits of Konrad are appropriately appreciated (cf. the illustrations in the only manuscript Bern, Burgerbibliothek Codex 120 II, fol.139r; fol 144r; fol.145r).


In the middle of 1198 Konrad met in Thuringia with Philipp von Schwaben, the brother of Heinrich VI., who had been elected king by the Staufen party in the double election of 1198 and who confirmed him as Chancellor. A minority chose the Guelph Otto IV

On 3 December 1202 he was murdered in Würzburg by Bodo von Ravensburg and Heinrich von Falkenberg on the way to the cathedral.


A griffin was also on the seal of Wilhelm von Querfurt, Dean of the Foundation of St. Mary in Aachen (1194/97-1213) to which the piece can consequently also be ascribed.

100 Wilhelm von Querfurt, Propst des Marienstiftes in Aachen (1194/97-1213)

Wachssiegel an Urkunde (anhängend). Aachen, vor 1197.

 Æ 5 cm; rund. Braunes Wachs an roter Seidenschnur. Vorzüglich abgedrückt und erhalten, nur Wachsrand teilweise ausgebrochen. An der Urkunde außerdem das 3. Siegel des Aachener Marienstiftes. (Ewald, Rhein. SiegelIV, 1,7)


Figur: Greif mit hase. Umschrift: XSIGILLV(M) D(E)I GR(ATI)A • WILHELMI AQVE(N)SIS P(RÆ)P(OSIT)I •.


Lucca Chasuble

 Aachen Treasury, back

44. Lucca Chasuble

 (So ​​called because it was believed that the embroidery of the bars came from this city)


Dimensions: 118.5 cm high; 85 cm wide

Basic material: Germany (?), 2nd half of the 13th century

Cross and bar width: Italy (Florence?), 14th century


Lucca Stola

4. Mantle.

Blue chasuble with scenes from the life of Christ.

Italy, 13th cent. Silk Goldthread embroidery. Border heavyly restored – L. 112 (53)


 (is so called because it is accepted that golden lions, griffins and tendrils cover the blue silk chasuble. The border on the front of the chasuble shows scenes from the life of Christ. [...] 5 scenes from the life of Christ can be seen on the vertical cross bar. [....]

Despite the heavy restoration, Byzantine influence can still be felt in the figure style. The figures are strict, almost rigid in their moments of movement. Even the downsizing in the embroidery does not deprive them of the monumental.



Pellegrino II tedesco

Patriarch of Aquileia 1195-†1204


Pellegrino was born in Cividale del Friuli to the Ortenburg-Sponheim family, son of Engelbert III, Margrave of Istria (1124-1173). His nephew was Ulrich II, Duke of Carinthia (1181-1202). He became prior of Cividale, then archdeacon of Aquileia. Pellegrino succeeded Godfrey of Hohenstaufen as Patriarch of Aquileia in 1195.


A fresco in the basilica of Aquileia

shows him as St. Martialis his chasuble strewn with roundels with griffins


Heinrich Borwin

 Heir of Pribislav King of the Wends †1227



From the last King of the Wends Pribislav († 20 December 1178) neither certificate nor seal has survived. His sole heir was Heinrich Borwin I († 28 January 1227) who had a griffin in the seal.


Seal IV. A. 1 of. 1219. Figuer: Griffin. Captiont: X SIGLLVM : BVRWINI : MAGNI : POLONENSIS. (Seyler Fig. 317)  


Seal IV.A.2 of Prince Heinrich Borwin von Rostock on a document from 1219. Figure: Griffin. Inscription: SIGILLVM • HEINRICI • IVVENIS • IN • ROSTOC. (Seyler Fig. 318)

Some time before the deaths of Borwin I and Borwin II, the government of the now reunited country was led by a guardianship under the name of the four underage sons of Borwin II: Johann, Nicolaus, Heinrich and Pribislav.

 The shield-shaped guardianship seal contains a griffin with the inscription: SIGILL FRA (trvm) DNOR MAGNOPOLN. (Seyler Fig. 320)


Frederick II Hohenstaufen



Pluviale of Boniface VIII, Anagni Cathedral.

Sicilian, 1st half 13th century (1230). Embroidered red silk, Pluviale 140 Í325 cm.






Archdiocese of Perugia

Elevated: 27 March 1882

City of Perugia, coat of arms


Arms: Gules, a griffin Argent, crowned Or.


Achievements, Two Griffins


Darius I, the Great    


The dagger of Darius the Great  (521-486)

Bas-relief from the Treasury at Persepolis. Time of Darius I.

Length: 19½ “ (50,8 cm). Archæological Museum, Teheran.


Darius’s dagger is worn by the officer responsible for keeping the royal arms. Note the decorative motifs which continue the art of Luristan, and the great delicacy of execution.

Two griffins respecting, a row of bucks on the shaft.


An achievement of an emblem supported by two griffins meens the praetorian office  of that service, that is here below: the praetorian vicariate etc.


Bone comb, 1st century AD

excavated at the construction of the N-S Stadtbahn of Cologne. (2004-2011)

Römisch Germanisches Museum, Köln [19]

Achievement of cup/chalice and griffins.


In Roman times the Praetorium in Colonia Agrippina served as the residence and office of the governor of the province of Germania Inferior, as well as the administration building.[20] In his person, the governor united the military superintendency over the Low Germanic army (Exercitus Germania Inferioris) and the civilian supreme command over the province. His civilian authority included both the judiciary as well as the executive and, in the regional context, the legislative power. The governpr of a province was always a former Roman consul as Legatus Augusti pro praetore ("emissary of the Emperor in the rank of a praetor"). He was only subordinated to the Emperor. In order to accomplish his tasks, he  controlled a large administrative apparatus, a Cohort infantry, and an Ala cavalry


The large administrative body at his service was symbolized by an achievement consisting of a cup or goblet, symbolizing administrative authority, supported by two griffins symbolizing the rank of Praetor, together making “The administration by the grace/support of the Praetor” (Praetorian vicariate).

Such an achievement is on the comb excavated at the digging of a tunnel for Chlodwigsplatz Station of the subway in Cologne in the years 2004-’11.





Foto H.d.V. 2003.

Torso van een keizersbeeld, misschien van Trajanus.

Op het kuras een Gorgoneion en twee griffioenen. Op de slippen verschillende onleesbare symbolen.

Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Aquileia.


Photo H.d.V. 2014-06-10

Marble statue of Emperor Trajan (98-117)

H.: 250 cm.

Utica (Tunis)

R.M.O. Leiden. Nr. 29.


On the breast cuirass a gorgoneion and an achievement of a staff and two griffins

On the slips of the lower cuirass, a helmeted man’s head between two eagles and two other. Also two two Roman She-wolves 


Chalice and griffins 2nd cent

Trier Museum


Cylindrical mount for a rhyton, decorated with four griffins.

Gold, H. 79 mm. Sarmatian art from the Kuban, 2nd cent. AD. From a burial at Severskaya (Krasnodar).

Historical Museum, Moscow.


Photo H.d.V. 2014-06-10

200 ca Roman eagle on an emperor's cuirass. Also visible are two griffins and, on the slips of the lower cuirass, griffins, leopard and lion heads. Late 2nd century (r. Septimus Severus 193-211). Reused for an image of Maximianus Herculius (286-305) from Utica, Tunis. (ROL inv. N ° H II BB2).


Griffins supporting a chalice or cup

On a 6th-7th cent. tomb. Musée Municipal Bourges


743/744 Detail mit Greif und Pfauendrache aus der Fassade der Kalifenresidenz al-Walids II

Kalksteinrelief. Jordanien, Mschatta

Museum für islamische Kunst. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Inv.-Nr. I. 6163.


Harrach diptych,  700-750


Achievements of chalices and griffins, meaning “the vicariate of the curia of a diocese”


Liturgical comb (two fragments).
Lotharingia, end 9th-10th c. A.D.. Ivory. 
Inv. no.: Cl 23272a,b.

Mus. Nat. Moyen Age Paris


In the 9th-10th century Lotharingia was a part of France. It came to Germany in 925 It was divided into an Upper- and a Lower Lotharingia in 959

As no additional symbol is seen this may be the symbol of the curia of an metropolitan


Suaire de Saint Chaffre


Théofrède d’Orange ou Théofrède de Carméri est aussi appelé saint Chaffre, patron du Monastier-sur-Gazeille dans la Haute-Loire. Martyr des Sarrasins en 728. Fête : 18 novembre1.


Red Byzantine silk decorated with griffins. 10th cent.

Below their wings small eagles and in their bills little mammals or lions


Treasury of Le Monastier sur Gazeille abbey church (Haute Loire, Auvergne). In this treasury is another piece .

Le Monastier s/Gazeille is in the utmost east of the Arch-diocese of Bourges and was subordinated to Le Puy (St. Voisy, 374) or Clermont Ferrand (St. Austremoine, 4th cent.). [21]


The piece comes from a larger piece cut into halves and showing an achievement consisting of a vine supported by two griffins.

In this achievement the vine symbolizes a diocese or arrch diocese and the griffins are the badges of rank of a metropolitan (of  Le Puy or Bourges (?)).

Taking into account that a griffin is the badge of a metropolitan, the nearest metropolitan in the kingdom of France was the metropolitan of Bourges to which Le Puy and Clermont were suffragan dioceses. No biographies of Arch-bishops / Metropolitans of Bourges of the 10th century are known

The title of Count of Auvergne appeared in about 960

The piece shows the emblem of a curia (of Bourges?).

Visited 2016.


Two griffons back-to-back (addorsed) reguardant.

Silk serge and wool.

Fragment from a reliquary. Byzantine, 11th century.

Musée de Valère, Sion (Switzerland) / Eglise de Valére / Abegg-Stiftung, Riggisberg


Two grifins without any supporters may mean The Curia


Three medallions: two complete, the one on the left partly destroyed. Still reminiscent of the winged griffon on the Siviard sudarium in Sens, though later and somewhat coarser. The pontifical stockings from the grave of Pope Clement II (died 1047) in Bamberg Cathedral provide another example of this type of fabric (now in Berlin). The heart-shaped palmettes of the circular surrounds are the clearest indication that this material came from Byzantium.

Sion is in the former province of Alpes Graiæ et Poeninæ later the archdiocese of Tarantaise


TITRE: Olifant dit Olifant de Charlemagne : le Christ et la Vierge en majesté

PÉRIODES: 11e siècle, 12e siècle, période médiévale – Bas Moyen Âge

TECHNIQUES: sculpté, ivoire


DÉTAIL: Vers 1100 (?). Provenance : abbaye de Saint-Arnoul de Metz


On both sides of the griffins stags


262 B. Textile fragment. Star Pattern

Islamic (Near East) 11th  or 12th  century

Silk; warp-faced plain weave decorated with pattern weft. 39,2 x 30,5 cm.

Provenance: Formerly in the collection of Mme Paul Mallon, Paris

The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio (41.292)


Green silk with white griffins and 8-pointed stars.

It is doubtful if the piece is really islamitc because the is a large square cross in the middle

From Sens (formerly Lugdunensis IV – Senonia):


Pamplona Casket (1004-1005)

Pamplona to Auch 714-1091





1e half of the 11th century. Stockings of the dress of Pope Clement II (†1047)

 Diözesanmuseum Bamberg.

Gold brocade with peacocks between  medallions of two griffins addorsed reguardant.


The dalmatic of Clement is all gold and is also preserved in Bamberg.


The griffins and peacocks are the emblems of a metropolitan and a prefect (the rank of the Pope since the 6th century.)



This textile is surrounded by a series of myths and is often dated to the early 11th century - 19th century historians believed it to be the fabric of the emperor Henry II burial dress (F.Bock 1856, G.Ebers 1878).

Otto von Falke (1913) first states that the fabric could not be made in the 11th century, as the pattern type suggests it comes from the later 12th century. The two shifted rows of roundels were not yet known in the 11th century, as well as the fact that other finds with very similar design come from the late 12th century, such as the burial dress of bishop Arnold I (died in 1183) or the 
shroud of St. Potentien. Nevertheless, the silk found in the tomb of Edward the Confessor (died 1066), shows a similar fabric from the 2nd half of the 11th century.


Silk from the tomb of Edward the Confessor, 1066

With the patches preserved indicated

(V&A  Museum)


SENS, political and religious metropolis


In the 4th century, Sens was designated by the Romans as the capital of the 4th Lyonnaise (= Lugdunensis IV or Seneonia). As such, it had under its dependence Chartres, Auxerre, Meaux, Paris, Orléans and Troyes. The ecclesiastical district was modeled on the civil district and the episcopal seat of Nevers, when it was created at the end of the 5th century, was also attached to Sens. These seven bishoprics made up an ecclesiastical province of exceptional importance reflected in the motto CAMPONT - acrostic of the initials of the seven seats - proudly inscribed under the arms of the chapter of the cathedral of Sens.

In 769, the archbishop of Sens, Villicaire, was at the head of the Frankish episcopal mission which attended the Council in Rome in charge of judging the intruding pontiff Constantine II, with the title of archbishop of the Gauls.



By a bull dated 2 January 876, Pope John VIII instituted the Archbishop of Sens Ansegise "apostolic vicar". Even if the term "primate" is not used, nobody is mistaken about the reality of the function, and the monk chronicler Odoranne even speaks of “second pope”. The primate was a link between the papal authority and the provinces.

In 1163, at the height of his quarrels with Frédérick Barbarossa, Pope Alexander III consecrated the primacy of Sens by coming to settle there, at the invitation of King Louis VII, from September 1163 to April 1165, doing so for a few month the center of Christendom.

No doubt the role of Sens declined thereafter. From the 11th century, Sens and Lyon competed for the primacy of the Gauls and Germania. As Paris became the kingdom's capital, the bishopric of Paris and the king himself found it increasingly difficult to depend on Sens. At the end of a dispute spanning several centuries, the Universi Orbis bubble of 20 October 1622 erected Paris into an archbishopric with Chartres, Meaux and Orléans as suffragants.


The diocese of Sens became an archdiocese in 696


In theTreasury of Sens Cathedral a large piece of silk is preserved decorated with peacocks and griffins.


150 Textile fragment from the Reliquary of Saint-Siviard.

Byzantine, 11th-12th century. Silk and gilded membrane 89 x 135 cm.

Provenance: Reliquary of Saint Sivard, Cathedral Treasury, Sens.

Trésor de la Cathédrale de Saint-Étienne, Sens, France (B 8)


344. Textile Fragment from the Reliquary of Saint Potentiatus.

Byzantine or Siculo-Byzantine (?) 12th century.

Silk, 145 x 97 cm.

provenance: Reliquary of Saint Potentianus (Potentien)

Trésor de la Cathédrale de Saint-Étienne, Sens, France (b7)


This textile fragment from the reliquary of Saint Potentianus, martyred third-century bishop of Sens, may be the fabric that was placed around his remains in the early thirteenth century. The bluish purple silk has a design in red and blue of large circles with frames composed of pseudo-Kufic inscriptions. Connected axially by small disks, the circles enclose stylized trees with pairs of griffins and birds (peacocks?), one above the other. The interstices are filled with tree motif containing two pairs of birds, and yellow beading trims the edge. 


Evans, Helen C. & William D. Wixom. Eds. The Glory of Byzantium. Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era A.D. 843-1261. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1997.


The peacocks are the badge of rank of a prefect and the griffins of a metropolite.  These emblems would match a pope as the Holy See was a prefecture since the 6th century.


From october 1162 until 23 November 1165 Pope Alexander III resided in Sens in exile


Basilica San Marco, Venice

Floor mosaics of an achievement of griffins supporting an ornament. Salian, early 12th cent.

Grado (until 1451)


Archdiocese of Monreale. Elevated: 5 February 1183


Two griffins respecting

Dom of Monreale, 1183 ca

Archbishops of Monreale

Guillelmus, O.S.B. (4 February 1183 – 28 October 1191)

Carus, O.S.B. (23 May 1194 – after 3 August 1222)


Bernardo Calvo Bishop of Vich



Bernat Calbó (or Calvó) (c. 1180 – 26 October 1243), sometimes called Bernard of Calvo, was a Catalan jurist, bureaucrat, monk, bishop, and soldier.

Born and educated in Manso Calvo near Reus, Bernat belonged to a family of the knightly class and early on served as a jurist and functionary at the curia of the Archdiocese of Tarragona. In 1214 he became a Cistercian monk at the monastery of Santes Creus, eventually being elected its first abbot and, in 1223 or 1233, Bishop of Vich. In 1238 he and his episcopal household joined the Crusade of Reconquista launched against the taifa of Valencia.

Bernat brought material aid to the sieges of Burriana and Valencia. When the latter fell to the forces of James I of Aragon, Bernard and his troops joined the rest for a celebratory first Mass in the central mosque of the city. He received many grants of land in the Kingdom of Valencia, which he visited a second time in 1242. Still a jurist, he helped to publish the Valencian laws, the so-called Furs of Valencia, before his death at Vich in 1243. He was buried in the Cathedral of Vic. In 1260 he was beatified by Pope Alexander IV and on 26 September 1710 he was canonised by Pope Clement XI (1700-’21).



Bishop Bernard Calvo of Vich. 1233-‘43.

To Tarragona from 1091


From his tomb there are fragments of silks with two-headed eagles and of metal and silk with medallions of a man embracing (supported by) two lions , the so-called gilgamesh motif. Another piece from the last lampas shows two griffins affronted.

Lampas with confronted griffins

From the tomb of  Bishop Bernardo Calvo of Vich (1233-1243)



Habsburg Monarchy



Back to Main Page



 © Hubert de Vries 2020-10-03




[1]  Museum Kairo. In ancient Egypt many hybrids of men and beasts occur but no hybrids of different beasts like in Mesopotamia.

[2]  Herodotus B. III. 116.

[3]  A people described in the same chapter.

[4]  Seyler, Geschichte 1890/1970 p. 158.

[5]  Lydië for some time belonged to the Hittite Empire. In the time of the Assyrians it was tributary to Assyria and consequently to the Persia of Cyrus the Great. This matches the subordination of the griffin..

[6]  Both in the  Rijksmuseum. voor Oudheden in Leiden inv. n° 29 en H ii BB2.

[7]  Harald I (940 - 986) On the socalled Stone of Jellinge Together with a  crucifix. Earlier also on te Cross of Matthew on Iona (Scotland) from he time of Harald Fairhair of Norway (858-928).

[8] Socalled Tunica of  Henry II. Diözesanmuseum, Bamberg. Suidger van Bamberg became  Pope Clemens II (†1047) in 1046 .


[10] Seyler Gesch. p. 158

[11] 2,22: Habet praeterea legio tubicine cornicines bucinatores. Tubicen ad bellum vocat milites et rursum receptui canit. Cornicines quotiens canunt, non milites sed signa ad eorum obtemperant nutum. Ergo quotiens ad aliquod opus exituri sunt soli milites, tubicines canunt, quotiens movenda sunt signa, cornicines canunt; quotiens autem pugnatur, et tubicines et cornicines paritur canunt. Classicum item appellatur quod bucinatores per cornu dicunt. Hoc insigne videtur imperii, quia classicum canitur imperatore praesent vel cum in militem capitaliter animadvertitur, quia hoc ex imperatoris legibus fieri necesse est. Sive ergo ad vigilias vel agrarias faciendas sive ad opus aliquod vel ad decursionem exeunt milites, tubicine vocante operantur et rursus tubicine admonente cessant. Cum autem moventur signa autiam mota figenda sunt, cornicines canunt.

“The music of the legion consists of trumpets, cornets and buccinae. The trumpet sounds the charge  and the retreat. The cornets are used only to regulate the motions of the colors; the trumpets serve when the soldiers are ordered out to any work without the colors; but in time of action, the  trumpets and cornets sound together. The classicum, which is a particular sound of the buccina or horn, is appropriated to the commander-in-chief and is used in the presence of the general, or at  the execution of a soldier, as a mark of its being done by his authority. The ordinary guards and outposts are always mounted and relieved by the sound of trumpet, which also directs the motions of the soldiers on working parties and on field days. The cornets sound whenever the colors are to be struck or planted. These rules must be punctually observed in all exercises and reviews so that the soldiers may be ready to obey them in action without hesitation according to the general's orders either to charge or halt, to pursue the enemy or to retire. For reason will convince us that what is necessary to be performed in the heat of action should constantly be practiced in the  leisure of peace.”

[12]  Herodotus B. III. 116.



[15]  H. Brandenburg: “Greif”. In Reallexicon für Antike und Christentum, vol 12, cols. 951 -95. Stuttgart 1983.

[16]  E. Chartraire “Les tissus anciens du Trésor de la cathédrale de Sens”. Revue d’Art Chrétien 61 (1911) pp. 371-86, 452-68.

[17] The entry of  the Cathedral van Ruvo di Puglia is surrounded by an eagle in the top and two pillars crested with griffins. Two lions for pedestal. Under the lions are kneeling people so that the entire social building rests symbolically on the people. In the West, a griffin was the symbol of the Reich Chancellor under Frederick Barbarossa and Henry VI. (Die Zeit der Staufer, Stuttgart, 1977 Kat. nrs. 100 & 159). The griffin as heraldic animal is also found in Mecklenburg, Pomerania and the area of ​​the Teutonic Order. In the east, the sebastokrator Kaloyan of Bulgaria (1197-1207) dressed in an overgarment decorated with large griffins (Niketas Choniates: Historia. Cod. Hist. gr. 53 fol. 291 v°)

[18] The official is usually identified as Alexius Murzuphlus, the last emperor of Byzantium.



[21] Monuments et mémoires de la Fondation Eugène Piot  Année 1953  Volume 47  Numéro 1  pp. 153-169