The dates of discovery of the islands are sometimes given as December 21 (St Thomas's Day), 1471 for São Tomé, and January 17 (St Anthony's Day), 1472 for Principe, though other sources give different nearby years. Principe was initially named Santo Antão (“Saint Anthony”), changing its name in 1502 to Ilha do Principe (“Prince's Island”), in reference to the Prince of Portugal to whom duties on the island's sugar crop were paid.

The island was ruled from Luanda in Angola but was for a large part an autonomous colony. In 1951 the island became a province of Portugal. The province gained its independence on 12 July 1975 and is a democratic republic since then.




In the first half of the 20th century a coat of arms for the colony was planned. Therefore the personal coat of arms of King Alphonso V was thought to be suitable because the islands were “discovered” during his reign (1438-1481) in the year of his conquest of Arzila. This personal emblem or impresa consisted of a mill- or water wheel spilling drops, perhaps symbolizing industry and grief.



Shield and banner with the personal emblem of king Alphonso V on the Tapestry of Pastrana

The tapestry shows the conquest of Arzila (Morocco) in 1471


A first coat of arms was designed in 1933 together with he coats of arms of the other Portuguese colonies. It was:

Arms of São Tomé e Príncipe, 1933 [1]


Arms: Gules, a mill-wheel Or,  spilliing drops of water Argent; within a bordure Or, charged with five quinas escutcheons alternating with five crosse of the Order of Christ.

Crown: A Portuguese mural crown of five towers Or.



A year later a new coat of arms appeared:


Provisional arms of São Tomé e Príncipe, 1934 [2]


Arms: Gules, in dexter chief a quinas of five escutcheons proper, and in siniser chief an open hand issuant from the dexter, proper.


The argumentation for these arms is not known.


However, this coat of arms was not accepted and replaced by an other coat of arms the next year:

As a part of the Portugues Seaborne Empire the colony was granted a coat of arms on 8 May 1935. It shows the tierced shield common for all other Portuguese colonies with the quinas in the first and waves of the sea in the third quarter. In the second quarter is a mill-wheel with drops of water flying off. This was the personal symbol of king Alphonso V (1438-’81), during whose reign the islands were discovered, used in his campaigns on shields and banners.

Like the arms for the other colonies the shield is placed on an armillary sphere, crowned with a mural crown with five towers. [3]

The achievement for the colony was completed with a listel with the title COLONIA PORTUGUESA DE SÃO TOMÉ E PRÍNCIPE. This was changed in 1951 into: PROVÍN. PORTUGUESA DE SÃO TOMÉ E PRÍNCIPE. (PROVÍNCIA. PORTUGUESA DE S TOMÉ E PRÍNCIPE).


Achievement of São Tomé e Príncipe adopted 8.V.1935




A national emblem is known from the time of the founding of the democratic republic and was confirmed in subsequent versions of the constitution. About the national symbols the present constitution of 25 January 2003 reads:


Artigo 14.º


Símbolos Nacionais


1. A Bandeira Nacional é constituída por três barras dispostas horizontalmente, sendo verdes e de igual largura as dos extremos, e a mediana, na qual estão apostas duas estrelas negras de cinco pontas, amarela, e uma vez e meia mais larga que cada uma das outras e por um triângulo encarnado, cuja base se situa do lado esquerdo da Bandeira. A altura do triângulo é metade da base.


2. O Hino Nacional é “INDEPENDÊNCIA TOTAL”.


3. A insígnia é constituída pela figura de um falcão à esquerda e um papagaio à direita, separados por um brasão de forma ovular, cuja abcissa vertical é de dimensão 0,33 vezes superior que a horizontal e no interior do qual se destaca uma palmeira situada ao longo da abcissa vertical.


(The emblem consists of a falcon on the left and a parrot on the right, separated by an oval shield of which the vertical axis is 0,33 times larger than the horizontal one and in which there is a palmtree along the vertical axis)


In this redaction it is not mentioned that the achievement is completed with a title on a ribbon in chief and a motto on a ribbon in base. Nor is it mentioned that on top of the shield there is a blue five-pointed star.


The blazoning of the achievement could be:


Arms: Or, a palmtree on a ground proper.

Crest: On a wreath Azure and Or a five-pointed star Sable fimbriated Azure.

Supporters: A falcon on the dexter and a parrot on the sinister, proper.


Motto: UNIDADE  DISCIPLINA TRABALHO (Union, Disciplin, Work) on a ribbon Or.


ð see illustration in the head of this essay.


The palmtree symbolizes the main trade crops of the Republic: cocoa, copra and coffee. The star is for the republican form of government in Africa. The birds symbolize the local avifauna: the falcon may be a  Lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus - Falconidæ); the parrot is an African gray parrot (Psittacus erithacus - Psittaciformes) common in West Africa.


Presidential flag (2003)




Cap badge


Sleeve patch


Armed Forces


The Armed Forces of São Tomé and Príncipe (Forças Armadas de São Tomé e Príncipe, FASTP) date back to 1968. They consist of a small land and naval contingent, with a limited budget.


Comando Territorial de São Tomé e Príncipe





Arms: Gules, a mill-wheel Or, flowing therefrom drops Azure, within a bordure also Gules.

Crest: On a helmet to the dexter, lambrequined Gules and Or, two lions’ claws in saltire keeping the mill-wheel of the arms.

Motto: VIRTVDE E HONRA (Virtue and Honour)


·       The mill-wheel was the personal emblem of King Alphonso V

·       The red bordure symbolizes the Independent Colonial Command

·       The lions’claws symbolize the arms of the soldiers defending the Independent Colonial Command of São Tomé e Príncipe.




Ancient Arms and Banner  [4]




Army and Air force badge



Sao Tomé & Principe armed forces. Cap badge [5]




Coast Guard


Air Force


Roundel 1968



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© Hubert de Vries 2009.03.13. Updated 2011-11-17; 2019-02-11; 2019-03-07




[1] http://hemerotecadigital.cm-lisboa.pt/Periodicos/BoletimdaSociedadeLusoAfricana/BoletimdaSociedadeLusoAfricana.htm

[2] http://hemerotecadigital.cm-lisboa.pt/Periodicos/BoletimdaSociedadeLusoAfricana/BoletimdaSociedadeLusoAfricana.htm April-June 1934. P. 55

[3]  Soares Zilhão, João: O brazão de Moçambique e o armorial das colónias portugesas. In: Moçambique, documentario trimestrial, N° 3 Setembro 1935.

[4]  From:  Guerra do Ultramar: Brasões, Guiões e Crachás

[5] https://www.coisas.com/categories.php?start=0&&limit=48&parent_id=0&keywords_cat_search=crachas%20militares&option=keywords_cat_search&v=g&attrs[]=al