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A coat of arms, more properly called an armorial achievement, armorial bearings or often just arms for short, in European tradition, is a design belonging to a particular person (or group of people) and used by them in a wide variety of ways. Historically, they were used by knights to identify them apart from enemy soldiers. In Continental Europe, commoners were able to adopt burgher arms. Unlike seals and emblems, coats of arms have a formal description that is expressed as a blazon. In the 21st century, coats of arms are still in use by a variety of institutions and individuals (for example several universities have guidelines on how their coats of arms may be used and protect their use).
The art of designing, displaying, describing and recording arms is called heraldry. The use of coats of arms by countries, states, provinces, towns and villages is called civic heraldry.
In the heraldic traditions of England and Scotland an individual, rather than a family, had a coat of arms. In those traditions coats of arms are legal property transmitted from father to son; wives and daughters could also bear arms modified to indicate their relation to the current holder of the arms. Undifferenced arms are used only by one person at any given time. Other descendants of the original bearer could bear the ancestral arms only with some difference: usually a colour change or the addition of a distinguishing charge. One such charge is the label, which in British usage (outside the Royal Family) is now always the mark of an heir apparent.
Because of their importance in identification, particularly in seals on legal documents, the use of arms was strictly regulated; few countries continue in this today. This has been carried out by heralds and the study of coats of arms is therefore called "heraldry". Some other traditions (e.g., Polish heraldry) are less restrictive — allowing, for example, all members of a dynastic house or family to use the same arms, although one or more elements may be reserved to the head of the house.
In time, the use of coat of arms spread from military entities to educational institutes, and other establishments. According to a design institute article, "The modern logo and corporate livery have evolved from the battle standard and military uniform of mediaeval times".
In his book, The Visual Culture of Violence in the Late Middle Ages, Valentin Groebner argues that the images composed on coats of arms are in many cases designed to convey a feeling of power and strength, often in military terms. The author Helen Stuart argues that some coat of arms were a form of corporate logo. Museums on mediaeval coat of arms also point out that as emblems they may be viewed as a pre-cursors to the corporate logos of modern society, used for group identity formation.
The American Great Seal is often said to be the coat of arms of the United States. The blazon ("Paleways of 13 pieces, argent and gules; a chief, azure") is intentionally improper to preserve the symbolic number 13.
Most American states generally have seals, which fill the role of a coat of arms. However, the state of Vermont (founded as the independant Vermont Republic) follows the American convention of assigning use of a seal for authenticating official state documents and also has its own separate coat of arms.
Many American social fraternities and sororities, especially college organisations, use coats of arms in their symbolism. These arms vary widely in their level of adherence to European heraldic tradition. Organisations formed outside the United States with U.S. membership also may have a coat of arms. Roman Catholic dioceses and cathedrals have a coat of arms.
Note that not all personal or corporate insignia are heraldic, though they may share many features. For example, flags are used to identify ships (where they are called ensigns), embassies and such, and they use the same colours and designs found in heraldry, but they are not usually considered to be heraldic. A country may have both a national flag and a national coat of arms, and the two may not look alike at all. For example, the flag of Scotland (St Andrew's Cross) has a white saltire on a blue field, but the royal arms of Scotland has a red lion within a double tressure on a gold (or) field.
The Vatican has its own coat of arms. As the Papacy is not hereditary, its occupants display their personal arms combined with those of their office.
Some Popes came from armigerous (noble) families; others adopted coats of arms during their career in the church. The latter typically allude to their ideal of life, or to specific Pontifical programmes. A well known and widely displayed example in recent times was Pope John Paul II's coat of arms. His selection of a large letter M (for Mary) on his coat of arms was intended to express the message of his strong Marian devotion.
Roman Catholic Dioceses also are assigned a coat of arms. A Basilica, or papal church also gets a coat of arms, which is usually displayed on the building. These may be used in countries which otherwise do not use heraldic devices.
In Scotland, the Lord Lyon King of Arms has criminal jurisdiction to enforce the laws of arms. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales the use of arms is a matter of civil law and regulated from the College of Arms.
In reference to a dispute over the exercise of authority over the Officers of Arms, Arthur Annesley, 1st Earl of Anglesey, Lord Privy Seal, declared on 16 June 1673 that the powers of the Earl Marshal were "to order, judge, and determine all matters touching arms, ensigns of nobility, honour, and chivalry; to make laws, ordinances, and statutes for the good government of the Officers of Arms; to nominate Officers to fill vacancies in the College of Arms; to punish and correct Officers of Arms for misbehaviour in the execution of their places". It was further declared that no patents of arms or any ensigns of nobility should be granted and no augmentation, alteration, or addition should be made to arms without the consent of the Earl Marshal.
Today, the term "coat of arms" is frequently applied in two different ways. In some uses, it may indicate a full achievement of arms or heraldic achievement, which includes a variety of elements — usually a crest sitting atop a helmet, itself sitting on a shield; other common elements include supporters holding up the shield and a motto (beneath in England, above in Scotland). Some people wrongly use "coat of arms" or "arms" to refer to the escutcheon (i.e., the shield itself), or to one of several designs that may be combined in one shield. (Note that the crest is one specific part of a heraldic achievement and that "crest of arms" is a misnomer.) The "coat of arms" frequently are adorned with a device - a motto, emblem, or other mark used to distinguish the bearer from others. If a motto is a part of the achievement, it sometimes has some punning allusion to the owner's name. A device differs from a badge or cognizance primarily because it is a personal distinction, and not a badge borne by members of the same house successively.
Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of devising, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound *harja-waldaz, "army commander". The word, in its most general sense, encompasses all matters relating to the duties and responsibilities of officers of arms. To most, though, heraldry is the practice of designing, displaying, describing, and recording coats of arms and badges. Historically, it has been variously described as "the shorthand of history" and "the floral border in the garden of history."The origins of heraldry lie in the need to distinguish participants in combat when their faces were hidden by iron and steel helmets. Eventually a formal system of rules developed into ever more complex forms of heraldry.
The system of blazoning arms that is used in English-speaking countries today was developed by the officers of arms in the Middle Ages. This includes a stylised description of the escutcheon (shield), the crest, and, if present, supporters, mottoes, and other insignia. Certain rules apply, such as the Rule of tincture, and a thorough understanding of these rules is a key to the art of heraldry. The rules and terminology do differ from country to country, indeed several national styles had developed by the end of the Middle Ages, but there are some aspects that carry over internationally.
Though heraldry is nearly 900 years old, it is still very much in use. Many cities and towns in Europe and around the world still make use of arms. Personal heraldry, both legally protected and lawfully assumed, has continued to be used around the world. Heraldic societies exist to promote education and understanding about the subject.
Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica (Spanish: Costa Rica or República de Costa Rica, pronounced [re̞ˈpuβ̞lika ð̞e̞ ˈko̞sta ˈrika]) is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the east and south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south and the Caribbean Sea to the east.
Costa Rica, which translates literally as "Rich Coast", constitutionally abolished its army permanently in 1949. Costa Rica has consistently been among the top Latin American countries in terms of the Human Development Index, and ranked 54th in the world in 2007. The country is ranked 5th in the world, and 1st among the Americas, in terms of the 2008 Environmental Performance Index. In 2007 the Costa Rican government announced plans for Costa Rica to become the first carbon neutral country by 2021. According to the New Economics Foundation, Costa Rica ranks first in the Happy Planet Index and is the greenest country in the world. The HPI measures how much of the Earth's resources nations use and how long and happy a life their citizens enjoy as a result.
In pre-Columbian times the indigenous people were part of the international Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been updated to include the influence of the Isthmo-Colombian area. It was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met.
A pre-Columbian incense burner with a crocodile lid (500 - 1350 CE), from Costa Rica.
The northwest of the country, the Nicoya Peninsula, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the sixteenth century. The central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences. However, the indigenous people have influenced modern Costa Rican culture to a relatively small degree, as most of these died from diseases such as smallpox and mistreatment by the Spaniards.
The first European to reach what is now Costa Rica was Christopher Columbus in 1502. During Spanish Colonial times, the largest city in Central America was Guatemala City. Costa Rica's distance from this hub led to difficulty in establishing trade routes and was one of the reasons that Costa Ricans developed in relative isolation and with little oversight from the Spanish Monarchy ("The Crown"). While this isolation allowed the colony to develop free of intervention by The Crown, it also contributed to its failure to share in the prosperity of the Colonies. Costa Rica was described as "the poorest and most miserable Spanish colony in all Americas" by a Spanish governor in 1719.
Another contributing factor to this poverty was the lack of indigenous people used as forced labour. While many Spaniards in the other colonies had tribal members working on their land, most of the Costa Rican settlers had to work on their own land themselves. For all these reasons Costa Rica was by and large unappreciated and overlooked by the Crown and left to develop on its own. It is believed that the circumstances during this period led to the formation of many of the idiosyncrasies that Costa Rica has become known for, while at the same time setting the stage for Costa Rica's development as a more egalitarian society than the rest of its neighbours. Costa Rica became a "rural democracy" with no oppressed mestizo or indigenous class. It was not long before Spanish settlers turned to the hills, where they found rich volcanic soil and a climate that was milder than that of the lowlands.
Costa Rica joined other Central American provinces in 1821 in a joint declaration of independence from Spain. After a brief time in the Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide Costa Rica became a state in the Federal Republic of Central America from 1823 to 1839. In 1824 the capital was moved to San José, but violence briefly ensued through an intense rivalry with Cartago. Although the newly independant provinces formed a Federation, border disputes broke out among them, adding to the region's turbulent history and conditions.
Costa Rica's membership in the newly formed Federal Republic of Central America, free of Spanish rule, was short lived; in 1838, long after the Central American Federation ceased to function in practice, Costa Rica formally withdrew and proclaimed itself sovereign. The distance from Guatemala City to the Central Valley of Costa Rica, where most of the population lived and still lives, was great. The local population had little allegiance to the government in Guatemala City, in part because of the history of isolation during Colonial times. Costa Rica's disinterest in participating as a province in a greater Central American government was one of the deciding factors in the break-up of the fledgling federation into independant states, which still exist today. However, all of the Central American nations still celebrate September 15 as their independence day, which pertains to the independence of Central America from Spain.
Most Afro-Costa Ricans, who constitute about 3% of the country's population, descend from Jamaican immigrants who arrived during the 1880s to work in the construction of railways connecting the urban populations of the Central Plateau to the port of Limón on the Caribbean coast. United States convicts and Chinese immigrants also participated in the construction project, conducted by U.S. businessman Minor C. Keith. In exchange for completing the railroad, the Costa Rican government granted Keith large tracts of land and a lease on the train route, which he used to produce bananas and export them to the United States. As a result, bananas came to rival coffee as the principal Costa Rican export, while foreign-owned corporations (including the United Fruit Company) began to hold a major role in the national economy.
Historically, Costa Rica has generally enjoyed greater peace and more consistent political stability compared with many of its fellow Latin American nations. Since the late nineteenth century, however, Costa Rica has experienced two significant periods of violence. In 1917-19, Federico Tinoco Granados ruled as a dictator until he was overthrown and forced into exile. Again in 1948, José Figueres Ferrer led an armed uprising in the wake of a disputed presidential election. With more than 2,000 dead, the resulting 44-day Costa Rican Civil War was the bloodiest event in Costa Rica during the twentieth-century. Afterwards, the new, victorious government junta, led by the opposition, abolished the military and oversaw the drafting of a new constitution by a democratically elected assembly. Having enacted these reforms, the regime finally relinquished its power on November 8, 1949, to the new democratic government. After the coup d'état, Figueres became a national hero, winning the country's first democratic election under the new constitution in 1953. Since then, Costa Rica has held 12 presidential elections, the latest being in 2006. All of them have been widely regarded by the international community as peaceful, transparent, and relatively smooth transitions.
Costa Rica boasts a varied history. Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The northwest of the country, the Nicoya peninsula, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the sixteenth century. The central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences. The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African workers during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Today Costa Rican culture is a peculiar variety of Latin American culture in that pre-Columbian influences are almost non-existent today, since most of the indigenous population was virtually erased by epidemics in the first century of Spanish colonisation. As a result the immigration of Spaniards and their 16th-Spanish culture and its evolution marked everyday life and culture until today, with Spanish language and the Catholic religion as main cultural pillars.
The Department of Culture, Youth, and Sports is in charge of the promotion and coordination of the cultural life. The work of the department is divided into Direction of Culture, Visual Arts, Scenic Arts, Music, Patrimony and the System of Libraries. Although the department creates many initiatives, they are constrained by the lack of resources. Permanent programs, nevertheless, are constantly high quality, such as the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica and the Youth Symphony Orchestra, brilliant conjunctions of two areas of work: Culture and Youth. Reggae and reggaeton are popular as well, possibly because its main representatives are regionally grown. Dance-orientated genres like soca, salsa, bachata, merengue, cumbia and Costa Rican swing have been increasingly shifting towards an older demographic. The guitar is a popular instrument especially as an accompaniment to folk dances, however, the marimba was given the status of the national instrument.