I have recently received our Trafelet coat of
arms, and am seeking interpretation of its symbolism.
Trafelet is from the Canton of Bern, village of Vinelz. I have visited
Vinelz many years ago, where I photographed what was presented to me as
our coat of arms. Recently, I found a distant cousin, in Canada, who
forwarded me an augmented version, from the archives somewhere in Bern.
I don't know if this list accepts attachments, and I don't have the
image scanned yet, but here goes:
The basic shield is U shaped, not a pointed chevron. The background is
red, with a thick, bluish gray T inside, which
touches the edge of the shield. On either side of the upright bar on
the red area, and here's the mystery, are two identical objects that
look like flaming balls in a gold or dark yellow color.
My first impression is that they are armaments, or bombs of some sort.
They consist of a sphere, shaded
to indicate volume, with a definite opening and lip at the top. *If* it
had a flat bottom, it might be a vase, jar, or some sort of container.
Coming out of the opening of this container are five fingers of what
appears to be flame, the center "flame" reaching the bottom of the T
Now, I've just compared, for the first time, my photograph from Vinelz,
and the version from the Bern archive dated 1650. There is a difference
in that the Vinelz version, the "fireballs" do not touch the T cross
This basic description is all of what is in the Vinelz version. And
now, to the rest of the differences in the 1650 version.
Atop the entire shield is a Knights helmet, closed, facing forward.
There appear to be three plumes coming out of the top, two red and a
center one black, although the color reproduction has obliterated any
detail in the black area.
Coming from behind the helmet, in a symmetrical pattern, are red,
"fleur-de-leis" (I know I spelled that wrong), which extend past the
shield and dip down, where they turn to a yellow/gold to match the
fireballs. These parts are
more leaf like and not rigid outlines, they are shaded and detailed to
indicate volume. The finial tips from the red are gold, and reversed,
the finial tips of the gold are red.
The last difference of the 1650 version, is that the shield is drawn in
perspective, showing the top and right edge
turned slightly toward us. Although this may be a defect in color
reproduction, there is a light source from the left, as the shading on
the "fleurs" and the fireballs indicate. This shading is what gives the
spheres of the fireballs their volume.
I learned, only yesterday, that coats of arms don't necessarily
indicate nobility (dreams of castles and titles are now
heard crashing unceremoniously to the ground), although they were
awarded for civic or military achievement.
I could have sworn, although it was over thirty (gasp) years ago, that
the town records in Vinelz showed Trafelets
from the 15th and 16th centuries listed. Therefore, I am guessing that
the Vinelz version predates the modified 1650 version from Bern
As I'm just a dumb American, and don't know my world history well
enough, I am going to guess again that no country frees itself from the
Holy Roman Empire without a fight. So, 1648 is an important date in
Would it be correct to suppose that the later 1650 version was a result
of Trafelet military achievement in that war?
Of course, that's just an uneducated guess, as you can tell. If it's
even close, then it makes me wonder about the pre-1650 Vinelz version,
and our history there. Again, mere speculation in a fascinating process.
I would so appreciate any corrections, links, or further resources, as
there are other Trafelets in Canada and America who have delved into
this uncommon name. I, as likely are many of you, also on the SURNAMES
list, where I
discovered Trafelet isn't even in the Swiss Surname Registry. Wow.
Looks like there's work to be done here.
Thomas Trafelet email@example.com
Los Angeles, California