Coat of arms of Finland

The coat of arms of Finland is a crowned lion on a red field, the right foreleg replaced with an armoured hand brandishing a sword, trampling on a sabre with the hindpaws. The coat of arms was originally created around the year 1580.

Coat of arms of Finland
Coat of arms of Finland
ArmigerRepublic of Finland
AdoptedFirst documented in the 1580s.
Current version official since 1978.
BlazonGules, semy of roses argent, a lion rampant crowned Or trampling a sabre in base proper, his dexter foreleg in the form of a man's arm vambraced and embowed argent garnished Or bearing aloft a sword proper.


The lion in Nordic heraldry

Valdemar Birgerssons vapen (1252)
Figure 2: Coat of arms of Valdemar Birgersson

The heraldic lion is quite common in Western Europe, and several European countries incorporate it into their national coats of arms. In Nordic heraldry, the lion is first found in the coat of arms of Denmark in the later part of the 12th century.

Starting in the 13th century, the territory of today's Finland was gradually incorporated into the Swedish kingdom, and this coincided with the period when coats of arms first came into use in northern Europe. The first known use of the lion in Sweden was on the royal seals of Erik Knutsson (died 1216) and Erik Eriksson (1216–50), who used two and three lions on their seal, respectively. The first king of the Folkunga family, Valdemar Birgersson (1239–1302), also used 3 lions on his seal (Figure 2).

Finland as a duchy

Magnus Ladulås sköld, Nordisk familjebok
Figure 3: Folkunga coat of arms
Seal of duke valdemar of finland
Figure 4: Seal of duke Valdemar

Bengt Birgersson, the first Duke of Finland (1254–91, Duke from 1284 until 1291), and Valdemar Magnusson, the second Duke (died 1318, Duke of Finland from 1302 until 1317), both used the later Folkunga coat of arms, which was a crowned lion rampant with three bends sinister, the main difference being that Valdemar's arms had the field strewn with hearts (Figure 3). This version of the arms was quite similar to the modern coat of arms of Finland, but the lion did not yet brandish any weapon.


When John III assumed the title of "Grand Duke of Finland and Karelia", shortened to Grand Duke of Finland in 1577 (or soon thereafter), the lion became closely associated with Finland through the grand-ducal coats of arms (Figure 5). The grand-ducal coat of arms is thought to have resulted out of a combination of the Göta lion (originating from the Folkunga lion) and the arms of Karelia (Figure 6). The result was that the lion brandishes one weapon and treads on another.

Coat of Arms of Finland
Figure 5: Grand-ducal coat of arms of Finland, tomb of King Gustav Vasa (Uppsala cathedral, Sweden)
Coat of Arms of Karelia
Figure 6: Coat of arms of Karelia, tomb of King Gustav Vasa (Uppsala cathedral, Sweden)

The best-known version of the grand-ducal coat of arms is found on the tomb of Gustavus I (1523–60) in the Uppsala cathedral (Figure 5). It has been suggested that either Duke John himself, or his brother Eric XIV, was leading the design work on the heraldic signs on the tomb. Neither statement can be confirmed, but it is known that Eric XIV showed an interest in heraldry. The monument was commissioned from Guillaume Boyen (Willem Boy), a Flemish architect and sculptor who had worked in Sweden. He started on the task in Antwerp in 1562, completing it 10 years later; however, the tomb was not in place in Uppsala until the early 1580s, and the finishing work lasted until 1591. In addition to the royal arms of Sweden and those of Finland, the arms of the 11 provinces are depicted. From Finland they include North and South Finland, as well as Tavastia and Karelia. The work of Willem Boy is of exceptional quality, which is perhaps explained by the fact that lions were a dominant feature in the heraldry of Flanders, and he would therefore have had a great deal of exposure to it before receiving the commission for the tomb of Gustavus I.

The earliest known blazon from this period states that the arms of Finland represents A crowned lion of gold holding a sword in the right forepaw and trampling with both hindpaws on a Russian sabre (ryssesabel), surrounded by nine silver roses in a red field, over the shield a golden crown with a red cap. As both King Gustavus I and his son, John III, were involved in lengthy wars with Russia, it should come as no surprise that this was a central element in the arms of both the Grand Duchy of Finland, and in that of the coat of arms of the Finnish province of Karelia (Figure 6), which symbolizes the struggle between East and West.

The purpose of the nine roses remains unknown, but are now mostly considered to be decorative only. They have sometimes been claimed to represent the nine historical provinces of Finland, but this hypothesis has not found support among prominent scholars.[1] The number of towns in the nominal "Grand Duchy of Finland and Karelia" in 1580 were also nine,[2] but no known historical research provides support for a link between the number of roses and the number of towns in Finland in 1580.


Swedish era

Coat of arms of Swedish Finland
Figure 7: Coat of arms of Swedish Finland (1775)

During the following centuries, the arms of Finland were to appear in different versions of varying artistic quality, and it was only in the late 19th century when the Uppsala lion was again taken into use as the prototype for the coat of arms of Finland.

The lion experienced several changes during the 17th century. In the funeral banner of Charles X Gustavus (in 1660) it can be seen treading on the sabre with all three free paws; in drawings by Elias Brenner (in the Suecia antique et hodierna by Erik Dahlberg, printed in 1716), it is pictured with a double tail (queue fourchée) and with an almost walking posture.

Russian era

Coat of Arms of Grand Duchy of Finland-holding sabre
Figure 8: Coat of arms of Finland within imperial Russian arms

After Finland had been ceded to Russia (as a consequence of the Swedish–Russian war of 1808–1809), Elias Brenner's version of the lion was chosen by the authorities as the model for the new coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire. The blazon in the decree of 26 October 1809 states: The shield has a red field, strewn with roses of silver, on which a golden lion with a crown of gold, standing on a silver saber, which it grasps with the left forepaw while holding in the right forepaw an upright sword. Obviously, any interpretation of the lion as trampling on a Russian sabre had been lost at this point in time.

During the reform of the Russian official heraldry in 1857, the lion was again changed on the initiative of baron Bernhard Karl von Köhne. The blazon states: On a red field strewn with silver roses a crowned lion of gold, holding in the right forepaw an upright sword and in the left one a curved sword on which it rests with the right hindpaw. The main changes were that the lion had started to resemble a dog rather than a lion, and the crown on top of the shield had been changed to an arched crown without a cap, and with a small Russian eagle on the rim. The sword in the right forepaw had shrunk in size, to the point of resembling a dagger rather than a sword (Figure 8).

During the years when the Russian emperors attempted russification of Finland (1899–1905 and 1908–17), the use of the arms of Finland increased significantly, and eventually became popular in the broader population.

The director of the Finnish National Archives, Karl August Bomansson (1827–1906) made the first significant study on the arms of Finland in modern times. He restored the appearance of the arms in 1886, so that it closely resembled the Uppsala lion. However, there was a slight deviation on how the lion tramples on the saber, and the arched crown with the imperial eagle in the von Köhne version was replaced with a crown similar to that of a German princely crown. This version of the arms was subsequently used in the early years of Finnish independence.

Early independence

Finland greater arms suggestion 1936
Figure 9: Unapproved design for the greater coat of arms
Coat of Arms of Kingdom of Finland (1918-1919)
Figure 10:Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Finland (1918)

During the 1920s and 1930s, the national arms became the subject of some controversy, and the debate centered on whether the lion should be replaced with a bear, which had an important place in the national folklore. Already in 1557, the bear had emerged as the emblem of Finnia Septentrionalis ("North Finland", at the time roughly the same as Satakunta and northern Southwest Finland) and continues to be used as the coat of arms of Satakunta. However, outside Finland, the bear was usually regarded as a symbol of Russia. The debate was however not settled, and throughout most of the 20th century, versions of the arms were used that closely adhered to the Uppsala lion.

In 1936, a state committee suggested a compromise that Finland should have a "greater" and a "smaller" coat of arms. The greater coat of arms was proposed to have two bears as supporters of the arms (Figure 8), with a base of spruce twigs and with the motto vapaa, vankka, vakaa ("free, firm, steadfast"). This would have given the bear a place in the national heraldry, but the design was never confirmed, nor was this version of the arms taken into use.[3]


The blazon of the national coat of arms was finally settled in 1978, when the law of 26 May 1978 (381/78) described the coat of arms as follows: On a red field, a crowned lion, the right forepaw replaced with an armoured hand brandishing a sword, trampling on a saber with the hindpaws, the lion, crowned and armed, the weapons hilted and the armour garnished gold, the blades and the armour silver, the field strewn with nine roses of silver.[4] (This is, however, a direct translation from Finnish; the heraldic blazon would be Gules, a lion crowned Or rampant striking with a sword Argent on his armoured dexter arm, trampling on a sabre Argent; surmounted with nine roses Argent)

The coat of arms appears on the Finnish state flag. The Finnish lion is also used in a wide variety of emblems of different state authorities, often modified to depict the duties of the unit or the authority. On the other hand, the Finnish municipalities and regions usually use heraldic motifs drawn from elsewhere, leaving the lion for state use (exceptions exist, such as the Coat of arms of Jakobstad). The Finnish lion also appears as an armed force's generals' rank insignia and in the navy as part of an officer's rank insignia.

7 Ohjuslaivue lippu

7th Missile Squadron, Finnish Navy: Finnish lion with a fish-tail and a trident


Artillery Brigade: Finnish lion holding a cannon

Pion- ja SKoul lippu

Engineering and NBC Warfare School, Finnish Army: Finnish lion holding a shield, symbolizing NBC protection.

Suomen Maavoimien tunnus

Finnish Army: Finnish coat of arms with jaeger green escutcheon placed upon crossed swords

Suomen Merivoimien tunnus

Finnish Navy: Coat of arms with an anchor of naval blue colour.


Finnish Defence Forces International Center: Finnish lion holding a herald's staff


Finnish National Defence University: Finnish lion carrying a shield with the heraldic rose, the Finnish officers' rank insignia

Police of Finland: lion's head as a handle of a sword

Asekoulu lippu

Technical Training Center, Finnish Army: Finnish lion rising from an anvil

Kenraali kauluslaatta

Collar insigna of General of the Finnish Defence force general staff

Yliluutnantti olkalaatta

Shoulder strap of Senior Lieutenant of the Finnish Navy

Yliluutnantti l hihalaatta

Sleeve insigna of Senior Lieutenant of the Finnish Navy

See also


  1. ^ Article on the Coats of arms of Finland, can be found in ThisisFINLAND by Maunu Harmo, Master of Pol. Sc., Former President of Finnish Society of Heraldry.
  2. ^ Turku, Porvoo, Rauma, Naantali, Pori, Vyborg, Ekenäs, Helsinki and Priozersk that had been captured from Russia in 1580.
  3. ^ Pikku Jättiläinen. WSOY 1985. ISBN 951-0-12416-8. Page 1040.
  4. ^ Law on the coat of arms of Finland (Laki Suomen vaakunasta 26.5.1978/381). Hosted by Finlex.

Vide also Dr Antti Matikkala, 'Finnish Heraldic Bookplates', The Heraldic Craftsman, No. 87, January 2015,


  • Talvio, Tuukka. The Lion of Finland. ISBN 951-616-040-9.

External links

1 euro cent coin

The 1 euro cent coin (€0.01) has a value of one hundredth of a euro and is composed of copper-covered steel. The coins of every Euro country have a common reverse and each has a country-specific (national) obverse. The coin has been used since 2002 and was not redesigned in 2007 as was the case with the higher-value coins.

Armorial of sovereign states

This gallery of sovereign state coats of arms shows the coat of arms, an emblem serving a similar purpose, or both (such as a greater and lesser coat of arms, a national emblem, or a seal) of each of the countries in the list of countries.

Coat of arms of Poland

The coat of arms of Poland is a white, crowned eagle with a golden beak and talons, on a red background.

In Poland, the coat of arms as a whole is referred to as godło both in official documents and colloquial speech, despite the fact that other coats of arms are usually called an herb (e.g. the Nałęcz herb or the coat of arms of Finland). This stems from the fact that in Polish heraldry, the word godło (plural: godła) means only a heraldic charge (in this particular case a white crowned eagle) and not an entire coat of arms, but it is also an archaic word for a national symbol of any sort. In later legislation only the herb retained this designation; it is unknown why.

Coat of arms of the Province of Karelia

The coat of arms of Karelia in Finland were first used in 1562, although the arms were probably presented at the burial of Gustav Vasa in 1560. The arms were used for the Swedish province of Karelia and they have been used continuously since then. Variations of the arms are still used in two regions of Finland: North Karelia and South Karelia, in which the North Karelian version is the original one. Present day North Karelia wasn't part of Swedish Kingdom back in 1562. Sweden gained the area from Russia after the Treaty of Stolbovo in 1617. For the most part, present day South Karelia had belonged to Sweden from 1323 onwards, since Treaty of Nöteborg.

The blazon for the arms may be translated as follows:

A golden crown above two duelling arms, the left gauntleted arm holding a sword and the right mailed arm a scimitar, all silver except for golden hafts and gauntlet joint. Ducal coronet.

The two hands holding a sword and a scimitar are generally seen as symbol of Karelia's position between the Swedish and Russian realms. The coat of arms of Finland use the sword and scimitar in a similar manner.

Embassy of Finland, London

The Embassy of Finland in London is the diplomatic mission of Finland in the United Kingdom.The Grade II listed building was built by Thomas Cubitt in the 1830s and had many occupants until it became the Finnish embassy in 1975.A protest was held outside the embassy in 2011 by people alleging that the then-Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi's election campaign had been part-funded by the fur industry.

Finnish euro coins

Finnish euro coins feature three designs. Heikki Häiväoja provided the design for the 1 cent – 50 cent coins, Pertti Mäkinen provided the design for the 1 euro coin, and Raimo Heino provided the design for the 2 euro coin, which shows cloudberry, the golden berry of northern Finland. All designs feature the 12 stars of the EU and the year of imprint.

Finnish heraldry

Finnish heraldry has a common past with Swedish heraldry until 1809 and it belongs to German heraldric tradition.

Flag of Finland

The flag of Finland (Finnish: Suomen lippu, Swedish: Finlands flagga), also called siniristilippu ("Blue Cross Flag"), dates from the beginning of the 20th century. On a white background, it features a blue Nordic cross, which represents Christianity.The state flag has a coat of arms in the centre, but is otherwise identical to the civil flag. The swallow-tailed state flag is used by the military. The presidential standard is identical to the swallow-tailed state flag but also has in its upper left corner the Cross of Liberty after the Order of the Cross of Liberty, which has the President of Finland as its Grand Master. Like Sweden's, Finland's national flag is based on the Scandinavian cross. It was adopted after independence from Russia, when many patriotic Finns wanted a special flag for their country, but its design dates back to the 19th century. The blue colouring is said to represent the country's thousands of lakes and the sky, with white for the snow that covers the land in winter. This colour combination has also been used over the centuries in various Finnish provincial, military, and town flags.

Governor-General of Finland

Governor-General of Finland (Finnish: Suomen kenraalikuvernööri Swedish: Generalguvernör över Finland Russian: Генерал-губернатор Финляндии); was the military commander and the highest administrator of Finland sporadically under Swedish rule in the 17th and 18th centuries and continuously in the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland between 1809 and 1917.

House of Bjelbo

The House of Bjelbo (Swedish: Bjälboätten), also known as the House of Folkung (Folkungaätten), was an Ostrogothian Swedish family that provided several medieval Swedish bishops, jarls and kings. It also provided three kings of Norway, and one king of Denmark in the 14th century.

Lion (heraldry)

The lion is a common charge in heraldry. It traditionally symbolises courage, nobility, royalty, strength, stateliness and valour, because historically it has been regarded as the "king of beasts". Lion refers also to a Judeo-Christian symbolism. The Lion of Judah stands in the coat of arms of Jerusalem. Similar looking lion can be found e.g. in the coat of arms of the Swedish royal House of Bjelbo, from there in turn derived into the coat of arms of Finland, formerly belonging to Sweden, and many others examples for similar historical reasons.

List of Finland-related topics

This is a collection of articles relating to Finland, a country in Northern Europe.

List of flags of Finland

The following is a list of flags of Finland. For more information, see flag of Finland.

National coat of arms

A national coat of arms is a symbol which denotes an independent state in the form of a heraldic achievement. While a national flag is usually used by the population at large and is flown outside and on ships, a national coat of arms is normally considered a symbol of the government or (especially in monarchies) the head of state personally and tends to be used in print, on heraldic china, and as a wall decoration in official buildings. The royal arms of a monarchy, which may be identical to the national arms, are sometimes described as arms of dominion or arms of sovereignty.An important use for national coats of arms is as the main symbol on the covers of passports, the document used internationally to prove the citizenship of a person.

For a symbol to be called a "national coat of arms", it should follow the rules of heraldry. If it does not, then the symbol is not formally a coat of arms but rather a national emblem. However, many unheraldic national emblems are colloquially called national coats of arms anyway, because they are used for the same purposes as national coats of arms.

Order of the White Rose of Finland

The Order of the White Rose of Finland (Finnish: Suomen Valkoisen Ruusun ritarikunta; Swedish: Finlands Vita Ros’ orden) is one of three official orders in Finland, along with the Order of the Cross of Liberty, and the Order of the Lion of Finland. The President of Finland is the Grand Master of all three orders. The orders are administered by boards consisting of a chancellor, a vice-chancellor and at least four members. The orders of the White Rose of Finland and the Lion of Finland have a joint board.

The Order of the White Rose of Finland was established by Gustaf Mannerheim in his capacity as regent (temporary head of state) on January 28, 1919. The name comes from the nine roses argent in the coat of arms of Finland. The order's rules and regulations were confirmed on May 16, 1919, and its present rules date from June 1, 1940. The revised scale of ranks was confirmed most recently in 1985. The original decorations were designed by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The swastikas of the collar were replaced by fir crosses in 1963, designed by heraldic artist Gustaf von Numers. The honour can be granted for military as well as civilian merit. The ribbon for all classes is ultramarine. The motto of the Order appears on the medallion and is Isänmaan hyväksi, which means in Finnish: "For [the well-being or benefit or advantage of] the Fatherland".

The President of Finland wears the Grand Cross of the White Rose of Finland with Collar (a neck chain). The Collar is worn four centimetres from either side and hangs at equal distances at the front and back. The Grand Cross and Commander marks are awarded with a breast star.

Outline of Finland

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Finland.

Finland – sovereign Nordic country located in Northern Europe. Finland has borders with Sweden to the west, Russia to the east, and Norway to the north, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland. The capital city is Helsinki.

Around 5.4 million people reside in Finland, with the majority concentrated in the southern part of country. It is the eighth largest country in Europe in terms of area and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. The native language for most of the population is Finnish, a member of the Uralic language family most closely related to Estonian and one of the four EU languages not of Indo-European origin. The second official language, Swedish, is spoken by a 5.5 percent minority. Finland is a democratic, parliamentary republic with a central government and local governments in 415 municipalities. Greater Helsinki (including Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen) totals a million residents and a third of the GDP. Other major cities include Tampere, Turku, and Oulu.

Finland was historically part of Sweden and from 1809 an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire. Finland's declaration of independence in 1917 from Russia was followed by a civil war, wars against the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and a period of official neutrality during the Cold War. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and the European Union in 1995 and participates in the Eurozone. Finland has been ranked the second most stable country in the world, in a survey based on social, economic, political, and military indicators.Finland has seen excellent results in many international comparisons of national performance such as the share of high-technology manufacturing, the rate of gross domestic product growth, and the protection of civil liberties.

Rose (heraldry)

The rose is a common device in heraldry. It is often used both as a charge on a coat of arms and by itself as an heraldic badge. The heraldic rose has a stylized form consisting of five symmetrical lobes, five barbs, and a circular seed. The rose is one of the most common plant symbols in heraldry, together with the lily, which also has a stylistic representation in the fleur-de-lis.The rose was the symbol of the English Tudor dynasty, and the ten-petaled Tudor rose is associated with England. Roses also feature prominently in the arms of the princely House of Lippe and on the seal of Martin Luther.


A scimitar ( or ) is a backsword or sabre with a curved blade, originating in the Middle East.

The curved sword or "scimitar" was widespread throughout the Middle East from at least the Ottoman period, with early examples dating to Abbasid era (9th century) Khurasan. The Persian sword now called "shamshir" appears by the 12th century and was popularized in Persia by the early 16th century.

Whites (Finland)

The Whites (Finnish: Valkoiset, Swedish: De vita, Russian: Белофинны), or White Finland, was the name used to refer to the refugee government and forces under Pehr Evind Svinhufvud's first senate who opposed the "Reds", or the Finnish Socialist Workers' Republic, during the Finnish civil war (1918).

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