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The bear is a common charge in heraldry, inherited from its totemic use among Germanic peoples and interpreted as symbolizing strength, cunning and ferocity in the protection of one's kindred. Numerous cities around the world have adopted the bear in their arms, notably the Swissmarker capital Bernmarker, which takes its name from the German for bear, Bär. The bear is similarly the name-emblem of Berlinmarker, through false etymology (Bärlein means 'small bear'), although in fact the city's name descends from a Slavic word meaning 'swamps'.

In Switzerlandmarker, heraldic bears had to be painted with bright red penises, or be mocked for using she-bears. The omission of this led to a war in 1579 between St. Gallenmarker and the canton of Appenzell.

The saddled bear of Saint Corbinian's legend is the heraldic symbol of Freisingmarker, Bavaria, and the Diocese of Munich and Freising. Pope Benedict XVI, former archbishop of Munich, also applied it in his Papal Arms.

See also

  • Bear: Culture: Myth and legend


  1. The Meanings Behind the Symbols: Family Crests, Blazons, Coat of Arms, Personalized Crests

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