Coat of arms of Poland
ArmigerRepublic of Poland
Adoptedc. 1000; current design from 1927, last modified on 29 December 1989
ShieldGules, an eagle argent, armed, crowned and beaked or, langued argent

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,[1] despite the fact that other coats of arms are usually called a 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.[2] In later legislation only the herb retained this designation; it is unknown why.

Legal basis

The coat of arms of the Republic of Poland is described in two legal documents: the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 1997[3] and the Coat of Arms, Colors and Anthem of the Republic of Poland, and State Seals Act (Ustawa o godle, barwach i hymnie Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej oraz o pieczęciach państwowych) of 1980 with subsequent amendments[1] (henceforth referred to as "the Coat of Arms Act").

Legislation concerning the national symbols is far from perfect. The Coat of Arms Act has been amended several times and refers extensively to executive ordinances, some of which have never been issued. Moreover, the Act contains errors, omissions and inconsistencies which make the law confusing, open to various interpretations and often not followed in practice.[4]


John III Sobieski's coat of arms crowning the Royal Chapel in Gdańsk

According to Chapter I, Article 28, paragraph 1 of the Constitution, the coat of arms of Poland is an image of a crowned white eagle in a red field.[3] The Coat of Arms Act, Article 4, further specifies that the crown, as well as the eagle's beak and talons, are golden. The eagle's wings are outstretched and its head is turned to its right.[1] In English heraldic terminology, the arms are blazoned as Gules an eagle crowned, beaked and armed Or.[citation needed] In contrast to classic heraldry, where the same blazon may be rendered into varying designs, the Coat of Arms Act allows only one official rendering of the national coat of arms. The official design may be found in attachment no. 1 to the Coat of Arms Act.[1]

The nearly circular charge, i.e., the image of the white eagle, is highly stylized. The heraldic bird is depicted with its wings and legs outstretched, its head turned to the right, in a pose known in heraldry as 'displayed'. The eagle's plumage, as well as its tongue and leg scales are white with gradient shading suggestive of a bas-relief. Each wing is adorned with a curved band extending from the bird's torso to the upper edge of the wing, terminating in a heraldic cinquefoil (a stylized five-leafed plant). Three of its leaves are embossed like a trefoil (note similar trefoils in the medieval designs of the eagle). In heraldic terms, the eagle is "armed", that is to say, its beak and talons are rendered in gold, in contrast to the body. The crown on the eagle's head consists of a base and three fleurons extending from it. The base is adorned with three roughly rectangular gemstones. The fleurons – of which the two outer ones are only partly visible – have the shape of a fleur-de-lis. The entire crown, including the gems, as well as spaces between the fleurons, is rendered in gold.

The charge is placed in an escutcheon (shield) of the Modern French type. It is a nearly rectangular upright isosceles trapezoid, rounded at the bottom, whose upper base is slightly longer than the lower one, from the middle of which extends downwards a pointed tip. Although the shield is an integral part of the coat of arms, Polish law stipulates, in certain cases, to only use the charge without the escutcheon. The shades of the principal tinctures, white (Argent) and red (Gules), which are the national colors of Poland, are specified as coordinates in the CIE 1976 color space (see Flag of Poland – National colors for details).


According to legend, the White Eagle emblem originated when Poland's legendary founder Lech saw a white eagle's nest.[5] When he looked at the bird, a ray of sunshine from the red setting sun fell on its wings, so they appeared tipped with gold, the rest of the eagle was pure white. He was delighted and decided to settle there and placed the eagle on his emblem. He also named the place Gniezdno (currently Gniezno) from the Polish word gniazdo ("nest").

Chrobry denarius with a heraldic bird, about 1000 AD
Tapestry with the coats of arms of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, c. 1555

The symbol of an eagle appeared for the first time on the coins made during the reign of Bolesław I (992–1025), initially as the coat of arms of the Piast dynasty. Beginning in the 12th century, the eagle has appeared on the shields, ensigns, coins, and seals of the Piast dukes. It appeared on the Polish coat of arms during Przemysł II reign as a reminder of the Piast tradition before the fragmentation of Poland.

The eagle's graphic form has changed throughout centuries. Its recent shape, accepted in 1927, was designed by professor Zygmunt Kamiński[6] and was based on the eagle's form from the times of Stefan Batory's reign. It was adapted to stamps or round shields rather than to a rectangular shape.

A silver heraldic base for King John Casimir's crown, c. 1666

The arms of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was quartered, with Polish eagle and Lithuanian Pogonia on opposite sides. Kings used to place their own emblems in escutcheon point (i.e., House Vasa).

Despite the fact that new emblems were given to provinces established by the invaders after the partitions of Poland, the White Eagle remained there with or without crown and occasionally with face turned towards left and in some exceptions with Pogonia. But in most cases they were combined with the invader's emblem.

The Poles conscientiously collected coins from the pre-partitions period with the eagle on their obverse and reverse. The symbol of the eagle, often with Pogonia, appeared on numerous flags and emblems of the November Uprising.

The resurrection of the Polish Kingdom (Polish Regency) in the territories of the former Congress Poland (which had been partitioned and annexed by the Russian Empire as the Vistula Land in 1867) was approved by Austria-Hungary and Wilhelm II's Germany in 1916. A year later, the first Polish banknotes (Polish Marka) with Crowned Eagle on an indivisible shield were introduced. After regaining total independence and the creation of the Second Polish Republic (1918–1939) the White Eagle was implemented by the act of 1919. Official image of the coat of arms (which resembled the emblem of Stanislaus Augustus) was used until 1927 when Zygmunt Kamiński designed a new one. According to the research of Polish heraldist Jerzy Michta published in 2017, the version designed by Kamiński was actually plagiarized from a 1924 medal by Elisa Beetz-Charpentier made in honor of Ignacy Paderewski.[7]

After World War II, the communist authorities of the Polish People's Republic removed the crown from the eagle's head. Still, Poland was one of the few countries in the Eastern Bloc with no communist symbols (red stars, ears of wheat, hammers, etc.) on either its flag or its coat of arms. The crownless design was approved by resolution in 1955. To counter that, the Polish government in exile introduced a new emblem with a cross added atop the crown. After the fall of communism in 1989, the crown came back, but without the cross.

The eagle appears on many public administration buildings, it is present in schools and courts. Furthermore, it is placed on the obverse of Polish coins. However the issue on which conditions it should be exposed and how it should be interpreted is the topic of numerous debates in Poland. The eagle was formerly on the Poland national football team's shirts; a new shirt without the eagle was introduced in November 2011, prompting complaints from fans and president Bronisław Komorowski. Due to this overwhelming public pressure, the football shirts were redesigned with the eagle reinstated in the centre of the shirt in December 2011.[8]


See also: Coats of arms of Kings of Poland and Flags of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Period Dates used Coat of arms Banner of arms Description and blazon
Duchy of Poland 966–1025 Emblem of Civitas Schinesghe (1000 AD) from Coins of Boleslaus I of Poland.
Kingdom of Poland 1295–1371 Coat of arms of Piast dynasty.
Union of Poland and Hungary 1370–1382 Coat of arms used under Louis I of Hungary.

Party per cross, quarterly 1st, barry of eight Gules and argent (for Árpáds) and azure semé-de-lis or with label gules (for Capetian Anjou); 2nd, Gules, an eagle argent, crowned or; 3rd, impaling Gules on a Mount Vert a Crown Or issuant therefrom a double-Cross Argent (for Hungary); 4th, azure three Lions' Heads affronté Crowned Or (for Dalmatia)

Kingdom of Poland 1217–1371 The Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania joined in a personal union established by the Union of Krewo (1385).

Quarterly 1st and 4th Gules, an eagle argent, crowned or; 2nd and 3rd, Gules, Pogonia.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 1573–1575 Throughout the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, the inescutcheon was changed to contain the Coat of Arms of the monarch.

The inescutcheon here, Azure, three fleurs-de-lis or, belonged to Henry III of France

1587–1668 House of Vasa (Waza).
1669–1673 Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki
1674–1696 John III Sobieski
1697–1704 1709–1763 House of Wettin
1704–1709 Stanisław Leszczyński
1764–1795 Stanisław August Poniatowski
Duchy of Warsaw 1807–1815 Coat of arms of House of Wettin and Polish eagle.
Kingdom of Poland 1815–1832 Coat of arms of Congress Poland
Grand Duchy of Posen 1815–1848
Prussian eagle inescutcheon with Polish eagle.
Polish National Government 1830–1831 Polish eagle and Pogonia
Polish independence movement 1846
Polish National Government 1863–1865 Archangel Michael represents Ruthenia
Vistula Land 1867–1915
Government General of Warsaw 1915–1918 Seal of the Government-General of Warsaw, includes a Prussian eagle.
Kingdom of Poland 1916–1918 Eagle with the seal of the Regency Council
Second Polish Republic 1919–1927 First modern coat of arms of Poland.
Second Polish Republic and Polish Government in exile 1927–1939 1939–1956 Zygmunt Kamiński's current project
Polish Government in exile 1956–1990 The crown was redesigned as close crown.
Polish People's Republic 1955–1980 Crown was removed.
1980–1990 Current colors

Kings of Poland

Restored Poland

Communist Poland

Third Polish Republic

Military Eagle

See also


  1. ^ a b c d (in Polish) Ustawa o godle, barwach i hymnie Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej oraz o pieczęciach państwowych Archived 2008-02-25 at the Wayback Machine [Coat of Arms, Colors and Anthem of the Republic of Poland, and State Seals Act], Dz.U. 1980 nr 7 poz. 18
  2. ^ (in Polish) Ustawa z dnia 1 sierpnia 1919 r. o godłach i barwach Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej Archived 2017-09-17 at the Wayback Machine[Symbols and Colors of the Republic of Poland Act, 1st of August 1919] Dz.U. 1919 nr 69 poz. 416
  3. ^ a b (in Polish) Konstytucja Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej [Constitution of the Republic of Poland], Dz.U. 1997 nr 78 poz. 483 Archived September 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Informacja o wynikach kontroli używania symboli państwowych przez organy administracji publicznej (PDF) (in Polish), Warsaw: Supreme Chamber of Control (NIK), 2005, archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-02-27
  5. ^ "The Polish Eagle and everything it means to Poland". 28 November 2021.
  6. ^ "Godło Polski jest plagiatem?". (in Polish). Retrieved 2020-08-05.
  7. ^ Wiktor Ferfecki: Godło Polski jest plagiatem?. Rzeczpospolita, 2018-10-29.
  8. ^ Nakrani, Sachin (14 November 2011). "Poland and Ukraine lose momentum with issues over shirts and injuries". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
  9. ^ "Ustawa z dnia 1 sierpnia 1919 r. o godłach i barwach Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej. Dz.U. 1919 nr 69 poz. 416"..