Example of a standard pile, issuant from the chief, blazoned: Gules, a pile argent

In heraldry, a pile is a charge usually counted as one of the ordinaries (figures bounded by straight lines and occupying a definite portion of the shield). It consists of a wedge emerging from the upper edge of the shield and converging to a point near the base. If it touches the base, it is blazoned throughout.

Variant positions and varying numbers

Though the pile issues from the top of the shield by default, it may be specified as issuing from any other part of the edge or as extending from edge to edge of the shield. Although it is not supposed to issue singly from the base, this rule is frequently ignored.

When a shield has more than one pile, and they are angled so that they touch at the base, they are described as piles in point. A few heraldry authorities from the Middle Ages such as Sir Thomas Holme and Nicholas Upton believed that whenever piles issued from the chief, they should automatically meet in point, but this view eventually fell out of favour and it has become common practice that unless otherwise specified, they should be drawn perpendicularly.[1] However, it is still possible to see examples of the previous school of thought.[2]

Variant forms

Like any ordinary, a pile may have other charges on it, may have its edges ornamented by any of the lines of variation, and may have any tincture or pattern.

Rare variants

Occasionally piles have more than one point, appear in large numbers, have their points truncated or ornamented, have their edges ornamented, or are charged with other piles.

Other things 'in pile' or 'pilewise'

A collection of charges in a converging arrangement may be blazoned as pilewise or in pile.

Charge or division?

per pile or tierced per pile gules, vert and argent

The distinction between a pile and a field divided per chevron inverted, or between a pile inverted and a field per chevron, can be uncertain.

The arms shown here, for the Elsenburg College of Agriculture, was blazoned by the South African Bureau of Heraldry as Per pile embowed inverted throughout gules, vert and argent; dexter a single share plough and sinister a garb, or, in base an anchor azure, cabled gules; but it could as easily be blazoned as Per pale gules and vert; on a pile inverted embowed argent, between a plough and a garb Or, an anchor azure cabled gules.


  1. ^ Edmondson, Joseph (1780). A Complete Body of Heraldry. T. Spilsbury. p. 166. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  2. ^ Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage. 1878. pp. 507–508. Retrieved 26 September 2017.