What Does Portugal’s Coat of Arms Mean?

Portuguese Coat of Arms
Portuguese Coat of Arms | © Tonyjeff / Wikimedia Commons
Nina Santos

Ever look at a flag and wonder what the symbols mean? In the center of Portugal’s national flag is a version of the country’s coat of arms, or brasão das armas, a symbol of heraldry that has been present since the 12th century. It is the oldest symbol present on the country’s current flag, which was last modified in June 1911.

Portugal’s coat of arms evolved under the influence of the country’s different leaders, culminating in the final symbol that was developed less than a year after the monarchy was abolished. The first coat of arms was a simple blue cross on a white or silver shield, representing the leaders of the first County of Portugal, before Portugal became its own kingdom. After becoming the independent Kingdom of Portugal, the country’s first king, King Afonso I, added five groups of silver circles (called ‘bezants’) to the cross, one group of circles in the center and one group of circles on each of the cross’s arms. It is believed that these bezants represented King Afonso’s legal fiscal authority.

The hypothetical shield of the County of Portugal (1095–1139)

According to written history, any damage inflicted to the shield during battles became part of the shield (instead of repairing it), and the cross was badly damaged by the time the shield was inherited by King Sancho, Portugal’s second king. King Sancho removed the cross altogether and converted the five groups of bezants into five escutcheons, or smaller shields, each with its own group of circles. The shields added an element that symbolized the Moorish kings who had been defeated by King Afonso I.

The next addition to Portugal’s coat of arms came about 60 years and three monarchs later, in the form of a red border filled with gold castles. The red border symbolized King Afonso III’s connection to the Castilian monarch and the castles also represented the Moorish castles that were defeated to establish Portuguese independence.

Shield of the Portuguese Kingdom

Through the centuries, a number of alterations took place; changes to the numbers of bezants and castles, a fleur-de-lis and angels (incorporated at the beginning of the Aviz Dynasty) that were eventually removed, as well as a range of different crowns. At the turn of the 15th century, the armillary sphere was incorporated, representing Portugal’s role during the European Age of Discoveries, and has lasted until today. The full coat of arms (not the version on the flag) includes two laurel branches tied together with a scroll. On one version, the scroll is a red-and-green ribbon, while on the other version, the scroll is white and contains a line from Portuguese poet Luís Camões, Esta é a ditosa Pátria minha amada, or ‘This is my beloved famous Motherland’.

Portuguese flag
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.