Coat of arms

Coat of arms of Moscow

The coat of arms of Moscow is a rectangular crimson heraldic shield with rounded lower corners and a pointed bottom. It depicts St George the Victorious, turned to the right, in silver armour and an azure cloak. St George is slaying a black dragon with a golden lance from atop a silver horse with silver harness.

History of Moscow’s coat of arms

Moscow’s current coat of arms was restored by decree of the Moscow Mayor in 1993 and fashioned after the first official coat of arms of Moscow, adopted in 1781. The coat of arms was subsequently reapproved by the Government of Moscow in 1995 and 2003.

The coat of arms is based on an episode from St George’s hagiography, called St George and the Dragon. It was a popular legend in ancient Rus, and has been depicted many times on stamps and coins, and in the heraldry of princes and tsars. This episode is first mentioned in a document dating back to the 4th or 5th century AD.

According to legend, St George came from a noble family in Cappadocia in modern-day Turkey. George was a prominent military commander under Roman Emperor Diocletian. But when the emperor began persecuting Christians, George offered them protection and declared himself a Christian, for which he was imprisoned and tortured. Despite the suffering he endured, George worked many miracles — healing the sick, raising the dead and converting pagans to Christianity.

St George’s miracles are recounted in many tales and legends, the most popular of which is the legend of St George and the Dragon, the basis for Moscow’s coat of arms.

There was a village in Cappadocia whose pagan ruler persecuted Christians. To steer the ruler towards the path of righteousness, God sent a dragon to terrorise the village. The dragon lived in the lake and preyed on villagers. To appease the beast, the ruler advised the villagers to make a daily sacrifice of their children. When the ruler’s turn came to sacrifice his daughter, St George appeared at the lake through divine intervention. When the venomous dragon emerged from the lake, St George crossed himself, called upon God with the words, «In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,» and charged the dragon on his horse. St George speared the dragon in the neck and pinned him to the ground. The ruler’s daughter tied the dragon up with her belt and led him to the village. St George beheaded the dragon in the village square. The ruler and villagers, awed by what they had witnessed, accepted Jesus Christ as their saviour and converted to Christianity.

This image of a horseman slaying a dragon became especially popular in ancient Rus in the 14th and 15th century. It came to symbolise defenders of the Russian people and the struggle against foreign invaders. St George was the patron saint of Prince Yury Dolgoruky, founder of Moscow. Under Dmitry Donskoy, St George was declared the patron saint of all Moscow.