OF THE COAT OF ARMS
The basis of the Sir Moses Montefiore’s Coat of Arms is a lion, a cedar tree and some small hills. These are featured alongside the word ‘Jerusalem’ (ירושלם) written in Hebrew, and the motto ‘Think and Thank’. The Coat of Arms includes facets from Italy, Great Britain and Israel. It perfectly illustrates that Moses Montefiore was a patriotic Englishman, a proud Jew and a passionate lover of Eretz Yisrael, (The Land of Israel).
ORIGIN OF FAMILY CREST
The first evidence of a Montefiore Family Crest may be found on a Parochet, (curtain to the Aron Kodesh/ Holy Ark), which dates back to 1630 in Pesaro, Italy. It was embroidered in gold thread, on red silk, in honor of the marriage of Judah Leone Montefiore to Rachel Olivetti. It shows the Lion of Judah, standing on small hills (Monte), holding a flower (Fiore). The original Parochet may still be seen in the Italian Synagogue in Jerusalem.
MONTEFIORE FAMILY CREST IN ITALY
By the mid-18th century, the Montefiore Family Crest took a firmer shape. The main features were still the lion and hills, and by now also a palm tree. Each was accompanied by an appropriate text in Hebrew, translated below.
The Lion: “Be strong as a lion to perform the will of your father in Heaven.” (Pirke Avot 5:23)
The Hills: “When I lift my eyes to the hills I ask from where comes my help? My help comes from the Lord.” (Psalm 121:1)
The Palm Tree: “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” (Psalm 92:12).
Incidentally, the palm tree and lion were early emblems of the hill town of Montefiore Conca, in the Romagna region of Italy. This is possibly where the Montefiores came from, or a place they passed through. The palm was later changed to a cedar tree. The text from Psalm 92 caters to both options.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE COAT OF ARMS IN BRITAIN
When Sir Moses Montefiore registered his Coat of Arms in Great Britain in 1819, it was based on the Italian Family Crest. The lion, the hills and the cedar tree were still the central features. However he reduced the length of the text by replacing it with the word ‘Jerusalem’ and the motto ‘Think and Thank’.
Queen Victoria granted Sir Moses Montefiore the privilege of using supporters in 1841. Each supporter, the lion and stag, was also shown holding banners with the word Jerusalem on them. Later, Sir Moses Montefiore halved his Coat of Arms with that of his wife, Lady Judith Montefiore’s family, the Cohens, and it was the joint version that was used from thereon.
SYMBOLS OF JUDAISM AND ISRAEL
The Montefiore Coat of Arms conformed to the rules of British Heraldry, but there were a few additional details featured, which may be also considered symbols of Judaism and Israel. The two Stars of David, Hamsa (aka ‘Hand of Miriam’), Lion of Judah, and even the selection of the stag and lion as supporters, were specifically chosen. Most noticeable of all, were the three banners, each with the word Jerusalem on them, written in Hebrew. This was quite a statement in the England of the 19th century.
The image of the lion holding the banner with the word ‘Jerusalem’ in Hebrew, was used by Moses Montefiore as a shortened version of his Coat of Arms. Later this very same image was to become the emblem of modern Jerusalem.