Bicephalic eagle

Collection by Omer Sayadi

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The Byzantine double-headed eagle was adopted as an imperial symbol from the thirteenth century onward, under the Palaiologos dynasty. Source: "Universal Empire" by P. Bang and D. Kolodziejczyk. Image: 15th c. church mural of eagle with Palaiologos' family cypher. It's not entirely clear where it originated, although it's suggested that the bicephalic eagle is in fact a Roman eagle with two heads, one gazing to the east (Constantinople), one to the west (Rome).

Byzantine double-headed eagle

The Byzantine double-headed eagle was adopted as an imperial symbol from the thirteenth century onward, under the Palaiologos dynasty. Source: "Universal Empire" by P. Bang and D. Kolodziejczyk. Image: 15th c. church mural of eagle with Palaiologos' family cypher. It's not entirely clear where it originated, although it's suggested that the bicephalic eagle is in fact a Roman eagle with two heads, one gazing to the east (Constantinople), one to the west (Rome).

An example of the Christian adoption of the symbol is this fragment of silk with a double-headed eagle, part of the cloak that covered a statue of Notre-Dame de la Victoire in the Church of Thuir, in the Pyrénées Orientales (then Aragon, now France).

Notre-Dame de la Victoire

An example of the Christian adoption of the symbol is this fragment of silk with a double-headed eagle, part of the cloak that covered a statue of Notre-Dame de la Victoire in the Church of Thuir, in the Pyrénées Orientales (then Aragon, now France).

Marble relief of a double-headed eagle in the Church of St Demetrios in the Byzantine city of Mystras, marking the spot where Constantine XI was crowned. He is considered the last Byzantine Emperor, ruling as a member of the Palaiologos dynasty from 1449 to his death in 1453.

Constantine XI

Marble relief of a double-headed eagle in the Church of St Demetrios in the Byzantine city of Mystras, marking the spot where Constantine XI was crowned. He is considered the last Byzantine Emperor, ruling as a member of the Palaiologos dynasty from 1449 to his death in 1453.

The double-headed eagle heraldic symbol was used outside the Rum Sultanate as well. It famously appears on the tower of the Diyarbakir Fortress, expanded and fortified by the Artuqid beyliks that ruled the area from the 11th - 15th c. Notice that none of the Turkic eagles wears a crown. But contrary to popular belief, the two-headed eagle become popular among the Turks only after the end of the Seljuk Empire (1194), and was limited to the Seljuk dynasties of Rum and the neighboring beyliks.

Artuqid beyliks

The double-headed eagle heraldic symbol was used outside the Rum Sultanate as well. It famously appears on the tower of the Diyarbakir Fortress, expanded and fortified by the Artuqid beyliks that ruled the area from the 11th - 15th c. Notice that none of the Turkic eagles wears a crown. But contrary to popular belief, the two-headed eagle become popular among the Turks only after the end of the Seljuk Empire (1194), and was limited to the Seljuk dynasties of Rum and the neighboring beyliks.

The double-headed eagle heraldic symbol was used outside the Rum Sultanate as well. Nāṣir al-Dīn Maḥmūd, an Artuqid ruler (r. 1200 -1222) featured this on his coins. Notice that none of the Turkic eagles wears a crown. But contrary to popular belief, the two-headed eagle become popular among the Turks only after the end of the Seljuk Empire (1194), and was limited to the Seljuk dynasties of Rum and the neighboring beyliks.

Artuqid coins

The double-headed eagle heraldic symbol was used outside the Rum Sultanate as well. Nāṣir al-Dīn Maḥmūd, an Artuqid ruler (r. 1200 -1222) featured this on his coins. Notice that none of the Turkic eagles wears a crown. But contrary to popular belief, the two-headed eagle become popular among the Turks only after the end of the Seljuk Empire (1194), and was limited to the Seljuk dynasties of Rum and the neighboring beyliks.

Ceramic tile depicting a two-headed eagle with shield currently at the Konya Karatay Ceramics Museum. Pieces like this were found during the excavation of the Kubad Abad Palace, built for sultan Kayqubad I (1220–1236), ruler of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.

Kayqubad I

Ceramic tile depicting a two-headed eagle with shield currently at the Konya Karatay Ceramics Museum. Pieces like this were found during the excavation of the Kubad Abad Palace, built for sultan Kayqubad I (1220–1236), ruler of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.

A late 10th or early 11th c. silk textile with three pairs of double-headed eagles each carrying human figures found at Naqqārakāna, Iran, in 1924-1925. This ancient necropolis is adjoining the sanctuary of Shahr Banu near Rayy. [Cleveland Museum of Art]

Buyid double-headed eagle

A late 10th or early 11th c. silk textile with three pairs of double-headed eagles each carrying human figures found at Naqqārakāna, Iran, in 1924-1925. This ancient necropolis is adjoining the sanctuary of Shahr Banu near Rayy. [Cleveland Museum of Art]

Konya, which was the the capital of the Rum Seljuks from 1097 onward, is a real treasure of double-headed eagle imagery. Image: A 13th c. double-headed eagle reliefs found at Konya (now in Ince Minare Museum). Notice the both Byzantine and Persian influences.

Rum Seljuks

Konya, which was the the capital of the Rum Seljuks from 1097 onward, is a real treasure of double-headed eagle imagery. Image: A 13th c. double-headed eagle reliefs found at Konya (now in Ince Minare Museum). Notice the both Byzantine and Persian influences.

Ceramic tile depicting a two-headed eagle with shield currently at the Konya Karatay Ceramics Museum. Pieces like this were found during the excavation of the Kubad Abad Palace, built for sultan Kayqubad I (1220–1236), ruler of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.

Kubad Abad Palace

Ceramic tile depicting a two-headed eagle with shield currently at the Konya Karatay Ceramics Museum. Pieces like this were found during the excavation of the Kubad Abad Palace, built for sultan Kayqubad I (1220–1236), ruler of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.

Konya, which was the the capital of the Rum Seljuks from 1097 onward, is a real treasure of double-headed eagle imagery. Image: A13th c. double-headed eagle reliefs found at Konya (now in Ince Minare Museum). Notice the both Byzantine and Persian influences.

Rum Seljuks

Konya, which was the the capital of the Rum Seljuks from 1097 onward, is a real treasure of double-headed eagle imagery. Image: A13th c. double-headed eagle reliefs found at Konya (now in Ince Minare Museum). Notice the both Byzantine and Persian influences.

Byzantine Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos presiding over a synod. Constantinople, 1370-75 [Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.] John served as a Grand Domestic and regent for the Palaiologoi, before reigning himself as Emperor. You can see the Byzantine imperial eagle.

Byzantine Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos

Byzantine Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos presiding over a synod. Constantinople, 1370-75 [Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.] John served as a Grand Domestic and regent for the Palaiologoi, before reigning himself as Emperor. You can see the Byzantine imperial eagle.

This 12th c. AD silk fragment was found in the tomb of Saint Bernard of Calvó (d. 1243) in the Cathedral of Vich in Catalonia. It's believed to be a part of a booty from the reconquest campaigns against the Muslims of Spain that Calvó led as bishop of Vich.

Saint Bernard of Calvó

This 12th c. AD silk fragment was found in the tomb of Saint Bernard of Calvó (d. 1243) in the Cathedral of Vich in Catalonia. It's believed to be a part of a booty from the reconquest campaigns against the Muslims of Spain that Calvó led as bishop of Vich.

An 11th c. AD Byzantine church sculpture carved in a marble slab featuring a crownless two-headed eagle and other birds. It was found in the church of Mayafarikin in Diyarbakir province. British Museum, London. Its appearance in a church is remarkable, since the double-headed eagle was a political symbol of Byzantine imperialism, monarchism and grandeur. It might signify the increased fusion between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Byzantine Empire after the Great Schism of 1054.

Byzantine church sculpture

An 11th c. AD Byzantine church sculpture carved in a marble slab featuring a crownless two-headed eagle and other birds. It was found in the church of Mayafarikin in Diyarbakir province. British Museum, London. Its appearance in a church is remarkable, since the double-headed eagle was a political symbol of Byzantine imperialism, monarchism and grandeur. It might signify the increased fusion between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Byzantine Empire after the Great Schism of 1054.

The Church of St. George, the principal Eastern Orthodox cathedral still in use in Istanbul since 1600. Since then, it has been the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, one of the 14-16 jurisdictions that compose the Eastern Orthodox Church. The emblem above the entrance is a Byzantine imperial double-headed eagle.

Patriarchate of Constantinople

The Church of St. George, the principal Eastern Orthodox cathedral still in use in Istanbul since 1600. Since then, it has been the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, one of the 14-16 jurisdictions that compose the Eastern Orthodox Church. The emblem above the entrance is a Byzantine imperial double-headed eagle.

Alexios III of Trebizond (1338 - 1390) and his wife Theodora depicted in a decree (chrysobull) granted by him to the Dionysiou Monastery. She is wearing a long, red robe with embroidered golde double-headed eagles.

Alexios III of Trebizond

Alexios III of Trebizond (1338 - 1390) and his wife Theodora depicted in a decree (chrysobull) granted by him to the Dionysiou Monastery. She is wearing a long, red robe with embroidered golde double-headed eagles.

Ceramic tile depicting a two-headed eagle with shield currently at the Konya Karatay Ceramics Museum. Pieces like this were found during the excavation of the Kubad Abad Palace, built for sultan Kayqubad I (1220–1236), ruler of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.

Konya

Ceramic tile depicting a two-headed eagle with shield currently at the Konya Karatay Ceramics Museum. Pieces like this were found during the excavation of the Kubad Abad Palace, built for sultan Kayqubad I (1220–1236), ruler of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.