Slovenian National Symbols
by Marko Pogacnik
Marko Pogacnik is the author of the Slovenian coat of arms.
This article was originally published in 1995 by the National
Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia.
The lower part
of the coat of arms symbolizes the Slovenian landscape, which
encompasses Alpine peaks in the northwest, the maritime expanse
of the Adriatic in the south and the plain of the ancient Pannonian
Sea in the east. The verticality of the Alps is represented
by the highest mountain, Triglav, while the level expansiveness
of the maritime and lowland areas is expressed in the two horizontal
The mountain and the water at its foot can equally be understood
as a universal symbol which does not refer uniquely to the Slovenian
landscape. It symbolizes the fundamental inner balance of the
human individual, the balance between the masculine and feminine
principles. The vertical extension of the mountain denotes will
and masculine power within the human being, while the horizontality
and suppleness of the water symbolizes attributes of femininity,
all-encompassing and entire. The balance between the feminine
and masculine principles touches the very essence of humanity,
and can at the same time be construed on the global level as
a symbol of the balance between nature and civilization. In
this way the coat of arms addresses an age which once more observes
and cherishes balance in all things.
The balance between the mountain and the water-levels is a
token of Slovenian identity in terms of the landscape. Slovenian
identity on the spiritual and ethical level is symbolized by
the three six-pointed gold stars placed above in the form of
a triangle pointing from the sky to the earth. The stars are
aligned with the triangle formed by the three peaks of Triglav
(whose name means "three-headed"), symbolizing the
terrestrial world. The coat of arms thus symbolically conjures
the realm of the spiritual and ethereal principle and the world
of earth and landscape, whereby the two are coextensive, interdependent
This constellation of six-pointed gold stars derives from the
coat of arms of the indigenous noble family of the Counts of
Celje, under whom a large portion of present-day Slovenian territory
was united in the High Middle Ages. The stars therefore symbolize
the cultural and administrative tradition of the Slovenian regions
in the context of their involvement in the currents of European
The idea for the Slovenian coat of arms was born of a conception
of Slovenia as a macro-regional whole. In this regard its author
drew on the work of two creative figures who loom large in the
Slovenian identity, France Prešeren and Joe Plecnik.
In the first half of the 19th century the poet France Prešeren
(1800-1849), regarded as one of the creators of modern Slovenian
nationhood, wrote his capital work Baptism on the Savica, in
which he addresses issues of Slovenian identity in the context
of the conversion to Christianity. The poem opens with a verbal
depiction of Triglav, the waters of the lake below and golden
light above. These motifs are configured in the same way as
the corresponding symbols on the present-day Slovenian coat
In 1934 the architect Joe Plecnik designed the pillar
of the Blessed Virgin Mary that stands in front of the parish
church of Bled. On the rear of Mary's mantle is a carved coat
of arms of Slovenia which does not conform to the (Yugoslav)
state coat of arms of its time, but instead shows Triglav with
a six-pointed star above it.
The Slovenian coat of arms is composed according to a precise
geometric design based on the two equilateral triangles, "celestial"
and "terrestrial", whose tips meet at the lower of
the three stars. The "terrestrial" part of the shield
has two internal poles. One is the meandering of the two waves,
the other Triglav, which is made up of three equilateral triangles.
Together, they form the "terrestrial" triangle.
The shield has a red border at the sides and so features all
three colors of the Slovenian tricolor: white, blue and red
(the mountain is in white, the waves in blue). The gold stars
recall one of the colors of the historical flag of the Duchy
of Carniola, regarded as the forerunner of the tricolor.