Nestles in the cobbles streets in the area of Blackfriars is the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. Above the main gate and scattered throughout their building is their coat of arms.
What is a Coat of Arms?
During medieval times a coat of arms was very important. It told everybody who you were, what family you belonged to, who your relatives were, what territory you may hold. It basically said everything about a powerful person that you wanted (and needed) people to know.
A coat of arms is a unique design belonging to a particular person (or group of people i.e. the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries) and is used by them in a wide variety of ways. Some of these ways include as an official seal on important documents, on flags or standards used to identify different groups on a battle field or even to represent different families within a given land area.
In England and Scotland coats of arms are unique to individuals, not to families, and each successive member of different generations would design their own distinctive coat of arms, often based on the common theme of the family.
What does the Coat of Arms of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries mean?
The coat of arms of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries show Apollo, the God of Healing, overpowering the dragon of disease, represented by the wyvern.
To each side is a unicorn, James I’s special beasts which highlights his personal interest in the Society.
At the top is a rhinoceros. It was believed its horns, when powdered, have numerous medicinal properties.
The motto reads:
Opiferque per orbem dicor which means ‘Throughout the world they speak of me as a bringer of help’ which is taken from Ovid’s first book of Metamorphoses. It relates to a passage where Apollo has killed a python.
Learn more about the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries and the area of Blackfriars on our Best of Blackfriars tour.