Staufen Coats of Arms


18th-Century Swiss Stauffer Coats of Arms

Glass etchings from the Bern Natural History Museum, courtesy of Alan Stover. (Click image to enlarge it.)
  1. Emanuel Stauffer, 1756. "I give you to drink and anoint you with the oil of healing (or salvation). Blacksmith (hoof smith) and citizen of the City of Bern."
  2. Cristen Stauffer, 1776. Help me; I'm not clear on this. It seems to say "Gricht sass," which I would guess means a judge of some sort (gericht sass, sat in judgment). But I really don't know.
  3. Samuel Aalbrecht Stauffer, 1779. He is also a blacksmith of sorts, a nail smith and citizen of Bern.
  4. Franz Stauffer, 1779. I need help with this one, too. It seems to say he is of the Gesellschaft of Schifflüden, which I'm guessing is a guild or union of shiploaders. Notice that Franz's coat has two stars. Alan tells me that, according to the museum, the stars indicate that the person had an ancestor in the Crusades.

Lords of Staufen Coat of Arms (Southwest Germany)

A Liechtenstein stamp commemorating Barbara von Sulz from the House of Staufen (whose seat was in present-day Staufen im Breisgau, Germany). The original image is on the right. Note the Staufen family coat of arms. (Click on the images for larger versions.)

Here's where I think the cup-bearer idea got mixed into the story. It at least explains (for me) where all the attention on cups came from.

The Black-Forest/Rhein Lords of Staufen (not to be confused with the once-mighty imperial Hohenstaufens) put three cups on their family crest. Notice that each cup has two layers of covering--a paten and a pall over the cup. (That's not my invention. I saw the reference to two coverings in a few German heraldry-registry documents I found online. One document called one of the coverings a paten. I'll cite that source here when I find it again.)

(I haven't found that reference again, but the city of Norsingen, Germany, has the Staufen design on half its coat of arms. The city's description of the coat [wappen] calls the coverings patens.)

If that's true, then these cups, patens, and palls could be religious items. (You Catholics know what I'm talking about.) 
It makes sense. If you're going to portray cups on your family coat of arms, why not Eucharistic cups? Good publicity, I would think. It was the Middle Ages, after all.

I think my favorite theory on the cups is that the other noble Staufen family, the House of Hohenstaufen, had possession of (or knew about) the Holy Grail. Now THAT'S a fun theory. (For the record, the Hohenstaufen family used 3 lions on their coat of arms, not cups.)

Professor Bernhard Peter says the Lords of Staufen used cups as a nod to the word stauf's double meaning. That is, they took their name from the hill on which they located their castle, von Staufen ("from the staufen"), but added cups to their coat of arms to recognize the fact that a stauf is a cup as well as a hill. That may be the best answer right there.

(Dr. Peter has some nice photos of the family coat of arms on the walls of the City Palace. You can see the double covering on those images as well. You should check out other photos of the town online. It's a beautiful place, as is Staufen, Switzerland.)

City Coats of Arms

Staufen in Breisgau, Germany

     Staufen, Switzerland

These official "cup" coats of arms are the registered coats of arms of the incorporated communities of Staufen im Breisgau, Germany (where the Lords of Staufen I mentioned were headquartered), and Staufen, Switzerland, respectively.

I checked the city web sites to see if they had any information on the significance of the three cups. At first, I couldn't find anything on the German city's web site, so I emailed them. Right after I did that, I found a blurb on the Impressionen page. They simply said they adopted the Lords of Staufen family coat of arms and put stars on it to differentiate it. Notice that the cups are covered, like those of the Lords of Staufen, but it's only a single covering.

(I heard back from the city. Very nice reply. The email explained that they indeed adopted the family coat of arms and added the five stars to it. The email also said that Lords of Staufen seem to have used cups because stauf means cup.)

The Swiss city of Staufen reports what they call an unconfirmable legend on their web site. It's a fun little tale that may reflect the source for the cup-bearer theory (Theory 2 ) of the origins of the Stauffer name. A former cup-bearer of the Hohenstaufens named the town in honor of a mug the Hohenstaufen family gave him as a going-away present. Then he put a cup on his coat of arms to commemorate his former cup-bearing vocation. The town adopted the cup theme and put three of them on their coat of arms. (Of course, the story doesn't explain how the mighty Hohenstaufens got "staufen" in their name. And it disregards the fact that Staufen, Switzerland, lies at the foot of a good-sized staufen. ;)

Oh, in case you're wondering, Staufen, Austria, (or as they refer to it, "the Staufen") is simply a mountain. It's not a town or an old noble family manor or anything. So there's no coat of arms for that one.