Heraldry with a point - Triangular charges and field divisions

By Meradudd Cethin

One of the more confusing groups of ordinaries and sub-ordinaries are those which are triangular in shape. There are a number of different forms and names. In this brief monograph, we shall explore the different triangular charges and field divisions, as well as quickly explain the differences between them as recognised by the College of Arms.


Chevron and per chevron

The chevron is one of the oldest and more frequently seen of the ordinaries. The name originates from the french word for a rafter1. As one can see from the emblazon to the left taken from the Fenwick Roll, a chevron comes from the flanks and joins to a point around the honor point. The field division per chevron is nearly identical, including the angle of the point. The College of Arms considers a chevron throughout an artistic variation of the standard chevron (and the field division per chevron throughout a variation of per chevron) 2,3.

Of the 50 or so examples of a single chevron or per chevron emblazon from period sources seen in Bedingford 4, the range of angles varied from 75 degrees in the single example from the Heralds Roll (1280), to 120 degrees in the 16th century Smiths Ordinary 5. The majority of the angles were in the 85-90 degree range for the ordinary being the only charge on the field and the 100-110 degree range if the chevron was surrounded by secondary charges. Very similar numbers are found in the 45 or so chevron/per chevron period emblazons depicted in Woodcock6. Of these, only one was below 85 degrees and was found in the Segar's Roll (c. 1283). The angles are also borne out in five chevrons found in the Scots Roll (1490-1500)7 as well as the 30+ found in Siebmacher (1605)8. Of interest, there are also many examples of chevrons throughout and per chevron throughout found in Siebmacher, but almost all of those are ployé in nature and still follow the above guidelines. The Zurich Wappenroll9 has one example of a chevron throughout, being in the 75 degree range.

Heralds Roll (1280)

Jenyn's Ordinary (c. 1380)

Fenwick Roll (mid-1400s)

Smith's Ordinary (1500s)

Scots Roll
(c. 1500)

Zurich Wappenroll


Note azure lines showing how angles were measured on ployé lines.

One note about per chevron divisions of the field. Nisbet notes that the term is particularly English in its usage and that the French used the term point to blazon the same picture. What makes this particularly interesting is that the French further delineated things by stating that, if the point rose above the honor point and was, by SCA-standards, throughout, than it was no longer a charge, but a division of the field, tierce à mantle, as discussed below.10


The chapé is a continental division of the field which is not seen in English heraldry, but is relatively frequent in both French and HRE heraldry. The chapé (listed in Nisbet11 as tierce à mantle) divides the field into three roughly equal section and touches the top of the escutcheon. It differs from a chevron in that it has a much more acute angle to it, varying in Siebmacher from 45 to 60 degrees. Again, those with charges (3 charged chapes, 1 charged field and 3 with charges on both the field and the chape) have a less acute angle. Of note, the College of Arms considers per chevron throughout an artistic variant of chapé.12

Lines denoting how angles were measured on ployé lines

Uncharged chapé

Charged chapé

Charged chapé and field.


Pile and pile inverted

The pile is a charge which, according to Parker13, may have its roots in the representation of a stake used to construct military bridges. Nisbet14 cites Guilliam who says it refers to the roman spear, the pilum. Whatever its representation, the pile is a charge almost as old as the chevron. Originally seen as a long, thin triangular charge, the width of the pile has varied from one-half to almost the width of the escutcheon. In no event should the pile be as wide as the escutcheon. Similarly, in period the pile stretched ALMOST but not quite the length of the shield. In the Society, we also register an artistic variant of the pile known as the pile throughout, which does reach from one end to the other.

In period, it is not uncommon for there to be multiple piles side by side (necessitating thinner piles) and for the pile to be couched, which is to say that the pile emanates from somewhere other than the chief part of the escutcheon. Finally, there are period examples where multiple piles converge on a single point, rather than running parallel. When this is seen, it is referred to as <x> piles in point, as seen below15.

Charged pile from a quartering of Jane Seymour Piles inverted
Pile couched from sinister base
(Zürich wappenroll)
3 piles in point
(Scots roll)



Effectively a chapé inverted, the chaussé is a division of the field which is found primarily on the contintent(Nisbet refers to this field division as parted per pile in point)16. The chaussé differs from a pile in several ways. It always reaches the entire length of the device and always originates from the chief. Further, it is always found to be at least the entire width of the device, sometimes even extending a little of the ways down the sides. Of the six or so examples of chausse that Siebmacher gives, all of them are at least as wide as the width of the shield, with 3 of them actually extending a small way down the sides of the shield before heading towards a point. The College of Arms considers a chaussé field division to be no different for conflict than a pile on a field.17

Chief Triangular

The chief triangular is a variation of the standard ordinary of the same name. Extending from the corners of the shield, the chief triangular comes down to the honor point. Care must be made when emblazoning a chief triangular that the point be no more than 1/3 down from the top of the device, lest it be unrecognizable as such. Further, the College of Arms considers the triangular nature of the chief to be a complex line of division.18

Visual comparison

Below is a brief summary of each charge or field division, along with any particular notations by the College of Arms.

Argent, a chevron sable

Per chevron argent and sable

Per chevron throughout argent and sable

Argent, chapé sable

Argent, a pile inverted sable.


Per chevron, per chevron throughout, pile inverted and chapé are identical19

Argent, a chief triangular sable.

Per chevron inverted sable and argent.

Per chevron inverted throughout sable and. argent

Argent, chaussé sable.

Argent, a pile sable.

Argent, a pile througout sable.

Chief triangular is a complex line division variant of a chief.

Per chevron inverted, per chevron inverted throughout, chaussé are identical.20

A pile and a pile throughout are identical21


Notes and Sources Cited

1. Parker, James A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry David and Charles Reprints, South Devon: 1894, 1970. P105.SN:Chevron.

2. Letters of Acceptance and Return, May 2001, http://sca.org/heraldry/loar/2000/05/00-05lar.html [Thome le Lent]

3. Letters of Acceptance and Return, February 2002 http://sca.org/heraldry/loar/2002/02/02-02lar.html [Brigitte MacFarlane Red]

4. Bedingford, Henry and Peter Gwynn-Jones. Heraldry Chartwell Books Secaucus: 1993

5. For the purposes of this analysis, I chose to measure un-marshalled arms where there was no chief and where the sole primary charge group was a chevron.

6. Woodcock, Thomas and John Martin Robinson, The Oxford Guide to Heraldry Oxford University Press, Oxford: 2001

7. Campbell, Colin The Scots Roll Heraldry Society of Scoltand, Kinross: 1995

8. Siebmacher, Johann Wappenbuch von 1605. Orbis, Munich: 1999

9. Zurich Wappenroll, http://ladyivanor.knownworldweb.com/zroaen0.htm

10. Nisbet, Alexander A System of Heraldry 2 vol. Clark Constable, Edinbugh: 1984 vol. 1, p28.

11.Nisbet, ibid. p 27 and p. 195 SN: of the point

12. LoAR February 2002 ibid.. [Brigitte MacFarlane Red]

13. Parker, James. Ibid. P 457 SN:Pile

14. Nisbet, ibid pp198-204 SN: Pile

15. Parker, ibid. P 458-9 SN: Pile. See also the blazons in Nisbet, pp 199-200

16.Nisbet, ibid. p 28

17. Letters of Acceptance and Return, April 2000, http://sca.org/heraldry/loar/2000/04/00-04lar.html [Coldedernhale, Shire of]

18. Letters of Acceptances and Return, December 1992, http://www.sca.org/heraldry/loar/1992/12/lar.html [Johann Götz Kauffman von Erfurt]

19. LoAR, May 2001, http://sca.org/heraldry/loar/2000/05/00-05lar.html [Thome le Lent],
LoAR February 2002 http://sca.org/heraldry/loar/2002/02/02-02lar.html [Brigitte MacFarlane Red]
LoAR May 1994, http://www.sca.org/heraldry/loar/1994/05/lar.html [Miriam Meggett]

20. Collected Precedents of Daud ibn Auda (http://www.sca.org/heraldry/laurel/precedents/daud/daud1.html)
"The difference between a pile and chaussé‚ is blazonable, but is worth nothing in terms of difference." (LoAR 12/90 p.18)

21. LoAR, September, 1984, http://www.sca.org/heraldry/loar/1985/06/lar.html [Dinaris the Wanderer]
"Given the medieval definition of a pile, I consider the difference between a pile and a pile throughout to be negligible."

Hosted by www.Geocities.ws