A German knighted in Portugal for an African voyage (1503)

On 2 February 1503 Wolf Holzschuher was knighted by the Portuguese King Manuel I for unspecified services performed in Africa, probably for taking part in a successful voyage of exploration and commerce. Holzschuher was a merchant who came from an established Nuremberg patrician family (today known as Holzschuher von Harrlach) that had extensive trading connections through Europe and as far as Egypt and the Levant. Along with his knighthood Manuel conferred upon Holzschuher an addition to his personal coat of arms that would commemorate his accomplishment: the bust of a “moor” wearing a red shirt and hat. A 1547 order of the German Emperor Karl V allowed the entire family to use the new crest. The image below comes from the compendium of family crests put together by Johann Siebmacher–note the page also includes Martin Behaim‘s family crest and the Black queen on the Schürstab coat of arms. These remind us that Germans were active in commerce all across Europe in the Renaissance era and took a direct, if sometimes also small, part in the era’s voyages of exploration.

Jeff Bowersox


Source: Johann Siebmacher, New Wapenbuch, 2nd edition, (Nuremberg, 1612), Bayerische Staatsbiliothek, 1080914 Herald. 139-1.

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