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History of the Polish Eagle

The PNHA once received a most interesting piece of information - a lengthy article from Poland Illustrated Magazine, 1976. The article was forwarded to us by Felix Molski, of Sydney, Australia.


The article detailed how retired Colonel Zbigniew Zajac devoted much of his free time to the research of the Polish Eagle. He has produced a collection of nearly 100 eagles from various periods of time. His sources of reference included various photo albums and encyclopedias, seals, coins, medals, etchings, woodcuts, and professional literature.

Polish Coins of Boleslaw Chrobry (The Brave, 922-1025) and Wladyslaw II Wyganiec (The exile, 1138 - 1146) depict the oldest known images of birds. Fourteenth-century coins and seals show an eagle with a slender silhouette, raised beak, and wide outspread wings, and is on the majestic seal of Casimir the Great (1333 - 1370). This style, which introduced the eagle wearing a crown, remained principally unchanged until the end of the 15th century.

The eagle changed its style over the passage of time when various geometrical shapes became popular. During the Renaissance, when the circle was popular for an image or figure, the eagle adopted a shape that could be placed in a circle or on a coin. During the Baroque period, the eagle took on more of a spindle-shape when the oval shape was popularized.

Rococo and Neo-Classicism exerted further influences on the eagle. From the period of Stanislaw August Poniatowski, the last Polish king, the eagle remained unchanged to the 1920's.

In the 19th century, it was impossible to use the Eagle after the partitioning powers had abolished autonomous Polish institutions. The use of the symbolic eagle became traditional in daily life. The eagle was found on medallions, postage stamps, pendants, emblems, women's bracelets, and brooches. The eagle stood for everything that was Polish and for patriotism.

During the periods of the 19th century and the Cracow Insurrection (of 1846), the eagle appeared without the crown on its head. After the restoration of Poland's independence in 1918, it became the habit to use the eagle as the state emblem. From 1945 on, it was customary to use an eagle in the form that we know it today, but without the crown. A decree was passed on December 7, 1955 that established Poland's emblem to be the image of the white eagle, its head turned to the right with outspread wings, golden beak, and claws in a red field of the a shield. In later years, the crown was once again restored to the head of the white eagle.

From his research and studies, Colonel Zbigniew Zajacs has developed an extensive collection of Polish Eagle images from all periods of time, made in metal. They all have one feature in common: absolute faithfulness to the historical shape, perfect feeling for artistic values, and high mastery of artistic performance.