The historical national coat of arms of Lithuania is Vytis (an armoured knight). The Supreme Council - the Reconstituent Seimas approved the official coat of arms and emblem, Vytis, by passing the Law on the National Coat of Arms on 11 March 1990. Article 15 of the 1992 Constitution stipulates, "The coat of arms of the State shall be a white Vytis on a red field".
The 1990 Law approved the image of Vytis, created by sculptor Juozas Zikaras in 1925 for Lithuanian coins, as a sample of the Lithuanian national emblem. The coloured sample version was approved by the Supreme Council - the Reconstituent Seimas on 17 May 1990. The Lithuanian national coat of arms is a symbol from the inter-war period. It is noteworthy that the State of Lithuania continues the traditions of the inter-war period. The tapestry by the Lithuanian artist Kęstutis Balčikonis, which is one of the decorations of the Parliament Plenary Hall, bears this particular image of Vytis. The first produced replica of the Lithuanian national coat of arms is placed over the main entrance to the Seimas buildings in the Grand Courtyard and can be seen from the window of the Constitution Hall of the Seimas.
Vytis with a cross in the background. Tapestry by K. Balčikonis in the Seimas Plenary Hall. Photo by Gintaras Mačiulis
The Supreme Council - the Reconstituent Seimas amended the Law on the National Coat of Arms on 4 September 1991. The difference lies in the colours; Vytis is now red and blue with silver and gold like in the historical version; the pattern was typical of Vytautas period, the period of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The new version is an attempt to highlight the initial idea of the Lithuanian coat of arms, i.e. the knight is ready to protect his state. The revival of the historical idea by reinstating the original colours suggests that modern Lithuania is the successor of both periods of its statehood - the inter-war Republic of Lithuania and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Hustyn copy of the Halych - Volyn manuscript notes that the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytenis (1293-1316) thought of a coat of arms for himself and for his duchy; it was an armoured knight on a horse with his sword high in the air - Vytis. Jonas Trinkūnas believes that in terms of the Baltic mythology Vytis stands for the god of Lithuanian warriors - God Perkūnas (Thunder - Zeus/Jupiter) as Perkūnas has been depicted as a horseman since ancient times. Moreover, archaeological artefacts prove that Lithuanians used to have amulets as early as in the 10th - 11th centuries. Beside the currently used heraldic symbols, in the opinion of the Lithuanian Heraldry Commission, the Great National Coat of Arms could be introduced.
Vytis from the period of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Tapestry at Wawel Castle, Cracow
The description of the Lithuanian national coat of arms: a silver armoured knight on a red field holding a silver sword with a golden hilt in his right hand above his head. A blue shield with a double cross hangs on the left shoulder of the knight. The bridle, leather straps and saddle of the horse and a short blanket are blue, while the horseshoes, bits, spurs, stirrups, and metal decorations are golden.
The coat of arms in force since 1991
Beside the Lithuanian national coat of arms Vytis two other historical symbols have been used in the Lithuania public life since the late 14th century: the double cross and Gediminaičių stulpai (the Columns of the Gediminas Family). Both were recognised as Lithuanian national symbols by the Supreme Soviet of the SSR of Lithuania, 11th term, 10th session in November 1988.