The town that I live in in the Netherlands is called Leiden. The city’s coat of arms looks like this:
The emblem features on buildings and structures all over the city, including streetlights and bollards, as is customary in the Netherlands.
As Leiden has many of the same urban features as Amsterdam does, scenes for TV series and films that are meant to take place in Amsterdam, are often re-enacted in Leiden.
You can imagine that elements such as the ones featured in the pictures above, need to be temporarily replaced with their Amsterdam counterparts before filming begins. For Leideners, this is always kind of painful to watch, as any Dutch city’s fear is to “become Amsterdam”.
Now, to get to the point of this blog…. Amsterdam’s coat of arms looks like this:
In the current composition, it is believed to date back to the 13th century.
When we see the three X’s positioned vertically like that, we all understand we are referencing Amsterdam. It turns out though, that the meaning and origins of these X’s are a bit of a mystery.
Online historians and Amsterdamologists tell me that the three X’s are actually three silver Saint Andrew’s Crosses (which also features quite prominently on the flag of Scotland). And that’s pretty much where the story ends.
Nobody has been able to think up a good explanation as to why the city thought St Andrew, or the cross he was crucified on, were so important that they should pay tribute to him thrice on the city’s emblem.
According to Amsterdam’s own website, there are two other cities in the area that also feature the cross in the same fashion on their coat of arms, which is an interesting fact but still doesn’t really offer any clarity.
The only theory I could find, led back to the coat of arms of a powerful family from the region, van Persijn, that looks like this:
It is possible that this family owned so much real estate in the area (which they apparently did, including in the area around Leiden) that Amsterdam honored them by referencing them in the coat of arms. It’s still hard to believe that somehow we managed to forget all about this fact in the centuries that followed, don’t you think?
Fast-forward to the 21st century where somehow, the term “triple X” has also became intertwined with sexual imagery, prostitution and pornography, which has also just happened to become part of Amsterdam’s identity.
How? Why? Coincidence? You tell me!