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The name Transylvania literally means “the land beyond the forest.” The Romanian name is Ardeal, and the Hungarian name is Erdély. In German, it is known and Siebenbürgen, which literally means “seven fortresses,” referring to the seven fortified towns founded by German immingrants to the region in the Middle Ages.

Though it was made famous by Bram Stoker in his novel Dracula, Transylvania is an area rich in history and has long been a crossroads for different cultures, a fact represented in the coat of arms.

The black bird in the upper portion of of the coat of arms is often mistaken for an eagle or even a raven, but it is actually a turul, a mythical falcon from Hungarian legend. It represents the Hungarian nobles who ruled Transylvania for several centuries. The sun and moon represent the Szeklers. The Szeklers speak Hungarian, but they are a distinct ethnic group. The seven red towers on the lower part of the coat of arms represents the seven cities of the German immigrants, who are commonly refered to as Transylvanian Saxons. Because Transylvania is now part of the modern state of Romania, these cities are normally referred to by their Romanian names, but sometimes the German names are used. The seven cities are (with German names in parentheses): Braşov (Kronstadt), Sighişoara (Schäßburg), Mediaş (Mediasch), Sibiu (Hermannstadt), Sebeş (Mühlbach), Bistriţa (Bistritz), and Cluj (Klausenburg).

Sighişoara is significant because it is the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula, Bram Stoker’s real-life inspiration for the vampire.

Interestingly enough, the Romanians, who have been the majority of Transylvania’s population for much of its history, are not represented in the coat of arms.