The present form of the city of Ruda Śląska dates back to 1959. It was created by joining several neighbouring village gminas (communities) which previously were separate administrative units that each had their own, individual emblems. The emblems of these gminas appeared most often on seals and were quite diversified: Kochłowice used a religious reference, the emblem of Orzegów drew on the coat of arms of its owners, while the one used by Halemba symbolised the metallurgical industry. Most of the emblems had been created by as early as at the end of the 18th century, with some of them dating from the following century. The most recent was that of Nowy Bytom, adopted at a session of the gmina council on July 20th, 1927 and used since November 20th, 1928 after approval by the Silesian Voivodeship Office. Formally speaking, it more resembled the coat of arms of a city than that of a traditional gmina. Its field was divided per pall and showed the figure of Saint Barbara holding a sword and a chalice with the Host, a half-eagle and a half-cogwheel. The coat of arms symbolised the mining traditions of the gmina (Saint Barbara), the fact that it was located in Upper Silesia (the half-eagle) and the other heavy industries which were developing (the half-cogwheel). Ruda, on the other hand, even though it was one of the oldest localities (mentioned as early as 1305), did not have its own gmina emblem. At the session of the Silesian Parliament on August 15th, 1939, the rural gminas of Ruda and Nowy Bytom were elevated to the status of towns. From that moment on, they could use town coats of arms. This resolution came into force only in 1951. Nowy Bytom kept the emblem it had before, while Ruda still had no coat of arms. Eight years later, in 1959, the two towns were joined to form a single organism known as Ruda Śląska.
The new city was still lacking a coat of arms. For ideological reasons, it was not possible to adopt the one used by Nowy Bytom, even though this would have been the best solution because of the image of Saint Barbara it contained. Faced with this, the city’s authorities decided to create an entirely new coat of arms. In order to conform to the official propaganda of the time, it was supposed to emphasise only two features of the city: its location in the People’s Republic of Poland and the heavy industrial character it owed to the new regime. Historical and cultural traditions were considered insignificant and, consequently, they were ignored. The new emblem was adopted on September 17th, 1966 by the City National Council. It was created out of the initiative of and with the participation of the Association of Ruda Śląska Supporters. From the point of view of heraldic correctness, it contained many gross errors (such as the accumulation of too many elements and a non-heraldic colour selection), which were frequently pointed out in numerous scientific publications to no avail. What is more, in later years it appeared in several colour variants which were also far from heraldic correctness. Despite all this, it remained unchanged for over thirty years, until the city’s authorities decided to replace it with a new one.
It was not simple to establish a new emblem for the city. Since Ruda, the district which gave the new city its name, had had no emblem or coat of arms which could be adopted, as was the case of Katowice, Siemianowice and Piekary Śląskie, a new design had to be made. It was intended that it should meet a number of conditions:
1. Emphasise some assets that were common for all the city’s districts
2. Refer to the past
3. Underline a particular feature that distinguished Ruda Śląska from the neighbouring cities.
The coat of arms of Nowy Bytom was taken as the basis for the new design, as it corresponded to the fullest extent to these assumptions. Some changes were introduced, however: a vertical division of the field (party per pale) replaced the pall. Such shields were typical for Upper Silesian municipal heraldry, as most towns’ coats of arms had been composed of two elements since the Middle Ages. This led to the removal of one of the charges, i.e. the half-cogwheel, which was the least significant one. The remaining two elements were moved.
There is a golden half-eagle in the left half of the field, against an azure background.
A golden eagle in an azure field used to be the family coat of arms of the Upper Silesian Piast dynasty, which is confirmed by sources dating back to the 16th century. Currently, the golden eagle is the emblem of the Silesian Voivodeship (since 1999), and it plays a double role in the coat of arms of Ruda Śląska, symbolising the Piast dynasty which ruled most of the villages that later formed the city for several centuries, as well as the fact that the city is now part of the Silesian Voivodeship. What is more, the half-eagle is a characteristic element of most Upper Silesian city municipal coats of arms which also refer to their Piast tradition. In the right half of the field, against a white background, there is a standing figure of Saint Barbara in a blue dress, wrapped in a red coat, holding a gold and silver sword in her right hand (a symbol of her martyrdom), and a golden chalice with the Host in her left hand.
Saint Barbara had been revered in Silesia as the patron saint of bricklayers and blacksmiths ever since the 14th century. In 1723, the colliers from Tarnowskie Góry founded a religious brotherhood in the name of Saint Barbara. Since that time she has been considered the patron saint of miners, whom she was supposed to protect from sudden and unexpected death. In the 19th century, her cult spread among hard coal miners. Images of the saint holding a chalice with the Host would adorn small chapels and altars placed near mines, an expression of the conviction that if an accident happened underground and the miner found himself in a hopeless situation, Saint Barbara would give him his final Holy Communion. This cult of the saint thrived in the area of Ruda and, according to the sources, half an hour before going underground, miners would gather in front of Saint Barbara’s image, say a prayer and sing a hymn dedicated to her.
In the mid-19th century, more than a dozen hard coal mines operated in an area that was just a small fraction of today’s Ruda Śląska. Even today, hard coal mining is the leading industry in the city. Placing the patron saint of miners in the city’s coat of arms was therefore considered perfectly justified. It also conformed to heraldic rules, unlike the hoist tower depicted in the previous coat of arms, an element utterly alien to heraldic symbolism. The image of Saint Barbara, the patron of Ruda Śląska, referred both to the city’s past and to its present. The new design retained the image of the Saint from the coat of arms of Nowy Bytom even though it slightly deviated from heraldic rules, as the image of Barbara holding a chalice was very popular in Upper Silesia. The point was to make the image of the saint easily identifiable and comprehensible for all the city’s inhabitants.