The Flag Of Switzerland: Meaning Of Colors And Symbols

By Benjamin Elisha Sawe on October 3 2017 in World Facts

The official flag of Switzerland. Photo credit: OShuma /
The official flag of Switzerland. Photo credit: OShuma /

The national flag of Switzerland is a red square flag with a white cross in its center. It is one of the country’s most important national symbols. The national flag is one of the most recognizable flags in the world as it closely resembles the official flag of the International Committee of the Red Cross. While the Swiss Constitution of 1848 did not provide for the establishment of an official flag, Switzerland officially adopted the flag as the nation’s official flag in 1889 as a directive from the Federal Council.

Description Of The National Flag Of Switzerland

The national flag of Switzerland is one of two official flags of sovereign states in the world which have a square design. However, the flag’s civil ensign, which is used by Swiss non-governmental organizations and ships, has a rectangular design with the width-length dimensions being 2:3. The national flag is a red square (proportions of 1:1) that has a white cross in its center. The four arms of the cross are of equal length and do not extend to the edges of the flag. The shades of two colors featured on the flag (white and red) are not explicitly defined in Swiss law, and therefore for many years, institutions would use different shades of the colors. However, a guide from the Federal Chancellery published in 2007 provided that the white should have a hexadecimal value of #FF0000 while red should have a hexadecimal value of #F00000.

History Of The Swiss National Flag

One needs to dive into the history of the Swiss flag to know the meaning behind the colors and symbols found in the national flag. The history of the Swiss national flag goes back to the Middle Ages. Historians believe the white cross on the flag had its origin during the Battle of Laupen of 1339 when troops of the Old Swiss Confederacy, an early confederacy made up of small states which were a precursor of modern Switzerland. The white flag was used because it contrasts the flag of Habsburg Austria and that of Burgundy and Maximillian I. The white flag was later adopted as the official identification of the Old Swiss Confederacy and was displayed during the Battle of Arbedo of 1422 as well as the Battle of Nancy of 1477. However, even before the Battle of Laupen, the Schwyz region of the Old Swiss Confederacy already had its official flag which was a solid red flag after the region was granted immediacy in 1240. Schwyz supported the conquest of King Rudolf of Habsburg against Burgundy, and in return, the King granted Schwyz permission to represent the cross on its flag, the first time in Swiss history.

Meaning Of The Symbols And Colors Of The National Flag Of Switzerland

The Swiss Constitution does not state the meaning of the colors and symbols of the national flag of Switzerland but there are several theories in the country which attest to the meaning of these colors and symbols. One common explanation is that the Swiss Cross is used as a representation of Switzerland’s characteristic neutrality during global conflicts and wars (the country has not participated in international wars for centuries). A historical explanation has it that the white cross was a representation of a “Patenmedallie” cast offered to Princess Claude of France in 1547 by Hans Jakob Stampfer as a baptismal gift.

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