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Flag of Switzerland
See adjacent text.
Use National flag
Proportion 1:1
Adopted May 3, 1291
April 30, 1976
Design A red square with a bold, near-equilateral white cross in the centre
See adjacent text.
Use Civil and state ensign
Proportion 2:3
Adopted May 30, 1291
March 3, 1971
The flag of the Canton of Schwyz.
Swiss flag at the base of the Churfirsten in the Swiss Alps.

The flag of Switzerland consists of a red flag with a bold, equilateral white cross in the center. It is one of only two square sovereign-state flags, the other being the flag of the Vatican City. (The civil and state ensign, used by Swiss ships and boats, has more traditional proportions of 2:3.)

Only the dimensions of the cross are formally established since 1889: "The coat of arms of the federation is, within a red field, an upright white cross, whose [four] arms of equal length are a sixth longer than their width."[1]. The size of the cross in relation to the field is not formally established except on the naval ensign. A relation of 2:3 or 7:10 to the span of the flag is usual.



The ultimate origin of the white cross is attributed by three competing legends: To the Theban Legion, to the Reichssturmfahne attested from the 12th century, and to the Arma Christi that were especially venerated in the three forest cantons, and which they were allegedly allowed to display on the formerly uniformly red battle flag from 1289 by king Rudolph I of Habsburg at the occasion of a campaign to Besançon.

The oldest surviving specimen of a flag of Schwyz dates to the Burgundian Wars (1474–77). The illustrated chronicles show an asymmetrical white cross, drawn in greater detail, including the body of Christ, and the equilateral cross became predominant only in the later 17th century.

Use of a white cross as a mark of identification of the combined troops of the Old Swiss Confederacy is first attested in the Battle of Laupen (1339), where it was sewn on combatants' clothing as two stripes of textile, contrasting with the red St. George's cross of Habsburg Austria, and with the St. Andrew's cross used by Burgundy and Maximilian I.

Civilian use of the white cross as a symbol of the confederacy is attested from the 16th century. From the 17th century, the white cross was carried on the banners of all cantonal troops, on the background of the cantonal colours.

General Niklaus Franz von Bachmann used the white cross in a red field in 1800 and 1815, and following this use, the symbol was adopted as national symbol in the federal contract of 1815 (see also Switzerland in the Napoleonic era).

General Guillaume-Henri Dufour proposed use of the flag for the federal forces in 1840, and in 1889 the Federal Council defined the 1/6th proportion of the cross's members, while the ratio of the cross to the square field, or the shield in the case of the coat of arms, remained unspecified.

Use in Switzerland


Private use

The flag is flown around the year from private and commercial buildings as a display of patriotism, particularly in rural areas and often together with the cantonal and municipal flag. On Swiss National Day, August 1, the streets and buildings are traditionally festooned in celebration with Swiss flags and banners.

Prominent display of the Swiss flag on clothing and apparel has become more frequent with the "Swissness" fashion trend in the 2000s, while such use of the flag had previously been largely limited to conservative and right-wing circles. The flag and coat of arms are also often used (frequently in contravention of federal law, see below) as design elements on merchandise, particularly on high-quality goods or on merchandise aimed at tourists.

Official use

The display of the flag on federal, cantonal and municipal public buildings follows no uniform pattern or regulation. Many public buildings are equipped with flag posts (most often one each for the federal, cantonal and municipal flag), but the flag(s) may only be flown during part of the year or only on National Day. In Bern, the flag is flown on the cupola of the Federal Palace while the Federal Assembly is in session.

Legal protection

Destruction, removal or desecration of a Swiss, cantonal or municipal flag or coat of arms that has been installed by a public authority is punishable by a monetary penalty or imprisonment of up to three years according to the federal penal code.[2] The destruction or desecration of privately owned flags is legal.

The use of the Swiss flag or coat of arms on merchandise is technically prohibited by the 1931 Federal Act for the protection of public coats of arms and other public insignia,[3] but that prohibition is not enforced.


The exact hue of red in the Swiss flag is not defined by law, and various authorities have used various colours over time. In 2007, the corporate design guide of the federal authorities designated Pantone's PMS 485 (consisting of 100 percent magenta and yellow each) as the shade of red to be used in print, and the colour described with the hexadecimal value of #FF0000 for use on the web.[4]

Flag of the Red Cross
Flag of Icaria (1912).


The Red Cross symbol used by the International Committee of the Red Cross is based on the Swiss flag[5]. The Red Cross on white background was the original protection symbol declared at the 1864 Geneva Convention. It is, in terms of its color, a reversal of the Swiss national flag, a meaning which was adopted to honor Swiss native and Red Cross founder Henry Dunant.

The short-lived Free State of Icaria, proclaimed in 1912 in the Greek island of that name, used a flag similar in shape to the Swiss civil and state ensign, except for being blue rather than red.

See also



  1. ^ Federal decision of 12 December 1889 on the bearings of the coat of arms
  2. ^ Swiss Penal Code , SR/RS 311.0 (E·D·F·I), art. 270 (E·D·F·I)
  3. ^ Bundesgesetz zum Schutz öffentlicher Wappen und anderer öffentlicher Zeichen of 5 June 1931, SR/RS 232.21 (D·F·I)
  4. ^ "Wenn nicht nur der Firn sich rötet: Vor dem ersten Bundesfeiertag mit definiertem Wappenrot". NZZ. 30 July 2007.  
  5. ^ Art. 38 Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field


External links

Simple English

Switzerland’s national flag was adopted on December 12, 1889, which is one of the world’s oldest flag. The Flag of Switzerland is a red field, a white cross whose arms are one sixth longer than their width. The relationship between the span of the cross and the width of the flag has not been established, but in practice the ratio is about 2:3 or 7:10.

The Swiss cross on a red field ultimately derives from a similar banner of the Holy Roman Empire, and thus has strong Christian connotations. The Swiss flag traditionally stands for freedom, honour and fidelity. The motto "Honor et Fidelitas" was inscribed on the cross of several Swiss mercenary flags of the 18th century. In modern times, through association with consistent Swiss policy, the flag has also come to mean neutrality, democracy, peace and refuge.


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