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Luzern canton (Switzerland)
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by T.F. Mills
Description of the flag Per fess argent and azure.
Horizontally divided into equal parts white over blue.
Symbolism of the flag The symbolism of the blue and white is lost to history, but there are several possible explanations. In modern popular culture, the blue represents lakes and the white represents snow-capped mountains -- which is a handy mnemonic for displaying the flag horizontally. A second explanation is that these are the colours of the Virgin Mary. A third explanation is that the Lucerne flag is taken from the arms of the important von Littau family (per fess dancetty argent and azure, i.e. identical but divided in zig-zag fashion).
History of the flag Luzern was a sovereign state within the Holy Roman Empire since 1241. It joined the Swiss Confederation in 1332. The first documented evidence of the blue-white flag is from 1386, and a seal of 1354 shows the blue-white arms divided vertically. An explanation for the horizontal/vertical difference is that the flag evolved from a "gonfalon", a type of banner hung from a vertical crossbar, and that Luzern originally carried such a banner in war. If the staff is turned 90 degrees and carried like a normal flag, the white-blue division appears to be horizontal. But surviving evidence casts doubt on this theory. Flags carried at the battles of Arbedo (1422) and Murten (1476) were horizontal, as were Luzern banners presented by successive popes in 1480 and 1512.
T.F. Mills, 17 October 1997
by Pascal Gross
Flaggen, Knatterfahnen and Livery Colours
Flaggen are vertically hoisted from a crossbar in the manner of gonfanon, in ratio of about 2:9, with a swallowtail that indents about 2 units. The chief, or hoist (square part) usually incorporates the design from the coat of arms - not from the flag. The fly part is always divided lengthwise, usually in a bicolour, triband or tricolour pattern (except Schwyz which is monocolour, and Glarus which has four stripes of unequal width). The colours chosen for the fly end are usually the main colours of the coat of arms, but the choice is not always straight forward.
Knatterfahnen are similar to Flaggen, but hoisted from the long side and have no swallow tail. They normally show the national, cantonal or communal flag in their chiefs.
Zeljko Heimer, 16 July 2000
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