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Valais / Wallis canton (Switzerland)
Last modified: 2002-01-12 by
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by António Martins
Description of the flag Per pale argent and gules, thirteen mullets of five: in each field four in pale and five on the palar line, all countercoloured.
Divided vertically into equal parts white (hoist) and red (fly). In the white field and four red five-pointed stars arranged vertically. In the red field are four white five-pointed stars arranged vertically. A third row of five stars straddles the dividing line, each star half red and half white opposite to the field colour. The stars all have one point directed toward the top of the flag. They are often incorrectly depicted fimbriated in black.
Symbolism of the flag Red and white are the colours of the Bishop of Sion, the dominant power in Valais until very recent times. The thirteen stars represent the thirteen districts (Zehnden) of Valais, a number that has remained constant since 1815 when Valais joined the Swiss Confederation.
History of the flag Valais, straddling the upper Rhone valley, was an important territory to the ancient Romans due to the mountains passes linking Italy to transalpine Europe. The monastery of St. Maurice, named for a Roman Christian officer martyred in Valais, was founded in 390. Valais was initially hostile to the Swiss Confederation but became allied with it in 1403 after the Burgundian wars. The earliest known war flag is the vertically divided red and white banner of the Bishop of Sion, and has been documented at 1220. Valais consisted of highly autonomous "Dixains" (Zehnden) owing allegiance to the Bishop. Their own individual banners predominated until 1613 when they united into a republic. The red and white flag of the republic originally had six stars for its constituent Dixains. A seventh was added in 1628, and in that year France, Savoy and Switzerland all recognised Valais as a free republic.
In 1798 the French created the Helvetic Republic with Valais as one of its new cantons. When the Helvetic Republic proved an unworkable artificial creation, Napoleon mediated the restoration of the Swiss Confederation in 1803, but kept Valais out of the new polity in order to guarantee French control of the strategic mountain passes. In severing Valais from Switzerland, the five Dixains of lower Valais were joined to it for a total of twelve stars in the flag (six in each field). In 1810 France annexed Valais outright as the Department of Simplon.
Since the Act of Mediation of 1803 was a Napoleonic creation, it collapsed with him, and the Allies restored the pre-revolutionary Confederation in 1815 with the addition of three new cantons liberated from France. Valais thus rejoined Switzerland, and in the process created a thirteenth Dixain (Conthey) out of parts of two others (Martigny and Sion). The flag was accordingly altered to its current form with thirteen stars in three rows.
T.F. Mills, 04 November 1997
by António Martins
From 1498-1628 there were six stars in the arms.
António Martins, 25 October 1998
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