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City of Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany)

Stadt Worms

Last modified: 2001-12-29 by
Keywords: rhineland-palatinate | rheinland-pfalz | worms | stadt worms | coat of arms (key: white) | coat of arms (star: yellow) |
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[City of Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany)] 3:5
by Philip Schäfer and Stefan Schwoon

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The key and the dragon: A 17th century chronicler assumed the key in the city arms of Worms to represent wisdom, reason and the welfare provided by the authorities, the dragon to be a symbol for armed vigilance. An old folk tale has a different explanation for the tradition of the arms. It was written down for the first time in Jewish-German by Juspa Schammes (born 1604) and printed in 1696 in Amsterdam. It is the tale of a widowed queen who fruitfully reigned Worms in pre-Christian times. One day a horrible Lindwurm (dragon) lay down before the city walls and threatened to destroy the city, unless every day one of the inhabitants was offered to him. The victims were chosen by lot, and one day it decided that the queen should be offered. However, a courageous locksmith had made an armour of iron set with shearing blades from top to bottom, and suggested to the queen that he be surrendered to the dragon, on condition that she married him and made him king. The queen agreed and the locksmith was thrown to the dragon in his armour. Hardly had the dragon pitched into the man when it cut itself into pieces with every movement it made. The victorious smith worked his way through the carcass, everybody was happy and in Worms a locksmith became king. As a memento, the key was added to the city arms and the defeated dragon was henceforth to bear the shield. The blacksmith, the queen and the dragon were painted on the walls of the town hall.

The star: Like other imperial free cities, Worms had greater, medium and lesser arms. The lesser arms merely consist of the silver key on a red shield. The six-pointed star (not, as often displayed nowadays, a five-pointed one) was added later. German heraldry signifies the six-pointed star, whereas in French heraldry, the five-pointed star is used. The five-pointed star in the coat of arms of Worms was introduced by the French, who had occupied the city several times between the 17th and the 20th centuries. After the French withdrawal it seemed unacceptable for the authorities to re-introduce the six-pointed star. On top of it, there is a lack of heraldists in the authorities, so nobody is aware of the difference between the five-pointed and the six-pointed stars. However, in times when Worms was not occupied, many developers were eager to provide their buildings with the arms featuring the six-pointed star. For instance, the Water Tower, which was built in 1890, shows coats of arms with six-pointed stars both on the northern and the southern sides of the building. Additionally, the intermissions of the local TV channel have recently started to display the city arms with the six-pointed star.

The colours of the flag were derived from the colours of the arms.

Philip Schäfer, 27 July 2000

From Ralf Hartemink's International Civic Arms website:

Worms was an important city and the seat of a Bishop already in the early Middle Ages. When the city rights were granted is not clear, but the oldest seal is known from 1198. It shows the patron saint of the city, St. Peter on a throne. The symbol of the saint, the key, is known as the arms of the city since 1498. (...) The single key has been used as a symbol of the city on coins since the 13th century. (...) The star is also used on coins and seals since the 13th century, but was only later incorporated in the arms.

Literature: Stadler 1964-1971.

Santiago Dotor, 27 December 2001