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Poland - Historical flags

Last modified: 2023-07-03 by
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Banner of 1517

[Banner of 1517] by Adam Kromer, from his website

XVI century banner

[XVI century banner] by Adam Kromer, from his website

Italian origin of the Polish flag?

I am writing from Bari, Apulia, Italy. I have read in a local paper that the colors of the Polish flag were derived from the colors of the city of Bari in 1517, when Bona Sforza duchess of Bari got married to King Zygmunt of Poland, who adopted the colors of Bari in honor of his bride. Could anybody confirm this?
Giovanni Scillitani, 17 Nov 2002

Well, the banner is indeed similar to this one. So it's possible that the vertical layout was influenced by the colors of Bari. However, the white/red colours of Poland are much older, probably since 1295, see eg. this webpage.
Mariusz Borkowski, 18 Nov 2002

The origins of the white eagle of Poland

I asked my family priest about how the White Eagle became the emblem for Poland today to see if he knew anything about it. He told me: "There were 3 guys, one of whom was named Lech. Lech ran upon a wild forest, which was in the shape of a White-Eagle. He thought to himself, this would be a good sign for my nation. From that, he created what was called Lechechi, which later became Poland." He also told me that it was a very long story dealing with the birth of Poland as a Nation, but that was all he told me. And then he said he's never seen a white-eagle. "Perhaps in a special kind of zoo..."
Timothy Boronczyk, 17 May 1998

The legend is that Lech, Czech and Rus were three brothers, each of whom set off in a different direction. Czech founded the Czech nation, Rus the Rus' (i.e. East Slavs) and Lech the Poles. He camped in a spot where he saw a white eagle nesting at dusk in a nest in a tree against the red sunset. Thus, the Polish white eagle on a red field, and thus also the name of the first Polish capital, Gniezno (perhaps an old form of gniazdo, the current word for nest).

Of course, this is but a legend. I have a Polish book on the Polish symbols at home, and it says that in the 13th century, Polish knights were going into battle with a black eagle on a white or yellow field. In fact, prior to the 1 or 2 Czech kings Poland had, there is no evidence of the white eagle. So, in some likelihood, it may well be an adopted symbol.
Robert Czernkowski, 19 May 1998

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