Last modified: 2005-04-29 by
Keywords: sweden | gotland | ram | lamb | visby | wisby |
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by Jan Oskar Engene
The flag is a banner of the arms;
arms dating from 1560, revised grant on 15 May 1936.
The flag has a blue field with a white standing ram, horns and hooves yellow, carrying a cross staff with a red flag bordered in yellow and with five tails also in yellow. The current version was introduced by the National Archives of Sweden in 1990 and is in content identical to the arms granted by the king in 1936. A version from 1884 had an Agnus Dei instead of the ram. The image shows the flag as a banner of the arms with proportions 1:1. Real flags sold and used in Gotland are rectangular.
Gotland is an island in the Baltic Sea. The island is historically one of Sweden's 24 provinces. All of these provinces (landskapen) have arms and flags, though there are today no longer any administrative institutions on the provincial level.
The intermediate level of administration in Sweden is the county (län), with the commune (municipality) as the basic level of administration. In the case of Gotland the territory of the old province, the modern county and the modern commune coincides.
Like most provincial arms and flags in Sweden, the one of Gotland goes back to the funeral of Gustavus Wasa in December 1560. At the time, Gotland was occupied by the Danish, a fact the Swedes had a hard time accepting. Thus arms were created for the island, signalling Sweden's claim to it. These arms were on red, a silver ram carrying a blue and yellow cross flag - the flag of Sweden. In 1570 Sweden ceded the island to Denmark, and the arms were no longer used. However, Sweden regained the island in 1658. At this time the island's arms were on blue an Agnus Dei carrying a silver banner with a red cross. It is possible that the old seal of Gotland (with the ram) was mixed up with the seal of the city of Visby. Visby's seal originally had an Agnus Dei combined with a tree of lilies (known from the 1340s). As a Hanse city, Visby had a German and also a Gotlandic population. In the 1340s the two communities were united. This was reflected in the seal: The lamb represented the Gotlanders, while the tree of lilies represented the Germans. Later, the tree of lilies disappeared, leaving only the lamb and banner. In 1945, Visby officially got arms with an Agnus Dei in red.
Currently, there are two official flags for the island of Gotland - one for the province and county of Gotland and one for the commune of Gotland.
Jan Oskar Engene, 1998-Jun-02 (revised)
· Per Andersson: Nordiska korsflaggor, Mjölby, 1992 [and92]
· Clara Nevéus: Ny svensk vapenbok, Stockholm, 1992 [nev92]
· Knut Pipping and Leif Tengström: "Huset Vasa, Jagellonerna och Ivan IV Vasilievitj: Några hypoteser om de svenska landskapsvapnens uppkomst", Heraldisk tidsskrift, Vol. 5, No. 49-50, 1984, pp. 107-138
Official blazon in Swedish: "I blått fält en stående vädur av silver med beväring av guld, bärande på en korsprydd stång av guld ett rött banér med bård och fem flikar av guld."
Blazoned in English: "Azure a ram stantant Argent armed Or holding on a cross-staff of the same a banner Gules bordered and with five tails of the third."
English blazon by Željko Heimer, 1 August 2001