Church Banners In Gothenburg

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In Sweden, flags of the Church of Sweden and its dioceses can be seen outside cathedrals and parish churches. These flags are all heraldic banners depicting the coats of arms of the Church or one of the thirteen dioceses. The use of ecclesiastical heraldry is much more elaborate and consistent in Sweden than in the other Nordic countries.

In the picture above are the banners of the Church of Sweden and the Diocese of Gothenburg, hoisted at Gothenburg Cathedral which is centrally located in Sweden’s second-largest city (in Swedish Göteborgs domkyrka, also known as Gustavi domkyrka).

The Church of Sweden (Svenska kyrkan, in Swedish) is an Evangelical-Lutheran church. It was the Swedish state church from 1536 until 2000. As of 2017 the church has close to 6 million members which equals 59 % of the population of Sweden. Antje Jackelén is the current Archbishop of Uppsala, primate of the Church of Sweden, and the first woman to hold that office.

The coat of arms of the Church of Sweden were adopted in 1977. Or, on a cross gules a crown Or is the proper heraldic blazon of the arms. The inspiration came from the arms of the Archdiocese of Uppsala: its golden cross on red was inverted to a red cross on gold. The crown is associated with Christ and Saint Eric, the patron saint of Sweden. 

The arms of the Diocese of Gothenburg (Göteborgs stift, in Swedish) were adopted in 1960. The golden triangle surrounded by golden rays is inspired by the “eye of God” also adorning the crosier, or bishop’s staff, of the bishop of Gothenburg from 1955.  

Apart from the City of Gothenburg, the Diocese of Gothenburg covers parts of the historic Swedish province of Västergötland and two provinces conquered from Denmark and Norway in the 17th Century – Halland and Bohuslän, respectively. The first bishop of Gothenburg was appointed in 1665. The present bishop is Susanne Rappmann. She was elected in November 2017 and consecrated bishop of Gothenburg in Uppsala Cathedral in March 2018.

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Icelandic Independence 100 Years

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A century ago today, on 1 December 1918, Iceland became an independent nation. And the “Civic National Flag of Icelanders”, first adopted in 1915 when Iceland was still a part of the Kingdom of Denmark, became the official flag of Iceland both on land and at sea. 

“Iceland’s thousand years, Iceland’s thousand years!” is the refrain of Lofsöngur, the national anthem of Iceland written in 1874. That year Iceland celebrated the 1000th anniversary of the island’s settlement. Full independence was only achieved four decades later. The flag of Iceland, íslenski fáninn, adopted a little over a hundred years ago, is also among the younger in the Nordic countries.

Iceland was settled from Norway in the Early Middle Ages. In 1814 Iceland, together with Greenland and the Faroe Islands, became a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. In 1874 Iceland was given home rule under its own constitution.

A blue flag with a white cross, similar to the one in use on the Shetland Islands today, had been used by Icelandic nationalist republicans since before 1900. This flag was abandoned because of its similarity to other flags – the naval jack of Greece for example.

Its replacement was also a blue flag with a white cross, but a narrow red cross was placed on the white cross. This flag was presented by Matthías Thórðarson at a meeting in the Reykjavík Students’ Union (Stúdentafélagið) on 27 September 1906. The three colours were described to represent the blue of the mountains, the white of the ice and the red of the fire.

A royal decree on 19 June 1915 made this blue-white-red Scandinavian Cross flag the official flag of Iceland on land. When Iceland was recognised as an independent nation in 1918, the flag became official also at sea.

A hundred years ago today, on 1 December 1918, Iceland became fully independent when the Union Law (Sambandslögin in Icelandic, Forbundsloven in Danish) was signed. A Kingdom of Iceland was established with King Christian X of Denmark functioning as king of both countries. Iceland finally severed all constitutional ties with Denmark and became a republic on 17 June 1944.

The latter date is now celebrated as the Icelandic National Day (Þjóðhátíðardagurinn in Icelandic), but the date of the signing of the Union Law in 1918 is still an official flag day known as Sovereignty Day (Fullveldisdagurinn in Icelandic).

For this year’s centenary celebrations, the President of Iceland, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, has invited among others Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, the granddaughter of the first and only King of Iceland. Born in 1940, during the time of the Kingdom of Iceland, she is lovingly known among Icelanders by her Icelandic names Margrét Thórhildur.

The Raven Banner

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Vikings used a banner with ravens, the birds of the god Odin. But the Raven Banner cannot be considered an early national flag of Denmark or the Nordic countries. We know very little about its use and what it looked like. The Bayeux Tapestry suggests that the Raven Banner was in use by Normans long after they became Christians.

Did the Vikings have a flag?

There is a depiction of the Raven Banner on the Bayeux Tapestry which was made in the 11th Century to commemorate the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. Normans were the descendants of “Northmen” who came primarily from Denmark and settled in northwestern France in the 10th Century.

Two centuries before the Norman conquest of England, the Raven Banner is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 878 when a Viking army was defeated in southern England. “There also was taken a war-flag which they called “the Raven”, the chronicler tells. There are also other English sources which mention Raven Banners in connection with Viking armies.

Why was this banner called “the Raven”?

Ravens are intelligent and rather large birds. The wingspan of a common raven can be up to 150 cm. Ravens are iconic in Norse pagan religion and folklore as they are closely connected to the deity Odin. According to Norse mythology, he has two ravens, Huginn and Muninn. Their names mean “thought” and “memory” and they fly to all corners of the world and bring tidings to him. It is understandable that Viking warriors would want to fight under a symbol of their highest god.

What did the Raven Banner look like?

We don’t know exactly how it looked. Most likely, there was no standardized way to make a Raven Banner a thousand years ago. The Raven Banner in the Bayeux Tapestry seams to be rounded or slightly triangular in shape and it has gold fringes (the illustration above, left side). There is only one raven visible on the flag. Maybe it was believed that Huginn was the bird on “the front side” of the flag, and Muninn the bird on “the back side”.

In recent years, many Raven Banners have been reproduced. A high level of creative freedom is allowed as the medieval sources are so unclear when it comes to flag design. The Raven Banner made for the exhibition in the Natural History Museum in Aarhus, Denmark has a black raven in flight on a red background (the illustration above, right side).

Was the Raven Banner “a Viking national flag” or “an early flag of Denmark”?

No. The Raven Banner was not a national flag in the modern sense of the word. We don’t know if the banner was a war flag only, or if it also had a totemic meaning and perhaps a specific use in religious and cultic life. We don’t know if the banner was considered a personal symbol for kings and warlords, or if it represented, more broadly, all of the army or all of the people.

Was the Raven Banner replaced by the Dannebrog when Denmark became Christian?

No. Denmark became a Christian country in the 10th and 11th Centuries. The earliest depiction of the Dannebrog in colours, a banner with a white cross on a red background, is in a 14th Century armorial. In the 12th Century red flags with white crosses were used by crusader knights and kings and as a war banner by the Holy Roman Empire. However, for centuries Dannebrog was the personal banner of the King of Denmark and was used only by him and his armies and on board his warships.

Only in 1854 were Danish citizens allowed to use the flag as a civil national flag. During the time of the Schleswig Wars (1848-1852 and 1864) Dannebrog was widely used to show support for the fight against Germany and as a sign of a growing national sentiments.

FLAG FAIL: UEFA Has Denmark Playing Under Greenlandic Flag

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Using the new UEFA Nations League logo with kit colours in place of small flags like usual has led to the result that the Danish football team is represented by a symbol conspicuously similar to the flag of Greenland. 

For the first Nations League football tournament of 2018-2019, with 55 European countries competing for a newly designed trophy, UEFA made the choice not to use national flags to represent national teams in TV graphics when broadcasting matches.

Instead, bicolour versions of the new Nations League logo are used: black and white for Germany, orange and white for the Netherlands, green and white for Ireland, and so on. These are not the national colours of the countries in question, but rather the colours of the kit worn by their national football teams.

The new UEFA Nations League logo is designed by a Portuguese company, Y&R Branding, of Lisbon. Y&R Branding, on its website, describes the logo as “a system of modules based on geometrical figures that illustrate promotion (upward triangle), draw (circle) and relegation (downward triangle)”.

Unintentionally, this all leads to the fact that the Danish team, playing in the colors of the national flag of Denmark, is now represented by a symbol closely resembling the flag of Greenland: divided horizontally by white and red, a disk in the middle with colours counterchanged.

It is unfortunate that no-one at Y&R Branding or UEFA noticed that the module would look remarkably like the Greenlandic flag when utilizing the colours red and white. For anyone familiar with the design of Greenland’s iconic Erfalasorput, UEFA Nations League tv graphics look like someone tried to colour the Greenlandic flag and failed in 55 different ways.

World Vexillology Day – Nordic Style

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Happy Vexiday! October 1 is the day to celebrate flags and all things flag related. My focus today is on the rising number of flags with a Scandinavian Cross design. In recent years, several parts of Scotland have adopted flags inspired by a Norse heritage shared by the Nordic countries across the sea.   

Norway adopted a red flag with a blue cross fimbriated in white in 1821. Dannebrog, the red and white flag of Denmark, in use at least since the 14th Century, was the direct inspiration for the Norwegian flag. The Kingdom of Norway had been in union with the Kingdom of Denmark from the late Middle Ages until 1814.

Iceland was another part of the Danish Realm which became independant in the 20th Century. A blue flag with a red cross fimbriated in white was adopted in 1915. Iceland became an independant kingdom in 1918; in 1944 the Republic of Iceland was proclaimed.

The Faroe Islands, a self-governing country within the Kingdom of Denmark, have a white flag with a red cross fimbriated in blue. This flag was raised for the first time in 1919 and has been officially recognized as the Faroese flag since 1940.

The Shetland and Orkney Islands as well as the Isle of Man and the Western Isles were colonized by Vikings in the Early Middle Ages. Until around 1470, Shetland and Orkney were formally part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Vikings knew them as the Hjaltland and Orkn islands.

Shetland today uses a flag that reflects the combined Scottish and Norse heritage of the archipelago: a Scandinavian Cross in the blue-white colours of the Scottish national flag. It was designed in 1969 at the time of the 500-year anniversary of Shetland being part of Scotland. In 2005 it was officially granted by Lord Lyon, the heraldic authority of Scotland.

Orkney for some time used a yellow flag with a red Scandinavian Cross. The Court of the Lord Lyon refused to recognize this flag and instead the Orkney Islands were granted a red flag with a blue cross fimbritated in yellow. This flag won a public flag design competition in 2007. It is known as St. Magnus’ Cross.

Caithness is the northernmost county on the Scottish mainland and shares the same combined Norse and Scottish heritage as the Northern and Western Isles. The Vikings called the area Katanes. In 2016 the new county flag was unveiled by Lord Lyon: a black flag with a blue cross fimbriated in gold; the traditional Caithness galley with a black raven is in the upper hoist of the flag.

Barra and South Uist, two outlying islands in the Western Isles, have recently had their local flags recognized by the Court of the Lord Lyon. The island flag of Barra is green with a white Scandinavian Cross. The island flag of South Uist is green with a blue cross fimbriated in white. Both flags have been used unofficially for more than a decade.

World Vexillology Day is an opportunity to celebrate the creativity of flag designers and the way new flags are successfully adopted by people to represent them and express pride in heritage and community. Today, my contribution is this drawing with place names in Icelandic and Nordic style cross flags raised across Scotland, the Isles and the sea beyond.

Strangely enough the Scandinavian Cross, a Christian crusader symbol in its origin, today links people around the North Sea and in the North Atlantic to a common heathen Viking heritage and modern Scandinavian democratic ideals. The flag family of Scandinavian crosses (also known as Nordic crosses) is alive and well.

Tour de France: Flags of the West

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The seven first stages of this year’s Tour de France are set in the West of France. Besides the blue-white-red French tricolour, two flags fly prominently along the route: the red and white flag of Vendée and the black and white flag of Brittany. 

In 2017, the Tour never came to western and northern France. In 2018, however, the Tour starts off in the West – le Grand Départ was on the island of Noirmoutier on the Atlantic coast on July 7 – and a total of ten out of twenty-one Tour stages are in the West and the North. Traditionally, the last stage of the Tour, which will be on July 29 this year, ends on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Vendée

The first two stages of the 105th edition of the Tour de France were in the department of the Vendée in the western Pays de la Loire region. The third stage was the team time trial in Cholet, a town in the department of Maine-et-Loire.

Quite close to Vendée, but historically in the Duchy of Anjou, Cholet was the capital of la Vendée Militaire, a Royalist and Catholic uprising during the French Revolution in 1793. The Vendean forces used le Sacré-Coeur, the Sacred Heart of Jesus – a heart with a cross rising from it – as a symbol on their banners and on patches on their clothes.

Two hearts, intertwined and crowned, with a crosslet on top is known as a Coeur vendéen, a Vendean heart. This emblem, used in the region since the 13th Century, is the official logo of the Vendée today.

In 1944 a newly designed coat of arms for the department was officially recognised. It has a red Vendean heart on silver within a bordure of fleurs de lys, gold on blue, for France, and golden castles with three towers on red, for Poitou, the historical French province to which Vendée once belonged.

The modern departmental flag of the Vendée is a red-white vertical bicolour with an asymmetric version of the Vendean heart in the middle. This logo was designed by French designer Michel Disle and adopted by the departmental assembly on 18 September 1989.

Brittany

Stage 4-6 of the 2018 Tour de France are all in the region of Brittany or in areas of western France which was part of that region historically. Stage 7 will begin in Fougères in Brittany and end in Chartres in the Central Region of France on July 13.

The flag of Brittany was designed in 1923 by the Breton separatist politician Morvan Marchal. Its name in Breton, a Celtic language unrelated to French, is Gwenn-ha-du meaning “the white and black”. Today, the flag of Brittany is no longer seen as a sign of Breton nationalism, but rather as a symbol of Brittany and Bretons worldwide.

The Gwenn-ha-du has nine horizontal stripes of white and black representing the nine original dioceses of Brittany: five French speaking and four Breton speaking. Today, less than 5 % of the population in Brittany speak Breton.

In the upper inner corner of the flag there is a canton of ermine. In heraldry, ermine is not a colour or a metal, but a fur: on a white background the black-tipped tails of the stout. From 1316 the coat of arms of the Dukes of Brittany was a shield of ermine. So, for more than seven hundred years ermine has been connected to the region, and from beer bottles to policemen’s uniforms white and black ermine signifies all things Breton.

 

Read also: Tour de France: A Festival of Regional Flags and The Regional Flags of the 2017 Tour de France.

 

This Boy Got A Camel Through the Eye of a Needle

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FIFA 2018 is nearing the quarter-finals. During the group stage 9 days ago, a Russian newspaper told the story of a boy and his family who almost got in trouble because of the flag of their home town. Stadium security guards check every flag and banner at the World Cup in the search of “materials of extremist, offensive or discriminatory nature”. 

The Martynenko family from Chelyabinsk had tickets for the Germany-Sweden match on June 23 at the Olympic Stadium in Sochi. With them the family had brought their city flag and the Russian national tricolour with the inscription Chelyabinsk. At the entrance to the stadium the family was stopped and questioned because of the city flag that none of the guards recognized.

“Their job is to look for propaganda of prohibited, extremist organizations, and insulting inscriptions. Our flag with a camel was nearly taken away,” Yevgeny Martynenko told Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Russian tabloid newspaper.

The guards summoned an expert who also did not know the camel and its connection to Chelyabinsk. “I had to use the internet to prove it to them,” Yevgeny Martynenko explained.

Chelyabinsk is a city with approximately 1 million inhabitants just to east of the Ural Mountains, the border between Asia and Europe. The city’s coat of arms and banner depict a golden camel in front of a silver crenellated wall. The camel, which also appears in the arms of Chelyabinsk Oblast, represents the old trading routes passing through the area from Central Russia and the Volga Region to the steppes, Siberia and China.

Russia is the host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Russian authorities and stadium security personel do their best to keep controversial flags and banners away from no less than 64 football matches played in 12 stadiums over four and a half weeks.

According to the Stadium Code of Conduct for the World Cup in Russia, all flags with Nazi symbols and attributes of extremist organisations are prohibited as well as any flag which discriminates against a country or person or group “based on race, colour of skin, ethnic, national or social background and wealth, birth or any other status, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, sexual orientation or on any other grounds”.

Under such rules almost all flags that are not the national flags of the 32 qualified countries can be prohibited, and so far all Russian and foreign flags with extreme nationalist, separatist, religious and right or left wing ideological messages have been kept well out of view of the television cameras.

International visitors to the World Cup have had similar experiences as the Martynenkos from Chelyabinsk when guards have been unwilling to let in regional and county flags wrongly deemed to be sectarian or carrying controversial political messages. For example, read the story of England fan Daniel Henery here.

Yevgeny Martynenko and his family were let in to watch the match between Sweden and Germany in Sochi, and his son Semyon proudly carried their city flag in the stadium and afterwards. Back home in Chelyabinsk he will now wave the flag with the camel in front of the TV to support the Russian team in the knockout stage.

Princess Elisabeth of Denmark dies at 83

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The Danish “Royal House Flag” covered the coffin of Princess Elisabeth of Denmark at her funeral in Kongens Lyngby on Monday. This flag was introduced in 1905 for members of the Danish Royal Family who do not have their own personal flag. Princess Elisabeth was a first cousin of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

Princess Elisabeth was No. 12 in the line of succession to the Danish throne at the time of her death. On Tuesday 19 June 2018 she died peacefully in her home town of Kongens Lyngby north of Copenhagen. The funeral service took place on Monday 25 June in the parish church of Kongens Lyngby.

The Princess was born on 8 May 1935 in Copenhagen as the eldest grandchild of Christian X, King of Denmark and Iceland, and Queen Alexandrine. Elisabeth was the daughter of the King Christian’s younger son Prince Knud and his wife Princess Caroline-Mathilde. Elisabeth’s parents were first cousins as her paternal grandfather King Christian X and her maternal grandfather Prince Harald were brothers.

In 1953 when the Danish Law of Succession was changed for women to be able to inherit the throne, on the condition that they had no brothers, Princess Elisabeth became the seventh in line to the throne. Her father went from being first in line to being No. 4. His brother King Frederik IX had only daughters, so during the first five years of his reign Prince Knud as his closest male relative was the heir to the Danish throne.

The funeral service of Princess Elisabeth was attended by her only surviving brother Ingolf, Count of Rosenborg, formerly Prince of Denmark, and her first cousins Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Princess Benedikte of Denmark and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece. A wreath from Queen Margrethe prominently placed in the church had the name “Daisy” on a red-white ribbon; Queen Margrethe is known by that name among her closest friends and family.

Princess Elisabeth never married and had no children. From 1956 till 2001 she worked for the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She was awarded the Royal Medal of Merit in Silver after 40 years of service. The medal together with the collar and badge of the Order of the Elephant decorated a pillow which was placed on her coffin.

As a member of the Danish Royal Family, Princess Elisabeth was entitled to use a version of the Dannebrog with swallow-tails and a royal crown in the middle of the cross. Since 1905 this has been the distinguishing flag for “other members” of the Royal House i.e. those who do not have their own personal flag, like the King, the Queen, the Crown Prince and the Regent (who acts as head of state when the monarch is absent or incapacitated).

The Longest Day of the Year Is the National Day of Greenland

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In Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, 240 km south of the Arctic Circle, the sun is in the sky for 21 hours at summer solstice on June 21. The longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere is Greenland’s national day. Since 2016, this date is also an official flag day in all parts of the Kingdom of Denmark.

The flag of Greenland was designed by Thue Lynge Christiansen in 1985. Its name in Greenlandic, Erfalasorput, means ‘our flag’. Its design and colours symbolize the sun and the ice. Most of Greenland, the world’s largest non-continental island, is covered in ice and the average temperature in Nuuk at the height of summer is 8 °C. June 21, the day with the most sunlight, has been the national day of Greenland since 1983. 

Thue Christiansen, who has worked as a teacher, an artist and a politician, was Greenland’s first Minister for Culture and Education after the country was given Home Rule in 1979. He wanted the red and white colours of his flag to represent the close ties between Greenland and Denmark. Until 1985 Dannebrog, the flag of Denmark, was the only flag in Greenland. Christiansen’s Greenlandic flag was hoisted officially for the first time on the national day, June 21, in 1985.

In March 2016 new flag rules were issued by the government of Denmark: All Danish government agencies and state institutions (except for the Armed Forces) are required to fly the Greenlandic flag, Erfalasorput, on June 21 and the Faroese flag, Merkið, on July 29. Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Denmark are the three nations which make up the Kingdom of Denmark. Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen explained at the time that he wanted to strengthen relations between the three countries.

So, for the third time, Greenlandic flags will be hoisted on all state buildings in Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands and on Danish embassies around the world. Busy Copenhageners passing the Danish parliament, ministries or other government offices on their way to work this morning will notice that the Danish state flag has been replaced by the flag of Greenland. June 21 is the day when many Danes are reminded what the Greenlandic flag looks like. Happy national day, Greenland!

Read more about the new Danish flag rules. Read also about the alternative proposal in 1985 that could have become the flag of Greenland.

Happy International Heraldry Day!

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Any flag based directly on a coat of arms is a heraldic banner, or banner of arms. Hundreds of regional, provincial, cantonal and municipal flags, mostly in Europe, are heraldic banners. National flags that are also banners of the national arms are more rare. Celebrating International Heraldry Day, here are a few of the flags bridging the worlds of heraldry and vexillology.  

National flags:

In the first row you can se a number of national flags which are all heraldic banners. The flags of Austria (1), Switzerland (2) and Kiribati (5) are among the few national flags in the world based directly on a country’s national coat of arms. The banner of arms of Luxembourg (3) is widely used as civil flag and ensign in the Grand-Duchy. In Lithuania the banner of the Vytis (the traditional Lithuanian coat of arms) is used as state flag and naval jack (4).

In the second row is the Royal Banner of Scotland. Historically and legally, this is the personal standard of the Scottish sovereign. Today, it is in widespread use by Scots as an alternative to the blue and white Scottish flag, also known as the Saint Andrew’s Saltire.

Regional and provincial flags:

The flag of the Belgian region of Flanders, De Vlaamse Leeuw (the Flemish lion, in Dutch), is a heraldic banner of the coat of arms of the medieval Counts of Flanders, important rulers in the medieval Low Countries. In heraldic terms these arms are: Or, a lion rampant armed and langued Gules.

The four provinces of Ireland all have flags which are banners of the provincial arms. The flag of Leinster is green with an Irish harp (properly blazoned: Vert, a harp Or stringed Argent). The flag of Connaught is rather more complicated (per pale Argent and Azure, in the first an eagle dimidiated and displayed Sable, in the second issuant from the partition an arm embowed and vested, the hand holding a sword erect, all Argent).

Swiss cantonal flags:

In 23 of the 26 cantons of Switzerland the cantonal flags are heraldic banners in the strictest sense in that the flags depict the cantonal arms without modification. Beginning in the second row with the green flag with white fasces of St. Gallen and the white-blue-white stripes of Zug, flags of seven cantons are in the third row: Zürich, Thurgau, Aargau, Bern, Geneva, Schaffhausen and Fribourg.

Municipal and city flags:

A horizontal bicolour of black and white (per fess Sable and Argent) is also the flag of the city of Ferrera in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. In the fourth row are the flags of another Emilian city, Parma, the Tuscan cities of Pisa and Florence as well as the city of Verona in the Veneto region. All these flags are heraldic banners of the cities’ municipal coats of arms.

In Italy it is quite normal for cities to have municipal flags which are also banners of arms. In Germany it is not. In Hamburg, however, the city and state flag (as the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is one of Germany’s 16 federal states) is the same as the city’s coat of arms.

Read more about why June 10 is the International Heraldry Day here.