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Bern / Berne canton (Switzerland)

Last modified: 2002-01-12 by pascal gross
Keywords: switzerland | bern | berne | canton | bear | bend |
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[Flag of Bern]
by T.F. Mills
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Description of the flag

Gules, on a bend or, a bear passant sable, langued, armed and vilene' of the field.

On a red field a yellow diagonal band charged with a black bear walking upwards toward the hoist. It is important to note that the official "blazon" specifies that the tongue, claws and penis are red -- and by extension it is important to always depict the bear as male.

Symbolism of the flag

The bear is one of the oldest religious and totemistic symbols. It dominated Switzerland in prehistoric times, and although now extinct is still considered the king of beasts in the region. The city of Bern maintains to this day a bear pit to perpetuate the symbolism of its name, but the bears are imported. The red and yellow field are thought to have come from the Holy Roman Empire battle flag, which was "per pale gules and or" (divided vertically red and yellow).

History of the flag

Count Berchtold V of Zahringia founded the city of Bern in 1160. According to legend he killed a large bear in the forest near his new town and named the town for the beast. The city's flag was originally white with the bear in its current diagonal position. After the battle of Schlosshalde in 1289, the flag was changed to