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Historic Flags of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Last modified: 2004-12-29 by joe mcmillan
Keywords: rio de janeiro | saltire | saint sebastian | armillary sphere | arrow | dolphin | phrygian cap | coat of arms |
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Introduction to Historic Flags of Rio de Janeiro

In Brazões e bandeiras do Brasil (1933), Clóvis Ribeiro presents a series of four flags of the city of Rio de Janeiro dating back to 1808. The first three are actually the flags of the senate of the municipal chamber (senado da câmara municipal), the fourth that of the old Distrito Federal, or Federal District, which was identical with the municipality until the capital was moved to Brasília in 1967.

Joseph McMillan, 14 November 2002

Municipal Senate Banner, 1808

Municipal Banner of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), 1808 by Joseph McMillan

The first flag was used by the municipal senate during the reception of the Portuguese royal family when it arrived to take refuge from Napoleon's occupation of the mother country on 8 March 1808. It was a white trapezoid with gold trim all around and gold fringe around the three free sides. On the center was an ornate shield with an oil painting of St. Sebastian (patron of the city) tied to a tree and pierced with arrows, the shield ensigned with a plumed knight's helmet.
Joseph McMillan, 14 November 2002

Municipal Senate Banner, 1822

Municipal Banner of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), 1822 by Joseph McMillan

The second flag, used from 1822-1831, was basically a trapezoidal version of the national flag of the Brazilian empire with the arms raised to overlap the upper corner of the yellow lozenge, and with gold trim and fringe added. The arms are ensigned with a royal rather than imperial crown. The directive to change to the imperial crown was issued on 1 December 1822, and this flag probably predated that. On the other hand, Ribeiro notes that the royal crown continued to be widely used after 1 December 1822 because an official but incorrect pattern with the old crown was sent out from Rio shortly after the decree was issued.
Joseph McMillan, 14 November 2002

Municipal Senate Banner, 1831

Municipal Banner of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), 1831 by Joseph McMillan

In 1831, the municipal senate returned from the standard derived from the national flag to one similar to the pre-1822 model, again a white silk trapezoid with the image of St. Sebastian painted in oil on the center, but with a slightly less ornate shield.
Joseph McMillan, 15 November 2002

Flag of Distrito Federal (Rio de Janeiro), 1908-1960

Distrito Federal (Brazil), 1908-1960 by Joseph McMillan

The basic pattern used for the modern municipal flag came into use in 1908 under Decree 1190 of 8 July. This flag placed "the municipal arms adopted by decree no. 312 of 1 August 1896 in red color" on the center of a blue saltire on white. The only difference between this and the current flag was that the arms were depicted as if on the sail of a ship sailing toward the viewer. The arms depict a Phrygian cap on the center of an armillary sphere, behind which are three arrows representing St. Sebastian. The actual coat of arms when not shown on the flag has a blue field with gold sphere and arrows and red cap, but the version on the flag, since 1908, has been depicted in red. This was the flag of the Federal District until the capital was moved to Brasília in 1960.
Joseph McMillan, 15 November 2002