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County Flags (Bavaria, Germany)


Last modified: 2006-09-23 by jarig bakker
Keywords: county | landkreis |
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My drawings of flags of Bavarian counties are based on data provided mainly by Falko Schmidt who got the information from the Bavarian State Archives and from enquiries to the counties, but also by Erich Dieter Linder, Dirk Schönberger and Marcus Schmöger. Erich Dieter Linder and Falko Schmidt wrote Linder and Schmidt 2000 [available online at the DGF website], an article about Bavarian county flags in Der Flaggenkurier no. 12, and Dieter Linder gave a presentation about them at the 8th Meeting of German Vexillologists at Bremen - a PowerPoint file containing his presentation is available online.

Prior to the municipal reorganisation in the early seventies, Bavaria had 143 counties and 51 independent (county-free) cities. Of these counties, all but three (Illertissen, Laufen, Rothenburg) had arms, and 75 had flags. The reform reduced their number to 71 counties and 25 cities. The counties and cities are grouped into seven Bezirke or districts. Of the new counties, all have arms and all but one (Lindau) use flags, six of them unofficially. Some of the flags of these new counties are identical to the flags of pre-reform counties.

Counties are generally named after their main city, with some exceptions. Some are named after two cities - e.g. Freyung-Grafenau - and a few are named after rivers or landscape elements. Therefore, unless otherwise mentioned, the name of the capital is identical to the name of the county.

The coats of arms in my flag images are all taken from Ralf Hartemink's International Civic Arms website which in turn come from Stadler 1964-1972 and Linder and Olzog 1996.
Stefan Schwoon, 9 Jul and 19 Sep 2001

Flag Regulations

Bavarian flags are regulated almost as strictly as those in Baden-Württemberg. Flags may consist of two or three stripes of equal width, with or without the arms. If neighbouring counties use the same colours, the arms must be used. The only exception from the stripe rule is that banner [hanging] flags may have the arms placed in a white square on the top.

Stefan Schwoon, 9 February 2001

Counties are entitled to use flags, but they must consult the Bavarian State Archives (Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv). The guidelines of the Archives are as follows:
- In order to get a flag, a county has got to have arms (also to be designed in accordance with the Archives), and the colours of the flag have to be taken from the arms. The colours of the charges take precedence over the colours of the fields.
- Only three types of flags are allowed: Unicoloured, with two stripes or with three stripes. The arms must be put onto the flag if it is unicoloured, if it can otherwise be mistaken for a foreign national flag, or if two neighbouring entities [counties] use the same combination of colours (for distinction).
- Stripes must be of equal width. The combinations white-blue and black-red-yellow are reserved for the state and for the national flag, respectively, and may not be used by counties. If the flag is used in vertical form, the arms can be placed either directly on the stripes or in a white [usually square] field at the top (the banner head).
- The flag grant specifies only the colours of the stripes. The counties are free to choose certain aspects of the design when producing the flags. These include:
-- The form: horizontal or vertical flag; most flags are of the vertical (Banner) kind, however.
-- Unless the inclusion of the arms is made mandatory by the circumstances, they can choose to use them or not. (In practice, it is likely that all counties use their arms on their flags.)
-- The exact colour shades.
-- The size of the flag, and the size and position of the arms.
Because of these choices, the flag grant is ambiguous; even more than one variant might be in use for any given county. Only in a few cases we know which variants are in use. In those cases where we know only the colours and nothing else, I drew the flags with 'default options': in banner form (5:2), with arms in the upper half of the flag, and with FOTW standard colour shades.

One can argue that this leads to flags that may not actually exist in the form in which I drew them. A survey of the actual flag specimens would make a useful addition to this work indeed. On the other hand one can argue that each flag which is in accordance with the grant is a valid flag for the county in question, and that the variants which are in use may change without notice anyway. Moreover, the 'default options' ought to be correct or nearly correct for the majority of flags.

A similar proviso applies to some counties where the grant specifies that the arms be 'in the head' of the flag. When drawing the flags, I took this to mean the 'arms-in-white-square' variant; however, this is not assured, even if I do not know why the grant should make special mention of this otherwise. Fürstenfeldbruck is an exception — here I know that the 'head variant' is used, but the grant does not say anything about it.
Stefan Schwoon, 10 Jul 2001

Symbolism of County Coats-of-Arms

Since county coats-of-arms are the most distinctive feature of the flags, explanations on them seem appropriate. Most of the designs feature elements symbolising historical states (often pre-1803) which the counties' areas once belonged to, combined with 'local' symbols for distinction. Here is a short overview of the most common symbols. More detailed explanations of the county arms can be found at Ralf Hartemink's International Civic Arms website (clicable map of Bavarian counties here).

Bavaria: lozengy of white and blue:  These are the arms of the Wittelsbach family that ruled Bavaria for nearly a millenium until the monarchies in Germany were abolished in 1918. The arms were inherited by the Wittelsbachs from the counts of Bogen - whose possessions were near the Danube river around Regensburg - in the 13th century. Lozenges in county CoAs are thus often used to indicate that the area of the county has belonged to Bavaria for long times and are more commonly found in the southern and eastern parts of Bavaria - Upper and Lower Bavaria and Upper Palatinate -. In the areas of Franconia and Swabia (north and western parts) other symbols take precedence as these areas were added to Bavaria between 1803 and 1816 - in fact, some people in those areas tend to insist that they are not Bavarians at all.

Archbishopric of Mainz: white wheel in a red field: The archbishops of Mainz were important rulers in central Germany - e.g. the bishop was one of the seven electors of the emperor - and owned large possessions, including some in Lower Franconia in the northwest of Bavaria; these were added to Bavaria during or in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. The origin of the wheel is not known. It is also present in the arms (and flag) of Rhineland-Palatinate (where the city of Mainz is located).

Bishopric of Würzburg / Franconia: three white points in a red field: The bishops of Würzburg also held many estates mainly in Lower Franconia. The bishopric came under Bavarian rule in 1803/1815. In 1835 its arms were included in the arms of Bavaria to symbolise the Franconian parts of the (then) Kingdom. Since then the points - also called Rechen, rake, in German - have come to be seen as a symbol for Franconia as a whole - i.e. not just the parts previously under the rule of Würzburg.

Imperial cities: black (double-headed) eagle in a gold field: Some coats-of-arms feature the imperial eagle, mostly to symbolise the presence of former imperial cities within the county. These were cities not belonging to any lordship, but directly subordinate to the emperor. In the area today covered by Bavaria, these were Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Schweinfurt, (Bad) Windsheim, Rothenburg/Tauber, Dinkelsbühl and Weissenburg (at a time also Feuchtwangen). Their independence ended in 1803/1806.

Zollern: quartered of white and black: The Zollern family, originally located in Swabia, became Burggraves of Nuremberg in 1191 and acquired further territories (Ansbach, Bayreuth, Kulmbach) in the 14th century. Hence, a considerable portion of what is today Central and Upper Franconia (the northern part of Bavaria) was then under their rule. In 1417, they also became Electors of Brandenburg, and assumed the arms of Brandenburg (the red eagle). Hence, a number of county coats-of-arms also show the eagle (e.g. Bayreuth).

Bishopric of Bamberg: black lion in a golden field and covered by a thin white bend: The territories of the prince-bishops of Bamberg were located in what is now roughly the western part of Upper Franconia, the area around Bamberg. The bend is probably for distinction from similar arms, e.g. those of Salzburg. The bishopric became a part of Bavaria in 1803.

Palatinate (Pfalz): yellow lion, crowned and armed red, in a black field: The Palatinate was a county with various splintered possessions along the Rhine. Originally it was ruled by the Staufen family; from their arms the lion is derived. The prince of the Palatinate was the chairman in the council of Electors of the emperor - the lion's crown symbolises this privilege. In 1214 the Wittelsbachs, the rulers of Bavaria, acquired the county, and - apart from various territorial changes - it remained a part of Bavaria, though separated from the rest of its territory, until 1945. In 1329 the Wittelsbach split their territories into two lines - Ludwig's line took Bavaria proper, and Rudolf's line the Palatinate and the northern part of the Duchy - which became in the course of time known as the Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz) - today the eastern part of Bavaria. In 1777 the two lines and their territories merged again. The lion plays a part in the heraldry of the Upper Palatinate and other territories held by the Rudolfian line (e.g. Neuburg). It also appears in the large state arms of Bavaria, and moreover in those of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland.
Stefan Schwoon, 21 Sep 2001

Current Counties

Counties before the 30th June 1972 municipal reform

Descriptions of Other County Flags

Bavaria county flags [from Flaggenmitteilung?]:
County or Landkreis - colours (* with coat-of-arms) - adoption date
Aichach-Friedberg - green-yellow - 10 Dec 1975
Aschaffenburg - red-white-blue* - 14 Nov 1974
Augsburg - red-yellow* - 15 May 1975
Cham - red-white-blue* - 9 Dec 1975
Dachau - white-red-white - 15 Jul 1976
Donau-Ries - black-yellow* - 27 Apr 1977
Eichstätt - yellow-red - 22 Nov 1974
Erlangen-Höchstadt - black-yellow-blue - 19 Aug 1976
Kelheim - blue-white-blue* - 31 Oct 1975
Kulmbach - white-red-yellow - 28 Aug 1975
Lichtenfels - black-yellow-blue - 1 Jul 1977
Neu-Ulm - yellow-red-white - 7 Jan 1975
Rhön-Grabfeld - red-white-green* - 17 Aug 1976
Schwandorf - red-white-blue* - 13 Dec 1974
Würzburg - white-black-yellow - 13 Dec 1974
Jaume Ollé, 24 Sep 1999

These are flags of Landkreise (counties).
Incorrect colours are:
- Eichstätt white-red-yellow;
- Kulmbach white-black-yellow - 21 Feb1989;

- Lichtenfels 15 Jul 1977;
- Kelheim 31 Oct 1975
Marcus Schmöger, 9 Mar 2001

Corpus Christi Day flag observations

Corpus Christi Day (Fronleichnam) is in (catholic) Bavaria an important holiday with much flagging. Many of the rural municipalities show not only the catholic church flag, but also their municipal flag (more frequently than on official flagging days, such as 3 October), so I am usually out there to take fotos. Furthermore, the processions that day abound of flags, not only church banners, but also club banners, flags of church-related organizations such as scouts or catholic workers' organizations (KAB).

This year (19 Jun 2003) I chose the Landkreis Freising (county Freising) northeast of Munich for a municipal flag survey, plus some adjacent municipalities in counties München and Pfaffenhofen. I will give only descriptions of the flags, as the giffing will take some time and is definitely not one of my top priorities right now.

All flags I saw were vertical variants (Banner, Hängeflagge or Knatterflagge). Interestingly there were a lot of (presumably) unofficial municipal flags around, notably white-blue flags (Bavarian colours) with the municipal coa.

County Freising:

county office itself: no flagging
Attenkirchen: Knatterflagge (flapping flag): w-b-y with coa
Au i.d. Hallertau: Banner v-w with coa
Freising: Banner w-r with coa (several occasions); Banner w-r without coa (two occasions)
Gammelsdorf: Banner w-b-w with coa
Haag a.d. Amper: Banner lozengy of w-b, with municipal coa inscription "GEMEINDE HAAG A. D. AMPER" (obviously unofficial flag)
Kirchdorf: Banner r-y or y-r with coa (coa is symmetric, so colour order could not be determined)
Kranzberg: Banner y-b-w with coa
Moosburg: (sta68] gives w-r as "town colours", and indeed there are flags (Banner) w-r without coa. However, the town hall flies a totally different flag: a Banner w-b with a white square at the top, showing the municipal coa (obviously unofficial flag)
Nandlstadt: Banner r-w or w-r with coa (coa is symmetric, so colour order could not be determined)
Paunzhausen: Banner w-b-y with coa
Rudelzhausen: Banner w-b with municipal coa (obviously unofficial flag)
Wolfersdorf: Kirche: Banner n-y-v with coa
Zolling: especially weird: the official municipal flag (shown at the municipal office) seems to be a Banner y-b with coa; however, there seems to be a "civil" flag as well, being a Banner lozengy of white and blue with the municipal coa

The other municipalities (Allershausen, Eching, Fahrenzhausen, Hallbergmoos, Hohenkammer, Hörgertshausen, Langenbach, Marzling, Mauern, Neufahrn,
Wang) did not show their flag.

County Pfaffenhofen:

I visited only one municipality:
Reichertshausen: Municipal flag (Banner) r-y-b with coa; furthermore (unusual!) the county flag (Banner) y-v with coa

County München:

The municipalities in the northern part of this county I had already visited, but I wanted to take some better fotos, if weather conditions would allow.
Garching: Banner v-w-r with coa
Ismaning: Banner n-w with coa; this flag is interesting enough, as it is one of the rare municipal flags with the colour combination black and white, and the coa shows a moor's head with dark brown colour, so we have black *and* dark brown in this flag.
Coa description: Per fess of Argent, a moor's head proper crowned Gules, and Sable, three lozenges Argent.
The lozenges do not have any connection to the Bavarian lozenges, but are from the coa of the family Ecker; one of them was an important prince-bishop of Freising, where Ismaning belonged to territorially. The moor's head is from the Freising bishopric arms, as in many coas in our area. The coa was granted 1929, about the flag I have no adoption date.
gif attached as <de-mc-is.gif>
Unterschleißheim: Banner v-y-b with coa
no flagging: Oberschleißheim, Aschheim, Feldkirchen
Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 23 Jun 2003