Flag of Switzerland

Flag of Switzerland
Country Switzerland
Population 8,796,669 (2023)
Area (Km²) 39,516 (2023)
Сontinent Europe
Emoji 🇨🇭
  hex rgb
#DA291C 218, 41, 28
#FFFFFF 255, 255, 255

The Swiss flag has a simple design and consists of a white cross on a red background. The Swiss flag is one of the most famous flags in the world due to its unique shape and long tradition. Anyone who sees a white cross on a red background immediately thinks of Switzerland.

Design and meaning of the Swiss flag

Historians do not have a single interpretation of the use of red in the flag. Some believe that it refers to the blood of Christ, while others suggest that the red color comes from the Bernese flag of the time. The square shape arose because military coats of arms of that time were square. Red, like any other color, has many shades. In the beginning, there were no restrictions on the use of this or that color. It was only in 2007 that a law was passed in which the red color received an exact value in the RGB color model. And in 2017, the square shape of the Swiss flag was made mandatory. But this look is not unique; the Vatican flag is also square. 

Vatican flag and flags of Switzerland

This shape has a long tradition in the country and is the legally established main flag. The only exception to the use of the square shape of the Swiss flag is for ships that use a rectangular flag with an aspect ratio of 2:3, which is the standard shape for most flags of other countries.

Legend of the Swiss flag

The origin of the cross on the Swiss flag remains a mystery, but many experts believe that this symbol is related to the legend of the Ten Thousand Knights, also known as the Ten Thousand Martyrs, a legend from the Crusades. According to this legend, the Roman emperor sent almost 10,000 soldiers to Armenia to suppress an uprising. However, they were outnumbered and decided to convert to Christianity. Believing that their success was due to their new faith, they were able to defeat their opponents. Legend also says that many enemy soldiers converted to Christianity because of this event. Although the exact origin of the Swiss cross remains unknown, there is a high probability that this legend is true.

Interesting facts about the Swiss flag:

  • Switzerland has no "flag". This is surprising, but true. The word "flag" is not used in Switzerland. At least not for the Swiss flag. The flag is always called the "Swiss flag";
  • The dimensions of the cross are clearly defined. Originally, the Swiss cross consisted of five squares of equal size in the center of a square flag. Since 1989, the vertical arm must be one-sixth longer than the crosspiece. This difference is barely noticeable to the naked eye. Nevertheless, the Swiss cross now looks more like a cross than a plus sign, as it used to;
  • The Swiss flag and the Danish flag are similar. Both flags feature a white cross on a red background. However, on the Danish flag, the cross is placed to the left of the center and the lines go all the way to the edges of the flag. In addition, the Danish flag is naturally rectangular;

The flag of Denmark and the flag of Switzerland are similar

  • The largest flag in the world is the flag of Switzerland with an area of 6400 m². It is raised on the Centis (a mountain in Switzerland) every year on August 1, starting in 2015. This giant flag weighs 700 kilograms. It is well protected after an unknown person cut out a piece of the flag as a souvenir in 2015. In 2016, it took three seamstresses six days to restore the flag after the incident;
  • The founder of the Red Cross is from Switzerland. There is a great similarity between the Swiss flag and the Red Cross emblem. This is no accident: together with Henry Dunant, General Guillaume-Henri Dufour was one of the founders of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. In 1859, the Swiss Henry Dunant, traveling on business, witnessed the Battle of Solferino. The battle was over, but there were still 38,000 wounded on the battlefield, and no one was helping them. He spontaneously gathered volunteers and organized an ambulance hospital. The memory of that day never faded, and a few years later he had the idea to create an international aid organization. The Red Cross was founded in 1863. The symbol comes from the Swiss flag. Therefore, the visual connection between the Swiss flag and the emblem of the humanitarian organization is very strong. General Dufour also left other iconic names to the country, such as the name of the highest peak, the Dufourspitze, with a height of 4634 meters. The founder and his homeland should never be forgotten;
  • The flag of Switzerland is used as a sign of quality. In Switzerland, the flag with the cross is a symbol of values such as high quality, precision, punctuality and reliability. Many Swiss companies use this symbol in their advertising, hoping for a positive brand association. However, the use of the Swiss flag is only allowed for goods that have been manufactured in Switzerland. If the product originates from another country, you cannot use this cross. It can, however, be used as a decoration, for example on clothing that expresses sympathy or affiliation. On the other hand, the Swiss coat of arms, which is a symbol of state power, can only be used by state authorities, not companies, to advertise their business;
  • The Swiss flag contributed to the emergence of the square flag of France. At the Arbez Franco-Suisse Hotel, the border between France and Switzerland runs right through the hotel. You can sleep in Switzerland and eat in France without leaving the hotel. Therefore, the hotel owner naturally has both flags in the building. However, by law, the French tricolor cannot be displayed by private individuals. Fortunately, the Swiss flag is square. He cropped the tricolor and turned the French flag into a regular piece of fabric. Now they hang side by side in the same format.

The square flag of France

History of the Swiss flag

Although the Swiss flag seems to perfectly match the characteristics of a country with four official languages, it is the result of pure coincidence. The world-famous national flag has an eventful history over the past seven decades. The Swiss flag was officially declared the national emblem of Switzerland in 1848, but it has been important since 1339, when a white cross on a red background symbolized the unification of the Waldstätten (Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne) and the canton of Bern in the Battle of Laupen.
It was only in 1450-1520 that the Swiss cross and the Swiss flag became the state emblem of the Old Swiss Confederation. This was intended as a direct distinction from the St. Andrew's Cross of Burgundy, which was used by German mercenaries.

After the end of the Confederate Wars in 1515, Swiss mercenary troops fighting abroad also carried the Swiss cross as a distinguishing mark. However, the flags they used differed in the colors and patterns used in the four corners. These flags often also contained local symbols that indicated the mercenaries' immediate affiliation.

The "Swiss Cross" was first used in war to help soldiers recognize each other on the battlefield. Later, in 1800 and 1815, Niklaus Franz von Bachmann introduced a white cross on a red background as a field symbol for his troops. Since 1815, the federal seal (which was first added to the Federal Treaty) has consisted of a vertical, free-floating, isosceles white cross surrounded by the cantonal arms of the Federal Parliament on a red background.

On the initiative of Guillaume-Henri Dufour, in 1840, the first national Swiss military flag was created. Forty-nine years later, in 1889, the Federal Council determined that the four equally long arms of the cross should be one-sixth longer than wide. During the Helvetian Republic (1798-1803), Napoleon Bonaparte ordered Switzerland to use a tricolor of green, red, and yellow, which was abandoned immediately after his fall.

The law establishes the exact proportions of the white cross and the square shape of the flag. Nevertheless, there are different forms of flags, such as the flag of the Swiss merchant navy. It was created in 1941, and since 1953 it has been defined as rectangular. Athletes at the Olympic Games also march under a rectangular flag, and the Swiss Air Force flies a cockade with a white cross on a red background.