Swiss flag

The origins of Switzerland’s distinctive red flag with a white cross date back to the 14th century.

Swiss flag
The Swiss flag © FDFA, Presence Switzerland

The origins of Switzerland’s red flag with a white cross date back to 1339 and the Battle of Laupen in the canton of Bern. The Swiss soldiers decided to sow a white cross onto their armour to distinguish them from their adversaries on the battlefield. Eventually, the cross would appear on the arms and banners of all Swiss soldiers.

During the Helvetic Period (1798-1803), Napoleon Bonaparte made the Swiss carry a tricolour of green, red and yellow. This was the first national Swiss flag. However, it did not last long. When the Helvetic republic was dissolved, the tricolour went with it.

The official flag of the Swiss Confederation, as we know it today, dates back to 1840. There is much debate among historians about the choice of red. Certain believe that it symbolised the blood of Christ, while others suggest that the choice was inspired by the colour of the old Bernese flag. In 1848, it was officially adopted as the national flag and enshrined in the Swiss Constitution.

Throughout its history, the Swiss flag has always had one feature that distinguishes it from all other national flags: it is square not rectangular. The Vatican is the only other sovereign state to have a square flag. The shade of red corresponds to Pantone 485C, and is a mixture of magenta and yellow. The cross is positioned in the centre of the flag, and its arms are of equal length, and are one sixth longer than they are broad.

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