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Austria - the history of the flag

Today, we delve deep into the rich history of one of the world's oldest flags, the Flag of Austria.

The flag of Austria consists of three horizontal stripes of equal width, with the top and bottom stripes being red and the middle stripe being white.

Symbolism and origin:

The legend has it that the flag dates back to the year 1230 when the ruling House of Babenberg adopted the red and white colors. The red and white colors are derived from the coat of arms of the Babenberg family, who were the rulers of the land of Austria at the time.

The red color of the flag is often interpreted to represent courage, while white is interpreted to represent truth, peace and purity.

Some things worth noting about the flag:

As with all ancient legends it is difficult to prove the accuracy of tales and myths about historic events that happened hundreds of years ago, more so with historic events that unfolded almost one thousand years ago. But according to legend the flag of Austria dates back to an event on the battlefield in what is today Israel, including Duke Leopold the fifth of Austria. In 1191 in the Third Crusade, during the siege of Acré, he found his white surcoat drenched in blood after a fierce battle. When he removed his belt, the cloth beneath remained unstained, revealing the combination of red, white and red. So striking was this sight that he adopted these colours as his banner.

This would inspire the coat of arms of the Babenberg Dynasty and by association also what was to become the country we now know as Austria.

The first recorded use of the flag came in the year 1230, almost forty years after the battle in the Holy Wars.

The flag is regarded as one of the oldest national flags in the world that is in use today, dating back to the 13th century. But it's important to note that the flag has not been in continuous use, there have been numerous flags in use until the flag was re-adopted and became the official national flag of Austria on May 1, 1945, after the end of World War II.

Austrian flag in the city of Salzburg
The Austria flag in the city of Salzburg. (Photo: Envato Elements).

The flag of Austria has not directly inspired or been inspired by other national flags, but it can rather easily be mistaken for the national flag of the Baltic country of Latvia, especially if the two flags are not visible at the same time. The main difference between the flags is the ratio of the flag and that the Austrian flag is a more distinctive red color while the Latvian flag tends to have a more burgundy shade of red. The picture below is of the flag of Latvia, with the capitol of Riga in the background. As you can see, it can rather easily be taken for being the Austrian flag.

latvian flag in Riga
The Latvia flag waving with the capitol of Riga in the background. (Photo: Envato Elements)

Please check out our YouTube channel playlist for more historic info about national flags.


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