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State of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Last modified: 2011-07-01 by ian macdonald
Keywords: rio de janeiro | quarterly (white | blue) | eagle | coat of arms | mountain | southern cross |
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[Flag of State of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)] 7:10, image by André Pires Godinho
Officially adopted 1947(?)

See also:


Flag of the State of Rio de Janeiro

On 23 July 1975, the new constitution of the State of Rio de Janeiro established that the flag and the shield of the new state (which was absorbing Guanabara) would be the same that those of the ancient state. The blue and white are the traditional colors of Portugal.
Jaume Ollé, 2 July 1996

According to articles 8 and 10 through 12 of law no. 5588 of 5 October 1965, the flag is 7:10, divided quarterly white and blue-celeste, with the white in the upper hoist and lower fly, with the state coat of arms on the center.
Joseph McMillan, 10 July 2002

The current flag law is from 1965 and makes no mention of any earlier state flag. However, Whitney Smith says the flag was adopted in 1947. I have thus far been unable to verify the 1947 adoption date from laws and decrees published in the state's Diário Oficial for 1947.
Joseph McMillan, 10 September 2002

A set of cards distributed with bars of Eucalol soap in the 1930s shows Rio de Janeiro state with the same flag as that used today except that the style of the coat of arms is consistent with its appearance in the 1920s and 1930s. Obviously this flag dates from before the reported adoption date of 1947, at least de facto. It is possible that 1947 was when it was readopted following the 1937-46 period in which state flags were legally banned.
Joseph McMillan, 13 February 2003

I know the current flags and coat of arms are from an official source (state government site), but there is one small error. It's very common in Brazil that the governments themselves publish their symbols with heraldic errors. Where it's described as "silver" in the badge, for some odd reason they painted it grey! This doesn't exist in heraldry. "Silver" means the metal itself, when the badge is on a plate, or white when on flags, papers etc... Never grey!
Auriel de Almeida, 4 May 2011

1920s-1930s flag

[Flag of State of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)] image by Auriel de Almeida, 4 May 2011

I'm not sure when this flag was adopted, the 19th century pennant already had that blue-and-white quarterly design... But in the republican era I saw photographs of this in 1920s and 1930s newspapers and magazines... It's the same flag used nowadays, differing only the coat-of-arms. As the coat-of-arms, this flag was forbidden in the 1937 constitution and readopted in 1947. However, only in 1965 it was legally instituted by law, what makes me think that it was a "de facto" flag, never defined by law earlier.

The dimension before 1965 is uncertain, so I simply used the 7:10, like the actual, as many states flags following the national dimensions.
Auriel de Almeida, 4 May 2011


Construction Sheet of the Rio de Janeiro State Flag

[Flag of State of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)]  image by André Pires Godinho


Coat of Arms of Rio de Janeiro State

Coat of Arms of 
Rio de Janeiro State (Brazil) image by Joseph McMillan

Law no. 5588 of 5 October 1965 provides the most recent official description and interpretation of the arms that appear on the center of the flag.

Art. 1 - The coat of arms of the State of Rio de Janeiro, created by Law No. 5138 of 7 February 1963, will have the description and interpretation given in the present law.
Art. 2 - The coat of arms has the traditional oval form of shield used by clergymen, symbolizing the Christian sentiments of the people of the state, divided into two fields. The first [upper] blue, representing the sky and symbolizing justice, truth, and loyalty, with the silhouette of the Serra dos Órgãos issuing from the dividing line, the Dedo de Deus peak being most prominent, all proper; the second [lower] divided between green, representing the lowlands of the state, and blue, recalling the sea of the state's beaches.
Art. 3 - The shield is surrounded by a gold cord, symbolizing the unity of all Fluminenses [citizens of the state].
Art. 4 - Overall, an eagle proper with open wings in the attitude of taking flight, representing strong, honest, and just government, carrying the message of confidence and hope to the most distant corners of our state; perched upon a round shield of blue, with a silver fess and orle, respectively carrying the inscriptions: "9 de abril de 1892" recalling the promulgation of the first Constitution of the State of Rio de Janeiro, and Recte Rempublicam Gerere (Conduct the affairs of the public with righteousness), conveying the constant preoccupation of the public men of our state; and charged in chief with a silver five-pointed star representing the capital.
Art. 5 - As supporters, a stalk of cane and one of coffee, fructed, both proper, the principal products of the land.
Art. 6 - A silver [white] scroll with the inscription "ESTADO DO RIO DE JANEIRO" in black.
Art. 7 - The crest is the star Delta crucis in silver, which represents the State of Rio in the national flag.
Joseph McMillan, 10 July 2002

Serra dos Órgãos means range of the organs--a reference to the pipes of an organ. It's a national park. The Dedo de Deus [finger of God] is the park's principal attraction. In good weather it can be seen from several places of the state.
Alexandre R.C. Alves, 3 November 1999

The official state website, in addition to providing the text of the law, also provides five color templates (magenta, cyan, yellow, silver, and black), a composite full color image, and a construction sheet for the flag. The basic design of the arms dates back to state law 3 of 29 June 1892. It was designed by Ricardo Honorato Teixeira de Carvalho, according to Clóvis Ribeiro. I have found a number of different depictions of it since then, varying in the way the divisions among the mountains, shore, and water are shown, the portrayal of the eagle, the placement of the star crest either inside or above the shield, the artistic treatment of the cane and coffee branches flanking the shield, etc.
Joseph McMillan, 10 September 2002

As indicated above, the original design was created in 29 June 1892. It was very similar to the actual one, the main differences are the star (inside the badge and not above it), and the presence of coffee and cane along with the eagle... It was abolished in 1937, like all subnational emblems, in the 1937 constitution (http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/constituicao/constitui%C3%A7ao37.htm),  and reused from 1947 on (when the law changed). In 1965 it was "redesigned" as it is used nowadays.
Auriel de Almeida, 4 May 2011


History of Rio de Janeiro State and City and Their Symbols

There are today two administrative units with the name of Rio de Janeiro: the state (whose flag is the one quarterly of blue and white) and the City (whose flag is white with a blue saltire). The state includes the city. Until 1831, they were a single entity, the Captaincy of Rio de Janeiro (during the Portuguese colonial period) and later, during the United Kingdom of Portugal and Brazil, the Province of Rio de Janeiro. In 1831, when Emperor Pedro I (King Pedro IV of Portugal) went back to Lisbon, the Brazilian parliament administratively separated the city from the rest of the Province, designating it "the neutral municipality." Since 1763, it had been the capital of Brazil, and from 1808 to 1821 it was also the capital of the whole Portuguese kingdom and colonial empire. Even after 1889, when Brazil become a republic, Rio de Janeiro kept its unusual status, changing its designation from "neutral municipality" to "federal district."

In 1960, Brasília was inaugurated as the new capital, in a new federal district. Not knowing what to do administratively with the city of Rio, which had just lost its status as national capital, it was decided to upgrade it to the status of a state. Meanwhile, a State of Rio de Janeiro already existed--the same one from which the city had been taken in 1831. Therefore, the former Federal District became the newly created entity of Guanabara State, from the bay on which the city lies. That Guanabara State, with barely more than the 1500 km2 of the former national capital, existed only from 1960 to 1975. In that year, the federal government and parliament passed a law that joined the existing State of Rio de Janeiro (whose capital was then the city of Niterói) with the short-lived State of Guanabara. The new entity was also called State of Rio de Janeiro and its capital was again the City of Rio de Janeiro. That is, as in the colonial days, the city was again part of the state's territory.

The parliament recommended that the symbols of the former state of Rio de Janeiro should remain as before the joining (the blue and white quartered flag, the coat of arms with the flowering branches and the anthem) since contests to choose new ones had not been promised. Almost twenty-five years have passed and these symbols have not yet been replaced. As for the blue and white colors, I don't know where the statement comes from that they were based on the traditional Portuguese colors. I don't known when the state and city flags were created, whether it was back in the colonial days or not, but I believe that it might be true. After all, the blue circle of the Brazilian flag is a trace of the same circle that showed on the flag of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, adopted in 1816, and blue and white were always present on the Portuguese coat of arms ever since King Afonso Henriques.
Guilherme Pacheco translated by António Martins, 17 August 1999


19th Century Merchant Ship Pennant

19th Century Ship Distinguishing 
Pennant, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) image by Joseph McMillan

Some states had old maritime ensigns in the 19th century, including Rio de Janeiro.
Jaume Ollé, 8 December 1999

The French Navy's Album de Pavillons of 1858 shows a set of galhardetes (normally translated pennants) flown by Brazilian merchant ships to indicate their province of origin. The galhardetes were rectangular, approximately 1:6. They were all simple geometric patterns, more or less like signal flags. The one item of particular interest, however, is that the galhardete for Rio de Janeiro province was divided quarterly, blue and white, very similar to the field of the modern state flag, which is divided quarterly white and blue. It might be interesting to determine if there is any connection.
Joseph McMillan, 17 April 2001