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Schaffhausen canton (Switzerland)

Last modified: 2011-07-02 by rob raeside
Keywords: switzerland | ram | sheep |
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[Flag of Schaffhausen]  image by António Martins

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Description of the flag

Or, a ram sautant sable, crowned armed unguled and in his virility gold, langued gules.

On a yellow field, a leaping black ram with golden horns, hooves, penis, and crown, and a red tongue. This flag has a minor heraldic error in that it combines actual gold with yellow, but there was a conscious reason for this (see below).

Symbolism of the flag

The ram is a prehistoric religious and martial symbol of virility and power. Heraldry tends to emphasize virility by always depicting male animals, and Swiss heraldry often specifies the colour of genitals. Gold genitals may seem odd, but that was a papal decision that even the Protestant Reformation did not change. The ram is sometimes understood to be a play on the name of the city ("scaf" = sheep), but this is incorrect, and the correct etymology is "sca^fa"-"hausen", or "house of ships". (Schaffhausen is the southernmost navigable point on the Rhine.) The colours black and yellow almost certainly derive from the old imperial standard (black eagle on a yellow field).

History of the flag

Schaffhausen's development was closely tied to a Benedictine convent founded in 1052. The city state became sovereign within the Holy Roman Empire in 1218, and that is also the earliest documented evidence of the flag. Schaffhausen fell under Austrian dominance in 1330 and did not regain its independence until 1415. It was admitted to the Swiss confederation in 1501, two months after Basel.

The ram on the flag was originally unadorned, but Schaffhausen was one of the recipients of a "Julius Banner" in 1512. The ram was granted a golden crown, and its horns, hoofs and genitals were also rendered in gold. The ram was originally "rampant" standing in the classic one hoof position (rear left on the ground), but in the 1940s the ram was tilted forward to the "sautant" position with both rear hoofs on the ground (i.e. landing from a jump). For a while after the 13th century the city seal showed a ram jumping out of a city gate, based on the erroneous etymology that Schaffhausen meant "house of sheep".

T.F. Mills, 23 October 1997

Variations of the flag

[Flag of Schaffhausen] image by Ole Andersen

Simple rectangular cantonal flag, as shown in Kannik (1956).
Ole Andersen, 4 August 2002

Flaggen, Knatterfahnen and Livery Colours




[livery colours]

 images by Pascal Gross

Flaggen are vertically hoisted from a crossbar in the manner of gonfanon, in ratio of about 2:9, with a swallowtail that indents about 2 units. The chief, or hoist (square part) usually incorporates the design from the coat of arms - not from the flag. The fly part is always divided lengthwise, usually in a bicolour, triband or tricolour pattern (except Schwyz which is monocolour, and Glarus which has four stripes of unequal width). The colours chosen for the fly end are usually the main colours of the coat of arms, but the choice is not always straight forward.

Knatterfahnen are similar to Flaggen, but hoisted from the long side and have no swallow tail. They normally show the national, cantonal or communal flag in their chiefs.

Željko Heimer, 16 July 2000

Why are the livery colours unexplainable from the coat of arms?

António Martins, 17 April 2001

The livery colours of Schaffhausen canton are not taken from the coat of arms. Originally, the pennon which preceded the banner was green. The laces of green colour (alone or accompanied by another one) attached to the majority of the official acts established between 1253 and 1321 attest it. An invoice from 1444 takes into account the purchase of green and black material. The black attested here as the second colour of the city can derive from the ram appearing on the banner. Since that date, all documents prove that green and black were the official colours until the end of the Ancien Regime. This fact confirms that blazons, banners and cantonal colours are not always identical and, for this reason, one need to follow their historical evolution.

Pascal Gross, 6 April 2001

Kannik (1956) mentions that the colours go back to round 1500 (Znamierowski, 2000, says 15th century), and notes that the livery colours are or and sable. Kannik also shows the canton flag as green over black.

Ole Andersen, 18 April 2001