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City and Civil Flag of Hamburg (Germany)

Hamburg, Stadt- und Bürgerliche Flagge

Last modified: 2013-11-20 by klaus-michael schneider
Keywords: hamburg |
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[Hamburg (Germany)] image by Marcus Schmöger, 25 Nov 2003
Flag adopted 14 May 1751, re-adopted 6 Jun1952 See also:

City and Civil Flag (Stadt- und Bürgerliche Flagge)

[Hamburg (Germany)] 2:3[Hamburg (Germany)] 3:5 images by Marcus Schmöger, 25 Nov 2003

Flag adopted 6th June 1952, first adopted14 May 1751
This flag was officially adopted 14 May 1751, re-adopted 6 June 1834, 6 October 1897 and 6 June 1952.
Source: Illustrated in Pedersen 1970 no. 150 and Crampton 1990 p. 44.
Norman Martin, Jan 1998

Translated from Hamburger Wappen:
"In the flag of the city the white castle from the coat of arms stands on a red field. The colors have been derived from the carnations, which the city presents at official occasions. The city flag was first shown at the end of the 16th century. Until then the ships had on their masts pennon-like wings, which the Hamburgians called "Flögel" in Plattdeutsch (Low German). These "Flögel" did have an official character. Ships from Hamburg which did not use them had to pay a fine of three Marks in silver; likewise those foreign ships, who illegally used that sign."
Jarig Bakker, 30 Mar 1999

This is a banner of the city arms, read its symbolism under coat-of-arms:
(...) About the colours, the Hamburg Official Website says:
"Hamburg's livery colours (Landesfarben) are white-red (Article 5 of the Constitution of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg of 6th June 1952, first defined by the Senate Decision of 6th June 1834)."
Santiago Dotor, 21 Sep 2000

The well-known civil flag showing a white castle with three towers on red background. This is basically the Hamburg flag. It is not only used as a civil flag (and was historically used as civil ensign as well), but also as a city flag for most purposes, i.e. in all cases when the state flag and 'Admiralty' flag are not used.
The flag is essentially a banner-of-arms. The oldest seal with the castle dates from 1241. The first flag displaying the arms showed up about 1470 this was most probably a red field with a red castle in a white escutcheon. After about 1623 the castle without an escutcheon was used, i.e. a red castle on white or a white castle on red. It was only in 1751, that the white castle on red was decreed as the Hamburg flag. Of course the artistic rendering of the castle varied with the time, but the flag essentially has stayed the same since 1751.
Sources: Smith 1975, Schurdel 1995, Laitenberger and Bassier 2000 and Gaedechens 1855.
Marcus Schmöger, 29 May 2001

Part of the 1982 regulation is a colour plate with the different flags (civil flag, senate flag, admiralty flag, car flag) as well as the coats-of-arms (greater, middle and lesser arms plus admiralty arms). However, the patterns depicted on this table had been used already for some time, at least they had been shown in the official flagbooks since the first post-WW2 edition, Bundesministerium des Innern 1956. As there had been no legal prescription until 1982, I was wondering when this pattern had been introduced. Several photos around 1948 showed a totally different castle pattern, namely with obvious black masoning lines. This is the pattern as used since around 1900 at least.

But when did the modern variant of the castle (without masoning lines) first appear? By chance I came across a semi-official publication, namely the Handbuch der Hansestadt Hamburg, a service manual for the citizens . Not only the editions of 1958, 1963 and 1973, respectively, showed the 'modern' pattern, but already one of the earliest, namely the one from 1939. So my interpretation is: after abolishing the Länder flags in 1935(more or less), the Hansa cities were still allowed to use their own flags as city flags. To mark the difference between the old state flag and the new city flag, the drawings were modernized. After WW2, both the old pre-1935/39 and the post-1935/39 patterns were used, but more and more the modernized pattern prevailed, as it had been published in the Handbuch der Hansestadt Hamburg 1939 and in Bundesministerium des Innern 1956 and later editions, and finally legally prescribed in 1982.

The Stadtflagge (civil flag) is usually produced in 2:3 ratio. This is also the ratio shown on the plate of the legal prescription, so one could argue that this is the prescribed ratio. However, it is also produced in 3:5, which is the more frequent ratio for German flags.
Marcus Schmöger, 25 Nov 2003

In case of Hamburg the state of Hamburg and the city of Hamburg are the same entity, because the city of Hamburg is the only municipality in the state. Therefore the city flag after WW2 regained the status a state flag (Landesflagge)
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 24 May 2011

Vertical Variant (Banner / Hängeflagge/ Knatterflagge)

[Vertical Variant (Hamburg, Germany)] image by Marcus Schmöger, 25 Nov 2003

Fahnen Fleck, the main flag manufacturer in Hamburg makes the vertical variant in 5:2 and 8:3 ratio. Sources: Flaggen-Katalog FahnenFleck 1974 and their website.
Marcus Schmöger, 25 Nov 2003

Pennant Variant (Hisswimpel)

[Pennant Variant (Hamburg, Germany)]  image by Marcus Schmöger, 25 Nov 2003

At least in the 1970's Fahnen Fleck also produced a rather strange variant, namely a pennant-like flag, called Hißwimpel. The ratio was approx. 2:5.
Source: Flaggen-Katalog FahnenFleck 1974.
Marcus Schmöger, 25 Nov 2003

Other Hamburg Townhall Flag(Sitzungsflagge)

[2nd townhall flag (Hamburg, Germany)]  5:3 image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 15 Sep 2012

As reported before, there exists a 2nd town hall flag, used only during the sessions of the city parliament, when no flag is hoisted on Townhall Square (Rathausmarkt). The ratio is approx. 5:3. The castle is in the centre of the flag, smaller as usual, having nearly 1/2 of total width and nearly 1/3 of total height. The flag seems to be a bit bigger than the state flag hoisted at the same place.
Information about the use of the townhall flag, a vertical version of the senate's flag, can be found here.
Source: I spotted this flag on 14 September 2012 at Hamburg Townhall.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 15 Sep 2012

Hanseatic Pennant (Hanseatenwimpel)

[Hanseatic Pennant (Hamburg, Germany)] image by Marcus Schmöger, 25 Nov 2003

Another strange flag I do not have much information about, was the so-called Hanseatenwimpel. This was a long pennant (ratio approx. 16:1), divided white over red, the Hansa colours. My interpretation is, that this was influenced by the Scandinavian practice of flying a long pennant when the normal flag is not in place.
Source: Flaggen-Katalog FahnenFleck 1974.
Marcus Schmöger, 25 Nov 2003


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