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The Athletics' Cross on early Club Flags (German Athletics Movement)

Das Turnerkreuz auf Vereinsflaggen des 19. Jahrhunderts

Last modified: 2017-11-11 by klaus-michael schneider
Keywords: athletics' cross | turnerkreuz | ffff | darmstaedter tg | tv 1848 coburg |
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Athletics' Cross (or Cross of Athletics; German: Turnerkreuz) is an ensemble of four initials "F" combined that way, that they are forming a cross. "FFFF" is the abbreviation of the motto of the German Athletics Movement, implemented by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852).
The motto, also denoted as "athletics' salutation" was first mentioned on occasion of a tournament, held in Bingen upon Rhine on 23 May 1847. The formula then had been "Frisch, fromm, froh, frei".
This motto later was changed by F.L. Jahn into "Frisch, fromm, fröhlich, frei". A common translation (wizhin German sources) is "Frank, fresh, frish, free", which seems doubtful, because I couldn't find the word "frish" in the dictionary, only "frisky". The rough translation could be :"Fresh, faithful, festive, free", but that doesn' t sound particularly smart. The four letters also were introduced on flags, often on the rearside. In the beginning they were ordered horizontally, e.g. in the flag of HT16 in Hamburg. Later on the cross shape prevailed.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 28 Jun 2012

Flag of Darmstädter Turngemeinde (1844)

[Darmstädter TG(1844) (Athletics Club)] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 28 Jun 2012

Heinrich Felsing was a printer. His print office was well known all over Europe. He introduced the very fist flag bearing an athletics' cross to the public on occasion of a tournament of pupils, held in Darmstadt on 27 August 1844.
The flag was a red over white horizontal bicolour. On the rearside was a golden atletics' cross, superimposing a wreath of golden rays of sunlight. In each corner was a golden branch of oak consisting of three leaves and one acorn. Red and white had been the colours of Felsing's home town Darmstadt and of Hesse as well.
On occasion of a festival held in Heilbronn two years later he proposed to adopt the symbol for the whole movement. He gave reasons for the introduction as follows: "The motto represented by its four initials I have combined to a sign, having the same virtues as the athletics movement; equal strength, equal form against any side. The square everywhere is of the same strength, steadfast based on its corners." He than showed the banner of his club accompanied by the words. "Take it or drop it." And it was… dropped by resolution. Nevertheless it spread out all over the country during the following years.
Source: Wilhelm Braungardt: "Heinrich Felsing, der Erfinder des Turnerkreuzes vor 150 Jahren geboren", in "Deutsches Turnen", year 1950, p.5
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 28 Jun 2012

Flag of Turnverein 1848 Coburg e.V.

[TV 1848 Coburg (Athletics Club)] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 28 Jun 2012

It was a black over red over yellow horizontal tricolour with golden fringes at three sides. The obverse showed a golden inscription in Gothic initials "COBURG" in the centre of the red stripe. The reverse showed instead a silver athletics' cross inclosing a black Greek cross between the four letters.
This flag is one of probably numerous early athletics flags bearing the current German national colours.
Source: "Jahn Report", edition no.30, May 2010, a periodical published by Friedrich-Ludwig Jahn Gesellschaft, frontpage
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 28 Jun 2012

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