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Lubnān, Republic of Lebanon, Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Lubnāniyyah

Last modified: 2024-02-10 by ian macdonald
Keywords: lebanon | lubnan | republic of lebanon | al-jumhuriyya al-lubnaniyya | cedar (green) | tree: cedar (green) |
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[Lebanon] 2:3 | stripes 1+2+1 | image by N.J. and Eugene Ipavec, 20 May 2007

Official Name: الجمهورية اللبنانية [Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Lubnāniyyah], Republic of Lebanon
Short Form: لبنان [Lubnān], Lebanon
Capital: Beirut
Flag Adopted: 07 Dec 1943
Coat of Arms Adopted: 07 Dec 1943

See also:


The tree is the cedar traditionally connected with Lebanon. In the 18th century the Maronite Christians used a white flag with the cedar tree, with reference to the Bible (Psalms 92:12, "the righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon"). Later, when Lebanon was under French mandate, the French tricolour was used with a cedar tree in the middle. There is a reference in Smith 1982 to the colours, "The red and white colours are those associated, respectively, with the Kayssites and Yemenites, opposing clans that divided Lebanese society between 634 and 1711".
Željko Heimer, 08 Aug 1996

Lebanese friends told me that red might represent martyrs' blood and white snow, holiness and eternity. Most Lebanese flags hoisted or depicted in flag charts are not correct. According to the Constitution law of 7 December 1943, the three colours of the flag must be red, white and green. Branches and trunks of the cedar are usually coloured in brown for the sake of realism – or, as some friends told me, in black to celebrate the Syrian-Lebanese "friendship."
Ivan Sache, 12 Aug 1996

The Constitution of Lebanon promulgated on 23rd May 1926 said, "Article 5: The Lebanese flag is blue, white, red with a cedar in the white part". This article was changed on 7th December 1943, "The Lebanese flag is made of red, white and red horizontal stripes, with the cedar in green in the centre of the white stripe". The cedar was and is therefore officially green. As a whole green cedar is quite strange, some flag manufacturers have certainly made it green and brown – which is unconstitutional.
Pascal Vagnat, 22 Apr 1999

Red symbolizes the blood of martyrs who died trying to free the country from outside forces. White is a symbol of purity of course but is here connected with the snow-capped Lebanese mountains.
Hala Abi-Saleh, 13 Sep 1999
The official explanation of the colours' meaning is:

  • White is snow, where cedars are, on snowy mountains, which symbolize purity.
  • Red is the blood of the victims of independance against the Ottomans, French and the rest of the colonizers.

Fadi Bassil, 25 Feb 2000

The Lebanese flag is derived from the French tricolor. The cedar was placed in the white of the French flag. When Lebanon pronounced its independence, the men who declared independence drew a color pencil sketch [image here]. They got rid of the blue and made the stripes horizontal. The vertical stripes became horizontal to move away from the French vertical design. In my recollection, the official description of the flag does not mention proportions, something I have always noted curiously. I believe that the proportions were simply taken from the French flag (2:3).
N.J., 25 Sep 2000

According to [Nehmé 1995, adapted in Lebanese Parliamentary Elections 2000 website [broken link]:

National Flag: White and Red with a cedar in the center. The Cedar consists of two thirds of the size [sic – "one third of the length" probably intended] of the white band.

The Lebanese Flag consists of three horizontal bands, red, white, and red, with a green cedar in the center, i.e. the white band that amounts to the size of both red bands put together. The tip and root of the green Cedar both stretch towards the edge of the red areas. The red bands symbolize the pure blood, shed in the aim of liberation. The white band symbolizes peace. As for the green cedar, it symbolizes immortality. The Lebanese flag was raised in Bashamoun on the 21st of November 1943 at 11:20 pm. It is believed that this same flag is now kept in the National Museum, although it may have been transported to the Governmental Palace in Bteddine.

Santiago Dotor, 26 Sep 2000

[The above mentioned explanations of the colours in the Lebanese flag] used to be taught in schools within "civic instruction courses" before the start of the Lebanese war. About the white snow, the meaning of lubnan (Lebanon in Arabic) is one of the multiple derivatives of "white" (the word comes from "milk") in Arabic and in Aramean. (...) The cedar should be 1/3 of the overall width of the flag.
J.-M. Klat, 09 Sep 2001

National Flag at the London 2012 Olympics

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For Lebanon: PMS 032 red, 355 green. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees anti-clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012

Construction Sheet

image by N.J. and Eugene Ipavec, 20 May 2007


I found on this personal website [broken link] some new information on the Lebanese national flag (in French):

At independence, Lebanon used as national flag the French national flag (vertically divided blue-white-red) with a cedar in the middle. On 11 November 1943, street demonstrations took place because the French authorities had jailed Presidents Bechara al Khoury and Riad al-Solh as well as other Ministers. Seven Deputees – Henri Pharaon, Maroun Kanaan, Saêb Salam, Sabri Hamadé, Rachid Beydoun, Saadi al-Mounla, and Mohamed al-Fadl – forced an entry into the Lebanese Parliament, where they decided to design a new national flag for Lebanon. The new (and current) national flag was designed by Henri Pharaon.

In 1979, the Minister of National Education, Boutros Harb, decided that 21 November should be the National Flag Day.

The Lebanese Constitution article prescribing the flag says:
Part I – Fundamental Provisions
Chapter I – The State and its Territory
Article 5 – The Lebanese flag is made of red, white and red horizontal stripes, with the cedar in green in the centre of the white stripe. The size of the white stripe is equal to the size of the two red stripes together. The cedar is in the middle, its apex touching the red upper stripe and its base touching the lower red stripe. The size of the cedar shall be equal to one third of the size of the white stripe.
Source: Vagnat and Poels 2000 [vap00].

Ivan Sache, 10 Aug 2002

I notice that Pascal Vagnat gives a quote from the Constitution regarding the flag on our page for the Lebanon, but by giving it fully one also gets full construction details. Part One, Chapter 1, Article 5 as amended on 7 December 1943 reads as follows:

"The Flag of the Lebanon is constructed of red, white and red horizontal stripes, with a green cedar (tree) in the centre of the white stripe. The width of the white stripe is equal to the width of the two red stripes together. The cedar is in the centre, (with) its apex touching the upper red stripe, and its base touching the lower red stripe. The size of the cedar shall be equal to one-third the size (length) of the white stripe."

The translation and (brackets) are mine, but it does not differ fundamentally from that given in Pascal and Jos's magnificent work "Constitutions – What they tell us about National Flags and Coats of Arms" – the relevant translation in which was (I understand from Jos) not official either.
Christopher Southworth, 31 Mar 2004

I will play devil's advocate aand note that there is no provision nor hint determining that the two red stripes are of the same width. If someone has access to the original wording (and language skills to understand it), I wonder if there is such a hint there – if the flag with, say, top red stripe being half the lower would still be legally acceptable, as long as the white would remain double the size of the two red together...
Željko Heimer, 31 Mar 2004

How about this argument? If the red stripes were unequal, then the tree could not be exactly in the center of the flag and still have its upper and lower points touching the upper and lower edges of the white stripe. It would be either above or below the center. The constitution doesn't say the tree is in the center between hoist and fly, it says it's in the center, which I would take to mean the center of the flag, vertically as well as horizontally.
Joe McMillan, 31 Mar 2004

Unfortunately for Joe's counterargument, the Constitution definitely says "the centre of the white stripe" and not the centre of the flag, so the red stripes could (conceivably and by a stretch of the imagination be taken as uneven.

I cannot, at this moment in time, lay my hand on the French original, but my translation was checked by Armand du Payrat and found to be accurate (and is almost identical to that of Pascal Vagnat). So I think that we can say with reasonable certainty that the French text holds no hint of any alternative not suggested by the English translations.
Christopher Southworth, 31 Mar 2004

I found [the French original] and Chris is right:

"Article 5 – Le drapeau libanais est composé de trois bandes horizontales: deux rouges encadrant une blanche. La hauteur de la bande blanche est égale au double de chacune des bandes rouges. Au centre de la bande blanche figure un cèdre vert dont la largeur occupe le tiers de celle-ci et qui, par son sommet et par sa base, touche chacune des bandes rouges."

I make this to say (in relevant part) "At the center of the white stripe is a green cedar, the width of which is one-third that of the stripe and which, at its top and bottom, touches each of the red stripes."
Joe McMillan, 31 Mar 2004

It just occurred to me that the text of the constitution does make clear that the two red stripes are of equal width, or "height" as the text phrases it:

"La hauteur de la bande blanche est égale au double de chacune des bandes rouges:"
"The height of the white stripe is equal to twice that of each red stripe."

Even I can solve this algebraically to prove that the two red stripes must be equal. W is the height of the white stripe, U is the height of the upper red stripe, and L is the height of the lower red stripe:

     W = 2U
     W = 2L
    2U = 2L
      U = L

Joe McMillan, 31 Mar 2004

If I have this correctly [there is] a slightly different interpretative use of the word "chacune."
Christopher Southworth, 31 Mar 2004

Just for the sake of argument, setting the tree in the middle of the flag (we know that it is in fact set in the middle of the white stripe) would not necessarily require that the two red stripes to be equal – it depends how one defines the center of the tree. Namely, it would indeed be so if one defined the center of the tree as the center of the rectangle "circumscribing" it, just as we are used to do when dealing with cliparts. However, the geometrical center of the tree shape is, if I am not much mistaken, somewhat lower then this point, so if one would match the geometrical center with the center of the flag, the top red stripe would necessarily be thinner then the lower stripe.
Now, I do not think that this is the case with Lebanese flag, but I just wanted to point out this ocassionaly (often?) found ambiguity, when the legislators do not say what kind of center they mean. The difference is obvious on flags that include noncircular emblems, for example a (five-pointed) star – when the say it is set in the middle – do they mean that the center of the circle circumscribing is in the middle or it is the rectangle "rectangle-scribing" it is set in the middle (so there is equal distance from the top of the star to the top of the flag, and the bottom of the star to the bottom of the flag)? I believe that we have had such problem with the new flag of DR Congo, and probably with a few more. Also, this weird effect is gained with the flag of Croatia if someone puts the COA clipart in the middle of the ticolour – the COA is then way too low in the flag.
Željko Heimer, 01 Apr 2004

According to the Der Standard website:

Dass der Libanon für seine Nationalflagge die rot-weiß-roten Farben – mit einer grünen Zeder im weißen Mittelfeld – gewählt hat, geht auf die Initiative des 1993 im Alter von 92 Jahren ermordeten christlichen Politikers Henry Pharaon zurück, der ein begeisterter Freund Österreichs war. Die griechisch-orthodoxe Bankiersfamilie Pharaon, deren im Bürgerkrieg teilweise zerstörtes und später an die saudiarabische Königsfamilie verkauftes Palais eine der Sehenswürdigkeiten Beiruts war, hatte in mehreren Generationen Honorarkonsuln des Kaisertums Österreich und der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie gestellt. Henry Pharaon gehörte zu den Gründern des 1943 souverän gewordenen libanesischen Staates und war mehrmals Außenminister und vier Jahrzehnte lang Parlamentsabgeordneter. Er gründete die libanesisch-österreichische Freundschaftsgesellschaft. Während des 15-jährigen Bürgerkrieges (1975-90) bezog der Milliardär für keine der Konfliktparteien Position. Seine letzten Lebensjahre verbrachte er im Beirut Luxushotel Carlton, wo er zusammen mit einem Leibwächter ermordet wurde. (APA)

Which says that:

The red-white-red Lebanese Flag goes back to an initiative by the (assasinated) Christian politician Henri Pharaon (b.1901-d.1993). The wealthy bankers-family Pharaon was Christian, and for many generations the honorary-consuls to the imperial court in Vienna and the Austro-Hungarian Empire came from this family. One of their palaces in Beirut was one of the landmarks of that city, and was partly destroyed during the civil war and later sold to the Saudi royal family. Henri Pharaon was one of the founding fathers of the newly-independent Lebanon in 1943. He was foreign minister many times, and MP for four decades. He founded the "Austro-Lebanese Association of Friendship". During the 15-year long civil-war (1975-90) he stayed neutral. His last years were spent in the Beirut Carlton luxury hotel, where he was murdered along with his bodyguard.

J.S., 02 Mar 2005

Interesting. I'd assumed that the r-w-r was inspired by some French official flag, and that the same (hypothetical) flag would also have explained French Polynesia's flag.
James Dignan, 02 Mar 2005

Vertical Versions

[Vertical Flag (Lebanon)]
~5:2 | stripes 1+2+1

For special festive occasions, such as Independence Day, a Lebanese flag which is a variant on the horizontal flag is hoisted typically along light and telephone poles. It is a long vertical flag with vertical color fields, red-white-red, with the green cedar in the center, touching both reds. Most probably it is 5:2.
N.J., 25 Sep 2000

I now wonder whether the vertical flag with the cedar shifted to the top of the flag which Ivan Sache saw in a picture might actually be the bottom part of a flag with centred cedar, the top part being hidden because of the flag waving or something similar.
Santiago Dotor, 03 Oct 2000

After looking thoroughly at the picture, I give you the point. The top of the flag seems to be applied on a kind of wooden frame without anything to fix it, so it is probably draped over the frame. The top part might be hidden behind the visible part (as if the flag had been hung out like a bedsheet). About 1/4th of the 5:2 flag might be hidden on the picture.
Ivan Sache, 03 Oct 2000

image by N.J. and Eugene Ipavec, 20 May 2007

*'''The Largest Lebanese Flag''' On Lebanon's 66th Independence Day [i.e. 1999], Saida wintnessed the erection of the largest Lebanese flag. The flag is 12 meters long and 6 meters wide, and was erected on a 21 meter high pole. The flag was raised on the intersection of Rafik Hariri Boulevard and Riyad Solh Street, and is easily accessible from the Corniche. The flag was painted by 66 students from Saida.

[Vertical Flag (Lebanon)] image located by William Garrison, 6 November 2021

Here is another vertical version of the national flag, which looks like the national flag, but with both sides cropped off to just barely not touching the central green tree: the red stripes are at the top-and-bottom, rather than on the left-and-right sides. c. Nov. 2021
William Garrison, 6 November 2021