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Vaud canton (Switzerland)

Last modified: 2024-06-01 by martin karner
Keywords: switzerland | vaud | french |
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[Flag of Vaud] image by António Martins

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Description of the flag

Per fess argent and vert, in chief the motto "Liberté et Patrie" or, fimbriated sable.
Horizontally divided into equal parts white over green. The white part is inscribed in gold "Liberté et Patrie" (freedom and fatherland), and the letters are outlined in black. Lettering on a flag violates rules of heraldry which aim to maximize ease of recognition (Since flags hang limp, flutter in the breeze, and take on altered forms according to the light, lettering is normally a pointless addition). But since Vaud is the only Swiss cantonal flag to contain lettering, it is not readily confused with any other. Although rendered in upper case, the last É in "Liberté" is always accented. The rest of Switzerland occasionally pokes fun at Vaud by deliberately misrepresenting their motto as "Liberté est partie" (freedom is departed).
T.F. Mills, 3 November 1997

I read in the newspaper 24 Heures from Lausanne that the description of the official arms were put upside down in the law. The law states that the arms of the Canton of Vaud are two bars of Sinople and Argent (Green and White) and as in heraldry the first colour mentioned is always on the top.
Pascal Prince
, 8 January 2001

Symbolism of the flag

Green and white were the colours of revolution, and were incorporated in the first flag of the Vaudois insurrection in the 1790s. A modified version of the revolutionary flag was adopted when Vaud became a canton in 1803.
T.F. Mills, 3 November 1997

History of the flag

Vaud was urbanised in ancient Roman times, and contained the Roman capital of Helvetia (Aventicum, or Avenches). Later it was part of Burgundy, and in the 13th century came under the control of Savoy. Parts were annexed by Fribourg and Bern, and in 1536 Bern annexed all the land of Vaud. From 1536 Vaud no longer had its own flag, but it previously had three different ones. At the end of the 13th century it was a black eagle on a gold field, with a red "label of five points" (across the chest of the eagle). During the 14th and 15th centuries it was a red field with a white cross over which ran a narrow diagonal band of blue and gold squares. In 1530 it was changed to a black three-domed mountain floating on a white field.

A Vaudois insurrection against Bern in the 1790s, inspired by the French revolution, was largely responsible for inviting the French invasion in 1798 which destroyed the old Swiss Confederation and replaced it with the unitary Helvetic Republic. The flag of the Vaudois revolution was green inscribed in white with the motto "Liberté, Egalité" (freedom, equality). Within the Helvetic Republic, the Vaudois territory became independent of Bern as the new Canton of Léman.

With the Restoration of the Swiss Confederation in 1803 (Act of Mediation), Vaud became one of the six new cantons, and adopted as its flag a variant of the insurrectional flag of the previous decade. At first the lettering of "Liberté et Patrie" was in black, and there may also have been some in green. In 1819 Vaud organised its army and adopted a war flag which featured an escutcheon of the cantonal arms on a flamed green and white field. This escutcheon fixed the arms and equivalent flag in their current form (source: [ges43]).

T.F. Mills, 3 November 1997

[Coin 1/2 Batz / 5 Rap., Vaud canton, 1804, with coat of arms (source). –
Battalion flag after the regulation of 1819. The flames have been shortened to make space to the writings, which is unique for cantonal military flags (source). –
Flag of Vaud canton (early 19th c., b/w photo, source: [b7b42]). –
Stained glass pane (1961) by François Ribas. The woman with the grapes represents the old viticulture of Vaud. Its main focus is on the production of white wine (despite this picture), which fits perfectly to the Vaudoisian colours white, green and gold (source).]

Variations of the flag

[1/3 white Flag of Vaud] image by António Martins

[Shadowed lettering Flag of Vaud] image by António Martins

An often variation, with the lettering not only outlined but also shadowed.
António Martins, 4 January 1998

[Simplified Flag of Vaud] image by António Martins

A simple white over green bicolor, used, for instances, in license plates.
António Martins, 4 January 1998

[Pun Flag of Vaud] image by António Martins

An often pun, meaning instead "Freedom has gone".
António Martins, 4 January 1998

[Pun Flag of Vaud] image by António Martins

An oddly colored image from an outside source: A 1911 Swiss postage stamp, seen at (in Nahum Shereshevsky's excellent thematic philatelic collection, see it fully here [retrieved]): Black letters, instead of black-fimbriated golden letters. This must be an often "practical" variation, as also the letterless variation above.
António Martins, 3 January 2006

Mühlemann (1991) reports that the decree from 1803 about the cantonal coat of arms doesn't define the colours of the writing. Initially, he writes, it always was depicted in black. I suppose this has to do with the printed version (and the seal) on documents which has always been black-and-white. Mühlemann doesn't define the time when the colour turned from black to gold. He reports about three green-white military flags with golden writings, which could explain the origin of the golden letters. The one flag from 1804, white over green, has the golden writing LIBERTÉ ET PATRIE on the upper half and CANTON DE VAUD on the lower half; the other two are battalion flags from 1819 (white cross "traversante" and green-white flames) with the same writings in reverse order, also in gold (picture from [mue91]). However, the change from black to gold was not radical. There are examples of black writing when the gold variant was already established, e.g. the flag from 1849 of a philanthropic society which shows the cantonal coats of arms beside each other.
Martin Karner, 4 January 2006

Colour Flag

[Colour Flag VD] image by Ole Andersen

Simple rectangular cantonal flag, as shown in Kannik (1956) [So-called colour flag (Farbenfahne in German). See also postcard from 1903]].
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

Attempted flag change

There will be a new consitution for Vaud canton which will take effect on 14 April 2003, on the bicentenary of the entry of Vaud canton into the Swiss confederation. There is a motion to change the text on the arms from "Liberté et Patrie" (Freedom and Fatherland) to "Liberté et solidarité (Freedom and Solidarity). A popular vote will be held in 2002 to accept or refuse this decision adopted by the Constituent Assembly of the canton (75 in favour, 64 against this decision). Vaud canton is the only one in Switzerland to have lettering on its blazon.
Pascal Gross, 6 September 2000

It is worth reporting on all the aberrations of the "Constituante" (constituent assembly) which is a group of people working on the future constitution of Vaud canton. I would not put all the people from Vaud canton in the same basket as there have been a lot of reactions on all these decisions and I'm quite convinced that they will keep the current flag in the new constitution. Effectively, I can't see how they would take the risk of seeing the constitution refused for "a modification like that" (words of Christelle Luisier, chief of the radical group).
Pascal Gross, 8 January 2001

Early 20th century flag design

       images located by Martin Karner
(Postmark: 1933 | source)                                                    (source)

At the beginning of the 20th century, flamed flags were still in use, with the white cross replaced by a (baroque) shield in the centre of the flag. These decorative flags had been used until WWII and then somewhat forgotten in preference of the current cantonal flags. [Today they are being produced again, see right image]
Pascal Gross, 30 June 2002

See also:   - Other examples of "Early 20th century flag design": CH, AG, AI, AR, BE, BL, BS, FR, GE, GL, GR, JU, LU, NE, NW, OW, SG, SH, SO, SZ, TG, TI, UR, VS, ZG, ZH
                 - Modern flamed flags


image located by Martin Karner (8 May 2024)

Horizontal Logo

image located by Martin Karner (8 May 2024)

The horizontal logo was made for institutions and projects which are supported by the Canton.