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Valais / Wallis canton (Switzerland)

Last modified: 2024-05-11 by martin karner
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[Flag of Valais/Wallis] image by António Martins/Tomislav Todorovic

See also:

Description of the flag

Per pale argent and gules, thirteen mullets of five: in each field four in pale and five on the palar line, all countercoloured.

Divided vertically into equal parts white (hoist) and red (fly). In the white field and four red five-pointed stars arranged vertically. In the red field are four white five-pointed stars arranged vertically. A third row of five stars straddles the dividing line, each star half red and half white opposite to the field colour. The stars all have one point directed toward the top of the flag. They are often incorrectly depicted fimbriated in black.
T.F. Mills, 4 November 1997

Symbolism of the flag

Red and white are the colours of the Bishop of Sion, the dominant power in Valais until very recent times. The thirteen stars represent the thirteen districts (Zehnden) of Valais, a number that has remained constant since 1815 when Valais joined the Swiss Confederation.
T.F. Mills, 4 November 1997

History of the flag

Valais, straddling the upper Rhone valley, was an important territory to the ancient Romans due to the mountains passes linking Italy to transalpine Europe. The monastery of St. Maurice, named for a Roman Christian officer martyred in Valais (see history of Swiss flag), was founded in 390. Valais was initially hostile to the Swiss Confederation but became allied with it in 1403 after the Burgundian wars. The earliest known war flag is the vertically divided red and white banner of the Bishop of Sion, and has been documented at 1220. Valais consisted of highly autonomous "Dixains" (Zehnden) owing allegiance to the Bishop. Their own individual banners predominated until 1613 when they united into a republic. The red and white flag of the republic originally had six stars for its constituent Dixains. A seventh was added in 1628, and in that year France, Savoy and Switzerland all recognised Valais as a free republic.

In 1798 the French created the Helvetic Republic with Valais as one of its new cantons. When the Helvetic Republic proved an unworkable artificial creation, Napoleon mediated the Restoration of the Swiss Confederation in 1803, but kept Valais out of the new polity in order to guarantee French control of the strategic mountain passes. In severing Valais from Switzerland, the five Dixains of lower Valais were joined to it for a total of twelve stars in the flag (six in each field). In 1810 France annexed Valais outright as the Department of Simplon.

Since the Act of Mediation of 1803 was a Napoleonic creation, it collapsed with him, and the Allies restored the pre-revolutionary Confederation in 1815 with the addition of three new cantons liberated from France. Valais thus rejoined Switzerland, and in the process created a thirteenth Dixain (Conthey) out of parts of two others (Martigny and Sion). The flag was accordingly altered to its current form with thirteen stars in three rows.
T.F. Mills, 4 November 1997

Courtesy of Jos Poels the text of the decree (translated from the French) which established 12 stars for Valais, and the exact date of the Constitution which set the number at 13 as they are today:


4 September 1802.

The parliament? ("diete") of the Republic

After considering the findings of the Commission on the Constitution regarding the seal to be adopted by the Republic, (hereby) orders:
The colours of the Republic are white and red; on this it will have twelve (12) stars (carrying 13 by the Constitution of 12 May 1815) , and the legend SIGILLUM REIPUBLICAE VALLESIAE . The seals of the different authorities will carry the name of their office on the bottom.

Given in the Parliament at Sion, during their session of 4 September 1802.

The President of the Parliament: Stockalper
The secretaries of the Parliament: Tousard d' Olbec, Augustini

The Council of State agreed etc., signed and sealed, 7 September 1802.
The grand-bailiff of the Republic; Augustini

For the Council of State:
The Secretary of State: Tousard d' Olbec

Christopher Southworth, 30 July 2005

The text of that law can also be found on the official website of the Valais, at this page (French version, retrieved). [pdf sheet]
Pascal Vagnat, 1 August 2005

Quoting Whitney Smith (1975) ("Flags Through the Ages and Across the World"), pp. 194–195:
"In 1795, however, the star (particularly the five-pointed variety which Americans soon made their standard form) was extremely rare: the city flag of Norden, Germany, the cantonal banner of Valais, Switzerland, and a few military colors were virtually the only examples of its usage in the world."
Ivan Sache, 17 July 2010

[The seal of 1582 with seven six-pointed stars, inscribed "S(igillum) REIP(ublice) PATRIE VALLESY". The seven stars stand for seven Dizains. The colours red and white were used by the bishops of Sion, in the form of a vertically divided red-and-white war flag, from ca. 1220. The addition of stars dates to the early 16th century, but the stars did not at first represent individual communes, and varied in number (between six and sixteen) (source). –
Military flag after the first regulation of 1819. The escutcheon is framed by two green branches: oak leaves on the hoist side, laurel leaves on the fly side (source: [ges43]). –
Battalion flag, designed after the regulations of 1827. The two branches are now golden: oak leaves on the hoist side, laurel leaves on the fly side (as on the 1819 flag). Location: Historical Museum, Sion (source)]

1498–1628 Valais flag

 image by António Martins

From 1498–1628 there were six stars in the arms.
António Martins
, 25 October 1998

1628–1802 Valais flag

 image by Tomislav Todorovic, 2 January 2016

1802–1810 and 1813–1815 Valais flag

 image by Tomislav Todorovic, 2 January 2016

Colour Flag

[Colour Flag VS] image by Ole Andersen

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

Early 20th century flag design

       images located by Martin Karner
(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, VD, ZG, ZH
                 - Modern flamed flags


image located by Martin Karner (8 May 2024)