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Last modified: 2003-04-26 by rob raeside
Keywords: austria | oesterreich | eagle | shackle | blood | hammer and sickle |
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2:3, by Zeljko Heimer

Horizontal triband of red-white-red. There is no prescription on the ratio of this flag for civil use (i.e., on land, maybe the 1981 regulations of the sea flags determine the civil ensign ratio). 
Zeljko Heimer, 20 February 2001

Shade of red used is medium red: RGB: 255-0-0
Zeljko Heimer, 29 June 2002

The ratio 2:3 is not formally defined.  In 1984 the lawmakers could not be talked into regulating the ratio of the civil flag - they argued that "a wealth of formats would enhance adherence to the flag."  The 2:3 ratio of the state flag, put into effect by the arms and flag act of 1984, now has a benign influence, i.e., it is creating some tendency toward this format and thus to some order.
Peter Diem, 16 August 2002

See also:

State Flag with Coat of Arms

[State Flag of Austria] [State Flag of Austria]
2:3, by Zeljko Heimer 2:3, by Peter Diem

The ratio shown here (2:3) was formally adopted in 1984. The type of eagle on the flag drawn by Zeljko Heimer is that used by the Western Austrian flag factory; the flag drawn by Peter Diem is that used by the Eastern Austrian flag factory. The latter is heraldically better because the constitution prescribes a sable (black) eagle.  The former flag tends to make the eagle appear grey on actual flags.
Peter Diem, 16 August 2002

The state flag is a triband with the coat of arms in the middle. The size of the coat of arms is prescribed by the location of two points on it. The lower edge of the hammer should be on [or slightly above - Peter Diem] the upper edge of the lower red stripe, white the "middle" of the beak should be on the lower edge of the upper red stripe. Horizontally, the coat of arms is in the middle, of course. This flag is called "Dienstflagge des Bundes". Framing of the coat of arms in a shield is forbidden (although see flag signalling government member on board a river boat!)
Zeljko Heimer, 20 February 2001

The red white red flag with the coat of arms is used as the Government flag and by the army.
Zeljko Heimer, 18 November 1995

Whilst the eagle may have derived from the the Habsburgs, it wasn't a Habsburg eagle. The Habsburg eagle had two heads, an imperial crown, and a sword and orb in its talons.
Paul Adams
, 28 July 1995

The heraldic advisors to the first chancellor, Dr. Renner, in 1919, have indeed, for reasons of continuity, transformed the double headed monarchial eagle into a one-headed republican one with the common man's, not regal, symbols.
Peter Diem, 16 August 2002

The crown on the Austrian eagle's head is a civic crown - it looks like battlements, and stands for the burghers of Austria, as the hammer and sickle in its talons stand for artisans and farmers. These arms, which were adopted in 1919, also include a shield on the eagle's breast bearing the arms of the House of Babenberg. The broken shackles were added to the Austrian eagle's legs in 1945, and refer specifically to the liberation from the Nazis.
Paul Adams, 28 July 1995

The flag was not used after the Anschluß, or the unification with Nazi Germany in 1938, but was restored with independence in 1945.
Steven Shea, 26 April 1996

Origin of the Austrian flag

The facts

Duke Friedrich II (1210-1246), the last Babenberg, sought to become more independent of the Roman Emperor (also Friedrich II) and adopted as a new "logo" the red-white-red arms in the year 1230. The first colour document bearing them dates from 1232.
Peter Diem, 16 August 2002

The legends

I have had great difficulty getting any definite statement about the origin of the arms for Austria (gules, a fess argent), but there is a legend about them.

The story goes that one of the early rulers of Austria wore a white tunic in battle one day, and the battle was so bloody that the entire tunic was bloodstained by the end of the fighting. When he took his belt off, however, the part of the tunic protected by the belt was still white. However, I haven't been able to trace the name of the particular ruler or what battle it was he was fighting in. At any rate, true or not, that legend is the origin of the modern Austrian flag .
Mike Oettle, 15 March 2002

Smith (1975) quotes a similar legend (although it should be noted that this version is NOT found in Austrian sources):
"The origin of the Austrian colors concerns the Battle of Ptolemais (Acre) in 1191. Duke Leopold V was supposedly granted these arms by King Henry VI, based on the battle-bloodied tunic of the duke, which had remained white only where covered by his wide belt. Losing his standard during the fray, Leopold supposedly raised his tunic as a rallying point, and the design was subsequently made official."
Zeljko Heimer, 18 March 2002

Ptolemais is the same as Acre or Akko, in Israel, which was reconquered by Philippe II Auguste of France from Saladin in 1191.
Jarig Bakker,  18 March 2002

Note that a "fess" (Norman French for sash) is so called because it resembles the sash or belt a knight would wear across his waist.
Santiago Dotor, 20 March 2002

Andrew Wheatcroft (1995) "The Habsburgs - Embodying Empire" reported that Duke Leopold V of Austria (referred to in one source as "Leopold Heldenthum") was of the Babenberg dynasty. The Babenbergs were the original Margraves and then Dukes of Austria, reigning from 976 to 1246.  They were followed by the Habsburgs who were Dukes of Austria from 1278.
Leonie Giudici, 20 March 2002

Vertical Hoisting

ratio variable, commonly around 3:10~, by Zeljko Heimer
[Click for larger view.]

The ratio of the vertical flag is not prescribed (but shown in an accompanying drawing in Album des Pavillons 2000 as close to 3:10~). It is prescribed always to be hoisted from a crossbar, and it is forbidden for the vertical flag to include the coat of arms (though, I could swear I have seen them in use).
Zeljko Heimer, 20 February 2001

One of the biggest problems for vexillologists in Austria is the widespread use of the so-called "Hausfahnen" or "Hängefahnen".  Their ratio not being prescribed, they come in all lengths - up to 20 meters suspended from rooftops. This tradition goes back centuries, the advantage being of course that in land-locked, no-navy Austria there are times without wind in which vertical flags "do show" while horizontal flags do not unfurl.

Since the state flag was regulated in 1984, the vertical flag with an eagle is slowly going out of use, being discouraged by flagmakers.
Peter Diem, 16 August 2002

Note that vertically hanging flags are part of the Central European tradition, of which Austria is the core, and it would be all but logical that these flags would be then used everywhere else around but in Austria. Vertical flags are in frequent use in Bavaria, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia etc. As Dr. Diem says, the tradition goes back centuries, and should not be shunned. And, it should not be a problem for vexillologists They should (as we should on FOTW) note the usage and practice, compare it with legislation etc. Slovenian local flags deal with this problem properly, providing legislative basis for this custom that is certainly backed with the weather conditions and wish for the best, most useful and most decorative flag display.
Zeljko Heimer, 20 August 2002

Masthead Pennant


by Zeljko Heimer

Red-whte-red triangular pennant with stripes coverging towards the fly. Prescribed size is 20 x 250 cm (i.e., ratio 2:25). 
Zeljko Heimer, 20 February 2001

This pennant is described as "Pennant for Officer (Offizierswimpel)" on the web page for the Austrian Federal Ministry for National Defence.
Luis Miguel Arias Pérez, 17 September 2001

Austrian National Olympic Committee

Austrian National Olympic Committee Flag by Peter Diem   Austrian National Olympic Committee Flag by António Martins

The ÖOC uses the national colours with their logo in the middle.
Peter Diem, 22 August 2002

Here's my interpretation of Peter's description (shown above).  The detail of the logo is also displayed enlarged.
António Martins, 10 October 2002

1930's flag(?)

Austrian National Olympic Committee Flag by Antonio Martins

This flag is based on a black and white illustration from the 1930's although the precise source is unknown.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 25 August 2002

I could not find a single source for this design.  I assume it was a one-time use only.  For the present style of the Austrian Olympic Committee, see
Peter Diem, 16 August 2002