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Appenzell canton (Switzerland)

Last modified: 1999-06-04 by pascal gross
Keywords: switzerland | appenzell | canton | bear |
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[Flag of Appenzell]
by António Martins

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Description of the flag

Appenzell Inner-Rhoden: Argent, a bear rampant sable, armed langued and priapic in his virility gules.

On a white field, an upright black bear with red claws and a red erect penis.

Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden: Argent, a bear rampant between the majuscules "V" dexter and "R" sinister sable, armed langued and priapic in his virility gules.

The same flag as Inner-Rhoden with in addition the letters "V" and "R" on either side of the bear.

When a single flag or arms for both cantons is required, that of Appenzell Inner-Rhoden is displayed.

Symbolism of the flag

The bear is a symbol of power, courage, might and virility. The symbolism of this particular bear is explained by its history.

History of the flag

The bear is that of the Abbott of St. Gallen who was the liege lord of Appenzell until 1403 when the district rebelled and seceded. They adopted the same flag, changing the field from yellow to white and adding an erection on the bear as a defiant political gesture. Appenzell almost went to war with St. Gallen in 1579 when a printer of that city published a calendar ornamented with the arms of the Swiss cantons, and ignorantly turned Appenzell's bear into a female (simply by leaving off the penis). War was avoided when the printer offered abject apologies and St. Gallen destroyed every copy of the calendar they could find.

Appenzell previously had a flag, granted by the abbott, depicting a bear walking on all fours ("marchant") on a honeycombed field. (That flag has been documented as far back as 1377.) The bear of St. Gallen and Appenzell originated in a legend about the Irish missionary. St. Gallus encountered a hungry bear, and, rather than flee or fight, the missionary gave the bear a piece of bread. The bear in gratitude brought him logs to help build a cabin, and around the cabin grew the famous monastery.

The Reformation led to a split of Appenzell in 1537, Inner-Rhoden remaining Catholic, and Ausser-Rhoden becoming Zwinglian. Inner-Rhoden kept its old battle flag, Ausser Rhoden differentiated their flag by adding the Latin letters "V" and "R", standing for "Vssere (ussere) Rhoden". Switzerland was overrun by the forces of the French Revolution in 1798, and occupation troops destroyed most Swiss flags which they could find. Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden saved its flags, however, when a quick-witted local explained to the French that "V R" stood for "Vive la République".

Before it split, Appenzell entered the Swiss Confederation in 1514. That state had already been allied with the Switzerland since 1411. The admission of Appenzell brought the membership of the Confederation to thirteen (not counting half-cantons), a mystical number which remained intact for almost three hundred years, and which proved itself eminently capable of fighting off the claims of powerful neighbours. Their total independence from the German Empire was formally recognised in the Treaty of Westphalia, ending the Thirty Years War in 1648.

T.F. Mills, 28 October 1997

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