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Appenzell canton (Switzerland)
Last modified: 1999-06-04 by pascal gross
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by António Martins
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
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