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Hamburg (Germany)

Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg

Last modified: 2002-06-14 by santiago dotor
Keywords: germany | hamburg | freie und hansestadt hamburg | banner of arms | castle: white | star: 6 points (white) | panel (white) | coat of arms (castle: white) | anchor (blue) | bergedorf |
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[Hamburg (Germany)] 3:5
by Marcus Schmöger
Flag adopted 14th May 1751, readopted 6th June 1952

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Civil and State Flag


[Hamburg (Germany)] 3:5
by Marcus Schmöger
Flag adopted 6th June 1952, first adopted 14 May 1751

This flag was officially adopted 14 May 1751, readopted 6 June 1834, 6 October 1897 and 6 June 1952. Illustrated in Pedersen 1970 no. 150 and Crampton 1990 p. 44.

Norman Martin, January and February 1998

Translated from Hamburger Wappen:

In the flag of the city the white castle from the coat of arms stands on a red field. The colors have been derived from the carnations, which the city presents at official occasions. The city flag was first shown at the end of the 16th century. Until then the ships had on their masts pennon-like wings, which the Hamburgers called "Flögel" in Plattdeutsch (Low German). These "Flögel" did have an official character. Ships from Hamburg which did not use them had to pay a fine of three Marks in silver; likewise those foreign ships, who illegally used that sign.

Jarig Bakker, 30 March 1999

This is a banner-of-arms of the city, read its symbolism under coat-of-arms. (...) About the colours, the Hamburg Official Website says:

Die Hamburger Landesfarben sind weiß-rot (Artikel 5, der Verfassung der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg vom 6. Juni 1952, erstmalig festgelegt durch Senatsbeschluss vom 6. Juni 1834).
my translation:
Hamburg's livery colours (Landesfarben) are white-red (Article 5 of the Constitution of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg of 6th June 1952, first defined by the Senate Decision of 6th June 1834).

Santiago Dotor, 20-21 September 2000

The well-known civil flag showing a white castle with three towers on red background. This is basically the Hamburg flag. It is not only used as a civil flag (and was historically used as civil ensign as well), but also as a state flag for most purposes, i.e. in all cases when the state flag and 'Admiralty' flag are not used.

The flag is essentially a banner-of-arms. The oldest seal with the castle dates from 1241. The first flag displaying the arms showed up about 1470 — this was most probably a red field with a red castle in a white escutcheon. After about 1623 the castle without an escutcheon was used, i.e. a red castle on white or a white castle on red. It was only in 1751, that the white castle on red was decreed as the Hamburg flag. Of course the artistic rendering of the castle varied with the time, but the flag essentially has stayed the same since 1751.

Sources: Smith 1975, Schurdel 1995, Laitenberger and Bassier 2000 and Gaedechens 1855 (C.F. Gaedechens, Der freien und Hansestadt Hamburg Wappen, Siegel, Flagge und Cocarde, Nolte und Köhler, Hamburg 1855, 62 pages, 6 plates).

Marcus Schmöger, 29 May 2001

State Flag used by the Senate


[State Flag used by the Senate (Hamburg, Germany)] 3:5
by Marcus Schmöger
Flag adopted 8th October 1897, readopted 11th May 1951

The "state flag" shows on a red field a white rectangle with the greater arms of Hamburg. It was introduced in 1897. This is only used by the Senat ('Senate' i.e. government) of Hamburg and not by other authorities. The respective regulations dating from 1949 and 1951 say that the flag should be hoisted at the town hall and at the mast of the Senate boat when a senator is on board. Sources: Smith 1975, Schurdel 1995, Laitenberger and Bassier 2000 and Gaedechens 1855.

Marcus Schmöger, 29 May 2001

'Admiralty' Flag

Admiralitätsflagge / Flag for State Shipping Buildings and Jack for State Vessels

['Admiralty' Flag (Hamburg, Germany)] 3:5
by Marcus Schmöger
Flag adopted 6th June 1952, first adopted 14 May 1751

The Admiralitätsflagge (admiralty flag). Several versions of this are already among the historical flags. It shows on a red field a blue anchor with a yellow horizontal bar behind the castle. Since 1642 the admiralty (the office responsible for all harbour and shipping matters) had its own arms: the blue anchor with the white castle. It is not clear to me from my sources since when has the flag been used. In the newer regulations (1949 and 1951) the use of this flag is decreed: the admiralty flag is used as state flag on state buildings serving shipping, and as a jack on Hamburg state vessels. Sources: Smith 1975, Schurdel 1995, Laitenberger and Bassier 2000 and Gaedechens 1855.

Marcus Schmöger, 29 May 2001

Senators and Other Authorities' Flags

Order of 4 January 1952. Senators: square german flag (25x25) with white square in center border[e]d red (12 × 12 [cm], border 1.7 cm) and within the arms. Advisers (Conselliors?) same but rectangular 18 × 25 [cm] (square 8.5 [cm] border 1.25 [cm]). Senators of state and "Conselliors", german flag with small arms with white border. Source: Roger Harmignies, article in Vexilla Belgica, issue 11, 1987.

Jaume Ollé, 29 July 1999



Lesser Arms
Kleines Landeswappen
Middle Arms
Mittleres Landeswappen
Greater Arms
Großes Landeswappen
[Lesser Arms (Hamburg, Germany)] [Middle Coat-of-Arms (Hamburg, Germany)] [Greater Arms (Hamburg, Germany)]
all three by Marcus Schmöger

Translated from Hamburger Wappen:

The oldest coat of arms of Hamburg has been retained on a city seal of 1241. It probably existed long before that: a castle with three towers. Over the middle tower there was a cross even then, indicating certain church in the city. The towers and the walls with their pinnacles and the closed gate symbolized the determination of the town to defend itself. The so-called Stars of Mary (Mariensterne) on top of the two side-towers recalls the fact that Hamburg used to be an archbishopric. During the centuries the towers, walls, pinnacles and symbols of the coat of arms of Hamburg changed several times, without changing in character. The use of city seals with the coat of arms was in olden times a privilege of the City Council; the city elders had to watch its maintenance. Even now the coat of arms is protected and can only be used under specific circumstances.

Jarig Bakker, 30 March 1999

Three variants of the arms are used in Hamburg:

  • The lesser arms (Kleines Landeswappen) only shows the white three-towered castle with two six-pointed stars on a red escutcheon. This dates back to the oldest seals (1241).
  • The middle arms (Mittleres Landeswappen) decorates the escutcheon with a helmet with crest [which includes three peacock feathers and six banners of the arms] and mantling. This variant dates back to 1594.
  • In the greater arms (Großes Landeswappen) two golden lions are added as supporters [standing on a compartment]. This variant dates back to 1640.
I do not have proper sources on the actual use of these three variants. According to the images in Schurdel 1995 and Laitenberger and Bassier 2000 the greater arms is used in the greater state seal (Großes Staatssiegel) and the greater service seal (Großes Dienstsiegel), as well as in the state flag. The lesser arms is used in the lesser service seal (Kleines Dienstsiegel). However, I have not found an instance when the middle arms is used.

Sources: Hesmer 1992, Schurdel 1995, Laitenberger and Bassier 2000 and Gaedechens 1855.

Marcus Schmöger, 30 May 2001

Mistakenly reported flag, non-existent

[Mistakenly reported flag, non-existent (Hamburg, Germany)]
by Jorge Candeias

Horizontal bicolor white over red.

Norman Martin, January-February 1998

Hamburg is my home town. The flag shown above (de_ham12.gif) does not exist. The Landesfarben section of Hamburg's constitution just states that the official colours used in Hamburg are white and red. This does not imply a flag showing white over red as indicated. (...) This is very similar to Bremen (...) where the colours are [also] white and red but they never use them as a flag.

Niels Rump, 18 April 2001

I wanted to report already on the Landesfarben problem, but I am not sure if I can explain it correctly, especially from an historical point-of-view. To put it shortly: Landesfarben does not always mean, that there is a flag striped two or three times in these colours. In most of the German states (that is in the non-maritime states) this does apply, but certainly not in Bremen and Hamburg. In a strict sense Landesfarben means "colours of the (federal) state" and does not imply any use on flags. Historically however, the colours of the flags, very frequently derived from the arms, as did the Landesfarben. Also the flags were usually, at least in the non-maritime states, simple striped flags. The concept of the Landesfarben is, in my humble opinion, a concept of the 19th century, which means, that there are many problems and mistakes (...). The term Landesfarben is used indiscriminately, even in official publications and legal texts; this led already former researchers to believe that there were actual flags in the Landesfarben colours in Bremen and Hamburg, or at least to depict Landesfarben in form of flags (see for example Neubecker 1929).

So what then are Landesfarben used for? Landesfarben usually means:

  1. The flag uses these colours (often, but not always in horizontal stripes).
  2. In the case of Bremen the order, in which the Landesfarben are mentioned as red-white, this implies the order of the (at least) eight stripes of the flag from the top, so that red is always on top.
  3. Any decoration during festivities (banners, ribbons, etc) should be in these colours.
  4. At least in former times very important: the cocard would be in these colours. In the times when the term Landesfarben originated, cocards were much more important than flags for normal persons.
  5. Nowadays, cocards might be used on police caps or hats, for instance.
  6. Sometimes orders and decorations have ribbons in the Landesfarben.
  7. Sentry boxes and toll-bars had been painted in these Landesfarben.
So to come back to Hamburg. There is simply no striped flag of white and red, and as far as I know, there has never been one. This is difficult to prove, though, as it is always difficult to prove the non-existence of anything. There are books that show the Landesfarben, as if these were horizontal bicolours (e.g. Neubecker 1929). However, neither are there photos known to me that show these flags nor are there legal texts prescribing this flag nor is there any need for this flag, as there is already a well-known and accepted civil flag and civil ensign, the white castle on red.

Marcus Schmöger, 24 September 2001

Thinking about it, what flag is used in Hamburg as hanging flag? The castle won't fit there nicely, so maybe a (vertically) striped flag is used indeed. On the other hand, there is a reference about these Landesfarben having been adopted in 1834.

Santiago Dotor, 4 October 2001

They use the white castle on red anyway, even if it doesn't fit nicely. For instance, I have this (famous) photo of 1948 (from Kuhn 1991) with vertical flags of all Länder, including the Hamburg flag. The castle was depicted a bit differently then, but that's it. (The Bremen flag is also there: vertical flag, eight stripes, middle arms in the centre.)

The Senatsbeschluß über die Hamburger Flaggen vom 6. Juni 1834 (Resolution of the Senate on the flags of Hamburg of 6th June 1834) says, "(...) die Hamb. Flaggen auf diese Weise gestaltet seyen und namenthlich die Grundfarbe roth, das Wappen weiß seyn müsse.", that is, "(...) the Hamb. flags are to be designed in this way and particularly the field colour shall be red, the arms white." So you see, that this text mainly stresses, that the field should be red and the arms white. (There had been other, erroneous, colours for the basic flag design: white with red castle or blue with white castle, see also Gaedechens 1855.) There is no mention of Landesfarben.

Marcus Schmöger, 4 October 2001


[Bergedorf (Hamburg, Germany)]
by Rob Raeside

Bergedorf is a district of Hamburg. It was annexed by Lübeck in 1420, and belonged to Hamburg since 1868, becoming part of this town in 1937. The flag of the former city of Bergedorf was green over white.

Pascal Vagnat, 9 September 1996 and 5 July 2001

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