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Hanging Flags Vertically

Last modified: 2002-03-08 by phil nelson
Keywords: vertical | indoors |
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The rule is that when a flag is hung vertically the honour point (i.e., the top-left hand corner) should still be at the top-left. This means that most flags rotate 90 degrees and are then turned over. For example, the US flag has to be reversed to keep the canton in the top-left. The union flag just rotates, so as to keep the thick white stripe uppermost in the top-left corner. This all stems from heraldic practice, and basically mean creating new flags for many countries. More difficult are the aspect ratios - I modify the aspect ratios to 2:3 so that when hung in groups the flags are all the same height (I tried varying the widths but that looked daft, and having different lengths just doesn't work vertically).
Graham Bartram, 8 August 1996

Flags are often hoisted vertically, especially in Central and Eastern Europe (including Italy, Austria and Germany). Flags with symbols on them can be hoisted vertically in two ways - either the symbol can be left in the position as if the flag was 'normal' (as is done with the Croatian flag), or it could be rotated, so that it remains in a horizontal position, even if the flag is rotated (a well known example is the flag of Liechenstein).

It should be pointed out that normally the vertically hoisted flag is displayed from the reverse, so that the side that is seen when horizontally hoisted comes to the observer's left. The flag is therefore not just rotated 90 degrees, but also flipped around. There are, of course exceptions, which will be noted.

I believe that most of the flags when hoisted vertically should be displayed on their reverse side (i.e., that the upper part of the flag comes to the observer's left). With bi- and tricolours, there is no problem. The problem arises with the flags that have some symbol on them - whether they should be displayed rotated together with the flags or not. Here are some that do not change the emblem, i.e., the flag is the same as if it would be for normal hoisting:
Zeljko Heimer, 7 August 1996

On page 47 of Znamierowski's World Encyclopedia of Flags there is a short discussion on vertical hoisting of the national flags. Four countries are mentioned forbidding such practice, namely Brazil, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka. Is that really so? But then what about vertically hoisted flags of those countries on some recent sporting events (this seems to be popular there lately). At least for SA we have on FOTW special design for vertical hoisting. Is it official, and if so was it officialized lately (so Znamierowski could be actually right)? Or is it just the record of what is done in practice, weather official or not.

When I think of it, I can't remember ever seeing a Pakistan or Sri Lanka flag vertically hoisted in their countiries (OK, I admit I have not seen much of them otherwise, but...) For Brazil, I am not so sure...

Still regardin the same issue, Znamierowski writes that Liechenstein, Slovakia and Slovenia have special design of their flags for vertical hoisting. In case of Liechenstein and Slovakia, I am not sure, it may be that the laws on flag in those countries indeed have speical paragraphs devoted to how to deal with their flags when hoisted vertically, but I do not think that one should call those designs anything more special the, say Austrian or German state flags with the COAs vertial on vertically hoisted flags, though if they maybe do not have that practice specially mentioned in laws.

In case of Slovenia, I am quite sure that there is no special design prescribed by law for vertical hoisting - only horizontal flag is in the law (IIRC, I should doublecheck, but...). And therefore the design is not more special the aforementioed Germany or Austria or even Hungary.

What is even more irritating is that just this paragraph that is so "intricate" is abruptly broken at the end of page 47 in the middle of the sentence. I don't remember seeing this in the list of corrections.
Zeljko Heimer, 25 March 2000

According to information supplied to me by the Flag Research Center, Brazil, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Liechtenstein, Vatican City, Slovakia, and Slovenia have special flag designs for vertical hoisting. The list provided to me is not a complete list. In addition, it notes that some flags should have their normal top to the left and some to the right when hoisted vertically.
Dave Martucci, 26 March 2000

Flags known to have variants for vertical hanging

Country Flag variant in vertical position Contributor
Austrian state flag, Austrian subdivisions arms are rotated Zeljko Heimer, 07 August 1996
Bosnia & Herzegovina both normal and rotated shields have been seen Zeljko Heimer, 07 August 1996
British Virgin Islands shield with virgin is rotated so that she remains upright Graham Bartram, 07 August 1996
Cambodia The blue stripes are narrower than usual to allow the Angkor-Vat temple to be (rotated horizontally) Ivan Sache, 19 November 2000
Canada flag is hung with reverse showing (i.e., maple leaf stalk on right) Zeljko Heimer, 07 August 1996
Czech Republic the white stripe should be on the left side Ales Brozek, 07 August 1996
Dominica flag is hung with reverse showing, but parrot retains original position Graham Bartram, Zeljko Heimer, 07 August 1996
Germany, and its subdivisions flags with arms have the arms rotated Zeljko Heimer, 07 August 1996
Hungary state flag with arms has arms rotated Zeljko Heimer, 07 August 1996
Liechtenstein crown rotates Graham Bartram, 07 August 1996
Poland state flag with arms has arms rotated Zeljko Heimer, 07 August 1996
Portugal I believe the arms do not rotate Zeljko Heimer, 07 August 1996
Saudi Arabia The reverse of the flag is seen, so the shahada must be reversed on it, so that it can still be read. The sword, however, is left in a reverse position.
South Africa flag is hung with reverse showing (i.e., red stripe on left) Zeljko Heimer, 07 August 96
United Kingdom flag is hung with obverse showing (i.e., it rotates 90 degrees) Zeljko Heimer, 07 August 96
USA The flag is hung with the reverse showing. If it is outdoors (e.g., on the street, or at a scout camp), the blue canton should always be on the north or east side, never the west or south. If the flag is hoisted vertically indoors, or in a place where it is obvious what is the 'right side' for the viewers (e.g., just behind an outdoor stage) the flag should be hoisted with the canton to the viewers' left. Zeljko Heimer, 07 August 1996; Al Fisher, 08 August 1996

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