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Thurgau canton (Switzerland)

Last modified: 2011-01-07 by rob raeside
Keywords: switzerland | thurgau | canton | lion | bend |
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[Flag of Thurgau] image by António Martins

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Description of the flag

Per bend vert and argent, two lions passant bendwise proper.

The field is divided diagonally green in the hoist and white in the fly. Each part is charged with a golden lion walking upwards toward the staff. The golden lion on the white field constitutes a major violation of heraldic rules by mixing metals and creating a visibility problem.
T.F. Mills, 02 November 1997

Symbolism of the flag

The golden lions, representing the valiant and fearless soldier, were taken from an ancient liege lord of Thurgau, and the green and white colours were adopted as "revolutionary" in 1803.
T.F. Mills, 02 November 1997

History of the flag

Thurgau existed as a jurisdiction since the 8th century, when it was a possession of the Counts of Kyburg. They gave their family arms to Thurgau in 1094, which were then "sable, a bend between two lions passant bendwise or" (a diagonal golden band separating two golden lions on a black field). In 1264 Count Rudolf of Hapsburg took over the county and changed the black field in the arms to red. Thurgau was conquered by the Swiss Confederation in 1460 and ruled jointly by the cantons through a bailiff. In 1798 Thurgau became a canton in the Helvetic Republic.

With the restoration of the Swiss Confederation in 1803, and the creation of Thurgau as one of its six new cantons, the local "revolutionary" government tinkered with the old arms, omitting the bend and changing the red field to green and white. (Cf. Vaud and St. Gallen.) They were not schooled in heraldry, and did not realise that they had violated a major rule by putting metal on metal (golden lion on white field). The lion is normally outlined in black which somewhat reduces the visibility problem. Attempts to correct this error have not succeeded. A proposal in 1938 would have made the whole field green, divided diagonally by a white "bendlet" (half the width of a bend).
T.F. Mills, 02 November 1997

Historical Thurgau flags

Based on Todd's excellent texts, here's three historic Thurgau flags.
Antonio Martins, 20 December 1997

[The original Kyburg Counts arms] image by António Martins

The original Kyburg Counts arms, granted to Thurgau in 1094: sable, a bend between two lions passant bendwise, all or.
Antonio Martins, 20 December 1997

[Flag of Thurgau 1264] image by António Martins

In 1264, Rudolf of Hapsburg exchanged black with red.
Antonio Martins, 20 December 1997

[Proposal flag of Thurgau 1938] image by António Martins

The correction proposal, refused in a 1938 referendum.
Antonio Martins, 20 December 1997

Variations of the flag

[Flag of Thurgau] image by Ole Andersen

Simple rectangular cantonal flag, as shown in Kannik (1956).
Ole Andersen, 4 August 2002

Flaggen, Knatterfahnen and Livery Colours




[livery colours]

images by Pascal Gross

Flaggen are vertically hoisted from a crossbar in the manner of gonfanon, in ratio of about 2:9, with a swallowtail that indents about 2 units. The chief, or hoist (square part) usually incorporates the design from the coat of arms - not from the flag. The fly part is always divided lengthwise, usually in a bicolour, triband or tricolour pattern (except Schwyz which is monocolour, and Glarus which has four stripes of unequal width). The colours chosen for the fly end are usually the main colours of the coat of arms, but the choice is not always straight forward.

Knatterfahnen are similar to Flaggen, but hoisted from the long side and have no swallow tail. They normally show the national, cantonal or communal flag in their chiefs.
Željko Heimer
, 16 July 2000