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County Flags of Bavaria (Germany)

Bayrische Kreisflaggen

Last modified: 2014-03-13 by klaus-michael schneider
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My drawings of flags of Bavarian counties are based on data provided mainly by Falko Schmidt who got the information from the Bavarian State Archives and from enquiries to the counties, but also by Erich Dieter Linder, Dirk Schönberger and Marcus Schmöger. Erich Dieter Linder and Falko Schmidt wrote Linder and Schmidt 2000 [available online at the DGF website], an article about Bavarian county flags in Der Flaggenkurier no. 12, and Dieter Linder gave a presentation about them at the 8th Meeting of German Vexillologists at Bremen - a PowerPoint file containing his presentation is available online.
Prior to the municipal reorganisation in the early seventies, Bavaria had 143 counties and 51 independent (county-free) cities. Of these counties, all but three (Illertissen, Laufen, Rothenburg) had arms, and 75 had flags. The reform reduced their number to 71 counties and 25 cities. The counties and cities are grouped into seven Bezirke or districts. Of the new counties, all have arms and all but one (Lindau) use flags, six of them unofficially. Some of the flags of these new counties are identical to the flags of pre-reform counties.
Counties are generally named after their main city, with some exceptions. Some are named after two cities - e.g. Freyung-Grafenau - and a few are named after rivers or landscape elements. Therefore, unless otherwise mentioned, the name of the capital is identical to the name of the county.
The coat of of arms in my flag images are all taken from Ralf Hartemink's International Civic Arms website which in turn come from Stadler 1964-1972 and Linder and Olzog 1996.
Stefan Schwoon, 9 Jul and 19 Sep 2001

Symbolism of County Coat of Arms

Since county coat of arms are the most distinctive feature of the flags, explanations on them seem appropriate. Most of the designs feature elements symbolizing historical states (often pre-1803) which the counties' areas once belonged to, combined with 'local' symbols for distinction. Here is a short overview of the most common symbols. More detailed explanations of the county arms can be found at Ralf Hartemink's International Civic Arms website (clickable map of Bavarian counties here).

Bavaria: lozengy of white and blue:; These are the arms of the Wittelsbach family that ruled Bavaria for nearly a millenium until the monarchies in Germany were abolished in 1918. The arms were inherited by the Wittelsbachs from the counts of Bogen - whose possessions were near the Danube river around Regensburg - in the 13th century. Lozenges in county coat of armss are thus often used to indicate that the area of the county has belonged to Bavaria for long times and are more commonly found in the southern and eastern parts of Bavaria - Upper and Lower Bavaria and Upper Palatinate -. In the areas of Franconia and Swabia (north and western parts) other symbols take precedence as these areas were added to Bavaria between 1803 and 1816 - in fact, some people in those areas tend to insist that they are not Bavarians at all.

Archbishopric of Mainz: white wheel in a red field: The archbishops of Mainz were important rulers in central Germany - e.g. the bishop was one of the seven electors of the emperor - and owned large possessions, including some in Lower Franconia in the northwest of Bavaria; these were added to Bavaria during or in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. The origin of the wheel is not known. It is also present in the arms (and flag) of Rhineland-Palatinate (where the city of Mainz is located).

Bishopric of Würzburg / Franconia: three white points in a red field: The bishops of Würzburg also held many estates mainly in Lower Franconia. The bishopric came under Bavarian rule in 1803/1815. In 1835 its arms were included in the arms of Bavaria to symbolize the Franconian parts of the (then) Kingdom. Since then the points - also called Rechen, rake, in German - have come to be seen as a symbol for Franconia as a whole - i.e. not just the parts previously under the rule of Würzburg.

Imperial cities: black (double-headed) eagle in a gold field: Some Coat of Arms feature the imperial eagle, mostly to symbolize the presence of former imperial cities within the county. These were cities not belonging to any lordship, but directly subordinate to the emperor. In the area today covered by Bavaria, these were Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Schweinfurt, (Bad) Windsheim, Rothenburg/Tauber, Dinkelsbühl and Weissenburg (at a time also Feuchtwangen). Their independence ended in 1803/1806.

Zollern: quartered of white and black: The Zollern family, originally located in Swabia, became Burggraves of Nuremberg in 1191 and acquired further territories (Ansbach, Bayreuth, Kulmbach) in the 14th century. Hence, a considerable portion of what is today Central and Upper Franconia (the northern part of Bavaria) was then under their rule. In 1417, they also became Electors of Brandenburg, and assumed the arms of Brandenburg (the red eagle). Hence, a number of county Coat of Arms also show the eagle (e.g. Bayreuth).

Bishopric of Bamberg: black lion in a golden field and covered by a thin white bend: The territories of the prince-bishops of Bamberg were located in what is now roughly the western part of Upper Franconia, the area around Bamberg. The bend is probably for distinction from similar arms, e.g. those of Salzburg. The bishopric became a part of Bavaria in 1803.

Palatinate (Pfalz): yellow lion, crowned and armed red, in a black field: The Palatinate was a county with various splintered possessions along the Rhine. Originally it was ruled by the Staufen family; from their arms the lion is derived. The prince of the Palatinate was the chairman in the council of Electors of the emperor - the lion's crown symbolizes this privilege. In 1214 the Wittelsbachs, the rulers of Bavaria, acquired the county, and - apart from various territorial changes - it remained a part of Bavaria, though separated from the rest of its territory, until 1945. In 1329 the Wittelsbach split their territories into two lines - Ludwig's line took Bavaria proper, and Rudolf's line the Palatinate and the northern part of the Duchy - which became in the course of time known as the Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz) - today the eastern part of Bavaria. In 1777 the two lines and their territories merged again. The lion plays a part in the heraldry of the Upper Palatinate and other territories held by the Rudolfian line (e.g. Neuburg). It also appears in the large state arms of Bavaria, and moreover in those of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland.
Stefan Schwoon, 21 Sep 2001

Current Counties

Counties before the 30th June 1972 municipal reform

Descriptions of Other County Flags

Bavaria county flags [from Flaggenmitteilung?]:
County or Kreis - colours (* with coat of armst-of-arms) - adoption date
Aichach-Friedberg - green-yellow - 10 Dec 1975
Aschaffenburg - red-white-blue* - 14 Nov 1974
Augsburg - red-yellow* - 15 May 1975
Cham - red-white-blue* - 9 Dec 1975
Dachau - white-red-white - 15 Jul 1976
Donau-Ries - black-yellow* - 27 Apr 1977
Eichstätt - yellow-red - 22 Nov 1974
Erlangen-Höchstadt - black-yellow-blue - 19 Aug 1976
Kelheim - blue-white-blue* - 31 Oct 1975
Kulmbach - white-red-yellow - 28 Aug 1975
Lichtenfels - black-yellow-blue - 1 Jul 1977
Neu-Ulm - yellow-red-white - 7 Jan 1975
Rhön-Grabfeld - red-white-green* - 17 Aug 1976
Schwandorf - red-white-blue* - 13 Dec 1974
Würzburg - white-black-yellow - 13 Dec 1974
Jaume Ollé, 24 Sep 1999

These are flags of Kreise (counties).
Incorrect colours are:
- Eichstätt white-red-yellow;
- Kulmbach white-black-yellow - 21 Feb1989;

- Lichtenfels 15 Jul 1977;
- Kelheim 31 Oct 1975
Marcus Schmöger, 9 Mar 2001

Corpus Christi Day flag observations

Corpus Christi Day (Fronleichnam) is in (catholic) Bavaria an important holiday with much flagging. Many of the rural municipalities show not only the catholic church flag, but also their municipal flag (more frequently than on official flagging days, such as 3 October), so I am usually out there to take fotos. Furthermore, the processions that day abound of flags, not only church banners, but also club banners, flags of church-related organizations such as scouts or catholic workers' organizations (KAB).

This year (19 Jun 2003) I chose the Kreis Freising (county Freising) northeast of Munich for a municipal flag survey, plus some adjacent municipalities in counties München and Pfaffenhofen. I will give only descriptions of the flags, as the giffing will take some time and is definitely not one of my top priorities right now.

All flags I saw were vertical variants (Banner, Hängeflagge or Knatterflagge). Interestingly there were a lot of (presumably) unofficial municipal flags around, notably white-blue flags (Bavarian colours) with the municipal coat of armst of arms.
Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 23 Jun 2003

The details of the observation can be read within the county pages of Freising County, Pfaffenhofen County and München County.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 12 Mar 2014