The Flag of Austria: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: December 31, 2022
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A flag can reveal details about the culture and history of a nation. For example, France’s colors pay homage to freedom, inclusivity, and solidarity, while America’s 50 stars on its flag embody the states. Tales and flags are entangled, and people can distinctly remember historical heroes thanks to their symbolic meaning and heritage.

Austria’s flag arose based on cultural folklore. The colors of the Austrian flag and the emblem are deeply symbolic of the country. There are red and white stripes everywhere throughout Austria, but what do these colors signify? This article addresses the history, meaning, and symbolism of the Austrian Flag. Let’s begin!

Introduction to the Flag of Austria

The flag of Austria is one of the oldest national flags in the world.

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Austria’s flag is regarded as one of the world’s oldest national flags and is second only to Denmark’s in age. It is a tri-band flag in a rectangular shape with colors white and red. The evenly parallel bands are positioned with red at the first and last rows and a white band at the center. The layout can only be changed in a particular instance of historical events, and damage to it is deemed illegal.

The Austrian flag is remarkably similar to several flags in the world, such as Leuven and Bouillon in Belgium, Savona in Italy, Hoorn Dordrecht, Leiden and Gouda in the Netherlands, and Colombia’s Puerto Asís. The flag is believed to have influenced Lebanon’s flag and the Stars and Bars adopted in 1861 to 1863 by the Confederate States of America.

The Austrian Flag’s History

The Austrian flag, embraced in 1918, is a red shield including a horizontal white stripe in the middle and is associated with Duke Leopold V. There are several versions of the story that tells the roots of the flag that we know today; however, the most prominent is usually one of blood and violence. It is claimed that during the 1191 siege of Acre, Duke Leopold V was severely injured and was losing blood to such a point that his tunic was soaked in blood. However, when he stripped away his belt, a line of untainted fabric was left over, which inspired the creation of the horizontal white stripe that runs between the red ones.

Although historians discredit this story, it portrays a striking, though somewhat nightmarish, image, which is likely why the folklore has persisted for years. Austria’s first recorded use of its current flag was in 1230.

With the final moment of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, followed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Austria lost its empire flags and was reduced to its current borders. The new republic introduced the common red-white-red flag, which resurfaced in 1945 after seven years of Austrian unification with Nazi Germany.

Meaning of the Colors on the Austrian Flag

The red color on the flag of Austria represents love, generosity, bloodshed, and dominance. It also represents power and valor. While the white color embodies pureness and genuineness.

The fusion of red-white-red has been highly recognized as the Austrian colors favored by the ruling Habsburg Dynasty since the time of Rudolph of Habsburg and the Treaty of Rheinfelden in 1283. Interestingly, until 1918, the black-yellow flag served as the country’s flag of the Habsburg dynasty in Austria, the subsequent Austrian Empire, the Austrian portion of Austria-Hungary, and occasionally even the absolute imperial power. These were the Imperial House of Habsburg’s family colors, partly inspired by the Holy Roman Empire’s flag.

The Symbolism of the Austrian Flag

The destroyed chain on the legs of the eagle on the flag of Austria represents liberty.

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Austria has had a handful of flags throughout its history, and it now utilizes two distinct designs you’ll find all over Vienna. The most commonly used form is the basic red and white style, which was adopted as the country’s national flag in 1945. 

The unconventional variation (widely recognized as the triband) is based on the Babenberg dynasty and involves an eagle spreading its wings. The eagle was already highly regarded in advanced societies as an icon of the sun, the life force, and the greatest divine power.

The black imperial eagle, either with one head or occasionally sporting two, has emerged on Austrian flags for several hundred years and still represents the nation’s heritage. In 1945, a destroyed chain was introduced to the eagle’s legs to signify liberty. The sickle clutched in its right claw represents commoners, the hammer represents laborers, and the crown on its head represents the middle class. Like many ancient emblems, the Austrian shield (found on the chest of the eagle) has no defined symbolic inferences, though it is often said that the white represents the gleaming waters of the Danube River.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/VanReeel


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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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Sources
  1. , Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Austria
  2. , Available here: https://www.worldatlas.com/flags/austria
  3. , Available here: https://flagsworld.org/austria-flag.html
  4. , Available here: https://theculturetrip.com/austria/articles/the-story-behind-the-austrian-flag/
  5. , Available here: https://www.gettysburgflag.com/flags-banners/austria-flags