Austria Flag

Austria Flag

The flag of Austria is a simple, horizontal arrangement of two red bands with one white band in the center. All three bands are of equal size and shape. This bare red-white-red triband is the civil flag of Austria, but the state and military flag also bears a centrally placed coat of arms, which is a black eagle with its wings and claws spread out and a three-point crown on its head.

The pattern red white red first arose on heraldic shields of the Medieval Babenberg dynasty, but at that time, it was a silver stripe in the middle. Since at least 1105, this red-silver-red pattern was used in Austria, but in 1230, the final Babenberg ruler changed the silver to white. His motive may not have been particularly noble, since his nickname was “the Quarrelsome” and he is thought to have switched colors as a way of simply asserting his own autonomy. Nonetheless, the red-white-red flag was taken over by Bohemia upon defeating Austria at the Battle of Leitha River in 1246. It was then taken up by the Habsburg rulers of Austria in 1278 upon defeating Bohemia at the Battle of Marchfeld.

Legend says that Leopold V, victor of Marchfeld, had adopted the flag earlier after the Siege of Acre. His coat was covered in blood during the battle, and when he removed his belt, a white stripe appeared between two red areas. However romantic the legend, history seems to indicate that the flag’s ultimate origins involve the silver cross on a red field of the Holy Roman Empire and of the Austrian capital city Vienna. The cross became a band, the band became white, and the resultant flag was passed around a couple times before being tied to the Habsburgs. Later, in the 1700’s, it was used as a naval ensign, and in 1918, it became the national flag of Austria.

The coat of arms was added in 1919, but during the German occupation of 1934 to 1938, the eagle became double-headed. In 1945, after the liberation from Nazi rule, broken chains were added to the eagle’s feet. The eagle is jet black, has long spear-like feathers, a highly ornate tail, a curved beak, and an projected tongue. It bears a red-white-red coat of arms on its chest. The crown on its head represents the middle class, and the sickle and hammer in its two claws represent, respectively, agriculture and industry.