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Uri canton (Switzerland)
Last modified: 2023-09-23 by martin karner
Keywords: switzerland | uri | canton | bull | german |
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image by António Martins
Or, a bull's head caboshed sable, langued and noseringed gules.
On a yellow field, a black bull's head with no neck, seen face on, with a
red tongue and a red nose ring. That's the official part, but
heraldic artists can take liberties beyond that. The inside of the
bull's ears and the outline of the eyes are sometimes rendered in
red. Like all cantonal banners, this flag is derived from a war flag
and is square.
image by Pascal Gross
To illustrate the "liberties taken by the heraldic artists", this
illustration comes from Achermann (1990). Here the bull seems to have eaten a bit more and looks somewhat better this way.
It contrasts with the more commonly seen rather skinny shape of the bull's head,
shown at the top of this page and known on a flag dating from the 15th century.
Pascal Gross, 19 June 2001
The black and yellow are taken from the black eagle on yellow field
of the Holy Roman Empire, and the substitution of a bull is perhaps a
pun. The bull is actually an aurochs, a now extinct European bison,
thought to have been plentiful in Uri and domesticated by the locals
(hence the nose ring). To the original Helvetes (Celts), the bull
was a royal symbol and a symbol of their god Cernunnos. Urners
(people of Uri) have long been teased by other Swiss that the nose
ring signified they were wildmen who had to be tamed ("Ur" means
wilderness, and Bos Urus is Latin for aurochs). The ring was
originally gold, meaning it was an "augmentation of honour"
(According to legend, a pope granted this honour for military
The Uri flag is thought to have been in existence since at least
1231 when King Heinrich, son of Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich II,
granted the region "imperial freedom". This meant they were
sovereign and owed no feudal allegiance to anybody but the emperor
and that they were entitled to their own flag. The flag was
definitely carried at the battles of Mortgarten (1315) and Laupen
(1339). A flag carried in those battles is preserved in the townhall
T.F. Mills, 15 October 1997
The bull's head is called Uristier, meaning aurochs, Bos uris, which
was domesticated by the original settlers. The red ring was originally gold. Uri
citizens have been teased that the the nose ring represents the fact that the
people of Uri had to be tamed. The bull has Celtic origins, representing royalty
and a personification of the deity Cernunnos, who bore stag antlers.
Source: Angst (1992), "A Panoply of
Colours: The Cantonal Banners of Switzerland and the Swiss National Flag"
Phil Nelson, 14 October 1998
[Oldest known seal of Uri, around 1249, head of bull in profile (sign-off) (source). –
Oldest existing banner of Uri, carried in the battle of Morgarten (1315) (source). –
Banner of Uri, carried in the battle of Sempach (1386), with Confederate Cross (source). –
Julius Banner (1512), dedicated from pope Julius II for Uri's
support in the Pavia campaign. Silk damask. Zwickelbild showing Crucifixion scene; below the papal
keys are applied (source). –
Window pane (1639); banner with Resurrection scene in the canton (after banner carried in the battle
of Grandson, 1476); halberdier blowing a horn of an aurochs (Uristier, the heraldic animal), an old
military instrument. Location: town hall of Sempach/LU (source)]
by Ole Andersen
Simple rectangular cantonal flag, as shown in Kannik (1956).
Ole Andersen, 4 August 2002
images by Pascal Gross
Flaggen, Knatterfahnen and Livery Colours
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