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Ticino canton (Switzerland)

Last modified: 2023-09-23 by martin karner
Keywords: switzerland | ticino | canton | italian |
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[Flag of Ticino] image by T.F. Mills

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Description of the flag

Per fess gules and azure.

Horizontally divided into equal parts red over blue. Like Lucerne, but for reasons unknown, Ticino's arms are different from the flag, and the two are often confused. The arms are divided vertically ("per pale gules and azure"). Like several of the flags of cantons created in 1803, Ticino's is heraldically incorrect in that tincture touches tincture (red and blue) without fimbriation.
T.F. Mills, 3 November 1997

Symbolism of the flag

The symbolism of the Ticino flag has been lost, but there are numerous theories. The most plausible is that the red and blue were derived from the predominant colours of the arms of the eight districts which came to form Ticino. The flag may also have been inspired by the red and blue of the Cisalpine Republic of 1797. Less plausible theories include red for the the Swiss Confederation and blue for the sky over Italy, thus denoting "Italian Switzerland"; or that Ticino borrowed the colours from the arms of Paris and intended to honour the French Revolution or Napoleon. Least plausible is the idea that red stands for the liberal party and blue the conservatives, but neither party existed at the time the flag was adopted.
T.F. Mills, 3 November 1997

History of the flag

The original three Forest Cantons (Waldstätten) began expanding southwards into Italian states as early as the 13th century. Their conquests were confirmed in a perpetual peace signed with France in 1516 after the Italian wars. Some regions were administered by the whole Confederation, and others by the three Waldstätten. In 1798, Lugano and Bellinzona were organised as cantons in the Helvetic Republic.

With the restoration of the Swiss Confederation in 1803, Lugano and Bellinzona merged into the new Canton of Ticino, the only (entirely) Italian-speaking canton in modern Switzerland. In May 1803, two months after the creation of the canton, the Great Council resolved that the arms would be red and blue but did not specify their relative positions. The Council determined in September 1804 that the red should be over the blue, but there remained confusion between the arms and the flag. In 1809 the canton organised its military forces, and adopted a red over blue battle flag with the gold inscriptions "Pro Patria" in the upper part, and "Pagus Ticinensis" in the lower. The plain red and blue flag was decisively established by law in 1930.
T.F. Mills, 3 November 1997

[Banner of Ticino canton (ca. 1803), vertically hanging, on the horizontal arms of the cross the inscriptions "LIBERTÀ" and "INDIPENDENZA"; on the upper vertical arm "SVIZZERA"; inscription on the lower arm not readable because of damaged cloth. 190x175 cm, linen. Location: Historical Museum, Lugano (source > slide 22). –
Commemorative medal (1803/1804), with coat of arms, honoring the decision of 20 May 1803 to become a member of the Swiss Confederation. Inscription on obverse: VIRTVTI CIVIVM PRAEMIVM EST PATRIAE LAVS (The virtue of the citizens is the first [or most important] law of the country). On reverse: PAGI TICINENSIS LIBERA COMITIA XX MAII MDCCCIII (The free election [or assembly] of the Land of Ticino, 20 May 1803) and HELVETIORUM FOEDUS AEQUE RENOVATUM (The covenant of the Swiss is equally renewed) (source). –
Allegory of the Republic and Canton of Ticino (1899), with Ticino flag, by Adelchi Maina, detail of the ceiling painting in the cantonal parliament building in Bellinzona. Tempera (source)]

Coat or Arms

[Flag of Lucerne] image by António Martins-Tuválkin

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 abou 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