This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Hammerfest, Finmark (Norway)

Last modified: 2021-08-25 by christopher oehler
Keywords: hammerfest | polar bear | soroysund | boats (3) |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

Commune flag image by Tomislav Šipek, 13 February 2017
Granted on 16 December 1938.

See also:

The Flag

The arms of Hammerfest, a silver polar bear on a red field, were prepared for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the town's foundation in 1939. The arms, which were recently redrawn by heraldic artist Arvid Sveen, were adopted by Royal resolution of 16 December 1938. However, the image I have made is made with an older version as the model. According to [cjo87] the idea of the arms is to show the importance of hunting Arctic resources had to the town. The flag corresponds to the arms, that is, a white polar bear on red.
Jan Oskar Engene, 29 April 2002

The flag of Hammerfest is already reported, so here is coat of arms and better flag.
Tomislav Šipek, 12 February 2016

Official blazon in Norwegian: "I blått tre sølv båter, 2-1."
Blazoned in English: "Azure three boats argent two and one."
English blazon by Joe McMillan, 30 July 2002

Variant of Flag

Commune flag image by Victor Lomantsov, 07 October 2015

According to photo at they use white flag with crowned coat of arms.
Victor Lomantsov, 07 October 2015

Vertical municipal flag

Commune flag image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 12 May 2017

Coat of Arms

[Rana]image by Tomislav Šipek, 12 February 2016

Official blazon in Norwegian: "En hvit isbjørn i rødt."
Blazoned in English: "Gules a polar bear passant argent."
English blazon by Joe McMillan, 30 July 2002

Normally passant means the right forefoot is off the ground; statant would mean all four feet on the ground with the two front feet together. This bear (like most polar bears) clearly doesn't care about abiding by such rules.
Joe McMillan, 30 July 2002

The blazon we have above is rather the description of the flag, the heraldic blazon of the coat of arms is rather: En sølv isbjørn i rødt.
Jan Oskar mentioned that the design is recently redrawn by Arvid Sveen, however, [c2j87] provides the name of the original 1938 designer as Ole Valle.
The design was adopted for the city's 150th anniversary celebrated in 1939.However, for its 100th anniversary, in 1889 the city got itself a medal with a naturalistic depiction of Nordkapp, midnight sun and an Arctic ship (ishavsskute). The design was eventually taken in use as a seal.
A detailed history of the Hammerfest arms if provided here by Hans Edv. Bentsen
Here is an attempted translation:

Hammerfest got its city status in 1789, but only in 1939 it got its official adopted arms. Indeed, it had since 1890 used in the mayor's seal and mark a design with an Arctic yacht with Nordkapp and the midnight sun and the same was used by treasurer between the two World Wars. Nobody did anything to solve the problem until Jørgen Sivertsen took the issue in 1936.
In 1934 he was given task of preparing the city's history for the anniversary and eventually he took before the administration the idea that arms should be officially approved.
A teacher Ole Valle, who was among his other qualities, also a successful drawing teacher in a local school, was given task to redraw the design with the Nordkapp and yacht used then for past 50 years. His design were sent to the State Archives for approval.
The answer was negative. The design was not heraldic and besides, too many cities already had boats in their arms. They proposed a polar bear instead, or alternatively three walruses.
In the meantime, the administration of the Kjelvik municipality (that is today the Nordkapp municipality) expressed a loud protest at their 8 April 1938 meeting against Hammerfest using "their" motif in its city arms.
The city administration took the issue on 3 May 1938. The Nordkapp design was again unanimously adopted and the proposal was again sent to the State Archives with explanations that it was already in use for more then 50 years, that it was well designed and well known. The Archives stood on their position and again refused to approve the design.
The issue was taken in the city administration for the secodn time on 20 June 1938. Valle prepared three proposals. One with a polar bear, one with "Meridianstøtta" (memorial column in Fuglenes part of Hammerfest commemorating the international meridian measuring project of 1852) and one with three walruses.
The administration came over and decided - unanimously - for the silver bear in red.
Valle wrote in a letter to the mayor dated 17 January 1939 "When the choice fell at the polar bear, it is to remind on the city's long traditions as the Arctic port. It also reminds that the first living polar bear was captured in 1795 by the Buchs brothers who were at that year hunting at Spitsbergen.
Valle have prepared more then 40 sketches before he found one that he deemed was the best.
His proposal was pleasing to the State Archives. Valle was given the task to make it into a proper heraldic form that could be used both in the city arms, flag, seal and mark.
In a letter of 16 December 1938 from the Department of Law the minister Trygve Lie informed the municipality that the royal resolution approved the design after the State Archives proposal. It was received by the city administration on 25 March 1939.
After a request from the administration Valle prepared an example in plywood 2.5×1.75 m in size. On a cinnabar red background of a golden-foil outlined shield he set a polar bear of aluminium foil, and over it a crown of aluminium and black. The woodworks were done by carpenter Andreas Barstad.

The story goes on regarding the unveiling ceremony, and then about the redesign in 1960's.
In 1960 new prescriptions were set in regarding the local arms. Therefore the arms was to be changed in accordance with those. Naturally, Ole Valle was again called to do the corrections, even though he moved to Jessheim, where he was now a school director.
He delivered new design. Not only that he changed the depiction of the bear from diagonally walking one to a passing one, he also changed the shield shape and removed the crown. Accordingly he also changed the city flag, seal and mark.
The city administration adopted the changes on 16 April 1963 and the proposals were sent to the State Archives for approval.
In the answer of 13 June 1963 the State Archives noted ".. it is accepted custom in heraldry that four-legged animals are shown with forward leg furthest from the spectator to be stretched forward and the hind leg that is closest to the viewer be stretched backwards.
In Valle's drawing it was the other way around giving impression that the bear is walking backwards. It should be corrected and it may be easily done without tha drawing looking its rhythm.
The bear should have the same number of claws on each of its four feet. As it is shown now it is that there is one less in the right forward foot and one less in the right back foot. It looks like they were kipped off. The bear should have three claws on each foot.
That the claws ate pointing straight down is acceptable, as this is decorative justified. But they should be moved somewhat further forward so that the front claw is in line with the toe. Otherwise it gives an impression of backwards moved claws.
Otherwise the bear is well suited in line with good heraldic profiling. "
The work stopped and then continued in 1988
However it happened that Ole Valle was tragically lost in 1963 before he finished the issue. The councillor Olaf Berg-Hansen tried to get the work done in several occasions, among other asking help from the State Archives, but without any result. And the issue was left standing for 25 years without anyone taking up the State Archive's request for changes.
As the city 200th anniversary of was coming closer on 17 July 1989 the issue was taken up again. The anniversary coordinator Bjørn Paulsen pointed the issue to the administration. He took upon himself to do the corrections and after adjustments with the administration, the proposal was sent to the Archives.
The most significant change that Paulsen did was to change the order and make minor changes to the tongue and claws, so the administration requested. Paulsen also undertook a minor adjustment of the body shape, and that he also gave shield the form it originally had with straight sides with crown over. He also made the matching corrections for the flag, seal and mark.
The design was sent to the State Archives and they approved the design with a letter of 28 October 1988.

Protest by the Ole Valle's heirs

With the Archives approving of 28 October 1988 the issue should have been ended, but it did not happen. [... skipping the legal part, in short the heirs considered the changes to the 1939 design "moral violation of Valles original drawing"]
Through BONO (Norwegian Visual Artists Copyright Norway) took Ole Valles heirs up the matter with the Hammerfest municipality in March 1996. After an extended correspondence between BONO and the municipality, the result was a meeting between Ole Valles heirs, BONO and the Hammerfest municipality on 13 November 2000. After the copyright claim of the Valles heirs, the municipality dropped the 1988 changes. The parties agreed that the Hammerfest municipality should take a photographer and artist Arvid Sveen, from Tromso, to make the changes which the parties agreed. Sveen was well versed in the current heraldic regulations and his work resulted in many a municipality arms hanging on the walls in a number of town halls in northern Norway and the rest of the country, so he was well qualified to take on the assignment.
In a letter of 27 May 2001 presented Sveen his proposal for the new arms based on the Ole Valle's original idea and with the Ardchive's requests of 1963 included. He also prepared the flag, seal and mark.
That was proposed to the administration in the meeting of 28 June 2001 where they were adopted. The culture secretary presented the changes so:
"In conclusion: The polar bear has been given a more resilient and predator-like character. The coat of arms with crown received a harmonious and nice overall."
At roughly the same time it came in a letter dated 6 June 2001 from BONO following confirmation:
"Licensees by Ole Olsen v / BONO approve the design that is now available (ref. Fax from the municipality 5/30/01) of the modified coat of arms of Hammerfest Municipality."
In a later letter of 2 November 2001 to the municipality BONO specifies that Arvid Sveen has acquired the copyright therein in processed form, ref. Copyright Act § 1, second paragraph, no. 13. But at the same time emphasized that it is occurring so-called shared addiction works, ref. Copyright Act § 4. This means that neither Arvid Sveen or licensees by Ole Valle can dispose of the processed work alone or make changes without the consent of the other party.
Signatory for the latest changes of the coat of arms has been the cultural secretary Gerd Hagen.
Thus, a long and time consuming process was finished. The Hammerfest municipality now has a coat of arms which are formally approved by all parties. The heraldic requirements are complied with, and Arvid Sveen in its form solution given the polar bear an expression of strength and toughness simultaneously has historical roots back to the city's heyday as a leader in the Arctic Ocean in a perilous industry that provided work and profits for the city and district.

[poetry skipped]
The changes resulted in huge costs

One of the requirements of Ole Valles heirs was that all existing objects where the coat of arms have been used, be made in line with the new visual changes. In short, this means that, among other things the following should be changed: municipal flag, mayor's chain, seals, stamps, letterheads and envelopes in the municipal administration, all signs on municipal buildings, coat of arms badges utilized for work-wear, municipal vehicles and equipment. Moreover, municipal gifts of any kind where the coat of arms is part of the decoration, as well as printed materials and all kinds of information materials from the municipality.
These changes have resulted in expenses for the municipality, calculated total to approximately 140 000 crowns.
Besides, the public roads administration must also change their road signs where the coat of arms are used. Businesses, clubs and associations who have previously received permission to use the coat of arms must also visually change their logos in line with the new decision.

Anyway, thus in practice we should have different flags used since 1938, 1960's, 1988 and 2001. However, it seems that the city made thorough clean sweep and I can't seem to find a pre-2001 design of the city arms. Well, actually the Jan Oskar's flag drawing as well as [c2j87] coat of arms drawing would be the kind of 1960's design...
Anyway, the 2007 regulations on the city arms and flag at Minicipal website prescribe the flag in the ratio 16:22. (i.e. 8:11, i.e. as the Norwegian national flag).
Željko Heimer, 20 February 2016

And, after all said and done regarding this - it am a bit confused. The Norwegian municipal heraldry is otherwise quite flexible regardig the designs and the whole story seems quite unbelievable. I guess that when issues of copyright and authorship protection agencies get into the field, the game becomes rough and no Heraldic authority (if ever was consulted one in the case) could explain that there is no such thing as copyright of municipal arms and even worse no such thing only proper heraldic way of emblazoning a blazon (=making picture from heraldic description).
If I am not much mistaken, many of local regulations in Norway regarding the municipal heraldry include prescriptions that the arms displayed must conform to the general contents of a blazon and not to the "original" approved artwork per se.
Željko Heimer, 21 February 2016

Former Municipalities in Hammerfest


by Tomislav Šipek, 13 February 2017
Granted on 8 June 1979.

"In blue three white boats, two over one." This is the brief, and it might be added after looking at the drawing, not wery precise blazon of the flag of Sørøysund municipality in Finnmark County as found in the Royal resolution dated 8 June 1979. Given the long coast and the maritime traditions of Norway, the boat is a popular heraldic charge in the country's civic heraldry. The problem is, naturally, that there are so many different types of boats and that whereas the official blazons tend to speak only of "boats" the municipality and the heraldic artist usually have a specific type of boat in mind. This is also the problem with the arms and flag of Sørøysund which only speaks of boats. Some more details should perhaps have been provided in the blazon for the boats to be accurately drawn. In the case of Sørøysund, according to [cjo87], the charge was repeated three times to reflect the fact that the municipality is made up of three islands.

As of 1 January 1992 Sørøysund was merged into Hammerfest municipality. This is why Sørøysund is not listed in [sga95]. It is found in [cjo87].
Jan Oskar Engene, 27-28 April 2002 

Shouldn't the boat at the bottom be as big as the two boats at the top?
Mark Sensen, 27 April 2002 

Well, a rule of heraldry is that the charges should fill out the field. That is why I made the bottom boat bigger, so as to fill some of that blue "empty" space in the lower part of the flag. The same is done to many other Norwegian flags and arms.
Jan Oskar Engene, 28 April 2002

While this rule exists, I've noticed in Norway it gets a higher priority than in the rest of the world. In an example of this, with three equal charges 2:1 :

In Norway first "Filling the field." is applied, saying the bottom charge should be wider, and then the "Similar charges, similar shapes." saying the upper two charges should be equal in shape.

Elsewhere one would first apply "Similar charges, similar shapes.", which would give the bottom charge the same ratio as the upper charges, and then "Filling the field", which would mostly determine the placement and size of the charges. Indeed, this order is the reason why "round" charges are placed 2:1, as this is how three such similar shapes would fill the field best.

It's this sort of distinction that should warn us not to speak too lightly of "Heraldry" as if its rules are universal throughout the world. The fact that in some ways they aren't is what gives each country its own recognizable heraldic style.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 1 May 2002