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Last modified: 2009-10-02 by marcus schmöger
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National Flag and Civil Ensign

  2:3, by Željko Heimer

Horizontal triband of red-white-red.
Željko Heimer, 20 February 2001

Colour shade

Shade of red used is medium red: RGB: 255-0-0
Željko Heimer, 29 June 2002


There is no prescription on the ratio of this flag for civil use (i.e., on land, maybe the 1981 regulations of the sea flags determine the civil ensign ratio). 
Željko Heimer, 20 February 2001

The ratio 2:3 is not formally defined.  In 1984 the lawmakers could not be talked into regulating the ratio of the civil flag - they argued that "a wealth of formats would enhance adherence to the flag."  The 2:3 ratio of the state flag, put into effect by the arms and flag act of 1984, now has a benign influence, i.e., it is creating some tendency toward this format and thus to some order.
Peter Diem, 16 August 2002

Recently I got a little guide about the main church at Braunau (Upper Austria). The title shows a photo (presumably around 1970) with several flags interesting enough to share it with you. In the foreground: an Austrian national flag (horizontal format), proportion about 1:3 up to 2:7.
Marcus Schmöger, 2 June 2004

The Seeschiffahrtsgesetz (Maritime Act) dated 19 March 1981 prescribes the proportions for use at sea as 2:3.
Christopher Southworth, 14 April 2009



The flag was not used after the Anschluß, or the unification with Nazi Germany in 1938, but was restored with independence in 1945.
Steven Shea, 26 April 1996

On this page:

See also:

External links:

State Flag, State Ensign, War Ensign


[State Flag of Austria] [State Flag of Austria]
2:3, by Željko Heimer 2:3, by Peter Diem

The ratio shown here (2:3) was formally adopted in 1984. The type of eagle on the flag drawn by Željko Heimer is that used by the Western Austrian flag factory; the flag drawn by Peter Diem is that used by the Eastern Austrian flag factory. The latter is heraldically better because the constitution prescribes a sable (black) eagle.  The former flag tends to make the eagle appear grey on actual flags.
Peter Diem, 16 August 2002

The state flag is a triband with the coat of arms in the middle. The size of the coat of arms is prescribed by the location of two points on it. The lower edge of the hammer should be on [or slightly above - Peter Diem] the upper edge of the lower red stripe, white the "middle" of the beak should be on the lower edge of the upper red stripe. Horizontally, the coat of arms is in the middle, of course. This flag is called "Dienstflagge des Bundes". Framing of the coat of arms in a shield is forbidden (although see flag signalling government member on board a river boat!)
Željko Heimer, 20 February 2001

The red white red flag with the coat of arms is used as the Government flag and by the army.
Željko Heimer, 18 November 1995

As you can see from the Landeshauptmann (Land prime minister) has the right to use the federal coat-of-arms, but I have never seen him doing this. The prime ministers elected by the nine Land parliaments are indeed, according to the constitution, also organs of the Federal Administration, but only "also". They draw their whole legitimation from the Land - they act more against the Federation instead of for the Federation. Therefore I assume that a car flag used for official occasions would be only the state flag/state service flag (Landesflagge/Landesdienstflagge).
As municipalities do not have federal functions, they have to show the plain national flag.
Practice frequently does not follow the legal prescriptions, though. The flag manufacturer Gärtner/Mittersill floods the country with federal service flags with "grey" eagle, which are also used frequently for waving during sports events.
Peter Diem, 18 August / 3 September 2003 (translated by Marcus Schmöger)

Variants of the Federal Service Flag

Origin of the Austrian flag

The facts

Duke Friedrich II (1210-1246), the last Babenberg, sought to become more independent of the Roman Emperor (also Friedrich II) and adopted as a new "logo" the red-white-red arms in the year 1230. The first colour document bearing them dates from 1232.
Peter Diem, 16 August 2002

The legends

I have had great difficulty getting any definite statement about the origin of the arms for Austria (gules, a fess argent), but there is a legend about them.
The story goes that one of the early rulers of Austria wore a white tunic in battle one day, and the battle was so bloody that the entire tunic was bloodstained by the end of the fighting. When he took his belt off, however, the part of the tunic protected by the belt was still white. However, I haven't been able to trace the name of the particular ruler or what battle it was he was fighting in. At any rate, true or not, that legend is the origin of the modern Austrian flag .
Mike Oettle, 15 March 2002

Smith (1975) quotes a similar legend (although it should be noted that this version is NOT found in Austrian sources):
"The origin of the Austrian colors concerns the Battle of Ptolemais (Acre) in 1191. Duke Leopold V was supposedly granted these arms by King Henry VI, based on the battle-bloodied tunic of the duke, which had remained white only where covered by his wide belt. Losing his standard during the fray, Leopold supposedly raised his tunic as a rallying point, and the design was subsequently made official."
Željko Heimer, 18 March 2002

Ptolemais is the same as Acre or Akko, in Israel, which was reconquered by Philippe II Auguste of France from Saladin in 1191.
Jarig Bakker,  18 March 2002

Note that a "fess" (Norman French for sash) is so called because it resembles the sash or belt a knight would wear across his waist.
Santiago Dotor, 20 March 2002

Andrew Wheatcroft (1995) "The Habsburgs - Embodying Empire" reported that Duke Leopold V of Austria (referred to in one source as "Leopold Heldenthum") was of the Babenberg dynasty. The Babenbergs were the original Margraves and then Dukes of Austria, reigning from 976 to 1246.  They were followed by the Habsburgs who were Dukes of Austria from 1278.
Leonie Giudici, 20 March 2002