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Valais / Wallis canton (Switzerland)

Last modified: 2013-07-24 by rob raeside
Keywords: valais | wallis | star |
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[Flag of Valais/Wallis] image by António Martins

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Description of the flag

Per pale argent and gules, thirteen mullets of five: in each field four in pale and five on the palar line, all countercoloured.

Divided vertically into equal parts white (hoist) and red (fly). In the white field and four red five-pointed stars arranged vertically. In the red field are four white five-pointed stars arranged vertically. A third row of five stars straddles the dividing line, each star half red and half white opposite to the field colour. The stars all have one point directed toward the top of the flag. They are often incorrectly depicted fimbriated in black.
T.F. Mills, 04 November 1997

Symbolism of the flag

Red and white are the colours of the Bishop of Sion, the dominant power in Valais until very recent times. The thirteen stars represent the thirteen districts (Zehnden) of Valais, a number that has remained constant since 1815 when Valais joined the Swiss Confederation.
T.F. Mills, 04 November 1997

History of the flag

Valais, straddling the upper Rhone valley, was an important territory to the ancient Romans due to the mountains passes linking Italy to transalpine Europe. The monastery of St. Maurice, named for a Roman Christian officer martyred in Valais, was founded in 390. Valais was initially hostile to the Swiss Confederation but became allied with it in 1403 after the Burgundian wars. The earliest known war flag is the vertically divided red and white banner of the Bishop of Sion, and has been documented at 1220. Valais consisted of highly autonomous "Dixains" (Zehnden) owing allegiance to the Bishop. Their own individual banners predominated until 1613 when they united into a republic. The red and white flag of the republic originally had six stars for its constituent Dixains. A seventh was added in 1628, and in that year France, Savoy and Switzerland all recognised Valais as a free republic.

In 1798 the French created the Helvetic Republic with Valais as one of its new cantons. When the Helvetic Republic proved an unworkable artificial creation, Napoleon mediated the restoration of the Swiss Confederation in 1803, but kept Valais out of the new polity in order to guarantee French control of the strategic mountain passes. In severing Valais from Switzerland, the five Dixains of lower Valais were joined to it for a total of twelve stars in the flag (six in each field). In 1810 France annexed Valais outright as the Department of Simplon.

Since the Act of Mediation of 1803 was a Napoleonic creation, it collapsed with him, and the Allies restored the pre-revolutionary Confederation in 1815 with the addition of three new cantons liberated from France. Valais thus rejoined Switzerland, and in the process created a thirteenth Dixain (Conthey) out of parts of two others (Martigny and Sion). The flag was accordingly altered to its current form with thirteen stars in three rows.
T.F. Mills, 04 November 1997

Courtesy of Jos Poels the text of the decree (translated from the French) which established 12 stars for Valais, and the exact date of the Constitution which set the number at 13 as they are today:

LAW ON THE SEAL OF THE REPUBLIC
4 September 1802.

The parliament? ("diete") of the Republic

After considering the findings of the Commission on the Constitution regarding the seal to be adopted by the Republic, (hereby) orders:
The colours of the Republic are white and red; on this it will have twelve (12) stars (carrying 13 by the Constitution of 12 May 1815) , and the legend SIGILLUM REIPUBLICAE VALLESIAE . The seals of the different authorities will carry the name of their office on the bottom.

Given in the Parliament at Sion, during their session of 4 September 1802.

The President of the Parliament: Stockalper
The secretaries of the Parliament: Tousard d' Olbec, Augustini

The Council of State agreed etc., signed and sealed, 7 September 1802.
The grand-bailiff of the Republic; Augustini

For the Council of State:
The Secretary of State: Tousard d' Olbec

Christopher Southworth, 30 July 2005

The text of that law can also be found on the official website of the Valais, at the page: http://www.vs.ch/public/public_lois/fr/Pdf/111.1.pdf (French version)
Pascal Vagnat, 1 August 2005

Quoting Whitney Smith (1975) ("Flags Through the Ages and Across the World"), pp. 194-195:
"In 1795, however, the star (particularly the five-pointed variety which Americans soon made their standard form) was extremely rare: the city flag of Norden, Germany, the cantonal banner of Valais, Switzerland, and a few military colors were virtually the only examples of its usage in the world."
Ivan Sache, 17 July 2010


1498-1628 Valais flag

  by António Martins

From 1498-1628 there were six stars in the arms.
António Martins
, 25 October 1998


Variations of the flag

[Flag of Valais] image by Ole Andersen

Simple rectangular cantonal flag, as shown in Kannik (1956).
Ole Andersen, 4 August 2002


Flaggen, Knatterfahnen and Livery Colours

 

[Knatterfahnen]

  [Knatterfahnen]  

[livery colours]

by Pascal Gross

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