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Alsace (Traditional province, France)


Last modified: 2021-04-10 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Alsace]         [Flag]

Banner of arms and traditional flag of Alsace - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 5 September 2017

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History of Alsace

Alsace was colonized by the Romans from 58 BP to the 5th century. The region was then invaded by the Alamans, who were eventually defeated by Clovis, King of the Franks, in Tolbiac (now Zülpich, near Bonn in Germany) in 496 or 506.
A Duchy during the Merovingian period (6th-8th centuries), Alsace became a County during the Carolingian period. The name of Alsace appeared in the 7th century with Duke Etichon (aka Adalric), the father of St. Odile, the patron saint of Alsace. The division in Upper- and Lower-Alsace, matching the counties of Sundgau and Nordgau, respectively, was probably based on the Roman dioceses of Basle and Strasbourg.

In 843, the Treaty of Verdun shared the Carolingian Empire among the three sons of Louis the Pious (778-840), Charlemagne's son and successor. Charles the Bald (823-877) and his brother Louis the German (805-876) forced their third brother, Lothair (795-855), to sign the treaty. While Charles the Bald was crowned King of Francia occidentalis (West France), Louis the German, formerly King of the Eastern Franks, was crowned King of Germania (Germany). Lothair, who had once expected to keep the whole empire for himself, received an area sandwiched between Francia and Germania, called in Latin Lotharingia, a name subsequently transalted as Lothringen in German and Lorraine in French. Lothair was succeeded by his son, Lothair II (835-869), who promised to retrocede Alsace to his uncle Louis the German. After Lothair II had died without a heir, the Treaty of Mersen (8 April 870) incorporated Alsace to Germania, the core of the future Holy Roman Empire.

In the middle of the 16th century, King of France Henri II (1519-1559), allied with the German Protestant princes, revendicated the ancient Kingdom of Austrasia, which was limited by the Rhine river and, therefore, included Lorraine and Alsace, against Emperor Charles V. Henri II seized Metz, Toul and Verdun (the Three Bishoprics) in 1552 but failed to seize Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace.
In 1648, by the Treaty of Munster, the Emperor ceded both Landgraviates of Lower- and Upper Alsace to France, as well as the ten Imperial Towns (Haguenau, Landau [later ceded to Bavarian Palatinate in 1815], Wissembourg, Rosheim, Obernai, Sélestat, Kaysersberg, Turckheim, Colmar and Munster), which had constituted the rich Decapole in 1354. Strasbourg was not mentioned in the treaty, but Article 57 forbid the building of any kind of fortress on the Rhine downstream from Basle. In 1678, the Treaty of Nijmegen confirmed the incorporation of Alsace to France; explicitely listed in the treaty, Strasbourg was eventually incorporated to France in 1681. The Republic of Mulhouse was incorporated to France only in 1798.
Alsace was incorporated to Germany from 1870 to 1919 and from 1939 to 1945.

Ivan Sache, 9 December 2002

Banner of arms of Alsace

The armorial flag of Alsace is a banner of the traditional arms of the province, "Per pale, 1. Gules a bend sinister cotised fleury argent (Lower Alsace), 2. Gules a bend between six crowns bendwise or (Upper Alsace)".

In his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941), Jacques Meurgey gives the arms of Alsace as "Gules a bend between six crowns bendwise or", that is the former arms of Upper Alsace.
Meurgey further claims that Lower Alsace used "Gules a bend sinister indented", which is not correct.

The flag was created in 1949 on the initiative of the préfets of the two departments of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin.
The Department Council of Bas-Rhin (the former Lower Alsace), located in Strasbourg, flies the banner of Lower Alsace.
The Department Council of Haut-Rhin (the former Upper-Alsace), located in Colmar, flies the banner of Upper-Alsace.

Ivan Sache & Olivier Touzeau, 5 September 2017

Flag hoisted upside down


Flag of Alsace hoisted upside down - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 29 August 2009

An Alsatian flag hoisted upside down "somewhere in the arrondissement of Molsheim" was reported in 2009 by Marie-Thérèse Fischer. She argued that nobody would imagine the flag of Normandy hoisted upside down with the lions feet up.
[Les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace, 5 August 2009]

Ivan Sache, 29 August 2009

Traditional flag of Alsace

During the German occupation (1870-1918), Alsace used, unofficially, a flag horizotally divided red-white.
After the First World War, the only official flag in Alsace was the French Tricolor. As the return to France was somewhat difficult, an autonomist movement appeared in Alsace, promoting the red-white flag. This flag is reported to have been used mainly in the Alsatian countryside.
[Pascal Vagnat. Les identités régionales, nationales et supranationales dans la grande région Saar-Lor-Lux à travers les emblèmes : histoire, perceptions, conflits. Unpublished MSc thesis]

Pascal Vagnat, 6 August 1998

The Alsatian flag song (1911)

The Alsatian Flag Song (Das Elsässische Fahnenlied) was written, in German, by Emil Woerth in 1911. Although Alsatian and German are two different languages, the written form of Alsatian is German.

1. Sei gegrüsst, du unsres Landes Zeichen		1. Be saluted, you, the emblem of our country,
Elsass Fahne flatternd froh im Wind			The Alsatian flag joyously flying in the wind.
Deine Farben, lieblich ohnen Gleichen			Your colours, graciously peerless,
Leuchten stets, wo wir versammelt sind			Shall shine for ever where we get together.

Ref:							Chorus:
Weiss un rot,						White and red,
Die Fahne sehen wir schweben				We shall see the flag flying,
Bis zum Tod,						Until death,
Sind treu wir ihr ergeben				We shall be faithfully devoted to him.
(bis)							(Twice)

2. Echt und recht, wie unsre Väter waren		2. Genuine and right, like our fathers,
Wollen wir in Tat und Worten sein			That is how we want to be in our acts and talks
Unsre Art, wir wollen sie bewahren			We want to preserve our manners
Auch in Zukunft makellos und rein			Also in the future, unblemished and pure.

3. Und ob Glück, ob Leid das Zeitgetriebe		3. And if time brings either luck or misfortune
Jemals bringe unserm Elsassland				To our Alsatian land,
Immer stehn wir in unentwegter Liebe			We shall keep love for ever
Freudig wir zu ihm mit Herz und Hand			To it with heart and hand.

4. Lasst uns drum auf unsre Fahne schwören		4. Let us therefore swear on our flag,
Brüder ihr vom Wasgau bis zum Rhein			Brothers from Wasgau to the Rhine
Niemals soll uns im fremder Hand betören		We shall never be placed in foreign hands
Treu dem Elsass wollen stets wir sein			We want to remain faithful to Alsace forever.

Ivan Sache, 21 June 2003