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Austrian Cities and Municipalities

Österreich: Städte und Gemeinden

Last modified: 2020-07-04 by rob raeside
Keywords: municipality: austria |
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Austria consists of 2359 municipalities (including cities, towns and market-towns), 2346 of which are members of the Österreichischer Gemeindebund (Austrian Association of Municipalities).
A list of all Austrian municipalities can be found at the website of "Statistik Austria".

The usual form of the municipal flag is a hanging flag, striped in the main (two or three) colours of the coat-of-arms, frequently with the coat-of-arms slightly upset to the top. This is very similar to the practice followed in Southern Germany.

As in Germany, most people think that their municipal flags are of ancient origin, for instance: "All municipal flags in Austria are very old, so we do not need to create any new flags." Thomas Schulreich, cited in Quo vadimus by Peter Orenski [ore01a]/[ore03]

Although municipal coats-of-arms are in many cases quite old in Austria, many of the coats-of-arms of smaller municipalities are of more recent origin. Municipal flags as a whole are probably not so old, as only recently (the last 50 or so years) most municipalities have started using their own flags.

Typical for the municipal flag usage in whole Austria is probably the following text about municipal flags in Tirol, from the Landesarchiv Tirol (Tyrol State Archives) (translation into English by M. Schmöger):

"The use of a municipal flag has taken roots in Tyrol only late. Until the 60ies of the 20th century only in very rare cases the flag colours of the municipalities with own coats-of-arms had been officially laid down. In the 70ies the unicoloured golden-yellow flag with the municipal coat-of-arms prevailed as municipal flag. Then the Tyrolian state archives switched to laying down the colours of the municipal flags in agreement with the then 203 municipalities with own coats-of-arms, and to fix them legally by proclamation of the Tyrolian state government. The flag colours were then and afterwards, according to old heraldic tradition, derived from the colours of the municipal coat-of-arms. Tyrolian municipal flags have two stripes, only Lienz, Wörgl and Wattens have a flag with three stripes.
All 279 Tyrolian municipalities have a municipal coat-of-arms in the meantime. Twelve of them, those of the old towns and market-towns, have developed historically, four were granted by the emperor between 1898 and 1911 in the course of promotions to town or market-town, one was granted in 1923 by the Austrian federal government. All other Tyrolian municipal coats-of-arms are based on a decision of the Tyrolian state government, as in the Republic of Austria the right to grant arms to municipalities, was devolved from the federal government to the state governments in 1925."

M. Schmöger, 17 August 2003

Lacking own municipal flags, the national flag is frequently used as background for the municipal coat-of-arms - except for Vienna, definitely having an own city flag. Also the state capitals have their own colours, but I think only a minor fraction of the municipalities.
Peter Diem
, 18 August / 3 September 2003 (translated by M. Schmöger)

Having now sent 100% of the Upper Austrian municipal flags and having researched some municipal flags in Tirol and Salzburg in October 2003, I guess it is time for some preliminary overview of the Austrian municipal flags.
As in neighbouring Bavaria, municipal flags (in contrast to municipal coats-of-arms or seals) have not played any significant role until the 1950ies/1960ies. Probably, only larger cities derived municipal colours from their coat-of-arms, and used flags striped in these colours.
As more and more municipalities adopted coats-of-arms, also municipal flags were brought into use, with some delay, though. The main symbol remains the coat-of-arms, the flag is only a secondary symbol. Interestingly, the different Austrian Länder handled this issue very differently.

Burgenland: Although I have some municipal colours from [dea96] and [prp97], I don't have much information on the actual practice there, especially not many photos of municipal flags from Burgenland.

Kärnten: Flag colours are granted by the state archives. Bicolours prevail over tricolours, in particular in recent times. Coats-of-arms and flags are described and shown in [dew06].

Niederösterreich: I don't have a clear picture there, but it seems that the practice is similar to Oberösterreich. I only found some dispersed information on the web, that I will send you in a due time.

Oberösterreich: Upper Austria seems to be the Land, where the municipal flags are pretty well organized: the colours are officially adopted, and confirmed by the state archives. However, there are some towns with historical coats-of-arms having never officially adopted flag colours; 70% of them use the colours red-white or white-red, so I guess most of these also belong to the category "colours of the Land with own municipal coat-of-arms".

Salzburg: As there is no legal provision for municipal flags, many of the municipalities just use the colours of the Land Salzburg (red-white) with the municipal coat-of-arms (information from the Salzburg state archives). See Neukirchen am Grossvenediger and my recent observations in Leogang. Others seem to use two or three colours from their coat-of-arms, but without any official adoption or involvement of the state archives.

Steiermark: As I had learned from the Styrian State Archives, Styrian municipalities do not have their own municipal colours (like for instance those in Upper Austria, Lower Austria or Tyrol), but usually use the Styrian colours with their municipal arms for a flag. However, this has to be ascertained in detail with each and every Styrian municipality.

Tirol: There were three phases in the history of the municipal flags there:
1. Up to about 1972, only some municipalities used flags in colours derived from the coat-of-arms.
2. Since 1972 the plain yellow flag with the coat-of-arms prevailed.
3. Since 1981 all municipalities got their own colours derived from the coat-of-arms.
However, as far as I can tell from my own observations last weekend (3-5 October 2003), there is quite some mess in Tirol: Some municipalities (e.g. Ellmau and St. Johann in Tirol) actually use their official colours; others use their "old" yellow flags (e.g. Fieberbrunn and Going am Wilden Kaiser); and I have at least one case, where the municipality actually uses the colours red-white (reversed Land Tirol colours) with the coat-of-arms (Ladis).

Vorarlberg: At least the more recent version of the Gemeindegesetz of 1985 (I do not have the earlier versions) also mentions the flag, namely in § 12: "Jede Gemeinde hat das Recht, eine Fahne (Flagge) zu führen und deren Aussehen durch Verordnung festzusetzen." (Each municipality has the right to use a flag and to establish its design by decree.)
As I learned from the Austrian heraldist Karl Palfrader, the state archives are obviously not involved in the flag adoption, so there is no material there. This means contacting each and every municipality directly.

M. Schmöger, 6 October 2003 / 7 April 2005 / 7 August 2005

Form of Austrian municipal flags

Is the fact that the Austrian municipal flags are all gonfalons the result of tradition or law?
Andre Burgers, 12 January 2004

I would not call them "gonfalons". To me a "gonfalon" is a flag that is carried (like a procession banner) and not hoisted. Most of the Austrian municipal flags indeed are different variants of vertical flags, including hanging flags and Banner, but also flags that are hoisted along their longer side (Knatterflaggen).

To answer your question: Basically it is the tradition, although there is no real tradition in using municipal flags in Austria and Germany. In the 19th century one could frequently see long hanging flags in the Landesfarben suspended from windows or other places on houses on festive days. This has been most common practice in inland parts of Germany and Austria ever since, so that the "normal" horizontal, hoisted flag is not assumed to be the "usual" form.
From this also the municipal flags have derived their most common form. See for instance the municipal flags in the Bavarian county Erding.

In most cases, there are only very vague legal prescriptions regarding the municipal flags. As far as I know no German nor Austrian Land prescribes the actual form of the flags. The only thing that is usually prescribed for each individual municipality, are the colours of the stripes. Anything beyond that (form of the flag, ratio height:width, shade of the colours, with/without arms, size and position of the arms ...) is usually left to the municipality, and of course the flagmaker.
M. Schmöger, 15 January 2004

Literature on municipal flags and coats-of-arms (from our Bibliography section)

[bmt96] [brm75] [brm75a] [csm86] [ebn03] [gaf65] [hye90] [kfb95] [lio65] [Lkm35] [prp97] [wkL76] [zpf85]

See also:

External Links to collections of Austrian municipal coats-of-arms:

  • International Civic Heraldry (Ralf Hartemink): more than 2000 coats-of-arms
  • Fahnen Gärtner: all municipal coats-of-arms of the states Vorarlberg, Tirol, Salzburg, Oberösterreich (direct link does not function, so click on "Nationenfahnen", then on "Österreich", then on "Gemeinden")

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