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City of Köln (Germany)

Stadt Köln (City of Cologne), Northrhine-Westphalia

Last modified: 2017-11-11 by klaus-michael schneider
Keywords: cologne | koeln | coronets(3) | ermine shield | chief | bicolour |
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[City of Köln (Northrhine-Westphalia, Germany)] 5:2  image by Stefan Schwoon, 25 Feb 2001 See also:

Köln / Cologne

A red-white banner (hanging flag), source Staack 1997.


A horizontal flag with the arms is shown on the Flaggen-Serverwebsite.
Stefan Schwoon, 25 Feb 2001

The German editors of Norie and Hobbs 1971 added two charts (which were not originally in Norie and Hobbs 1848) with German flags that were important over time. One of them is no. 24, Köln 1300, [horizontal] red over white.
Peter Hans van der Muijzenberg, 12 Nov 2001

The displayed hanging flag is not the official flag of the city of Cologne. This hanging flag is only representing the colors of Cologne, red and white. Using the city colours without the badge is unusual.
The official flage of the city of a cologne is a bicolour, vertical stripes, red above white, with the badge in the center, ratio 3:5.
Description of the badge: On the top are three crowns, representing the three holy kings (Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar) who are buried in the Cologne cathedral. and the legend about the eleven ermine i don't know exactly.
Dirk Lesniewsky, 16 Jul 2003

From Ralf Hartemink's website:
"Later (around 1500) the shield was 'filled' with ermine. Officially there are 11 ermine tails, symbolising the 11.000 virgins of Saint Ursula. As St. Ursula was a princess of Brittany the virgins were depicted as ermine tails. The arms of Brittany are a plain shield of ermine. The original description in the legend of St. Ursula read "XI m. virg." This has to be translated as 11 martyred virgins, not as 11.000 (M for 1000) virgins..."
Santiago Dotor, 17 Jul 2003

Ursula is said to have been martyred in the 3rd century in Cologne, long before the adoption of the ermine spots by the Dukes of Brittany.
The (hi)story of St. Ursule is summarized in Encyclopaedia Universalis as follows:

At the end of the 4th century, Clementius restored in Cologne a basilica in which martyrized virgins had been allegedly buried one century earlier. Clementius placed an inscription to recall his work, but he did not state either the number or the names of the martyrs. In the 9th century, nuns living near the basilica attempted to retrieve the story of the martyrs. They were given the epitaph of a girl called Ursula, who had died at the age of eight. The nuns were told that the martyrs were eleven, and this number was increased to 11,000 because of a misinterpretation of the Roman numbers.

Ursula's legend appeared around 970. Ursula was the daughter of a King of (Great)-Britain. The son of a pagan King wanted to marry her, which was accepted by Ursula's father. Ursula was accompanied by ten women, each of them being escorted by 1,000 virgins. The women crossed the sea and sailed up the Rhine to Basle. Then they walked to Rome on a pilgrimage. On their way back down the Rhine, they met Attila, King of the Huns, who wanted to marry Ursula. She rejected Attila's demand, so the Huns killed all women with their arrows.
There is not the least parcel of reality in this legend, which was "confirmed" in 1106, when a lot of human bones were found near Cologne when digging new ditches. It was indeed an ancient cemetery, but the epitaphs, which were found were misinterpreted by Elisabeth von Schonau. The huge numbers of alleged relics impressed the Christian world, the sanctuaries dedicated to the 11,000 virgins flourished and the legend was amplified, inspiring several wonderful artworks (for instance Carpaccio in Venice).
Ivan Sache, 17 Jul 2003

Compare it with British Virgin Islands story.
Željko Heimer, 17 Jul 2003

Sunday I was in Cologne, Germany and we had a walk around the cathedral. Inside, there was a plaque on the wall with a coat of arms: white, with a black cross voided per cross and per saltire in the center. This made a white stripe in the black, and an X of white in the center of the cross.
This was repeated on flags flying aplenty on and around the cathedral.
Is it a variant of the old Archbishopric of Cologne flag? Is it the new Archbishopric of Cologne flag?
John Udics, 8 Jun 2004

The coat-of-arms of the diocese (and the city) of Cologne is simply "Argent a cross Sable". What you describe as a "plaque" is most probably this, which is simply a decorated version of the coat-of-arms, to give a three-dimensional, relief impression to the cross.
Santiago Dotor, 9 Jun 2004

Köln horizontal flag

[Köln variant flag] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 24 Apr 2009

Köln – flag with CoA: It is well known that Köln has a flag, which is a simple red over white bicolour. I spotted however at Westpol, (news at German regional TV WDR) in March 2009, just after the crushing of Köln state archive, a flag charged with the coat of arms, hoisted straight in front of the dome. Being too surprised, I wasn’t able to shoot a photo, but fortunately their was another photo on this website.

Description of flag:
It is a red over white horizontal bicolour with the small coat of arms in the middle, slightly shifted to the bottom that way, that the lower edge of the chief and the lower edge of the flag’s red stripe are on the same line.
Description of coat of arms:
It is a ermine shield containing eleven tails. The shield has a red fess showing three golden coronets ordered horizontally.
Meaning:
The three crowns are symbolizing the three wise, holy kings, whose bones had been brought to Köln by emperor Friedrich I. Barbarossa in 1164. They appear on the seals first in 1315. The ermine tails are reminding of Sta. Ursula, who was a princess of Brittany. The arms of Brittany had been an ermine shield. The number eleven is symbolizing the 11,000 virgins accompanying Ursula, according to Hartemink however there had been only eleven virgins, the "m" in source should mean "tortured" instead of "thousand". The tinctures of the shield are those of the Hanseatic League. The city of Köln was one of its founders.
(Source: dec60, p.60-61.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 24 Apr 2009


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