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Varaždin (Town, Varaždin County, Croatia)

Last modified: 2023-03-18 by rob raeside
Keywords: varazdin |
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[Town flag] image by Željko Heimer, 18 February 2003

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Presentation of Varaždin

The Town of Varaždin (49,075 inhabitants in 2001, 41,434 in the town of Varaždin) was the capital of Croatia in 1756-1776, afterwards Zagreb took up the role. Due to its highest development in time of baroque, the town is also known as "Baroque Town".

Željko Heimer, 12 August 1996

Flag of Varaždin

The symbols of Varaždin are prescribed by Decision Odluka o opisu i uporabi grba i zastave grada Varaždina, adopted on 15 May 1991 by the Town Assembly and published in the Town official gazette Službeni vjesnik opć Varaždin, No. 5. This is repeated in Decision Odluka o opisu i uporabi grba i zastave Grada Varaždina, adopted on 7 February 1995 to comply with the 1993 administrattve reform, and published on 8 February 1995 in Službeni vjesnik Grada Varaždina, No. 1. The Decision was amended as Odluka o izmjeni Odluke o opisu i uporabi grba i zastave Grada Varaždina, adopted on 21 December 2004 and published on 22 December 2004 in Službeni vjesnik Grada Varaždina, No. 1.
The symbols are described in the Town Statutes Statut Grada Varaždina (text), adopted on 1 July 2009 and published on 14 July 2009 in Službeni vjesnik Grada Varaždina, No. 5, repeating the previous Statutes (2001).

The traditional flag of five red and white stripes has been in use at least since the mid-19th century; it is derived from the coat of arms.

Željko Heimer, 21 February 2014

Coat of arms of Varaždin

[Municipal coat of arms] image by Željko Heimer, 7 July 2004

The coat of arms that was in the 1970-1980s in its basic, shield shape was reverted in 1991 to its historical design.
The current official representation of the coat of arms of Varaždin is taken from the original grant of arms from 1464, granted by King Matthias Corvinus, as was usual at the time combining together the seal and the coat of arms, as follows (Varaždinske vijesti, 30 May 1991):

Within a green rectangular curly frame a smaller red rectangle with golden curls, within which a circular stripe inscribed "SIGILLVM MAIVS CIVITATIS WARASDIENSIS". Within the ribbon on a partially green and blue curly background an angel's bust with golden hair and red wings, clad in brown. The angel holds in his hands a semi-circularly ending shield with four red and four white horizontal beams. In the middle of the shield is a rectangular tower with entrance gates and windows and four smaller balls at the top with blue pointed pointed roof topped with a golden cross. On the third coloured beam is on the right side of the tower a golden six-pointed star and on the left a golden crescent.

The origin of the 1464 arms was explained by Pr. Mira Ilijanić (Varaždinske vijesti, 5 June 1968) as follows. There is no disctinction made between a coat of arms and a seal, as typical of older Croatian heraldry.

With a charter issued in Buda on 12 July 1464, King Matthias Corvinus confirms the coat of arms to the yown of Varaždin. The text of the charter recounts that the coat of arms is on the charter itself, painted artistically, and, indeed, it is there in the top left corner: In a square green field ornamented with vegetal ornament, a circle is inscribed with the text "sigillum maius cuitatis Warasdien(sis)" in Gothic lowercase letters. Within the circle an angel is holding a late Gothic shield painted with red and white horizontal fields, over which is raising a white, four-cornered tower with a wide base. The tower has a large gate in the ground floor and several openings. Around the pointed, blue roofs is a rich embattlement with four corner spires. To the left, in the red fields, is a six-pointed golden star and, to the right, a golden crescent pointing outwards.
That is the the coat of arms of Varaždin, known for centuries, used in its entirety or without the square background, or even without the circular inscription. It is reduced today to the shield with the red and white fields and the tower only. However, the part of the Corvin's charter beginning with the words ab antiquo ... states that this coat of arms was confirmed and granted again, and that it had been used by this town long before, with permission of the Hungarian kings, Corvinus' predecessors. These words make it clear that Varaždin already had a coat of arms that Corvinus confirmed, probably after the wish of the Varaždin citizens.

The renowned Croatian historian and conservator Pr. Đuro Sabo [aka Gjuro Szabo] has bequeathed to the Varaždin Museum his manuscripts dealing with some issues of the town history. Regarding the above-mentioned Corvinus charter and describing the coat of arms, he states that there is a document dated 1424 with the old coat of arms of Varaždin, which must have been known to Matthias Corvinus when he was issuing his 1464 charter confirming and modernizing the arms.
The old coat of arms he describes so: In a circle edged with ribbons like pears there is a Gothic inscription "SCIVITATIS DE VARASD". In the central circle there is a six-sided, free-standing tower with a six-sided pointed roof topped with a ball. To the left there is an eight-pointed star and to the right a crescent. Sabo does not state what the 1424 document is nor where it is preserved, but he refers to the Obavijesti centralne komisije of 1871 ("Information of the Central Commission" - Reports of the Conservation Service). Following this single trail, it was possible to find in the mentioned volume of reports the text by Dr. Lindt titled Prilozi sredovječnoj sfragistici (Contributions to medieval sphragistics). Among the depicted coats of arms of some Hungarian and Austrian towns are the depiction and description of the Varaždin coat of arms (No. XXXVI, Fig. 40). The illustration matches Sabo's description, being somewhat more detailed. However, Lindt doex not provide any source he used for it, being typical for the older historiography. He does not mention the 1424 document mentioned by Sabo. Lindt points out that the coat of arms is made in high relief, with the inscription in the lapidar script and he dates from the 14th century, that is some hundred years before.

Obviously, both researches have the same problem but different sources. If the designers of the coat of arms in Corvinus' charter used this old coat of arms as a model, as believed by Pr. Sabo, it is obvious that they changed it a lot. Many elements were added and those that were retained are quite different in shapes. The eight-pointed star became a six-pointed star, the crescent was turned the other way around, and the tower received a typical, late Gothic shape with corner spires. Comparing this old coat of arms of Varaždin with other 15th century arms, it may be stated that it looks at least early Gothic or even Romanesque in style, so Lindt's dating from the 14th century is much more plausible. The inscription in the arms in Corvinus' charter states that it is the great coat of arms. It may be that this older one was the lesser one and that both were used for some time, and then only the greater was retained. The shape of the tower would be changed in the greater coat of arms occasionally, as seen in a 18th cnetury landscape of the city and some other documents, some showing several floors of the tower, each higher being smaller than the previous. In any case, it shall be an interesting task for the Varaždin historiography to examine and find the first source showing the coat of arms. In that regard a hint may be found in Corvinus' statement ... ab antiquo ex concessione regum Hungariae, so something may be found in the Hungarian archives.

A series of six articles by Ljerka Perči gives additional information on the seal and arms of Varaždin.
The first research of the oldest town seal was made in the 1840s and published in 1846 in Eduard Melly's book. The issue was afterwards researched again and again. A document was eventually found in 1984, on which the seal was hanging - a charter with three seals was held by the Vienna archives where it had been probably brought from Ptuj; the charter was brought back that year to the National Archives of Ljubljana, where it is held today (Varaždinske vijesti, 10 February 1993).
In the time when the 1424 seal was imprinted in wax, it must have been in use for quite some time already; by the analysis of the letter shapes, Lj. Perči concludes that the seal may actually date back to the second half of the 13th century. The inclusion of the star and crescent was common in the area in the period, as seen in other arms and seals from this time, imitating the 12th and 13th century coins (Varaždinske vijesti, 17 February 1993). These were, apparently, Christian symbols of Crusade ideas of the rulers of Slavonia that eventaully became symbols of the country and, as such, included in other arms in the medieval Slavonia. The same symbols were also included in the younger seal made in 1464 that would remained in use for centuries - and was in fact used until present times in very special occasion. A document was sealed in 1992 with the very same 1464 seal (Varaždinske vijesti, 24 February 1993).
The next article in the series starts with the description of the problems experienced by the heraldic expert Bojničić when trying to research seals and documents in Varaždin in his 1896 study. The translation of the 1464 charter is quoted in full, as published by Kazimir Đurman in 1988. Lj. Perči correctly points out that this charter was not, as it is often stated, an armorial patent, but a grant for the use of a seal (just as it is the case of all other "armorial patents" granted to the cities, towns, counties etc. in Croatia) - a tiny but legalistically important distinction - although in practice it was the heraldic grant, nevertheless (Varaždinske vijesti, 3 March 1993).
Whether the miniaturist who illustrated the charter knew the previous seal of the town and whether the stripes were added to the design after the wish of the citizens or by prescription of the king himself are matters of speculation. Certainly, king Matthias Corvinus used the barry design of the Arpad dynasty in his coats of arms, which must be the origin of the stripes in the town arms of 1464 (Varaždinske vijesti, 10 March 1993).
The article eries ends with the use of the seal. After describing the paraphernalia that went with it (all preserved in the Town Museum), the author presents the ways of use of seals in the medieval period. The Varaždin seal was so called greater seal used for important documents only, while a smaller seal was used for dayly use (Varaždinske vijesti, 17 March 1993).

Željko Heimer, 3 November 2013

History of the modern symbols of Varaždin (1991-1995)

The initiative for the change of the town coat of arms - not a real change, but to use the entire arms as granted in 14th century instead of only the shield as it was the case until that time - reached agreement on an informal meeting of all political parties represented in the Town Assembly (Varaždinske vijesti, 7 March 1991). On 4 April 1991, the Town Assembly agreed with the proposal and opened a public discussion, to last until 22 April (Varaždinske vijesti, 4 April 1991). In the public discussion, there was no objection whatsoever to the introduction of the "historical arms". Regarding the proposed flag, however, the local chapter of the HDZ party proposed a change. Namely the original proposal was an eight-striped, red and white flag, following the number of stripes in the coat of arms. The HDZ chapter proposed that the flag would consist of three red and two white stripes "in the other words, to retain the same flag of Varaždin as it had been in use so far and during the celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the town".
The Decision on the description and use of the coat of arms and the flag of the town of Varaždin was adopted on 15 May 1991. One representative proposed that the coat of arms should be included in the flag "not to look like a symbol of some sports club". The Assembly members voted for the proposal of the Mayor to retain the current flag without the coat of arms - while the flag with the coat of arms should be the official flag of the Mayor of the town (Varaždinske vijesti, 23 May 1991). Whether this Mayor's flag was indeed adopted as well or was only a proposal for further adoption is not clear. The Decision was to be proclaimed during the ceremonial session of the Assembly held on 29 May 1991 (Varaždinske vijesti, 30 May 1991)

A competition was run in 1953 by the authorities for the design of town revenue stamps, with 19 designers submitting 32 proposals. The winning design depicts the old town fort with the town coat of arms in it. I am not aware if these stamps were eventually printed and used. However, a number of towns were issuing such kind of stamps and, presumably, many of the stamps would include coat of arms. The town of Varaždinalready issued in 1927 revenue stamps, depicting the historical seal (coatt of arms) (Varaždinske vijesti, 10 December 1953).
Logotypes were designed in 1980 for the 800th anniversary of the town, to be celebrated in 1981. It was mentioned that "the coat of arms and the flag of the town, as already established symbols, shall be used on their own or together with these emblems". It is also stated that a book of graphical standards for the fonts, coat of arms, emblems etc. was prepared (Varaždinske vijesti, 4 December 1980). It would mean that the town flag was adopted prior to 1980. It was the five-striped red and white flag as it is today, as confirmed by an article from 1991 regarding the adoption of the new symbols.
The session of the Town Assembly be held on 18 November 1987 included the discussion of a proposal of Decision on the description and the use of the coat of arms and the flag of the Town of Varaždin. The three chambers of the Assembly discussed the proposal: the Decision was not adopted, but a two-stage procedure was initiated, involving first a public discussion and second the drafting of the text (Varaždinske vijesti, 26 November 1987).

Željko Heimer, 3 November 2013

Flag of the Mayor of Varaždin (1991-1995)

[Flag] image (reconstruction) by Željko Heimer, 21 February 2014

The 1991 Decision prescribed also a Mayor's flag, described as being the same as the Town flag, but with the Town arms set "in its first third". Theis flag is not mentioned otherwise in the decision; its use is not prescribed, unlike the use of the flag and arms. The 1995 Decision drops the Mayor's flag altogether, simply by dropping the relevant paragraph. Whether this flag was ever produced or used is unclear. This appears to be the only example of a separate Mayor's flag in Croatia.

Željko Heimer, 21 February 2014

Local Committee of Jalkovec

[Flag]   [Flag] images by Željko Heimer, 17 December 2021

The flag of Local Committee of Jalkovec in City of Varaždin is yellow with emblem.

Tomislav Šipek, 17 December 2021

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