The Swiss Flag: Meaning, Colors, and History

Switzerland Flag Meaning and Colors

The Swiss flag is square and consists of the symbol of a white cross on a red background. Despite being a small country that hasn’t been involved in any wars since 1815, this is one of the world’s most recognizable flags. This is in part due to its unique shape, its prevalence on products like Swiss Army Knives, and it’s similarity to the emblem of the Red Cross. It’s also true that the design of the flag of Switzerland is simple and may be easier to remember. 

The white cross on the red base represents the Christian cross, as well as the sign of the old Swiss Confederacy. The Swiss flag in the traditional sense represents freedom, honor, and loyalty. The Swiss flag in modern times also represents neutrality, democracy, and peace, largely due to Switzerland’s stance as a neutral country since 1815.

Flag Map of Switzerland

The Swiss Flag: Meaning, Colors, and History 1
Switzerland Flag Map

Swiss Flag Facts

The flag of Switzerland is depicted: a white cross centered on a red square background.
Swiss Flag
  • One of the distinctive characteristics of the Swiss flag is its square shape. Apart from the flag of the Vatican City, it is the world’s only non-rectangular flag.
  • Switzerland also uses the same design for both its coat of arms and flag, which is uncommon among other countries.
  • The Swiss flag is sometimes confused with the emblem of the Red Cross because of their similar designs. The emblem of the Red Cross features a red cross on a white background, essentially reversing the colors of the Swiss flag.
  • The red color used in the background of the flag of Switzerland has been standardized by law since 2017. It is called Pantone 485C.
  • The national flag of Switzerland can be seen hanging from many private residences and businesses in the country throughout the year as a show of patriotism. This is especially true in rural areas, and a cantonal or municipal flag is often also flown. Swiss flags and banners are even more prominent on August 1st, which is Swiss National Day. Canton and Swiss flags can be seen in Zurich in the image below.
Canton Flags and the Swiss Nation Flag in Zurich, Switzerland
Swiss National Day on August 1 in Zurich, Switzerland. Canton Flags and the Swiss Nation Flag
All Swiss regions (cantons) flag collection
Set Flags of the cantons of Switzerland
  • The emblem of the Red Cross was inspired by the design of Switzerland’s national flag. The colors of the flag were reversed as a way to honor the country where the first Geneva Convention was held as well as Henry Dunant, the Swiss co-founder of the Red Cross.
  • Like the flags of most nations, the usage of the flag of Switzerland is protected legally. Technically, the commercial usage of the flag, the coat of arms, and the Swiss cross was prohibited in 1931, but this was never fully enforced.
  • In 2017, the rules were officially amended so that only the commercial usage of the coat of arms is prohibited. The image of the Swiss flag may be used commercially so long as it “is neither misleading nor contrary to public policy, morality or applicable law.”  A well-known product that features the Swiss cross is the Swiss Army Knife.

Swiss Flag FAQs:

Is the Switzerland flag a square or rectangle?

The flag of Switzerland is one of only two national flags that are officially square. The other belongs to the Vatican City.
Although the official dimensions of the Swiss flag describe a perfect square, the flag can often be seen as a rectangle in international contexts. This is usually because countries are conforming to standard rectangle flag dimensions. Swiss naval flags are not square, but have a width to length ratio of 2:3 instead.

Why is the Swiss flag a square?

Switzerland uses a square flag, simply maintaining the shape of its military coat of arms at the time. The coat of arms still uses the same white cross on a red background as the flag, but it is now depicted on a heraldic shield instead of a square.

What is the meaning of the Swiss cross?

The Swiss cross is a symbol that comes from the Holy Roman Empire. It was a symbol used by Swiss soldiers in battle in the 14th century to distinguish themselves from enemy soldiers; it was sewn onto armor before battle.
Later, the cross began to appear on Swiss weapons and banners.
The white cross also represents a connection to Christianity, the most popular religion in Switzerland. While there is a debate as to what the red in the Swiss flag symbolizes, theories are that it represents the blood of Christ or that it was taken from the old flag of the canton of Bern.

How old is the flag of Switzerland?

The official flag of Switzerland is 129 years old. It became the official national flag design in 1889 when it was established in the country’s constitution. The flag design is 49 years older, however, first appearing in 1840. The flag also first made it into Switzerland’s constitution in 1848, but at this time it was only officially recognized as the flag for the army.

History of the Switzerland Flag

Originally designed in 1840 and borrowing the symbol of a white cross from the Holy Roman Empire, the Swiss flag became recognized as the official national flag in the country’s constitution in 1889. It had previously made it into Switzerland’s constitution as the official flag of the army in 1848. 

The origins of the white cross symbol seen on Switzerland’s flag is a debated subject. The first use of the cross by the Old Swiss Confederacy is widely agreed upon to have been during the Battle of Laupen in 1339, but how it first became used by the Holy Roman Empire is unknown.

The reasons for having red as the background color isn’t perfectly clear, although there are a couple of theories. One is that the red is supposed to represent the blood of Christ. This theory would fit with the cross symbolizing Christianity. Another is that the red came from the color of the Bernese flag at the time.

After the founding of the Helvetic Republic, which lasted from 1798 to 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte instituted the use of a Swiss flag that was green, red, and yellow. The Helvetic Republic was intensely unpopular, and the people of Switzerland abandoned this flag as soon as the republic was dissolved. 

Switzerland has opted for a square-shaped flag because its coat of arms is also square. This is a feature that makes the Swiss flag stand out from most others, as the Vatican City is the only other country to have a square flag.

The shape of Switzerland’s flag has caused some minor problems in its use abroad. One instance of this was during its application for United Nations membership in 2002. UN regulations require all member countries’ flags raised in front of the UN building in New York to be rectangular. Switzerland was forced to agree to fly a rectangular flag instead. The Swiss flag flown at the Olympic Games is also rectangular, and this is to conform with the shape of other nations’ flags.

More Information About Switzerland

Neighboring Countries of Switzerland

The Swiss Flag: Meaning, Colors, and History 2

As seen in the map of Switzerland, it is a landlocked Central European country that borders five countries: Germany in the north, Italy to the south, France in the west, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. 

Interestingly, Switzerland has its own navy, even though it has no sea coastline. This is because there are several lakes that make up its border lines with other countries. The Swiss navy consists of several patrol boats that monitor these bodies of water.

Main Characteristics of Switzerland

Switzerland is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world. This is just one of many reasons to visit Switzerland, in addition to great skiing and an interesting culture. The snow-covered peaks, blue lakes, and green valleys of the Alps and surrounding land are an image many people have of Switzerland, and the natural beauty is a major reason tourists flock to the country. 

The capital city of Switzerland is Bern, and there are 26 Swiss cantons, of which Zurich is the largest. The country has an impressive four official languages, even though it’s one of the smaller countries in Europe. They are German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Romansh is spoken by the fewest people out of the four. The population of Switzerland is about 8.7 million people in 2022. This makes it the 20th most populous European country, coming in just after Serbia.

Alpine mountains occupy a large part of the country, and there is no seashore. The second-largest mountain range in the country is the Jura Mountains. Since it is a mountainous country, many bridges and tunnels are used in transportation. In fact, the tunnels penetrating the Alpine mountains are among the longest tunnels in the world. The 57 km long Gotthard Tunnel is the world’s longest railway tunnel.

CodeCH (CHE)
Calling Code41
Capital CityBern
CurrencySwiss Franc (CHF)
Switzerland Flag Emoji🇨🇭
Highest PointDufourspitze (Pointe Dufour) (4,634 m)
Population(2022 estimate)8,773,637
Total Area41,284 km2
Switzerland Key Facts