THE FLAG OF SCANIA
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"The Red and Yellow Cross Flag, History and Stories Told"
by Sven-Olle R. Olsson, Ph.D., Malmö.
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Much confusion surrounds the red and yellow cross flag, which is often called "den skånska". However, it is a regional and cultural flag - national flag if you want - for Scania as a whole - Skåne, Halland, Blekinge and the Island of Bornholm.. In order to clarify the concepts and organise the material about its history, the Foundation for the Future of Scania has asked Sven Olle R. Olsson, Ph.D., of Malmö to research the matter. The results obtained so far are presented in this essay which includes both history and stories about the flag.
We at The Foundation feel it is important to emphasise that Scania's flag has been officially registered in the Scandinavian Register of Coat of Arms (SVR 431/92 B:15) and is completely free of any associations to political parties or organisations.
It is a neutral, cultural symbol for Scania, with roots far into the past. The Foundation for the Future of Scania encourages everybody to use it.
Stiftelsen Skånsk Framtid
The flag of Scania, in everyday speech often called "den skånska", is represented as being that of the whole of Scania, i.e. the common unifying symbol for Skåne, Halland, Blekinge and Bornholm, but its use in earlier times is hidden in the shadows of the past.
Just as is the case with the common history of Scania, interest in researching the background of the Scanian flag has been limited. We therefore still lack definite evidence of events that various individuals have associated with the red and yellow cross flag.
The Archbishop of Lund
The Nordic area broke off from the archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen in 1104 in order to establish a unit of its own. The primate of this unit was the Archbishop of Lund who in this way became the Scanian Nordic Archbishop, the first of whom was Ascer (1089-1137). It is likely that the Archbishop of Lund had some kind of standard. If the Archbishop of Lund had such a banner, it was probably given by the Pope. Since the Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen carried the colours of a white cross on a red background, the new independent Nordic archdiocese is not likely to have carried the same colours. Therefore, it is more probable that the Archbishop of Lund carried different colours, e.g. a yellow cross on a red background instead of a white cross on a red background.
The cross coat of
The cross coat of arms was not prominent among the Old Catholic archbishops in Lund. Instead, their symbol was the Laurentian gridiron, which to this day is the coat of arms of the Diocese of Lund (Fig. 5). This in itself is not so strange, since the Cathedral of Lund is dedicated to St. Lars. However, a coin has been found that was minted in Schleswig some time between 1154 and 1182 during the reign of King Valdemar the Great (Fig. 1a). On its reverse side is depicted a so-called gonfalon with a cross coat of arms similar to the flag of Switzerland and equipped with four streamers. This type of flag is also found in the coat of arms of the District of Frosta (Fig. 2). A similar flag from the days of the reign of Canute VI is found on the reverse side of the coin in Figure 1B, but here the cross is twisted into an x-shape. Similar flags occur primarily as banners and several of these are onsidered to have been given by the Pope. One example of this is the gonfalon (Fig. 3) from the Tapestry of Bayeaux, depicting the conquest of England by William the Conqueror at Hastings in 1066. The tapestry - it is thought - was made a decade or so later.
The Colours of
His successors, Canute VI (1182-1202) and Valdemar II (1202-1241) continued this cooperation with the Knights of St. John. (This information was communicated to me by Bertil Persson, Professor of Theology, of Solna.).
In any case, we can be certain that this coin discovery (Fig. 1a) represents the oldest, Danish flag known. This in turn means that a Danish cross flag was carried as early as at the end of the 12th century. Generally, with respect to Danish coins from this time, it is probable that the reverse sides of the coins represent the Archbishop and the Church, while the obverse sides represent the power of the King. If this is the case, this gonfalon is the banner of the Archbishops of Lund.
The Danish red and white flag can be found later in the coat of arms of Valdemar Atterdag (Fig. 4).
According to legend, the Danes received the Dannebrog in the Battle of Volmer at Reval in 1219, during Valdemar Sejr's crusade to Estonia, and it is said that the Knights of St. John carried their coat of arms, the white cross on a red background, during this crusade. As far as the Scanians are concerned, however, it is said that they were actually under the jurisdiction of Andreas Sunesen at the Cathedral of Lund. As opposed to this, the historian Carl-Gustav Liljenberg has pointed out in a letter that Waldemar simply stole the red and white flag of the Low German, Saxon, Gotlandic and Livonian crusaders, which was that of the Archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen.
This legend could then have been copied by the Swedes, since they wanted to be as good as the Danes. According to the Swedish legend, Eric the Holy received the yellow cross from the blue skies in Finland during his crusade in 1157. Alf Åberg has also put forward the theory that the Swedish flag arose as a resistance flag against the Danish Union in the mid 1400's, and that it was the rebellious Karl Knutsson Bonde who was behind it. Another theory, proposed by Carl-Gustav Liljenberg, is that Erik XIV of Sweden adopted the blue and yellow cross coat of arms of the city of Riga in 1562, in order to incorporate Riga's important trade system with the Swedish. The first pictures of a blue cloth with a yellow cross as a Swedish flag is a provincial coat of arms for southern Finland on the 1550's and one for Gotland during the funeral cortege of Gustav Vasa in 1562, declared Clara Nevéus, the State Heraldist, in a letter.
The Archdiocese of Riga's yellow coat of arms on a red background derives its origin from Albert de Buxhoevden (Bishop of Riga from 1199-1229), who founded both the diocese in 1201 and the Order of the Sword in 1202. Pope Innocent II recognised both the Order and its coat of arms, a yellow cross on a red background, in 1202. This Albert cooperated with the Archbishop of Lund, Andreas Sunesen (1201-1228), who undertook the crusade to Estonia in 1206. Later, Albert asked Valdemar II/Sejr for his assistance in continuing the Christianisation of Estonia, and the result was the battle at Lindanisa, later Reval, now Tallinn on June 15, 1219. The Christianisation of Estonia was thereby almost complete. Estonia came under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Lund (1219-1346). Andreas Sunesen, who accompanied Valdemar Sejr in 1219, remained in Estonia until 1221. Through the central role played by Albert de Buxhoevden, this red and yellow flag became the coat of arms of the Diocese of Riga, and Andreas Sunesen adopted this coat of arms as his own and that of the Archdiocese of Lund. (This information was conveyed to me by Bertil Persson, Professor of Theology, Solna.)
Thus, there is some evidence that Scania's flag has its origin in the Diocese of Riga and that Andreas Sunesen was the first bearer of this cross coat of arms. It is also probable that the Dannebrog derives its origin from the coat of arms of the Knights of St. John from the 1160's, and that it is this coat of arms this is shown on the gonfalon on the coin.
The Flag of Uppsala
In several places in the Nordic countries, the red and yellow cross coat of arms occurs in connection with churches. This is logical, if it was issued by Lund and all bishops were under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Lund, as their primate.
Norway and Finland
In Norway, the red and yellow cross coat of arms exists as a sun cross in the coat of arms of St. Olav, and it is this coat of arms that National Samling (NS) used during the 1930's and 40's. In the University of Oslo's collection of antiquities there is a painting from an unknown church, 1320-1340, in Trondheim, which shows the death of Olav II Haraldsson in the battle of Stikkelstad in 1030. His coat of arms is a red shield with a golden cross.
In Finland, the red and yellow flag is used primarily by Finnish-Swedes and it can perhaps be traced back to the coat of arms of the Diocese of Åbo, which in turn may be derived from the Archdiocese of Uppsala, as previously mentioned. Before the acceptance of the Finnish blue and white flag as a national flag in 1917, the red and yellow cross flag was a strong pretender. This was because the national coat of arms is a yellow lion on a red background, and it would have been natural to have a red and yellow national flag (Klinge, 1988).
The Coat of Arms
It has also been suggested by Hans Sivörn, Växsjö, in a letter to the editor of Arbetet in 1967, that the red and yellow cross coat of arms used to be that of Värend. It may have been carried by Nils Dacke in his fight against the Swedish Centralist State.
These facts point to the possibility that the red and yellow cross coat of arms very well may have been the coat of arms of the Nordic and Scanian Archbishops of Lund. It was later given to the Diocese of Nidaros in Trondheim and the Diocese of Uppsala, as well as being the basis for the coat of arms of the Nordic Union as a worldly power.
In the legends mentioned, flag signs in the sky occurred, and this should be interpreted as an idiomatic expression, a metaphor, modelled on biblical apocalyptic literature and the interpretation of this literature by medieval painters and artists. The expression is used to describe victory and whose victory we are dealing with. In other words, it is imagery for an existential question.
This symbolism is found as victory flags in Christianity, the victory of Christ over death, e.g. in the pulpit of Stora Köpinge church and the altarpiece of the church in Perstorp. Also the coat of arms of Gotland and the Diocese of Visby are included in this symbolism (Fig. 5), Agnus Dei, God's lamb, with the flag as a sign of victory. God's lamb is Christ, who is sacrificed but who is victorious with flag raised high at the resurrection and the Ascension. (Fig. 9)