Flag Of Vatican City: History And Meaning

The flag of the Vatican City is the official emblem that identifies internationally and nationally that European country, seat of the Catholic Church. It has a 1: 1 ratio and is made up of two stripes: yellow and white. In the latter the arms of the coat of arms of the Vatican City are located.

The gold and silver colors represent spiritual and earthly power. Originally, the papal flag was red and yellow. When Napoleon Bonaparte’s army used these colors, Pope Pius VII promoted a change, which led to the replacement of red by white.

The two current stripes officially appeared in 1825. In 1870 the flag lost its official status, after the dissolution of the Papal States. In 1929, as a consequence of the Lateran Pacts, a version of the flag from 1849 was adopted.

The arms of the shield stand out on the flag. They are summarized in the Papal Tiara and two keys, of gold and silver colors, which are identified with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven of Saint Peter, according to the Bible.

Additionally, the flag is used as a symbol of the world Catholic Church. For this reason, it is frequent to see it in temples and Catholic associations.

History of the flag

Traditionally, the Papal States, predecessors of the current Vatican, used a yellow and red flag. These were the traditional colors of the Senate and the People of Rome.

The SPQR, acronym by which it is also known, is a phrase that refers to the government and the relationship with the people that existed in the ancient Roman Republic.

In 1803, simultaneously, the Papal States began to use a merchant flag. This insignia was white with the papal coat of arms in the center. The flag was made official on June 7, 1815.

Official inclusion of the target

In March 1808, Pope Pius VII ordered the Vatican’s Noble Guard and other troops to change the color from red to white. This was done in order to distinguish the troops of the Papal States from those of Napoleon’s army.

In September 1825, the white merchant flag was replaced with a yellow and white flag. These colors were inspired by the materials from which, according to Catholic doctrine, the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven are made. Yellow is for gold, while white is for silver.

Roman Republic

In February 1849, a revolt in the Papal States resulted in the loss of papal power. The consequence was that a Roman Republic was declared.

It was governed by a triumvirate made up of Carlo Armellini (Roman lawyer), Aurelio Saffi (one of the drafters of the constitution of the new Republic) and Giuseppe Manzini (active republican).

When this happened, Pope Pius IX went into exile in Gaeta and requested help from the Catholic states of Europe. In July 1849 the Roman Republic ended, after a French invasion led by its then president, Carlos Luis Bonaparte. The Papal States recovered the papal power and returned to use the flag before the Roman Republic.

The flag of the Roman Republic consisted of three vertical stripes of equal size. Their colors were green, white, and red. The motto “Dio e Popolo” (God and People) was placed in the central strip.

Italian invasion

Later, on October 20, 1870, the Papal States were conquered by Italy and the yellow and white flag lost its official status. In 1870, the papal estates were in an uncertain situation when Rome was annexed to the forces that had united the rest of Italy, after a nominal resistance by the papal forces.

In 1871, the Quirinal Palace was confiscated by the new King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II and converted into the royal palace. From then on, the popes resided within the walls of the Vatican, under the figure of prisoners in the Vatican .

Flag of the State of Vatican City

Despite this, the popes did not recognize the Italian right to rule in Rome. They refused to leave the Vatican until the discussion was resolved in 1929.

In this year the Lateran Pacts took place. The agreements were signed by Pietro Gasparri, cardinal who acted on behalf of Pope Pius XI, and by Benito Mussolini , Prime Minister of Italy, who in turn represented King Victor Emmanuel II.

The pacts became the creation of the Vatican City State. At 0.44 square kilometers, it became the smallest country in the world with full sovereignty.

The ecclesiastical authorities decided to use the flag of 1825 to represent them as a sovereign state. The size of the 1862 infantry flag was used, with a 1: 1 ratio. Finally, the Vatican flag came into force on June 7, 1929.

Banner design

The flag of the State of Vatican City is square, with a 1: 1 ratio. It consists of two vertical bands of the same size in yellow and white. In the center of the white strip are located the crossed keys of Saint Peter and the Papal Tiara, which are the arms of the country’s coat of arms.

The gold key points to the right and the silver key to the left. Both are joined with a gules or azure cord.

Meaning of the flag

The colors white and yellow have their origin in a tradition in which both colors represented the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven that Saint Peter guards. These keys were given to the Pope when in the ” Lateran Archbasilica ” he assumed the Petrine ministry in Rome.

This meaning is also reflected in the arms of the shield that are on the flag. These are composed of two crossed keys that represent the Keys of Heaven, which Jesus Christ gave to Saint Peter, according to what is written in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew 16:19. In addition, the papal tiara is also present, symbol of the power of the leader of the Catholic Church in the world.

The popes are the successors of Saint Peter, who was the first pope. The gold and silver keys have been very significant elements in the symbolism of the Holy See since the 13th century.

Gold also represents the spiritual power and silver, the temporal power of the Catholic Church. A red cord is located between both keys as a symbol of the link between the two powers.

Other flags

In 1831, the papal infantry used a square flag with yellow and white stripes. At first they were divided diagonally, but later they were separated vertically.

In 1862, the infantry adopted a simple square white and yellow flag. The current flag of the country was inspired in this size.

The Vatican City has a Swiss Guard. These are the armed forces of the country, and they have just over 100 soldiers. The army has its own flag, with the arms of Pope Francis and Commander Christoph Graf.


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