“Bavaria is a Free State. The colours of the state are white and blue. The coat of arms of the state are determined by law.” Article 1 of the Constitution of the Free State of Bavaria
The Bavarian coat of arms is generally known and loved. It was introduced on 5 June 1950 with the “Law concerning the Coat of Arms of the Free State of Bavaria”. The symbols depicted in the coat of arms are deeply rooted in the history of Bavaria. The heraldic elements in the “Great Coat of Arms of Bavaria” are as follows:
The golden lion Originally the golden lion in the black field was the symbol of the Counts Palatine at Rhein. After the Bavarian Duke Ludwig was enfeoffed with the County Palatine in 1214 it served for centuries as the joint symbol of the ancient Bavarian and Palatine Wittelsbach dynasties. Today the golden lion rampant of the Palatinate, edged in red, is a reminder of the district of the Upper Palatinate.
The Franconian rake The second quarter is divided into two halves: red and white (silver) with three white peaks. This “rake” was first encountered in the arms of several places belonging to the High Abbey of Würzburg around 1350 and then in the seals of the Prince Bishops around 1410. Today the Franconian rake stands for the districts of Upper Franconia, Middle Franconia, and Lower Franconia.
The blue panther The third quarter, in the bottom left, shows a blue panther rampant, edged in gold, against a white (silver) background. It was first used in the 12th century in the arms of the Counts Palatine of Ortenburg, who lived in Lower Bavaria. Later it was adopted by the Wittlesbachs. Today the blue panther represents the ancient Bavarian districts of Lower Bavaria and Upper Bavaria.
The three black lions The fourth quarter depicts three black lions couchant, edged in red, one above the other, facing the observer. They derive from the ancient coat of arms of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, the former Dukes of Swabia, first used in 1216. In the coat of arms these three lions represent the district of Swabia.
The white and blue central shield The central shield consists of white (silver) and blue rhombuses. After serving as the coat of arms of the Counts of Bogen from 1204, the Wittelsbachs took it over as their standard family coat of arms in 1247. The white and blue rhombuses are the quintessential symbol of Bavaria. Today the rhomboid shield represents Bavaria as a whole. Together with the people’s crown it is also officially used as the “Lesser Coat of Arms of the State”.
The people’s crown The four-quartered shield with the central shield is surmounted by a crown. It consists of a bejewelled golden band decorated with five ornamental leaves. First used in the coat of arms of 1923, it is known as the people’s crown to symbolise the sovereignty of the people following the abolition of the monarchy.
The Bavarian State Flags
The Free State of Bavaria has two official flags, one with stripes and one with rhombuses, of equal status. The striped flag consists of two equal horizontal stripes in the Bavarian colours, white on top, blue below. The rhomboid flag consists of at least 21 white and blue rhombuses including the incomplete ones at the edges of the flag. Long thin flags can include more rhombuses. In any case, however, the heraldic top right-hand corner (that is the top left-hand corner from the point of view of the observer) must be occupied by an incomplete white rhombus.