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The history of the Amsterdam flag

The history of the Amsterdam flag

Amsterdam’s city flag is super badass. We already knew this, of course. But in 2015 it was confirmed by flag enthusiast Roman Mars (on 10:10) during one of his TED talks. 

The flag as we know it today (horizontal red flag, with a black banner and three white crosses) was assigned as the official city flag in February of 1975, but the history dates back to earlier times. Apparently this design was already used in the 17th century, but back then this was an unofficial design.

The three crosses ánd the coat of arms are a much used symbol in Amsterdam. You're able to find them on buildings, bridges, posts and catch them on our 100 Highlights cruiseopen boat and pedal boat.

Coat of arms of Amsterdam

The red, white and black flag is an excerpt of the coat of arms of Amsterdam which dates back from approximately 1280.  This sign includes the red and black shield with three white crosses that’s being held by two golden lions. On top of the shield there’s a imperial crown that’s added in 1489 due to help during the Jonker Fransen War.

Underneath all this, there’s a bannister that has the motto “Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig” (Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate) on it. This motto was added right after the Second World War to remember the role of the citizens of Amsterdam during the war and especially during the February Strike in 1941 – a strike where non-Jewish people protested against the prosecution of Jews.

Amsterdam flag - wapen.png

Three crosses

The story about the coat of arms is a tough one, so that’s already pretty badass. But it’s not the entire coat that’s being shown on the flag, it’s just the three crosses. So what’s the story about those? There are many interpretations and tales about those three crosses.

The crosses are called Andreas Crosses, which refers to the apostle Andreas who was said to be crucified at a cross like this. In German culture, the crosses have a protective force.

Many think the crosses are derived from the family crest of family Persijn who is seen as the founder of the current Dam. Other cities that were founded or owned by this family have the same crosses in their coat of arms.

Others think it refers to the three plagues that hit the city of Amsterdam: water, fire and the plague itself.

And there is another theory about the three crosses. The black banner behind the crosses could be seen as the Amstel River and the three crosses stand for the three places you could cross that river. The black banner is used in more coats of cities that lie alongside the Amstel River, so it could be a valid argument.


As you noticed, there’s not just one conclusion about the Amsterdam city flag. Except it being a incredibly cool flag. The flag is still being researched and sometimes little pieces of history are discovered in archives – just like the original flag from the February Strike was found in the city archive a while back. One day this entire story will be pieced together and for now we just have to be really proud to being called the most badass.

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