I love squares and cubes. I love how Instagram has revolutionised how pictures can be framed.
As a visual person, I find myself thinking more in squares these days. Like this morning, I woke up thinking SQUARES. I swear. Maybe it’s because I was working till 2.30am, and my brain never quite powered down.
In any case, I woke up thinking about – of all things – square flags.
When I went to Europe with my family back in 1989, one of the things I learnt that quite blew my mind was that there are countries in the world that fly square flags!
Well, at least I knew of one. And as I was growing up, I always prided myself for being one of the few people who knew this.
I’m sure you knew this too. Yes, Switzerland!
The flag of Switzerland consists of a red square with a bold, equilateral white cross in the centre.
I love the Swiss flag, and I can’t think of it being any other shape. The simple design is based on the coat of arms of canton (federal state) Schwyz, one of the three founding members of the Swiss confederation back in 1291.
This white cross on a red square emblem was officially introduced as the Swiss army flag by a gentleman called Guillaume Henri Dufour, who later became general of the federal troops in a short civil war in 1847.
Here’s a little trivia for you: Guillaume Henri Dufour was also the gentleman who presided over the First Geneva Convention, which established the International Red Cross in 1864. So yes, it was also Dufour who proposed the red cross on white ground as the Red Cross’ emblem, and name for the Red Cross.
But there is one other country on this Planet that also has a square flag. And ITALY share borders with these two countries with square flags. Can you guess?
The only other square flag consists of two vertical bands of yellow and white, with the crossed keys of Saint Peter and the Papal Tiara centred in the white band.
That’s right: Vatican City.
The flag of the Vatican City was adopted in 1929, the year Pope Pius XI signed the Lateran Treaty with Italy, creating a new independent state governed by the Holy See.
However, I do see rectangular versions of the Vatican flag everywhere (as I do the Swiss!), but the original flag is square.
And just to inject a bit of randomness – but not quite, because they are after all Swiss – have you ever stopped to admire the Swiss Guards at the Vatican?
I know some people snigger at their uniforms, and poke fun saying they look more like jesters than soldiers. But hey, these brave military men first entered the Vatican in 1506, and their uniforms have remained virtually unaltered all these centuries!
Do you know who is responsible for the design of the Swiss Guards’ uniforms?
Well, according to the Vatican’s official website, it is not Michelangelo. Gosh, what have we been believing all these years?
“It is commonly thought that the uniform was designed by Michelangelo, but it would seem rather that he had nothing to do with it. However, Raffaello certainly did influence its development, as he indeed influenced fashion in general in Italy in the Renaissance, through his painting.”
– The Roman Curia –
So there. Just a little travel trivia on a Saturday morning. After all, it’s cool to be square!