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Fast Facts: The Symbolism that Hides Behind Portugal's Flag

Portugal's flag is ripe with symbolism reflecting the country's history and accomplishments. Here are nine facts that reveal the meaning of the Portuguese flag.


Portuguese Flag in Largo dos Restauradores
Proudly waving the Portuguese flag at the Largo dos Restauradores in Lisbon

1. Portugal's flag became the country's official flag in 1911.

The current flag of Portugal became official in 1911 with the establishment of Portugal’s First Republic. With the creation of the First Republic, a new constitution was created that abolished the monarchy and secularized the state.


2. Blue and white were the main colors in earlier versions of the flag.

Previous versions of Portugal's flag featured a blue and white background, the colors of the monarchy (still used on the Azorean flag). Red and green are actually the colors of the Portuguese Republican party formed in during the later years of the monarchy.


3. Green represents hope, red represents blood lost in battle.

It's said that green represented hope for the future once the First Republic was established in 1911, while red represents blood lost in battle (specifically in the 1910 Revolution that helped abolish the monarchy).


Portugal's coat of arms
Portugal's coat of arms

4. The coat of arms is the oldest feature on the flag.

The oldest part of the flag is Portugal's coat of arms, which is composed of five blue shields on a white backdrop. These five shields have remained a part of the flag since Portugal became a country in the 11th century.


5. The castles on the red shield represent victories over the Moors.

The red shield represents victories against the Moors. Specifically, the seven yellow castles along the edges represent the Moorish fortresses that were taken over during battle and the blue shields within the coat of arms are symbolic of the five Moorish kings that were killed by the first King of Portugal, Afonso I.


6. The white dots on the blue shields symbolize Christ's five wounds.

Although it's disputed, legend says that Jesus Christ appeared to Afonso I and helped ensure his success against the Moors. For that reason, the white dots included on the blue shields in Portugal's coat of arms are believed to symbolize the five wounds of Christ.


Armillary Sphere used by Portuguese navigators
Armillary Sphere used by Portuguese navigators

7. A navigational tool is featured on Portugal's flag, alluding to its maritime legacy and discoveries.

The yellow ribbon-like sphere that encompasses the red shield is an armillary sphere, which is a navigational tool used by Portuguese navigators to sail the oceans. This symbol represents Portugal's maritime achievements during the European Age of Discovery, where extensive overseas exploration took place.


8. The flag was designed by a Portuguese painter, journalist, and diplomat.

Portugal's flag was designed by three national figures including Realist painter Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro (brother of the famous ceramicist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro); journalist and politician João Pinheiro Chagas; and as well as the diplomat and writer, Abel Botelho.


9. Portugal's flag is popularly called Bandeira das Quinas.

The Portuguese flag is referred to by several monikers, of which the most popular is Bandeira das Quinas (Flag of the Shields), in reference to the blue shields on the flag. Another national treasure that alludes to the flag's shield is Portugal's national soccer team, known as the Selecção das Quinas.



Now that you know everything you need to know about Portugal's flag,

carry it around with you wherever you go!


 

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