History & Symbols

History & Symbols

Bavaria looks back on a long and eventful past. Famous Bavarians have made a name for themselves in the world. Important symbols are at the root of the German region’s official image.

Southern Bavaria was part of the Roman Empire. Cities like Augsburg and Regensburg were founded 2,000 years ago.
The Duchy of Bavaria existed from the High Middle Ages until modern times, yet several Bavarian territories were also governed directly by the German emperor (Kaiser), such as the Free Imperial City (freie Reichsstadt) of Nuremberg. 

Modern Bavaria developed from 1806, the year it became a kingdom under the influence of Emperor Napoleon. The most famous king of Bavaria is without any doubt Louis II of Bavaria, the “fairy tale king”, who had many buildings constructed, including the world-famous Neuschwanstein castle. 

In 1871, Bavaria became part of the newly created German Empire (Deutsches Reich), becoming a federal state in the modern sense for the first time. 

After World War II, Bavaria quickly developed from a mainly agricultural to an industrialized region. Today, Bavaria is a major innovation and research center, with over 12.5 million inhabitants, and has considerable economic weight in Germany and Europe. 

Bavarians care profoundly about their history and traditions. Great events such as the Landshut Marriage, the Passion Festival in Oberammergau and the Munich Oktoberfest bear witness to Bavaria’s past. 

But Bavaria is also a precursor in environmental protection and the fight against climate change: it was the first Land to create a Ministry of the Environment. 

Symbols of the State

Bavaria carries the title of Freistaat, which translates as Free State.  The term Freistaat comes from the 19th century as a literary translation of the word “republic”, as opposed to “monarchy”. As a matter of fact, it was used by the federal states that had switched from a former hereditary monarchy to a people-elected government. It was introduced to describe Bavaria in 1919, when the Weimar Republic took over what was formerly known as imperial Germany. To this day, the term continues to be used in the German language in connection with Bavaria, out of tradition.  

The Large Bavarian Coat of Arms

The large Bavarian coat of arms looks back on a long tradition. It was introduced on 5 June 1950 with the Law on 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. Each of the heraldic elements of the Great Bavarian State Emblem have a special meaning.

The Heraldic Elements of the Great Bavarian State Emblem

The Golden Lion

In the black quarter there is the golden lion in a black field. It was originally the symbol of the count Palatine by Rhine. After the Bavarian Duke Ludwig was granted the Palatinate in 1214, it served for centuries as the common symbol of the old Bavarian and Palatine Wittelsbach dynasties. Today the upright, golden and red-edged Palatinate lion is reminiscent of the administrative district of Upper Palatinate. 

The Franconian Rake

The second quarter is divided by red and white (silver) areas, with three white triangles pointing upwards. This “rake” appeared around 1350 as the coat of arms of some towns of the Bishopric of Würzburg and has also been depicted on the seals of the prince-bishops since 1410. Today, the Franconian rake stands for the administrative districts of Upper Franconia, Middle Franconia and Lower Franconia.

The Blue Panther

Down left in the third field a blue, gold-reinforced, upright panther on a white (silver) ground is shown. Originally it was used in the coat of arms of the Palatine Counts of Ortenburg, who lived in Lower Bavaria (12th century). Later the Wittelsbacher adopted it. Today, the Blue Panther represents the old Bavarian administrative districts of Lower Bavaria and Upper Bavaria.

The Three Black Lions

In the fourth field at the bottom right three black, stacked and red-edged lions are depicted on gold. They are taken from the old coat of arms of the Hohenstaufen dynasty (for the first time in 1216), the former dukes of Swabia. In the national coat of arms, these three lions represent the administrative district of Swabia. 

The White and Blue Central Shield

The central shield is roughened in white (silver) and blue. Formerly the coat of arms of the Counts of Bogen, it was adopted as the coat of arms of the House of Wittelsbach in 1242. The white-blue lozenges are the emblem of Bavaria and symbolizes Bavaria as a whole. With the People’s Crown, it is also officially used as the small national coat of arms. 

The Peoples Crown

On the four-squared shield with the central shield there is the people’s crown (Volkskrone). It consists of a golden rim decorated with stones and beset with five ornamental leaves. The people’s crown, which first appeared in the coat of arms of 1923, symbolizes the sovereignty of the people after the abolition of the royal crown. 

The Lions Holding a Shield

The heraldic lions holding a shield continue a tradition from the 14th century.