Emblem & flag
“Who are you? A little Pole. What is your sign? The white eagle….” – this Polish verse was once known by every child, even at nursery school. And although the verse is no longer as popular as it once was, all Polish children know that their country’s coat of arms features an eagle and that its flag has two colours – white and red.
The eagle appeared for the first time as a mark of the Polish state on the denar coins of Boleslaw the Brave, minted specially for the Convention of Gniezno in the year 1000. And although the bird seen on the coin does not resemble today’s heraldic image, it is probably a white-tailed eagle. However, its use as a symbol was a one-off. The crowned white eagle was officially declared the emblem of the whole country in 1295, when Przemysl II was crowned king of Poland. The eagle was then placed on a red background.
The symbol of the eagle proved more durable than the country itself. It survived partitions, wars and political upheaval. Deprived of its crown by the communist regime, it returned in its old form at the end of 1989. Today, the Polish coat of arms is based on an eagle design dating from 1927 created by Professor Zygmunt Kaminski.
The colours on the emblem are not there by accident. In Slavic culture, white symbolised honesty and kindness, while red was a sign of valour. According to the rules of heraldry, those colours were transferred to the flag of Poland – the colour of the emblem (white) on top and the background colour (red) underneath. These two colours appear in two horizontal strips of equal width. The shade used is always exactly the same, defined by trichromatic coordinates.