Where does the colour blue in the EU flag come from? What’s the origin of the European ‘Reflex Blue’ flag, and what does it stand for?
The design of the blue European Union flag, which celebrated its 30 years anniversary in 2015, was ‘borrowed’ from another, older European flag: the Council of Europe’s.
Ok. Why was the Council of Europe’s flag blue then?
Adopted in 1955, the CoE’s flag was the fruit of a consensus around common values, representing the People of Europe (twelve golden stars against a blue sky background) gathered in union (circle).
It means that nope, the EU flag will not loose a star after Brexit. And that yep, back in 1955, we could still achieve some beautiful consensuses.
Blue for the sky? For the Virgin Mary? For Venus?
Some theories contest the official version for the origin of the EU flag. One alludes to Asian influences, another one to a Freemason symbol.
A widespread theory points out that ‘twelve stars against a blue background’ is a Marian symbol, and the flag a possible imitation of a Miraculous Virgin medal. While it is always difficult to rule out the influence of Christianism in European cultures, or of any religion in any given culture, let’s note that the actual designer of the flag, Paul Levy, declared that there was no link at all to the Virgin Mary, or to any religious symbol.
Not only could the blue EU flag really stand for the sky, but there is the same sky vs. Virgin Mary debate for other blue flags, such as Argentina’s.
Let’s also note that it was not easy to get to the current ‘reflex blue’ flag in the first place, and that Europeans came this close to add a tiger motif on their national flags (!!). More in the extracts below.
‘What is the European Flag?
Twelve golden stars on a blue background is the flag of Europe.
It’s been the symbol of the Council of Europe since 1955, adopted by the European Union (then the European Community) in 1984, and now flies above parliaments, municipal buildings, parks and monuments all over the continent.
Who had the first idea for the design?
The Council of Europe knew it needed a symbol from its very beginnings in 1949. Ideas for a European flag had been floated since the 1920s: two of the most popular were a large E on a white background from the European movement, and Count Coudenhove Kalergis’ “Pan European Union” flag, a yellow circle with a red cross on a blue background. […]
In the end, two were chosen. One was from Arsene Heitz, then working at the Council who proposed “a crown of 12 golden stars with 5 rays, their points not touching” and the second was a constellation of stars – originally proposed by the pro-European founder of the College of Europe, Salvador de Madariaga.
Who agreed the final design? And what does it mean?
The design symbolises the peoples of Europe, with the circle representing their union. The number of stars never changes – it is always 12: representing perfection and entirety, like the twelve apostles, twelve months of the year, twelve signs of the zodiac.
Many other stories exist about the flag – one is that the star idea came from a European living in Asia who thought of home each time he looked at the evening star, Venus; another is that stars were chosen to avoid using a religious symbol.’
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