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It has occurred to me after collecting Swiss Army Knives for years that I have had a few curiosities about the symbolism of their emblems and trademarks. I didn’t know much about the Swiss Cross found on the Swiss Flag or whether it had any religious significance, but I wondered about it. Secondly, I wondered as many others I found out later, what the meaning of an “umbrella” had with Swiss Army Knives. And, I also wondered why CH was the official abbreviation for Switzerland. So, when I did a bit of research I found out some very interesting facts.

As it turns out, the Swiss Cross which now resides on the modern Swiss flag originated from the Holy Roman Empire. The flag of the Empire was a white cross extending to the edges of a red field, and symbolized the Emperor's role as the protector of Christianity. Most regions of Switzerland used variations of this flag in one form or another as they gained their independence from the empire. And, to make a very long story short, before Swiss independence was declared in 1291, and many times after that during the Middle Ages, Swiss Confederates used many forms of the flag. It was not until fairly recent times in the late 19th Century that the form we know today was designed. In many cases prior to that era, the cross extended to the edges of the banners and the banners sometimes had forms other than a rectangle or square, as in the case of the 1422 Confederate triangular banner.

As for the “umbrella,” it is not an umbrella at all but a “crossbow.” It is a symbol in Swiss history because of the importance that it played in Swiss rebellion through the centuries.  It was a chief weapon with the Swiss Infantry and was used in countless battles through the ages.

The “CH” stands for “Confoederatio Helvetica" which is the official name of Switzerland. Translated this means “Confederation of Helvetiers.” This reference dates back to 1291 when the people of three regions of the area pledged to band together as “a one and only nation of brothers” against surrounding aggressors.

James Christian

7 May 06