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BASEL (City) and Canton BASEL-STADT

Addition : 1908 Kleinhüningen

Arms (crest) of Basel

Official blazon


The arms of the city of Basel, and the canton of the same name, show the canting Baselstab (staff of Basel), originally the staff used by the Bishops of Basel. The oldest use of the staff (not a proper crosier, which would have a long wooden pole with a golden curved upper part), is known from coins dating from 1072 and 1133. A later coin, dating from the mid 13th century, shows a much clearer image of the staff, with the typical base. The staff was clearly used as the symbol of the diocese and the city, as the coins showed often the arms of the bishops beside the staff (see below).

Wappen von/Blason de Basel

The arms on a coin from 1384 (eBay)
Arms of Basel

The arms in the late 15th century
Arms of Basel

The arms in a 16th century manuscript

The seals of the city initially showed a house or gate, only later the staff was also used on the city seals.

Seal of Basel

The seal from the 13th century
Seal of Basel

The seal from 1405
Seal of Basel

The seal from 1420
Seal of Basel

The seal from the 15/16th century
Seal of Basel

The seal from the 15/16th century
Seal of Basel

The seal from Kleinbasel from the 13th century

The original arms showed a red staff for both the diocese and the city. The black staff for the city dates from after 1385, when the city and diocese became more separate, each having its own jurisdiction and council. The first known use of the black staff dates from the early 15th century.

The origin of the typical base of the staff is not clear. Many different theories have been proposed during the centuries, but no single explanation has been proven.

Since the end of the 14th century supporters have often been used with the arms. The oldest supporter was an angel, standing behind the shield. At the end of the 15th century a basilisk appears as supporter. This beast was probably chosen as a canting symbol. A basilisk is a combination of a lizard with dragon wings, a rooster's head and an eagle's bill.

Wappen von/Blason de Basel

The arms on a coin from 1740 (eBay)
Wappen von Basel

Seal from the 1920s (?)
Wappen von Basel

Municipal stationery, 1960s

The basilisk has been used for several centuries, but is no longer used since the early 19th century. In the meanwhile also savages were sometimes used as supporters.

Wappen von/Blason de Basel

Wappen von/Blason de Basel

Variations of the arms in the Kaffee Hag albums 1914-1960
Wappen von/Blason de Basel

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Literature : Mühlmann, L. : Wappen und Fahnen der Schweiz, Bühler Verlag, Lengnau, 1977 and 1997.