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What is the meaning of the XXX on Amsterdam flag | TiKAG

What is the meaning of the XXX on Amsterdam flag

What is the meaning of the XXX

Amsterdam has its own official city flag, and it’s a pretty simple and straightforward one. Simple, but popular, since you can see the flag and its "XXX" symbols all over the city. But what exactly does the XXX stand for?

Amsterdam’s coat of arms

The flag of Amsterdam is based on the city’s coat of arms. It features a red shield with a black band and three silver St. Andrew’s crosses, with the motto of Amsterdam underneath (HeldhaftigVastberadenBarmhartig, meaning "Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate"). Two golden lions grace the sides, and the Imperial Crown of Austria sits on top of the shield.

The origin of Amsterdam’s coat of arms is not known. But there are some theories, of course.

What Amsterdam’s XXX does not stand for

There are several popular theories about the origin of the XXX symbol. According to historians (and some common sense), the following theories are incorrect:

 XXX: Fire, floods and the Black Death

A famous theory is that the three crosses on Amsterdam’s flag represent the three dangers of Old Amsterdam: fire, floods and the Black Death, or that they were meant to ward off these dangers.

However, this popular legend has no historical basis. Important families in the Amsterdam area used St. Andrew's crosses before the black plague hit Europe.

 X-rated Amsterdam

Besides canals and coffee shops, Amsterdam is also known for its X-rated entertainment, such as the Red Light District (locally known as De Wallen). Still, it is a total coincidence that the crosses on Amsterdam’s flag are similar to the modern-day shorthand for anything X-rated.

Amsterdam XXX: The most likely theories

So, now that we know what the X’s don’t stand for, let’s take a look at the most likely theories historians have about Amsterdam and its connection to the XXX symbol.

 The St. Andrew’s connection

The three crosses on Amsterdam’s coats of arms are St. Andrew’s crosses (or saltires). They appear horizontally on the flag, but they also appear vertically on seals and walls.

St. Andrew was a fisherman and an apostle, who is said to have been martyred on a cross called a crux decussata (X-shaped cross). Amsterdam's XXX symbol can be dated back to 1505. Back then, the city was a fishermen's town and this flag was flown on all of Amsterdam's ships. 

 The Persijn family connection

Most historians believe that the Amsterdam coat of arms and its crosses can be linked to the noble Persijn family, who once owned a lot of land in and around Amsterdam.

The knight Jan Persijn was "lord" of Amsterdam from 1280 to 1282. His family’s shield featured St. Andrew’s Crosses.

The Persijn family also owned two other villages near Amsterdam: Ouder-Amstel and Nieuwer-Amstel (now known as the suburb Amstelveen). The flags of these two towns feature St. Andrew’s Crosses as well.

Amsterdam’s city flag: the most badass flag in the world?

The X’s on the flag may not stand for X-rated, but Amsterdam’s flag has acquired quite a name for itself. Digital storyteller and flag-fanatic Roman Mars discussed city flags in a TED talk back in 2015. He deemed the Amsterdam city flag: "the most badass city flag in the world".

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