Swiss National Day! (with a query)

Today, August 1st, is the National Day of Switzerland, a day to fly the big square flag:


On the flag and on the holiday, to come. But first, a query to readers. I ask that you respond only to this e-mail address: (so that I don’t have to try to collate responses sent to seven or eight different places). And I ask that you read the query and guve your immediate reaction to it (without looking things up or consulting other people or musing about what the “right” answer would be). Below the fold:

Question: What is a Swiss roll? (“I don’t know” is an entirely acceptable answer, if indeed you don’t know of anything that goes by that name.) Answers to:

(Make your answer specific: don’t just say (for example), “a kind of car”, but say what kind of car.)

Obviously this is part of another chapter in my postings on things with Swiss in their name: Swiss cheese, Swiss Army knives, Swiss steak, the Swiss Hotel, etc.

And now back to:

The Swiss flag. From Wikipedia:

The flag of Switzerland consists of a red flag with a white cross (a bold, equilateral cross) in the centre. It is one of only two square sovereign-state flags, the other being the flag of Vatican City.

… The ultimate origin of the white cross is attributed by three competing legends: To the Theban Legion [a Roman legion who converted en masse to Christianity and were martyred together in 286], to the Reichssturmfahne (Imperial War Banner) attested from the 12th century [the white cross on red later superseded by the double-headed eagle flag], and to the Arma Christi that were especially venerated in the three forest cantons [Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, the original core of the Swiss confederation], and which they were allegedly allowed to display on the formerly uniformly red battle flag from 1289 by king Rudolph I of Habsburg at the occasion of a campaign to Besançon.

On the flag earlier on this blog, in my 3/10/17 posting “Friday cartoon 1: the husky pup meme”, with a terrible joke:

What’s great about living in Switzerand? Well, the flag is a big plus.

Swiss National Day. For the story, involving the three Urkantonen, or Waldstätte (Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden), see my 8/2/17 posting “Three names”. In Switzerland, most places have an official founding date, a specific date — for the confederation as a whole, it’s August 1st, 1291 — however tenuous the story is that supports it. (Yes, specific dates in the 13th century, and earlier.)

Most places (even small villages) also have a flag and a coat of arms, and almost every place has its patron saint. For the whole confederation, that would be Saint Nicholas of Flüe. From Wikipedia:

Saint Nicholas of Flüe (German: Niklaus von Flüe; 1417 [in the canton of Unterwalden] – 21 March 1487) was a Swiss hermit and ascetic who is the patron saint of Switzerland. He is sometimes invoked as Brother Klaus. A farmer, military leader, member of the assembly, councillor, judge and mystic, he was respected as a man of complete moral integrity. Brother Klaus’s counsel to the Diet of Stans (1481) helped to prevent war between the Swiss cantons.

… After receiving a mystical vision of a lily eaten by a horse, which he recognized as indicating that the cares of his worldly life (the draft horse pulling a plough) were swallowing up his spiritual life (the lily, a symbol of purity), he decided to devote himself entirely to the contemplative life. In 1467, he left his wife and his ten children with her consent and set himself up as a hermit in the Ranft chine [mountain ridge] in Switzerland, establishing a chantry [an endowed chapel] for a priest from his own funds so that he could assist at mass daily. According to legend, he survived for nineteen years with no food except for the eucharist. Symbolic visions continued to be a feature of his contemplation, and he became a spiritual guide whose advice was widely sought and followed. His reputation for wisdom and piety was such that figures from across Europe came to seek advice from him, and he was known to all as “Brother Klaus.”

For Canton Glarus, the Zwicky-Kanton, the patron saint is Fridolin, and he appears on the canton’s coat of arms. From Wikipedia:


Saint Fridolin, otherwise Fridolin of Säckingen, is a legendary Irish missionary, apostle [to] the Alamanni [or Alemanni, Germanic tribes on the Upper Rhine in Roman times] and founder of Säckingen Abbey on the Upper Rhine [in what is now the German state of Baden-Württemberg]. He is also the patron saint of the Swiss canton of Glarus.

My family hstory is packed with men named Fridolin. In fact, my grandfather Melchior had two brothers named Fridolin; when one died in infancy, the name was passed on to a later son (who survived into adulthood).

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