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Portugal - district flags

Last modified: 2007-06-09 by antónio martins
Keywords: district | district governor |
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About Portuguese districts flags

Only three district flags are known for the moment (Aveiro, Santarém and Viseu). The question is: are they part of the law on the local and regional emblems?
Pascal Vagnat, 28 Jul 1999

The law is not explicit about which entities it may apply — and districts may be either in or out its scope. At any rate, however, none of the known district flags follow the pattern prescribed by that law.
Antonio Martins, 30 Jul 1999

Other districts may have flags still unseen by us or none at all. All of those very seldom seen — district governors (also very seldom seen themselves), in “institucional pose”, usually appear in front of (or by the side of) the portuguese national flag.
Antonio Martins, 30 Jul 1999

It is odd that in Portugal the locally elected bodies (commune and municipality goverments / parlaments and the once to be regional ones) have their arms approved (and in prectice chosen) by a central government entity, who also sets severe rules for the flags — and yet seems that the district goverments, that are appointed by the central government and not locally elected, make up their own flags as pleased… Odd.
Antonio Martins, 30 Jul 1999

Usually, self elected territorial administrations have their own locally chosen symbols, while centrally appointed territorial administrations either use the symbols of the State or have their own symbols chosen by a central institution (usually these being variations of the same theme). In some other cases, a central institution, usually of heraldic nature, is called to advise and/or approve the symbols of self elected territorial administrations, with varying power degrees.

In Portugal, however, a most curious case is found: While locally elected territorial administrations (communes, municipalities, autonomous regions and the non-existing administrative regions) are legally obliged to have their symbols approved (and in practice (re)designed) by a central institution (Instituto Português de Heráldica / Comissão de Heráldica da Associação dos Arqueólogos Portugueses), centrally appointed territorial administrations (districts) are apparently entitled to have the symbols they want:

Out of 18 districts, indeed, we know of three district flags and of one (Faro District) which almost certainly has no flag of its own. Other non locally lelected territorial administrations (like neighbour municipality associations, metropolitan areas, etc.) seem to follow the same trend.

I think this is due to the flag that the relevant law does’t cover the mentioned entites, who theoretically are now supposed to have their own symbols — in practice leaving them free to adopt and use whatever they want. Moreover, the law about civic flags and arms (rather about arms and flags…) in Portugal shows very little knowledge about the reality of portuguese territorial administration and domestic political geography — causing its inforcement to be confuse and ambiguous.

António Martins, 07 Sep 2001


District governor rank flag

governor flag
image by António Martins

There is also a district governor flag (2:3 white swallowtail with green horizontal stripe and the portuguese arms over all). Though this is a naval flag, designed to be used in Navy ships when a District Governor is on board, it is known to be used also on land, incl. indoors.
Antonio Martins, 30 Jul 1999 and 08 Aug 2001

That usage have been a bit erratic, some Ditrict Governors using it, others using the reported district flag, and yet others no specific flag at all — just the national flag and the European Union flag.
Antonio Martins, 06 Dec 2002

According to Flaggenbuch [neu39], 2:3 white swallow-tailed flag with green horizontal stripe and the sphere and the shield overall in the middle.
Željko Heimer, 02 Dec 2002


Portuguese districts

Note that the portuguese division distrito has nothing to do with the current meaning of the english cognate word. Portuguese districts are 18 in the continental part. Before becoming autonomous regions, Madeira was one district (Funchal) and Azores had three (Horta, Ponta Delgada and Angra do Heroísmo).
António Martins, 07 Jan 1998

There is one civil governor per dictrict. It is the representative of the government in that administrative division, and in fact, it’s the only reason why there’s such things as districts, otherwise quite empty and useless administrative level.
Jorge Candeias, 02 Dec 2002

Mainland Portugal districts have yet another role — they serve as base for territorial election of members of the Parlament (called deputees), being thus also electoral districts.
António Martins, 06 Dec 2002

The two municpalities of Macao are not attached to any district, and East Timor had it’s portuguese administrative entities in a void during the indonesian occupation (1975-1999), these consisting of the district of Dili (covering the whole territory) and the local municipalities (13) and communes (64).
Antonio Martins, 30 Jul 1999 and 29 Feb 2003


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