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The Sachsenross (also Niedersachsenross , Westfalenross , Westfalenpferd , Welfenross ) is a heraldic motif. It stands for the people of Saxony , the old tribal duchy of Saxony and the political units that arose from it, especially for the Guelph territories. It has been the coat of arms of the state of Lower Saxony since the 20th century . As a Westphalian horse with a raised tail, it is the traditional coat of arms of Westphalia and in this form forms part of the coat of arms of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia . The Dutch neighboring region of Twente and the British county of Kent also have this motif in their modern coats of arms.

The Sachsenross has no relationship with the Saxon principalities on the territory of the eastern states of Saxony , Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt . The name of these territories is based on the fact that after the fall of Henry the Lion, the title Duke of Saxony was reassigned to the Ascanian family and later to the Wettin family . These dynasties were involved in the conquest of Slavic areas in the east and took the tribal name upstream with them. The mixed German-speaking population colonizing there called themselves "Saxons", but no longer claimed the Sachsenross for themselves. The terms " Upper Saxony " and " Lower Saxony " were later coined to differentiate .

The coat of arms of "Lower Saxony" or "Westphalia" consists of a jumping white horse in a red shield. Already at the time of its first appearance in the 14th century it was more of a popular, regional symbol than a dynastic symbol of rule, i.e. more a symbol for the country and its people than for the ruling family of the Guelphs . This is what makes it so popular, which is still evident today in folk art. Its effect as a regional identity symbol can only be compared with the appearance of the Bavarian diamond coat of arms, the family coat of arms of the Wittelsbach family .

Origin in the dark of history


Since its first appearance in seals and coats of arms in the second half of the 14th century, the Sachsenross has been an "old" Saxon tribal symbol. Since then it has been used as a political instrument to express claims to power and as an expression of Saxon tribal identity. However, this was obviously an "archaic" recourse that faked a tradition that did not actually exist.

No previous reports

The Saxons were a West Germanic association of peoples that probably formed in the 3rd century and has been reliably documented since the 4th century. The tribes of the Chauken , Angrivarians and Cheruskers , who united to form the Saxons, lived in the 1st century in the northwest of today's Germany and in the east of today's Netherlands (see Lower Saxony ).

After that, there are other mentions of late antiquity, early medieval authors non-Saxon origin, which the Saxons after massive expansion movements as pirates in the North Sea, as mercenaries forced into the service of Rome and later as foreign settlers in Britain and as to Christianizing pagans on the edge of the Frankish Empire perceive and describe. None of these authors give any indications that the horse as an animal or as a picture had any special meaning as a tribal symbol or standard for the Saxons. Archaeological finds from these centuries also do not provide any relevant evidence. Animal representations can certainly be found on objects of everyday life from this period; but they mainly show game like deer and wild boar . Horses have also been pictured; but it cannot be seen that the horse had a meaning symbolizing the trunk.

Wittekind's baptism based on a design by Alfred Rethel as part of the Charles frescoes (1847–1861) in Aachen City Hall (photographic reconstruction from 2000)

When, in the 10th century, the Saxon duke dynasty of the Liudolfinger, under the name Ottonen, rose to become kings of Eastern Franconia and then to become emperors of the (later so-called) Holy Roman Empire or “Teutsche Reich”, the Saxon monk Widukind von Corvey wrote the first “Saxony history “ (Res gestae Saxonicae) , this time from the inside. He told the Saxon tribal legend and reported on historical and genealogical connections for the first time in writing, whereby he made a decisive contribution to the formation of the Saxons' identity. The “Sachsenross” as a tribal symbol did not appear with him either.

The derivation of the horse symbol from pre-aldic or even pre-historical Saxon traditions is based on only a few indications. These references can, however, plausibly be explained as later interpretations that only emerged afterwards ("ex posteriori").

Rulers with "horse names"

The “horse names” of the two legendary Saxon chiefs Hengest and Horsa , who, according to legend, were the first Saxon rulers on the British Isles in the 5th century AD, are evidence of the special importance of the horse as a symbol of power among the Saxons Area of ​​present-day Kent .

What is remarkable at first glance is the consistency with the coat of arms of the English county of Kent. However, the use of a soaring white horse as a symbol for Kent dates back to 1605 (in a depiction by Richard Verstegen in Restitution of Decayed Antiquities ). The official award of the coat of arms to the county dates back to 1933.

Coat of arms of the Herford district with Widukind's black horse

Widukind's white horse

There is also the tradition that Widukind , the Duke of Saxony and opponent of Charlemagne , is said to have had a black horse as a standard in the 8th century, which he changed into a white horse after his conversion to Christianity . According to another version, Widukind received a white horse from Charlemagne as a baptism gift .

The memory of the pre-Christian black horse Widukind is still alive in some areas of Westphalia, for example in the coat of arms of the Herford district . In the collegiate church of St. Dionysisus in Enger , one grave is considered to be that of Widukind. To this day, the coat of arms of the district shows a black, rising horse in the white shield, which expresses the solidarity of the Westphalian population with their pre-Christian leader. But even these stories are later legends for which there is no evidence from the time before the emergence of the Sachsenrosses in heraldry.

Gable decoration in Wedemark near Hanover

Horse heads on the gables

As a further indication of the special position of horse motifs in the (Lower) Saxon area, a typical gable decoration for the Lower German hall house (Lower Saxony house) can be cited. This North German farmhouse type has so-called "gable boards" or "wind boards" on the gable side of the local thatched roof to protect against the weather, which cross in the ridge and protrude around half a meter above the ridge. Horse heads are typically carved from the ends of these boards .

Uffington White Horse

Aerial view of the White Horse

The Uffington White Horse is also mentioned in the discussion about early evidence of the Sachsenross. Both the early-dated Uffington White Horse and the late-dated imitations, however, cannot be used as evidence of a pre-aldic use of the Sachsenross as a tribal symbol or cult object.

Located on the White Horse Hill side in Oxfordshire , it is believed to be the oldest scratching pattern in England . It is a stylized image of a horse cut into the vegetation and scratched into the ground. This will make the chalk underneath visible. The outlines are formed by trenches 3 meters wide and 60 to 90 centimeters deep. The horse figure has the dimensions of 107 × 37 meters.

The age of the scratch pattern is disputed. Traditionally it has been associated with the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Britain in the 5th century and their legendary, semi-mythical leaders Hengest and Horsa . According to another tradition, it was not even created until the 9th century, in memory of the victory of King Alfred the Great over the Danes.

More recent measurements even date the Uffington horse to the early Iron Age or even the late Bronze Age . However, other scratching images of white horses on the hills of southern England are believed to be much younger. For the most part, they are viewed as late 18th and 19th century imitations of the Uffington horse.

First historical appearance and meaning

The earliest evidence of the use of a horse in coats of arms or seals is the seal on a document issued between 1186 and 1201 by town bailiff Gottfried I. von Stade. The first evidence as a Guelph seal image is an imprint of the seal of the Guelph Albrecht I von Salzderhelden , Duke of Braunschweig-Grubenhagen from the year 1361. The seal had a diameter of 3.5 centimeters and had the inscription on the edge:

SECRETU [m] .ALBERTI.DVCIS.IN.BRVNESWIC. (German: "Secret seal of Albrechts, of the Duke in Braunschweig")

In the middle a striding horse is shown, which only lifts the right front hoof off the ground. Naturally, no statements can be made about the colors of a seal. The impression is kept in the Lower Saxony State Archives in Wolfenbüttel under the number 7A Urk 94.

The oldest colored representation of the Sachsenross coat of arms comes from the Lower Rhine coat of arms of the first ("Codex Seffken") from 1379/1380. Here, too, a striding horse is shown in the shield, the crest consists of a horse's head. It is referred to as "the old coat of arms of Braunschweig". Braunschweig , the old residence of Heinrich the Lion , was then the main town of the Guelphs.

The reasons for the appearance of the horse motif around the middle of the 14th century were political in nature. Since 1354 at the latest it was foreseeable that the Lüneburg dynasty of the Duchy of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (the older house of Lüneburg ) would die out, which also happened in 1369. Emperor Charles IV had previously announced that the Principality of Lüneburg would not be reassigned to a member of the Braunschweig sub-dynasty - as is usually the case - but to the Ascanian dukes of Saxony-Wittenberg . The Braunschweiger, however, fought for their inheritance in the War of the Lüneburg Succession. The dispute was only ended in 1388 with the victory of the Brunswick near Winsen .

This armed conflict was accompanied by the fact that the Guelphs expressed their claim to the entire Old Saxon tribal area (including Lüneburg) in their heraldry. In the time before the invention of the mass media, the coats of arms of the ruling houses were an important means of communication in the political debate. Large sections of the population thought "heraldically". And the horse must have had a meaning as an expression of the Saxon tribal identity - despite the lack of previous evidence - otherwise its use in this situation would have made little sense. From then on, the horse was always used by the Guelphs, who usually preferred lions or leopards in their coat of arms, when it came to claims to rule in the entire (Lower) Saxon area.

Subsequent attribution of coats of arms

Soon after this first appearance of the white horse, it is for the first time explicitly associated with the Saxon tribal identity in this sense. Around 1400, the world chronicle of the Bielefeld monastery dean Gobelin Person reports on the conquest of Hengists and Horsas in Britain and the meaning of their names and continues: And this is perhaps why the coat of arms of some of the dukes of Saxony consists of a white horse because they are a received such a coat of arms from their ancestors in ancient times. This old Saxon origin of the coat of arms is then pointed to Widukind in the Saxon Chronicle Konrad or Hermann Botes , published in Mainz in 1492 : There it is told for the first time how Widukind exchanged the black for a white horse after the baptism. From Widukind onwards, the woodcuts in this work depict all of Lower Saxony's rulers with the Roses coat of arms: the Ottonians , the Brunonen , Lothar von Supplinburg and the Guelphs. The Saxonia of Albert Krantz of 1520 repeats the legend of Widukind and adding more details: The "Foals" in the emblem is the origin of the country name West and Ostfalen; after the fall of the Guelphs as dukes of Saxony under Henry the Lion , the horse was moved from the shield to the crest.

Of course, there was no heraldry at the time of Widukind. Such backdated representations were common: Especially in the heyday of heraldry, in the late Middle Ages and early modern times , depictions of rulers without coats of arms were hardly conceivable. This backdating gave the coats of arms a greater dignity, which benefited the clients of the respective artists. Because the clients were often the contemporary users of this coat of arms tradition.

Heraldic uses throughout history

Origin of the territorial states

Coat of arms of the Duke of Brunswick from Scheibler's register of arms (1450–1480)

From the 15th century onwards, the dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg used the Sachsenross mainly as part of the crest on their coat of arms . There it jumps in front of a white column adorned with peacock feathers, and later in front of a red column with a golden crown and a golden star with three peacock feathers on top . This later version of the crest is framed by two sickles with peacock feathers. Such a horse in front of a red column has also been part of the Wolfenbüttler city coat of arms since 1570 . As such, the white jumping horse remained popular in the popular consciousness and was often used in folk art . It can be found on buildings, weather vanes, stove plates, beer mugs and as an ornament on many objects of everyday use. As a symbol of rule, it was also found on coins (later also on banknotes and postage stamps ), medals , uniform buttons and military flags .

Coat of arms of Elector George I of Hanover, 1708–1714

From the 17th century onwards, the various Guelph lines experimented again and again with coats of arms, which placed the horse in the shield - for practical reasons, Veddeler suspects, after all, the crest was more and more replaced by crowns , so that the distant horse motif disappeared. This idea persisted most enduringly in the Electorate of Hanover: There the philosopher and polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz suggested, when redesigning the coat of arms in 1692, that the "horse held in old Saxon" or "so-called Widukind horse" be given a prominent place in the coat of arms. For him, the horse coat of arms was not only an important heraldic symbol for the Guelph family, but also referred back to the old Saxons. The acquisition of the Duchy of Saxony-Lauenburg - a fragment of the old Duchy of Saxony - by the Hanoverians should also be symbolized for Leibniz by the motif. Leibniz's proposal was heard.

The Sachsenross was of course not the only coat of arms symbol: It was one of the multi-panel coats of arms of that time, which represented all the territories of the respective ruler in their fields. That wasn't always practical in everyday use; because if the representation was too small, the individual fields of the coat of arms could no longer be recognized, the overall impression was missing. The Sachsenross was chosen as a “little coat of arms” for use in administration. It was memorable and understood. - In the neighboring Principality of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel , which is also Welf , the horse was used as a crest until the end of the monarchy - not always, but typically. See the Lichttaler with the Sachsenross as a helmet ornament.

The Sachsenross in the British Empire

British royal coat of arms with Sachsenross

When the Electors of Hanover became kings of Great Britain and Ireland in personal union from 1714 and moved to London , they took the Saxon horse with them. The reverse of King George I's coronation medal already shows a horse jumping from the north German mainland to the British Isles.

The Sachsenross was subsequently united with the Guelph lions and leopards as well as the English, Scottish and Irish coats of arms to form a new conglomerate of coats of arms, which has now been shown as a symbol of power around the world, in America and Australia , in India and Africa . This combination coat of arms is still used today by the Guelphs as a family coat of arms.

For the flags, the British flag ( Union Jack ) was combined with the Sachsenross at times . For this purpose, the jumping horse was inserted into the red field at the intersection of the two broad bars of the St. George's Cross .

Relics of the Sachsenrosses have been preserved in parts of the former British Empire, for example in the coat of arms of the city of Guelph ("Welf") in Ontario / Canada , which shows a red ribbon with a white jumping horse in the middle.

The Sachsenross for and against Napoleon

Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Westphalia

After Northern Germany was occupied by Napoleon and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was dissolved, the Kingdom of Westphalia was established in 1807, after the Peace of Tilsit , from the states of Hanover and Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and other territories . It was ruled by Napoleon's brother Jérôme from the capital Kassel . This new empire also led the Sachsenross or Westphalia horse in the first field of its multi-field coat of arms.

The Elector of Hanover - also in his function as King of Great Britain and Ireland - and the Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg fought against this empire, also using the Sachsenrosses as a standard . The Hanoverian military was deployed as the “ King's German Legion ” in conjunction with British troops, Duke Friedrich Wilhelm von Braunschweig-Oels fought his way through his privately financed free corps , the “ Black Squad ”, first across Germany, then to England, and fought finally in association with the “German Legion” on important battlefields of the Iberian Peninsula and Italy against Napoléon's troops.

In contrast to his relative, the Elector of Hanover, who ruled a world empire as King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke Friedrich Wilhelm, after the loss of the Principality of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, only remained the small Principality of Oels , inherited from the maternal side , a Prussian fiefdom in Silesia . So he had to fight resolutely for his main inheritance, which he did with the necessary assertiveness. As an expression of his determination and his solidarity with the Braunschweig region , he combined Welfisch-dynastic heraldry with the Saxon horse in his battalion flags. In addition, there were pithy slogans such as “Victory or Death”, “With God for Prince and Fatherland” and “ Nunquam retrorsum ” (“Never return”). The knapsacks of his Braunschweig-Lüneburg hunters fighting in British service in Spain also bore a picture of the Sachsenrosses.

The Duke was killed two days before the Battle of Waterloo , in the Battle of Quatre-Bras . But through its constant military presence on all the important battlefields of the Wars of Liberation , the state independence of the now established Duchy of Braunschweig could be preserved at the Congress of Vienna .

Bronze statue of the Sachsenrosses in Hanover
Brunswick banknote
Seal of the Ducal Braunschweig Railway Company

In the German Confederation and in the German Reich

After the end of the wars of liberation , the Kingdom of Hanover and the Duchy of Braunschweig , both of which joined the German Confederation , came into being around 1814 as the Guelph successor states . Both also used the white jumping horse in a red shield as a "small coat of arms". It also became the most popular motif for symbolizing sovereign tasks such as the military, post office and railroad.

The first postage stamps issued by the Braunschweigische Post at the beginning of 1852 also showed the white Sachsenross in a red oval. It is interesting from a philatelic point of view that these Brunswick stamps were the first stamps in Germany to be printed in color on whitish-yellow paper - instead of black on colored paper. Because this was the only way to depict a white horse.

When the Kingdom of Hanover was annexed by Prussia after the German War of 1866 and became the Prussian province of Hanover , it received the Sachsenross as its sole coat of arms, which is also shown on the flag and in the helmet ornament - the same applies (right) to the province of Westphalia :

Coat of arms of the Prussian Provinces - Hannover.png
Coat of arms of the province of Hanover
Coat of arms of the Prussian Provinces - Westphalia.png
Coat of arms of the province of Westphalia

Since the royal family had to flee from the victorious Prussia and go into exile, the use of Welfisch dynastic heraldry was out of the question. The use of the Sachsenross was seen as a concession to the Hanoverian identity of the population and was not directly seen as a symbol of the Guelph family. However, it took a few years for the provincial coat of arms to be approved. In the period that followed, the Sachsenross became more than ever the epitome of Welfisch-Hanoverian identity and a symbol of resistance against Prussian rule.

For this reason, the larger than life bronze statue of the Sachsenrosses became a political issue, which was created in 1866 by the sculptor Albert Wolff on behalf of the King of Hanover. It was originally supposed to be placed on the balustrade of the Welfenschloss , which was no longer an option. The shipment of the statue to the World Exhibition in Paris in 1867 had to be canceled because it was feared that King George V , who was living in exile, could file property claims abroad. The statue stood under the doors of the main castle portal for years. Only when the Royal Technical University , later the University of Hanover , moved into the building in 1879 , did the horse find a worthy location on a stone plinth in the forecourt. It has been there ever since.

But after 1866 the Hanoverian Guelphs also tried to take action against the Prussian occupation of their country from exile - military force was also considered, but this was not implemented. The Sachsenross played an important role in the accompanying propaganda. The song Sachsenroß on the collar by H. Matthe still reminds of this today :

Coat of arms of the Free State of Braunschweig 1922–1946

"On! Lower Saxony's sons strengthen our ranks.
Now the hour has come to free the homeland.
The horse of
Saxony on the collar, yellow and white the ribbon, we are called Lower Saxony's sons. "

- from: Songs of the German Legion

In the Duchy of Braunschweig, the Sachsenross changed from a rather unofficially used small coat of arms to an official "official seal coat of arms", ie the official motif on official stamps, on September 28, 1912.

Weimar Republic

1 trillion marks from 1923

After the abolition of the monarchy in 1918, Hanover remained a Prussian province, Braunschweig remained independent and became a free state . The Sachsenross was or remained the only official coat of arms in both territories. In Braunschweig, for example, Article 1 of the constitution of January 6, 1922. When Prussia tried to put a Prussian eagle on the Hanoverian provincial coat of arms as a shield head in 1924 , the Hanover population protested so fiercely that the change had to be reversed in 1925.

The 1 billion mark piece of the Province of Westphalia as the coin with the highest face value of all time, as well as the other emergency coins of the province, which were minted in 1921, 1922 and 1923, show that of Rudolf Bosselt , the director of the Kunstgewerbeschule Magdeburg, designed Westfalenross of the province from the time of the Weimar Republic.

State of Westphalia

From the inheritance of Henry the Lion, the archbishops and later electors , i.e. the prince-archbishops of Cologne, came to the Westphalian part of the old Saxony region in the 12th century. Territorial control, however, only the neighboring Duchy of Westphalia . In order to underline the rule over this area and the claim to the whole of Westphalia, they also appropriated the Sachsenross for their purposes. Here, however, it was increasingly represented as “rising” instead of “jumping”, i.e. more erect. The tail was also "opened", that is, thrown upwards, executed. This is how the popular Westphalian horse was born. The people of Cologne used it on coins since 1469 and as part of their coat of arms since around 1500. The Kingdom of Westphalia , established by Napoleon , also had the Westphalian horse in the first field of its multi-panel coat of arms. Westphalia later became a Prussian province. In this way the horse was also included in the Prussian state coat of arms.

Even today the Westphalian horse represents the Westphalian part of the state in the coat of arms of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia .

Duchy of Lauenburg

The Duchy of Lauenburg , which was temporarily part of the Kingdom of Hanover , also received a coat of arms consisting of a horse's head on a red shield. The horse's head was gold at first but was later changed to white. When the Duchy came to Prussia, the coat of arms was given a border in the Prussian colors black and white.

City of Wolfenbüttel

When Duke Julius von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel granted his residence city Wolfenbüttel (at that time still under the name Heinrichstadt ) town charter in 1570 , he also gave it a coat of arms that showed elements of the crest of the ducal coat of arms in the shield: a white, jumping one in the blue shield , bridled and saddled horse in front of a red column with a gold crown and white star. Older figures show here a gold star, which the representation in the crest corresponds to the Dukes.

German Federal Railroad

The Deutsche Bundesbahn used the name “ Sachsenroß ” from 1953 for a pair of long-distance express trains that had been running between the then federal capital Bonn and the Lower Saxony state capital Hanover with the train numbers F 15 and F 18 since the 1951 summer timetable . The trains had connections to and from Hamburg . Between 1954 and 1963 the route was limited to the Cologne - Hanover route and the trains were given the new train numbers F 15 and F 16. They only ran the (old) 2nd class , after the class reform of 1956 only the (new) 1. Class. From 1969 onwards, the train numbers and the route were changed in the following timetable changes, first Frankfurt – Hanover – Cologne, then in 1970 Bremen – Hanover – Frankfurt (and in a southerly direction to Mannheim ). In 1971, the connection on the Hamburg – Mannheim route became part of the integrated intercity cycle timetable.

Other occurrences

Coat of arms of the House of Savoy

The Sachsenross can also be found in the coat of arms of the duchies of Sachsen-Altenburg (since 1826), Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha (since 1821), and, curiously, of the House of Savoy . Emanuel Philibert of Savoy introduced it in 1560 to underline his alleged descent from the Saxon Duke Widukind. It is also present in the coats of arms of Amt Neuhaus , Clausthal-Zellerfeld and the former district , the Berlin district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf , the former South Prussian city of Konin and the Iserlohn district, which was dissolved in 1975 , with the latter as Westfalenross . The Wuppertal district of Nachbarebreck also shows the Ross, it had been moved several times between Rhineland and Westphalia.

Use since 1946

State of Lower Saxony

Coat of arms of Lower Saxony

Even before the state of Prussia was declared dissolved by the Allied victorious powers of World War II on February 25, 1947 , the Prussian province of Hanover had regained its independence as a state on August 23, 1946. Immediately the Sachsenross was reintroduced as the state coat of arms. The state of Braunschweig had already made the decision for the coat of arms on July 8, 1946.

The British military government decided to merge the states of Hanover , Braunschweig , Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe to form the new state " Lower Saxony ", which was implemented on November 1, 1946. While the Sachsenross was unofficially listed as the new Lower Saxony coat of arms among the federal states in Bonn , the official discussion continued as to whether the coats of arms of Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe might not be combined in a combination coat of arms - similar to that in North Rhine-Westphalia or Rhineland-Palatinate - should be integrated. The opinion prevailed that a simple, memorable coat of arms, the Sachsenross, was the best. After all, the states of Hanover and Braunschweig represented four fifths of the population of the new state. For years the Sachsenross was the unofficial coat of arms of the new state. The official decision to introduce the Sachsenrosses as the state coat of arms was passed by the state parliament on April 3, 1951 with a large majority and laid down in the "Provisional Lower Saxony Constitution" of April 13, 1951. For official use, the pattern was stipulated, which means that the heraldic freedom of design could not be used for official purposes. The pattern drawn by Gustav Völker was made binding in the “Law on Coats of Arms, Flags and Seals” of October 13, 1952. The new "Lower Saxony Constitution" of May 19, 1993 took over the regulation and states in Article 1, Sentence (3):

"Lower Saxony has the white horse in the red field as its coat of arms and the colors black-red-gold with the state coat of arms in the flag ."

In December 1990, the then SPD- led state government introduced an abstract "Lower Saxony logo": the dash-dot-arch signet of a strongly stylized horse's head in red with the black lettering "Lower Saxony". All Lower Saxony state authorities use it as a distinguishing mark. The use by associations, companies and initiatives was expressly requested, but required approval. The CDU- led state government ( Wulff I cabinet ) replaced the logo with the traditional horse coat of arms with effect from December 1, 2004. The change from the signet to the coat of arms logo is cost-neutral, whereby the old forms are used up.

The fact that the coat of arms of Lower Saxony is often depicted in a folklore context by unofficial sources is problematic. Rifle clubs often use the coat of arms, which is formally illegal. Consistent enforcement of these actually forbidden uses has so far been avoided by the state of Lower Saxony, but is increasingly being demanded by official bodies.

In the current campaign to highlight Lower Saxony's innovative strength (as of 2008), the slogan “You know our horses. Experience our strengths ”. With the Sachsenross as heraldic animal, an arc is struck between horse breeding ( Verden ) and the local automotive industry (VW).

Lower Saxony symbol from 1990

The coat of arms of the small town of Hardegsen in the Northeim district has a blue tinge , but otherwise corresponds to the Sachsenross.

Coat of arms Hardegsen.png

It is similar in Schortens (district of Friesland), here in red - thus reversed colors compared to the state coat of arms.

DEU Schortens COA.svg

The districts of Duderstadt , Helmstedt , Stade and Verden as well as the city of Twistringen also show (among other things) a Saxon horse.

Lower Saxony sign

Since the official coat of arms of the state of Lower Saxony may only be used by government agencies, the "Lower Saxony symbol" was developed in May 1990 for other private or commercial purposes and could be used freely. It consisted of a white Sachsenross in a red or black disc.

On the occasion of the state's 60th birthday in 2006, the Braunschweig advertising agency Gingco designed a new “Lower Saxony sign” with a white steed galloping to the right on a red, oval background, as well as a Sachsen steed in a grid look. This coat of arms is also used for other country-related purposes, for example on private trains. By a resolution of the state government on February 6, 2007, this logo, known as the “Lower Saxony sign”, became a largely freely usable symbol for a wide variety of purposes, such as B. Associations, clubs, companies and private individuals. The decision on the use in individual cases is made by the Lower Saxony State Chancellery. The prerequisite is the conclusion of a usage agreement. In general, the symbol may not be used commercially.

Plastic representation

A three-dimensional porcelain figurine of the Sachsenrosses is now often presented as a gift by the state government during state visits and honors and is often seen in the media. The figure was designed by Walter Nitzsche in 1957 and is now produced by the Fürstenberg porcelain factory in three different sizes.


The Sachsenross in the coat of arms of Lower Saxony was often the subject of caricatures. These are often in the context of political activism or criticism of political projects.


On the occasion of the planning of a reform law to amend the Lower Saxony law on public safety and order (Nds. SOG) and other laws of the Lower Saxony state parliament in May 2018 under the planned heading "Lower Saxony Police and Regulatory Authorities Act (NPOG)", the alliance uses "#noNPOG - No to the new Lower Saxony police law ”as a logo, a caricature showing the Sachsenross as a Trojan horse in front of the red coat of arms in the middle of the Lower Saxony police star. A similar variant with greater resemblance to a Trojan horse has been created by freiheitsfoo and is offered as a sticker.

Pig horn

The Lower Saxony state association of the party for work, the rule of law, animal welfare, elite support and grassroots initiative (acronym: Die PARTEI) runs the pig horn shop. and uses a white jumping pig, leaning against the Sachsenross, as a unicorn and a raised tail on a red shield

Open strike forum of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

The open strike forum of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen used the Lower Saxony coat of arms with a Saxon horse with a knife and fork in its buttocks. It looks rising with bulging eyes in the direction of the viewer. The Open Strike Forum was founded in the winter of 2003 as part of the student protests that were directed against the cuts planned at the time and decided on December 10, 2003 as part of the “University Optimization Concept” (HOK) and the plans to introduce tuition fees .

State of North Rhine-Westphalia

Coat of arms of North Rhine-Westphalia

Coat of arms of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia since 1953

The newly created state of North Rhine-Westphalia after the Second World War could not fall back on an existing national emblem. Therefore, the state government decided in 1947 to give the population a say in the design through a public tender. It became clear that the decision would be in favor of a combination of the coats of arms of the three regions of Rhineland , Westphalia and Lippe .

The first draft in this direction was submitted by the Düsseldorf painter Wolfgang Pagenstecher in October 1947. The final version was determined by a commission set up by the state government. The national emblems of the country are based today on the corresponding laws from 1953 and 1956.

Today's coat of arms of the country shows in a split shield with a tip grafted in at the front in the green field in front of a left-sloping white wavy bar, in the back in the red field a soaring white horse and below in white a red rose with golden lugs and golden sepals. The white horse symbolizes the part of Westphalia. The rose in the lower part is the (upside down) Lippe rose , the white wavy bar symbolizes the Rhine and stands for the Rhineland .

The horse is the Westphalian horse, the Westphalian variant of the Sachsenrosses. The raised tail is now considered characteristic of the Westphalian horse.

Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe

Coat of arms of the regional association Westphalia-Lippe

The Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe , as the successor to the former Westphalia Provincial Association, also has the Westphalian horse in its coat of arms.

armed forces


The 1st Panzer Division of the Army of the German Federal Armed Forces has as its association badge a shield framed with a silver cord and split in yellow and white, in the middle of which is a red shield with a white jumping horse. The division has its staff in Hanover and takes up the emblems of the old Hanoverian military with its association badges. In the 19th century, yellow and white were the state colors of the Kingdom of Hanover. The soldiers wear the association badge on the left sleeve of their uniforms.

The 1st Panzer Division has a strength of well over 10,000 men and is currently being restructured into the Reaction Forces Division . This will not change the name. The offices of the 1st Panzer Division are spread across the federal states of Schleswig-Holstein , Lower Saxony , North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria . Soldiers of the 1st Panzer Division have so far been deployed in Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Kuwait. So far, more than 7650 soldiers of the division have been deployed abroad.

The division's subordinate tank brigade 21 , which is stationed in Augustdorf in North Rhine-Westphalia, shows the Westphalia horse in its association badge, as do some of the battalions assigned to it. Panzerbrigade 21 was once subordinate to the now dissolved 7th Panzer Division , which also had the Westphalian horse in its coat of arms.


The coat of arms of Lower Saxony with the Sachsenross is also on the bow of the frigate F208 "Niedersachsen" , a class 122 ship of the German Navy , also called the Bremen class, which was decommissioned in 2015 . There are eight frigates in this class, named after federal states or major German cities. Your location is Wilhelmshaven . These ships are equipped for surface warfare and for fighting submarines.

air force

The Westphalia horse also adorns the association badge of the now disbanded Jagdgeschwader 72 , which was stationed in Rheine and Hopsten in North Rhine-Westphalia until 2006 .

Use by non-governmental organizations

As a picture

Welfenross in the coat of arms of the Corps Hannovera Göttingen
Welfenross in the coat of arms of the Hannovera Göttingen fraternity

Even with the emergence of non-governmental organizations in the 19th century, the Sachsenross was used in the choice of identity symbols. Civil gymnastics, singing and rifle clubs founded in the Guelph areas put the horse in their flags.

In large parts of Germany, student associations included the white horse in the red field as a component, often as a heart shield , in their student coats of arms , especially when they referred to the (Lower) Saxon area. This particularly applies to connections with the names " Saxonia ", " Hannovera " or "Hannoverania" and " Brunsviga " as well as the fraternity of Hannovera Göttingen since 1848 . Connections with the name " Guestphalia " show the "rising" Westphalian horse in the coat of arms. The oldest known use of the Sachsenrosses in the student sector is an insignium nationis saxonicae (German: Badge of the (Lower) Saxon Landsmannschaft) painted on wood , which the University of Leipzig received from the 17th century.

Business enterprises also use and continue to use the Sachsenross as a distinguishing mark, such as the Braunschweig public insurance company . The company was founded in 1754 by Duke Carl I as a state fire insurance company and is now active as a life and property insurance company as well as a Brunswick state fire insurance company in southeast Lower Saxony. The company's logo shows a yellow Sachsenross in a blue disc. The colors refer to the since 1830 in the Duchy of Brunswick valid national colors blue and yellow.

The automotive supplier Continental AG , Hanover, has the silhouette of the horse in the company logo in addition to the lettering of the company name, either in orange or in black, the two company colors.

The gas and fuel dealer Westfalen AG from Münster uses a corresponding symbol in its company logo.

The WVG and its subsidiaries such as Regionalverkehr Münsterland are each a strongly stylized Westfalen horse . The same applies to the Westfalenbahn .

The Braunschweigische Landschaft e. V. has set itself the goal of maintaining the identity of the Braunschweiger Land and the solidarity of the population with history even after the establishment of the State of Lower Saxony. He uses a silhouette of the Sachsenrosses as a logo.

Prime Minister Christian Wulff at a speech in 2007, in the background the Sachsenross in the logo of the Junge Union Niedersachsen
Prime Minister Stephan Weil on the evening of the state elections in Lower Saxony 2013 with Sachsenross in the SPD logo

The CDU in Lower Saxony and the regional association of the SPD there use horse motifs in their logos.

Examples of football clubs with the Saxon horse in their coat of arms are Westfalia Herne , the Thuringian club Hannovera Niedersachswerfen and FC Twente from the Netherlands .

As a word

“Sachsenross” is a popular name in Lower Saxony in the gastronomy sector too. Examples are:

  • Hotel-Pension Sachsenross in Altenau in the Harz Mountains
  • Hotel-Restaurant Zum Sachsenroß in Nörten-Hardenberg
  • Hotel Sachsenross in Bruchhausen-Vilsen
  • Country inn Zum Sachsenross in Uetze-Hänigsen

There is also the sports club TSV Fortuna Sachsenross from 1891 e. V. Hanover, which also bears the Lower Saxony heraldic animal in its name.

Since 1953 the Deutsche Bundesbahn and the Deutsche Bahn AG have named one of their highest quality long-distance trains after the "Sachsenross". It began with the " F-Trains " and continued with Intercity and ICE to this day. Initially there were trains that drove to and from Hanover, later trains in the north-south direction that stopped in Hanover.

Modern new creations

Even today, the Sachsenross inspires Lower Saxony when it comes to designing modern identity symbols.

To support its public relations work for the European idea , the Lower Saxony state government created the Lower Saxony Europe Information Center , whose sympathetic figure is the European horse Eurogaloppo , a combination of the Lower Saxony horse with European symbols.

Since 1997, the Theater am Küchengarten (-tak) in Hanover has been awarding the coveted Gaul of Lower Saxony cabaret prize , which is endowed with 2500 euros. The trophy consists of a metal horse's hindquarters. Since 2003 there has been a sponsorship award endowed with 1000 euros for young artists, the foal of Lower Saxony , represented by a small statuette of a young horse rolling on its back.

The district of Göttingen awards an innovation prize in which a bronze sculpture of a man with the Sachsenross on his back is awarded as a trophy. The sculpture was designed by the Göttingen-born artist Christian Jankowski .

Other horse crests

If one takes into account that the European coats of arms emerged as identity symbols of the knights , a military aristocracy fighting on horseback, it is somewhat surprising that the horse as a " common figure " appears comparatively rarely in European coats of arms. On the other hand, the motif “man on horseback” is more common, which is particularly widespread in Eastern Europe, but also mythical creatures such as centaurs , unicorns and pegasus .

Another nationally known horse coat of arms in Germany is the coat of arms of the city of Stuttgart , which shows a soaring, black horse in a golden shield. This heraldic animal has even achieved international recognition thanks to its inclusion in the brand logo of the sports car manufacturer Porsche . According to one theory, the logo of the competitor Ferrari should also have its origin in the Stuttgart city arms ( see also: The "Cavallino Rampante" ).

In addition to Stuttgart there are some smaller communities in Germany whose names contain "Ross", "Horse", "Stallion" or "Stut (e)" and whose coats of arms show horse motifs , some of which are "bridled", "saddled" or "single" , sometimes only as a horse's head.

Also Schwerin has a horse in the coat of arms: The Equestrian Portrait of Henry the Lion . Furthermore, the coat of arms of the city of Herne , here with reference to the Emscherbrücher , shows a horse.

The “Hague White Horse” is less well known. The coat of arms of the territory in Upper Bavaria, which has existed as a direct imperial county of Haag since the 10th century , showed a white jumping horse in a red shield since 1245. The county was dissolved in 1804. The market town of Haag continues to use this coat of arms. From this, in 1973, the coat of arms of the newly created town of Sankt Wolfgang , located in the former county area, was derived. The coat of arms of Albaching also shows the bridled Hague white horse in a field.


  • Torsten Capelle : The Saxons of the early Middle Ages. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1998, ISBN 3-534-13392-7 .
  • Claus-Peter Hasse: Thrones, Animals and the Guelphs. On seals and coats of arms in the 12th and 13th centuries. In: Jochen Luckhardt , Franz Niehoff (Hrsg.): Heinrich the lion and his time. Rule and representation of the Guelphs 1125–1235. Volume 2: Essays. Hirmer, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-7774-6690-5 , pp. 78-89.
  • Walter Leonhard : The great book of heraldic art. Development, elements, motifs, design. 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Callwey, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-8289-0768-7 .
  • Georg Schnath : The Saxon horse. Origin and meaning of the Lower Saxony state coat of arms (= series of publications by the Landeszentrale für Heimatdienst in Lower Saxony. Series B, H. 6, ZDB -ID 257648-x ). Lower Saxony State Center for Homeland Service, Hanover 1958.
  • Georg Schnath, Hermann Lübbing , Günther Möhlmann, Franz Engel, Dieter Brosius , Waldemar R. Röhrbein : History of Lower Saxony. 6th, updated edition. Ploetz, Freiburg (Breisgau) a. a. 1994, ISBN 3-87640-344-8 .
  • Harry D. Schurdel: Flags & Coat of Arms Germany. Geography. Battenberg, Augsburg 1995, ISBN 3-89441-136-8 .
  • Peter Veddeler: The Lower Saxony horse, history of the Lower Saxony state coat of arms. Fackelträger-Verlag, Hanover 1996, ISBN 3-7716-2400-2 .
  • Peter Veddeler: coats of arms, seals, flags. The municipal emblems of the regional association, the districts, cities and municipalities in Westphalia-Lippe (= publications of the Historical Commission for Westphalia. 5: Westphalian seals and coats of arms. Vol. 5). Ardey-Verlag, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-87023-252-8 .
  • Book of arms from the first called "Codex Seffken". The original from the end of the 14th century is faithfully reproduced by Adolf Matthias Hildebrandt . With a foreword and remarks by Gustav A. Seyler . Herold, Berlin 1893.
  • Christian Weyers: The Saxon horse. Biography of a national emblem. In: Archives for Diplomatics . Vol. 54, 2008, pp. 99-146, doi: 10.7788 / afd.2008.54.jg.99 .
  • Brage Bei der Wieden : Lower Saxony horse or Westphalian horse - how did the horse get into the coat of arms? in: Babette Ludowici (Ed.): Saxones , Theiss, Darmstadt 2019, pp. 24–25

Web links

Commons : Sachsenross  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Lower Saxony


Braunschweig (- Wolfenbüttel)


Companies, associations

Municipal coat of arms


Individual evidence

  1. For the first time with Conrad Bote : Cronecken der sassen. Mainz 1492, digitized .
  2. ^ Timothy Darvill: Prehistoric Britain from the Air. A Study of Space, Time and Society. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1996, ISBN 0-521-55132-3 , p. 223.
  3. ^ Morris Marples: White Horses & Other Hill Figures. Country Life et al. a., London 1949.
  4. So far, Albrechts II. Seal from 1361 was considered the oldest evidence, "in the meantime the seal is seen as a prototype on a document issued between 1186 and 1201 by bailiff Gottfried I. von Stade ..." Christian Weyers: The Saxon Horse. Biography of a national emblem. In: Archives for Diplomatics. Vol. 54, 2008, pp. 99–146, here p. 112.
  5. Schnath, Sachsenross, 50–53; Veddeler, Niedersachsenross, 39, 47-53.
  6. Schath, Sachsenross, 61–63; Veddeler, Niedersachsenross , 64-74; Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Complete Writings and Letters I 8, No. 20, N. 21.
  7. Otto von Pivka : Brunswick Troops 1809-15 (= Osprey Military. Men-at-arms Series. 167). Color plates by Bryan Fosten. Osprey, Oxford 1985, ISBN 0-85045-613-4 .
  8. Student Association Albia: Yellow-White Homeland and Freedom Songs ( Memento from October 19, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  9. ^ Peter Goette: Light F-Trains of the Deutsche Bundesbahn . EK-Verlag, Freiburg 2011. ISBN 978-3-88255-729-9 , pp. 88-91.
  10. ^ Christian Weyers: Das Sachsenroß. Biography of a national emblem. In: Archives for Diplomatics. Vol. 54, 2008, pp. 99–146, here p. 112.
  11. Use of the "Lower Saxony symbol"
  14. Logo of the PARTY Lower Saxony with pig horn
  15. Logo of the open strike forum of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen on ( Memento from September 1, 2004 in the Internet Archive )
  16. ^ Press release by the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture on the planned HOK from 23.09.2003
  17. Explanation of the symbols at the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe ( Memento from September 7, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  18. ^ German Army: 1st Panzer Division
This version was added to the list of excellent articles on May 3, 2005 .