Just like other national flags, the design of the Vatican flag has rich meaning.
As the national flag for Vatican City, this flag is displayed not only in this part of Italy, but also in many Catholic churches, universities, and other Catholic institutions.
The flag is modeled after the flag of the Papal States from the early nineteenth century, and is also referred to as the flag of the Holy See. Many earlier papal flags were red and gold.
The left side of the flag is a rich yellow. The right side is white and features the coat of arms of Vatican City. At the top of the coat of arms is the papal tiara, which was worn by popes from the eighth century to the mid-twentieth century.
Beneath the papal tiara are two keys, referring to Matthew 16:19, when Jesus says to St. Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” The gold key represents spiritual power and the silver key stands for worldly power. The keys are connected with a red cord, which symbolizes how the two powers are bound together.
Regarding the choice of yellow and white for the flag, there are various historical and symbolic explanations for these colors. One possible connection is to the keys themselves: the yellow field corresponding to the gold key, the white to the silver key. In heraldry, yellow is equivalent to gold (the heraldic color or) and white to silver (argent). The colors certainly offer a striking visual echo of the keys of Peter.
In 101 Surprising Facts about St. Peter’s and the Vatican, Fr. Jeff Kirby walks you through the history and legacy of one of the holiest sites in the world. For example, the astronauts brought the Vatican Flag with them on the Apollo 11 mission, and returned it safely when they returned to earth.
The Vatican flag is an iconic symbol of our rich history as a Church. You can honor Vatican City, home of the Holy See and Seat of the Holy Father, with an elegant white mug that features the Vatican flag. Keep this mug in your home to show off your Catholic faith to everyone you host. You can get your own here.