If you live in Amsterdam, you’ve heard the question. It’s one of the first things visitors want to know about: why is “XXX” stamped right in the middle of the flag?
You can’t blame them, the place does have a reputation. Even before tourists get here, they’re already thinking about a certain area of town. You know it, it’s the one with a red glow and people practising the world’s oldest profession. ❌❌❌
Interestingly, the flag isn’t just a depiction of the triple-X entertainment that Amsterdam usually has to offer. Instead, it’s the official symbol of the Dutch capital.
What does the Amsterdam flag look like?
Just in case you’re not familiar with the flag, let’s have a look. It has three horizontal stripes — red, black, red. The black one is slightly thinner, and it has three white Xs in it.
Why does the flag have three crosses?
Depending on whether you have the maturity level of a teenager or not, we have some good news (or bad news): those Xs find their origins in Christianity.
That’s right, they’re actually representative of St. Andrew’s three crosses, one of Jesus’ apostle, who was crucified on an X-shaped cross.
St. Andrew also used to be a fisherman, that is, during the first century AD. But, it’s interesting to know that, back in 1505, when Amsterdam was a renowned fishing town, all the registered ships that would sail there had this flag hanging on from their boats. 🛶
Not just a random design
As cool as the flag looks on its own, it doesn’t usually stand on its own. In reality, it’s borrowed from the city’s coat of arms, where the popular red flag rests as the centrepiece.
A common legend about the flag is that the three crosses represent fire, floods, and the black plague. Why? Those are precisely the problems that Amsterdammers had to deal with a little too often back in the day, unfortunately. But, that theory isn’t true either. 🤷♀️
The meaning and symbolism of the coat of arms symbol are actually still unknown. 🤫
The flag can be seen everywhere in Amsterdam
Another thing any visitor to Amsterdam will notice is that this symbol is everywhere.
Those crosses aren’t just on the flag. They’re carved into the bricks on buildings and sticking out of the little poles that keep cars off the sidewalk. They are printed on bus stops, museum signs and even on official letters.
And, they’re also in every single tourist shop, in the “things you don’t need” section (but will probably buy anyway). 🛍
READ MORE | Why Amsterdam is the capital and not The Hague
If you came to this article wanting some raunchy story on the Amsterdam flag to make your friends giggle, we’re sorry that we let you down. But, we hope you’re now a little more interested in the history of Amsterdam and why things are the way they are!
What do you think of Amsterdam’s flag? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in October 2016 and was fully updated in September 2022 for your reading pleasure.