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Lusatia / Lower Lusatia

Upper Lusatia

Sorb Nationalism


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Lusatia is a historical landscape situated in the west of today’s Germany. It ceased to be an administrative unit in 1815 when it was divided between Prussia and Saxony.

19th and 20 century efforts to revive Lusatia by establishing a Sorb national state have failed but some Sorb cultural movements and organisations are still active.

According to the earliest records, the area was settled by culturally Celtic tribes. Later, around 100 BC, the Germanic tribe of the Semnones settled into that area. The name of the region may be derived from that of the Ligians. From around 600 onwards, West Slavic tribes known as the Milceni and Lusici settled permanently in the region.

In the 10th century the region came under the influence of the Kingdom of Germany, starting with the 928 eastern campaigns of King Henry the Fowler. Until 963 the Lusatian tribes were subdued by the Saxon margrave Gero and upon his death two years later, the March of Lusatia was established on the territory of today's Lower Lusatia and remained within the Holy Roman Empire, while the adjacent Northern March again got lost in the Slavic uprising of 983. The later Upper Lusatian region of the Milceni lands up to the Silesian border at the Kwisa river at first was part of the Margraviate of Meissen under Margrave Eckard I (985-1002).

At the same time the Kingdom of Poland raised claims to the Lusatian lands and upon the death of Emperor Otto III in 1002, Margrave Gero II lost Lusatia to the Polish Duke Boleslaw I (992-1025), who took the region in his conquests. After the 1018 Peace of Bautzen, Lusatia became part of his territory, however Germans and Poles continued struggling for administration of the region. It was regained in a 1031 campaign by Emperor Conrad II in favour of the Saxon German rulers of the Meissen House of Wettin and the Ascanian margraves of Brandenburg, who purchased the March of (Lower) Lusatia in 1303.

In 1367 the Brandenburg elector Otto V of Wittelsbach finally sold Lower Lusatia to Emperor Charles IV of Luxembourg, also King of Bohemia.


Lusatia / Lower Lusatia


In the 12th and 13th centuries the Mark of Lusatia or the Ostmark was owned by duke Wratislaw of Bohemia (1031-1117), Albert the Bear (1124-’31) and the counts of Groitsch (1123-‘35). After them the mark came to Conrad of Meissen from the House of Wettin. From 1210 on, Lower Lusatia was held by the Margraves of Meissen from the House of Wettin. When the last Lusatian margrave, Henry IV died in 1288, the Lusatian lands fell to his grandson Margrave Frederick Tuta of Landsberg. His successor Dietrich (Diezmann) sold it in 1303 to Herman of Brandenburg († 1308) who received it as a fief in 1306. When his son John had died in 1317 without male issue, the mark was pawned to the margraves of Meissen. It was finally acquired for the House of Luxembourg by Emperor Charles IV in 1367 and incorporated into the Lands of the Bohemian Crown.


Margraves of (Lower) Lusatia or (Saxon) Ostmark


House of Wettin

Dedi I


Dedi II

fl. 1069

Henry I


Henry II



Wiprecht of Groitsch


Albert the Bear


Henry III of Groitsch


House of Wettin



Dietrich I (son)


Dedi III (bro)


Conrad II (son)


House of Wettin,

Margraves of Meissen

Dietrich II the Oppressed


Henry IV the Illustrious,


House of Wettin,

Margraves of Landsberg

Frederick Tuta (grandson)


Dietrich IV (bro)



Wettin and Bohemian Rule


Arms with an ox which may have been for Lusatia, occurred for the first time in the time of Henry IV of Meissen (1221-‘88). A first version may have been the ox on the dalmatica of the Benedictine monastry of Göss (Styria) which is from the time of King Přemysl Ottokar II the Great, who was a king of Bohemia from 1253-1278. It is in the Bohemian (and German) colours, the field red and the ox white. [1]


Ox on the embroidered dalmatica of Göss. 3rd quarter 13th c

Wien, Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst, Inv.-Nr. 6904.


At about the same time it is described in Walfords Roll (1273) N° (C15): Le roy de Denemark (sic!), d'or un beauff gulez. It should be remarked that a (winged) bull was the emblem of St. Luke, itself derived from the ancient bull, emblem of a warrior of the second rank and known from ancient Persia and Greece (the Minotaur of Crete). Also, the bull played an important role in the Roman cult of Mithras.

The Lusatia bull may be a remnant of Polish occupation as a bull’s head was later in the arms of Greater Poland, Bukowina and Moldova.




The arms with the ox in Walford’s Roll



The arms or Henry IV in George Spalatin's Saxon chronicles


Indeed, the idea that the arms with the ox were the arms of Henry IV for Lusatia, was also put forward about 1520 in George Spalatin's Saxon chronicles, as he gave Henry a coat of arms quarterly of Meissen, Thuringia, Palatinate of Saxony and the red ox on white of Lusatia. [2]


However, we may be much more sure about the arms of Lusatia as depicted on the seal of Wenceslas of Luxemburg (*1361-†1419), the son and successor of the Emperor Charles IV.


Seal of King Wenceslas IV, 1363.

The king on his throne surrounded by the arms of his hereditary territories (clockwise): Bohemia, Luxemburg, Bautzen, Lausitz, the city and land of Sulzbach, Brandenburg, Silesia. L.: WENCESLAS QUARTUS DEI GRACIA BOEMIA REX, BRANDENBURGENSIS ET LUSATIE MARCHIO LUCEMBURGENSIS ET SLEZIE DUX   [3]



The seal showed the arms of the lusatian possessions:

1. Per fess a battlemented wall for Bautzen.

2. An ox, walking to the dexter for Lusatia

3. Five fleurs-de-lis 3 and 2 for Sulzbach [uncertain]


In 1378, according to the Augsburg Chronicle, banners were carried of the arms of Bautzen, Görlitz and Lusatia at the funeral of the Emperor Charles IV:


» Item da fürt man im vor ain panier, das haist daz fuirpanier, daz was rott sidin; item darnach fürt man im vor ain panier mitzinnen in ainen plawen feld des landes von Bauditzein, und darnach drey grozziu ros mit denselben wauppen und uff jedem ros ain gantz gewappent man; item darnach fürt man ain gehelbiert panier unden silberweiss und oben ain wizzen löwen in ainem rotten feld des landes von Görlitz und drei grozziu schwartz bedäcktiu ros darnach mit drey gewappent mannen mit demselben clainat; darnach ein panier des landes von Lützelpurg, ain rotten leo uff ainem plaw strichigem veld und 3 ros; darnach fürt man Lawsnitz ain panier weizz mit ainem rotten ochsen und 3 ros,...[4]


In 1373, John, the third son of Charles IV was given the titles of margrave of Moravia and Brandenburg. In 1377 he raised the bailiwick of Görlitz to a Duchy, which included eastern areas of Lower Lusatia and southern parts of the Neumark. John was the first and only Duke of this duchy. His arms were:


Seal of Duke John of Görlitz, 1394

Copy of a cast. Coll. Kulturhistorisches Museum Görlitz.


Arms: Quarterly of Bohemia and Brandenburg.[5]


It is thought that John also bore a quarterly of Bohemia, Brandenburg, Lausitz and Görlitz, but no source of these arms is given. Instead such arms are on the coat of arms of his daughter Elizabeth (augmented with and escutcheon Luxemburg). [6]



1. Bohemia; 2. Brandenburg; 3. Lower Lusatia. 4. Görlitz: Per fess: Gules a lion rampant Argent in chief and a base Argent.


The arms of the duchy of  Görlitz are described in the Augsburg Chronicle: gehelbiert [panier] unden silberweiss und oben ain wizzen löwen in ainem rotten feld des landes von Görlitz.


John died in 1396 at the age of 25 and after him the arms of the duchy of Görlitz were borne by his daughter Elizabeth.


After Wenceslas the arms of Lower Lusatia were borne by his successors in Bohemia. It for example occurs on the seal of King George Podiebrad (1458-‘71), on the relief on the Nikols-tower in Bautzen and on the seals of King Vladislas II Jagiello (*1456-†1516).


Seal of king George Podiebrad showing the arms of Lusatia

L.: georgius dei gracia rex bohemia.



The arms of Lusatia on the Nikols-tower in Bautzen, 1486

Royal arms of King Matthias Corvinus with a quarter for Lower Lusatia

at the town hall of Görlitz, 1488


Seal of Wladislas Jagiello, 1492.

The achievement of state of Bohemia surrounded by the arms of (clockwise): Moravia, Lusatia, Görlitz, Bautzen, Luxemburg, Silesia. L.: WLADISLAVS DEI GRACIA VNGARIE BOEMIE DALMACIE CROACIE EC REX MARCHIO MORAVIE SIESIE ET LVCEMBVRGENSIS DVX AC LVSACIE MARCHIO 1492.


The arms of Lower Lusatia were also depicted on the seal of King Ferdinand I of 1531 (picture) and they remained on the royal seal until 1806.


Saxon rule


As a result of the 30-years war and the  Peace of Prague of 1635 both Lusatias were ceded to Kurfürst Johann Georg von Sachsen (1611-1656) as a Bohemian hereditary fief. From then on he called himself (amongst others) Markgraf von Niederlausitz and bore the arms of Lower Lusatia. For the purpose, these arms were augmented with a crest which consists of an eagle’s head issuant Argent, billed Or. 


The crest is thought to be introduced by Elector Frederick August II the Strong, King of Poland (1697-1733), and consequently the head of the eagle should be of the Polish eagle. [7]


Prussian and German rule


The electors and later kings of Saxony owned both Lusatias until 1815. According to the Peace of Paris of 13 May 1814 and the treaty between Prussia and Saxony of 18 May 1815, they were ceded to Prussia. Only the southwestern part of Upper Lusatia that included Löbau, Kamenz, Bautzen and Zittau remained part of Saxony.


The Lusatians in Prussia demanded that their land become a distinct administrative unit, but Lower Lusatia was incorporated into the Province of Brandenburg, while the Upper Lusatian territories were attached to the Province of Silesia instead.


As a result the arms of the province (and the NSDAP Gau) of Brandenburg were also valid in Lower Lusatia.


By the administrative reorganisation of the DDR in 1952 Lower Lusatia became a part of the District (Bezirk) of Cottbus, which received the arms of the city of Cottbus as its emblem.[8]


After 1989 this district was divided into the Landkreise (counties) Oberspreewal-Lausitz and Spree-Neiße. These counties received their arms in the nineties of the 20th century.



Arms of Kreis Oberspreewald-Lausitz

approved 25 November 1994

Arms of Kreis Spree Neiße

approved 6 September 1995


The arms of Oberspreewald-Lausitz shows the red ox of Lower Lusatia, the wall of Upper Lusatia and the arms of Meissen.

The arms of Spree-Neiße show the arms of Cottbus and Bohemia.


Upper Lusatia


Bohemian rule


As Margrave Egbert II of Meissen supported anti-king Rudolf of Rheinfelden during the Investiture Controversy, King Henry IV of Germany in 1076 awarded the Milceni lands of Upper Lusatia as a fief to the Bohemian duke Vratislav II (1061-‘92). After Emperor Frederick Barbarossa  had elevated Duke Vladislaus II to the rank of a King of Bohemia in 1158, the Upper Lusatian lands around Bautzen evolved to a Bohemian crown land. From 1253 until 1319 the territory was pawned to Brandenburg.


The arms of Upper Lusatia are apparently derived from the seal of the city of Bautzen. Its first seal of 1283 showed a wall with three battlements. On a later seal the wall has a gate between two towers and the crested royal arms of Bohemia in chief.


Seal of Bautzen used 1301-1350



In the arms for Bautzen on the seal of Wenceslas of 1363 the wall, gate and towers are reduced to a battlemented wall. On a seal of Wenceslas from 1373 the number of battlements was reduced to two, standing in the middle of the wall and almost touching the upper edge of the shield.

At the funeral of Charles IV in 1378  the arms are described as


........ain panier mitzinnen in ainen plawen feld des landes von Bauditzein,.....[9]


that is to say a battlemented wall on a blue field.


In 1469 Bautzen, Lusatia and Görlitz elected King Matthias of Hungary (1458-’90) as their governor. The lands of Bautzen and Görlitz were renamed Upper Lusatia by the royal chancellery of King Matthias of Hungary. Both the arms of Bautzen and Görlitz were continued and after the death of Matthias were on the seal of 1492 of his successor in Bohemia, Vladislas II Jagiello (1471-1516).


Arms of Bautzen and Görlitz on the seal of Wladislas Jagiello, 1492


In the 16th century the custom seems to have grown to use the arms of Bautzen for all of Upper Lusatia. In fact, the city of Bautzen which presided the League of the Six Cities of Upper Lusatia, (the Oberlausitzer Sechsstädtebund, 1346-1815) sealed its acts with a seal showing the arms of the city. This was apparently to the displeasure of Görlitz which was the larger of the two cities and was the capital of another part of Upper Lusatia.

Its resistance against the use of the arms of Bautzen for all of Upper Lusatia dwindled down when King Ferdinand I had punished the city for its participation in the Schmalkaldic League in 1547 (by the socalled Pönfall). Afterwards the arms of Bautzen were used for Upper Lusatia.



They can be found in all larger arms of the Bohemian Kings (who were the suzereins of Upper Lusatia) until 1918 when they occurred for the last time in the larger arms of state of the Habsburg Monarchy of 1836. They disappeared in 1920 when Bohemia was incorporated in the Republic of Cechoslovakia.


Saxon rule


As a result of the 30-years war and the Peace of Prague of 1635, both Lusatias were ceded to Kurfürst Johann Georg von Sachsen (1611-1656) as a hereditary Bohemian fief. From then on he called himself (amongst others) Markgraf von Oberlausitz and bore the arms of Upper Lusatia. Also, he augmented these arms with a crest which consists of a pair of wings of the arms.


Arms of Johan Georg I of Sachsen as a margrave of Upper Lusatia.

On the socle of his statue in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Bautzen, inscribed 1638.


Prussian rule


In the northeastern part of Upper Lusatia around Hoyerswerda, Rothenburg, Görlitz and Lauban, which was awarded to Prussia in 1815, not only the administration was changed but also numerous new government offices were created. As usual in such cases also new seals and stamps were introduced. Those for Upper Lusatia showed the arms with the wall of Bautzen, even when the city itself remained on Saxon territoy:


Stamp of the Estates of Royal Prussian Upper Lusatia, with the arms of Upper Lusatia. After 1815

(Coll. Schlesisches Museum, Görlitz)


Arms: Bautzen.

Crown: Of three flowers and two pearls

Supporters: Two Lions



The stamp of the Senator of Royal Prussian Upper Lusatia showed the arms of Upper Lusatia crowned with a crown of three flowers and two pearls. Its legend read: D LANDAELTESTE  D. KOEN. PR. OBERLAUSITZ.


Arms of the Margraves of Upper Lusatia

By H.G. Ströhl


German Rule


In NSDAP Germany Upper Lusatia became a part of the Gau (district) of Sachsen which had two swords in saltire for arms.



In 1952 an administrative reorganisation made Upper Lausitz a part of the Province (Bezirk) of Dresden (identical to the former Gau of Sachsen) and accordingly the arms of that district, being the arms of Dresden, were valid in Upper Lusatia.


Nowadays, after another administrative reform a Landkreis Bautzen was formed in 1990, which readopted the arms of Bautzen in a slightly different form. This was approved by the Regierungspräsidium Dresden on 14 January 1992. It is also used by the Landkreise Bautzen formed 1 August 1994 and 1 August 2008


Sorb Nationalism


The 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed an era of cultural revival for Slavic Lusatians. The modern languages of Upper and Lower Lusatian (or Sorbian) emerged, national literature flourished, and many national organizations like Maćica Serbska and Domowina were founded.



A Sorb blue-red-white flag was displayed for the first time in 1845 in Bautzen and was also seen in March and April 1948 in other places, even before the same colors were adopted to be the pan-slavic colors. 

In the turmoil of the 1848 revolutions a flag for the Slavonian nation was adopted in Berlin on 23 March 1848 by representatives of the slavonian peoples, amongst whom was J.A. Smoler. It was blue, red and white arranged in three vertical stripes an apparently inspired by, because identical to, the French revolutionary tricolore of 26 February 1848. [10] The flag, the stripes arranged horizontally, was maintained by the Sorbs (the other slavonic peoples adopted the same colours but in a different arrangement) and became the symbol of the Sorb National Movement at the end of the 19th century. [11] Many sorbian societies adopted a flag of these colours. By ‘Reichsflaggengesetz’(Law about the National Flag) of 1935, displaying the flag was forbidden, but after the war it was shown again to the Sovjet- and Polish liberators. By order of the Saxon Chancellery of 19 March 2002 the Sorbian flag is in the proportions of 3:5 and has to be of three equal horizontal stripes blue, red and white. [12]


Æ See illustration in the head of this essay


Amongst others Sorb nationalism was propagated by the Young Sorbs Review, the Lipa Serbska established 1876, which had a coat of arms in its title. This showed arms quarterly with clasped hands, an arrow, a lime-tree and some musical instruments, with a helmet on top and supported by four national flags, the stripes arranged horizontally.


Achievement in the head of the Lipa Serbska

On a copy in the Sorbisches Museum Bautzen


The era of Sorb nationalism came to an end during the Nazi regime in Germany, when all Sorbian organizations were abolished and forbidden, the newspapers and magazines closed, and any use of the Sorbian languages was prohibited. From 1942 to 1944 the underground Lusatian National Committee was formed and was active in Nazi-occupied Warsaw.


Since 1945

After World War II according to the Potsdam Agreement, Lusatia was divided between Allied-occupied Germany (Soviet occupation zone) and the Republic of Poland along the Oder-Neisse line. The Polish government expelled all remaining Germans and Sorbs from the area east of the Neisse river during 1945 and 1946. The Lusatian National Committee in Prague claimed the right to self-government and separation from Germany and the creation of a Lusatian Free State or attachment to Czechoslovakia. The majority of the Sorbian intelligentsia was organized in the Domowina, though, and did not wish to split from Germany. Claims asserted by the Lusatian National movement opted for joining Lusatia to Poland or Czechoslovakia. Between 1945–1947 they put forward about ten memorials to the UN, USA, USSR, Great Britain, France, Poland and Czechoslovakia, however, it did not bring any results.




A seal of the Lusatian National Council is preserved in the Sorbisches Museum in Bautzen (Serbski Musei Budyšin).[13] It shows a parti of Lower- and Upper Lusatia


Print and stamp of the Seal of the Lusatian Sorb People’s council, 1945-1948.

(Coll. Sorbisches Museum Bautzen)



On April 30, 1946, the Lusatian National Committee also put forward a petition to the Polish Government, signed by Paweł Cyż – the minister and an official Sorbian delegate in Poland. There was also a project of proclaiming a Lusatian Free State, whose Prime Minister was supposed to be a Polish archaeologist of Lusatian origin - Wojciech Kóčka.




In this time, when the establishment of a Lusation Free state seemed to be near, several symbols were designed which demonstrated the new sorb self-confidence. In it were the arms of Lower- and Upper Lusatia and a lime-tree, the symbol of the slavic peoples, all in red, white and blue.


Two emblems showing the arms of Upper- and Lower Lusatia, together with a lime-tree. Used about 1945-’48.

The one on the left for Königswartha, the one on the right for Bautzen.

(On posters. Coll. Sorbisches Museum Bautzen)




At an unknown time the lime tree was taken by the Domowina (founded 1912) as its symbol. Its seal, 1945-’48, however showed just a stroke within a legend.

An emblem soviet-style was used in the time of the DDR. This showed a landscape surrounded by ears of wheat and a lime-tree on a five-pointed shield in base.


á Stamp and print of the seal of the Domowina, 1945-’48.

L.: DOMOVINA ANTIFASCISTKII SOIUZ LUZJINSKICH SERBOV.  A later version shows a (different) text in latin script, the word ‘antifascist’ omitted.

 (Coll. Sorbisches Museum Bautzen)





Emblem of the Domodowina.

On a diplom issued by the Domodowina, 4 March 1954.

 (Coll. Sorbisches Museum Bautzen)

Present logo of the Domodowina




A seal of the Society of Sorb Culture and Science, Maćica Serbska, founded 1847 (amongst others by J.A. Smoler), was just circular with a legend. No other seals or emblems are available. The present logo of this society consists of the capitals MS.












á Stamp and print of the seal of the Maćica Serbska, 1945-1948.

(Coll. Sorbisches Museum Bautzen)



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© Hubert de Vries 2012-05-25; updated 2012-05-31; 2013-01-08


[1] http://medieval.webcon.net.au/extant_goss_vestments.html. Die Zeit der Staufer, Kat. Nr. 799, Abb. 592  For a theory about the origins of the ox see:  http://www.hubert-herald.nl/DeuKoeln.htm: cloth of St. Gereon.

[2] http://spalatin.franconica.uni-wuerzburg.de/login/b/images/LBC_MsCas_11_76v.jpg

[3] From: Die Siegel der deutschen Kaiser und Könige v. 2 (1347 - 1493). The date is not free from doubt.  Wenceslas became a co-regent in 1363 indeed and king in 1378. The portrait on the seal however shows him clearly on a later age and not as a toddler of only two years old. Also, the Lusatian lands were only incorporated in the Bohemian crown in 1367. For that reason we opt for 1378 as the date.

[4] Augsburger Chronik von 1368-1406 In: Die Chroniken der deutsche Städte. Bd. IV, 1865.  Cited by Seibt, Ferdinand ed.: Kaiser karl IV, Staatsmann und Mäzen. München, 1978 p. 317.

[5] We may doubt if the eagle is the one of Brandenburg indeed and not the the one of Germany as the crescent on the breast and wings of the eagle are missing.

[6] Loutsch, J.C.: Armorial du Pays de Luxembourg. Luxembourg, 1974. pp 41-42. And on her tomb in Treves.

[7] Gritzner, Maximilian: Landes- und Wappenkunde der Brandenburgisch-Preußischen Monarchie. Geschichte ihrer einzelnen Landestheile, deren Herrscher und Wappen.. Berlin, 1894. Pp. 161-165

[8] For the history of the arms of the city see: Lexicon  Städte und Wappen der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik. Leipzig 1979. P. 78

[9] See: Lower Lusatia.

[10] The ancient blue-white-red  flag was restored two weeks later.

[11] Hnát, Ladislav: Die Flagge der Lausitzer Sorben. In: Der Flaggenkurier Nr. 21-22/2006 p. 3.

[12] Verwaltungsvorschrift der Sächischen Staatskanzlei über die Flaggen und die Beflaggung der Dienstgebäude im Freistaat Sachsen. Vom 19. März 2002. II.3. In: Sächsische Amtsblatt Nr. 15/2002. p.442.

[13] So we have the Lusatian National movement, the Lusatian National Council, the  Lusatian National Committee and the Lusatian Sorb People’s Council (Lužiskoserpska narodna rada) which may be identical or completely different organisations. Who knows?

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