Page created: 7th June 2004|
Last updated: 6th January 2005
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The FAME is site devoted to systematic and scientific study of flags and coats of arms. Such symbols often bear strong political and other messages. Inclusion of those symbols here does not mean that the author support or approve the ideas they may stand for.
The Emperor Franz Joseph I established in 1850 two honour flags for the merchant marine. The white honour flag “Merito Navale” was to be granted to Austrian marine captains as recognition for civil services to the Empire. This included in the first place the opening of a new trade routes by the captain’s voyage or his nautical science, or the considerable upgrading of the Austrian navigation or maritime trade in general or other valuable feat by leading the ship. The flag consisted of a white field with the black imperial double-headed eagle, each head crowned and both topped with an imperial crown, with the escutcheon impaled Habsburg, Austria and Lorraine, bearing the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece and the series of other high Austrian decorations, surrounded with eleven coat of arms of the crownlands, holding in claws a sword, a sceptre and an orb, and a black ribbon with yellow inscription. On obverse it was inscribed VIRIBUS UNITIS (United we shall win) and on the reverse MERITO NAVALE (Maritime merit). The flag ensured to the awarded captains primary service in Austrian ports, and some other benefits. It was hoisted from the main mast. Even though some sources show it as rectangular, the flag was square, made of silk. The regulations provided that after the death of the awarded captain the flag would be preserved “for ever” in he assembly hall of his city of birth.
The only such flag was awarded on 31 July 1860 to Austrian Captain Ivan Vizin (a.k.a. Ivo Visin a.k.a. Johann Visin), a Croat born in Prčanj (Perzano) in Boka Kotorska (Cattaro), now in Montenegro, for his round-the-world voyage with the sail-ship “Splendido”, the first Austrian merchant ship to do that and the sixth ship ever, in period 1852 until 1859. The flag is preserved to this day in the parish church in Prčanj, together with a ceremonial chart inviting the Captain to the granting ceremony. The actual flag shows the charges in much cruder artwork then the intricate designs found in many flag books of the time, that is only appropriate for a flag that would be much used atop the main mast.
The red honour flag was established as a merit for merchant captains that show exceptional valour during an enemy or pirate attack. The design of the flag was entirely as the white honour flag, but it was made on a dark red (burgundy) silk, and the inscription on the reverse stated FORTITUDINI NAVALI (Maritime Courage).
This flag was awarded only once, as well, and this was also awarded to a Croatian seaman. Captain Antun Celestin Ivančić (a.k.a. Cölestin Ivancich), born in Mali Lošinj (Lussinpiccolo) was granted the flag in 1859. He sailed with his brigg “Eolo” from Cardiff, England towards Rijeka (Fiume), and while he was on the way near Dugi Otok, unaware of the in the mean time beggoten war betwen France and Austria he was suprised when he was captured by three French ships. The captured ship was ordered to the court in Toulon. While passing off the coat of Lastovo, seized the oportunity of inclement weather disarmed the French soldiers aborad and reached the Austrian port in Dubrovnik. The fate of the flag is, apparently, unknown, it is not preserved nither in Mali Lošinj nor in Rijeka Museums. The ceremonial chart inviting the Captain to the ceremony is preserved in the Maritme and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral Rijeka.