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Armorial de Suisse
BASEL (City) and Canton BASEL-STADT
Addition : 1908 Kleinhüningen
The arms of the city of Basel, and the canton of the same name, show the canting Baselstab (staff of Basel), originally the staff used by the Bishops of Basel. The oldest use of the staff (not a proper cosier, which would have a long wooden pole with a golden curved upper part), is known from coins dating from 1072 and 1133. A later coin, dating from the mid 13th century, shows a much clearer image of the staff, with the typical base. The staff was clearly used as the symbol of the diocese and the city, as the coins showed often the arms of the bishops beside the staff (see below).
The arms on a coin from 1384 (eBay)
The original arms showed a red staff for both the diocese and the city. The black staff for the city dates from after 1385, when the city and diocese became more separate, each having its own jurisdiction and council. The first known use of the black staff dates from the early 15th century.
The origin of the typical base of the staff is not clear. Many different theories have been proposed during the centuries, but no single explanation has been proven.
Since the end of the 14th century supporters have often been used with the arms. The oldest supporter was an angel, standing behind the shield. At the end of the 15th century a basilisk appears as supporter. This beast was probably chosen as a canting symbol. A basilisk is a combination of a lizard with dragon wings, a rooster's head and an eagle's bill.
The arms on a coin from 1740 (eBay)
The basilisk has been used for several centuries, but is no longer used since the early 19th century. In the meanwhile also savages were sometimes used as supporters.
Variations of the arms in the Kaffee Hag albums 1914-1960
Literature : Mühlmann, L. : Wappen und Fahnen der Schweiz, Bühler Verlag, Lengnau, 1977 and 1997.