The weapon of Amsterdam

Everywhere you go in Amsterdam, you will see the 3 crosses appear. And we get a lot of questions about the famous crosses. What does it mean? What’s the origin? What do they stand for? Well, today we’re gonna explain what they stand for. 

The three crosses, or sometimes referred to as X’s, are a part of the weapon of Amsterdam. The weapon of Amsterdam is a banner with two lions holding up a shield with the three crosses, and a crown on top. Underneath it, there are three words: ‘Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig’. Respectively, they mean ‘Heroic, Determined, Merciful’. These words were added by the late queen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Queen Wilhelmina. They were added as a commemoration of the second world war.

The three crosses are also visible on the flag of Amsterdam. The flag consists of three vertical lanes on top of each other. In this order, red-black-red. In the middle lane there are the famous three crosses.

The three crosses are Andreascrosses, named after the apostle Andreas. However the origin of the weapon of Amsterdam is unknown. Historians  think that it comes from the weapon of the Persijn family. Jan Persijn is the founder of the Dam, or Dam Square. They also owned two other areas, ‘Amstelveen’ and ‘Ouder-Amstel’, now ‘Duivendrecht’ and ‘Ouderkerk aan de Amstel’ . So the three crosses might resemble the three cities, owned by the Persijn family.

Another logical explanation can be the three catastrophes that hit Amsterdam. The water, the fire, and the black Plague.

The last theory comes from the Amstel river. There were three passages in the river, so the three crosses could come from that.

Nowadays you see the three crosses appear everywhere in Amsterdam. On logo’s, buildings, and the famous ‘Amsterdammertjes’. An ‘Amsterdammertje’ is a small pole, usually brown colored, on the sidewalks of Amsterdam. Its purpose is to make sure that the sidewalk, bikelanes and roads are separated from each, or to make sure no cars can go through, or park where they shouldn’t park.

When going on one of our tours, you will definitely see these three crosses appear. Now you know what they mean.

Written by: Delano van Steenveldt, intern at The Oranje Umbrella Company