Passau's Wolf

(city arms and emblem of the diocese)

Passau's city arms shows a red wolf on a silver ground - something unusual within emblems of dioceses. Because it seemed little religious to some people, the wolf was portrayed sometimes with sacral symbols such as a bishop's wand, but this never was used officially.
Since Passau was a clerical principality employing elected bishops of different houses (instead of inheritance within one family), it was difficult to agree upon one lasting city arms. The wolf is said to be bishop Wolfker's (1191-1204) emblem. Other books mention bishop Rüdiger von Radeck (1233-1250), whose family emblem showed the head of a red wolf to which the city arms is attributed. Why and who chose the wolf as Passau's heraldic animal, is still unclear today.

Historic dates on the emblem:

1259, Jan. 29 Bishop Otto von Lonsdorf starts to use a seal showing a wolf. The end of the document says:
Et notandum, quod hec est prima littera, ubi in sigillo a tergo secretum nostrum imprimi fecimus. Quod lupum in scuto pro signo insculptum continet et superscriptionem continet SECRETVM CELA.
(… and it is to take notice that this is the first document in which we impress our secrecay seal into the seal on the back. It shows a wolf in the shield and says "Keep the secret!")
1298 The citizens used a city arms during the rebellion, but had to hand it over lateron.
Before 1300 The wolf is regarded as symbol of the town, but still is not the city arms. It can be found as warrenty and trade mark on blades of swords.
1350 The wolf appears in the Zurich's roll of city arms on the flag of Passau's bishop.
1368 The city of Passau is granted the seal showing a red wolf in a shield.
1432 The bishop concedes the city arms in his speech "Fünferlspruch".
1460 The wolf in the backseal becomes the symbol of the city.

The original seals are being kept in the museum of Veste Oberhaus. They belong to rare pieces of Passau's early goldsmith artistry. Furthermore, the town hall shows a fine stylization of the city arms and the fountain in its small courtyard bears a figure whose left arm rests on a shield evincing the emblem.

The wolf is also part of the diocese's present-day seal.     

edited by: Claudia Hoinkis
translation by: Susanne Kipke

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