Rainbow Flag

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Thomas Müntzer's replica Rainbow flag in the Mühlhausen city Museum. The first line of text is in Latin and translates as: "The word of the Lord remains eternal", the next two lines in German translate as: "This is the sign of the eternal covenant of God."
Thomas Müntzer is often portrayed with a rainbow flag in his hand as seen in this statue of him in his home town of Stolberg (Harz), Germany.

The Rainbow Flag was a Radical Reformation banner in particular the banner of Thomas Müntzer (1489-1525). The flag displayed the universally known rainbow, a meteorological phenomenon of a multicoloured arc spectrum of light seen in the sky caused by sunlight refracted by air born water droplets. German peasants raised this flag in 1525 as one of their symbols in their revolution demanding reform of the Christian Church and for political freedoms in what became known as the Great German Peasants' War (Große Deutscher Bauernkrieg).

In the few years after 1517 when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses numerous reform preachers began a flood of demands for religious, economic and social improvements to the lives of ordinary German peasants. These peasants in the Holy Roman Empire sought the elimination of both tithes to absent clerics and taxes and restrictions place on them by the nobles. The failure to obtain these by 1524 led to the peasants fermenting armed revolution resulting in that Great German Peasants' War.

A number of Radical Reformer preachers including Thomas Müntzer and Hans Hut (1490-1527) supported the demands of the peasantry. Many of these demands called for a new order for society and church. As activists Müntzer and Hut traveled to the Thuringia region in central Germany preaching church reformation and social justice. The peasants demanding change rallied, armed themselves with improvised weapons and a group gathered at the city of Mühlhausen. These had the rainbow on their flag. They chose this symbol of the rainbow as a sign of new hope and as a symbol of God's everlasting covenant with mankind (Genesis 9:12-13). The flag also had in German the text: "This is the sign of the eternal covenant of God."

Müntzer with his rainbow flag and a contingent of several hundred traveled about 65 kilometres to the east to the city of Frankenhausen (now named Bad Frankenhausen) joining and leading the peasant army numberings several thousand assembling there. On the 14-15 May 1525 the professional army of Landgrave Philip I of Hesse and Georg Duke of Saxony clashed with the peasant army at the Battle of Frankenhausen. During the first day of battle an actual rainbow appeared in the sky. Thomas Müntzer took this as a propitious sign of God's covenant support for deliverance from oppression and preached this to the peasant troops. However, it did not prevent the utter annihilated the peasant army at the battle. Thomas Müntzer was captured, tortured and executed, Hans Hut was also captured, interrogated but released. Though defeated the rainbow continued for many peasants as a symbol of hope, communal equity, brotherly love and a reminder of God's never-ending covenant. The battle and rainbow are depicted in Werner Tübke's monumental panorama painting Frühbürgerliche Revolution in Deutschland(Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany).

No copies of this original Rainbow Flag survive but a repica is displayed the in Mühlhausen city Museum.


Friesen, Abraham. Thomas Muentzer, a Destroyer of the Godless. Berkely, University of California Press. 1990, pp.259-263

Author(s) Victor G Wiebe
Date Published May 2018

Cite This Article

MLA style

Wiebe, Victor G. "Rainbow Flag." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2018. Web. 19 Sep 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Rainbow_Flag&oldid=160762.

APA style

Wiebe, Victor G. (May 2018). Rainbow Flag. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 September 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Rainbow_Flag&oldid=160762.

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