National Symbols

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National Flag: Art. 3 - According to the constitutional dispositions, the national flag was adopted by Decree No 4, of 19 November 1889,
 later modified by Law No 5443 (Annex No 1) of 28 May 1968. 
Sole paragraph. On the National flag is represented, rendered artistically, a view of the sky over Rio de Janeiro, with the constellation "Cruzeiro do Sul" [Southern Cross] at the meridian, imagined as seen by an observer placed on the vertical line including the zenith of that city, from outside the sphere seen on the flag.
(From the booklet "Os Símbolos Nacionais", published by the Presidência da República, Brasília, 1986, on the 165th year since independence and 98th since establishment of the republic)
Designers of the Flag: Benjamin Constant, a member of the Provisional Government who prepared the decree, credited Professor Raimundo Teixeira Mendes, president of the Positivist Apostolate of Brazil, with the idea of the new flag. Texeira Mendes collaborated with Dr. Miguel Lemos and Professor Manuel Pereira Reis, chairman of astronomy at the Polytechnic School, and the design was executed by the painter Décio Vilares.  Joseph McMillan, 12 April 2001
Ratio of the Flag: I borrowed an original 1939 Flaggenbuch recently, and I read 96:132 (=24:33, or 7.27:10) as the ratio for the Brazilian flag. Looking more closely at the construction scheme, it started from the lozenge in the center, which had a proportion of 2:3 (72:108). The distance to the upper and lower edges and to the hoist and fly was equal all around (12 units each), resulting in the unusual ratio of 7.27:10.  Marcus Schmöger, 20 March 2003
Federal Decree-Law no. 4545, of 31 July 1942, provided for the 7:10 ratio, stipulating that (a) the desired width of the flag should be divided into 14 equal parts, each of the parts being considered one module; and (b) the length would be 20 (twenty) modules. Joseph McMillan, 3 April 2003
Symbolism of the Flag: 
The Colors: The colors green and yellow refer to the Royal Houses of Bragança (Emperor Pedro I) and Habsburg (Empress Leopoldina). The celestial sphere on the republican standard is a portrait of the sky of Rio de Janeiro on the night of 15 November 1889.  Felipe Flores Pinto, 23 February 1998
Celestial Sphere: It interesting that the Brazilian flag has a celestial globe while the Portuguese one has a flag with an instrument on it used to represent the celestial sphere. Could the Portuguese flag have influenced Brazil's choice of flag design? James Dignan, 6 October 2003
The Stars: Unlike the stars on the American flag, each particular star on the Brazilian flag represents one particular state. 
Herman De Wael, 20 January 1998
For details on the constellations on the flag and the correspondence between the stars and the states, see Astronomy of the Brazilian Flag.
Coat of Arms:
The page entitled Simbolos Nacionais--Bandeira, Hino, Armas e Selo Nacional (National Symbols--Flag, Anthem, Arms, and National Seal] at the official Brazilian government site quotes in full the laws governing all the symbols. That for the arms says, translated into English:
The National Arms were instituted by Decree No. 4 of 19 November 1889, with alteration made by Law No. 5443 of 28 May 1968 (Annex No. 8) The making of the National Arms should conform to the proportions of 15 units of height by 14 of width and take into account the following provisions:
I - The round shield will be composed of a sky-blue [azul-celeste] field containing five silver [prata] stars arranged in the form of the Southern Cross, with the bordure [bordura] of the field outlined in gold and charged with silver stars equal to the stars existing in the National Flag (Modification made by Law No. 8421 of 11 May 1972).
II - The shield will be placed on a star parted gyronny of ten pieces, green [sinopla] and gold, bordered by two strips, the inner red [goles] and the outer gold.
III - All placed on a sword in pale, pommelled gold, hilted blue [blau], except for the center part, which is red [goles] and contains a silver star, all upon a crown formed by a branch of coffee fruited on the dexter side and another of flowering tobacco on the sinister side, both in proper colors, tied blue [blau], the whole assembled on a splendor of gold, the contours of which form a star of 20 points.
IV - On a blue [blau] scroll, placed over the pommel of the sword, inscribed in gold the legend República Federativa do Brasil in the center, and also the phrases 15 de Novembro on the dexter end and de 1889 on the sinister end.
The name on the scroll was changed from Estados Unidos do Brasil by Law No. 5389 of 22 February 1968. Joseph McMillan, 12 June 2001
Knowing how (non-)promptly the stars on the national flag were changed with the change of the actual number of the states in Brazil, I am wondering how well the coat of arms followed the changes. This is of particular interest since it is the main feature on the presidential flag, too. So that flag was changed (I guess) as many times as the coat of arms. Zeljko Heimer, 21 March 2001
In the Süddeutsche Zeitung of 28 June 2002 (p. 12) there is a report on the Brazilian coat of arms. Evidently they are currently discussing a change in the coat of arms, more specifically the tobacco leaves on the sinister side. Senator Jefferson Peres (PDT) wants to replace the unhealthy tobacco with a twig of guaraná. Marcus Schmöger, 29 June 2002
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