The fascinating origins of the modern-day flag of Spain.
by Steve Lean
The Spanish flag could easily be taken for a symbol of the warmth and sunshine of their country. Some people maintain that it symbolises the sand of the bullfighting arena and the blood of the bullfighters.
This is wrong however, as its origins are much more historical and important than that.
Officially the correct ‘civil’ version of the flag is just three horizontal stripes, two red ones with one yellow one in the centre. The yellow stripe is twice the width of the two red ones.
However the most commonly used version is the ‘governmental’ or ‘royal’ version which has a coat of arms in the yellow section.
This coat of arms consists of a shield divided into quadrants which sits between two columns and atop of which sits a crown. The four quadrants signify the four kingdoms which came together to form a unified Spain in the late 1400’s.
These kindoms were: Castile represented by a castle, León represented by a lion, Aragon represented by vertical red and yellow stripes, and Navarre represented by linked chains.
There is also the moorish kingdom of Granada represented by a pomegranate fruit at the bottom and an impaled fleur de lys which represents the ruling House of Borbón.
The two columns are the mythological ‘Pillars of Hercules’ situated at the Strait of Gibralter. These originally had an ensign with the Latin words ‘Non Plus Ultra’ (no further) on them because in olden times this was considered the westernmost point on Earth.
After the Spanish discovery of America and the New World the words were replaced with ‘Plus Ultra’, meaning ‘further’.
The Spanish are very fond of their flag and display it anywhere and everywhere they can. From public buildings, to private homes, to cars and lorries, on t-shirts and hats, and even on baby buggies, the bright colours can be seen all over Spain as a proud symbol of their national identity.
Steve Lean is a writer, photographer and Spanish food nut. He lives in Andalucia, southern Spain and is the webmaster of Proper Spanish Tapas. Here you can find recipes, ingredients and “everything you ever wanted to know about tapas - the small plate with the BIG flavour!”
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