Last modified: 2006-02-18 by santiago dotor
Keywords: cantabria | labarum | labaru cantabru | barros stela | independentist flags | united cantabria association | cross: saltire (yellow) | disc (yellow) | wreath | bison |
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by Jaume Ollé
An independence movement exists in the Spanish autonomous territory of Cantabria. It uses a flag named Labaru Cantabru [Cantabrian Labarum]. In 1977 the United Cantabria Association (ATROPU) emerged in Santander and proposed establishing this flag for the region. At the time all parties supported the proposal, but by 1978 only two parties maintained their support while the others supported the use of the maritime ensign of Santander, Laredo, Castro-Urdiales, Santoña, Ondarribia and Gasteiz (Vitoria) that was red and white. The red and white proposal was finally approved as the regional flag. However, the nationalistic groups maintained their support for Labaru Cantabru, and that has continued to the present day.
The central symbol is probably of Celtic origin (one identical appears in the flag of the town of Kilkenny, Ireland). It was found in the town of Barros, near Torrelavega, and dates to 400 years before Christ. Other similar symbols have since been found elsewhere. The symbol is [also] known as Barros Stela and is believed that the old Cantabrian people used it as banner in their epic wars against Rome. Currently the original stela is in the Prehistory Museum of Santander [not any longer, read on]. The figure appears in the lower part of the Cantabrian coat-of-arms.
Jaume Ollé, 17 January 1996
What is the meaning of the word labaro? Is this the symbol often superimposed over Basque flags (and also in stone engravings and other decorative motifs), a kind of swastika-like, rotationally-symmetrical object, usually black, with four club-like arms?...
António Martins, 17 September 1999
Spanish lábaro is the same as English (from Latin) labarum. Originally, it designed the banner of Constantine, as described in Smith 1975. Later, at least in Spain, it was used to describe the cypher it contained (the overlapped Greek letters X and P) and, by extension, almost any symbol in the shape of an X. A text on the Labarum of Constantine can be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
I guess a labarum may have rotating arms, but generally it is more similar to the one in FOTW, with vertical and horizontal simmetry. Anyway, "labarum" derives from a Latin word identifying a banner, so it may be applied as much to the swastika as to the Burgundy cross... I believe the only "requirements" would be for the said cross to be (a) rotated ie. a saltire and (b) couped ie. not reaching the edges.
Santiago Dotor, 22 September 1999
Some years ago the town called Barros asked the Santander Prehistory Museum to have the stela moved to the town, which they did. Now you can see the Barros Stela in this town near the ancient chapel.Santi and Katixa, 31 March 2000
While writing an article about the Roman vexillum and labarum (Schmöger 2002), I came across the claim by Cantabrian Nationalists, that their labaru is the oldest flag in the world, for instance in this website and this website. What are the sources, if any, for that claim? Since when do they claim this?
Marcus Schmöger, 30 April 2002
Labaru cantabru means Cantabrian labarum, i.e. a labarum as depicted in a certain piece of ancient stonework found in Cantabria and as used in Cantabrian nationalist flags.
In my humble opinion, the first webpage simply concocts a story about the Roman legions adopting a Celtic symbol found in northern Spain as their own, "as homage to the heroism of that people and the pride they had in having conquered it (...) as they used to do with emblems of conquered countries". I believe the Romans had no such tradition.
The full sentence Marcus Schmöger refers to in the second webpage is "El lábaro es considerado, junto con otro estandarte iraní, como el más antiguo del mundo" i.e. "The labarum is considered, together with another Iranian standard, the oldest in the world". What Iranian standard? Do both date from the same day / month / year / century? If not, how are both the oldest?...
Santiago Dotor, 30 April 2002
by Jaume Ollé