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City of Madrid (Madrid Community, Spain)

Villa y Corte de Madrid

Last modified: 2004-12-29 by santiago dotor
Keywords: madrid | coat of arms (bear: black) | coat of arms (tree: green) | coat of arms (tree: strawberry) | coat of arms (bordure: blue) | coat of arms: bordure (stars: white) | coat of arms: bordure (stars: 7) |
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[City of Madrid (Madrid Community, Spain)] 2:3
by Santiago Dotor
Flag adopted 22nd December 1988

See also:

Other sites:

Flag Specifications

The flag is crimson —a very dark shade of red— with the coat-of-arms in the middle. According to the Madrid City Council information board (my translation):

(...) Legislation concerning the flag and coat-of-arms of the city is the By-Law for Protocol and Ceremony, passed by the Joint City Council on December 22nd 1988. An abstract of the articles referring to the flag and coat-of-arms follows: (...)

Title I, Article 3: The coat-of-arms of Madrid has the following heraldic components: argent, a strawberry tree vert [rather "proper" since the trunk is always shown brown] fructed gules and a bear rampant sable on a terrace vert, a bordure azure with seven [six-pointed] mullets argent; crest an open royal crown.

Article 4: The flag of the City of Madrid is made up of the coat-of-arms described in Title I, Article 3, centered on a [field of] crimson colour.

There are apparently no laws on the proportions of the flag and of the coat-of-arms within it, but they told me:

(...) There are two flag sizes: 1.50 m wide x 2.50 m long [which gives a ratio 3:5]; 2.00 m wide x 3.00 m long [which gives a ratio 2:3]. As for the coat-of-arms, the sizes are as follows:
  • Coat-of-arms: 49.5 cm height [including crown];
  • Crown: 31.5 cm width;
  • Strawberry tree: 36 cm wide [impossible, perhaps 3.6 cm for the stem?]
The coat-of-arms seems to have the same size regardless of the flag size.

Santiago Dotor, 10 December 1998

Madrilenian vexillologist Antonio Gutiérrez and myself discussed the correct proportions and colour of the flag of Madrid. There is no specific shade of "crimson" but according to Antonio Gutiérrez Madrid's city council suggests (for instance to flagmakers) using either Pantone 207 or 208. Most actual flags I have seen are nearer Pantone 207, while Antonio Gutiérrez's suggestion that the colour is more like that on the flag of Murcia Region would approximate more Pantone 208.

The only remaining question is the proportions and the size of the coat-of-arms. I was told (read above) by the City Council Information Board that the flag is usually manufactured in two sizes, 1.5m x 2.5m and 2m x 3m, and that the coat-of-arms was 49.5 cm — apparently regardless of flag size. This however (a) sounds somewhat stupid and (b) 49.5cm is almost exactly 1/3 of 1.5m, which is a "typical" proportion in Spain for coats-of-arms on plain flags (of course, it could be argued that it also is almost exactly 1/4 of 2m, but I have never seen such a small arms on a Spanish municipal flag).

So I believe the correct size of the arms is 1/3 the flag's height, and that the only possible variant (apart from the colour) is a flag in proportions 3:5 instead of the usual 2:3.

Santiago Dotor, 11 April 2001

Flag Variants

Colour variant (Pantone 208 instead of 207)
[City of Madrid (Spain), colour variant] 2:3     
Proportions variant (3:5 instead of 2:3)
[City of Madrid (Spain), ratio variant] 3:5
both by Santiago Dotor

Both the shade of crimson (carmesí) and the sizes of the escutcheons are the ones described to me by the city council's information service. Unofficial variants are of course frequent however.

Santiago Dotor, 14 October 1999

The flags I saw seemed to have arms about half the height of the flag — the crown included. The area where I saw most of them was around the calle de Alcalá and the paseo del Prado — I couldn't name the buildings but a couple were hotels.

Vincent Morley, 19 October 1999

The official civic flag of the city of Madrid, flown on the balcony of the city hall and on balconies of the dependent city district halls as well as on flag poles here and there (not too many Madrid flags are to be seen in fact) has a very dark red, almost purple [field] and a tiny civic coat of arms in the centre. (...) Vincent Morley describes a too large coat-of-arms (...) The shade of red is nearly as dark as the red of the Georgia national flag, just a bit brighter. Compare also Santiago Dotor's contribution to this problem. I have seen the Madrid flag since I was living in Madrid in the late 1960's and ever since, recently during my stay in Madrid last week.

Emil Dreyer, 24 October 1999


[Coat-of-arms (City of Madrid, Spain)]
by Santiago Dotor

There are many versions of the Madrid (city) coat-of-arms, which I would summarize into three:

  1. A 'simple' coat-of-arms, blazoned "Argent a strawberry tree Vert fructed Gules and a bear rampant Sable on a terrace Vert, on a bordure Azure seven mullets Argent". The shield bears an open royal crown. I would call this Madrid ancient, since it was the arms used since the Middle Ages until the early 19th century and re-established 1967.

  2. A 'complex' coat-of-arms, blazoned "per pale Azure a dragon Or; and Argent a strawberry tree Vert fructed Gules and a bear rampant Sable on a terrace Vert on a bordure Azure seven mullets Or, in the point or a wreath vert with a ribbon gules". The shield bears an open royal crown. I would call this Madrid modern since the dragon (1840's) and wreath (1810's) date from the 19th century.

  3. An official coat-of-arms (shown above), similar to the first but graphically defined in a very stylised and logo-looking way (tree and bear are only outlined, the treetop is a perfect ellipse, the fruits are small red discs). The Madrid City Council held a contest in the late 1980s to choose this new logolike coat-of-arms.
You can see depictions of (a) —with a mistaken crown— and (b) in Ralf Hartemink's International Civil Arms website, which also says:
Madrid was a Moorish fortress, which was taken by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1083. It was made the capital of Spain by Philip II in 1561. The arms date from the 13th century and seem to symbolise some dispute over farming rights between the clergy and the civilians of the city.

Santiago Dotor, 10 December 1998

The bear (actually a female bear) is most probably the element which appeared first on Madrid's coat-of-arms, representing the abundance of bears in the area. The strawberry tree was added later, representing the many woods in the area, particularly strawberry trees, to establish a difference between the church and the city, though I cannot recall that point clearly now. The blue bordure with seven silver stars was added yet later as a further reference to the bear — the stars representing those of the Ursa Maior or Great Bear constellation.

It should be noted that the bear and strawberry tree sculpture in central Madrid (at Puerta del Sol square) is simply a modern representation of an ancient coat-of-arms, and not the other way round.

According to this webpage of the Madrid City Council website (whose Spanish version is available here):

The 13th Century. The Council or City Community and Villages within the city walls, were given a Municipal Charter in 1202 during the reign of Alfonso VIII of Castille, enabling them to make use of the land and woodland of Madrid up to part of the Sierra. That same year a dispute began between the city and the city council about the possession of pastures, land, trees and hunting in certain woodland. It was settled in 1222 with both parties agreeing that the church should keep the pastureland and the council the trees. To ratify this agreement, the Council adopted a shield with a climbing bear, and the Clergy a she-bear walking (despite the fact the previous emblem of the city, worn by Madrid's militia in the battle of Navas de Tolosa, showed the she-bear walking and apparently the seven stars of the Ursa Minor on its loin). The name of "city of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree", owing to the abundance of both in the surrounding woodland, dates back to the XIII century. Although in the different manuscripts it is a she-bear and not a male bear.
This paragraph matches very much something I read long ago on a booklet published —or at least sold— by the Madrid City Council, so it looks quite reliable indeed.

Santiago Dotor, 27 June 2001

The strawberry tree [Spanish madroño] is in fact an Arbutus. According to this website:

Small tree of between 1 and 5 m in height, often found in bush form, with sparse branches. Its enduring, hard, shiny leaves have slightly dentate margins and are wider at the distal end than near the stalk. Bunches of white, cup-shaped flowers appear between October and January, which hang downwards from the extremities of the branches. The arbutus berries develop from these flowers. These berries are round, granular and ripen when the tree flowers the following year, turning bright red. Here [i.e. in Spain], the strawberry tree is found in the holm oak and cork oak forests of the lower mountains and flat country. Its fruit constitutes an important food source for forest animals during the winter.

Rob Raeside, 27 June 2001

Arbutus unedo L. (the shrub) is arbutus or strawberry tree, and its fruit is arbutus. Arbutus is a member of Ericaceae family, like heather, and is a typical Mediterranean shrub (maximum height 9 m, so in some cases it might be more a tree than a shrub). Anyway, the shrub can be found locally up to northwestern Ireland. Flowering occurs in October-November, and the fruit (a berry of ca. 2cm in diameter, first yellow but red when mature), although rather sour, is edible. It is locally used in Southern France to produce a liquor, but rarely eaten as fruit. There is also an arbutus on the flag of Arbúcies.

Ivan Sache, 30 November 2001

Flag 1967-1988

[City of Madrid 1967-1988 (Spain)]
by Jaume Ollé

The Madrid city flag by Jaume Ollé is correct, only the one with the pre-1988 coat-of-arms. This was heraldically equivalent, but in the late 1980s the City Council held a contest to have a redesigned modern-looking coat-of-arms. Bigger old-style coat-of-arms (but with wrong crown) in Ralf Hartemink's website where the older "full" arms can also be seen (with dragon and wreath).

Santiago Dotor, 10 December 1998